Category Archives: Public health
Under Tobacco Control Act Authority, FDA Orders Stop to Sale, Distribution of Four Tobacco Products
For the first time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has used its authority under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to order a stop to the continued sale and distribution of four tobacco products. The FDA ruled that Sutra Bidis Red, Sutra Bidis Menthol, Sutra Bidis Red Cone, and Sutra Bidis Menthol Cone were not “substantially equivalent” to products commercially available as of Feb. 15, 2007. The FDA determined that Jash International did not identify a product by which to assess substantial equivalence, as well as other required information. “Companies have an obligation to comply with the law—in this case, by providing evidence to support an SE application,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, in a release. “Because the company failed to meet the requirement of the Tobacco Control Act, the FDA’s decision means that, regardless of when the products were manufactured, these four products can no longer be legally imported or sold or distributed through interstate commerce in the United States.” Read more on tobacco.
NGA Releases Report on Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic
As part of the National Governors Association’s (NGA) 2014 Winter Meeting, NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley have released a report, Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse: Lessons Learned from an NGA Policy Academy, detailing their year-long look on how to reduce the growing epidemic; prescription drug abuse is the United States’ fastest growing drug problem and the second most-common type of drug abuse for youth ages 12-17. Among the findings:
- Leadership matters
- Prescribing behavior needs to change
- Disposal options should be convenient and cost-effective
- Prescription drug monitoring programs are underused
- Public education is critical
- Treatment is essential
- Data, metrics and evaluation must drive policy and practice
“The abuse of prescription drugs continues to be seen in communities across the nation,” said Hickenlooper. “This initiative helped states develop effective strategies to help decrease the number of individuals who are misusing or abusing prescription drugs and the resulting number of people who are harmed or die.” Read more on prescription drugs.
HHS Issues Proposals for Next Edition of EHR Technology Certification Criteria
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued proposals for the next edition of the electronic health record (EHR) technology certification criteria. “The proposed 2015 Edition EHR certification criteria reflect ONC’s commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, national coordinator for health IT. “We will continue to focus on setting policy and adopting standards that make it possible for health care providers to safely and securely exchange electronic health information and for patients to become an integral part of their care team.” Compliance with the 2015 Edition would be voluntary (if EHR developers are in compliance with the 2014 Edition, they would not need to recertify) and the final rule will be issued later this summer. Read more on technology.
HHS, Heart Disease Organizations Join Forces to Vastly Reduce Premature Death Linked to Heart Conditions by 2025
Leaders from the World Heart Federation , the American Heart Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the American College of Cardiology are joining together to help cut premature mortality from cardiovascular disease by at least 25 percent by 2025. Key strategies will include secondary prevention efforts for people who have already experienced a heart incident, or have established heart disease, as well as primary prevention strategies in the United States and around the world. “Heart disease can touch anyone, no matter where you live,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “It will take the collective efforts of everyone from community leaders to healthcare professionals, educators and business leaders to stop this No. 1 killer at the national and global level...” Read more on heart health.
New Guidelines for Stroke Risk, Prevention in Women
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has published the first ever set of guidelines dedicated to stroke risk and prevention in women. The 86-page document appears in the journal Stroke and address risk factors distinct to women, including pregnancy, oral contraceptives, menopause and hormone replacement. It also covers factors that affect women more than men, including atrial fibrillation and migraine with aura. “We reviewed a large body of research to be able to summarize our current understanding of stroke risk and stroke prevention in women, information that is critically important for care providers and researchers in the field,” according to Judith Lichtman, MD, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health and co-author of the study. “The guidelines are also important to empower women and their families to better understand their risk for stroke and be aware of ways they can minimize their likelihood of having a one.” Strokes are the third-leading cause of death among women in the United States. Read more on strokes.
Study: Indicators of Potential Heart Disease as Early as Age 18
Indicators of potential heart disease can be seen as early as age 18, according to a long-term study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that elevated blood pressure at that age, as well as found distinct blood pressure patterns from ages 18-55, indicate people at high risk for calcification of coronary arteries by middle age. “This shows that your blood pressure in young adulthood can impact your risk for heart disease later in life,” said Norrina Allen, PhD, lead study author and assistant professor of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a release. “We can’t wait until middle age to address it. If we can prevent their blood pressure from increasing earlier in life we can reduce their risk of future heart attacks and stroke.” Approximately one in three U.S. adults have hypertension. Read more on prevention.
CDC: H1N1 Flu Killing at Epidemic Levels
The H1N1 flu virus has been killing at epidemic levels since mid-January, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While flu is known to disproportionately affect the very young and very old, this strain—also known as the swine flu and the cause of the 2009 global pandemic that killed tens of thousands—has so far caused 243 deaths of residents younger than 65 this year in California alone, with an additional 41 unconfirmed cases. In the 2012-13 season there were 26 deaths at this point and in the 2011-12 season there were nine. According o the CDC the average age of someone diagnosed with flu this season is 28.5 years. “These severe flu outcomes are a reminder that flu can be a very serious disease for anyone, including young, previously healthy adults,” CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said to The Washington Post. Read more on influenza.
Teens Who Text About Condoms, Birth Control More Likely to Use Them
Teens who talk about condoms and other types of birth control over text message and other technology are more likely to use them, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Researchers studied 176 high school juniors and seniors, finding that half of the 64 who reported being sexually active also failed to use condoms consistently. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, close to 40 percent of the 47 percent of high school students who reported having sex did not use a condom the last time. However, the study found that students who texted or used other private electronic technology to discuss condoms or other forms of birth control were approximately four times more likely to use them. It also found that the odds of consistently using condoms doubled among students reporting discussions of pregnancy or sexual limits. "Although prior research and media attention has focused on the risks of technology use, like sexting, we found that adolescents might also use electronic tools to communicate about ways they might promote their sexual health," said study lead author Laura Widman, who studies adolescent sexuality at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's not all about risky behavior. It might be another way that teens can have these conversations that can be a little bit awkward.” Read more on sexual health.
Study: Average Obese Woman Gets Only One Hour of Vigorous Exercise Each Year
The average obese woman in the United States gets only one hour of vigorous exercise each year, and the average obese man gets only 3.6 hours, according to a new study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study utilized the results of a 2005-2006 government survey of adults aged 20 to 74, which covered areas such as weight, diet and sleep patterns of the nearly 2,600 adults and use accelerometer devices to track their movements. The study defined "vigorous" exercise as fat-burning activities such as jogging and jumping rope. “They're living their lives from one chair to another," said Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "We didn't realize we were that sedentary. There are some people who are vigorously active, but it's offset by the huge number of individuals who are inactive." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in three U.S. adults is obese, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Read more on obesity.
Labor Department Announces Grants to help Adults Transition from Prison to Workforce
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced close to $30 million in grants to help men and women participating in state or local prison work-release programs get the job skills needed for “in demand” jobs. Grants will be awarded to implementing partners that provide qualifying services in areas with high-poverty and high-crime rates, including communities that have a large proportion of returning citizens that typically experience higher rates of recidivism. Read more on community health.
Combining Online Games, Betting and Social Interaction Can Help People Lose Weight
A study by researchers at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island finds that a web-based commercial weight loss program that pairs financial incentives with social influence resulted in significant weight loss for many of the study participants. The results were published in JMIR Serious Games.
Players joined a game to lose weight while betting money on themselves and had four weeks to lose four percent of their starting weight. At the end of week four, all players who lost at least four percent of their initial body weight were deemed winners and split the pool of money collected at the start of the game. The researchers studied nearly 40,000 players over seven months and found that winners lost an average of 4.9 percent of their initial body weight and won an average of $59 in four weeks. Factors associated with winning the game included betting more money, sharing on Facebook, completing more weigh-ins, and engaging in more social interactions with the other players. Read more on obesity.
New SAMHSA Guide Provides Resources to Help Families Support Their LGBT Children
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a Resource Guide to help health care and social service practitioners provide guidance to families on how to support their children who are coming out or identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). According to SAMHSA, with greater access to more information about sexual orientation, gender identity and LGBT resources through the internet and other media, more young people have been coming out than ever before and at younger ages, and the family-oriented approach offered by the guide can provide useful information during a critical period. Read more on pediatrics.
‘America Saves Week’ Promotes Health Financial Habits for Kids
Next Monday begins America Saves Week. Running through March 1, the week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior for individuals and to urge people to assess their savings status. According to America Saves:
- Only 54 percent of Americans say they have a savings plan with specific goals.
- Only 43 percent of Americans say they have a spending plan that allows them to save enough money to achieve the goals of their savings plan.
- Only 66 percent of Americans have sufficient emergency funds for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor’s visit.
The annual event places a special emphasis on helping people learn and adopt good savings behaviors while they’re young, with educators and youth organizations urging students to join as a Young America Saver on-line and open or add to an account at a local financial institution. “The importance of saving cannot be over-emphasized, as saving is one of the critical building blocks to financial success,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, one of the week’s participating organizations. “Financial stability cannot exist without a healthy savings account.” Read more on budgets.
Physical, Mental Effects of Bullying Can Compound Over Time
The negative physical and mental effects of bullying during youth can compound over time and follow someone into adulthood, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers analyzed data from the Healthy Passages study, which surveyed 4,297 students in Alabama, California and Texas about bullying. Approximately one-third reported being regularly bullied at some point. The study found that those who had been bullied in the past scored better on measures of physical and mental health than those who were still being bullied. Teens bullied throughout their school careers scored the worse. "I think this is overwhelming support for early interventions and immediate interventions and really advancing the science about interventions," Laura Bogart, from Boston Children's Hospital. Read more on violence.
Study: STD Education Should Start Early
Prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is about more than safe sex education—it’s also about established a stable home life early on that encourages responsible behavior, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. "Kids don't engage in risky behaviors in a vacuum. There are environmental opportunities that have to be created," said study lead author Marina Epstein, of the University of Washington. Using data on approximately 2,000 Seattle-area participants, researchers determined that about one-third of those who became sexually active before age 15 had an STD, compared with 16 percent of those who started having sex at a later age. They also found that having more sexual partners and having sex after drinking alcohol or using drugs were tied to greater incidence of STDs. Epstein said funding for programs that emphasize abstinence until marriage would be better spend on preparing kids to make health and responsible choices. "We already have good programs that have been shown to be effective at improving parent-child relationships and intervening with at-risk youth," Epstein said. "We should use our prevention dollars on programs that we know work and that show effects on a range of behaviors, including risky sex practices." Read more on sexual health.
Study: Increasing Young Men’s Knowledge of Emergency Contraception Could Increase Access, Use
Increasing young men’s knowledge of emergency contraception could increase access to the drug and help prevent unwanted pregnancies, according to a new study in Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. Emergency contraception, commonly known as "the morning after pill," prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex or when other methods of contraception fail. Nine U.S. states allow pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a prescription under certain conditions. The study gauged the knowledge of 101 males and 97 females ages 18 to in 2008 and 2009. "About half of the women understood basic facts about emergency contraception, how you get it, how you use it, and the fact that male partners were also able to buy it over-the-counter for their female partners," said Sheree Schrager, a member of the study team and a researcher at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California. “But young men had significantly lower knowledge then the young women did, and this is an opportunity for providers to reach out to young men in the hopes of reaching more young women to use emergency contraception.” According to the researchers, unplanned pregnancies are more common in poor communities, where there are also greater health and economic consequences. Read more on sexual health.
U.S., Global Partners to Joint in Prevention, Detection and Response to Infectious Disease
The United States has joined with 26 countries and other global partners to, over the next five years, work to prevent, detect and effectively respond to naturally occurring, accidental and intentional infectious disease threats. Additional partners in the Global Health Security Agenda include the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). “While we have made great progress in fighting and treating diseases, biological threats can emerge anywhere, travel quickly, and take lives,” said Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. “The recent outbreaks of H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome are reminders of the need to step up our efforts as a global community. The Global Health Security Agenda is about accelerating progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has pledged $40 million in FY 2014 to advancing Global Health Security Agenda objectives, and its FY 2015 budget will include an additional $45 million to prevent avoidable catastrophes, detect threats early and mobilize effective responses to contain outbreaks. Read more on global health.
CDC: States with Indoor Tanning Laws See Far Less Use by Female High School Students
States with indoor tanning laws—especially those requiring parental permission or setting age restrictions—see lower rates of indoor tanning by female high school students, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The study was conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have connected the increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning to increased risk of melanoma; each year the United States sees 60,000 new melanoma diagnoses and approximately 3.5 million treatments for nonmelanoma skin cancer. The study determined that the odds of female students engaging in indoor tanning in states with any indoor tanning laws were 30 percent less than those in states without such laws, and that the odds in states with systems access, parental permission and age restriction laws were 42 percent less than those in states without any laws. “State indoor tanning laws, especially age restrictions, may be effective in reducing indoor tanning among our nation’s youth,” said Gery Guy, PhD, health economist and the study’s lead author. “We need to address the harms of indoor tanning, especially among children. Indoor tanning laws can be part of a comprehensive effort to prevent skin cancers and change social norms around tanned skin.” Read more on cancer.
Looking for powerful ways to save I love you?
- Send ecards reminding those you love to get a flu shot, make a preparedness plan and wash their hands, courtesy of the American Public Health Association.
- Learn about your own—and loved one’s—risk of heart disease and stroke.
- One in ten teens reports being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Find out how to help prevent teen dating violence.
- Learn the signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest.
Read more on heart health.
American Society of Clinical Oncology Weighs in on Mammography
In response to a study published this week in the British Medical Journal which called into question the benefit of mammography, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued a statement today saying that because mammography is similar to many other tests that can detect a condition that may never cause harm, the benefits of screening are likely to be greater for women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer based on factors such as age and family history, than for women at average risk. It also stated no single study should be used to change screening policy and that all women should be encouraged to speak with their doctors about their personal risk for breast cancer, as well as the potential benefits and harms of mammography screening. ASCO and other cancer advocacy and women’s health groups have announced that they will be monitoring additional mammography studies now being conducted, and the American Cancer Society is expected to release new mammography recommendations later this year. Read more on cancer.
NHTSA Announces New Mandatory Label to Help Owners Instantly Identify Recall Mailings
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that starting February 18, all manufacturers must use a distinctive label on the agency’s required mailings that notify owners of recalled vehicles or equipment.
The requirement was introduced to help owners instantly distinguish important recall notices arriving in their mailboxes from other mail and hopefully avoid mistakenly discarding the safety notices. NHTSA has also just launched the SaferCar app for Android devices that will provide information for car owners and shoppers, including recalls and safety performance. There is already a SaferCar app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users. Other safety notification options from NHTSA include:
- Register Your Cars, Tires and Car Seats: Receive NHTSA email notifications when there is a recall by the federal government. There is no way to locate or notify individual owners of car seats or tires if the product is not registered with the manufacturer or NHTSA.
Check for Open Recalls on Used Cars: Verify with the previous owner or dealer whether a used car has been fixed by using www.safercar.gov, which provides a general search tool to help consumers identify recalls that may affect their vehicle.
Read more on transportation.
SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline Open 24/7 to Help People Impacted by the Severe Weather
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) issued a bulletin yesterday to remind public health officials and the community that its Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) can provide immediate counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the damage caused by the winter storms in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states. The helpline is a 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week resource that responds to people who need crisis counseling after experiencing a natural or man-made disaster or tragedy. The helpline immediately connects callers to trained professionals from the closest crisis counseling center; helpline staff provide confidential counseling, referrals and other needed support services. Assistance is available in several languages. The helpline can also be accessed by texting TalkWithUs to 66746, by going here and by TTY for deaf and hearing impaired at 1-800-846-8517. Read more on disasters.
Well-Child Visits Linked to More than 700,000 Cases of Flu-Like Illness
A recent study in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology links well-child doctor appointments for annual exams and vaccinations with an increased risk of flu-like illnesses in children and family members within two weeks of the visit. This risk translates to more than 700,000 potentially avoidable illnesses each year, costing more than $490 million annually, according to the researchers.
"Well child visits are critically important. However, our results demonstrate that healthcare professionals should devote more attention to reducing the risk of spreading infections in waiting rooms and clinics [and] more attention should be paid to these guidelines by healthcare professionals, patients, and their families," said Phil Polgreen, MD, MPH, lead author of the study.
The researchers used data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine the health care trends of 84,595 families collected from 1996-2008. After controlling for factors including the presence of other children, insurance and demographics, the authors found that well-child visits for children younger than six years old increased the probability of a flu-like illness in these children or their families during the subsequent two weeks by 3.2 percentage points. A commentary in the journal on the study also pointed out the likelihood of some unnecessary antibiotics being prescribed for some of the illnesses.
"Even with interventions, such as the restricted use of communal toys or separate sick and well-child waiting areas, if hand-hygiene compliance is poor and potentially infectious patients are not wearing masks, preventable infections will continue to occur," said Polgreen. Read more on infectious disease.
NIH Study Seeks to Improve Asthma Therapy for African-Americans
A new study by researchers at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is enrolling about 500 African-American children and adults with asthma in a multi-center clinical trial to assess how they react to therapies and to explore the role of genetics in determining the response to asthma treatment. The study will be conducted at 30 sites in 14 states, and its goal is to determine the best approach for asthma management in African-Americans, who suffer much higher rates of serious asthma attacks, hospitalizations and asthma-related deaths than whites. “While national asthma guidelines provide recommendations for all patients with asthma, it is possible that, compared with other groups, African-Americans respond differently to asthma medications,” said Michael Wechsler, MD, principal investigator for the study and professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver. “Our study is designed to specifically address how asthma should be managed in African-American asthma patients, both adults and children.” Read more on health disparities.
FEMA Issues Advisories as Severe Weather Hits Parts of the U.S.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun issuing advisories for states across the Southern United States expected to be impacted by severe weather.
According to the National Weather Service, a major winter storm is impacting the South and Southeast ahead of moving up the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday.
FEMA is encouraging both residents and visitors in the track of the storms to follow the instructions of state, local and tribal officials, and monitor NOAA Weather Radio and their local news for updates and directions provided by local officials. Residents can find trusted sources for weather and preparedness information via Twitter on FEMA’s social hub.
Weather Emergency Alerts (WEA) are currently being sent directly to many cell phones on participating wireless carrier networks. These alerts are sent by public safety offices such as the National Weather Service about imminent threats like severe weather. They look like a text message and show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take and the agency issuing the alert. Check your cellular carrier to determine if your phone or wireless device is WEA-enabled. Read more on preparedness.
Dozens of Bills Introduced in Recent Years to Increase School Vaccine Exemptions
From 2009 to 2012, 36 bills were introduced in 18 states to change school immunization mandates, with the majority aimed at expanding exemptions, according to a recent review in JAMA by researchers from Emory University. None of the bills passed, but the researchers say continued efforts to change state vaccine rules are concerning. Among 36 bills introduced, 15 contained no administrative requirements, seven bills had one or two administrative requirements, and the remaining 14 contained between up to five administrative requirements in order for parents to exempt their children from school vaccine rules in a given state.
"Exemptions to school immunization requirements continue to be an issue for discussion and debate in many state legislatures," according to the study authors. Read more on vaccines.
Being in a Good Mood Can Lead to Safer Sex
HIV-positive men are more likely to have save sex when their mood improves, according to a new study by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. The study, published in the journal Psychology, included 106 sexually active, HIV-positive men who have sex with men who completed weekly surveys over six weeks that asked about their sexual behavior, depression, and wellbeing during the prior week. Overall, 66 percent of study participants reported having unprotected intercourse in the prior two months; 81 percent had multiple partners. Three-quarters of the study participants were black and Latino men, a group disproportionately affected by HIV.
The researchers found that the men who reported an increase in their wellbeing in a given week were more likely to have safe sex (66%), while those who reported higher-than-usual levels of depression were more likely to engage in the risk behaviors (69%). The researchers are now studying potential interventions that might help address risky behaviors during depressive phases. Read more on sexual health.
Job loss at local health departments continues unabated, according to the 2013 edition of the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Profile of Local health Departments. The total number of employees in local health departments has fallen to 162,000 last year from 190,000 in 2008.
However, the report also highlights program gains:
- Nearly half of health departments not yet accredited plan to apply, have submitted a formal application or have submitted a statement of intent to apply for public health accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board.
- The percentage of local health departments who have completed the three key accreditation prerequisites — community health assessment, community health improvement plans and an agency-wide strategic plan — has grown from 20 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2013.
- Facebook use has grown from 20 percent in 2010 to 44 percent last year.
- Twitter use has grown from 13 percent in 2010 to 18 percent last year.
- YouTube use has grown from 6 percent in 2010 to 12 percent last year.
- In 2013, 56 percent of local health departments were engaged in some type of quality improvement (QI) activity, up from 45 percent in 2010.