Category Archives: Public and Community Health

Oct 28 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 28

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EBOLA UPDATE: U.S. Begins Isolating Soldiers Returning from West Africa; Australia Institutes Visa Ban
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. military has begun isolating soldiers returning from Ebola-fighting efforts in West Africa, while Australia has become the first “rich nation” to impose a visa ban on the affected countries. Public health officials, including those in Washington, D.C., say such measures risk turning the doctors and nurses who help Ebola patients into “pariahs,” according to Reuters. "Returning health workers are exceptional people who are giving of themselves for humanity," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "They should not be subjected to restrictions that are not based on science. Those who develop infections should be supported, not stigmatized." Read more on Ebola.

Study: Brain Injuries After Age 65 May Increase the Risk for Dementia
Brain injuries after the age of 65 may increase a person’s risk of developing dementia, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Neurology. Researchers analyzed data on almost 52,000 emergency room patients who had suffered traumatic injuries in California from 2005 to 2011, finding that while just under 6 percent of those with injuries outside the brain went on to develop dementia, more than 8 percent of those with moderate to mild traumatic brain injuries did so. While at ages 55 and older, moderate to severe brain injury was associated with increased risk of dementia, by age 65 even mild brain injury increased the dementia risk. "This was surprising and suggests that the older brain may be especially vulnerable to traumatic brain injury, regardless of the traumatic brain injury severity," said study lead author Raquel Gardner, MD, a clinical research fellow with San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "Or to spin it more positively, the younger brain may be more resilient to mild traumatic brain injury or may take longer to show symptoms of dementia.”  Read more on aging.

Study: Greater Use of Spices, Herbs Could Promote Healthier Eating
Using spices and herbs to make healthy food more appealing can help reduce sodium, calorie and fat intake, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition Today.  A special edition of the publication, titled Spices and Herbs: Improving Public Health Through Flavorful Eating, includes 16 papers exploring the latest research on spices, herbs and their links to healthy eating. "We now understand that spices and herbs have a meaningful role to play in bringing flavor to the forefront of today's health and wellness conversations," said Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, professor of medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine, editor of Nutrition Today. "It will take all of us working together – from scientists to chefs and product developers to policy makers – before we can really begin to improve public health through flavorful eating." Read more on nutrition.

Oct 27 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 27

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EBOLA UPDATE: New York State Walks Back New Ebola Quarantine Process—Somewhat—After Heavy Criticism
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The state of New York has partially walked back its new quarantine process for health care workers returning from treating Ebola in West Africa after receiving heavy criticism from the federal government and health officials. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said health care workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients but show no signs of the virus must still be quarantined and monitored for 21 days, but may do so in their home.

The Obama administration’s criticism of the initial order was strong." We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa," an Obama administration official said in a statement, according to Reuters. "We have also let these states know that we are working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers that will protect the American people against imported cases, while, at the same time, enabling us to continue to tackle this epidemic in West Africa.” Read more on Ebola.

Survey: ‘Social Resilience’ More Valuable than Government Assistance in Helping a Community Feel Prepared for Disasters
“Social resilience”—the feeling of trust in a community, with neighbors helping neighbors and looking out for each other—can be more valuable than even government assistance when it comes to how prepared communities feel for disasters, according to a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey. In a survey of more than 1,000 residents in a dozen communities hit by the 2012 hurricane in New York and New Jersey, researchers found that “residents in areas where people say their neighbors actively seek to fix problems in the neighborhood are three times more likely to say their community is extremely or very prepared for a disaster than people in communities without such social resilience.”

Among the rest of the findings:

  • 37 percent of residents in areas reporting high levels of neighbors helping each other are very or extremely confident their neighborhood would recover quickly from a disaster, compared to 22 percent in areas with lower levels of neighborly cooperation
  • 69 percent of respondents said they got help from neighbors in recovering from the storm, while 57 percent said local government assisted them and 55 percent cited federal government agencies as helpful

“Having that level of trust, that preexisting level of trust means you sort of have this reservoir to draw from in times of need,” said the survey’s principal researcher Kathleen Cagney, a University of Chicago sociology professor and director of the Population Research Center at NORC at the University of Chicago. “Money doesn’t buy these informal reservoirs. You need to foster this.” Read more on preparedness.

Tips on Warding Off Seasonal Affective Disorder
The shorter, darker days of the fall season also mean the potential to trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that can leave some people feeling overly tired and lacking motivation to the point they find it extremely difficult to go about their day. As much as 5 percent of the population is affected by what is believed to be a chemical imbalance linked to reduced exposure to light. Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Loyola University Chicago Stitch School of Medicine, said there are ways to reduce the likelihood of SAD, which can severely impact an individual’s quality of life:

  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day outside. Avoid wearing sunglasses during this period of time. If weather permits, expose the skin on your arms to the sun.
  • Keep your home well-lit. Open curtain and blinds to allow sunlight in. You can also consider buying a high-intensity light box specially designed for SAD therapy. Sit near the box for 30 to 45 minutes in the morning and at night. Be sure to talk to your doctor before attempting this type of light therapy on your own.
  • Physical activity releases endorphins and other brain chemicals that help you feel better and gain more energy. Exercising for 30 minutes daily can help.
  • When all else fails, there are medications that can help ease the troubling effects of SAD. Halaris recommends visiting a mental health professional if extra sun exposure, indoor lights and exercise are not effective in treating your symptoms.

Read more on prevention.

Oct 24 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 24

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EBOLA UPDATE: Medical Aid Worker Tests Positive in New York City
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
A hospitalized medical worker has tested positive for Ebola in New York City, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The medical aid worker had volunteered in Guinea. The patient is currently in isolation in Bellevue Hospital—one of eight New York State hospitals that Governor Cuomo designated to treat Ebola patients—as the CDC’s laboratory performs confirmation testing. Read more on Ebola.

HHS: $840M to Improve Patient Care While Reducing Costs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced an $840 million initiative to improve patient care while also reducing costs, which will encourage patients to seek early preventive care more often. The initiative “will fund successful applicants who work directly with medical providers to rethink and redesign their practices, moving from systems driven by quantity of care to ones focused on patients’ health outcomes, and coordinated health care systems,” according to a release. Potential strategies include:

  • Giving doctors better access to patient information, such as information on prescription drug use to help patients take their medications properly
  • Expanding the number of ways patients are able communicate with the team of clinicians taking care of them
  • Improving the coordination of patient care by primary care providers, specialists, and the broader medical community
  • Using electronic health records on a daily basis to examine data on quality and efficiency

Read more on prevention.

EPA Announces $3M to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced approximately $3 million in funding to reduce diesel emissions from school buses. Through the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Rebate program, eligible public and private school bus fleet owners can apply for funding to replace school buses that have “older, dirtier” diesel engines, which will in turn improve air quality. "School buses are the safest and most environmentally friendly way to transport children to and from school," said Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, in a release. “The rebates to retrofit older bus engines will provide healthier rides for the 25 million children across the country who ride them on a daily basis.” Read more on air and water quality.

Oct 23 2014
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New Kaiser Infographics Compares Key Ebola Factors with Other Infectious Diseases

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and cases diagnosed in the United States, NewPublicHealth has been looking at the toll of other infectious diseases in need of new prevention and treatment efforts. Earlier this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a series of infographics that compare Ebola to twelve other infectious diseases, including SARS, malaria and HIV, which are all current public health challenges.

The infographics are an important teaching tool for explaining how Ebola is spread and for reminding public health professionals about the need for vigilance when it comes to other diseases. 

The series of infographics touch on topics including:

  • Transmission routes
  • Vaccines, treatments and cures
  • Fatality rates
  • Key characteristics such as immunity after infection and number of cases worldwide each year

Below is one of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s infographics. Click through to view the additional educational tools. 

KaiserEbolaInfographic
Oct 23 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 23

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EBOLA UPDATE: Drugmakers Seeking Indemnity to Protect Against Potential Losses, Claims
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Drug manufacturers working to develop Ebola treatments are also looking for indemnity from governments or multilateral agencies to protect themselves from potential losses or claims related to their work. The issues is expected to be discussed today at a meeting in Geneva that will be chaired by World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan. "I think it is reasonable that there should be some level of indemnification because the vaccine is essentially being used in an emergency situation before we've all had the chance to confirm its absolute profile," said GlaxoSmithKline Chief Executive Andrew Witty to BBC radio. "That's a situation where we would look for some kind of indemnification, either from governments or from multilateral agencies." Read more on Ebola.

NIH: $31M in Grants to Enhance Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced almost $31 in grants to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The grants are part of a larger five-year program to support more than 50 awardees and partnering institutions in establishing a national consortium to “develop, implement and evaluate approaches to encourage individuals to start and stay in biomedical research careers,” according to a release. “At the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] we believe that delivering impact begins with building strong teams that have the talent and focus necessary to get results,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “These awards will leverage the power of our country’s diversity so that together, we can continue to advance biomedical research and unlock the cures to some of the great health challenges of our times.” Read more on research.

Study: Conflict at Home or School Affects Teens in Both
Conflict at home can lead to a teen experiencing a greater risk of problems at school for up to two days, while issues at school can also cause problems at home, according to a new study in the journal Child Development. In a study of more than 100 teens ages 13-17 and their parents, researchers also determined that bad moods and mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety are factors in what’s known as the “spillover effect.” "Spillover processes have been recognized, but are not well understood," wrote Adela Timmons, a doctoral student, and Gayla Margolin, professor of psychology. "Evidence of spillover for as long as two days suggests that some teens get caught in a reverberating cycle of negative events.” The research could be used to help teens learn to better manage stress and difficult situations.  Read more on mental health.

Oct 22 2014
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Recommended Reading: Cities Take the Lead in Public Health Advances

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Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, recently spoke at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University about his thesis that in the absence of federal leadership, cities are taking the lead on public health innovation in many ways including passing new laws that address public health concerns and partnering with university research centers.

Mailman recently published an interview with Katz about belief that cities are driving public health changes and improvements. One topic Katz addressed was cities working together to improve population health:

Cities watch each other closely. When one innovates, others replicate the innovation or adapt and tailor it to their own circumstances. We used to think if you were going to have dramatic change in a country on any number of issues, you needed the scale of the national government. Today it's more likely that a city will innovate in such a way that other cities can say, “We can do that, and maybe we can do it better.”

For example, when Portland, Oregon, finds a way to promote itself as the place that builds green cities and exports sustainable products and services to growing cities in Latin America or Asia, other cities begin to think, "Wait a second, we have our own clusters of clean energy or clean economy. Perhaps we can do the same branding and marketing and export promotion.”

The success of individual cities, or what Michael Bloomberg has done with C40 [a city-centric climate leadership group] rests on this notion that cities can learn from each other, share with each other, and then replicate the best innovations to have impact in their locales. That's a very different, 21st century model of how society goes about solving its major problems.

Read the full interview

Oct 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 22

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EBOLA UPDATE: WHO Plans on Ebola Vaccine Tests in January
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The World Health Organization plans to begin testing two experimental Ebola vaccines in West Africa by January. The vaccines will likely be tested on more than 20,000 frontline health care workers and others in the region. The global health agency also announced that a blood serum treatment could be available for use in Liberia within two weeks. Read more on Ebola.

Study: Automated Tracking Improves Vaccine Compliance in Health Care Workers
Automated tracking of influenza vaccinations increases vaccination compliance in health care personnel while also reducing the workload burden on human resources and occupational health staff, according to a new study in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. Researchers analyzed data on nearly 7,000 people including in a mandatory vaccination program, finding that “automated reminders and tracking accounted for more than 98 percent of compliance among healthcare personnel.” "Mandatory vaccination programs help protect vulnerable patients, but can be tremendously time and resource dependent," said Susan Huang, MD, MPH, an author of the study, in a release. "By successfully automating a system to track and provide feedback to healthcare personnel who have not received their seasonal flu vaccine, we are providing safer places for care and reducing the administrative burden of our mandatory vaccination program." Read more on vaccines.

Study: Living with a Smoker is as Bad as Living in a Highly Polluted City
Living with a smoker is the same as living in a smoke-free home in a heavily polluted city such as Beijing or London, with the non-smokers exposed to three times the World Health Organization’s officially recommend safe levels of damaging air particles, according to a new study in the journal Tobacco Control. In a collection of four studies, researchers determined that the concentration of fine particulate matter was approximately 10 times higher in smoking homes than it was in non-smoking homes. “Smokers often express the view that outdoor air pollution is just as much a concern as the second-hand smoke in their home,” said Sean Semple, MD, of University of Aberdeen, in a release. “These measurements show that second-hand tobacco smoke can produce very high levels of toxic particles in your home: much higher than anything experienced outside in most towns and cities in the UK. Making your home smoke-free is the most effective way of dramatically reducing the amount of damaging fine particles you inhale.” Read more on air quality.

Oct 21 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 21

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CDC Updates Guidelines on Health Worker Protective Gear when Treating Ebola Patients
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last night that it is tightening its infection control guidance for health care workers caring for patients with Ebola, with a specific focus on several key steps:

  • All health care workers must undergo rigorous training and become practiced and competent with protective equipment, including taking it on and off in a systemic manner.
  • No skin exposure is allowed when the equipment is worn.
  • All workers must be supervised by a trained monitor who watches each worker taking the equipment on and off.

The CDC is recommending all of the same equipment in its earlier guidance, with the addition of coveralls and single-use, disposable hoods. Single-use face shields are now recommended instead of goggles. Read more on Ebola.

Most People Polled Don’t Know New ACA Enrollment Period Begins in November
A poll just released from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds few people know that open enrollment for 2015 health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins next month. Other findings of the poll:

  • Two-thirds of responders say they know “only a little” or “nothing at all” about the marketplaces where people who don’t get coverage through their employers can shop for insurance.
  • Just over half say they know that financial assistance is available to help low- and moderate-income individuals purchase insurance. 

Signup begins November 15 and runs through February 15, 2015.

Risk Factors for Sexual Assault Need to be Included in Prevention Efforts
Researchers who conducted a Danish study on sexual assault say that certain risk factors for the attacks—including the age of the victim and their prior relationship with the attacker—must be considered when developing strategies to help prevent sexual assaults. The researchers looked at data from more than 250 women who sought help at a Danish center for sexual assault victims between 2001 and 2010. The researchers found that 66 percent of the women were 15-24 years old and 75 percent had met their attacker before the assault. Nearly half of the women reported that the attacker was a current or former boyfriend, a family member or someone they considered a friend. Women who did not know their attacker previously were more likely to report the assault to the police. “We need to raise awareness of the fact that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the woman, often in familiar surroundings ... in order to change the general attitudes towards sexual assault, this information should not only target young people, but also the police, health care professionals and the general public,” said Mie-Louise Larsen, of the Centre for Victims of Sexual Assault and the University of Copenhagen and a coauthor of the study, which appeared in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Read more on injury prevention.

Positive Images Improve Function in Older Adults
Older individuals who are subliminally exposed to positive stereotypes about aging showed improved physical functioning that can last for several weeks, according to work done by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. The study, which will be published in Psychological Science, included 100 older individuals with an average age of 81 years. Some participants saw positive age stereotypes on a computer screen that flashed words such as “spry” and “creative.” Those participants who were exposed to positive messaging displayed both psychological and physical improvements but control participants did not. Read more on aging.

Oct 20 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 20

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EBOLA UPDATE: 43 People Cleared from Ebola Watch Lists in Texas
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
Dozens of people in the United States came off of Ebola watch lists this morning after showing no symptoms for 21 days. A total of forty-three people who came into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, were cleared by Texas’ state health department. Another 120 people are still being monitored. The news comes as lawmakers continue to debate the feasibility and prudence of enacting a travel ban from West Africa. Read more on Ebola.

 

Healthy Lifestyle Habits Could Reduce Gestational Diabetes Cases by Half

Healthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining a normal weight, not smoking and staying physically active may help prevent as many as half of all gestational diabetes cases, according to a new study in the journal BMJ. Researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 U.S. women, finding that women who were overweight or obese during pregnancy were at four times the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women with all three of the identified healthy lifestyle behaviors were 83 percent less likely to develop gestational diabetes than were women who lacked all three. Read more on maternal and infant health.

 

Study: Men with IBS Report Greater Interpersonal Difficulties
Men with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) experience more interpersonal difficulties than do women with the condition, according to a surprising new study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology annual meeting in Philadelphia. IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation; it affects an estimate 25 million to 50 million Americans, but is twice as common among women, meaning less is known about how men experience the disorder. The study determined that men report feeling cold and detached, which leads to difficulties in interpersonal relationships. "Our findings underscore the significance of studying gender-based differences in how people experience the same disease or condition," says Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, professor of medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, in a release. "That discrepancy underscores our need to move beyond clinical intuition and anecdote, and systematically study the different ways that each gender experiences disease in general. Patients who have a domineering and distant interpersonal style may need to work more closely with the physicians.” Read more on health disparities.

 

Oct 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 17

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EBOLA UPDATE: HHS Accelerates Development of an Ebola Vaccine
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is working to accelerate the development of a vaccine to prevent Ebola through a one-year, $5.8 million contract with Profectus BioSciences Inc. ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will also provide subject matter expertise and technical assistance. Plans call for the vaccine to first be tested in animal safety studies. “We are pushing hard to advance the development of multiple products as quickly as possible for clinical evaluation and future use in preventing or treating this deadly disease,” said BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD. “Our goal is to close the global gap in vaccines and therapeutics needed to protect the public health from Ebola as highlighted by the epidemic in West Africa.” Read more on Ebola.

High-Fat Meals Could Be More Harmful to Men than to Women
High-fat meals could be more harmful to men than they are to women, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports. Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and funded by the National Institutes of Health determined that male mice who received high-fat diets experienced greater health complications than did female mice who received the same. "For the first time, we have identified remarkable differences in the sexes when it comes to how the body responds to high-fat diets," said Deborah Clegg, PhD. "In the study, the mice were given the equivalent of a steady diet of hamburgers and soda. The brains of the male mice became inflamed and their hearts were damaged. But the female mice showed no brain inflammation and had normal hearts during the diet." Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, said the findings suggest that physicians must “reconsider whether the diets and drugs we recommend for managing obesity may need to be sex-specific to be more effective.” Read more on obesity.

Study Links Metal-Contaminated Well Water to Birth Defects, Other Detrimental Health Outcomes
Increased levels of metals in private well water may be linked to birth defects and other detrimental health outcomes, according to a new study in the journal BiodMed Central Public Health. Researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health utilized well water data from between 11,000 and 47,000 wells provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. They determined that metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and manganese in drinking water can lead to spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight and impaired neural development in infants. Read more on water and air quality.