Category Archives: Medical, dental and nursing workforce
Citric acid-based drinks have been linked to devastating tooth erosion, especially in Central Appalachia where the drinks are widely consumed by people of all ages. The issue was selected for a five-minute “Critical Opportunities” presentation that garnered more votes than any other issue in the session at the most recent Public Health Law Conference. This year, the issue has moved to a general session on the main day of the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) Annual Meeting, as an emerging issue in public health law. Priscilla Harris, JD, an associate professor with the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., will present “Finding Legal Interventions to Impact Purchase and Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Citric Acid Drinks: Trying to undo the damage of the Dew.”
According to the American Dental Association, 65 percent of West Virginia's children ages three through seven suffer from tooth decay—and near-constant sipping of Mountain Dew and other citric acid-based drinks plays a role. Harris, together with Dana Singer, JD, a program developer and researcher at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department and Mary Beth Shea, a dental hygienist with the health department, spoke at an information session to the Mid-Ohio Valley Board of Health a few weeks ago to present the research they have worked on to show the damaging health effects of the beverages for the people of the region. NewPublicHealth spoke with the three public health professionals just before the PHLR annual meeting began.
NewPublicHealth: What research are you working on to look at the impact of citric acid on tooth health?
Priscilla Norwood Harris: We conducted surveys to determine purchase and consumption patterns for sugar-sweetened beverages and citric acid drinks. We also interviewed and sent surveys to dentists in Central Appalachia about their perceptions of oral health problems in the region. We also went to five clinics that offer medical, dental and vision care to low-income people, and asked patients about these drinks. In addition, have almost 2,000 surveys of students in grades K through 12. We have also reviewed journal articles, many from Europe, that examine the issue of dental erosion. While it’s under the radar here in America, the studies we’ve reviewed are making the connection between dental erosion and the citric acid in drinks.
A lot of the attention in the U.S. has been focused on the sugar in these drinks and their contribution to obesity as well as the sugar with regard to oral health and cavities. Unfortunately, the acids in these drinks and the connection to dental erosion have been almost ignored. “Mountain Dew Mouth,” a term used in Central Appalachia for severely damaged teeth, involves the acids in these drinks, which can take away the tooth’s enamel.
Mary Beth Shea: From a dental health professionals’ perspective, we see a high number of adults who have said they didn’t have a clue that the beverages they’re consuming are causing the damage in their mouth and they haven’t had money for dental care.
Off to its latest start in 29 years, according to Joseph Breese, MD, chief of the Epidemiology Prevention Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season has finally begun. November vaccination rates for 2011 were higher than for the year before, so that may be one reason for the milder season so far, says Dr. Breese. But the late start doesn’t indicate how severe the flu season will be, so the CDC is still recommending that anyone six months or older who hasn’t had a flu shot, make sure they get one. The American Lung Association’s Vaccine Finder still shows supplies throughout the country, but it's helpful to call clinics first to make sure they have vaccine on hand.
But should that flu shot recommendation be a little more forceful for some groups in order to protect patients, some of whom may be vulnerable to severe flu-related health outcomes because of weakened immune systems? An increasing number of hospitals around the country now require workers to get a flu shot. Professional associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians recommend that hospital workers get flu shots. The National Business Group on Health, which advises large employers on health benefits and policies, issued a “strong recommendation” last month urging hospitals and health care facilities to require flu vaccines for all of their employees.
“Transmission of seasonal influenza between health care workers and patients is a significant patient and worker safety issue,” says Helen Darling, president and CEO of the Business Group. “Failure to prevent the transmission of seasonal flu between health care workers and patients also increases health costs.”