Yearly Archives: 2012
In recent years many bacteria have become resistant to drugs that commonly vanquished them, depleting a natural resource—antibiotics—that has saved millions of lives around the globe. Using these drugs only when necessary, and using the right drug for the right infection will help ensure that the medications are available and effective when they’re needed.
>>Watch a new, three-minute animated video that tells the story of how antibiotic-resistant “superbug” bacteria have become a serious public health threat that affects everyone. The video frames the problem uniquely: We must treat antibiotics as a natural resource that can be depleted with overuse, just like water, trees, and other resources on which we all depend. The video lays out specific steps that everyone – including doctors, hospitals, and consumers – can take to tackle the problem.
Extending the Cure (ETC), a project of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy based in Washington, D.C., and New Delhi, released the Superbugs video this week, along with a new report on trends in antibiotic resistance.
Last year, the organization also released research showing that certain types of bacteria responsible for causing urinary tract infections (UTIs) are becoming more difficult to treat with current antibiotics. ETC released the research via its online ResistanceMap, an online tool created to track changes in antibiotic drug use and resistance. A new, added feature of the ResistanceMap is ETC’s Drug Resistance Index, a way for non-experts to track changes in antibiotic effectiveness.
This research was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Urinary tract infections account for about 8.6 million visits to health care providers each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of U.S. women will get a UTI in their lifetime.
“Without proper antibiotic treatment, UTIs can turn into bloodstream infections, which are much more serious and can be life-threatening,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure (ETC). “These findings are especially disturbing because there are few new antibiotics to replace the ones that are becoming less effective,” says Laxminarayan.
Read a previous NewPublicHealth interview with Ramanan Laxminarayan about ETC’s research and Drug Resistance Index.
When it comes to being healthy, what happens outside the doctor’s office can be just as important as what happens in an examination room—sometimes even more. The environment you call home plays a tremendous role in your health.
But which types of environments and communities will help you stay the healthiest? A series of videos from the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research highlights ongoing federal research into how to create communities where healthy choices are the easy choices.
Dr. David R. Williams: The Social Factors of Health
Williams, MPH, PhD, is a social scientist at Harvard University who believes that where we live, learn, work and play have more to do with our health than doctor visits. His work focuses on the opportunities and barriers that affect healthy living.
Dr. Ana Diez-Roux: The Science of Environmental Factors of Health
Diez-Roux, MD, PhD, is an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan. Her work looks at the social determinants that influence our health.
Dr. David Schwebel: The Science of Child Safety
Schwebel, PhD, is a Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research and the Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His work applies basic psychological and behavioral principles to the real-life problem of preventing children’s injuries.
The Public Health Quality Improvement Exchange (PHQIX) is a brand new online community designed to be a communication hub for public health professionals interested in learning and sharing information about quality improvement (QI) in public health. PHQIX was created by RTI International and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The key goal of the site is to share national QI efforts by health departments of all sizes so that public health experts can learn from the experience of their colleagues across the country. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Jamie Pina, PhD, MSPH, PHQIX project director, and Pamela Russo, senior program director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation about the new resource and its promise for helping health departments continuously improve their performance and achieve the national standards set forth by the Public Health Accreditation Board.
NewPublicHealth: What’s the vision of PHQIX, and how did it come about?
Pamela Russo: Public health departments are looking for ways to be more and more efficient and to eliminate waste and to make their limited budgets have the maximum possible impact. That’s the major value of QI, to show what works and where you can improve.
Health Highlights of 2012
On this last day of the year, the news site HealthDay ticks off some significant health events of the last twelve months:
- The June Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the Affordable Care Act.
- The outbreak of deadly fungal meningitis linked to tainted steroid injections that began during the summer. As of December 17, the outbreak had infected 620 people and killed 39 people across 19 states. On Dec. 20, health officials from all fifty states met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration representatives to discuss proposed regulation to help prevent such events in the future.
- Autism incidence keeps rising. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the prevalence of the disorder at one in every 88 children, up from one in 110 in 2010. Cases were also five times more common in boys than girls, the agency found. While changes in how autism is spotted and reported may have played a role in the new numbers, other factors behind the increase are unclear.
- This year saw two major milestones in HIV testing and treatment. In July, the FDA approved OraQuick, the first at-home HIV test, which enables people to privately assess their infection status within 20 minutes. The same month the FDA approved Truvada, the first HIV drug aimed at preventing transmission of the virus to uninfected people who are at high risk.
- Two new diet drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time in thirteen years. Belviq was approved in July for obese adults with high blood pressure, Osymia, approved for the patient group, got the FDA’s nod a month later.
Read NewPublicHealth News Roundups.
IOM Committee to Explore Sports-related Concussions
Youth sports concussions will be a focus of an Institute of Medicine Committee next year. The committee will conduct a study on youth, from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents. The committee will also review concussion risk factors; screening and diagnosis; treatment and management; and long-term consequences. Read more on injury prevention.
Scheduling Cardiac Rehab Soon After a Heart Attack Improves Compliance
A new study in Circulation found that scheduling cardiac rehabilitation to begin sooner rather than later following a heart attack increased the chance that patients show up for the first and subsequent sessions. Cardiac rehab, which includes supervised exercise and nutrition counseling, has been linked to a reduction in second heart attacks in patients who complete the multi-week programs. In the new study, patients whose first rehab session was scheduled within ten days of hospital discharge were more likely to come to the first session than were patients whose appointments were scheduled for within 35 days of discharge, which is a standard time frame in the United States. Read more on heart health.
New York City’s new schedule app for several of the city’s subway lines joins similar apps and online schedules introduced in cities around the U.S. that can help people more accurately plan their travel timetables --and maybe even get in some exercise. Transportation planners say that giving easily accessible and real time bus and subway schedules can increase public transportation use because it allows a traveler to accurately plan the time it takes for a trip.
San Francisco has had an app similar to the one just introduced in New York since 2008, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal. And other cities provide travel information online and accessible by smartphone. According to the American Public Transportation Association, real time information is one reason for a growth of almost 3 percent in public transportation use in the U.S. during 2012. Cost savings is another reason people are switching to public transportation, according to APTA, which calculated that public transit users saved about $800 during the month of December compared to the cost of owning and using a car. APTA calculated full year savings for the last year at close to $10,000.
And unless there’s a bus or subway stop right in front of the house, public transportation often adds physical exercise for its users. The closest public transportation stop for many NewPublicHealth staffers, for example, can add 1,000 steps of walking each day.
Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Spencer gave up her car when she took the job at CNCS and moved from Florida to Washington, D.C. and now walks to work and meetings.
Most US Cancer Screening Rates Didn’t Meet Government Goals
Too few Americans are seeking preventive cancer screenings, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Cancer Epidemiology.
Researchers say that reasons for the decline include disagreements among medical professional societies abut which screenings to recommend, and how often, which can be confusing for consumers, and a high rate of uninsured people who would have to pay the full screening costs themselves.
For the study, researchers looked at cancer screening rates for colorectal, breast, cervical and prostate cancer among nearly 175,000 Americans who took part in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2010, and found that except for colorectal cancer, which exceeded the screening goal of Healthy People 2010, screening rates fell short of the U.S. goal for the other cancers. Among employed cancer survivors, screening rates met or exceeded goals except for screening rates for cervical cancer.
Poor Reading Rates in Middle School Linked to Higher Rate of Pregnancies among High School Girls
Seventh grade girls who have trouble reading are more likely to get pregnant while they are in high school than average or above-average seventh grade readers, according to a new study in the journal Contraception. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reviewed standardized test reading scores for 12,339 seventh grade girls from 92 different Philadelphia public schools and tracked the girls, and their scores, over the next six years.
During that period, 1,616 of the teenagers had a baby, including 201 who gave birth two or three times. Among girls who scored below average on their reading tests, 21 percent went on to have a baby as a teenager. That compared to 12 percent who had average scores and five percent of girls who scored above average on the standardized tests.
The researchers say that the link between reading and pregnancy may be that poor academic skills may shape how teens see their future opportunities and have an impact on the risks they take.
Obesity Declining in Children Ages 2-4
Obesity may be declining among preschool-aged children living in low-income families according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers analyzed data on 27 million children in the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System which includes almost 50 percent of children eligible for federally funded maternal and child health and nutrition programs. The children ranged in age from 2 to 4, and came from thirty states and the District of Columbia. Data collected on children included height, weight and levels of obesity and extreme obesity. The researchers found that the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.05 percent in 1998 to 15.21 percent in 2003. The prevalence of extreme obesity increased from 1.75 percent in 1998 to 2.22 percent in 2003. However, the prevalence of obesity decreased slightly to 14.94 percent in 2010; and the prevalence of extreme obesity decreased to 2.07 percent in 2010.
As the year draws to a close, the most recent installment of the NewPublicHealth series on the National Prevention Strategy is especially appropriate. We spoke with Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in volunteer community service. The mission of CNCS is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
Guiding principles of CNCS that help promote the National Prevention Strategy include:
- Put the needs of local communities first
- Strengthen public-private partnerships
- Use programs to build stronger, more efficient, and more sustainable community networks capable of mobilizing volunteers to address local needs, including disaster preparedness and response
- Build collaborations wherever possible across programs and with other federal programs
- Help rural and economically distressed communities obtain access to public and private resources
- Support diverse organizations, including faith-based and other community organizations
During Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast in late October, close to 900 national service members were deployed to states affected by the storm, and nearly 900 more were on standby. National service members assisted with shelter operations, call centers, debris removal, and mass care. “Before the recovery is complete,” said Wendy Spencer, “we expect thousands of national service members from AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs to help families and local and state officials rebuild these communities.”
For its Hurricane Sandy response effort, CNCS coordinated with the Federal Management Agency (FEMA), National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the American Red Cross and state and local authorities.
NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Wendy Spencer, the CEO of CNCS, Asim Mishra, the agency’s chief of staff and Erwin Tan, MD, the CNCS designee on the National Prevention Council and Director of Senior Corps and Strategic Advisor for Veterans and Military Families.
NewPublicHealth: What is the mission of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)?
Young Adult Smoking Rates Fell in 2012
A recent survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that youth smoking rates fell in 2012 among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders. This is the second year in a row that the survey found a significant annual decline in youth smoking, following several years during which progress on getting more young people to quit had stalled.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, strategies that led to the lower smoking levels include higher tobacco taxes, well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include mass media campaigns, strong smoke-free laws, and effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing.
Rural Residents Less Likely to Follow Colon Cancer Screening Guidelines
A new study from the University of Utah finds that people who live in rural communities are less likely to follow colorectal cancer screening recommendations than urban residents. The researchers say the geographic disparity is evident across all risk groups, including those who have a family history of the disease. The study was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
The researchers looked at data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, a set of telephone surveys coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments. Factors that impact screening, according to the researchers include distance to screening facilities, fewer rural residents are covered by health insurance for colorectal screening (the researchers note that this is likely to be improved under the Affordable Care Act) and rural residents are less likely to receive a recommendation for screening from a health care provider because there are fewer primary care providers in rural areas, and those providers are under time constraints.
A new policy brief from the George Washington University school of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, DC finds that low wage workers are especially vulnerable to financial troubles that can result from on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
The researchers calculated that in 2010 1.6 million low wage earners suffered from non-fatal injuries, and 87,857 developed non-fatal occupational health problems such as asthma and found that workers compensation insurance either does not apply or fails to cover many expenses, which can bankrupt families with no financial cushion. According to the brief, insurers cover less than one-fourth of the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses. The rest falls on workers’ families, non-workers-compensation health insurers, and taxpayer-funded programs like Medicaid. The researchers say policy makers need to improve workplace safety and strengthen the safety net for low wage workers.
Following the shootings of 26 people, including twenty children, in Newtown earlier this month, three American Medical Association journals have published articles that take a hard look at gun violence in the United States.
- An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association looks at reduced funding in the last few years for gun injury prevention research, while increased funding for other types of injury prevention such as motor vehicle crashes, has resulted in fewer deaths.
- An essay in the Archives of Internal Medicine looks at guns as “weapons of mass destruction” and suggests strategies to reduce citizen casualties and mass shootings.
- Two contributors in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine write about the Florida law that prevents health care professionals from asking patients or families about firearms in the home.
Read a blog post from the Network for Public Health Law on strategies that may help reduce mass shootings in the U.S. The author, Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, Deputy Director, Network for Public Health Law-Western Region, says that while increased mental health coverage and screenings and gun controls alone will likely not be enough to prevent mass shootings, “the public health law community will have a vital role to play as policies are created and evaluated.”
Read a recent NewPublicHealth interview with Jeffrey Swanson, PHD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, on how laws can help prevent gun violence.
A study released this fall in the American Journal of Public Health looks at a critical evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program led by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. The United Way catalyzed critical partnerships between schools, community organizations and the Milwaukee Health Department to focus on the goal of reducing teen pregnancies.
In 2008, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, together with its partners, made a public commitment to reduce teen births among 15- to 17-year-olds by 46 percent by 2015. In October 2011, the City of Milwaukee and United Way announced the fourth consecutive yearly drop in the teen birth rate, by 13.5 percent, to its lowest level in decades. The current trend indicates that the partners are on track to reach their goal of 30 births per 1,000 (a 46 percent drop) by 2015.
Initiatives to support these goals include:
- Significant investments in programs through the Healthy Girls project that helps young people understand the consequences of teen pregnancy while also teaching them the skills needed to cope with social pressure to engage in sexual activity.
- A collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin residents to develop content for a youth-focused, website, Baby Can Wait, with medically accurate and age-appropriate content on preventing pregnancy and promoting healthy relationships.
- United Way worked with Milwaukee Public Schools and other community leaders to revise human growth and development curriculum. Community members were given an opportunity to review the materials and make suggestions about content, and teachers received training in the new curriculum.
NewPublicHealth caught up with Nicole Angresano, Vice President at United Way of Greater Milwaukee, to get her take on the program’s successes and what other communities can learn from them.
NewPublicHealth: What is different about this effort to focus on teen pregnancy for your community?