Aug 21 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: August 21

Tobacco Smoke Exposure Weakens Cough Reflex in Children
Secondhand smoke exposure can weaken a child’s response to cough-eliciting irritants, possibly explaining why children of smokers are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis, according to a new study from the Monell Center. “Cough protects our lungs from potentially damaging environmental threats, such as chemicals and dust,” said Julie Mennella, PhD, a Monell developmental biologist and co-director of the study. “Living with a parent who smokes weakens this reflex, one of the most vital of the human body.” Sixty percent of kids ages 3-11 and 18 million youth ages 12-19 are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke from tobacco. Read more on tobacco.

Roofers, Other Asphalt Workers, May Have Increased Cancer Risk from Chemical Exposure
Laborers who work with hot asphalt may be at increased risk of DNA damage and cancer due to exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to a new study from Cancer Center at the University of Colorado School of Public Health. Researchers found that the PAH blood levels in roofers was increased after working a shift. The study looked at 19 roofers in Miami-Dade County. While roofers and road construction workers also have higher rates of smoking, alcohol use and UV exposure, these findings can help narrow down the causes of their higher cancer rates and possibly improve worker safety. Read more oncancer.

Calorie Counter May Be Useful Policy Tool
Researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health have developed a new online tool to help understand and improve the state of childhood obesity. The Caloric Calculator enables policy-makers and other officials to examine how different food and exercise choices could improve the health of different populations. “While childhood obesity can sometimes seem like an insurmountable problem, there are many proven interventions that can make a difference,” said Claire Wang, MD, assistant professor in the department of health policy and management. “The Caloric Calculator shows that, when implemented in combination, they add up to what is needed.” Read more onobesity.

Study: Treating High Infectious Disease Rates in Homeless Could Impact Overall Public Health
The high rates of tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis C in homeless populations around the world are clear public health risks that could lead to dangerous—and costly—epidemics, according to a new study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Researchers analyzed 43 surveys covering almost 60,000 homeless people, concluding that the prevalence of certain serious infectious diseases was much higher in homeless populations than in general populations. For example, tuberculosis rates in the United States were 46 time greater and hepatitis C was four times as common. Seena Fazel, a senior research fellow in clinical science at the University of Oxford and head of the study, told Reuters that focusing more on treating these high-risk populations could have a “pronounced” effect on overall public health. The study concluded that more research needs to be performed at the local levels in order to determine how best to address health issues in homeless people. Read more on homeless health in a Q&A with Robert Taube of the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Project.

Tags: Public health, News roundups, Housing, Cancer, Infectious disease, Obesity, Tobacco