Public Health News Roundup: October 23
Medical-Legal Partnerships Identify, Help At-risk Communities
Sometimes medical problems have legal solutions. A new study in the journal Pediatrics used pattern recognition, in conjunction with medical and legal expertise, to identify children and communities in need of legal assistance to address inadequate housing and other issues that negatively impact health. By addressing social and environmental factors, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can improve both individual and public health, while also identifying additional areas where people did not realize they could be helped legally. “The government has enacted laws and regulations to address the negative health impact of hunger, insufficient income, unsafe housing, and disability,” wrote Barry Zuckerman, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, in a commentary. “When families do not receive the benefits or protections of these laws, health is undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed by using legal strategies.” Read more on medical-legal partnerships.
Substance Abuse Up Significantly Since 2001
The number of substance abuse diagnoses climbed approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Study lead author Joseph W. Frank, MD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, identified a number of possible explanations for the increase, including a rise in prescription drug use and increasingly effective treatments, such as methadone and talk therapy. "This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation's community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues," according to the study. Nearly 15,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on substance abuse.
Blood Pressure Improving for U.S. Adults with Hypertension
More and more U.S. adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, according to new research in the journal Circulation. About 47 percent of patients said their blood pressure was under control in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2001. Study authors cited an increasing use in multiple drugs as a reason for the improvement, as well as lower medication costs and greater awareness. The study also identified at-risk groups prone to higher blood pressure, including older Americans, blacks, people with chronic kidney issues and people with diabetes. The study also found that only 34 percent of Mexican-Americans had their blood pressure under control and recommend further research into the reasons. Read more on heart health.
3-D Mammogram Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses
A new type of 3-D mammogram produces sharper images than traditional CT scans that will allow physicians to identify and treat cancer earlier, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Approximately 210,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and almost 41,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new technique combines X-ray imaging and equally sloped tomography to produce an image. It also uses a lower radiation dose than current CT scans. However, researchers noted that the technology to use the technique in a clinical setting does not yet exist. Read more on cancer.