Public Health News Roundup: October 31
Missed Work by Smokers Costs Economy Billions
Smokers miss work more often than nonsmokers and costs their employers—and the economy—billions of dollars each year, according to a new study in the journal Addiction. Researchers analyzed studies covering approximately 71,000 public and private sector workers across the globe, finding that in the U.K. alone the average loss of an extra two or three days of work meant a loss of $2.25 billion in 2011. Smokers are 33 percent more likely to miss work than their nonsmoking coworkers. "Clearly the most important message for any individual's health is, 'Quit smoking,' but I think that message is pretty well out there," said Douglas Levy, a tobacco and public health researcher from the Harvard Medical School in Boston. "I think (the study) does point to the fact that this is something that doesn't just affect the individual, it affects the economy as well." Levy was not part of the study. Read more on tobacco.
Public Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy to Linger
As workers struggle to begin repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, officials are warning that the storm’s lingering effects will likely mean a variety of public health issues in the coming months. Immediate dangers include lack of electricity and the inability to access basic medical care—especially important for the elderly. Experts also expect long-term issues such as lack of clean drinking water and an increase in pollens, molds and other allergens. "Immunocompromised people and elderly people are probably at highest risk for complications from mold exposure and these are the people who should stay away from water-logged buildings, especially for prolonged periods of time," said Pavani Ram, MD, associate professor of social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions, according to HealthDay. Read more on disasters.
Smoking, Being Overweight During Pregnancy Increase Odds of Overweight Kids
Mothers who are overweight and smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children, according to a new study in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Researchers analyzed 30 studies looking at early-life health of approximately 200,000 people. The link between smoking and overweight children could be a sign of overall social and lifestyle risk factors, according to Stephen Weng, MD, of the U.K. Center for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham. "Several risk factors for both overweight and obesity in childhood are identifiable during infancy," Weng and colleagues concluded in the report. "Future research needs to focus on whether it is clinically feasible for health care professionals to identify infants at greatest risk." The study also found that breastfeeding and late weaning reduced the likelihood of obesity. Read more on maternal and infant health.