Public Health News Roundup: December 3
New Report Finds Underage Drinking in all States
More than a quarter of Americans who are legally too young to drink are doing so anyway, according to a new report issued today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report says there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, especially among youth ages 17 and younger, but that the rates of underage drinking “are still unacceptably high.” Over 25 percent of people ages 12-20 report drinking in the month before they were surveyed, and 8.7 percent of them purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank. “Underage drinking should not be a normal part of growing up. It’s a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger,” says SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death.” All 50 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting the purchase and use of alcoholic beverages by anyone under age 21. Find resources to prevent and treat underage drinking here. Read more on addiction.
Helmets Can Save Lives on the Slopes
Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding can prevent injuries and reduce injury severity, according to a review article of 16 published studies in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. About 600,000 skiing and snowboarding injuries occur each year, according to reporting by Johns Hopkins researchers who wrote the new report. Up to 20 percent of those are head injuries, and 22 percent of those head injuries are severe enough to cause loss of consciousness, concussion or more serious injuries. Read more on injury prevention.
Study: Low-Level Air Pollution Impacts Fetal Growth
Exposure to low levels of air pollution seems to have a small effect on fetal growth, according to a study in the Puget Sound area by the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. The study looked at more than 367,000 births between 1997 and 2005 in the four-county Puget Sound region, including metropolitan areas Seattle and Tacoma, and estimated prenatal exposure to traffic-related air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide. The researchers found associations between increased levels of nitrogen dioxide exposures and an increased risk of small-for-gestational-age birth. Health problems for low birth weight babies can include decreased oxygen levels and low blood sugar, according to the researchers. Read more on maternal and infant health.