Public Health News Roundup: December 11
Study: Genetics Could Keep People from Quitting Tobacco
Is genetics to blame for a recent plateau in the numbers of people who smoke? Quite possibly, according to a new study by Jason Fletcher, PHD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Yale School of Public Health. Cigarette smoking in the United States dropped sharply after the release of a landmark Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco was released in 1964, according to Fletcher, a former Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society scholar. But in the last two decades smoking cessation has stopped its descent, despite increased efforts from both the private and public sectors. Fletcher’s study, published in PLOS ONE, says some smokers may have a variation of a nicotine gene receptor that does not respond to social efforts to reduce smoking, such as higher taxes and clean-air laws that prohibit smoking in many public places. The study found that smokers with a specific nicotine genetic variant decreased their tobacco use by nearly 30 percent when faced with high tobacco taxes, while smokers with an alternative genetic variant had no response. Fletcher says the study “is an important first step in how to further reduce adult smoking rates.” Read more on tobacco.
Regular Exercise Can Add Years to a Person’s Life
Regular exercise can help extend a person’s life for years, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Specifically, researchers found white men who were physically active at the age of 20 lived about 2.5 years longer than non-active white men. However, the most dramatic findings were for black women, who lived an average of six years longer if they exercised for about 2.5 hours a week. "We were able to show that if black women engage in an hour of vigorous activity like jogging or swimming, that would extend their lives by 11 hours,” said Ian Janssen, study author and an associate professor who studies physical activity at Queen's University in Ontario. Researchers said there could be other contributing factors to the longer lifespans, such as diet, and the subject needed further research. Read more on aging.
HUD: Number of Homeless People Down Slightly in 2012
The number of homeless people is down slightly—0.4 percent—from last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “We continue to see a stable level of homelessness across our country at a time of great stress for those at risk of losing their housing,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a release. “We must redouble our efforts to target our resources more effectively to help those at greatest risk. As our nation’s economic recovery takes hold, we will make certain that our homeless veterans and those living on our streets find stable housing so they can get on their path to recovery.” The analysis is a part of HUD’s 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness. Read more on housing.