Public Health News Roundup: September 5
‘Hyper-vigilance’ Over Racial Disparities May Be a Factor in Higher Hypertension Rates for Black Americans
“Hyper-vigilance” related to race consciousness may be a factor in why black Americans have a disproportionately high rate of hypertension, according to a new study in the American Journal of Hypertension from researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While it’s long been known that blacks have, on average, higher blood pressure, the exact environmental factors that contribute to the higher rates are not fully understood, according to Lisa A. Cooper, MD, MPH, a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s senior author. “Hyper-vigilance [is] a heightened awareness of their stigmatized status in society and a feeling that they need to watch their backs constantly,” she said. “African-Americans have higher blood pressure, and it has been difficult to explain why this is true. It doesn’t appear to be genetic, and while things like diet, exercise and reduced access to health care may contribute, we think that a tense social environment, the sense of being treated differently because of your race, could also possibly explain some of what’s behind the higher rates.” Read more on health disparities.
Survey: Most Women Don’t Know their Personal Breast Cancer Risk
A new survey of more than 9,000 women shows that far too few have an accurate idea of their personal risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Study researcher Jonathan Herman, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ Medical School in New Hyde Park, N.Y., found that only 9.4 percent knew their risk level, nearly 45 percent underestimated their level and nearly 46 percent overestimated their level. The survey also found that about four in 10 women had never even discussed their personal breast cancer risk with a physician. On average, women have a 12 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, with that number climbing 20 percent if their mother had breast cancer. The BRCA mutations that increase breast cancer risk push the risk to about 70 percent. Mary Daly, MD, chair of clinical genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center, in Philadelphia, and director of its risk assessment program, said it is critical that women researcher their family history related to breast cancer in order to determine whether they are following the best possible screening schedule. Read more on cancer.
Harsh Verbal Discipline of Teens Only Makes Behavior Worse
Harsh verbal discipline of teenagers not only isn’t effective at changing bad behaviors, but can in fact make them worse, according to a new study in the journal Child Development. "Most parents who yell at their adolescent children wouldn't dream of physically punishing their teens," said study author Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor with the department of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. "Yet, their use of harsh verbal discipline—defined as shouting, cursing or using insults—is just as detrimental to the long-term well-being of adolescents.” A recent survey indicates that about nine in 10 parents have admitted to such behavior. The study found that the emotional pain and discomfort cause by harsh parental verbal abuse can increase anger while dropping inhibition, which in turn can promote behaviors such as lying, cheating, stealing and fighting. It also found that the concept of “parental warmth”—as in a parent was yelling out of love or for the child’s own good—didn’t make things any better. "Parents who wish to modify their teenage children's behavior would do better by communicating with them on an equal level…and explaining their rationale and worries to them,” said Wang. “Parenting programs are in a good position to offer parents insight into how behaviors they may feel the need to resort to, such as shouting or yelling, are ineffective and or harmful, and to offer alternatives to such behaviors." Read more on pediatrics.