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Faces of Public Health: Margo DeMont, Memorial Hospital of South Bend

Oct 10, 2014, 1:40 PM

During a recent webinar held by Stakeholder Health, a learning collaborative of health leaders aimed at improving population health, Margo DeMont, PhD, head of community health enhancement at Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Ind., shared about the hospital’s recent efforts to build a trauma-informed community through several innovative therapeutic programs.

For example, using eye motion desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a trained practitioner takes a person through their traumatic experience, and then follows with a series of hand movements, asking the patient to follow the movements with their eyes. After the sequence of movements, the patients are asked to review the intensity of their feelings about the trauma, with the goal of reducing the heightened emotions. The goal is to reprocess the information from the incident in their brain from the right hemisphere, where emotional experiences can be locked up, to the left hemisphere, which is the more cognitive area of the brain. While EMDR is still quite new and studies are still needed, some use of the technique has been suggested by both the U.S. Department of Defense and the American Psychiatric Association.

The goal of the behavioral interventions is to reach people who have suffered through adverse childhood experiences (ACE). Studies have shown that without help dealing with those childhood experiences, people are more likely to face long-term health problems such as substance abuse, cardiopulmonary disease, diabetes and obesity. Memorial Hospital assessed the impact of childhood trauma on adults in the community through a community health assessment.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with DeMont about the initiatives.

NewPublicHealth: When was the community health assessment done that indicated that there was a great deal of trauma in the community related to adverse events in childhood?

Margo DeMont: That was done in 2012 as part of the community benefit requirement for non-profit hospitals under the Affordable Care Act. And we saw that in terms of health issues perceived by the community, violence was rated pretty high, it was one of the priorities, and it came out as both street violence and relationship violence. I was familiar with the work done by Kaiser Permanente on childhood trauma, and we included eight questions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey that dealt with adverse childhood experiences in random phone surveys completed by 599 adults

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PSA of the Month: CDC Infographic on Sexual Violence and Stalking

Oct 6, 2014, 2:08 PM

In connection with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, held each October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a stark report which found that sexual violence not only results in high rates of injury and death, but also other long-lasting and even lifetime health impacts. To best share the specifics of the report, the CDC created an infographic with the most striking numbers—including how many men are raped each year and how people under the age of five are sexually abused.

>>View the infographic.

Perhaps most striking, the CDC found that a substantial proportion of U.S. female and male adults have experienced some form of sexual violence, stalking, or intimate partner violence at least once during their lifetimes.

Among the report’s recommended public health actions:

  • Prevention of sexual violence must include the protection of young children.
  • Strategies to prevent sexual violence must include strategies that address known risk factors for perpetration and emphasize changing social norms and behaviors by using bystander and other prevention strategies.
  • Primary prevention of intimate partner violence should be focused on the promotion of healthy relationship behaviors and other protective factors, with the goal of helping adolescents develop positive behaviors before their first relationships.

>>Bonus Link: CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention and Control offers many resources on sexual violence prevention geared toward people of different ages and communities. 

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Public Health Campaign of the Month: National Crime Prevention Council, AAP Campaigns Urge Firearm Safety

Jun 24, 2014, 3:05 PM

NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newpublichealth.org.

Two national multimedia campaigns are urging precautions and safe practices when it comes to firearms and children.

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC)—in partnership with the Ad Council and funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance—has launched the Safe Firearms Storage campaign to encourage owners to make safe firearms storage a priority. According to a study by the RAND Corporation, about 1.4 million homes have firearms stored in a way that makes them accessible to children, at–risk youth, potential thieves and people who could harm themselves or others.

“We teach all drivers to buckle up in case of accidents and to lock their cars,” said Ann M. Harkins, President and CEO of the NCPC. “The same logic applies to this campaign; we want owners to lock up their firearms to prevent accidents and keep them out of the wrong hands. Safe storage ensures that owners are doing their part to increase public safety.”

In addition to a website, the NCPC campaign features television, radio, print, outdoor and online PSAs that call on firearms owners to use safety devices such as trigger locks, as well as to store ammunition in a separate locked container. A “Snapguide” illustrates options for properly storing a firearm in a household, and the website also offers resources to help firearm owners talk with their children about firearm safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in partnership with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is also making a beginning-of-summer push as part of its ongoing ASK campaign—“Asking Saves Kids”—to remind parents to ask whether there is an unlocked, loaded gun in a home before a child goes on a play date. A response of “yes” should be followed with questions about where the gun is and whether the children will be supervised. Concerned parents should then not be afraid to suggest the children play somewhere else, such as a playground or another home without a gun.

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Violence Prevention: Q&A with David Satcher

Nov 6, 2013, 10:21 AM

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David Satcher, MD, PhD, was a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as the 10th Assistant Secretary for Health and the 16th Surgeon General of the United States—at the same time. He was Surgeon General from 1998 through 2001, and under his tenure he tackled disparities in tobacco use and overall health equity, sexual health and—critically—youth violence.

Satcher was a key speaker in a recent American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting Town Hall Meeting on a global approach to preventing violence. NewPublicHealth spoke with Satcher about approaches to preventing violence as a public health issue.

NewPublicHealth: How do you take a public health approach to preventing violence?

David Satcher: When you take a public health approach, public health experts pose four questions:

  • First, what is the problem and what is the magnitude, the nature and distribution of the problem?
  • The second question is: what is the cause of the problem or the major risk factors for the problem?
  • The third question is: what can we do to reduce the risk of the problem?
  • And finally, how can we then implement that more broadly throughout society?

So, when we say we’re taking a public health approach, that’s what we’re talking about.

What we’ve tried to do and what we need more of is to really study the different causes of violence and violent episodes. They’re not all the same. I’ve dealt with a lot of the mass murders; I was Surgeon General when Columbine took place and the Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence in part evolved from that. And obviously there, as in most mass murders, we’re dealing with, among other things, mental health problems and easy access to weapons combined. I don’t think the same is necessarily true for gang violence, which causes thousands of deaths each year. With youth violence and gangs, I think there you’re dealing with a culture of insecurity where young people feel that in order to protect themselves they need to be members of gangs and they need to be armed.

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RWJF ‘Commission to Build a Healthier America’ Reconvenes to Focus on Early Childhood and Improving Community Health

Jun 20, 2013, 1:14 PM

What do the needs of children in early childhood and improving community health have to do with each other? Everything, according to a group of panelists who addressed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Commission to Build a Healthier America at a public meeting in Washington, D.C. yesterday.   

Early childhood education and other interventions early in life, particularly for low-income children, can set kids on a path to better jobs, increased income and less toxic stressors such as violence and food insecurity, according to testimony at the today’s meeting. And that in turn creates more stable and healthier communities. Those two issues are the focus of the Commission, which plans to release actionable recommendations in September.

Yesterday’s event marks the first time the Commission is reconvening since it issued recommendations for improving health for all Americans in 2009. It will be co-chaired again by Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at The Brookings Institution and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Alice M. Rivlin, PhD, senior economist at The Brookings Institution and former director of the Office of Management and Budget.

“Although we have seen progress since the Commission issued its recommendations in 2009, we still have a long way to go before America achieves its full health potential,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA at the Commission’s  public meeting in Washington. “We know what works: giving children a healthy start with quality child care and early childhood development programs, and building healthy communities where everyone has an opportunity to make healthy choices. That is why RWJF is reconvening the Commission, to concentrate on these two critical areas.”

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TEDMED Talks: 'Cure Violence' Founder on Treating Violence as a Contagious Disease

May 16, 2013, 12:24 PM

How can we put a stop to violence? Gary Slutkin, MD, believes the key is treating it as we would any contagious disease. The epidemiologist and Founder/Executive Director of Cure Violence recently spoke at TEDMED 2013 about utilizing public health and science-based strategies to prevent violence in communities.

“The greatest predictor of a case of violence is a preceding case of violence,” said Slutkin.

And as with an epidemic such as cholera, the way to stop violence is to find those “first cases” and interrupt the transmission. Cure Violence’s model involves violence interrupters who play a similar role as health workers during epidemics, going into communities to help re-frame issues and cool down situations that could lead to violence. At the same time, outreach workers help people change their behavior and—in time—change the social norms of a community.

>> Watch the full TEDMED presentation.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Police Foot Patrols Cut Crime

May 9, 2013, 3:18 PM

Crime and violence in U.S. inner cities has a profound impact on public health. The question is how best to combat it. According to recent studies, one answer could be as simple as assigning more police officers to foot patrols in crime hotspots.

With funding in part from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research program, researchers from Temple University worked with the Philadelphia Police Department to conduct a study on the impact of police foot patrols on inner city crime. Findings published in Criminology in 2011 found foot patrols helped reduce violent crime — at least temporarily — by 23 percent in high-crime areas of the city. A recent follow-up study in Policing and Society revealed a qualitative look at how the participating officers developed extensive local knowledge and formed community relationships — both of which contributed to the cuts in crime.

These and other results demonstrate the need to involve officers on foot patrol in the development of violence prevention strategies, according to researchers.

>> Read more about the study.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.

Gun Violence: Teens Demand a Plan

Jan 9, 2013, 2:53 PM

Shortly after the shooting of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Ct., a large group of Hollywood stars released a video asking viewers to “demand a plan” on action to be taken to prevent future mass shootings.  Since then several videos have popped up on YouTube that show almost all of the actors in the video wielding weapons in films and television shows.

Another video also demands a plan on gun violence, with a compelling set of spokespeople. This one stars and was developed with minority teens in California and produced by the California Endowment, a private health foundation. At last check, the teens’ video had gotten close to 750,000 hits on YouTube.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Barbara Raymond, director of youth opportunity at the California Endowment about how the video came to be and what the next steps are for taking action on gun violence.

NewPublicHealth: How did this video come to be?

Barbara Raymond: The Endowment looks at health very broadly, including things that happen in our schools and happen in our neighborhoods. We started work a couple of years ago in 14 communities across California, and through the process we’ve worked with  over 20,000 residents and they came back so strongly saying safety and my own health prevention are our number one issues. And they drilled down further to issues including school safety and school climate and the epidemic of suspensions and extreme school discipline policies.  

We have been able to engage a whole set of young people and they have really identified these issues as well. It’s especially the young people saying that working on these issues is urgent, including violence in the community and on the streets of our neighborhoods, fixing issues in our schools and what the kids call the school-to-prison pipeline. These issues have just come up so strongly so when the Newtown tragedy happened, young people wanted to say something and react to that.  

As staff, we talked about how the tragedy would open up a whole public conversation around mental health and school safety practices and staff members suggested we reach out to the kids with the video idea.  

NPH: How were the kids involved in the development of the video?

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Preventing Gun Violence: How Laws Can Help

Dec 19, 2012, 12:00 AM

As the nation grapples with last week’s school shooting in Connecticut, discussions across the nation are focused on how we can reduce gun-related violence and the devastation it causes. NewPublicHealth joins that conversation today, beginning with an interview with Jeffrey Swanson, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. Swanson is a member of the Methods Core of the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program at Temple University, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The researchers analyze the intersection of public health and law, selecting studies for funding and providing technical assistance and support to strengthen research on law and health.

>> Read a blog post by Scott Burris, director of PHLR, on developing new laws to increase the safety of having guns in society.

An article published last year by Dr. Swanson following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people in Tucson, Arizona, argued that homicides committed with guns against strangers by individuals with mental disorders occur far too infrequently to allow for explanatory statistical modeling and predictability. However, improving treatment access, continuity and adherence for people with serious mental illnesses can help prevent some violent episodes, according to Swanson.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Swanson a few days after the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

NewPublicHealth: What is the role of law and public health in efforts to prevent gun and other forms of violence?

Swanson: We need to think about gun violence as a public health problem. Homicide and suicide are the second- and third-leading causes of mortality in the U.S. population ages 15-34, and firearms are involved in most violent fatalities. In theory, the law should be an effective public health tool in trying to address the problem. Law can regulate what kinds of guns are available, where they can used, by whom, and even how they are stored. But since the U.S. Constitution protects a citizen’s basic right to possess a gun, the law can’t go too far in limiting legal access to guns in the population. That means we have to focus more on trying to identify dangerous people who should not have guns. That’s very complicated, because violence is complicated and so are people. The law could be used even more effectively, though, if we had better research evidence about what features of gun laws and policies work best to protect safety while safeguarding civil rights. That’s what we’re trying to do.

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Preventing Youth Violence: Updates from the Field

Nov 5, 2012, 1:21 PM

file Image courtesy of Cure Violence

Last week at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting, a number of presenters took on an important, but often overlooked topic in the public health world: violence. Violence is often primarily considered a criminal justice or public safety issue, but there is a growing movement of public health practitioners that recognize that the health of vulnerable communities cannot be improved without first stopping shootings and killings.

When violence is present in a community, it impacts the physical, mental and emotional health of all residents. Violence also often prevents other positive changes from taking place. According to Greta Massetti from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current economic impact of youth violence is an estimated $14.1 billion in combined costs from medical care and work loss.

During the APHA meeting, speakers from organizations such as Cure Violence, UNITY and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discussed the latest research and strategies to prevent disease.

Treating violence as a disease

For many vulnerable communities, violence is the most pressing health issue. For children growing up in violent communities, the health impact is more than just the physical threat. As Benita Tsao from Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth (UNITY) pointed out, growing up in a community plagued by violence can often feel like being in a war zone.  That constant fear results in real health consequences, as evidenced by the increasing number of children who have grown up surrounded by violence and are now showing signs of chronic traumatic stress disorder. Experiencing ongoing trauma impacts young people’s physical, mental and emotional development, and has the ripple effect of making it harder to focus and succeed in school. 

 

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