Category Archives: Public health

Oct 17 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 17

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EBOLA UPDATE: HHS Accelerates Development of an Ebola Vaccine
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is working to accelerate the development of a vaccine to prevent Ebola through a one-year, $5.8 million contract with Profectus BioSciences Inc. ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will also provide subject matter expertise and technical assistance. Plans call for the vaccine to first be tested in animal safety studies. “We are pushing hard to advance the development of multiple products as quickly as possible for clinical evaluation and future use in preventing or treating this deadly disease,” said BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD. “Our goal is to close the global gap in vaccines and therapeutics needed to protect the public health from Ebola as highlighted by the epidemic in West Africa.” Read more on Ebola.

High-Fat Meals Could Be More Harmful to Men than to Women
High-fat meals could be more harmful to men than they are to women, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports. Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute and funded by the National Institutes of Health determined that male mice who received high-fat diets experienced greater health complications than did female mice who received the same. "For the first time, we have identified remarkable differences in the sexes when it comes to how the body responds to high-fat diets," said Deborah Clegg, PhD. "In the study, the mice were given the equivalent of a steady diet of hamburgers and soda. The brains of the male mice became inflamed and their hearts were damaged. But the female mice showed no brain inflammation and had normal hearts during the diet." Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, said the findings suggest that physicians must “reconsider whether the diets and drugs we recommend for managing obesity may need to be sex-specific to be more effective.” Read more on obesity.

Study Links Metal-Contaminated Well Water to Birth Defects, Other Detrimental Health Outcomes
Increased levels of metals in private well water may be linked to birth defects and other detrimental health outcomes, according to a new study in the journal BiodMed Central Public Health. Researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health utilized well water data from between 11,000 and 47,000 wells provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. They determined that metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and manganese in drinking water can lead to spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight and impaired neural development in infants. Read more on water and air quality.

Oct 16 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 16

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EBOLA UPDATE: CDC May Add Some Health Care Workers to Federal No-Fly List
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
In response to the news that a Dallas nurse who tested positive for Ebola flew on a commercial airliner between when she was exposed to the disease and when she was diagnosed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering adding the names of health care workers being monitored for Ebola to the government’s no-fly list, according to Fox News. Seventy workers who helped treat Ebola patient Thomas Edward Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital are being monitored by the CDC. Read more on Ebola.

HUD: $38.3 Million to Enforce Fair Housing Practices
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $38.3 million to help enforce the Fair Housing Act through investigations of alleged discriminatory practices, as well as to educate housing providers, local governments and potential victims of housing discrimination about the Fair Housing Act. More than 100 fair housing organizations and other non-profit agencies in 43 states and the District of Columbia will share the funding, which is available through HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program. “Ending housing discrimination is at the core of HUD’s mission and it takes dedicated people on the ground to address it,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a release. “These funds support community-based organizations that do great work every day on the front lines in the fight for fairness and equality in our nation’s housing market.” Read more on housing.

Study: Adults Who Are Comfortable With Aging More Likely to Seek Preventive Health Care
Older adults who are comfortable with aging are also more likely to be proactive in getting preventive health care services, according to a new study in the journal Preventive Medicine. One of the obstacles that keeps some older adults from seeking out preventive care is the belief that all their physical and mental declines are typical of old age. Researchers at the University of Michigan examined data on 6,177 participants age 50 and older. Among their findings for individuals who reported higher satisfaction with aging:

  • They were more likely to obtain a cholesterol test and colonoscopy over time
  • Women received a mammogram/X-ray or pap smear with greater frequency
  • Men made medical appointments more often to get a prostate exam

Read more on aging.

Oct 15 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 15

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EBOLA UPDATE: Second Dallas Health Care Work Tests Positive for Ebola
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The Texas hospital that treated a man who has since died from Ebola has reported that a second health care worker has tested positive for the disease. The patient has been isolated at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas; the health care worker is being monitored for fever and symptoms while confirmation testing is performed at the Texas Department of State Health Services’ laboratory. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has interviewed the patient about any contacts or potential exposures. Read more on Ebola.

CDC is Utilizing New, Faster Lab Test for Enterovirus D68
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed and is now using a new laboratory test that will enable it to more quickly test remaining specimens for the presence of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). EV-D68 has been identified as the most common type of enterovirus this year; enteroviruses and rhinoviruses lead to millions of respiratory illnesses in children annually, and can be especially harmful to kids with asthma. “CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations. This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days.” Read more on pediatrics.

Study: Health Disparities at the Root of Post-Cancer Surgery Deaths
Approximately 5 percent of more than 1 million cancer patients who had surgery died within one month of their operation, according to a new study by Harvard researchers. Study lead author Brandon Mahal, a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, cited disparities such as access to quality care, biological or genetic factors, social support and treatment differences as the most likely reasons for the death rate. The study determined that married patients had a 20 percent lower risk of dying within the month after surgery; insured patients had a 12 percent lower risk; wealthier patients had a 5 percent lower risk; and more-educated patients had a 2 percent lower risk. "Efforts to reduce deaths and eliminate disparities have the potential to significantly improve survival among patients with cancer," Mahal said. Read more on health disparities.

Oct 14 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 14

EBOLA UPDATE: Death Rate Now Stands at 70 Percent; 4,447 Dead
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The World Health Organization (WHO) now puts the Ebola outbreak death rate at 70 percent, up from a previous estimate of 50 percent. WHO assistant director- general Bruce Aylward, MD, who announced the figure at a news conference, said this classifies Ebola as a “high mortality disease.” The global health agency also predicts there could be as many as 10,000 new cases per week within two months. The official toll so far is 4,447 deaths in 8,914 cases. Read more on Ebola.

DOD Adds Climate Change Threats to its Defense Mandate
Citing its effect on issues such as infectious disease, hunger and poverty, the U.S. Department of Defense has announced its intention to integrate climate change threats into all of its “plans, operations, and training.” The assessment came in the Pentagon’s 20-page Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. "Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe," wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the report. Read more on the environment.

Study: Smoking Linked to 14 Million Major Medical Conditions
Cigarette smoking harms nearly every bodily organ and is linked to an estimated 14 million major medical conditions in U.S. adults, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema and is the illness most closely linked to smoking. The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “The disease burden of cigarette smoking in the United States remains immense, and updated estimates indicate that COPD may be substantially underreported in health survey data,” wrote the study authors. The study also linked smoking to 2.3 million cases of heart attack 1.3 million cases of cancer, 1.2 million cases of stroke and 1.8 million cases of diabetes. Read more on tobacco.

Oct 13 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 13

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CDC Confirms Texas Hospital Nurse Who Cared for Infected Patient Has Ebola
On Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed test results that found that a healthcare worker at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is positive for Ebola. The health care worker provided care for a Dallas patient who contracted Ebola in Liberia and died last week. The nurse is being cared for in an isolation unit.  In a statement released on Sunday, the CDC said “this development is understandably disturbing news for the patient, the patient’s family and colleagues and the greater Dallas community. The CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services remain confident that wider spread in the community can be prevented with proper public health measures, including ongoing contact tracing, health monitoring among those known to have been in contact with the index [first]patient, and immediate isolations if symptoms develop.” Read more on Ebola.

Medicare Part B Premiums and Deductibles Will Remain the Same for 2015 as Rates of the Past Two Years
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the standard Medicare Part B monthly premium and deductible for 2015 will remain the same as the last two years. Medicare Part B covers physicians’ services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.  About 50 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare Part B and their monthly premiums and annual deductibles will be $104.90 and $147, respectively. Read more on Access to Health Care.

Monitoring Illness at Preschools Could Offer Early Avert for Some Disease Outbreaks
A web-based system that allows preschools and child care centers to report illnesses to local public health departments could improve the detection of community disease outbreaks and allow resources to be mobilized faster according to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in San Diego. The researchers created a computerized system and tested it at four early learning centers in Michigan. Staff was trained to use the system daily and send illness updates to local health department weekly, or more frequently if spikes in illnesses were seen. Among their findings: the four preschools reported a gastroenteritis outbreak three weeks earlier than other area schools. Read more on infectious disease.

Oct 10 2014
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Faces of Public Health: Margo DeMont, Memorial Hospital of South Bend

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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

Read more

Oct 10 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 10

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EBOLA UPDATE: One-quarter of Americans View Ebola as a ‘Major Threat’ to the United States
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
The percentage of Americans who view Ebola as a “major threat” to the United States stands at 27 percent, up from only 13 percent in mid-September, according to a new Harris Poll/HealthDay survey. While saying that the fear is unwarranted, Mayo Clinic infectious diseases physician and researcher Pritish Tosh, MD, said the rising concern is also understandable. "Ebola is an agent that evokes a lot of fear, and can result in societal disruption," said Tosh, according to HealthDay. "There's a reason why it's considered a possible bioterrorism agent. So any time you have any cases in the United States, there is a heightened amount of anxiety." Read more on Ebola.

In-home Parenting Education Improves Mother’s Health, Behavior
In-home, intensive parenting and health education reduces illegal drug use, depression and behavior problems in pregnant American Indian teens, while also improving the likelihood that their children will reach behavioral and emotional milestones, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed 322 expectant American Indian teens in four Southwest communities, randomly assigning them to receive optimized care or optimized care plus 63 in-home education sessions, finding that the latter group saw greater improvements in various behaviors. "We found a consistent pattern of success across a number of different outcome measures," says the study's principal investigator John Walkup, MD, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a faculty member within the Center for American Indian Health. "These early years are critical ones for children. We teach these mothers not only how to be competent parents, but how to cope with stressors and other risk factors that could impede positive parenting skills." Read more on maternal and infant health.

Study: Hospital Patients Don’t Wash their Hands Nearly Enough
Hospital patients aren’t washing their hands nearly enough, according to new research from McMaster University. Researchers analyzed the hand hygiene behavior of 279 adult patients in three multi-organ transplant units of a Canadian acute care teaching hospital over an eight-month period, finding they washed their hands about 30 percent of the time while in the washroom, 40 percent during meals and only 3 percent when using the kitchens in their rooms. "This is important because getting patients to wash their hands more could potentially reduce their risk of picking up infections in the hospital," said principal investigator Jocelyn Srigley, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, in a release. Read more on prevention.

Oct 9 2014
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TEDMED Great Challenges: Public Health’s Work on Infectious Diseases

Infectious diseases—and the treatment of infectious diseases—has been a common theme in the news recently, with almost 4,000 people now dead from an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It was only yesterday that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died in a Dallas, Texas, hospital.

Earlier this week, some of the leading experts in infectious disease came together in the Google Hangout “TEDMED Great Challenges: Track, Treat, Prevent—A Better Battle Against Communicable Diseases.” They discussed the risk of communication, treatment, drug resistance, disease tracking innovation and related ethical issues. The event was moderated by Helen Branswell of the Canadian Press.

The panelists—across the board—agreed that the recent Ebola resurgence has served to highlight the importance of public health. Not just what it brings to the table during such emergencies, but the need for it to focus even more on prevention efforts and ensuring public health is fully funded and supported.

“Public health funding is one of those things people only really notice when something goes wrong,” said Dara Lieberman, a Senior Government Relations Manager at Trust for America's Health.

Amy L. Fairchild, PhD, MPH, Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, believes that “in many ways, we’ve really lost our way in public health.”

“There was a period at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th century in which the field made these enormous strides in combatting infectious diseases and combatting communicable disease,” Fairchild said. “And then, with the rise of chronic diseases, we began to forget some of those...lessons learned about the need to focus on broad, sweeping environmental changes.”

Read more

Oct 9 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 9

EBOLA UPDATE: Five U.S. Airports to Screen Travelers from Ebola-Affected Nations
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
On the same day that the Dallas, Tex., patient being treated for Ebola succumbed to the disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security's Customs & Border Protection (CBP) announced that travelers from Ebola-affected nations would undergo increased entry screening when arriving in five U.S. airports. New York's JFK, Washington-Dulles, Newark, Chicago-O'Hare and Atlanta international airports receive more than 94 percent of travelers from the West African nations. According to the CDC:

  • Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
  • Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
  • If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
  • Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.

Read more on Ebola.

Study: College Athletes in Contact Sports at Increased MRSA Risk
College athletes in contact sports are at increased risk of carrying and being infected with the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to a new study presented this morning at IDWeek. In a two-year study, researchers determined that contact sport athletes were more than twice as likely as non-contact athletes to be colonized with MRSA. Colonization with MRSA ranged from 8 to 31 percent in contact sports athletes, compared to 0 to 23 percent of non-contact athletes; 5 to 10 percent of the general population is colonized with MRSA. "This study shows that even outside of a full scale outbreak, when athletes are healthy and there are no infections, there are still a substantial number of them who are colonized with these potentially harmful bacteria," said Natalia Jimenez-Truque, PhD, MSCI, research instructor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., in a release "Sports teams can decrease the spread of MRSA by encouraging good hygiene in their athletes, including frequent hand washing and avoiding sharing towels and personal items such as soap and razors." Read more on prevention.

ACS: Overweight and Obese African-Americans, Whites at Similar Risk for Premature Death
Overweight and obese African-Americans and whites are at similar risk for premature death, according to a new study in the journal PLOS ONE. The findings contradict previous, smaller studies which indicated the link was less strong for African-Americans. For the study, researchers from the American Cancer Society analyzed data from the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II), which included approximately one million men and women. “While recent large studies have examined the relationship between BMI and all-cause mortality in white and Asian populations in the United States, this relationship has not been well-characterized in African Americans,” said Alpa V. Patel, PhD, in a release. “The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-II is very well-suited to address this issue because of its large size, including nearly a million participants, and long-term follow-up of 28 years, making it the largest study to date in African Americans.” Read more on obesity.

Oct 8 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: October 8

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EBOLA UPDATE: Kaiser Infographic Lays Out the Key Statistics
(NewPublicHealth is monitoring the public health crisis in West Africa.)
A new infographic on the current Ebola outbreak produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association breaks down the crisis into key elements, including the disease count so far, the rate of response and the key U.S. government agencies charged with addressing the outbreak. Key numbers include:

  • Fatality rate — 53 percent which is lower than in previous outbreaks
  • Outbreak geography — In the current outbreak, five West African countries that have never had Ebola cases are now battling the disease including Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone
  • U.S. agencies responding — Department of Defense, Department of States, U.S. Agency for International Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health

The World Health Organization also maintains a dedicated Ebola information website that is updated frequently and includes case counts, studies, policy announcements and feature stories about aid in West Africa. Read more on Ebola.

CDC: 2.5M Emergency Department Visits for Vehicle Crashes in 2012
Motor vehicle crashes sent more than 2.5 million people to emergency departments (EDs) and led to more than 200,000 people being hospitalized in 2012, according to a new report from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All told, the lifetime medical costs for these crash injuries will be $18 billion and the lifetime work lost will be an estimated $33 billion. “In 2012, nearly 7,000 people went to the emergency department every day due to car crash injuries,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, PhD, in a release. “Motor vehicle crash injuries occur all too frequently and have health and economic costs for individuals, the health care system, and society.  We need to do more to keep people safe and reduce crash injuries and medical costs.” Read more on injury prevention.

Task Force Recommends Diabetes Screening for All Americans Over Age 45
Everyone over the age of 45 should be screening annually for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. "For people with abnormal blood sugar, changes in their lifestyle, such as eating healthier and exercising more often, can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes,” said Michael Pignone, MD, a task force member, in a release. “The best way to do that is to participate in a program that supports these behaviors. That's why we're recommending that people who are at increased risk be screened." According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, although 8.1 million of those cases are undiagnosed. Read more on prevention.