Category Archives: Government, policy and legal issues
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, especially the effects of caffeine on children and teens. The FDA’s announcement comes as an increasing number of food companies have introduced food products that contain caffeine—including gum, jelly beans, hot sauce, marshmallows and Cracker Jacks.
Caffeine can be addictive, and can lead to high blood pressure and insomnia, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). AAP discourages the use of caffeine by kids and teens. Caffeine levels vary in the new foods on the market. According to the FDA, a caffeinated version of Wrigley’s gum contains as much caffeine as four ounces of coffee, per piece. The new caffeinated gum packs each contain eight pieces of gum.
The American Public Health Association (APHA) is currently accepting applications through April 8 for the association’s one-year Public Health Fellowship in Government. Fellows work in a congressional office on legislative and policy health issues. The position gives Fellows the opportunity to learn about the legislative process in Washington, DC, which can be a critical skill once they return to their positions in public health, since policies are an important tool that can be used to protect Americans and their communities from preventable, serious health threats. And it also allows Fellows to provide critical input, drawing on their knowledge and experience, on the decisions that impact public health at the national policy level.
To get some background on the role of a Fellow and the impact that public health practitioners can have when working in the national policy arena, NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Fern Goodhart, current legislative assistant to Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), who spent the tenure of her fellowship working in the office of Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey). Ms. Goodhart was the first person awarded the APHA policy fellowship and served in 2007-2008.
NewPublicHealth: What was your background before you took the fellowship?
Fern Goodhart: I have worked in public health for 30 years including at a state health department; as director of health education at an ambulatory center; as a medical school instructor; as a member of an autonomous board of health; and as a member of my city council. So I’ve had the opportunity to see how policy was made on the local level and the state level. What brought me to the APHA Fellowship was the desire to see firsthand how policy was made at the federal level.
NPH: What kind of work did that involve?
Two weeks have passed since the sequester—across the board federal budget cuts of close to $100 billion—went into effect with no roll back in sight. An essay by Abdul El-Sayed, a social epidemiologist and physician-in-training at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, details the impact the cuts will have on public health, which has already seen deep budget slashes in the last two years. El-Sayed says since 2010 public health spending has already decreased by about $2.5 billion—nearly 8 percent—and sequestration doubles that total to nearly 16 percent “with potentially more cuts to come in the next several years.”
Sayed reviewed the programs targeted and says public health impacts include cuts in vaccination rates; HIV testing; breast and cervical cancer screening; food service inspections; training for public health workers in epidemiology; laboratory skills; and outbreak investigations and global heath funding.
“Worse than the short-term impacts of sequestration on public health at home and abroad may be the lasting implications sequestration’s cuts will have for the future of public health,” says El-Sayed. “If unabated, these cuts will extend through fiscal year 2021, crippling our public health infrastructure by starving critical organizations, such as the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of the funds they need to carry out even their most basic operations.”
Read the article.
A new report finds that some existing laws on the books across the nation offer critical opportunities to improve Americans’ health through the use of health impact assessments.
>>Read more on the new report.
>>Follow our coverage from the National HIA Meeting.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Professor James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, principal investigator and director of the Western Region of the Network for Public Health Law, about the report.
NewPublicHealth: What’s the background on the report?
James Hodge: This project that we’ve done in conjunction with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has taken a very interesting and important look at the role of law in relation to support for the use and implementation of health impact assessments nationally. This was really uncovered material prior to our research in this arena. We were aware of specific instances where federal, state, tribal or local governments had suggestively made HIAs an important component of particular reviews for public safety or public health through laws, but we had not done any national, systematic study to really assess how extensive that is, particularly in non-health sectors. So, for example, in areas like transportation and environment and waste management, to what extent did law support the use of HIAs? The report has provided some initial answers that really are quite profound in this attempt to illustrate just how extensively law can be supportive of these particular initiatives.
NPH: Based on your review of the laws, is it still a novel concept to consider health impacts in projects in sectors as varied as the environment and transportation?
A new report, "Legal Review Concerning the Use of Health Impact Assessments in Non-Health Sectors," released yesterday at the inaugural National Health Impact Assessment Meeting, finds that a wide variety of existing laws offer important opportunities to improve Americans’ health.
>>Follow our coverage from the National HIA Meeting.
Using a sample of 36 jurisdictions in the United States, the research found that existing laws offer many opportunities for health to be factored into a range of decisions, in which it typically would not otherwise be considered. The sample included laws and policies in 20 states, 10 localities, five tribal nations and the federal government.
The new report is the first comprehensive study of its kind and found an unexpectedly large number of laws that facilitate the consideration of health effects in fields such as transportation, energy and agriculture. Many of these legal requirements may be satisfied by conducting health impact assessments (HIAs), a type of study that helps decision-makers identify and address the potential and often unrecognized health risks and benefits of their decisions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will require tobacco companies to report on a range of toxic chemical ingredients, as well as back up any claims for "safer" tobacco products.
Both actions will have a public comment period, ending June 4, 2012, before the rules become final.
Under the proposed regulations, tobacco companies will be required to report quantities of 20 different ingredients associated with cancer, lung disease and other health problems on consumer-friendly packaging by the end of the year, and the agency plans to make the information available to the public in a consumer-friendly format by April 2013.
Tobacco manufacturers will also have to substantiate claims if they want to market a tobacco product as "less risky" to health.
>>Read a statement from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids on the new rules.
>>Read more about modified risk tobacco products.
>>Read more about potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco products.