Category Archives: Technology
A recent Opinionator column in The New York Times by Nancy DiTomaso, vice dean for faculty and research at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, suggests that some of the reason for the 13 percent unemployment rate among African-Americans—double the rate for whites—may stem from the fact that whites are more able to rely on their social networks for an edge when finding out about and applying for higher-wage jobs.
“Getting an inside edge by using help from family and friends is a powerful, hidden force driving inequality in the United States,” says DiTomaso, who adds that whites helping other whites is not the same as discrimination, and it is not illegal, “yet it may have a powerful effect on the access that African-Americans and other minorities have to good jobs, or even to the job market itself.”
Income—and lack of it—impact every aspect of health, from being able to afford safe housing to being able to purchase nutritious food to accessing high-quality healthcare. A study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year found that there were nearly 40,000 extra hospital readmissions over a three-year period in states with the greatest income inequality.
NewPublicHealth illustrated the link between jobs and health in a recent infographic.
>> Read the post from The New York Times.
Past Decade's Poor Economy Drove Health Declines
More than a decade of research points to the negative impact of the austerity that accompanies a flagging economy on the population's health, according to Reuters. The studies will be detailed in a new book to be released by an interesting research pairing including a political economist from Oxford University and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Standford University. the researchers say more than 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed during what they call the "Great Recession" and its accompanying austerity across Europe and North America. For example, more than five million Americans have lost access to health care during the latest recession. Researchers also tie cuts in governmental public health programs to excess disease rates. "In Greece, moves like cutting HIV prevention budgets have coincided with rates of the AIDS-causing virus rising by more than 200 percent since 2011—driven in part by increasing drug abuse in the context of a 50 percent youth unemployment rate," according to the Reuters article. Read more on poverty and health.
What Influences Kids to Smoke (or Not to) Changes Over Time
Peer pressure may have a bigger influence on middle school-aged kids in starting to smoke, but that influence may wane as they get older. On the other hand, researchers said parents seem to remain influential over their children's smoking behavior throughout high school, as reported by HealthDay. Researchers looked at data from the Midwestern Prevention Project, the longest-running substance abuse prevention, randomized controlled trial in the United States, which includes 1,000 teens. Read more on tobacco use.
Facebook Could Help Predict, Track and Map Obesity
The higher the percentage of people in a city, town or neighborhood with Facebook interests suggesting a healthy, active lifestyle, the lower that area's obesity rate, according to a new study. At the same time, areas with a large percentage of Facebook users with television-related interests tend to have higher rates of obesity. The study was conducted by Boston Children's Hospital researchers comparing geotagged Facebook user data with data from national and New York City-focused health surveys.
"Online social networks like Facebook represent a new high-value, low-cost data stream for looking at health at a population level," said study author John Brownstein, PhD, from the Boston Children's Hospital Informatics Program. "The tight correlation between Facebook users' interests and obesity data suggest that this kind of social network analysis could help generate real-time estimates of obesity levels in an area, help target public health campaigns that would promote healthy behavior change, and assess the success of those campaigns." The study was published in PLOS ONE. Read more on obesity.
A Buzzfeed article posted in the days after the explosions at the Boston Marathon last week reported on hashtags and Google docs that emerged in the hours after the explosions, and pointed out the need for expanded “disaster and crisis coordination online, beyond hashtags.” The article notes a new San Francisco initiative in collaboration with the design firm IDEO—a social networking website and app to connect people who want to help with those who need it, which will let individuals preregister homes where people in need can find emergency shelter, supplies and useful skills such as First Aid certification. According to the post, “instead of scanning hashtags [in order to offer assistance], people will be able to simply log in to a preexisting community.”
There was a soft launch of the system in January and the organizations are now collecting user feedback.
Jenine Harris, PhD, an assistant professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, reported on expanded use of social media by local health departments during the recent Keeneland Conference on public health services and systems research held in Lexington, Ky. Dr. Harris says of the San Francisco project that “the more active a social media channel, the more people follow it, so if these channels could be tweeting or retweeting regularly they would probably draw larger audiences.” Harris suggests that health departments could retweet information from their channels and increase visibility.
>>Read the Buzzfeed article.
Study: Tech-based Aids Can Prevent Costly Mistakes, Delayed Diagnoses
Technology-based health care aids may help physicians and prevent costly mistakes and delayed diagnoses, according to a new review of evidence in Annals of Internal Medicine. Examples of effective aids include text message alerts sent to doctors, computer programs that use symptoms to generate lists of possible diagnoses and policies that reward doctors who make accurate diagnoses. "I think there's a general feeling that we're probably going to need multiple strategies," David Newman-Toker, MD, who studies diagnostic errors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and was not involved in the study, told Reuters. "Ultimately I think the biggest bang for the buck is going to come out of decision-based computer support of one kind or another, but it's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be tomorrow." Read more on technology.
Checklist Could Help Older Americans Estimate Whether They’ll Live Another Decade
A new checklist in the Journal of the American Medical Association could estimate whether people age 50 and older will still be alive in 10 years. The checklist is designed to help health care providers and patients make better decisions. The 12 factors were determined through an analysis of data from a national study of nearly 20,000 U.S. adults older than 50. They include age, sex, weight, smoking, the presence of diabetes, lung disease, heart disease and certain physical limitations. Read more on aging.
CDC: Lethal, Drug-resistant Bacteria Spreading in U.S. Healthcare Facilities
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) March 2013 Vital Signs report, a family of bacteria called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has become increasingly resistant to last-resort antibiotics during the past decade, and more hospitalized patients are contracting infections that in some cases cannot be cured. CRE are usually transmitted from person-to-person, often on the hands of health care workers. During just the first half of 2012, almost 200 hospitals and long-term acute care facilities treated at least one patient infected with these bacteria.
Currently, almost all CRE infections occur in people receiving significant medical care in hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, or nursing homes. “CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.
Last year, CDC published a CRE prevention toolkit with recommendations for hospitals, long-term acute care facilities, nursing homes and health departments. Key recommendations include:
- Enforcing use of infection control precautions (standard and contact precautions)
- Grouping patients with CRE together
- Dedicating staff, rooms and equipment to the care of patients with CRE, whenever possible
- Having facilities alert each other when patients with CRE transfer back and forth
- Asking patients whether they have recently received care somewhere else (including another country)
- Using antibiotics wisely
In addition, CDC recommends screening patients in certain scenarios to determine whether they are carrying CRE. Because of the way CRE can be carried by patients from one health care setting to another, facilities are encouraged to work together regionally to implement CRE prevention programs. In some parts of the world, CRE appear to be more common, and evidence shows they can be controlled. Read more on bacteria.
Time to vote! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the start of public voting for the People’s Choice Award in the HHSinnovates Program, which rewards outstanding projects led by HHS employees to solve critical health issues.
The public is invited to cast their votes for finalists who submitted ideas that have proven to be scalable, replicable and uniquely innovative. The finalist with the highest number of votes will win the “People’s Choice” award, which will be announced March 19 in Washington, D.C.
Vote for your favorite finalist here. The top contenders include:
- Connecting to Combat Alzheimer’s
- The Body Weight Simulator
- Portal System: Linking Health Care Clinics
- Counterfeit Detector Device
- The Weight of the Nation Campaign
Read the full post for a detailed description of each.
HHS Online Initiative to Protect Patient Information on Mobile Devices
A new initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services includes online tools with practical tips on how to protect patient health information on mobile devices. Mobile Devices: Know the RISKS. Take the STEPS. PROTECT and SECURE Health Information includes videos, fact sheets and posters. Surveys shows that only about 44 percent of mobiles devices used for clinical purposes are properly encrypted. “It’s important that these tools are used correctly,” said Joy Pritts, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) chief privacy officer, in a release. “Health care providers, administrators and their staffs must create a culture of privacy and security across their organizations to ensure the privacy and security of their patients’ protected health information.” Read more on technology.
Study: Daylight Savings Time Slightly Increases Heart Attack Risk
Sleep deprivation caused by setting the clock ahead for Daylight Savings Time may slightly increase the risk of heart attack the following day, according to a new study in the American Journal of Cardiology. "Nowadays, people are looking for how they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other ailments," said Monica Jiddou, lead author and a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, according to Reuters. "Sleep is something we can potentially control. There are plenty of studies that show sleep can affect a person's health." Researchers said that while the findings could be due to chance, they believe the sleep deprivation increase stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals. Read more on heart health.
Experts: No Link Between Autism, Violence
In the wake of reports that the 20-year-old gunman who killed 27 people—20 of them children—at an elementary school in Newton, Conn. had Asperger's syndrome, health professionals are quickly noting that there is no link between autism (of which Asperger’s is a mild type) and violence. "Research suggests that aggression among people with autism spectrum conditions can occur 20 percent to 30 percent more often than compared to the general population," said Eric Butter, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychology at Ohio State University, according to HealthDay. "But, we are not talking about the kind of planned and intentional type of violence we have seen at Newtown. The new DSM-5 is set to change the designation "autistic disorder" to "autism spectrum disorder," which will include what is currently known as Asperger's. Read more on mental health.
Rickshaw Dumplings and Frites ‘n’ Meats might not sound like disaster response teams at first. But in a way, they are. The growing urban trend of food trucks—self-powered mobile kitchens that change locations frequently and tweet out each new sidewalk address—have been the solution for many New Yorkers in need of hot meals since Hurricane Sandy. And with more than 10,000 people still without power, many “cool” hot meals continue.
As of last week, about 230,000 meals had been served, most paid for by the Mayor’s Office and corporate contributions.
Equally trendy is a vacation stay in a rented room in a house, instead of a hotel. One site, AirBNB, which matches rentees and renters, has become a resource embraced by the Mayor’s Office. The post-Sandy twist is that the rooms are offered by their landlords at no cost to those in need of shelter. Checklists for all parties help create safe stays.
And customized disaster software, for a fee, is another way communities are bouncing back. Recovers.org was founded by two women after a tornado hit their hometown in Massachusetts. The software creates options for users that let people ask for help, donate help and see real-time information via Twitter feeds about what’s happening in their area. Several communities hard hit by Sandy—including Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood and Hoboken, N.J.—have deployed the software.
A new Census Bureau tool, OnTheMap for Emergency Management, was created to help prepare communities for an emergency. The tool provides information about the potential affected population size and characteristics of the people, such as age, occupation, and place of residence. In an event like Hurricane Sandy, the tool was able to trace the path of the hurricane and update data predictions of potential impacts as the storm's path changed. Communities can use these statistics to know how many people live and work in an area where there is a disaster. Knowing these numbers and related demographics helps communities set aside resources and identify vulnerable populations that will need additional assistance, such as the elderly or disabled.
>>Read more about the OnTheMap for Emergency Management tool.
The Institute of Medicine and the Avon Foundation for Women issued the “Ending Violence @ Home App Challenge” to encourage powerful communication through technologies such as social media and mobile apps to help end worldwide suffering caused by domestic violence. Four winners of the App challenge were chosen from 19 submissions that came in from across nine countries. The four were chosen based on their innovation, design, potential impact, and ability to integrate evidence-based information and usability in different settings. IOM President Harvey Fineberg stated in a release, “I am very impressed with the level of creativity demonstrated by the winning products, which can make a real difference to abused individuals.”
The top prize of $10,000 was awarded to Wisdom of the Children (Çocuktan Al Haberi), a Turkish group that developed a website to encourage individuals to see that change can start with a simple shift in how we talk to each other. The website encourages families to take old Turkish expressions that condone violence and reinforce traditional gender norms, and turn them into more positive sayings. For example, the traditional saying from the region, “don't spare a baby from your wife's belly and rod from her back,” was changed to “don't spare soup from a women's belly and sunscreen from her back.” Web visitors are encouraged to create their own new, positive, health-reinforcing sayings with their children.
>>Read more about the app challenge.
Inspired by the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, all week we've been talking with national health leaders and highlighting promising strategies to improve our nation's health and health care.
>>View the full package of thought leader interviews, video conversations with leaders from across sectors, and more at RWJF.org/futureofhealth.
Now we want to hear from you on what’s needed—and what works—to achieve better health. Share your stories from the field, ideas or even the critical questions we need to be asking to achieve a healthier future.
To join the conversation, add your thoughts in the comments section below.
To get your ideas flowing around the future of health and health care, read more on:
Reversing the Trend of Childhood Obesity. Read a Q&A with Jessica Donze Black of the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project on a new report looking at snacks sold in secondary schools. Also find updates on a new Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity study on parents’ attitudes about food marketing to children, and more.
Reducing Violence in Communities. Read a Q&A with Debbie Lee from Start Strong on preventing teen dating violence and a discussion with Sheila Regan of Cure Violence on partnering with hospitals for violence prevention.
Preparing and Responding to Disasters. Read discussions spurred by Hurricane Sandy, including about the role of public health as well as legal issues around orders to evacuate in an emergency.
Harnessing the Potential of Big Data. Read updates on how Big Data can change the landscape of public health, including a conversation with Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health IT, as well as Q&As and video interviews with other innovators and thought leaders.
Improving Health Equity. Read stories from the field and interviews with leaders on efforts to ensure everyone—regardless of race, ethnicity, income or zip code—has access to the resources they need to be healthy, including a diverse and representative health public health workforce.
Working Across Sectors to Improve Health. Read stories from the field and big ideas for bridging across sectors from thought leaders, including conversations with The California Endowment President Robert Ross and new APHA president Adewale Troutman.
Don't forget to share what YOU think will make for a healthier future in the comments below!