Racial and Ethnic Minorities Face Greater Subtle Housing Discrimination
Blatant acts of housing discrimination faced by minority prospective home buyers are declining in the United States, but more subtle forms of housing denial persist, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Urban Institute. The study found that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians learn about fewer housing options than equally qualified whites. According to the study, which sent out pairs of “mystery home buyers” — one white and one minority — to contact real estate agents and rental housing providers, the minority pairs were recommended and shown fewer available homes and apartments, which can increase their costs and restrict housing options, according to HUD. “Fewer minorities today may be getting the door slammed in their faces, but we continue to see evidence of housing discrimination that can limit a family’s housing, economic and educational opportunities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Read more on housing.
After Second or Third Concussion Kids Take Longer to Recover
Children and adolescents who suffer a concussion have a much longer recovery time if they have had a concussion in the past, according to a new study in Pediatrics. The study authors evaluated 280 patients between the ages of 11 and 22 who were treated for concussion symptoms in emergency departments. Children who had a second concussion within a year had nearly three times the average duration of symptoms compared to children whose concussions occurred more than one year apart. The number of previous concussions also affected recovery time. Two or more prior concussions resulted in a much longer duration of symptoms compared to those who experienced no or one previous concussion. Other factors that resulted in a longer recovery time included being age 13 or older and having more severe symptoms at the time of the emergency room visit. Read more on injury prevention.
Hearing Loss in Seniors Can Increase Hospitalizations and Poor Health
A new study published in JAMA finds that seniors with hearing loss are at increased risk for hospitalization, illness, injury and depression. The study authors reviewed records of more than 1,000 men and women age 70 and older with hearing loss, finding that over a four-year period they were 32 percent more likely to have been admitted to the hospital than a comparison group the same age with normal hearing. The hearing-impaired seniors in the study were also 36 percent more likely to have extended stretches of illness or injury and 57 percent more likely to have extended episodes of stress, depression or bad mood. According to the researchers, hearing loss affects two-thirds of men and women aged 70 and older. Among their recommendations to reduce the health burdens of hearing loss are expanding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hearing-related services; increased installation of amplification technology in more facilities; and more accessible and affordable approaches for treating hearing loss. Read more on aging.
Britain to Regulate, Improve Quality of E-Cigarettes
The British government plan to regulate electronic cigarettes as non-prescription medicine starting in 201, according to Reuters. E-Cigarettes are battery-operated devices that contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that, "As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarette products currently have no way of knowing:
- whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use,
- how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or
- if there are any benefits associated with using these products."
The devices do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes. Currently, e-cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the FDA. According to Reuters, "Under the new British system, manufacturers will have to prove the quality of their products and demonstrate that they deliver the correct amount of nicotine. But they will not need to conduct clinical trials." Read more on tobacco and nicotine.
Even Hands-Free Devices Create Unsafe, Distracted Driving Conditions
A new report from AAA finds that even hands-free mobile devices create mental distractions that can drain attention away from focusing on the road and safe driving. The study found that mentally-distracted drivers—those who may not have even taken their eyes off the road but were distracted by speaking with someone through a hands-free device—missed visual cues, had slower reaction times, and even exhibited a sort of "tunnel vision" by not checking side- and rear-view mirrors or actively scanning the full roadway for potential hazards. Activities like listening to the radio or an audio book was mildly distracting (but likely not enough to effect driving safety); conversing with others (whether with fellow passengers, with someone via hand-held device or with some via hands-free device) was moderately but significantly distracting; and using a device with speech-to-text technology to send text messages or e-mails was highly distracting. Researchers hope these findings can be used to help craft science-based policies on driver distraction. Read more on safety.
CDC Partners with 104 Businesses to Improve Employee Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through its partner Viridian Health Management, has identified 104 employers in eight counties across the nation that have voluntarily chosen to participate in the National Healthy Worksite Program, a new initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease and building a healthier, more productive U.S. workforce—while also cutting health care costs. The initiative primarily focuses on small and mid-sized employers. a national evaluation will document best practices and models on how to successfully implement workplace health programs in small worksites more broadly. Read more on what businesses are doing to create healthier communities.
Last week, a lunch briefing hosted by Women’s Policy, Inc., a national nonprofit that focuses on women’s issues, brought together a packed house of policymakers, public health leaders, academics, and legislative staff in key Congressional offices to discuss how data can inform action around women's and population health.
The briefing focused on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that measures the health of every county in the United States and provides tools to help create solutions that make it easier for people to be healthy in their own communities. Measuring health outcomes like length and quality of life along with health factors like education, income, and obesity rates, the Rankings provide an annual snapshot of where counties are doing well and where they can improve.
In turn, the Roadmaps to Health program helps counties partner with other local leaders to use that data to improve the health of residents. One of the featured speakers at the briefing was Claude-Alix Jacob, Chief Public Health Officer of Cambridge, Mass., one of six inaugural winners of RWJF’s Roadmaps to Health Prize.
Jacob pointed out the value of having data to work with determining where to put resources in order to improve community health. Women’s health data points of in Cambridge include:
- Girls reported slightly higher rates of smoking and binge drinking than boys
- Girls reported rates three times higher than boys of verbal abuse.
- Girls reported being three times more likely to hurt themselves than boys
- 87 percent of eligible women have had Pap smears, and 85.5 have had mammograms
- One-third of single mothers live in poverty
One key program that Jacob pointed to that Cambridge has begun is Baby University, a free 16-week innovate program designed for parents with children from birth to age 3. The goal is to increase parents’ knowledge about child-rearing topics, strengthen parent-child relationships and connect parents to community resources. “While the first few cycles have largely included only moms,” said Jacob, “ the two most recent cycles have included more dads.”
The program includes childcare and transportation costs for enrolled parents, as well as home visits by professional staff. Parents who complete the program become part of an alumni association that continues the relationship between the parents and the program staff. So far, the program has had 140 graduates.
>>Read more about the briefing from the County Health Rankings blog.
>>Bonus Link: Among the resources for improving community health discussed at the Women Policy Inc. briefing was the “Town Hall Meeting in a Box” to help facilitate community conversations. The toolkit includes invitation samples, venue ideas and presentation documents. See more County Health Rankings & Roadmaps resources here.
Emergency Contraception Age Restrictions to be Dropped
The White House administration announced Monday that it will comply with a U.S. District Court ruling to remove the age restrictions on the emergency contraception pill Plan B One-Step, making it available to all women and girls without a prescription. The pill is most effective when taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. The court ruling came in April, with a judge referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to reject a citizen petition related to the restrictions as "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." According to Reuters, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the decision "will make emergency contraception available on store shelves, just like condoms, and women of all ages will be able to get it quickly in order to prevent unintended pregnancy." Read more on sexual health.
CDC Toolkit to Help Health Care Departments, Facilities Make Patient Notifications on Potential Exposures
More than 150,000 patients may have been exposed to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV since 2001 because of unsafe health care practices, and last year almost 14,000 people were notified in relation to a national fungal meningitis outbreak and other infections. In order to help health departments and facilities going forward, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a new online toolkit to facilitate the notification of patients in the event of potential infections or disease transmissions during medical care. The kit includes key steps on notifying patients, resources to help create notification documents, and media communications strategies. The kit was presented at the APIC Annual Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on June 9. Read more on infectious diseases.
Reducing CT Scans for Kids Could Cut Later Rates of Cancer
Cutting back on the number of unneeded, high-dose computed tomography (CT) scans on children could reduce their lifetime risk of certain cancers by more than 60 percent, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. CT scans utilize x-rays; the approximately 4 million annual CT scans of kids’ most commonly imaged organs may lead to as many as 4,900 cancers, according to the researchers. "There are potential harms from CT, meaning that there is a cancer risk—albeit very small in individual children—so it's important to reduce this risk in two ways," said lead author Diana Miglioretti, a professor of biostatistics in the department of public health sciences at the UC Davis Health System. "The first is to only do a CT when it's medically necessary, and use alternative imaging when possible. The second is to dose CT appropriately for children." Read more on cancer.
Last week, efforts to add a ten year old with cystic fibrosis to the list of adult patients waiting to get donated lungs, increasing her chances of a transplant, made big news. NewPublicHealth had planned to write about the urgent need for citizens to step up and sign on to become organ donors and help whittle down the long lists of patients desperately waiting for hearts, lungs, kidneys and other organs. But our colleagues at the The Public’s Health, a well-worth-reading public health blog hosted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, beat us to it. We urge you to read the post by Michael Yudell, one of the blog’s writers as well as an associate professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health.
"…The demand for organs in the United States far outpaces the supply. There are currently 75,650 active candidates (meaning they are medically suitable for a transplant) waiting for organs in the United States. But 18 people die every day, on average, waiting for an organ transplant."
CDC Releases Tools to Help People Keep Cool this Summer
A new study in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that there were 7,233 heat-related deaths in the United States in the decade from 1999 to 2009, with an analysis of 2012 data showing the death rate is climbing. “No one should die from a heat wave, but every year on average, extreme heat causes 658 deaths in the United States—more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined,” said Robin Ikeda, MD, MPH, acting director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Taking common sense steps in extreme temperatures can prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.” The CDC has released a series of tools to help people stay cool, hydrated and informed during the extreme that will most likely occur in much of the country over the hot summer months. They include the Extreme Heat and Your Health Website; Environmental Public Health Tracking Data; a Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events Guidebook; and Workplace Solutions Bulletin. Read more on environment.
Study: More than One-third of Designated Drivers End up Drinking
More than one-third of designated drivers end up drinking, according to a new study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The researchers spoke with approximately 1,100 bar patrons (mostly white, male, college-aged) in an unidentified college town and gave blood alcohol (BAL) tests to 165 who said they were designated drivers. About 65 percent had no alcohol in their systems; 17 percent had a BAL between 0.02 and 0.049; and 18 percent had a BAL of at least 0.05. The legal limit is 0.08. "While more of the designated drivers didn't drink than did drink, which is a good thing, you have people being selected because they're the least drunk, or the least intoxicated or they've driven drunk before," said study author Adam Barry, an assistant professor at the University of Florida. "The only real safe option is to completely abstain." Read more on alcohol.
Sequester to Close all HUD Offices on June 14
Though the schedule could still change, as it stands at the moment every office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be closed on Friday, June 14 as part of the sequester which is being felt across all of government. The automatic spending cuts took effect March 1. HUD’s plan is to pair its seven required furlough days with holidays and weekends. HUD is encouraging people and businesses that work with the agency to plan around the schedule day of shutdown. Read more on budgets.
A new study from Columbia University finds that deaths linked to a warming climate may rise by as much as 20 percent by the 2020s. The study was published in Nature Climate Change, by an interdisciplinary team at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the Mailman School of Public Health.
“This serves as a reminder that heat events are one of the greatest hazards faced by urban populations around the globe,” said coauthor Radley Horton, PhD, a climate scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research. In fact, although tornadoes are currently trending as the most common “weather word” right now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat kills more Americans each year than tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding and earthquakes combined.
Cities could be hit harder than other areas, according to the new research that found that daily records from Central Park in Manhattan show that average monthly temperatures already increased by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2000—substantially higher than the global and U.S. trends, according to the researchers, who say that cities tend to concentrate heat. Buildings and pavement soak it up during the day and give it off at night. Last year was the warmest year on record for New York City.
New ‘Health Affairs’ Brief Looks at Novel Coverage Idea under the Affordable Care Act
A number of states that have decided against implementing the Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act, which would give Medicaid benefits to many low-income adults who currently don’t have health insurance, may have another idea for coverage. The states are considering providing people eligible for the Medicaid funds with vouchers to purchase private insurance on their state health insurance exchanges. The exchanges, also known as marketplaces, open October 1, 2013 for health insurance that begins January 1, 2014. A new policy brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looks at whether that option can be cost-effective and still provide benefits equal to those provided by the traditional Medicaid program. Read more on access to health care.
Teen Dating Violence Persists Despite Prevention Efforts
Two recent studies by the University of Maryland School of Public Health examine physical dating violence (PDV) among teens found it persists despite decades of national and local prevention efforts. The research showed that PDV rates have remained consistent for girls since 1999 and that rates for boys' PDV have increased. The study on trends in girls, published in the Journal of School Health, found that approximately one in 10 girls experience PDV annually. Teenage girls who reported being physically abused by a girlfriend or boyfriend were also more likely to report feeling sad and hopeless and have suicidal thoughts, violence-related behaviors and engage in sexually risky behavior. A second study, published in the International Quarterly of Community Health Education, found that the prevalence of male PDV victims increased about 30 percent between 1999 and 2009, and according to the study by 2009 almost one in eight high school males reported having been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the past year. The study also found feelings of hopelessness, physical fighting, multiple sex partners and lack of condom use among male victims of PDV. Read more on violence.
USDA, EPA Launch U.S. Food Waste Challenge
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which calls on food producers, processors, manufacturers, retailers, communities and government agencies to reduce, recover and recycle food waste. Food waste in the United States is estimated at between 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. In 2010, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from U.S. retail food stores, restaurants and homes was never consumed. In 2010, the financial value of food waste was pegged at close to $400 for every U.S. consumer. As part of the food challenge, USDA is initiating activities to reduce waste in the school meals program, educate consumers about food waste and food storage, and develop new technologies to reduce food waste. To join the Challenge visit here. Read more on nutrition.
As scholars together at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, public health researchers Kimberley Roussin Isett, PhD, and Miriam Laugesen, PhD, watched major policy changes unfold across the city over the past several years. They decided to look at New York City as a model for improving public health that other cities could replicate. “Things were happening in New York City rapidly, and in a health-focused way that really not seen before,” says Isett. Since then, other cities across the country have enacted similar, comprehensive smoke-free policies. Voluntary calorie postings on restaurant menus were also integrated as a requirement in the Affordable Care Act. The researchers decided to look at New York City as a model for improving public health that other cities could replicate. NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Drs. Isett and Laugesen about their research. Dr. Isett recently took a new position as an Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and Dr. Laugesen is an Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at Mailman and a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar.
NewPublicHealth: Because of its large budget and powerful public leaders, New York City isn’t always seen as a model for other, particularly smaller, health departments. But your work shows some of their efforts to be important, maybe critical for other departments to study and replicate. How did you come to that conclusion?
Miriam Laugesen: In our research, one theme that kept coming across again and again was the scientific basis—the amount of research and data—that the Bloomberg administration and staff had collected to justify and design their policies. That was a very big component, we thought, of many of their policies and that New York City had many innovative, interesting examples of how policymakers can base their policies on evidence.
A new American Public Health Association (APHA) Press book, “Veteran Suicide: A Public Health Imperative,” addresses the critical and growing issue of suicide among military veterans. The book is a collaboration between the APHA and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Both organizations previously partnered on a supplement to the American Journal of Public Health on suicide risks among veterans.
Topics addressed by the book include
- suicide prevention,
- substance abuse, and
- suicide surveillance.
The new book includes very recent research on suicide among veterans. "The research represented by the collection of manuscripts included in this volume is an important step towards addressing the national problem of suicide and a reminder that even one death by suicide is too many," said Janet Kemp, RN, PhD, Department of Veterans Affairs National Mental Health Program Director for Suicide Prevention.
“Veteran Suicide: A Public Health Imperative” is available for purchase online.
>>Bonus Link: This week the Huffington Post published an article by Kimberly Williams, Director of the Center for Policy, Advocacy, and Education of the Mental Health Association of New York City, pointing out that the connectedness members of the military feel with each other often disappears when they return to their communities, which may be a factor in the rising suicide rates among veterans.