Category Archives: Public Health

Teen prescription opioid abuse, cigarette, and alcohol use down, but e-cigarette use up

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Two white tabletsFrom the US Department of Health and Human Services

Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.

These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

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Texting, talking and walking – distracted pedestrian injuries jump

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texting walking iPhone cell phone mobileBy Tim Henderson
Stateline

They walk in front of cars, and into tree limbs and street signs. They fall off curbs and bridges into wet cement and creek beds.

They are distracted walkers who, while calling or texting on mobile phones, have suffered cuts and bruises, sustained serious head injuries or even been killed.

As many cities and states promote walkable neighborhoods, in part to attract more young people, some also are levying fines on distracted walkers and lowering speed limits to make streets gentler for the inattentive.

Pedestrian injuries due to cell phone use are up 35 percent since 2010, according to federal emergency room data reviewed by Stateline, and some researchers blame at least 10 percent of the 78,000 pedestrian injuries in the U.S. in 2012 on mobile device distraction.

texting walking graphic

The federal Fatality Analysis Reporting system attributes about a half-dozen pedestrians deaths a year to “portable electronic devices,” including phones and music players.

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Urban parks and trails most cost-effective ways to promote exercise

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small__13075606504By Sharyn Alden
Health Behavior News Service

Providing public parks and walking and biking trails is the most cost-effective strategy to increase physical activity among large populations in urban areas, according to a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Virpi Kuvja-Kollner, lead author of the review, noted that although public budgets for health care and other services are tighter than ever, the most cost-effective approach to increase physical activity among large urban populations is to make changes to the structural environment.

Creation of more outdoor exercise opportunities, such as “pedestrian or bicycle trails en route to public transportation stations or providing public parks in densely populated areas,” can require a substantial public investment but have long life spans.

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active.”

“The main focus in promoting physical activity should be to get people who are not active to get moving instead of just promoting more exercise to those who are already active,” added Kuvja-Kollner, a researcher/instructor and doctoral candidate at the University of Eastern Finland. Continue reading

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Video chat tops quarantine to combat TB

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TBBy Fred Mogul, WNYC

Thirty-four-year-old Karim works long days as an investment adviser, and when he doesn’t burn the midnight oil, he plays basketball or goes to the gym, hangs out with friends, or heads to coffee shops. You wouldn’t know he has an especially tough-to-treat illness.

“I have multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis,” he explains.

It’s called that, because at least two of the most potent drugs conventionally used to squelch the tuberculosis bacterium don’t work on the strain of the illness that Karim has. So he needs to take a combination of drugs, with harsher side effects, for 18 months. That’s two to three times longer than the traditional treatment for tuberculosis.

While Americans debate whether we should quarantine people who might have Ebola but clearly aren’t contagious, others wander among us who are infected with tuberculosis, which is.

“It has been a very stressful treatment process and a lot to deal with, but, thank God, it’s all going really, really well,” says Karim, who requested that NPR not use his full name out of concern he could be stigmatized for being a carrier of a disease that many people don’t understand.

While Americans debate whether we should quarantine people who might have Ebola but clearly aren’t contagious, others wander among us who are infected with tuberculosis — another disease that’s highly communicable in some forms. Close to 10,000 people in the United States have TB. Continue reading

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More than half of U.S. infants sleep with unsafe bedding

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From the National Institutes of Health

NIH, CDC study shows unsafe infant bedding use still common, despite warnings

Alert IconNearly 55 percent of U.S. infants are placed to sleep with bedding that increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, despite recommendations against the practice, report researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other institutions.

Soft objects and loose bedding — such as thick blankets, quilts, and pillows — can obstruct an infant’s airway and pose a suffocation risk, according to the NIH’s Safe to Sleep campaign.

Soft bedding has also been shown to increase the risk of SIDS Infants should be placed to sleep alone, on their backs, on a firm sleep surface, such as in a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet. Soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, quilts, comforters and loose bedding should be kept out of the baby’s sleep area.

Parents have good intentions but may not understand that blankets, quilts and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation.”—Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, Ph.D.

Based on responses from nearly 20,000 caregivers, the researchers reported that, although such potentially unsafe bedding use declined from 85.9 percent in 1993-1995, it still remained high, at 54.7 percent, in 2008-2010.

“Parents have good intentions but may not understand that blankets, quilts and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation,” said the study’s first author, Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior scientist in the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health in Atlanta.  Continue reading

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Sign up to receive Flood Alerts! Or get the app!

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King County Flood Alert App

King County is offering free Flood Alerts to help keep you informed of flood conditions you can sign up for phone or text messages — or get an app.

  • Get Alerts by e-mail and/or phone (voice or text messages)
  • Select the rivers that affect you
  • Select the flood phase levels of interest to you.

 Make sure you get alerted in an emergency!

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Minimum wage a health issue? States take a broader view of health disparities.

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Minnesota_population_map_croppedBy Michael Ollove
Stateline

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.— For years, proposals to raise the minimum wage in Minnesota bogged down over economic concerns: Would a raise impel businesses to leave the state? Would it decrease employment? Would it touch off inflation?

The supporters’ main argument, that raising the minimum wage would put more money into the pockets of low-wage workers and their families, fell short.

This year, proponents seized on a new strategy: They convinced the legislature to ask the Minnesota Department of Health to analyze the health impact of the state’s minimum wage of $6.15 an hour, which is among the lowest in the country.

The department’s subsequent analysis revealed that health and income levels were inextricably linked. Whether it was rates of adequate prenatal care, infant mortality, diabetes, suicide risk, or lack of insurance, the results for poorer Minnesotans were vastly inferior to residents with higher incomes.

In fact, Minnesotans living in the highest income areas of the Twin Cities region lived eight years longer than those living in the poorest.

The report virtually ended the debate. The legislature voted to phase in an increase in the minimum wage to $9.50—one of the highest in the country—with automatic subsequent increases indexed to the rate of inflation. Continue reading

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Whoa! Before you give the kid the keys to the car . . .

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You’ve been protecting your kids their whole lives. So don’t just hand them the keys to a two-ton machine with no rules… Talk it out. Tell your teenagers they have to agree to 5 rules to drive:

  1. No cell phones,
  2. No extra passengers,
  3. No speeding,
  4. No alcohol, and
  5. Buckle-up.

Set the rules before they hit the road.

Learn more here.

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Q&A: What are states doing to prepare for an Ebola outbreak?

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ebolaBy Christine Vestal
Stateline

As fears of an Ebola outbreak rise, federal agencies are taking steps to protect and inform the public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is taking the lead on most aspects of the effort – issuing containment guidelines to hospitals and other health workers, training airport personnel on screening methods, and creating uniform lab tests to diagnose the deadly disease

. But as in all public health emergencies, state and local public health departments are the nation’s first line of defense.

What role do state and local health agencies play in protecting the public?

State and local health department workers are often first responders, communicating directly with residents and health care workers, as well as coordinating with related agencies and hospitals through established communication networks. They also manage public health laboratories that test for the virus.

For example, when the Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, tested positive for Ebola in September, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the laboratory results to the hospital that was treating him and the Dallas County health agency began tracking down people who had direct contact with him.

Later, the state agency issued quarantine orders for those who had come in contact with Duncan, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department delivered the orders and county health officials checked the temperatures of those who were quarantined. Continue reading

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How to stop the Ebola epidemic – Paul Farmer

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From People Power Television

As the death toll from the West African Ebola outbreak nears 1,400, two American missionaries who received experimental drugs and top-notch healthcare have been released from the hospital.

We spend the hour with Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer discussing what can be done to stop the epidemic and the need to build local healthcare capacity, not just an emergency response.

“The Ebola outbreak, which is the largest in history that we know about, is merely a reflection of the public health crisis in Africa, and it’s about the lack of staff, stuff and systems that could protect populations, particularly those living in poverty, from outbreaks like this or other public health threats,” says Farmer, who has devoted his life to improving the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

He is a professor at Harvard Medical School and currently serves as the special adviser to the United Nations on community-based medicine. He has written several books including, “Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues.”

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Mercer Island boil-water advisory lifted

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Photo: shrff14 on Flickr

Photo: shrff14 on Flickr

The City of Mercer Island announced Wednesday it has lifted the current Boil-Water Advisory in consultation with the state Department of Health. Restaurants may reopen after speaking directly with a Health Inspector from Public Health – Seattle & King County and following completion of step-by-step procedures.

For the sixth day in a row, water-sample test results are clear: all 18 of the latest samples revealed no presence of E. Coli or Total Coliform, and chlorine levels were adequate.  This brings the total number of samples collected to more than 100 over 6 days.

Mayor Bruce Bassett said: “I know I can speak for the whole community when I say that this day has been a long time coming. I’d like to thank staff and partner agencies for their extensive commitment to not only resolving this incident and implementing corrective measures, but also ensuring the safety of the community. We all look forward to life returning back to normal.” Continue reading

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States search for ways to cut traffic deaths

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Photo courtesy of Opinto

Photo courtesy of Opinto

By Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Back in 2008, South Carolina transportation officials were itching to do something innovative to curtail the number of serious traffic crashes in their state.

The federal government already had designated South Carolina as one of the states with the highest proportion of traffic fatalities at intersections.

So state highway safety officials began working with their counterparts at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to come up with a new, system-wide approach to tackling the problem. Continue reading

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Mercer Island boil-water advisory remains in place

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City Reveals Sunday Test Results and Next Actions
Boil-Water Advisory Still in Place

Drinking Water WarningSun Oct 5, 12:15 pm – The City of Mercer Island announces that the latest test results from water samples collected Saturday have been analyzed and are clear: all 18 of the samples revealed no presence of E. Coli or Total Coliform.

This includes seven samples collected with permission from residential properties.

Today’s test results mark the third day of samples free of contamination; at this time however, the boil-water advisory is still in place.

This morning, Public Health – Seattle & King County reported a potential case of E. Coli illness infection in an Island resident; the patient has not been hospitalized.

At this point, it is not possible to say whether there is any link to Mercer Island water; lab tests are pending. Contact Public Health for more information.

The City and WA State Department of Health continue to review implementation of the response plan and water quality test results in order to determine the earliest that the boil-water advisory can be lifted safely.

Mercer Island School District plans to continue a regular school schedule using “heat and eat” food and special water procedures, approved by Public Health – Seattle & King County. Unless otherwise notified, parents should visit the school’s website (www.mercerislandschools.org) for the latest information. Continue reading

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Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s – The Atlantic

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Photomicrograph of the bacteria that causes whooping cough

Pertussis, the whooping cough bacteria — CDC photo

The Hollywood Reporter has a great investigation for which it sought the vaccination records of elementary schools all over Los Angeles County. They found that vaccination rates in elite neighborhoods like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills have tanked, and the incidence of whooping cough there has skyrocketed.

via Wealthy L.A. Schools’ Vaccination Rates Are as Low as South Sudan’s – The Atlantic.

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