Friday, October 23, 2009

Infection control, influenza, and more!

Infection control:
TheraDoc has come out with a new patient surveillance tool to monitor multi-drug resistant organisms such as MRSA. These patient surveillance systems are interesting - they don't play into public health surveillance systems, however, so it will be interesting to see how things like this affect the healthcare-associated infections surveillance that public health departments do. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a lot of funding for the surveillance and prevention of healthcare-associated infections.

Influenza:
  1. First, Minnesota has confirmed one case of the H1N1 virus in a pig. This may be the first indication that it is present in some swine in the U.S., according to this CNN article. The USDA assured the public that pork is still safe to eat.

  2. This tool created by the Georgia Division of Public Health shows Georgia residents where they can find the H1N1 vaccine. The division has a lot of information on their H1N1 home page. They also have a PSA featuring Ovie Mughelli of the Atlanta Falcons.

    video

  3. This story on NPR conveys how skeptical people are of the H1N1 vaccine. My anecdotal experience is mixed - I've heard skeptics as well as those eager to get themselves or their children vaccinated. Some "public figures" like Glenn Beck are opposing vaccination. "Beck told his viewers on Fox News that he would do 'the exact opposite' of whatever the government recommends." Now, I would do the exact opposite of anything that Glenn Beck says, but that's my own personal opinion.

    An interesting point is that "public opinion surveys show that doctors and nurses are seen as the most credible sources of information on these kinds of medical decisions, but there has also been a flurry of media reports about some health professionals resisting mandatory vaccination campaigns at certain hospitals." So patients are getting a mixed message from doctors and nurses, even, which doesn't help the situation.

    This article released on Tuesday reemphasizes the safety of vaccines and how vaccines are a huge public health success story.

    Another article in the New York Times discusses how the H1N1 vaccine has "revitalized" the debate over vaccines. "Anti-vaccinators, as they are often referred to by scientists and doctors, have toiled for years on the margins of medicine. But an assemblage of factors around the swine flue vaccine — including confusion over how it was made, widespread speculation about whether it might be more dangerous than the virus itself, and complaints among some health care workers in New York about a requirement that they be vaccinated — is giving the anti-vaccine movement a fresh airing, according to health experts."

  4. This article discusses preparing one's business in case an outbreak of H1N1 hits the office. It's a valid concern; absenteeism can be a huge source of lost productivity, especially during a pandemic.
Chronic disease:
I know what you're thinking: Finally, some focus on something else besides influenza.
  1. A recent article in Health Affairs suggests that convenience stores and fast food chains are largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in South Los Angeles. Based on this study, lawmakers are considering limiting the density of such stores unless they sell fruits and vegetables, according to the LA Times. Last year, the district banned the establishment of new convenience stores for one year. The Health Affairs article suggests this one-year ban was not the best approach, because the density of convenience stores isn't high enough to be of concern compared to the rest of L.A. The article suggests that menu labeling and restricting excess calorie consumption would be much more effective.

    The article states: "Although the actual policy was based on questionable premises, this represents an important conceptual step forward. Research has made it clear that frequency and saliency of food cues in the environment, the types of food available, and the portion sizes served are key issues that effective policies need to address."

  2. Although Health Affairs suggested menu labeling as a possible intervention in Los Angeles, a study of the New York City labeling law has produced results that suggest otherwise. New York City found several obstacles that need to be overcome: a.) voluntary posting of nutritional information is unlikely to succeed due to the overwhelming resistance of the restaurant industry, b.) many public health disciplines (environmental health, chronic disease, public health law, communications, and more) need to collaborate effectively, and c. ) additional steps beyond the posting of nutritional information are needed to reduce overeating.

    Another study in Health Affairs indicated that menu labeling was noticed by consumers, and it may have influenced their choices, but overall calorie consumption was not affected.

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