Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lonely office links

It's 2 days before Christmas. All the CSTE-ers are off celebrating, leaving the lonely Jewish girl here. To work? Nah, to blog! So here are some links for you to peruse while you're getting away from your visiting families:
  1. A New York dog is confirmed to have H1N1. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (and surely the National Association for State Public Health Veterinarians as well) wants to ensure the public that while the virus can be passed from human to animal, there is no evidence the virus can be passed from animal to human. No need to stop petting Fido.
  2. Associated Content's health news section has come out with the Top 10 health stories of the decade. H1N1 is #1, while health care reform comes in at #9. Hm. Other stories that made the cut include food safety, screening tests, and the HPV vaccine (all stories I've blogged about here!).
  3. The Washington Post reports that fewer people are getting tested for H1N1, which "proves" that the second peak has subsided. Has it? Could this just mean that fewer people are being tested because physicians are assuming flu-like symptoms to be H1N1? Fewer tested could just mean that.... fewer are tested, not that the incidence of H1N1 is declining.
  4. This op-ed piece discusses One Health, the initiative/idea that animal and human health intersect in increasingly important ways. It is, indeed, a concept that is gaining ground, and so I encourage you to take a look.
  5. This editorial in the NY Times discusses the end to abstinence-only funding for sex education programs. It includes an important quote:
    Ideology, censorship and bad science have no place in public health policy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More links

  1. Pneumococcal vaccine: Babies routinely get this vaccine, but older children, adults, and seniors need to keep it in mind too. This vaccine can protect those with underlying health conditions from getting pneumonia, a dangerous complication of influenza.
    "But because flu season lasts until May and more outbreaks are likely, some of those officials, including the top ranks at the CDC, have begun talking about the pneumonia vaccine, which they say could save thousands of lives a year and prevent debilitating effects of severe illness in many more."
  2. Oh, that unhealthy Santa: Santa, the large jelly-bellied man who "visits" kids at Christmastime, sits around, gets pulled by reindeer, and eats cookies at every house he visits. What an unhealthy image for kids! This article suggests that Santa needs a carrot, not a cookie. And that's not even starting to talk about all the sick, snotty kids who sit on Santa's lap all day, every day this time of year. (Ew.)

  3. Your tap water is legal, but is it healthy? This article discusses the outdated Safe Drinking Water Act, a 35-year-old law that covers a fraction of the thousands of potential chemicals and contaminants. And the effects of these contaminants may not be noticed until years after the exposure, making it difficult to pinpoint the source. The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is looking into changing the standards:
    ".. Even the E.P.A., which has ultimate responsibility for the Safe Drinking Water Act, has concluded that millions of Americans have been exposed to drinking water that fails to meet a federal health benchmark.."
  4. This very interesting blog post examines the latest health care reform proposal in the Senate for public health provisions. Examples include: focus on evidence-based medicine (we'll see how that goes over with the public - see the outcry about mammogram recommendations), emphasis on healthy communities and healthy lifestyles, authorizing the Epidemiology Laboratory Capacity program to increase surveillance capacity (yay!), addressing public health workforce shortages, and an emphasis on prevention.

  5. Trust for America's Health has released a new report "which finds that the H1N1 flu outbreak has exposed serious underlying gaps in the nation's ability to respond to public health emergencies and that the economic crisis is straining an already fragile public health system." Surprise! The report scores states on their preparedness levels.

  6. And finally, CSTE has released its 2009 Epidemiology Capacity Assessment report, which assesses states' capacity to perform essential public health services related to epidemiology and surveillance. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sugary cokes = Fat

A new video out from the NYC's health department shows, in pretty gross terms, how drinking sugary cokes makes you fat. (In the South, "coke" is a ubiquitous term for "soda.") This article details some of the implications of drinking sugary beverages and some of the action being taken around the country. Watch for yourself:

Shamelessly proud

This has less to do with public health and more to do with how proud I am of my dad! He recently went on a media blitz, doing 19 TV and radio spots in one morning to promote kids' health during the flu season. Here I've posted 1 of the TV spots. Enjoy!

Here is the website that includes more information about fighting and preventing flu:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A couple links for the day

  1. This article discusses a newly-developed pandemic planning tool that will help health officials "quickly analyze pandemics and craft better response strategies." The author also says, "these results could be valuable in developing an aggressive preventive strategy and deciding how best to use limited resources."
  2. Second, the health world today is discussing a new study that shows the overuse of CT scans can lead to cancer deaths, says this article. "Widespread overuse of CT scans and variations in radiation doses caused by different machines... are subjecting patients to high radiation doses that will ultimately lead to tens of thousands of new cancer cases and deaths," says the study. The article emphasizes that the risk for any one individual is relatively small, but the overall risk for the population is much larger.
  3. Finally, in breaking news from the NYT, a million doses of infant H1N1 vaccine have been recalled, apparently because they are slightly less potent than recommended. Unfortunately, this slip-up will probably mean even more negative publicity for the vaccine and for public health. Oh, boy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some recent links

  1. This interesting article discuses evidence-based medicine and the recent mammogram recommendations (I know, they're still talking about it.) Take a look and see what you think.
  2. As I've discussed before, climate change is expected to have a major impact on health and public health. This article is about its impact on mental health specifically. The point that makes the most sense is that climate change is expected to bring more natural disasters, bringing more life upheaval and therefore more stress and mental health issues.
  3. Cancer death rates are declining, according to this article. Researchers who found this statistic examined colorectal cancer as an example, and found that the decline was mostly due to better screening. Here is the study from which the article draws, which is worth a read - interesting.
  4. The CDC has reported that the death toll from H1N1 is at 10,000, but also suggests that the number of new cases could be trickling off. It says one in five Americans have had H1N1. Mike Osterholm says, in my opinion accurately, that this pandemic is not over:
    “So the C.D.C. says 50 million have been infected so far,” he said. “Another 50 million have been vaccinated. And maybe 20 million have got innate immunity because of their age. You do the math — that’s 120 million who are immune out of 320 million, so two-thirds of the population is still not immune. It’s amazing how many people are acting as if this is all wrapped up. The numbers could still go up dramatically.”
  5. This article describes the dismal state of public health and its critical understaffed numbers. It's a great article.
    "If swine flu is a test of public health, we've already flunked. And we have only ourselves -- and the political leaders who have been disinvesting in public health since 1980 -- to blame."
  6. Finally, a new report from the Institute of Medicine about the National Vaccine Plan seeks to elevate vaccines to a higher public health priority, increase funding, and other recommendations. This article explains the highlights of the report. The updated plan is expected to take effect in 2010. However, the development of this plan does not ensure its implementation:
    "Siegel has doubts that the proposed policy can be implemented and enforced. 'There are extremely difficult obstacles -- fear, noncompliance, media hype and poor government choices,' he said."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Plastics & chemicals

There has been a lot of attention given to the safety of plastics lately, specifically centering around BPAs, or bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is a compound used to make certain plastics, mostly #7 and #3 plastics. Recently, disputes have come up regarding the safety of BPAs; previously determined safe levels of BPAs are being challenged due to new scientific studies.

Although the evidence remains uncertain, some journalists like Nicholas Kristof have been vocal in their opinion to ban chemicals like BPAs from their households. Consumer Reports reviewed the levels of BPAs in food containers and found higher-than-desired levels in things like canned foods.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing its policy on BPAs, developing its chemical management program and producing action plans. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is also reviewing the safety of BPAs - a ruling is expected any day (the announcement was supposed to come recently but has been delayed.)

This article from Science News details some of the effects of BPAs in plastics. Effects include heart arrhythmias, gene modification, estrogen changes, and more. Another interesting article can be found here in Scientific American. CDC has a good fact sheet with all the basics of BPAs. According to this fact sheet, Americans have widespread exposure to BPAs, and females have higher levels of BPAs in their urine than males - children have higher levels as well. The National Toxicology Program has expressed concern for adverse effects of BPAs due to "developmental toxicity for fetuses, infants, and children" primarily because of "effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland."

What are we doing about this besides reviewing policies? Well, some states have begun to ban BPA chemicals from their plastics and some manufacturers have begun voluntarily taking BPAs out of their products. Canada widely bans BPAs in baby bottles.

What should we as consumers do, bottom line? Try to decrease your exposure to BPAs by avoiding #7 plastics. Mothers should limit their and their infants' exposure to BPAs by using BPA-free or glass baby bottles (or breastfeed but that's a whole 'nother blog post.)