Category: Health Promotion

A Lack of Vacc’s in this “Mild” Flu Season

Every year, our immune systems are exposed to a new strain of the flu. The flu evolves and changes constantly. This is why we have to get a new vaccine or “flu shot” every year. However, as the viruses change, so does the severity of their disease.

The impact of the flu virus is unpredictable, and that is why the CDC (and many other public health professionals) will always advise people to get their flu shot.  However, this year, a majority of adults are refusing to get their shot. A survey from mid-November showed that only 43% of 18+ adults have gotten their flu shots in the US.

From this survey, many of the people who have not been vaccinated claim they do not intend to get vaccinated. People seem to believe this is a “mild” flu season – as the death toll is not comparable to the high burden from the previous year. However, there is no way to know if the flu itself is actually “mild” this early in the season.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

http://www.norc.org/NewsEventsPublications/PressReleases/Pages/41-percent-of-americans-do-not-intend-to-get-a-flu-shot.aspx

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/07/health/flu-season-vaccination-november-30-cdc/index.html

 

 

 

40th Minority Health Conference – Feb. 22, 2019

Save the Date! The 40th annual Minority Health Conference will be taking place on February 22, 2019 at the William and Ida Friday Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Advocacy for Change: Celebrating Past Successes and Planning for the Future,” which celebrates how advocacy can be used as a powerful tool for advancing the health of minorities and people of color.

The Minority Health Conference is the largest and longest running student-led health conference in the United States. The first conference was held in 1977 by the Minority Student Caucus. Past conference themes have ranged from health policy impacts on minorities to workplace health, to economic mobility and minority health.

Last year’s Minority Health Conference celebrated the theme of “Reclaiming the Narrative,” focusing on how narratives as a form of storytelling can be used as a driver for social change. I had the absolute pleasure of attending this conference and learning from the experiences of change leaders in our communities and their contributions to minority health.

Additional Minority Health Conference information, including how to register will be shared soon at http://minorityhealth.web.unc.edu/. You can also check out the Minority Health Conference Twitter page here.

References

http://minorityhealth.web.unc.edu/

https://sph.unc.edu/mhp/minority-health-conference/

Drug Overdose & Suicide Rates Climb in the US While Life Expectancy Falls

Despite being leaders in medical innovation, the United States is often criticized for healthcare problems that don’t exist in other developed nations. Lately, increasing rates of suicide and drug overdose have taken a toll on our population’s life expectancy. Recent government reports from the CDC have shown a decrease in life expectancy from 2016 to 2017.

 

In 2017, approximately 70,000 yearly deaths were attributed to drug overdosing, which is almost 7,000 more than the year before. In addition to this, suicide rates had increased by nearly 4% from the previous year. Both of these statistics are alarming and disturbing. For while we are constantly advancing science and medicine to create novel disease treatments and cures, we often are ignoring preventable public health crises.

 

These statistics contribute to the evidence that drug overdose is a mishandled and somewhat neglected epidemics in the United States. Other sources suggest that mental health has been on the decline in the United States for years. Taken as a whole, these findings highlight the need for more attention to these preventable morbidities and mortalities.

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/29/health/life-expectancy-2017-cdc/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/

https://www.realclearhealth.com/articles/2018/05/17/cdc_neglect_is_killing_americans_110787.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-mental-health-declining-in-the-u-s/

 

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)

 

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

Student Develops Jelly Drops to Support Dementia Patients Like his Grandmother

As we age, we naturally lose our sense of thirst, increasing our risk of dehydration. This risk is even greater among older individuals living with dementia. Individuals with dementia may experience trouble swallowing thin liquids as well as memory loss. This was true for Lewis Hornsby’s grandmother, Pat, who struggled with dehydration. After an unexpected rush to the hospital, Lewis found his grandmother had been severely dehydrated, and it took 24 hours on IV fluids for her to return to her normal state.

Recognizing his grandmother’s struggle with dehydration, Lewis, an innovative engineering student at the Imperial College of London, developed “Jelly Drops.” These colorful, jelly-like treats contain over 90% water as well as other ingredients that give it its solid state. This solid state allows the body to slowly break down the Jelly Drop, maximizing hydration. But Lewis’  innovation does not end with the Jelly Drop alone. The Jelly Drops are stored in a clear box so that you can see the colorful treats. The box also contains a booklet with talking points to encourage social interaction between care home residents and their caretakers. Lewis’ innovative Jelly Drops is a result of thoughtful research. Some of this research involved living in his grandmother’s care home and observing the behaviors of residents as well as meeting with dementia psychologists and doctors.

Lewis has already received two awards for his Jelly Drops invention: the Helen Hamlyn Design Award – Snowdon Award for Disability as well as the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact. According to his Facebook page, Jelly Drops are not available for purchase at this time as he is conducting further research and trials using the product.

What an exciting, real-life example of public health innovation! – To read more about Lewis’ Jelly Drops project, visit his project page on The James Dyson Award website.

References

Nelson, Elizabeth. (N.d.). Young Man Invents “Water You Can Eat” to Help Dementia Patients Like His Grandma Stay Hydrated. Retrieved from https://blog.thealzheimerssite.com/jelly-drops/

Royal College of Art. (N.d.). Lewis Hornsby. Retrieved from https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/lewis-hornby/

The James Dyson Foundation. (2018). Jelly Drops. Retrieved from https://www.jamesdysonaward.org/2018/project/jelly-drops/

Tuchtan, Vicki. (2016). Dehydration: how it affects the elderly and what to do about it. Retrieved from http://www.sageagedcare.edu.au/blog/dehydration-how-it-affects-the-elderly-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Yogurt: a health food packing stealthy sugar

It seems as if everyone is always trying to find foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. Recently, it seems as if yogurt has become many people’s go-to option. Yogurt is praised for its nutritious profile: it’s high in protein, calcium, and “healthy” probiotics. While all this remains true, it’s important to consider the looming sugar content within these products.

A new study is criticizing many popular yogurts for their deceptively high sugar contents. Within the study – which examined over 900 yogurt brands found in UK grocery stores – only 9% of general yogurts can be considered low in sugar. What’s worse, only a measly 2% of yogurts marketed exclusively to children can be classified as low sugar.

Along with these findings, it became apparent that products marketed as “organic” may be among the worst offenders. Organic is a term used to described the processes behind a food’s production. Although items which are USDA Organic Certified may be produced ethically, this label does not have specific nutrition implications. Despite this, people often think an organic product is healthier than a non-organic option. The study found quite the opposite: that organic yogurts have substantial amounts of sugar, especially when compared to their natural and Greek yogurt counterparts.

As a snack, yogurt is not a bad choice. The health benefits prevail, and it often beats out many other sugary snack options. But when picking out your next yogurt at the store, it’s worthwhile to pause and consider the varying sugar contents. This way, you can pick the healthiest option… or just call it dessert.

 

https://invisiverse.wonderhowto.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/8/e021387

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/consumer-labels?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuafdBRDmARIsAPpBmVXF1IT7cB-KLvFRhzGXTiRjwaGDyUr5wOmO3zPqDxUJn8YLRswira4aAgHiEALw_wcB

 

 

 

Dr. Leana Wen Selected as New President of Planned Parenthood

Last week, it was announced that Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, will serve as the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization that provides vital sexual and reproductive health care and education to millions of people around the world. Dr. Wen will be the first physician in almost 50 years to serve in this role. She will succeed Cecile Richards, who has served as president of Planned Parenthood for the past 12 years.

Dr. Wen, an emergency medicine physician, has led the Baltimore City Health Department since January 2015. She is a passionate public health leader and active champion for communities and patients. During her tenure as Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Wen led a lawsuit against the Trump administration after its abrupt decision to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, resulting in $5 million of funding being restored to two of these programs in Baltimore. Additionally, Dr. Wen has fought to preserve Title X in Baltimore, which funds a variety of health care services for low-income women.

Dr. Wen is no stranger to Planned Parenthood. After she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from China, they depended on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Dr. Wen also volunteered at a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis during medical school.

In a recent statement posted on the Baltimore City Health Department website, Dr. Wen wrote:

“A core principle in public health is to go where the need is. The single biggest public health catastrophe of our time is the threat to women’s health and the health of our most vulnerable communities.”

She continues, in referring to Planned Parenthood, writing:

“I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities. As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood.”

Dr. Wen’s last day as Baltimore City Health Commissioner will be Friday, October 12th, where she will then begin her new role as President of Planned Parenthood.

References:

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/dr-leana-wen

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Cecile Richards. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/cecile-richards

Zernike, Kate. (2018, September 12). Planned Parenthood Names Leana Wen, a Doctor, Its New President. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/planned-parenthood-president-wen.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fpolitics

Wen, Leana S. (2018, July 6). Trump’s family planning dystopia. Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0708-wen-dystopia-20180703-story.html

Baltimore City Health Department. (2018, September 12). Statement from Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/news/press-releases/2018-09-12-statement-baltimore-city-health-commissioner-dr-leana-wen

Deaths from Synthetic Opioids outnumbered those from Prescription Opioids for the First Time in 2016

In a research letter published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers noted that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, surpassed prescription opioids and heroin as the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. There has been an increasing trend of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids being found in illicit supplies of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs. Utilizing data from the National Vital Statistics based on death certificates including information on all deaths in the US, Jones et al were able to examine overdose related deaths. While there has been an increasing trend in the number of opioid overdose deaths, previously these have been primarily related to prescription opioids. Of the 42,249 opioid related overdose deaths that occurred in 2016, Jones et al found that 19,413 involved synthetic opioids, while 17,087 involved prescription opioids, and another 15,469 involved heroin. Of the 19,413 deaths related to synthetic opioids, the majority (79.7%) involved another drug or alcohol, with the most common being another opioid. There are some limitations regarding the completeness of data, and the authors suggested that the increase may be due to an increase in testing for synthetic opioids. Still, this data paints a startling picture of the state of the opioid epidemic, showcasing a need to move beyond prescribing habits in order to reduce overdose deaths.

 

Sources –

Jones CM, Einstein EB, Compton WM. Changes in Synthetic Opioid Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2010-2016. JAMA 2018;319(17):1819-1821. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.2844.

Free Lyft to the Pharmacy

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Institute has started a partnership with the ride sharing company Lyft to provide their members with free rides to pick up their medications. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute is a new organization that’s mission is to reduce the barriers of accessing healthcare. One of the largest identified barriers to accessing healthcare is transportation. Last year, their big initiative was a similar program with Lyft to provide free transportation for their patients to their doctors’ appointments. By investing in these types of programs, the organization is hoping to reduce costs in the long -term and improve the health outcomes of their consumers. With this newest imitative they are also partnering with pharmaceutical organization such as CVS Health and Walgreens to increase medication adherence. These programs are still under pilot testing and are currently funded by CVS and Walgreens in Chicago and Pittsburgh with patients who are living in “transportation deserts”. These types of unique partnerships are allowing for creative solutions and addressing the social determinants of health in order to solve the most dire healthcare problems. Let’s hope to see more of these types of collaborations in the future.

References

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/03/14/cvs-and-walgreens-partner-with-lyft-to-get-blue-cross-patients-to-pharmacies/#34f4fa0f76c8

https://www.bcbs.com/news/press-releases/blue-cross-and-blue-shield-and-lyft-join-forces-increase-access-health-care