Category: Uncategorized

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

Soot Happens

A new study released from the Queen Mary University of London has shown for the first time that air pollution exposure can affect a pregnant woman’s placenta. The placenta is a vital organ which develops during a woman’s pregnancy. It is responsible for providing nutrients and oxygen to a developing baby. In addition, it also serves as an immune system barrier for the baby, which is vulnerable during pregnancy. Any injuries inflicted on the placenta can have serious health effects on the unborn child.

The Queen Mary study examined placenta cells of five women who were exposed to air pollution. Within the samples, researchers found evidence of the presence of soot. Soot is a common air pollutant classified as particulate matter. This type of pollution is made of large damaging particles, and can often be found coming from power plants, manufacturing sites, and motor vehicles. Soot exposure is dangerous, and it is the cause of thousands of premature deaths annually. The findings of this study are novel and alarming – it demonstrates that inhaled particulate matter can travel from the lungs to the placenta.

Placental immune cells are necessary to keep an unborn baby healthy. If the placental immune system is compromised, so is that of the growing baby. It is still unclear what this study’s findings mean for fetal-placental health in the long term. However, researchers on this study are particularly concerned about how soot exposure may disrupt this system.

One thing is clear – this news is disturbing. The study demonstrated that air pollution damage does not stop at the lungs. The conversation about air pollution is not always an environmental one; many pollutants like soot affect human health dramatically. Going forward, it is important to consider how these findings should influence policy. Regulating air pollution is a necessary step to take in order to protect the health of people worldwide.

 

 

https://www.momscleanairforce.org/soot-facts/

https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2018/smd/first-evidence-that-soot-from-polluted-air-may-be-reaching-placenta.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/placenta/art-20044425

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/HPP/default

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025805/

 

 

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Maria Leonora “Nori” Comello

Our IHC Colloquium class was recently joined by none other than Dr. Maria Leonora “Nori” Comello, Associate Professor in the School of Media and Journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Comello spoke with our class about her research and work at UNC, describing her path to research and academia.

Dr. Comello’s research involves the intersection of strategic communication, health, and identity. Some of her most recent research (1) has focused on the role of intrinsic motivation in recreational videogames and its effect on psychological outcomes among cancer survivors. Dr. Comello and her team found that cancer survivors were motivated to play videogames for “intrinsic rewards” such as stimulation and having a sense of accomplishment, as well as for development of self and a sense of community.

Outside of her research, Dr. Comello has also taught several courses in the UNC School of Media and Journalism, including: PR Campaigns, Advertising & PR Research, and the Interdisciplinary Health Communication Seminar.

Dr. Comello completed her M.S. degree in Technical Communication and Ph.D. in Communication at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University, respectively. She joined the UNC School of Media and Journalism in 2010.

References:

1. Comello, M. L. G., Francis, D. B., Marshall, L. H., & Puglia, D. R. (2016). Cancer    survivors who play recreational computer games: Motivations for playing and associations with beneficial psychological outcomes. Games for health journal, 5(4), 286-292. DOI:10.1089/g4h.2016.0003

Hurricanes & Our Health

As Hurricane Florence approaches, there are many worries on the minds of those who live in its path. Residents in the South Eastern United States are anxious about the wellbeing of their property, belongings, surrounding environment and loved ones. Along with these concerns, it’s important to be weary of how a destructive hurricane can also have serious implications on medicine and public health. Considering these risks before the onset of the storm could eliminate smaller preventable problems and render larger issues easier to address.

Before the hurricane arrives, it’s advised that any medical prescriptions be refilled and retrieved promptly. Resultant power outages and infrastructural damages may limit a pharmacy’s ability to operate and supply their patients’ needs. If you know you are at risk of power outages, it’s important to stock up on non-perishable foods, water, and anything else necessary for your individual health. Along with this, following proper safety precautions to protect your home from water and wind damage can also prevent a number of storm-related injuries.

In North Carolina, the magnitude of rain expected to come with Hurricane Florence is especially worrisome. Excessive rainfall could cause flooding in farmland which contain animal manure lagoons. Such lagoons could overflow, spreading waste and increasing risk of disease transmission. Additionally, North Carolina is home to a number of dangerous coal-ash ponds. If these sites flood, it could unleash this waste into the surrounding environment. Coal-ash is toxic, and if released from ponds could contaminate people’s public drinking water.

 

https://www.wltx.com/article/news/local/make-preparations-for-your-health-ahead-of-hurricane-florence/101-592900265

 

http://time.com/5392478/hurricane-florence-risks-sludge-manure/

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/hurricane-safety-tips/

 

 

 

New things to know about your cup of joe

The general public loves to scrutinize the coffee drinking habit. Multitudes are drinking it (in relatively large amounts) – so what does that mean for us? In recent years, research and public opinion has begun to favor the pros of drinking coffee. Some studies have even shown that there are significant health benefits which may be associated your daily cup of joe.

Despite this trend, news has recently surfaced which may upset these well-received findings. When coffee beans are roasted at a high temperature, they produce a chemical called acrylamide. It has been shown that higher doses of acrylamide can be harmful, and has been linked to cancer. This chemical cannot be separated from a coffee product; if someone drinks coffee, they are likely exposed to the chemical.

This evidence appears grim, but don’t dismay coffee drinkers. There are a few silver-linings to this story. The formal research on acrylamide is still inconclusive, as exposure has not been directly linked to any specific cancer. Along with this, the amount of acrylamide in coffee appears to be minute. Due to this, California has recently pushed back against labeling coffee as a cancer-causing substance. Acrylamide intake can also be avoided by considering the amount and type of coffee consumed. Drinking a little less coffee means a little less exposure. Additionally, opting for dark-roasted beans tends to minimize exposure to chemical.

https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5024

http://time.com/5222563/what-is-acrylamide/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/acrylamide-in-coffee#section3

https://www.usnews.com/news/healthcare-of-tomorrow/articles/2018-09-04/cancer-schmancer-in-california-coffee-is-king

 

 

 

 

Revised Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines Offer Women More Options

New recommendation guidelines for cervical cancer screening were published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). These guidelines are an update to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2012 recommendations on cervical cancer screening. The new screening guidelines now offer women more options and longer screening intervals when it comes to their preventative care. One of the most notable guideline changes is that women aged 30-65 can now get an HPV test alone every 5 years instead of just a Pap smear alone every 3 years, or in combination with a Pap smear every 5 years.

According to the guidelines:

  • Women aged 21-29 years should get a Pap smear every 3 years
  • Women aged 30-65 years can get:
    • A Pap smear alone every 3 years
    • An HPV test alone every 5 years
    • A combination of a Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years

The USPSTF does not recommend screening for women younger than 21 years as well as women older than 65 years who have received adequate screening before and are not at high-risk for cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once a major cause of death among women. However, with the advent of screening tests, such as Pap smears, cervical cancer rates have fallen considerably over the years. Still, the American Cancer Society estimates 13,240 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018.

Almost all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. There are many types of HPV, some low-risk and some high-risk. Low-risk HPV types can cause warts that can be treated. High-risk types, however, can cause cancer. While the body can often fight off HPV infection, this is not always the case. Some HPV infections can become chronic, and chronic infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to cancer in both men and women if left untreated. However, there are vaccines that can prevent cancers, like cervical cancer in women, caused by HPV. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all children get vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12. For young women in particular, the CDC recommends they get vaccinated through age 26.

Because it can take years for cancer caused by HPV to develop and for symptoms to appear, the CDC encourages women to regularly screen for cervical cancer. This includes both women who have and have not vaccinated against HPV, as the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cancer.

References

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2018). Cervical Cancer Screening. Retrieved from  https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening2

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, December 16). The Link Between HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/cancer.html

National Institutes of Health. (2018, June 30). Cervical Cancer. Retrieved from

https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=76

American Cancer Society. (2017, November 1). What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer? Retrieved from

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2012). Archived: Cervical Cancer: Screening. Retrieved from

https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/cervical-cancer-screening

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, August 23). HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen. Retrieved from

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/vaccine.html

American Cancer Society. (2015, February 19). HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-fact-sheet

American Cancer Society. (2017, October 9). HPV and Cancer. Retrieved from

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/infectious-agents/hpv/hpv-and-cancer-info.html

Can The Media Solve Climbing Obesity Rates? part 3

Marketing regulations, in addition to mass communication campaigns that promote healthy dietary habits, have the potential to reduce overweight/obesity drastically. Restricting product marketing has been cited as a highly cost-effective method of reducing chronic disease globally (citation) because it involves implementing government-based restrictions on food manufacturers and advertisers. I believe this method has the potential to be highly effective because marketers succeed in convincing populations to desire and purchase their products (be them healthy or unhealthy). They do this though audience targeting strategies like giving celebrities endorsements, using dialects specific to populations an advertisement will be run in and by using popular cartoons on ads that target children. In particular, I believe that when companies advertise to children and caregivers purchase the unhealthy foods they desire, companies play a role in shaping children’s taste preferences. These preferences can follow children into adulthood and place them at a greater risk for overweight/obesity. Marketing regulations could potentially decrease the awareness about and desirability of unhealthy food by limiting the use of certain strategies.

As societies become more Westernized, overweight and obesity rates rise [1].  This association could exist for a number of reasons, but I believe marketing and mass communication play a large role. Food manufacturers invest millions of dollars into marketing unhealthy food products to populations at large, and there are not enough public health initiatives that promote healthy dietary behaviors using mass communication. We, as public health nutrition professionals, understand the relationship between diet and weight, but to make changes, there must be efforts to reach populations where they are. From what I have observed, people are spending more and more time with the media (especially social media), and this presents an opportunity to communicate with populations about diet innovatively and engagingly. Why not promote healthy dietary behaviors through mediums audiences are currently using?

 

Can The Media Solve Climbing Obesity Rates? part 2

Mass media campaigns can be used to improve populations’ dietary habits and promote health. Opportunities to utilize mass media, which includes any form of communication that reaches populations (i.e., television, print media, social media), have increased in recent years. We have seen changes and improvements in mass media communication largely due to the increased use of social media and mobile technology. As access to mobile technology and populations’ use of smartphones and social media increase, health communicators have increased opportunities to reach populations through these mass communication mediums. I believe that no other intervention approach to decrease obesity rates has the potential for as wide a reach as mass media, and the literature supports its efficacy. Mass media campaigns that target individual dietary behaviors like increasing vegetable intake or reducing sodium are effective at promoting those behaviors [1]. The 1990s “5-A-Day” campaign, a well-known nutrition education campaign that promoted increasing fruit and vegetable intake to at least five servings per day, used television, radio, and print materials to reach its target audience. This initiative was successful in its efforts. It was associated with a significant increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and increased awareness of health benefits associated with consuming fruits and vegetables. The success of mass communication in campaigns and interventions is not exclusive to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This method has proven effective at promoting folic acid supplementation and the maintenance of weight loss The Community Guide. I believe mass media campaigns advance global nutrition efforts to reduce overweight and obesity rates because of the extent to which media is incorporated into people’s daily lives. Much like mass media campaigns, regulations on marketing through mass communication could also advance global nutrition.

Can The Media Solve Climbing Obesity Rates? part 1

Hunger and malnutrition are major global nutrition issues that affect the health and development of populations. These states can arise from financial disparities as well as natural disasters. For example, when countries experience severe droughts that wipe out crops, famine can result and greatly affect populations at large.  While food aid exists to help alleviate the burden associated with these situations, malnutrition is still a serious public health issue, particularly in overpopulated, low-income and low-resource countries. It is estimated that international hunger rates are rising and that children are largely affected with over 155 million children suffering from stunting [1]. Paradoxically, while malnutrition still exists in many countries, international rates of overweight/obesity are skyrocketing. In 2016, the World Health Organization reported that roughly 39% of adults over the age of 17 were overweight [2]. About 13% of the population is obese. These findings leave public health professionals with two challenges: 1) increasing food access among populations at risk for malnutrition and 2) promoting weight management at a populations level. In addition to these problems, public health professionals encounter the challenge of creating a substantial impact on large populations with limited financial capital and resources. Public health professionals must be intentional about choosing the best approaches to public health issues. I believe the most effective strategy for reducing overweight/obesity involves using media to promoting healthy dietary choices and behaviors. In particular, mass media campaigns and marketing regulations can be used to influence populations’ nutritional behaviors and food purchasing patterns.

Could the Mediterranean Diet Delay Alzheimer’s?

In recent years, the news has constantly covered the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, a diet characterized by meals that use lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil. The Mediterranean diet is back in the news after a recent study found that it has the potential to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study involved two groups of 70 participants. Half highly adhered to the Mediterranean diet for three years and the other participants adhered to a lower extent. After three years, the high adherers presented with fewer Alzheimer’s biomarkers. The researchers estimated that these changes would translate into a delay in Alzheimer’s onset by 1.5 to 3.5 years. These findings could indicate that a large part of Alzheimer’s development is diet-related. Since diet is largely in an individual’s control, we may be able to curtail disease development and help individuals age in a healthy manner through the promotion of a healthful diet.