Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

Next-generation Disease Fighters: ‘Bacterial Dirigibles’

From a March 30, 2011 Health News item

Scientists have reported development of bacteria that serve as mobile pharmaceutical factories, both producing disease-fighting substances and delivering the potentially life-saving cargo to diseased areas of the body. They reported on this new candidate for treating diseases ranging from food poisoning to cancer – termed “bacterial dirigibles” – at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, being held here. “We’re building a platform that could allow bacterial dirigibles to be the next-generation disease fighters,” said study leader William E. Bentley, Ph.D…

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Manage biological invasions like natural disasters, biologists say

Manage biological invasions like natural disasters, biologists say

From the April 1, 2011 Science Daily item

Biological invasions are often more economically damaging than natural disasters and warrant correspondingly large investments in preparedness and response planning, according to biologists. Such measures seem absent in most developed nations.

Anthony Ricciardi of McGill University and his coauthors point out

[abstract only, for suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here]

…. that species invasions are becoming more frequent worldwide, largely because of international trade. Although many alien species establish themselves in a new location without causing harm, the worst biological invasions may cause multiple extinctions of native species, as when the Nile perch invaded Lake Victoria and contributed to the extinction of 200 fish species. Biological invasions can also be hugely expensive: the destruction of ash trees by the emerald ash borer is projected to cost the United States $10 billion over the coming decade.

Like natural disasters, biological invasions are hard to predict and extremely difficult to control once they get under way. And like catastrophic events in high-tech industries, invasions are usually inevitable and can cause problems through unexpected interactions, as when floating mats of algae caused by invasions of freshwater mussels led to several emergency shutdowns of a nuclear reactor in New York State in 2007. Yet despite being slower in their onset, invasions have more persistent impacts and a greater scope of ecological and economic damage.

Hazard-reduction plans could minimize the impacts of biological invasions, the researchers argue, and at a cost that is low relative to the cost of a major event. Vulnerability reduction practices, rapid response and assessment, and systems for sharing of information and coordination among authorities are all potentially beneficial. New Zealand has passed legislation to coordinate management of threats to its biodiversity and natural resources under a central authority, but other countries have yet to follow its lead.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Reliance on medical journals, deadlines can predict journalists’ attitudes toward press releases

Reliance on medical journals, deadlines can predict journalists’ attitudes toward press releases

From the April 6 2011 University of Missouri press release

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Public relations professionals constantly look for ways to most effectively promote their messages to the media. Sun-A Park, a researcher at the University of MissouriSchool of Journalism surveyed more than 300 health journalists and found that those who cover strokes and stroke prevention tend to hold negative views of corporate pharmacy media relations, while those who regularly read medical journals tend to cover more stories based on corporate press releases. Park says one key factor influencing journalists’ attitudes concerning corporate media press releases is the specific health topics they cover.

Sun-A Park, a researcher at the University of Missouri School of Journalism

“Not many public relations campaigns are devoted to stroke and stroke prevention, which would help explain the low public recognition of strokes,” Park said. “So health journalists who write about strokes are not accustomed to receiving public relations materials and thus are uncomfortable with the topic.”

Park also found that the more frequently health journalists read other newspapers and medical journals, the more open they are to covering stories based on press releases. Park says if journalists already depend on other media sources to help decide what is newsworthy, this habit could extend to public relations press releases as well. She also thinks deadline pressure can play a role.

“Journalists are often under deadline pressure; and if they routinely read medical journals for story ideas, they develop a willingness to use sources that help simplify complex and difficult health topics for a broad audience,” Park said. “Thus, health journalists who read medical journals are more receptive to using corporate pharmacy press releases in order to meet deadlines and help general news audiences to better understand the information.”

Park’s study also revealed that health journalists who serve a metropolitan audience rather than those who serve national or small community audiences, are more likely to have positive attitudes toward corporate pharmacy media relations. Park recommends that corporate pharmacy public relations professionals target these specific journalists with their press releases in order to be most efficient and effective with their efforts.

This study was conducted by the Health Communication Research Center in the University of Missouri School of Journalism. It was published in PRism, a public relations journal.***

***Not yet online (April 6, 2011)

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | Leave a comment

Development of protocols for future disasters urgently called for

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding...

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Development of protocols for future disasters urgently called for

From the April 6, 2011 Science Daily article

Dr. Howard Osofsky, Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, is an author of a review article published in the April 7, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine*** that urgently calls for the development of protocols to deal with the health effects of disasters — before the next one occurs.

One year after the largest and most devastating oil spill in United States history, the magnitude of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill on human health, the environment, and the economy remains unknown. Along with the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack and Hurricane Katrina, this most recent US catastrophe underscores both the lack of knowledge about long-term effects as well as the need for better plans to improve interventions and services to deal with the consequences of such crises.

The article reports what is currently known about the toxicologic consequences of exposures in the Gulf Oil Spill as well as what is known from other spills. However, the authors note the complexity of assessing the full effects of exposures due to the presence of all five elements of a complete exposure pathway, multiple sources of contaminants, and multiple points of exposure. As well, a disproportionately large under-lying disease burden in the population of the Gulf States makes it particularly vulnerable to environmental and natural disasters. The authors report documented symptoms among some 52,000 responders from a number of sources, including self-identified health problems. Additionally, vulnerability to heat stress in the high summer temperatures in the Gulf compounded by personal protective equipment also contributed to health risks, particularly among inexperienced volunteers.

Of particular concern are the mental health symptoms among response workers and community members after oil disasters……

***Not yet online [ April 7, 2011 ]

Resources/Further Reading

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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