Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Improving health will take a village

From the 8 December 2011 Eureka News Alert

Collaboration of public and private health partners is essential for health improvement

WASHINGTON, DC – Improving health is too multifaceted to be left solely in the hands of those working in the health sector alone, according to the latest Healthy People 2020 Objectives for the Nation. A recent shift in national health priorities has led Healthy People, a program that sets the national agenda for health promotion and disease prevention, to add ‘social determinants’ into its 2020 goals.

Two papers published in the December issue of the journal Health Education & Behavior (HE&B), published by the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), examine the history of the Healthy People Objectives and the new integration of social determinants in Healthy People 2020.

In both papers, the authors examine the effects of poverty, education and social structure on health and conclude that the country’s compass for health improvement must point beyond the diseases to address their root causes and forge new public and private health partnerships.

In their article, “Healthy People: A 2020 Vision for the Social Determinants Approach,” U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, and colleagues outline the need for collective effort and an expanded way of thinking to make true impacts on public health. “Health starts where people live, labor, learn, play and pray. The social determinants approach makes the healthier choice the easier choice for all people throughout the life span.”…

Read more about the history of Healthy People and the inclusion of social determinants in health education in both articles. They are available free in Health Education & Behavior for the next 45 days at:

“Healthy People: A 2020 Vision for the Social Determinants Approach” by Dr. Howard K. Koh, Julie J. Piotrowski, Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, and Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding:

“Healthy People 1980-2020: Raising the Ante Decennially or Just the Name From Public Health Education to Health Promotion to Social Determinants?” by Dr. Lawrence W. Green and Dr. John P. Allegrante:

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Sewage treatment plants may contribute to antibiotic resistance problem



Image via Wikipedia

From the 7 December 2011 Science Daily article

Water discharged into lakes and rivers from municipal sewage treatment plants may contain significant concentrations of the genes that make bacteria antibiotic-resistant. That’s the conclusion of a new study on a sewage treatment plant on Lake Superior in the Duluth, Minn., harbor that appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Timothy M. LaPara and colleagues explain that antibiotic-resistant bacteria — a major problem in medicine today — are abundant in the sewage that enters municipal wastewater treatment plants. Treatment is intended to kill the bacteria, and it removes many of the bacterial genes that cause antibiotic resistance. However, genes or bacteria may be released in effluent from the plant. In an effort to determine the importance of municipal sewage treatment plants as sources of antibiotic resistance genes, the scientists studied releases of those genes at the Duluth facility….

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , | Leave a comment

40% Of Cancers Avoidable, UK Research

From the 8 December 2011 Medical News Today article

New research from a leading charity, Cancer Research UK, suggests that around 40% of all cancers are avoidable. More than 100,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in the UK each year can be directly attributable to cigarettes, diet, alcohol and obesity, and this figure raises to 134,000 when taking into account over a dozen lifestyle and environmental risk factors, according to a review published as a series of research papers in a supplementary 6 December issue of the British Journal of Cancer…..

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

The Flu – How To Stop It!


Person washing his hands

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From the 8 December 2011 Medical News Today article

During the 1918 to 1920 global influenzaepidemic, between 50 to 100 million people lost their lives, with over a quarter of the world’s population having being infected. Although vaccines might help in the event of a similar outbreak today, the possibility still remains that vaccine production would not be able to cope with such an influx in demand to make an important impact. In addition, hospitals would probably be overstretched, leaving many patients to be cared for by family members at home.

According to Richard Larson and Stan Finkelstein, members of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD), non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) would be critical in these situations to minimize the spread of infection. Larson and Finkelstein want to inform people on how to avoid flu from spreading amongst family members and those living or working in close quarters. Larson, Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems explains:

“We thought, let’s look at the dynamics of the home and see if there are any reasonably inexpensive steps that people could take to care for their loved ones and simultaneously minimize the chance of getting infected.”

 They discovered that following simple steps, such as washing hands properly, wearing masks and strategically controlling temperature, humidity and air circulation, could all assist in decreasing the risk of flu from spreading. Even though their recommendations are based on fighting pandemic flu, these measures could also prevent the spread of the common seasonal flu, which typically kills about 30,000 people each year in the U.S. 


December 8, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

The future of death in America

From the report summary at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Population mortality forecasts are widely used for allocating public health expenditures, setting research priorities, and evaluating the viability of public pensions, private pensions, and health care financing systems. Although we know a great deal about patterns in and causes of mortality, most forecasts are still based on simple linear extrapolations that ignore covariates and other prior information. We adapt a Bayesian hierarchical forecasting model capable of including more known health and demographic information than has previously been possible. This leads to the first age- and sex-specific forecasts of American mortality that simultaneously incorporate, in a formal statistical model, the effects of the recent rapid increase in obesity, the steady decline in tobacco consumption, and the well known patterns of smooth mortality age profiles and time trends. Formally including new information in forecasts can matter a great deal. For example, we estimate an increase in male life expectancy at birth from 76.2 years in 2010 to 79.9 years in 2030, which is 1.8 years greater than the U.S. Social Security Administration projection and 1.5 years more than U.S. Census projection. For females, we estimate more modest gains in life expectancy at birth over the next twenty years from 80.5 years to 81.9 years, which is virtually identical to the Social Security Administration projection and 2.0 years less than U.S. Census projections. We show that these patterns are also likely to greatly affect the aging American population structure. We offer an easy-to-use approach so that researchers can include other sources of information and potentially improve on our forecasts too.

Author’s affiliation
Samir Soneji
Dartmouth College, United States of America
Gary King
Harvard University, United States of America

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Care about people as people, not just as hosts of disease

A beautiful post by medical student  in the December edition of

The post Care about people as people, not just as hosts of disease sums her journey through anatomy class and her varying emotional and objective reactions when dissecting her assigned corpse. Overall she was aware that a person is more than the physical body, more than just a disease.

And so it goes with each of us as we go about our day, at work or play. In a traffic snarl? The people behind the wheel are more than just drivers. At the check out counter? The clerk is more than a scanner operator. Reading a blog post that upsets you? The writer is more than the one dimension or so that comes across.

While perhaps we can only react to one thing at a time, it is good to keep in mind our encounters with others are best when they reflect our true connectedness with them…which goes beyond mere exchanges…

December 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment


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