Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Study tracks 30 years of Newark murders as ‘infectious disease’

Related article

New Jersey city copes with grinding reality of killing (National Catholic Reporter)

Two sentences really stood out…
“they realized that they had to replace a fundamental and often-asked question, “Why did you do that?” with another, “What happened to you?””
“Putthoff said that behavior that has protected the youth amid the effects of poverty and abuse — the knowledge of friends and families killed, mothers beaten and the constant threats of homelessness and hunger — doesn’t work in other surroundings.”

AVC Triad

Homicides in Newark have spread through the city over the past 30 years like an infectious disease and can be tracked and treated like a public health issue with prevention, inoculation and treatment, according to a study by Michigan State University.

1180 Raymond Blvd., Newark, NJ

The study, among the first to track murder through the lens of medical research, is part of a widening trend among local leaders and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to treat violent crime like a medical condition.

Newark native Jesenia Pizarro and April Zeolis, professors of criminal justice at Michigan State, analyzed the 2,366 homicides that occurred in Newark between 1982 to 2008 and tracked how and where they spread throughout the city.

Their report, titled “Homicide as Infectious Disease,” said the clusters originated in the Central Ward and moved south and west. Like other diseases, homicide clusters have a source, a mode of transmission and…

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January 2, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Economic Environment During Infancy Linked With Substance Use, Delinquent Behavior in Adolescence

Us unemployment rates 1950 2005

Us unemployment rates 1950 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While correlation doesn’t equate cause/effect…there just may be something here…

From the 31 December 2012 article at ScienceDaily

The larger economic environment during infancy may be associated with subsequent substance use and delinquent behavior during adolescence, according to a report published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

“The results demonstrate a strong correlation between the unemployment rate during infancy and subsequent behavioral problems. This finding suggests that unfavorable economic conditions during infancy may create circumstances that can affect the psychological development of the infant and lead to the development of behavioral problems in adolescence,” the authors note.

According to the study results, exposure to a 1 percent deviation from mean regional unemployment rates at the age of 1 year was associated with an increase in the odds ratios of engaging in marijuana use (1.09), smoking (1.07), alcohol use (1.06), arrest (1.17), gang affiliation (1.09), and petty (1.06) and major theft (1.11). No significant associations were noted with the use of hard drugs and assaultive behavior, the results indicate.

“Although the past does not necessarily predict the future, it provides important lessons. Our findings suggest an important static risk factor that mental health professionals may want to take into account when dealing with children exposed to the current economic crisis,” the authors conclude. “We hope that the study inspires mental health professionals to look for potential causes and explore interventions that can mitigate some of these long-term consequences.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

January 2, 2013 Posted by | environmental health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor Enhances Hospital Disinfection of Superbugs

From the 30 December 2012 article at ScienceDaily

Infection control experts at The Johns Hopkins Hospital have found that a combination of robot-like devices that disperse a bleaching agent into the air and then detoxify the disinfecting chemical are highly effective at killing and preventing the spread of multiple-drug-resistant bacteria, or so-called hospital superbugs.

In the study, the Johns Hopkins team placed the devices in single hospital rooms after routine cleaning to disperse a thin film of the bleaching hydrogen peroxide across all exposed hospital equipment surfaces, as well as on room floors and walls. Results showed that the enhanced cleaning reduced by 64 percent the number of patients who later became contaminated with any of the most common drug-resistant organisms. Moreover, researchers found that protection from infection was conferred on patients regardless of whether the previous room occupant was infected with drug-resistant bacteria or not.

“Hydrogen peroxide vapor, as spread around patients’ rooms by these devices, represents a major technological advance in preventing the spread of dangerous bacteria inside hospitals and, especially, from one patient occupant to the next, even though sick patients were never in the same room at the same time,” says infectious disease specialist and study senior investigator Trish Perl, M.D., M.Sc.

Of special note, researchers say, was that enhanced cleaning with the vapor reduced by 80 percent a patient’s chances of becoming colonized by a particularly aggressive and hard-to-treat bacterium, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)…

 

Read the entire article here

 

January 2, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

2012 – The Year In Healthcare Charts

I realize data in graphs can be misrepresented by choices related to scale, sources of information, etc.

Still, a few of these graphs were quite startling even if one only believes they have a kernel of truth.

From the 31 December 2012 Pharma&HealthCare article at Forbes

There were a few charts that made the radar this year. In some cases, the data is older than 2012, but all too often, the data hasn’t really changed or improved with age…

The Kaiser Family Foundation also provided a comparison of cumulative increases in health insurance premiums – relative to Workers’ Contributions, Inflation and Workers’ Earnings (from 2000 to 2012).

This next one was orignally assembled by Carnegie Mellon University professor Paul Fischbeck – and reported by Mark Roth of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (December, 2009) – and highlights our Per Capita Healthcare Costs by Age as compared to four other countries (Germany, the U.K., Sweden and Spain).

January 2, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

The State of Health Journalism in the U.S., March 2009 (old but still true)

“When I started, we had a stand-alone science/health section
and several people covering various aspects of the beat—health
policy/insurance, consumer health, and biosciences. Now
there’s only one person left with any medical journalism
training and that person is covering higher education.”

–15-year newspaper reporter laid off in 2008

 

“The pressure to produce from my editor blunts your ambition
because you know if you have a choice of a story you can turn
around in a week as opposed to one that may take 2- 3 times
as long, you have to juggle. You make choices based on the
stories you choose not to pursue. And that’s where readers
come out losers. That’s particularly true on health policy
and insurance. How ambitious am I going to be on this
story? Do I feel encouraged to do this kind of reporting
or” not? Those are dilemmas I face regularly.

–Major-market newspaper reporter

 

From the summary

This report provides a snapshot of the current state of health journalism in the U.S. today. It is based on a literature review of more than 100 published pieces of research on health journalism; on a survey of members of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), conducted by the Foundation and AHCJ; and on informal one-on-one interviews conducted by the author of this report with more than 50 journalists who work (or worked) for newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines, and Web sites in small and large markets.

Excerpts from the report

The cuts in budget and personnel that so many newsrooms are facing contribute to several troubling trends in the content of health journalism:

  •  An emphasis on stories that can be produced quickly—often meaning more stories on medical studies, and sometimes sacrificing on quality.
  •  Fewer in-depth or complex stories, especially about health policy, and more “hyper-local” stories along with stories variously described as lifestyle, consumer, or news-you-can-use.
  • Reliance on stories produced and syndicated elsewhere, by non-traditional news sources.
  • The influence of commercial interests on health news, through video news releases (VNRs), sponsored news segments, free syndicated news segments from health providers, and the influence of PR firms steering the news.

    [Janice’s note…I am thinking of local hospitals who provide articles and interviews on the latest (expensive) procedures to the local media. Yes, hospitals are commercial interests. Seldom do these articles or interviews go into details about evidence, cost, or appropriateness.]

……….

There is an undeniably widespread trend in TV news—often in health news—to label
as news some content which has been provided by industry sources who covet publicity in news programming. This practice takes several forms:

  • Video news releases (VNRs) – produced and distributed by those promoting a product or cause. They are produced to look exactly like high-quality TV news packages. They are usually supplied on videotape or via satellite feed along with a script so that stations can put their own reporter’s face and voice on the story.
  • Sponsored health news – usually paid for by a local medical center and featuring professionals from that medical center. The fact that these segments are paid for, and that they include only certain perspectives, is usually not disclosed.
  • Free news segments from health providers – produced by medical centers, featuring only professionals from that organization.

“My biggest challenge? …Trying to figure who’s paying for what
pitch, who’s paying for what health campaign. There’s dollars
attached to everything.”

–Veteran reporter

 

What’s a reader to do? Start by reading articles thoughtfully. Look for clues for completeness, strength of evidence, conflicts of interest, and authorship.

A few good resources on how to analyze medical and health news stories.

 

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Health Education (General Public) | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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