Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

From the  2015 Psychology, Public Policy and Law journal article (Volume 21, Number 1)
Concealing Campus Sexual Assault: An Empirical Examination
 (PDF)
Source: Psychology, Public Policy and Law

This study tests whether there is substantial undercounting of sexual assault by universities. It compares the sexual assault data submitted by universities while being audited for Clery Act violations with the data from years before and after such audits. If schools report higher rates of sexual assault during times of higher regulatory scrutiny (audits), then that result would support the conclusion that universities are failing to accurately tally incidents of sexual assault during other time periods. The study finds that university reports of sexual assault increase by approximately 44% during the audit period. After the audit is completed, the reported sexual assault rates drop to levels statistically indistinguishable from the preaudit time frame. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that the ordinary practice of universities is to undercount incidents of sexual assault. Only during periods in which schools are audited do they appear to offer a more complete picture of sexual assault levels on campus. Further, the data indicate that the audits have no long-term effect on the reported levels of sexual assault, as those crime rates return to previous levels after the audit is completed. This last finding is supported even in instances when fines are issued for noncompliance. The study tests for a similar result with the tracked crimes of aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary, but reported crimes show no statistically significant differences before, during, or after audits. The results of the study point toward 2 broader conclusions directly relevant to policymaking in this area. First, greater financial and personnel resources should be allocated commensurate with the severity of the problem and not based solely on university reports of sexual assault levels. Second, the frequency of auditing should be increased, and statutorily capped fines should be raised to deter transgressors from continuing to undercount sexual violence. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act, presently before Congress, provides an important step in that direction.

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

[News article] Walking, driving and riding in a winter wonderland

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Snow and icy conditions affect human decisions about transportation. These decisions can ripple through other infrastructure systems, causing widespread disruptions. Shown here are points of connectivity.

Credit: Paul M. Torrens and Cheng Fu, University of Maryland, College Park; Sabya Mishra, University of Memphis; Timothy Welch, Georgia Tech.

From the 5 February 2015 article at the National Science Foundation (NSF)

For Paul Torrens, wintry weather is less about sledding and more about testing out models of human behavior.

Torrens, a geographer at the University of Maryland, studies how snow and icy conditions affect human decisions about transportation. He also studies how these decisions ripple through other infrastructure systems.

“After moving to the Washington, D.C., area from Arizona,” Torrens said, “I saw firsthand how snow upsets even careful plans for getting kids to school and commuting to work.”

Common disruptions such as those associated with snow, while not always catastrophic, have real economic costs, and the costs add up.

“Critical infrastructure systems are the lifelines of society,” said Dennis Wenger, program director in NSF’s Engineering Directorate. “They are complex, highly interdependent processes and systems and are subject to disruption through their normal life cycle and as a result of the impact of natural and technological hazards.”

In real life, transportation is affected by moment-to-moment decisions by people, explained Torrens, who may adjust their transportation routines depending on their individual circumstances and activities.

Relying on big data from social media sources, Torrens is building a dynamic, near-real-time atlas and census of a population from which motifs of human and infrastructure behavior can be extracted as rules for agents’ behavior.

“Social media data is a treasure trove for information scientists, because not only do we have the message content, but the content is stamped with a location and a time,” Torrens said. “We can study how information propagates throughout social networks and correlate that with physical situations as they unfold.”

When snowstorms and other behavior-changing events happen in the physical world, online interactions change, too. During a snowfall on the morning of Jan. 6, 2015, Washington-area residents tweeted about traffic conditions (for example,#Alexandria residents – Van Dorn Street is awful @WTOPtraffic #vatraffic #snow #ice #dctraffic).

One school system tried to open on time despite the slick conditions. Soon local Twitter users began posting photographs of snow-covered streets, car crashes and links to television news reports with the quickly viral hash-tag #closeFCPS. Information about the resulting problems seemed to spread, bottom-up, via a viral tag, rather than via official school channels.

 

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February 9, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Mortality Among Blacks or African Americans with HIV Infection (is declining) — United States, 2008–2012

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L0052223 A circle incorporating the words \’African American againstCredit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Imagesimages@wellcome.ac.uki mages.wellcome.ac.uk A circle incorporating the words \’African American against AIDS\’; advertisement by the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services. Colour lithograph.

 

From the 6 February 2015 MMWR article

…The results of these analyses indicate that black persons living with HIV experienced higher numbers and rates of deaths during 2008–2012 than other races/ethnicities. However, the numbers and rates of death declined consistently during the same period. The death rate per 1,000 persons living with HIV among blacks decreased 28% during 2008–2012, more than the overall decline (22%) seen among all persons living with HIV. Other than among blacks, such a consistent decline was observed only among Hispanics or Latinos…

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Climate Change – Public Health’s Next Challenge

 

Projected_impact_of_climate_change_on_agricultural_yields_by_the_2080s,_compared_to_2003_levels_(Cline,_2007)

EEA (14 December 2010): Projected impact of climate change on agricultural yields. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark. Last modified September 5, 2011.

 

From the 7 February 2015 post at thefeverblog – what’s hot in public health

….The world is at a dire turning point in the fight against climate change. If the world doesn’t begin taking action to mitigate the impact of climate change the outcomes will be catastrophic (even though some research is saying that’s going to happen, regardless).

A growing discussion in the United States is how we are equipping future citizens, business leaders, health leaders, etc. to be part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating those risks. But according to my preliminary research in climate change science being integrated into science curriculum, we aren’t doing that at all. From personal experience with a Bachelors of Science in Applied Sciences in Public Health, I have never had a professor talk about climate change nor talk about solutions and how we as public health professionals fit into different roles. If young adults and children aren’t aware of climate change, how is it ever going to be brought to the forefront of discussion? How is change going to happen? Sure, federal and state governments can use the power of public policy to control emissions, but what about the solutions to the inevitable problem looming? Solutions such as emergency preparedness planning (since we can safely assume this is going to be a needed expertise), green space, active transportation, infrastructure to prevent rising sea levels from flooding major cities, etc.

As progressive public health departments move towards allocating resources to chronic disease prevention (and obviously, rightfully so), it will be incredibly important to ensure emergency preparedness, epidemiology, and environmental health aren’t lost in the mix. Professionals in health communications and community engagement will be critical pieces, but ultimately don’t have the legal authority of an Environmental Health professional to enforce state and federal mandates, nor have the expertise in emergency preparedness. This is a call for sustained and increased funding for local health departments. The climate change discussion is happening internationally and on a federal level, but those discussions aren’t trickling down to the local level. I would attribute this to climate change being a backburner issue and one that doesn’t have an acute impact (like an Ebola outbreak). The impacts are longitudinal and over long periods of time.

February 9, 2015 Posted by | environmental health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Mainz researchers develop new theoretical framework for future studies of resilience

From the 27 January 2015 article at Johannes Gutenberg University

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

New approach focuses on the appraisal of stressful or threatening situations by the brain

Researchers at the Research Center Translational Neurosciences of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have advanced a generalized concept as the basis for future studies of mental resilience. Their new approach is based on a mechanistic theory which takes as its starting point the appraisals made by the brain in response to exposure to stressful or threatening situations. Previously social, psychological, and genetic factors were in the foreground of resilience research. The Mainz-based team has published its conclusions in the renowned journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Stress, traumatic events, and difficult life situations play a significant role in the development of many mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, addiction. However, not everyone exposed to such circumstances develops a psychological disorder as a result. Every person has a greater or lesser mental stabilizing capacity and this inherent potential is called ‘resilience’ by psychologists. Resilience helps to effectively master challenges, stress, and difficult situations, thus maintaining mental health. The fact that some individuals either develop only short -term problems or do not become ill at all on experiencing major psychological or physical pressures suggests that there are certain protective mechanisms – in other words, defensive, self-healing processes – which can prevent the development of stress-related illnesses.

The core concern of the Mainz team of researchers is to identify these mechanisms. By means of a thorough review and analysis of the results of previous studies of and investigations into the subject of resilience, they were able to identify a common principle that can be used as a general basis for future studies of resilience. In order to achieve this, the researchers combined various parameters and research concepts – from psychological and social approaches to the results of genetic and even neurobiological investigations. “To date, research into resilience has tended to take into account a very extensive range of social, psychological, and even genetic factors that positively influence mental flexibility, such as social support, certain personality traits, and typical behavior patterns,” explained Professor Raffael Kalisch, one of the authors of the current publication and the director of the Neuroimaging Center, a central research platform of the Mainz University Medical Center and the Research Center on Translational Neurosciences. “We wondered whether there might be a common denominator behind all of these individual approaches and so we systematically examined various examples. As a result, in our new hypothesis we focus less on the already well-known social, psychological, or genetic factors and much more on cognitive processes happening in the brain. We thus consider that the appropriate way forward is to determine how the brain assesses each situation or stimulus. It is quite possibly the positive evaluation of potentially aversive stimuli that is the central mechanism which ultimately determines an individual’s level of resilience. The many already identified factors only impact on resilience indirectly by influencing the way the brain assesses a certain situation.” Assuming this theory is correct and it is the mental processes of evaluation that are of central relevance, this would mean that it is not necessarily the threatening situations or stimuli that decide whether stress develops but rather the manner in which the individual appraises the situation. A person who tends to more positively evaluate such factors would be protected against stress-related illnesses over the long term because the frequency and degree of stress reactions in that person would be reduced. The Mainz-based researchers call their new mechanistic hypothesis ‘Positive Appraisal Style Theory of Resilience’ (PASTOR).

 

 

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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