Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Could Cutting Urban Blight Reduce Teen Murders? [news release]

From the 7 March 2016 Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia news release

Analyzing the immediate neighborhood surroundings of teenaged homicide victims, Philadelphia researchers found that neglected conditions — vacant lots, poor street lighting, fewer parks and less-traveled thoroughfares — were in much greater abundance compared to neighborhoods where adolescents were safer. Without attributing cause and effect, the new study adds to previous research suggesting that modifying specific outdoor features with low-cost improvements may foster community interaction and potentially reduce youth violence in cities.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2565207319 Garry Knight Homeless In Clink Street
A couple walk past a young homeless man in London’s Clink Street.

“Homicide is a leading cause of death in U.S. adolescents and young adults, especially among African Americans, but the factors influencing violence are complex,” said corresponding author Alison J. Culyba, MD, MPH, an adolescent medicine specialist and epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Large-scale violence-prevention programs addressing poverty and educational disparities are absolutely necessary, but may require long-term investment to yield results. We focused on a different level — modifiable features of the built environment that might be factors in violence risk.”

Culyba and her CHOP co-authors collaborated with researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, led by epidemiologist Charles C. Branas, PhD, the senior author and director of the Penn Injury Science Center.

The study appeared today in JAMA Pediatrics.

“One theory that resonated with a lot of the things we found points to the importance of busy streets in promoting outdoor activity, interaction and cohesion in communities, which could potentially deter street violence,” said Branas, who has led several previous studies suggesting that urban parks and greening vacant lots encourage people to become invested in maintaining their neighborhoods and may reduce violent crime.

Both Culyba and Branas stress that this study does not show that street features and other elements cause or reduce homicide. Rather, they say, street lighting, pedestrian infrastructure, public transit, parks and vacant lot greening may be promising targets for future research to discover whether such interventions may provide social and health benefits.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Person-on-a-chip’ — U of T engineers create lab-grown heart and liver tissue for drug testing and more [news release]

From the 7 March 2016 University of Toronto news release

Excerpts
Professor Milica Radisic and her team have created a new platform for growing realistic human heart and liver tissue outside the body. The technique could help drug companies discover and prevent negative side effects. (Photo: Caz Zyvatkauskas)

Researchers at U of T Engineering have developed a new way of growing realistic human tissues outside the body. Their “person-on-a-chip” technology, called AngioChip, is a powerful platform for discovering and testing new drugs, and could eventually be used to repair or replace damaged organs.

Professor Milica Radisic (IBBME, ChemE), graduate student Boyang Zhang and their collaborators are among those research groups around the world racing to find ways to grow human tissues in the lab, under conditions that mimic a real person’s body. They have developed unique methods for manufacturing small, intricate scaffolds for individual cells to grow on. These artificial environments produce cells and tissues that resemble the real thing more closely than those grown lying flat in a petri dish.

Left to right: Team members Miles Montgomery, Professor Milica Radisic, Boyang Zhang and Yimu Zhao (Photo: Geoff George)

Left to right: Team members Miles Montgomery, Professor Milica Radisic, Boyang Zhang and Yimu Zhao (Photo: Geoff George)

The team’s recent creations have included BiowireTM — an innovative method of growing heart cells around a silk suture — as well as a scaffold for heart cells that snaps together like sheets of Velcro™. But AngioChip takes tissue engineering to a whole new level. “It’s a fully three-dimensional structure complete with internal blood vessels,” says Radisic. “It behaves just like vasculature, and around it there is a lattice for other cells to attach and grow.” The work — which is published todayin the journal Nature Materials — was produced collaboratively with researchers from across U of T, including Professor Michael Sefton (ChemE, IBBME), Professor Aaron Wheeler (Chemistry, IBBME) and their research teams, as well as researchers from Toronto General Hospital and University Health Network.

Zhang built the scaffold out of POMaC, a polymer that is both biodegradable and biocompatible. The scaffold is built out of a series of thin layers, stamped with a pattern of channels that are each about 50 to 100 micrometres wide. The layers, which resemble the computer microchips, are then stacked into a 3D structure of synthetic blood vessels. As each layer is added, UV light is used to cross-link the polymer and bond it to the layer below.

These tiny polymer scaffolds contain channels that are about 100 micrometres wide, about the same diameter as a human hair. When seeded with cells, the channels act as artificial blood vessels. By mimicking tissues in the human heart and other organs, these scaffolds provide a new way to test drugs for potentially dangerous side effects. (Image: Tyler Irving/Boyang Zhang/Kevin Soobrian)

These tiny polymer scaffolds contain channels that are about 100 micrometres wide, about the same diameter as a human hair. When seeded with cells, the channels act as artificial blood vessels. By mimicking tissues in the human heart and other organs, these scaffolds provide a new way to test drugs for potentially dangerous side effects. (Image: Tyler Irving/Boyang Zhang/Kevin Soobrian)

When the structure is finished, it is bathed in a liquid containing living cells. The cells quickly attach to the inside and outside of the channels and begin growing just as they would in the human body.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No girl or woman left behind: A global imperative for 2030 [Report]

From the 7 March 2016 Brookings report

Excerpts

This Tuesday, March 8, marks the first International Women’s Day since world leaders agreed last September to launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. A more rounded conception of gender equality marks one of the SDGs’ most important improvements compared to their predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Two SDG targets help to illustrate the broadening geopolitical recognition of the challenges. They also help to underscore how much progress is still required.

 

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A renewed target: Protecting mothers’ lives

The SDGs are also carrying forward the previous MDG priority of maternal health. Target 3.1 aims as follows: “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.” Formally this falls under Goal 3 for health and wellbeing, but it certainly represents a gender equality objective too. Part of that is by definition; mothers are female. Part of it is driven by the need to overcome gender bias; male decision-makers at all levels might overlook key health issues with which they have no direct personal experience.

A new target: Eliminating child marriage

The inclusion of SDG target 5.3 adds one of the most important new priorities to the global policy agenda: to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation.”

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

New study finds troubling health care outcomes for US workers without paid sick leave [News release]

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 6.15.22 AMFrom the 7 March 2016 EurkAlert

Excerpts

“Key findings from the study, which are representative of the nation, showed that regardless of income, age, race, occupation, full-time or part-time work status, health status or health insurance coverage, workers without paid sick leave were three times more likely to delay medical care than were workers with paid sick leave. They also were three times more likely to forgo needed medical care altogether. Furthermore, families of workers without paid sick leave were two times more likely to delay medical care and 1.6 times more likely to forgo needed medical care. The lowest-income group of workers without paid sick leave were at the highest risk of delaying and forgoing medical care for themselves and their family members — making the most financially vulnerable workers the least likely to be able to address health care concerns in a timely manner.

The researchers also found that working adults with paid sick leave benefits missed one-and-a-half days more of work because of an illness or injury compared to workers without paid sick leave, indicating that they were more likely to take time off work to care for themselves or family when needed.”

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Consumer Health, Workplace Health | | Leave a comment

Too many avoidable errors in patient care, says report [Press release]

From the 8 March 2016 Imperial College London press release

Excerpts

by Kate Wighton

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Avoidable harm to patients is still too high in healthcare in the UK and across the globe.

Safety therefore must be a top healthcare priority for providers and policy makers alike.

These are the findings of two reports launched today by researchers from Imperial College London.  Both reports, produced by NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), provide evidence on the current state of patient safety and how it could be improved the future.  They urge healthcare providers to embrace a more open and transparent culture to encourage continuous learning and harm reduction.

The first report focuses on the current system used by NHS staff to report patient safety incidents, called the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). The report authors explain this system requires refinement and renovation, so as to take advantage of new technologies and recent behavioural insights. For example app-based technologies offer a simplified platform that engages staff in the incident reporting process. This will not only improve the ease of reporting, but also the accuracy of data reported.

In particular, the report reiterates problems around under-reporting of safety incidents, and reveals structural concerns within the NRLS, that have inhibited its usefulness as a tool to drive safety improvement.

The second report, Patient Safety 2030, suggests a ‘toolbox’ for patient safety. This would include: using digital technology to improve safety; providing robust training and education, and strengthening leadership at the political, organisational, clinical and community levels. Other points in the ‘toolbox’ include effective and high-quality education and training; strengthening measurement methods, including incident reporting, and exploring new digital solutions.

However, the authors warn that interventions implemented to reduce avoidable patient harm must be engineered with the whole system in mind, and empower patients and staff to become more involved in preventing harm and improving care.

Ultimately, both reports issue a global call-to-action on patient safety: both for individual health systems to convert the evidence on how to improve patient safety into everyday practice, and for the global community of health systems to share learnings from each other’s successes and failures.

The publications: “NRLS Research and Development Final Report”, funded by NHS England, will be presented on March 8th at the Royal Society in London. The “Patient Safety 2030”, funded by a grant from the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK, will be presented on March 9th at the Patient Safety Global Action Summit 2016.

March 8, 2016 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment

   

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