Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Datasets used by policymakers, scientists for public health analyses inconsistent [press release]

 

From the 17 November 2014 press release at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Science 

Commercially available datasets containing a wealth of information about food and alcohol establishments differ significantly, raising concerns about their reliability as sources of information that could be used to set public policy or conduct scientific research, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health investigation.
The analysis, funded by the Aetna Foundation, will be presented Monday at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting in New Orleans. It examined systematic differences in two commercially available datasets when they were used to determine the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics and the density of food and alcohol establishments.
“If we’re making decisions about setting public policy to improve public health – such as incentives for grocery stores that offer fresh produce in economically depressed areas – then we need to be making these decisions based on accurate data to back up the need for such incentives,” said lead investigator Dara Mendez, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist at Pitt Public Health. “Our study found that relying on just one of these commercially available datasets likely wouldn’t provide robust information.”
There are numerous datasets available for a fee that give detailed information about food and alcohol establishments across the U.S. Typically, these datasets are purchased by companies that use them for marketing purposes.
Dr. Mendez and her team used two different commercially available datasets containing information about food and alcohol establishments in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. The information was divided into the 416 distinct census tracts in the county as a means to define neighborhoods. Each census tract consists of an average of 4,000 people.
Both of the datasets showed that the density of alcohol outlets increased as neighborhood poverty increased. However, the datasets differed when it came to grocery stores. One showed that as poverty increased, the number of grocery stores increased. The other showed no association.
“This is a perplexing disagreement that likely comes down to the datasets using different classification systems and also not accurately capturing all the information. For example, because we are familiar with Allegheny County, my team was able to determine that some of the key grocery stores in our area were not included,” said Dr. Mendez. “However, if we were doing a similar analysis for a city we were not familiar with, we likely wouldn’t catch the discrepancy and could come to an inaccurate conclusion.”
The Aetna Foundation funded the study as part of a larger grant to Pitt Public Health to study the potential influence of living in stressful neighborhoods on the health of African-American mothers and their babies.
Additional researchers on this study include Anthony Fabio, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Kevin H. Kim, Ph.D., both of Pitt; and Cecily Hardaway, Ph.D., of Duke University.
APHA Abstract No. 302593, “Examining systematic biases in secondary commercial data sources of food and alcohol environments: Differences across neighborhood racial and socioeconomic characteristics,” will be given as an oral presentation at 12:30 p.m. CST on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014.

 

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

[CDC reports] 2013 Prevention Status Reports

The [2013] Prevention Status Reports (PSRs) highlight—for all 50 states and the District of Columbia—the status of public health policies and practices designed to prevent or reduce important public health problems.

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Related Reports and Analyses

The Guide to Community Preventive ServicesExternal Web Site Icon
A compilation of the evidence-based findings of the Community Preventive Services Task Force showing what works to improve health

County Health Rankings External Web Site Icon
A collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute examining the health and well-being of people living in nearly every county in the United States

America’s Health RankingsExternal Web Site Icon
An annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis published jointly by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association, and Partnership for Prevention

Trust for America’s HealthExternal Web Site Icon
Data on key health indicators and other indicators for each state and the District of Columbia

Healthy People 2020External Web Site Icon
Science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans

CDC Vital Signs
Recent data and calls to action for important public health issues

 

 

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January 25, 2014 Posted by | Health Statistics | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Finds Americans Are Making Considerable Progress in Key Health Measures

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From the 11 December 2013 press release

  •   Hawaii is the healthiest state
  •   Nationwide, Americans improved in the majority of the measures captured by the Rankings
  •   Improvements span key behavioral measures including smoking and physical inactivity
  •   2013 marks the first time since 1998 that America’s obesity crisis did not worsen
  •   Serious challenges remain; maintaining momentum is keyMINNETONKA, Minn. (Dec. 11, 2013) – Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation’s 2013 America’s Health Rankings®: A Call to Action for Individuals & Their Communities.

    Nationwide, Americans improved in the majority of the measures captured by the Rankings. The most notable gains came in key behavioral measures, including smoking, which dropped from 21.2 percent of the adult population to 19.6 percent. Seventeen states had significant drops in smoking, with the largest seen in Nevada, Maryland, Oklahoma, Kansas and Vermont.

    Physical inactivity dropped from 26.2 percent of the adult population to 22.9 percent, and America’s obesity rate remained approximately the same as reported in 2012 (27.6 percent of the adult population in 2013 compared with 27.8 percent in 2012). This marks the first time since 1998 that obesity rates have not worsened.

    State rankings

    Hawaii has taken the title of healthiest state. Vermont, last year’s reported No. 1 state, is ranked second this year and has ranked among the top five states for the last decade. Minnesota is third, followed by

Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Mississippi ranks 50th this year, and Arkansas (49), Louisiana (48), Alabama (47) and West Virginia (46) complete the list of the five least healthy states.

Top-seated Hawaii scored well along most measures particularly for having low rates of uninsured individuals, high rates of childhood immunization, and low rates of obesity, smoking and preventable hospitalizations. Like all states, Hawaii also has areas where it can improve: it has higher-than-average rates of binge drinking and occupational fatalities, and lower-than-average rates of high school graduation.

To see the Rankings in full, visit: http://www.americashealthrankings.org.

Despite progress, significant challenges remain

When it comes to improving the nation’s health, there is still much to be done. Obesity has leveled off; however, it must remain a top priority, as 27.6 percent of adults nationwide report being obese. With rates of physical inactivity, smoking and diabetes at 22.9 percent, 19.6 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, there is still considerable room for improvement in key health measures.

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“I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made this year and am hopeful that the leveling off we see in America’s obesity is a sign of further improvement to come,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., external senior medical adviser to United Health Foundation. “We should certainly celebrate these gains. They encourage us to continue to identify and effectively implement best practices in these areas and in addressing diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions that compromise Americans’ health and vitality.”

Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association, said: “Every year, the America’s Health Rankings report details the nation’s health successes and challenges on a state- by-state level, providing specific areas where citizens and states alike can focus to continue to improve the health of our nation. I am pleased to see the progress we’ve made and hope we can keep up the good work.”

United Health Foundation calls for sustained momentum

“United Health Foundation is committed to continuing to identify ways to improve state health in measurable, meaningful ways,” said Rhonda Randall, D.O., senior adviser to United Health Foundation and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions. “I hope we soon see the day when we are cheering year-over-year improvements in obesity, and I look forward to seeing our nation’s percentage of smokers continue to decline.”

“Those of us who dedicate our careers to public health know we can’t improve what we don’t measure,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chairman, Partnership for Prevention. “The America’s Health Rankings report and the online tools show us where we’ve made strides in promoting better health and, importantly, where we still have work to do.”

The America’s Health Rankings report and its tools – including analysis not only of state populations but also subpopulations within states – are designed to identify health opportunities in communities as well as

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multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approaches to address those opportunities. Through its programs and grants, United Health Foundation shines a spotlight on the health of America while promoting evidence- based solutions. As part of this commitment, United Health Foundation has partnered with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Business Coalition on Health to create learning laboratories that identify and promote best practices and innovations in public health. To learn more about America’s Health Rankings – and to get information on how to help improve community health – visit http://www.americashealthrankings.org.

About America’s Health Rankings®

America’s Health Rankings is an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by state basis. It is published jointly by United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education and Census Bureau. The report is reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee, with members from leading academic institutions, government agencies and the private sector.

America’s Health Rankings is the longest-running report of its kind. For 24 years, the Rankings has provided an analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The Rankings employs a unique methodology, developed and annually reviewed by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars. For more information, visit http://www.americashealthrankings.org.

About United Health Foundation

Guided by a passion to help people live healthier lives, United Health Foundation provides helpful information to support decisions that lead to better health outcomes and healthier communities. The Foundation also supports activities that expand access to quality health care services for those in challenging circumstances and partners with others to improve the well-being of communities. After its establishment by UnitedHealth Group [NYSE: UNH] in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation, the Foundation has committed more than $210 million to improve health and health care. For additional information, please visit http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.

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December 14, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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