Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Economic vitality and population health go hand in hand.

From the web page

Using the County Health Rankings and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs county economic rankings, Georgia’s “Partner Up! For Public Health” advocacy campaign has developed a research project and presentation that visually illustrates how Georgia’s economic vitality and population health go hand in hand.

The still-evolving, data-driven narrative has already been presented, along with key observations and policy suggestions from the report, to more than 30 audiences throughout Georgia, including the Georgia Public Health Association, Georgia Rural Health Association, the Georgia Association of Regional Commissions, and a meeting of key state legislative leaders.

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Health Statistics, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

The Impact Of Socioeconomic Factors On The Racial Gap In Life Expectancy

While I believe there that there is no simple cause-effect explanation for life expectancy, there are striking correlations (as income levels) that need to be addressed to promote justice for all of us…

From the 11 April 2011 article at Medical News Today

Differences in factors such as income, education and marital status could contribute overwhelmingly to the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites in the United States, according to one of the first studies to put a number on how much of the divide can be attributed to disparities in socioeconomic characteristics.

A Princeton University study recently published in the journal Demography reveals that socioeconomic differences can account for 80 percent of the life-expectancy divide between black and white men, and for 70 percent of the imbalance between black and white women.

Numerous existing studies on the topic have found that mortality differences are associated with certain socioeconomic disparities, but have not determined to what extent the life expectancy gap can be explained by such contrasts, noted author Michael Geruso, a doctoral student in Princeton’s Department of Economics. …

 

April 11, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHO Report: Social determinants approaches to public health: from concept to practice

From the April 2011 World Health Organization report

The health of a population is measured by the level of health and how this health is distributed within the population. The WHO publication from early 2010, entitled Equity, social determinants and public health programmes analysed from the perspective of thirteen priority public health conditions their social determinants and explored possible entry points for addressing the avoidable and unfair inequities at the levels of socioeconomic context, exposure, vulnerability, health-care outcome and social consequences. However, the analysis needs to go beyond concepts to explore how the social determinants of health and equity can be addressed in the real world.

This publication takes the discussion on social determinants of health and health equity to a practical level of how programmes have actually addressed the challenges faced during implementation. Social determinants approaches to public health: from concept to practice is a joint publication of the Department of Ethics, Equity, Trade and Human Rights (ETH), Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), and Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research (AHPSR).

The case studies presented in this volume cover public health programme implementation in widely varied settings, ranging from menstrual regulation in Bangladesh and suicide prevention in Canada to malaria control in Tanzania and prevention of chronic noncommunicable diseases in Vanuatu.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | 1 Comment

Less Educated People Age Faster, DNA Study

Telomere caps he:תמונה:Telomere caps.gif

Image via Wikipedia

From a 11 May 2011 Medical News Today article

People who leave education with fewer academic qualifications may grow old faster, according to a DNA study that compared groups of people who spent different lengths of time in education and found the ones who spent the least time had shorter telomeres or “caps” on the ends of their DNA, a sign of premature aging in cells….

…BHF’s Associate Medical Director, Professor Jeremy Pearson, said the study reinforces the need to tackle social inequalities to combat ill health:

“It’s not acceptable that where you live or how much you earn — or lesser academic attainment — should put you at greater risk of ill health,” he said in a statement.

Andrew Steptoe, BHF Professor of Psychology at UCL, and colleagues, wrote about their findings in a paper published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

They were concerned that while there is evidence that low socioeconomic status is linked to faster biological aging, attempts to tie it telomere length have yielded inconsistent results.

Telomeres are short repetitive sequences of DNA that “cap” the ends of chromosomes and stop them degrading and fusing with their neighbours: imagine the tips on the ends of shoelaces that stop them fraying. Telomeres get consumed in cell division, and are replenished by an enzyme called telomerase, but there is a limit to how many times this can happen, and they gradually get shorter, limiting the number of times cells can divide, and in turn, lifespan….

…After adjusting for possible confounding factors, such as age, gender, various health indicators such as smoking and cholesterol, and lifestyle indicators such as exercise, they found that lower educational attainment was linked to shorter telomere length, while household income was not, and neither was employment grade.

In fact, the link between “telomere length and education remained significant after adjusting for current socioeconomic circumstances,” they wrote.

They also found that in men, the highest telomerase activity (the enzyme that repairs the telomeres) was in the lowest education group.

The researchers concluded that low socioeconomic status defined in terms of education but not current socioeconomic circumstances is linked to shorter telomeres.

This supports the idea that faster aging is not just a result of current economic circumstances or social status in a person’s life, but of long-term effects that start early in life, such as education.

The researchers also suggest that people with higher levels of education are probably better equipped with life skills like problem-solving that help them deal with the stresses of life, and this reduces the biological stress on their bodies, the so-called “allostatic load.

“Educational attainment but not measures of current socioeconomic circumstances are associated with leukocyte telomere length in healthy older men and women.”
Andrew Steptoe, Mark Hamer, Lee Butcher, Jue Lin, Lena Brydon, Mika Kivimäki, Michael Marmot, Elizabeth Blackburn, Jorge D. Erusalimsky.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, In Press, Uncorrected Proof, Available online 23 April 2011.
DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.04.010

[For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here]

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Most New Jersey residents see global health as critical to state’s economy

Most New Jersey residents see global health as critical to state’s economy
R&D a key to creating jobs, improving health, building public-private partnerships

From the February 15, 2011 Eureka news alert

WASHINGTON—February 16, 2011—Despite the unpredictable economy, nearly three-quarters (73%) of New Jersey residents think spending money on research to improve health globally is important to jobs and incomes in the state, according to a new statewide poll commissioned by Research!America. The poll data will be released today at a meeting in Washington, DC, of prominent global health research and development (R&D) experts and New Jersey business, academia and nonprofit leaders. This is part of a six-state effort by Research!America.

According to the poll, most of the New Jersey population (94%) thinks it is important for their state to be a leader in health R&D, and in fact, the state is currently third in the country for total investment in this area. New Jersey is home to 17 of the world’s 20 largest pharmaceuticals, medical technology and diagnostic companies. These companies contributed nearly $30 billion to the state’s economy and accounted for more than 55,000 New Jersey jobs in medicine, research, public health and education in 2009 alone. They also are providing solutions for some of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever.

Former Congressman and Research!America Chair John Edward Porter said, “Global health research is one of New Jersey’s best investments, in which the state’s private sector plays a leading role. On the other hand, New Jersey is ranked 11th in population but is 18th in peer-reviewed federal research grants, which provide the basis on which private industry builds much of its applied research and its products. This is a growth opportunity for New Jersey. I urge the state’s leaders to further strengthen their commitment to global health R&D in New Jersey.”

Porter added, “Working to treat and prevent disease around the world not only fuels our economy and creates jobs here, but also allows some of the world’s best minds to come together here to enrich our science and our society and to improve health everywhere.”

One of the most successful approaches to moving global health R&D forward has been public-private partnerships—which often consist of joint endeavors between technology or pharmaceutical companies, universities and nonprofits. They can yield groundbreaking results.

Case in point: Research led By David Alland, MD, at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)—together with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the manufacturing company Cepheid—spawned a new diagnostic test that tells whether a person has tuberculosis and whether it is a drug-resistant strain of the deadly disease in under two hours. Current tests, in use for over a century, can take up to three months. This new rapid TB test has been endorsed by the World Health Organization and is expected to revolutionize the way TB is treated around the world.

New Jersey residents (91% according to the poll) believe these types of partnerships are important for developing new treatments and cures, and 73% think it is important for New Jersey to offer incentives for companies to invest in research to improve health globally.

“These product development partnerships have paved new paths in global health research and created new jobs and new businesses, so it is gratifying to see that they have strong public support in New Jersey. This should send a clear message to local and national policy makers about the need to make further R&D investment a top priority,” said Mary Woolley, Research!America president and CEO.

The poll also finds that:

  • 94% say infectious diseases like the flu, tuberculosis and SARS will pose some level of threat to the U.S. in the next few years, and 79% say Americans should worry about diseases like malaria, dengue fever and cholera that mostly affect poorer countries.
  • 91% of the state’s residents are concerned about drug resistance and say it is important to conduct global health research to prevent the problem worldwide.
  • 88% are concerned about U.S. troops overseas being exposed to global health diseases, and 86% say American civilians benefit from health research conducted by the U.S. military.
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To learn more about global health R&D investment in New Jersey, visit www.researchamerica.org/uploads/NewJerseyFactSheet.pdf.

 

 

 

 

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Updated heart disease prevention guidelines for women focus more on ‘real-world’ recommendations

Updated heart disease prevention guidelines for women focus more on ‘real-world’ recommendations

From the February 15 2011 Eureka news alert

Updated cardiovascular prevention guidelines for women [link goes to free full text of the article] focus on what works best in the “real world” vs. clinical research settings and consider personal and socioeconomic factors that can keep women from following medical advice and treatment. The guidelines also incorporate illnesses that increase heart disease risk in women, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy complications Helping women — and their doctors — understand risks and take practical steps can be most effective in preventing heart disease and stroke.

 

The 2011 update identifies barriers that hinder both patients and doctors from following guidelines, while outlining key strategies for addressing those obstacles.

“Awareness continues to be a key driver to optimal care,” said Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. “Cause initiatives such as Go Red for Women and provider compliance programs such as Get With The Guidelines® are strong components in our efforts to broaden awareness and improve adherence among patients and providers.”

She said getting a dialogue started between a woman and her doctor is a critical first step.

“If the doctor doesn’t ask the woman if she’s taking her medicine regularly, if she’s having any side effects or if she’s following recommended lifestyle behaviors, the problems may remain undetected,” she said. “Improving adherence to preventive medications and lifestyle behaviors is one of the best strategies we have to lower the burden of heart disease in women.”

To evaluate patient risk, the guidelines incorporate illnesses linked to higher risk of cardiovascular disease in women, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension. Mosca said women with a history of preeclampsia face double the risk of stroke, heart disease and dangerous clotting in veins during the five to 15 years after pregnancy. Essentially, having pregnancy complications can now be considered equivalent to having failed a stress test.

“These have not traditionally been top of mind as risk factors for heart disease,” she said. “But if your doctor doesn’t bring it up, you should ask if you’re at risk for heart disease because of pregnancy complications or other medical conditions you’ve experienced.”

The updated guidelines also emphasize the importance of recognizing racial and ethnic diversity and its impact on cardiovascular disease. For example, hypertension is a particular problem among African-American women and diabetes among Hispanic women.

Although putting clinical research into practical, everyday adherence can be challenging, solid scientific evidence is still the basis for many of the guidelines, Mosca said. Some commonly considered therapies for women are specifically noted in the guidelines as lacking strong clinical evidence in their effectiveness for preventing cardiovascular disease and, in fact, may be harmful to some women. Those include the use of hormone replacement therapy, antioxidants and folic acid.

The update includes depression screening as part of an overall evaluation of women for cardiovascular risk, because while treating depression has not been shown to directly improve cardiovascular health, depression might affect whether women follow their doctor’s advice.

Despite a growing body of clinical evidence to fight heart disease and stroke in women, more is needed, Mosca said. Coronary heart disease death rates in women dropped by two-thirds from 1980 to 2007, due to both effective treatment and risk factor reduction, according to the American Heart Association, but cardiovascular disease still kills about one woman every minute in the United States.

In future studies, researchers should look at interventions during specific times throughout a woman’s lifespan ― including puberty, pregnancy and menopause ― to identify risks and determine effective prevention opportunities during those critical times, Mosca said. More cost-effective analyses and clinical trial research with male- and female-specific results are also needed, especially regarding risks posed by preventive therapies.

“Now that science has shown the benefits are often similar for men and women, there is a need to understand if the risks are also similar and acceptable,” she said.

“These guidelines are a critical weapon in the war against heart disease, the leading killer of women,” Mosca said. “They are an important evolution in our understanding of women and heart disease. And I cannot stress personal awareness and education enough. Initiatives such as Go Red For Women give women access to the latest information and real-life solutions to lower their risk of heart disease.”

 

 

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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