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.

2565207319_ccf343e244_b 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

Gang Members Found to Suffer Unprecedented Levels of Psychiatric Illness

From the 12 July post at Science Daily


Young men who are gang members suffer unprecedented levels of psychiatric illness, placing a heavy burden on mental health services, according to new research led by Queen Mary, University of London.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Maurice & Jacqueline Bennett Charitable Trust funded study surveyed 4,664 men aged 18 to 34 in Britain. The survey covered measures of psychiatric illness, violence and gang membership. It is the first time research has looked into whether gang violence is associated with psychiatric illness, other than substance misuse.

In terms of mental health, gang members and violent men were significantly more likely to suffer from a mental disorder and access psychiatric services than non-violent men. The exception was depression, which was significantly less common among gang members and violent men.

Violent ruminative thinking, violent victimisation and fear of further victimisation were significantly higher in gang members and believed to account for high levels of psychosis and anxiety disorder in gang members.

The findings showed that, of the 108 gang members surveyed:

  • 85.8 per cent had an antisocial personality disorder;
  • Two-thirds were alcohol dependent;
  • 25.1 per cent screened positive for psychosis;
  • More than half (57.4 per cent) were drug dependent;
  • Around a third (34.2 per cent) had attempted suicide; and
  • More than half (58.9 per cent) had an anxiety disorder.

The authors suggest that the higher rate of attempted suicide attempts among gang members may be associated with other psychiatric illness, but could also correspond with the notion that impulsive violence may be directed both outwardly and inwardly.

Street gangs are concentrated in inner urban areas characterised by socioeconomic deprivation, high crime rates and multiple social problems. The authors report that around one per cent of 18 to 34-year-old men in Britain are gang members. The level rises to 8.6 per cent in the London borough of Hackney, where one in five black men reported gang membership….

English: An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos...

English: An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



July 18, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

[Reblog] Finding the Truth About Guns

[Reblog] Finding the Truth About Guns.  Posted by January 15, 2013

Not sure what to believe in the debate on public safety and guns?

On one side, you have the NRA, many Republicans, and conservative pundits / newscasters.  Their central claim is that more guns in the hands of responsible, hard-working citizens is a deterrent to criminals and as a result there is less violent crime and less overall crime.  They argue that an individual has the right to defend themself and their family from violent criminals.  This view is anchored by the perception of natural rights as well their interpretation of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Wayne LaPierre, a prominent NRA official, said that a reason there has been mass shootings in schools, for instance, is that the government created and designated them as gun-free zones which make them easy targets for those that wish to create the most destruction with the least risk.  He went as far as say that we are “advertising them as killing zones” recently in response the tragedy in Newton.

It is often stated that though gun violence and gun homicides are less in the UK, where guns are not legal,but that their violent crime rate is considerably higher than ours in the US.  In fact, it has been recently reported that the UK is the violent crime capital of Europe.

“The worst violent crime and murder rates in America occur in places with the strictest gun control already in places(like) Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Washington D.C. Strict gun control clearly does not work…The FBI reports 386 violent crimes per 100,000 in the USA. The UK Home Office reports 1,361 violent crimes per 100,000 in England. Gun control may be a failure, but the UK experience proves that outright gun bans are an unmitigated disaster.” Wayne Allyn Root (W.A.R) is a former Presidential candidate, the 2008 Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee, and a Tea Party favorite. Link

President Obama, most Democrats, university professors / researchers, and their pundits / newscasters as well as many mayors and police chiefs share the view that more guns equals more violent crime.  They say the statistics of gun homicides and violent crimes is extremely higher in the US compared with the UK and other similar countries and states with strict gun enforcement.

The difference on violent crime data comes from what is considered a violent crime.  Burglary, domestic violence, even bicycle theft are classified as a violent crimes in  the UK.  The US classifies violent crime using four categories  Murder, rape, robbery(by force, threat of force, or violence), and aggravated assault.

Here is the comparison:

U.S. 2009 robbery rate: 133 per 100,000.

U.K. 2009 robbery rate: 164 per 100,000.

U.S. 2009 burglary rate: 716.3 per 100,000

U.K. 2009 burglary rate: 523 per 100,000.

And in the U.S., you were nearly four times as likely to be murdered:

U.S. 2009 murder rate: 5 per 100,000.

U.K. 2009 murder rate: 1.49 per 100,000

The truth is that violent crime is much higher in the US than in the UK.  There are more murders and rapes in the US compared with the UK. Bottom line is that you, your family, your neighbors, and your friends are considerably more likely to be murdered or raped in the US than in any other comparable country, including the UK.

Does having a gun for protection make you safer?

According to the American Journal of Public Health, Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, “individuals in possession of a gun were 4.46 (P < .05) times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. Among gun assaults where the victim had at least some chance to resist, this adjusted odds ratio increased to 5.45 (P < .05) more likely to be shot. Read More.  You are nearly five times more likely to be shot if you have a gun during an assault than if you do not.

What about the claim that the worst violent crime and murders occur in cities and States with the strictest gun control laws?

Harvard Injury Control Research Center

  • Across states, more guns = more homicide

From Harvard School of Public Health: “Using a validated proxy for firearm ownership, we analyzed the relationship between firearm availability and homicide across 50 states over a ten-year period (1988-1997).  After controlling for poverty and urbanization, for every age group, people in states with many guns have elevated rates of homicide, particularly firearm homicide…Children in states with many guns have elevated rates of unintentional gun deaths, suicide and homicide.  The state rates of non-firearm suicide and non-firearm homicide among children are not related to firearm availability”

  • Where there are more guns there is more homicide  
  • Guns are not used millions of times each year in self-defense  ”false positive”  

“We find that the claim of many millions of annual self-defense gun uses by American citizens is invalid.”

  •  Gun ownership creates external psychic costs.  

By a margin of more than 3 to 1, Americans would feel less safe, not safer, as others in their community acquire guns

What about arming teachers and custodians with guns?

Columbine High School and Virginia Tech were protected by armed guards prior to two of the deadliest attacks at education institutions in U.S. history.

Family members of the victims in recent shootings are taking a stand against the NRA and are urging law makers to take meaningful action to reduce and limit the amount and type of guns that are currently legally available.

‘“It’s different now because children are being butchered in schools,’ said Dave Hoover, a police officer in Lakewood, Colo., whose nephew A.J. Boik was one of the 12 people killed in Aurora. ‘Because kids were killed at a movie. Because families went to church and were gunned down.”’

He added: “I don’t understand why we are even arguing about this.”

I could not find any studies that show there is a positive correlation to the amount of guns and the safety of the residents.  Not saying they don’t excises but where are they? This letter from 100 public health researchers may offer a clue:  The Letter

What are your views?  Please share.


January 16, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , | Leave a comment

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…

View original post 143 more words

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

The Evolutionary Psychology of Crime

From the January 2012 Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical criminology  article at

Evolutionary psychology provides a powerful set of tools for understanding human behavior, including criminal behavior and responses to criminal behavior. One set of tools entails furnishing hypotheses about the underlying psychological mechanisms that could plausibly be part of the causal chain leading to criminal behavior and responses to it. Because all psychological mechanisms require environmental input for their activation, these hypotheses include a specification of circumstances in which criminal behavior is likely to be enacted or inhibited. A somewhat different set of the tools, also potentially quite valuable, is that evolutionary psychology provides heuristic value, guiding criminologists to examine domains previously unexplored or to uncover elements in the causal chain that otherwise might be missed by existing criminology theories. By introducing evolutionary explanations, Durrant and Ward (this volume) provide a valuable service in opening the door for both sets of tools provides by evolutionary psychology in the understanding criminal behavior.

According to evolutionary psychology, all human behavior, criminal or otherwise, is a product of psychological mechanisms (instantiated in the brain) combined with environmental input that activates them or inhibits their activation. Consider calluses. Explanatory understanding the thickness and distribution of calluses on the human skin within individuals over time and across individuals and cultures at any point in time requires (1) knowledge that humans have evolved callus-producing adaptations whose proper function is to protect the underlying physiological and anatomical structures beneath the skin, and (2) knowledge that the environmental input of repeated friction to skin is required for activating the callus-producing mechanisms. Evolutionary psychology, in short, is fundamentally an interactionist framework.

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment


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