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Get out of the car and into the fresh air February 25, 2010

Posted by Lindsey Realmuto in Environmental Health, Wellness.
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Of course everyone knows (or probably has heard) that vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution that can adversely affect your health. But do you actually know how much cars are contributing to the degradation of our air quality? Or what they’re actually emitting?

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Sarah Palin’s Exception or Family Guy’s Acceptance? February 22, 2010

Posted by Sara Imershein MD in Blogging, Health Communications & Marketing, Mental Health, Prevention.
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With the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) the United States government took huge strides to facilitate acceptance of persons with disabilities into typical American life.  No longer would curbs or steps block entry into society. And with mainstreaming in schools and the workplace disabled Americans can fulfill their American Dreams and contribute, rather than burden society. Families and teachers work hard to incorporate children just as employers, mass transit, and architects have adapted.

So when disabled Americans join the entertainment industry and characters are portrayed as real life people, with real disabilities and real senses of humor – in spite of their limitations, shouldn’t they jump for joy at their inclusive acceptance? Special interest groups from commercial Coca Cola to advocates for public safety position themselves for subtle and not-so-subtle product placement to increase awareness.

Sarah Palin doesn’t agree.  She want exceptions made for her and for Trig, the former governor’s son, born with Down’s Syndrome, a genetic disability with a numerous potential limitations of varying severity. Palin criticised the comedy show for being ‘cruel and cold-hearted” and “not really funny” on the cable show O’Reilly Factor, although she makes exception for Rush Limbaugh’s use of the word retard because he used “satire.”

The front page New York Times Feb 20, 2010 headline read Family Guy vs. Palin: Can Disability Be Funny?” The article fairly portrays the inherent tension between making exceptions for the disabled and accepting the disabled as a part of society, including being teased, poked fun at, laughed at… and laughed with! Furthermore, the article presents the facts; readers easily see the hypocrisy.

read on…

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Antibiotic use in livestock contributes to MRSA’s menace February 22, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Environmental Health, Global Health, Occupational Health, Prevention.
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Recently, CBS’s Katie Couric highlighted a public health problem that keeps resurfacing —the use of antibiotics in livestock to promote growth and the link to antimicrobial resistance in humans.  The well-documented two-part story focused in part on farmers who have contracted life threatening infections such as MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) by working with chickens and pigs  dosed with antibiotics which have, in turn, become breeding grounds for super drug resistant bacteria.

MRSA is one of the most common types of antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections, but there are many others such as E Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, which are monitored by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These bacterial diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans by different types of exposures including physical contact, and in air, water, and food and are called zoonotic diseases. The report did not discuss the most common ways humans acquire MRSA, such as in hospital settings, or that a new type of MRSA called C-MRSA is increasingly being found in community settings such as athletic facilities.

According to the CBS report:

Drug resistant infections have sky-rocketed over the past two decades, killing an estimated 70,000 Americans last year alone. It’s an emerging health crisis that scientists say is caused not only by the overuse of antibiotics in humans, but in livestock as well. (more…)

What we know about abortion February 20, 2010

Posted by Sara Imershein MD in Healthcare.
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In 1969 the CDC began data collection on “abortion.”  The medical term abortion refers to ANY pregnancy that ends prior to viability, whether spontaneous or induced, whether a normal pregnancy or abnormal, or even a tubal pregnancy.  The CDC however, uses the political term abortion to refer to the termination of a pregnancy by a licensed, qualified health care practitioner. The Handbook on the Reporting of Induced Termination of Pregnancy, published in 1988 and updated in 1997, uses the correct alternative medical terminology induced termination of pregnancy

read on (more…)

Hypersexual Disorder February 11, 2010

Posted by Ashraf Faden in Healthcare, Mental Health, Prevention, Wellness.
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This is one of the proposed terms, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), to be considered as a mental disorder and to be included in the new completely revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is considered the bible for mental disorders.  As noted in the DSM-5 development website, the criteria for a hypersexual disorder would include:

A.    Over a period of at least six months, recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:
(1) A great deal of time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.
(2) Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability).
(3) Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.
(4) Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.
(5) Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.
B.    There is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.
C.     These sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior are not due to the direct physiological effect of an exogenous substance (e.g., a drug of abuse or a medication).

So, what implications might this decision have on public health? (more…)

Wood Chips, Pea Gravel, Rubber Mats–Playground Safety First! February 10, 2010

Posted by naj24 in Environmental Health, Prevention.
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Did you ever play hide-and-go-seek in your neighborhood playground?  I sure did.  I also remember the merry-go-round that I used to give my cousins fun rides on by spinning them continuously.  I remember climbing the jungle gym, and showing off that I could jump off of it because it was so high. Of course at that age it didn’t occur to me that any serious accidents could come from public playground equipment.  Recently, I looked over the public playground safety checklist offered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), just to see if I was playing in a safe enough environment.  (more…)

Green Gov-How the federal government intends to lead us toward sustainability February 9, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Environmental Health.
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency,  sustainability was established as a national goal by the  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970, and is defined as:

the creation and maintenance of conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.

In practical terms it means using our natural resources wisely and responsibly so that we reduce the negative impact on our environment, and don’t create burdens for future generations. The concept has evolved from one of disparate interests and trade-offs (public vs private, business interests vs the environment) into one of shared interests and synergy. Sustainability can be applied to many systems and living conditions.

The federal government is involved in sustainablility too.  Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, blogged last week that there was much excitement in the room during her meeting with the Office of Management and Budget and other leaders from federal agencies regarding sustainability in the federal government. She reported this meeting was a follow up to Barack Obama’s state of the union speech on January 27, 2010 in which he “set a government-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 28 percent by 2020….”

The emissions reduction plan was a requirement of President Obama’s October 5, 2009 executive order on Federal Sustainability, which committed the federal government to lead by example. President Obama said:

As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies….

This is not a “one size fits all” reduction plan. Under the executive order each federal agency is required to create its own sustainability plan and the newly announced 28% reduction plan was arrived at by reviewing the plans from 35 different federal agency targets. For example the Department of Defense plans to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 for all non-combat activities” and the Department of the Treasury “intends to reduce its emissions by 33%” by 2020.

Government leaders also sought to involve the approximately 1.5 million federal employees in the plan toward sustainability. They sponsored the Green Gov contest last October, an online program that challenged employees to take part in the President’s Executive Order on Federal Sustainability by submitting their own clean energy ideas and voting on others. Over 1,380 ideas were submitted by employees about how to eliminate waste in the government and save energy. All of the ideas are online and include:

•    Put “recycle bins in ALL public buildings….”
•    “Make it a policy to only buy recycled paper and greener office supplies”
•    “Install self-limiting faucets which control water pressure and flow in the restrooms of our government facilities….”
•    “Federal 4 day work week, as state of Utah did with remarkable success: 13% reduction in energy use, $6 mil annual gasoline savings and 82% worker approval (Time, Sept. 09).

Sutley mentions that lots of agencies have begun projects aimed at reducing energy use. Several are listed here:

•    The Central Intelligence Agency committed to reducing GHG* pollution when it opened two new LEED** certified buildings in Virginia that reduce annual energy and water use by more than 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
•    The Department of Defense (Fort Bliss) is aiming to be the “Army center for renewable energy” and a net-zero electricity user by 2025, producing as much energy on-site as the facility uses.
•    The Department of Energy plans to construct one of the largest biomass facilities in the country [which]… is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year.
•    The U.S. Postal Service constructed the largest green roof in New York City, and one of the largest in the nation…. The nearly 2.5 acres of native, drought tolerant vegetation on top of the seven story building not only serves as a park and open space for employees, but also saves energy and reduces polluted stormwater runoff ….

*Greenhouse gas
**Leadership in Energy and Environmental design- a certification for environmentally sustainable construction issued by the US Green Building Council

After reading about all of these ideas and projects it’s easy to see why there was so much excitement at the recent meeting.  Federal agencies are already taking actions toward sustainability and by doing so they are helping to spur innovation and jobs in the private sector, reducing costs, and reducing pollution and the use of precious resources. We will all be able to track the progress of these agencies in meeting the year 2020 sustainability goals by reviewing scorecards which will be available online.

Teen Pregnancies on the Rise February 8, 2010

Posted by Renee in Healthcare, Prevention, Uncategorized, Wellness.
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A new report from the Guttmacher Institute was released January 26, 2010 with surprising data on teen pregnancy.   According to the report from the Guttmacher Institute approximately 7% of teen girls became pregnant in 2006, which is a 3% rise from 2005.  There is an issue, a problem, whatever term you want to use, but no matter what we call it: teenage girls in the United States are getting pregnant at increasing rates and something needs to change.

Keep reading to find out more about the rise in teen pregnancy. (more…)

Impulsive and Addicted-The challenges of addressing teen texting while driving February 5, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Health Communications & Marketing, Mental Health, Prevention, Social Marketing.
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As I drove home one night this week my cell phone rang and I reached over and hastily struggled through my purse to see who was texting me.   When I saw the text message from a friend with some exciting news, I felt a rush. Then the traffic light turned red and I considered texting a quick “Woo Hoo,”  trying to figure out if the timing would work and I wouldn’t be honked at by the cars behind me.  I decided to wait until I was out of heavy traffic to pull over and text her back. But I found it odd that, after about a minute, the urge passed and I realized I could wait another half hour until I got home.

Looking back at that one minute experience, it seems I could almost feel those proverbial twins of conscience as they pulled me to and fro. I like to think that my age and experience gave me a slight edge in resisting the impulse, but what about younger drivers?  A Washington Post article provides recent statistics showing that texting is now responsible for increasing numbers of teenage driving deaths. They also have a link to a graphic video of the horrible consequences of this common activity.

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Sleep apnea–yet another serious health condition tied to obesity February 4, 2010

Posted by Gretchen Giannelli in Healthcare, Mental Health, Prevention.
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Obesity is in the forefront these days as a serious public health problem. According to CDC, during 2007-2008 about one-third of US adults were considered obese which is defined as:

a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.”

As if this weren’t enough, obesity is also linked to sleep apnea, a temporary cessation in breathing while sleeping, which deprives the brain of oxygen and causes disturbed sleep and may lead to daytime sleepiness, insomnia and mood disorders, enlarged heart and/or a heart attack or stroke. The quantitative definition of sleep apnea is  “if you stop breathing completely or take less than 25% of a normal breath for a period that lasts 10 seconds or more”.    According to the National Sleep Foundation about 18 million people have sleep apnea. (more…)