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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

American Heart Association Recommends Zero Tolerance Approach to Kids’ Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

“Photo” by Andrew Pons
is licensed under CC0.

Cigarette Butt

For the most part, it is widely accepted to be true that smoking is unhealthy for you. There is research behind it that has shown it can cause at least 12 types of cancer and many other chronic diseases like stroke, pneumonia, periodontitis and more.

Even more recently, research has shown it’s not just smokers who are impacted by smoking, those who inhale secondhand smoke are just as at risk for negative consequences like middle ear disease and lower respiratory illness in children, and stroke and lung cancer in adults.

According to a graphic released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five states in our region make up the medium to high percentage of smokers:

  • New Mexico: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Texas: 13.6% – 17.4% population smokes
  • Oklahoma: 17.5% – 21.3% population smokes
  • Arkansas: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes
  • Louisiana: 21.4% – 25.2% population smokes

Recently, the American Heart Association announced its recommendation for children to avoid any and all types of secondhand smoke. “Parents should consider making their children’s environment smoke-free because cigarette smoke exposure is harmful to children’s long-term heart health and may shorten life expectancy,” statement panel chair Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, a pediatric cardiologist, said in an AHA news release.

This is a first. While it seems obvious to limit exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible, there has never been a zero tolerance approach to this sort of issue. The AHA’s recommendation even comes with recommendations for healthcare providers—alert doctors if a child lives in a home with smokers so they can receive appropriate counseling and prevent harm.

For more information on the AHA’s recommendation, please visit: “Heart Docs: Never Expose Kids to Cigarette Smoke.”

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Zika is an STD

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

“Photo” by Alejandra Quiroz
is licensed under CC0.

Zika is an STDZika is a sexually transmitted disease…but have you ever heard it called that before? Likely not, but it is.

Yes, Zika is carried and transmitted by mosquitos, don’t think it’s not. But it’s not the only method of transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn of the dangers of transmitting Zika through sex and provide prevention tips on its website.

But while the CDC provides this information, Zika as an STD is not at the forefront of this public health issue; health professionals and politicians are most concerned with the mosquito factor since the insect has made its way to Florida, and there is also a high concern they could make their way to Louisiana and Texas (two states in our region).

The Oklahoman explains the situation well: “…while mosquitos are a key menace when it comes to Zika, the media and public officials are too focused on them. They also need to pay attention to sex: If we are going to stop the spread of this disease, we are going to need better access to Zika testing for anyone who is sexually active.”

Doctors and nurses, are you warning your patients about this risk?

To read more on the subject, please visit “Zika is an STD: Why are we not calling it one?

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NN/LM South Central Region States Rank in Bottom 10 for Health Care Quality

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

“AHRQ State Snapshots”
from Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

AHRQ State SnapshotsThe Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality released the AHRQ State Snapshots graphic, coinciding with new reports, comparing the quality of health care among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The snapshot is broken up into three sections: Top 10, Middle 31, and Bottom 10. All of the states in the South Central Region (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana) fell in the Bottom 10.

AHRQ looked at more than 200 measures to make their ranking. And aside from just simply stating whether a state reached every benchmark or not, AHRQ provides several graphics that are useful for showing visually how health care looks in each state.

Because the amount of information available from the AHRQ is so vast and detailed, it would not be adequate to list the statistics in a blog post. Instead, you can find the links to data for each state below if you’re interested in learning more.

New Mexico

To find out more about the health care quality in your state, please visit

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Vaping More for Flavor Than Nicotine in Teen Use

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

“No Vaping” by Mike Mozart
is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

No Vaping SignIn 2014, The Oxford Dictionaries gave the word “vape” the Word of the Year title. The use of e-cigarettes, also known as “vapes,” have been on the rise and were often wrongly recognized as a safer alternative to smoking. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration recently put several regulations into effect regarding e-cigarettes and are warning users that this is not a safer smoking alternative.

A recent study conducted by a team at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that out of the 15,000 students they surveyed, 3,800 of them had used an e-cigarette at some time. However, researchers also discovered something else: two thirds of the student users used an e-cigarette when a non-nicotine flavored ingredient was used. Using nicotine-flavored vapes came in a distant second.

“The findings suggest that efforts to reduce e-cigarette use among young people may fail if they focus on the dangers of nicotine because most teen users do not believe they are using nicotine, according to the researchers,” MedlinePlus reported.

To read more about the study, please visit “Many Teens ‘Vaping’ for Flavor, Not Nicotine.”

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Zip Code Plays a Large Factor in Life Expectancy

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

“Photo” by Redd Angelo is licensed under CC0.

Woman WalkingRecently, many news outlets (The New York Times, NPR, Albuquerque Journal, and others) have reported on the importance where you live plays in how long you live. Research has found it can play an even bigger role than genetics. Last week, the American Medical Association Wire shared the experience of Dr. Anthony Iton, senior vice president of healthy communities at the Community Endowment, when he moved to Baltimore for medical school at Johns Hopkins University years ago.

He was appalled at how run-down parts of the city were. He compared East Baltimore to Beirut, asking the upperclassman who was giving him a tour when the war happened there.

“In an ideal world … where you live shouldn’t predict how long you live,” Iton said, “but we do not live in an ideal world. What drives health is beyond just health behaviors and access to the doctor…. There’s a whole host of environmental and social determinants that are actually much more influential on our health trajectories, and we have no organized practice for dealing with them.”

Health Happens Here also released a video in April visually describing just how two zip codes can impact the life expectancy of two individuals. While focused on California, the video’s message rings true to many other areas within the U.S.

To learn more about how where you live determines how long you live, please visit “Death by ZIP code: When address matters more than genetics.”

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Mosquitoes in Miami Beach Carrying Zika

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

“South Beach, Miami, Florida” by wadester16
is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 South Beach, Miami, Florida Officials have announced another area in Miami-Dade County, Fla. has mosquitoes which are spreading Zika locally—this time in the popular tourist destination of South Beach, an area of Miami Beach, Fla.

Health officials recently warned visitors and residents to avoid the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami-Dade County, as it was the first area they linked to local transmission of Zika through mosquitoes. This outbreak prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do something it had never done before—advise pregnant woman to avoid the area, marking the first time the CDC had ever advised people to avoid an area in the continental U.S. because of an infectious disease.

With the South Beach outbreak, CDC officials are cautioning the same thing, and advising South Beach visitors to wait at least eight weeks to get pregnant.

Health officials recently got the Wynwood outbreak under control and have cleared 17 blocks so far. And while health officials believe the Zika-carrying mosquitoes are only occupying a 1.5-mile strip of beach, they are worried they won’t be as easy to get rid of in South Beach. For one thing, the area’s high-rises pose a problem for aerial spraying, a method which they used in Wynwood. “In addition, it will be more difficult to convince people to wear long sleeves and pants in a part of the city where people go to spend time on the beach,” NPR reported.

To learn more about the new Zika outbreak, please visit: “New Zika Outbreak Hits Popular Tourist Destination of Miami Beach.”

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Zika Virus and Blood Transfusions: What Can We Do?

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

“Blood Drive” by Homecoming at Illinois State
is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Blood DriveFlorida health officials recently confirmed that some mosquitos within the continental United States are carrying Zika virus, therefore making local transmission possible. If someone contracts Zika virus, their symptoms are mild and may not even warrant a visit to the doctor’s office; many times people won’t experience any symptoms at all.

Because the symptoms are so mild, it makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose a person with Zika virus without test results. So now consider this—if a person heads to their local blood drive or blood bank, how can the volunteers who draw the blood ensure a person isn’t infected? When there was a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013, 2.8 percent of blood donors tested positive for the virus.

In order to prevent the risk of donating contaminated blood, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has requested that all blood banks in Miami-Dade County stop collecting blood immediately, as this is where local Zika transmission has occurred so far. The FDA has also released a set of recommendations for other blood banks to follow to decrease the risk of collecting Zika-infected blood. And finally, while not FDA-licensed, two tests have become available in April and June that allow blood to be tested for Zika.

However, the most effective and simple way to prevent the donation of contaminated blood is for those who have traveled to Zika-infected areas to wait to donate blood until they have been cleared by a doctor.

If you’d like to read more on what the CDC is doing to prevent blood donors with Zika from accidentally donating infected blood, please visit

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Health Officials Investigating Possible First Local Zika Transmissions

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

“Stripe on stripe” by coniferconifer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

MosquitoZika Virus has been on the minds of health officials for months, but until recently the main concern to average citizens regarding the virus was simply protecting themselves from transmission while traveling to infected countries, which include much of Central and South America, and many Caribbean islands. Florida health officials are now investigating two cases of Zika in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, which they believe may have been acquired locally, although they have not ruled out sexual transmission. If confirmed, this would be the first case of Zika transmitted by mosquito within the U.S.

In January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted small local outbreaks may occur, specifically in the south of Florida and Texas because mosquitoes in those areas have also carried dengue and chikungunya in the past.

So far, more than 1,400 people have tested positive for Zika in the U.S., with all cases having been related to travel to an infected area.

To read more about local Zika transmissions, please see “Florida Investigating 2 Possible Local Zika Virus Infections.”

To learn more about how to protect yourself from Zika, please visit

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Says Hospitals Making Progress Against Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs But More Work Is Needed

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Multistate Foodborne Illness Is a Serious Problem

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Adapted from CDC (Vital Signs)

Foods that cause multistate outbreaks are often contaminated before they reach the public. The CDC reports that multistate outbreaks caused 56% of deaths in all foodborne outbreaks, although they accounted for 3% of all outbreaks from 2010 to 2014. This occurs when contaminated food is sent to several states and individuals become sick with the same germ. Officals investigating multistate outbreaks reveal that most problems occur on the farm, in processing or distributions centers. The federal government along with food industries must work collaboratively to save lives.

Food industries can:

  • Keep records to trace foods from source to destination.
  • Use store loyalty cards and distribution records to help investigators identify what made people sick.
  • Recall products linked to an outbreak and notify customers.
  • Choose only suppliers that use food safety best practices.
  • Share proven food safety solutions with others in industry.
  • Make food safety a core part of company culture.
  • Meet or exceed new food safety laws and regulations.

For more information, please visit: