Archive for October, 2009

HPV Vaccine Approved for Boys, Let the Games Begin!

October 29, 2009

Gardasil, the Merck vaccine approved for girls a few years ago, has been approved for boys. The discussion surrounding the approval has been truly fascinating. This Slate post on the topic is amazing.

 The post is definitely not objective, but I love the way William Saletan talks about it. Has anyone read the BMJ article?


Another Argument for Vaccination

October 29, 2009

Check it!

This blog entry from Slate is really interesting. What a great perspective on unvaccinated kids. Plus the author, Stephanie Tatel, talks about the vaccine debate generally as well.

Controversial German AIDS Ad Certainly Gets Attention

October 29, 2009

The “AIDS is a mass murder” campaign mentioned here is getting a lot of attention at the moment. You can follow links to see the ad, but be warned, it’s very graphic.

In the series of ads, women are pictured having sex with dictators- Hitler and Stalin included. While they’re certainly attention-grabbing, one could argue it further stigmatizes those with the disease. In a time when people are becoming increasingly complacent about HIV, however, they’re getting lots of column inches. Proving that sex and controversy sell, even in public health campaigns.

House Still Arguing Over Abortion

October 29, 2009

The House of Representatives is on the cusp of unveiling their health reform bill and they’re still going back and forth about abortion. There are a million reasons why leaving “no federal funds for abortion” language out of the bill is important. For one, it’s assumed in the legislation because of the laws we already have. It’s redundant.

I’ll let Rep. Yarmuth (D-KY) make the second point for me:

…consensus that we are not going to use taxpayer funds. The question is how you define it. … what [Stupak] wants to do is go a lot further than the status quo … And a woman under his amendment, as I understand it, shopping in the exchange for insurance would not be able to buy coverage for insurance, even with her own money. She would have to actually buy a separate rider, which means she would have to plan for an unplanned event, which I think is illogical.

But the part that makes me the most crazy: there are several groups (Catholic Bishops, moderate Democrats) who acknowledge that health is a human right, who support health reform legislation, but who will withdraw their support if the federal funding wording isn’t included. So basically they’ll pull legislation for a basic human right because their stance is implied instead of explicitly stated.

Make sure to check out the rest of the quotes from Stupak, he makes some great points. And if you want to hear more about this, I wrote a paper on the topic. Since everyone who reads this blog knows me personally, just shoot me an email. *Hehe, internet self-deprecation.*

H1N1 Flu Vaccination

October 26, 2009

So the outpouring of people wanting the H1N1 flu vaccination has been wonderful in my opinion. I was a little worried because in the news you kept hearing about all the anti-vaccinators or the people who were hesitant to get the vaccine, but that doesn’t seem to be the voice of the majority (thank goodness). The only thing that would make this whole situation more awesome is if there was actually enough vaccine to go around.

Officials seemed to have severely overestimated the amount of vaccine that would be available and when. Granted, producing vaccine is a tricky, but officials know this and should be able to provide more accurate estimates (they were off by 30% and when you are talking about millions of doses, you end up being off by quite a lot). NPR and NY Times both had articles about why there is a shortage currently. Pretty enlightening on the situation.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. While there is H1N1 going around, flu season is not in full swing yet (although some states are worse than others currently). It seems that there will be enough vaccine to go around eventually. Will people still be wanting to get vaccinated in one or two months or will the momentum die? Despite my expressed patience I must admit that I made sure my pregnant sister-in-law knew about a county flu clinic this weekend. She waited in line for three hours and she was luckily able to get one before they ran out. Extolling patience is one thing, but it is different when it is your own family at risk.

Too much information is never a bad thing?

October 26, 2009

Personally I am of the mind that you can never have too much information. Information is good. But I guess if you want to be picky you have to ask who is the information coming from and is it actually factual. Also key is when you provide information, you need to let the consumers of that info know what it means.

I bring up these points because of two news articles this weeks:
First, as you may of heard “Smart Choices” may not actually be so smart, or healthy for that matter. This week the FDA raised concerns over the Smart Choices nutrition labeling program, created voluntarily by nine large U.S. manufacturers. The program has now been halted. The program was meant to highlight foods that meet certain nutritional standards with a green label on package fronts. Great! I can know which packaged foods are healthy! What a great tool for people! Unfortunately the program didn’t exactly define healthy as you or I would because I don’t think you would call Fruit Loops cereal a health food. You think this would be pretty simple….
The other news was out of Sweden. The Swedes have new labels listing the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the production of foods from whole wheat pasta to fast food burgers and they are appearing on some grocery items and restaurant menus around the country. This is important because changing one’s diet can be as effective in reducing emissions of climate-changing gases as changing the car one drives or doing away with the clothes dryer, scientific experts say. I think it’s great, but you just have to let people know what “.87 kg CO2 per kg of product” actually means in relation to anything.

American Cancer Society Shifting its Message on Screening for Breast and Prostate Cancer

October 26, 2009

Screening is an important tool of secondary prevention of disease in public health. Of course screening tools are not perfect. The American Cancer Society (ACS), a long defender of cancer screening, is now working on a message to emphasize that breast and prostate cancer screenings can come with a real risk of overtreating many small cancers while missing cancers that are deadly. My concern is how we are going to communicate this to the public in a way that doesn’t deter people from getting screened. The ACS hasn’t even come up with its message to the public and they’re already getting media coverage. This is a real opportunity for a public health campaign to educate the public about cancer screenings.


October 22, 2009

I truly don’t know what to think. The weirdest part, though, is a study of testosterone levels and the recent presidential campaign garners this headline in WIRED: “Obama Win Turned Male Republicans Into Girlie Men.”

I think I need to read the study before developing an opinion. Ya know, notes in the margins about confounders, etc. Everyone does that, right?


Soda Taxation

October 16, 2009

I don’t know if the commercial is playing nationwide or just in Oregon, but it is an anti-soda tax ad with a very serious “mom” unloading groceries from her car talking about how hard it is to feed her kids and taxes aren’t going to help with that.  Maybe it is just me, but I always end up making snide remarks whenever I see this commercial because soda pop is not food.  It drives me nuts.  Soda has no nutritional value, so therefore it does not contribute to you feeding your kids.  It is not like taxing milk, or fruit, or even crackers. It would be pennies per soda.  Some people drink A LOT of soda so this would add up (over a lifetime), but do not tell me that a soda tax will be detrimental to you feeding your kids!

Sorry, that’s my rant (the commercial really bugs me).  Here is an article from NPR about the issue of soda taxation and its merits in helping to pay for health care.

A Truly Public Option?

October 16, 2009

It seems like even the mention of a “public option” right now is enough to bring some people to blows; okay, maybe not, but at least tense sneers and a few choice words under one’s breath. But what if there was another way? What if the public option was really “public” as in publically decided?

Currently floating around Congress is the idea of a robust public option with an opt-out clause, not on the individual level, but at the state level. This could either be done by a legislative action or by popular vote. Below are some reasons why this idea is awesome:

– It would appease the Conservatives who are all about state rights while also appeasing Democrats who want the public option. It would also quiet Blue Dog Dems who say that a public option is too politically dangerous for them back in their home states.
– Back in the day Medicaid came with a similar such clause, and you know what, every state has offered Medicaid since 1982 (Arizona was the last hold-out) and no state has ever dropped out.
– If the public option is the default decision and the state would have to opt-out, behavioral economics tells us that most states would do it (default preferences are extremely powerful).
– Even in states that do opt out of the public option, the fact that voters could presumably elect later to restore it creates an extremely credible threat to the private insurance industry that will itself help to create price competition (
– If the public option indeed reduces the costs of insurance — and most of the evidence suggests that it will — then the states that opt out of it will have a pretty compelling reason to opt back in after they see the effects in neighboring states.
– And if for some reason costs do sky-rocket (even though it would give the government a pretty good advantage of scale in addition to Medicare/Medicaid for negotiating prices, etc), the opt-out clause would be a relatively painless way to do away with the public option.