Posts Tagged ‘Public Health’

Job Hunting for the Public Healthist

June 28, 2010

I’m back in the midwest and hunting for public health employment after successfully completing my MPH in the pacific northwest. What do you guys think about professional development in this field? I know all of the conventional ways we hunt (networking, web searches, professional societies, etc), but how do we innovate?

Dental health should be included in reform

February 21, 2010

Dental health has long been considered “optional” or an “extra” when it comes to health insurance. Just having insurance for dental procedures made you a lucky person; having good dental insurance that actually helped with the cost of expensive procedures (such as root canals and crowns) was like hitting the jackpot.

With the recent recession, dental health has fared even worse. People who lost their coverage along with their jobs are turning to safety net clinics, which were already overwhelmed with clients who never had dental insurance. Some states offer dental insurance to qualified applicants, but even that is dwindling.

States are feeling the sting of the recession when it comes to their budgets for dental insurance. According to NPR, California dropped 3 million people off of their dental plan 8 months ago due to budget cuts. The consequences of this? People are thronging to safety net clinics, which are struggling just to stay afloat in the economic downturn. Folks are turning up at these clinics swollen gums and infected teeth – problems that might have been avoided had they had access to regular cleanings. Instead of preventative care, people are forced to get teeth pulled because they can’t afford the expensive root canals and other treatments.

Public health has been pushing oral hygiene for several years now, since studies  have linked oral health to diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It is clear that dental health should not be considered optional, an extra or a luxury. I believe health is a human basic right – and this includes dental health.

Vaccines and obesity

February 21, 2010

The folks over at Effect Measure posted their take on a recent research article about vaccinating obese adolescents. The researchers were trying to see if needle length had an effect on the amount of antibody titer found in the subject’s blood after vaccination. The researchers found that those vaccinated with a 1.5″ needle  had higher antibody titers than subjects vaccinated with a 1.0″ needle.

I wish I could see the entire article, but unfortunately I don’t have access to Pediatrics and the abstract will have to suffice. The study itself was small, with only 22 young women and 2 young men receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine over 3 years. It raises an interesting point and possibly names another negative consequence of the obesity crisis in this country.

Of course, one study doesn’t tell us if using shorter needles constitutes under-vaccinating in obese individuals. In fact, it raises so many questions. Is it the needle size or the person that is the bigger factor in antibody levels? Will nurses have to start taking skin fold measurements before administering vaccines? Would vaccine needles have to start coming in many different sizes, to accommodate different levels of girth? And how will the anti-vaccine folks respond to this?

More Data Regarding Teen Pregnancy Rates

February 1, 2010

This editorial in the New York Times discusses a recent study done by the Guttmacher Institute about how teenage pregnancy and abortion rates have increased recently (2005-2006) and suggests a possible correlation with the Bush administration’s abstinence-only education policies. The New York Times piece is pretty short, so give it a look-see.

The association is really only a suggestion, but it’s still exciting to have emerging information about reproductive health. Here’s the full report if you’re interested.

People FREAKING About Mammograms!

December 15, 2009

I like the way this New York Times article explains that there is such a thing as too much screening. A nugget:

Much of our discomfort with the panel’s findings stems from a basic intuition: since earlier and more frequent screening increases the likelihood of detecting a possibly fatal cancer, it is always desirable. But is this really so? Consider the technique mathematicians call a reductio ad absurdum, taking a statement to an extreme in order to refute it. Applying it to the contention that more screening is always better leads us to note that if screening catches the breast cancers of some asymptomatic women in their 40s, then it would also catch those of some asymptomatic women in their 30s. But why stop there? Why not monthly mammograms beginning at age 15?

Stick with him through the math, because he makes a good point. Basically, false positives can have a big effect on whether or not a screening program really works. I also like how he talks about survival measurements:

Another concern is measurement. Since we calculate the length of survival from the time of diagnosis, ever more sensitive screening starts the clock ticking sooner. As a result, survival times can appear to be longer even if the earlier diagnosis has no real effect on survival.

So… we need to consider some pretty nerdtastic factors when we’re talking about screening, including probabilities, sensitivity, specificity, and measurement. I GD love epidemiology!

UK Pilot Program Provides Over-The-Counter Oral Contraception

December 15, 2009

A pilot program to give teenage girls OTC birth control pills is being launched in London.

Pharmacists have been trained to do general checks and provide oral contraception in two inner-city London areas, both with high teenage pregnancy rates (one, Southwark, has twice the national average). I am sooooo interested to see the findings.

Apparently the UK government’s goal to reduce teenage pregnancy by 50% by 2010 is not even close to being reached. Thus the program. Of course opponents go with the old stand-by: promiscuity.

What are your thoughts? Possible increases in promiscuity? OTC birth control for teens a good idea? I’m personally pretty jazzed, but we’ll see how things proceed.

And Another Thing

December 1, 2009

Today is World AIDS Day. I hope everyone’s wearing red and considering the impact AIDS has had on the world. And figuring out ways to stop it.

So Comprehensive Sex Ed Works

November 12, 2009

Something the public healthists have been saying for awhile now…

National Partnership for Women and Families has it here. The CDC issued a report that gave the findings of a panel of 15 experts who reviewed the results of a meta-analysis of studies on comprehensive sex education. Here’s what Women’s Health Policy Report said:

Sex education programs that advise students to delay sexual activity while also offering instruction on ways to avoid unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections effectively reduce risky sexual behavior, increase condom use and decrease spread of STIs, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-commissioned report released on Friday, the Washington Post reports. The report said there is insufficient evidence to determine whether programs that focus on abstinence until marriage reduce the chance adolescents will engage in risky sexual behavior, become pregnant or contract an STI.

Of course the abstinence-only supporters (becoming fewer and fewer by the day) tried to discredit it, but I think the proof is in the pudding.

I can’t find the original CDC report, does anyone have it?

I think it’s interesting as well that they couldn’t find sufficient evidence to make a determination on the effects of abstinence-only programs. I’ve read studies that say it may contribute to higher teen pregnancy rates. I don’t have links for that either, though, so don’t quote me in your final papers. 

Anyhoo, good news! This report comes on the heels of President Obama’s attempts to redirect federal funds to only cover sex ed programs that have scientific evidence to support their validity. Not internal/external, ya nerds, like their truthfulness. I like to think things like this mean some of us might actually find jobs when we’re done with school in June.

Keep in mind as well that comprehensive sex ed includes curriculum to prevent sexual initiation by promoting abstinence but also educating students about STI and pregnancy prevention.

Birth Control Through History

November 2, 2009

You have to check out this slideshow from Newsweek.com. It’s a look back at the history of birth control. Just a few minutes long and very informational. Plus it’s funny! They definitely use the word “womanizer”. Genius.

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.