How Public Health Works to Save Lives

I love infographics, as regular readers of this blog know. Today, the American Public Health Association came out with a great one showing the intersections of public health and how various initiatives, supported by policy, save lives and money. Prevention is key!

Courtesy of APHA

Scientific American: We Are Getting Fatter and Drunker

Scientific American released a couple of interesting interactive graphs and infographics showing the rise of poor health behaviors among Americans, focusing on the changes between 1995 – 2010. Pretty interesting findings – overall, Americans are drinking more heavily, binge drinking more frequently, and overeating more regularly – but we are also smoking less, overall.

Vermont was the worst state for heavy drinking in 2010 (Tennessee had the fewest heavy drinkers), Wisconsin was the worst for binge drinking (Tennessee again had the fewest!), West Virginia was the worst for tobacco use (Utah had the fewest smokers), Mississippi was the worst for obesity (Colorado had the lowest obesity rates), and Oregon did the best in terms of exercising and physical activity (Mississippi was the worst).

You can toggle between health behaviors divided by regions in this piece, and here is the infographic showing the trends:

Image via Scientific American

The 2×2 Project

It’s been a long while since I’ve written again, and the reasons are similar to my absence back in April—while I wasn’t writing another dissertation, my fellowship has just begun!

The 2×2 Project aims to increase discussion, debate, and understanding around current public health and epidemiological trends. Based at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, we have a great team of writers and fellows. Come check us out! My latest post on abstinence-only education is up, along with some commentaries on the recent New York city soda ban, social networks and health, mobile apps, and climate change. We update a lot during the week, so make sure to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter! I’ll have some pieces about the Affordable Care Act up shortly.

Happy Monday!

Lots of Rest Can Prevent STD Transmission! At Least, That’s What Fresno is Telling Kids

In case you wanted to read something today that will make make you fume, check out ThinkProgress’ report about an abstinence-only education program in Fresno (for shame, California). It is massively, massively irresponsible.

Did you know that getting a lot of rest can prevent you from getting STDs? And that HIV can be spread by kissing? Let that marinate for a bit, because that’s what kids in Clovis, CA, are going to come out of school thinking.

Condoms? Not addressed. Contraception? Not covered.

This curriculum is actually against California law, which requires medically accurate sexual health education to be delivered to students. The ACLU is suing.

What Are Your Chances of Getting a New Provider if You’re on Medicaid?

You may be surprised, depending on what state you’re in. A chart pulled from data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Electronic Medical Records Supplement (2011) and recently also published in Health Affairs, shows how states compare with the national rate of physicians and offices accepting new Medicaid patients.

States estimated to be statistically significantly different from the national average are displayed in bold.

States estimated not to be statistically significantly different are displayed in italics. (Chart courtesy of Health Affairs.)

STATE ESTIMATE (%)
All 69.4
NJ 40.4
CA 57.1
FL 59.1
CT 60.7
TN 61.4
NY 61.6
LA 62.1
IL 64.9
MD 65.9
CO 66.1
OK 67.3
GA 67.4
MO 67.6
PA 68
KS 68.2
AL 68.5
RI 68.9
HI 69.9
TX 69.9
IN 70.6
OH 72
ME 74
DC 75.2
NV 75.2
VA 76
WA 76.4
NC 76.4
DE 78.3
VT 78.4
AZ 78.5
KY 79.4
OR 79.5
MS 79.6
MA 80.6
WV 80.9
MI 81.1
NH 81.7
AK 82.1
UT 83.5
SC 84.1
ID 84.7
NM 86.3
NE 87.0
IA 87.6
MT 89.9
AR 90.7
WI 93.0
SD 94.1
ND 94.6
MN 96.3
WY 99.3

 

New Jersey is not the state you want to be in. Especially since Chris Christie has stated he will not roll out Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act. While it’s true that some providers avoid Medicaid because the payout isn’t as great as it is for Medicare or private insurers, and while it is also true that community health centers often provide great care for those on Medicaid, many of those are struggling mightily with funding cuts that may not allow them to see nearly as many patients or follow-up as consistently as needed.

The Conundrum of Caving to the Food Industry in the Battle Against Obesity

I just wanted to bring your attention to an excellent piece by Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, in which she addresses the perilous slippery slope of appeasing the food industry and how that specifically impacts our fight against obesity.

He points out that all the research of calories in versus calories out, increasing exercise, cutting sodium, sugar, and fat, the problems with cutting physical activity from the daily routine of children, the abundant prevalence of fast food, and the cost of healthy, organic alternatives has been well and good – but that we are purposely avoiding and not addressing one of the biggest challenges in combating the increasing waistlines in America. The total avoidance of tackling head-on the way food is marketed, made, sold, and how quickly even healthcare organizations in need of a little extra cash may take a sponsorship or donation from a group directly contributing to many of the health issues that organization is tackling.

I know we live in a capitalist society. I know that the element most prized in this economic system is a competitive market and that supporters think private enterprise should be able to do whatever it likes in terms marketing and aggressive behavior towards consumers and that the individual is supposed to be able to make an independent choice. I also think that’s ridiculous. To assume that someone’s behavior is not influenced by the massive inundation of public messages, no matter how smart they are, disproves years of communication and sociological research. I always find it amusing when major corporations or businesses decry critics who say that advertising is harmful and misleading, when in fact most corporations and businesses are counting exactly on that – that the constant (and often subliminal, or in the least, very sly) messages they’re strategically slinging at us all the time are working their magic and ensuring that people will take the bait. As a critic of many advertising practices, a supporter of progressive paternalism (known to those on the opposite side of the aisle as a nanny state), and someone who has worked with people trying to change a range if disordered eating behaviors and poor nutrition habits, I found her piece particularly compelling and in agreement with her claim that the food industry has had plenty of time to prove itself trustworthy.

I think this line really sums it up: “When the history of the world’s attempt to address obesity is written, the greatest failure may be collaboration with and appeasement of the food industry. I expect history will look back with dismay on the celebration of baby steps industry takes (such as public–private partnerships with health organizations, “healthy eating” campaigns, and corporate social responsibility initiatives) while it fights viciously against meaningful change (such as limits on marketing, taxes on products such as sugared beverages, and regulation of nutritional labeling).”

Check it out.

Integrating Family Planning and HIV Services Benefits All

Some pretty great research is cropping up at the 2012 International AIDS Conference, and it’s hard to pick just one finding to reference, but I do love infographics and I do love family planning – so I found something that combines the two! Population Action International, a truly fantastic research and advocacy organization focused on women’s reproductive health access and care, and they make a great point about the advantages and importance of providing both family planning and HIV services at the same time and in the same place. They point out that mother-to-child HIV transmission can be reduced, stigma may decrease, and both time and money are save. Take a look:

Combining HIV and family planning services (courtesy of Population Action International).

Another issue at hand is that of the relationship between a provider and a patient or client. Family planning clinics have a better chance of establishing long-term relationships with women – particularly if women have multiple children – given that they also sometimes aid in pre- and post-natal care or help connect women to those services, which increases the likelihood of women who test HIV+ to getting the treatment they need. Again, all in one place!

Follow along at #AIDS2012 on Twitter to stay abreast of everything going on in D.C.