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Gun Violence, a Public Health Issue?

In the wake of another deadly school shooting, the question of gun violence as a public health issue has yet again been proposed. However, unlike most major public health questions, there is a severe deficiency in evidence supporting either side of the political rhetoric on gun control. The origin of this knowledge gap is often accredited to a 1996 congressional amendment. Commonly referred to as the “Dickey Amendment,” named after the Arkansas House Representative that championed it, Jay Dickey, the amendment prohibits the CDC from promoting or advocating gun control through its research. While the amendment doesn’t explicitly ban research on gun violence, it has served as a means of controlling the priorities of the CDC, similar to the CDC budget document censorship. A 2017 article in JAMA concluded that gun … Read entire article »

Filed under: Injuries, Mental Health, Violence

Influenza and Vaccination Disparities in the U.S.

For the first time in thirteen years, the CDC lists the flu to be ‘widespread’ in all parts of the continental U.S. Since flu season officially began, there have been approximately 60,000 confirmed cases of the flu and the hospitalization rate for influenza has reached 22.7 people/ 100,000 U.S. residents. Here is Massachusetts, reported cases of flu-like illnesses are much higher than last season and are continuing to rise, according to the MA Department of Public Health weekly flu report. The reason for the severity of this flu season comes from this year’s prominent strain being abnormally strong, as well as the persistent problem of low vaccination rates among Americans. This year, influenza A (specifically H3N2) has been the most rampant flu strain. In past years when H3 strains have been … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disparities, Influenza, Older Adults

The CDC’s Banned Words and The Effects on Public Health

On December 15, 2017, The Washington Post reported that policy analysts and officials of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been informed of a new list of words that were prohibited from being used in their 2019 Presidential budget documents. The seven-word list consisted of vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. The origin of the ban is unknown, but it’s believed to have come from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who composes the CDC’s annual budget. In certain cases, CDC budget analysts were given suggested rewordings such as replacing “evidence-based” with “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” This ban comes at a time of massive budget cuts under the Trump administration. The CDC’s 2018 budget proposal … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disparities, Prenatal Health, Prevention, Reproductive Health, Uncategorized, Zika Virus

Medical Error—a Public Health Problem

  Assessing quality of care can be a complicated and tedious task, the methods for which are reviewed in Avedis Donabedian’s seminal The Quality of Care How Can it be Assessed? In his thorough examination, Donabedian asserts, and I think rightfully so, that the provider is at the center of care. When we zoom in on this center of care, we see the good and bad habits of health care providers which result in unequal outcomes. For years, the extent to which medical error has affected public health has been drastically underestimated. Although Americans have been filing fewer lawsuits in recent years, it seems as though medical malpractice is never more than a stone’s throw away from the doctor-patient interaction.   Medical Error in the U.S. When thinking of the need for malpractice … Read entire article »

Filed under: Medical Community, Uncategorized

Vulnerable Populations in Public Health

October is Vulnerable Populations month in the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Year of Climate Change and Health. The month focuses on those populations that are disproportionately affected by climate change health effects and are less climate-resilient. While APHA focuses on children, other vulnerable populations include the elderly, minority communities, and economically disadvantaged communities. Minority communities and those of low-income are particularly vulnerable to flooding, food insecurities, and damage to infrastructure from natural disasters that can lead to increased displacement, cardiovascular complications, stress, and malnutrition. These populations are made more vulnerable to these conditions due to structural racism which has resulted in inadequately climate-resilient infrastructure and established health disparities. Language barriers also continue to increase vulnerability of communities whose first language is not English. The increased risk of these communities has … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disparities, Environment

Supporting refugees: A public health perspective

“Some bullets came to my house and went through the window,” said Murhaf, who fled Syria with his family two years ago and came to the United States, in an interview with Kaiser Health News (KHN). “I was afraid for the safety of my kids. They never sleep.” Murfah and his family fled their homeland to escape war. Other people have struggled in similar situations over time, and the international community has gathered before to discuss the needs and rights of people oppressed in their homeland. Following widespread displacement of populations during the First and Second World War, the United Nations held a conference in Geneva. This 1951 Convention defines a refugee as someone who, due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disparities, Immigration, Mental Health, Refugees, Violence

Disability and health disparities: The evolving role of public health

Historically, the role of public health has focused on prevention of disabilities. For example, the Centers for Disease Control promotes the use of folic acid in pregnant women and those who are trying to become pregnant to reduce the risks associated with the underdevelopment of a fetus’s brain and spinal cord. It also urges people to protect themselves and their families from traumatic brain injury through the use of helmets during sports and seatbelts in cars. Despite these efforts, as an article in Public Health Reports points out, people still are born with or develop disabilities. Therefore, it is important for public health professionals to focus on the needs and well-being of people living with disabilities, and to make research efforts and interventions accessible to this population. Definitions of “disability” vary widely … Read entire article »

Filed under: Disabilities, Disparities, Prevention

The health needs of caregivers and recipients

The health needs of caregivers and recipients

The U.S. is expected to experience a growing demand for caregivers, who include home health aides, personal care attendants, and family members, to support older people and people with disabilities. The number of individuals over age sixty-five, many of whom will need care at some point in their lives, is expected to grow from 15% of the U.S. population in 2014 to 22% in 2060. As the older population copes with the cost of care, … Read entire article »

Filed under: Mental Health, Older Adults, Racism

Risk communication: A balancing act

Risk communication: A balancing act

In public health, a great deal of time is spent “trying to communicate to people what they should be worried about and how to minimize the risks that they might face,” says Nancy Allen, MPH ‘05, Instructor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. This facet of public health is known as risk communication. As Allen notes, public health professionals must pair scientific evidence with public relations … Read entire article »

Filed under: Cancer, Emergency Preparedness, Influenza, Prevention, Zika Virus

The importance of access to reproductive health care

“We need to ensure that the next generation is as healthy as possible,” says Odilia Bermudez, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of Nutrition, Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “And that their children and their grandchildren are also coming into this world healthy and happy.” Public health professionals have an important role to play in education and policy work surrounding reproductive health, including contraception, fertility, pregnancy, and birth. Nearly half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, with higher rates among ethnic minority groups and low-income populations. Unintended pregnancies are associated with low birth weight, later initiation of prenatal medical care, and other health concerns for women and fetuses. In addition, they correlate with lower income … Read entire article »

Filed under: Prenatal Health, Prevention, Reproductive Health, Sex Education