West Nile Virus: Lag Time in Reporting Precludes Accurate Public Health Decisions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Nicholas B. DeFelice, PhDDepartment of Environmental Medicine & Public HealthIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew York, New York

Dr. DeFelice

Nicholas B. DeFelice, PhD
Department of Environmental Medicine & Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Effective allocation of public health resources during an outbreak is complicated and often reactive. Thus, it is important that we develop quantitative tools that can accurately and rapidly forecast the progression of an outbreak and provide decision support. Recently, several advancements have been made in the realm of infectious disease forecasting: it is a field that is growing in exciting directions. However, for these forecasting tools to work in real time, we must understand how the forecasting apparatus and observational network work in real time to ensure they are sufficient to support accurate operational predictions.

We previously showed that accurate and reliable forecasts of West Nile virus outbreaks can be made using surveillance data and a mathematical model representing the interactions between birds, mosquitoes and risk of human spillover. This model system was able to retrospectively forecast mosquito infection rates prior to the week of peak mosquito infection, and to forecast accurately the seasonal total number of human West Nile virus cases prior to when the majority of cases were reported.

For this study, we were interested in the data flow process and the question of whether appropriate infrastructure is in place to support real time forecasting. If this forecast system were made operational in real time, public health officials would have an evidence-based decision-support tool to help

1) actively target control of infected mosquito populations (i.e., larviciding and adulticiding),

2) alert the public to future periods of elevated West Nile virus spillover transmission risk, and

3) identify when to intensify blood donor screening. Continue reading

Little Consistency Among Leading Nations Regarding Drug Safety Warnings

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Barbara Mintzes PhDAssociate Professor The University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre and School of PharmacyFaculty of Medicine and HealthThe University of Sydney

Dr. Mintzes

Dr Barbara Mintzes PhD
Associate Professor
The University of Sydney Charles Perkins Centre and School of Pharmacy
Faculty of Medicine and Health
The University of Sydney

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: When medicines are approved for marketing, the information available on rare serious harmful effects, longer-term effects, and outcomes in vulnerable populations is often limited. New serious safety concerns often arise when a medicine is already on the market. In many cases these can be  managed for example through dose reductions or avoiding prescribing to at-risk patients. Drug regulatory agencies such as the US FDA often issue safety warnings to let health professionals and the public know  about new evidence of potential harm and often to provide advice on how to avoid this.

We were interested to know how consistent these warnings are between different countries. This is a research project funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We examined warnings for medicines in Australia, Canada the US and the UK over a 10-year period, from 2007 to 2016 inclusive. We were looking at how often regulators issue the same warning if the drug is approved for marketing at the time.  Continue reading

Despair Rising in Young Middle Aged Adults, Regardless of Ethnicity or Education

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Lauren Gaydosh, PhDAssistant ProfessorCenter for Medicine, Health, and SocietyPublic Policy StudiesVanderbilt University 

Dr. Gaydosh

Lauren Gaydosh, PhD
Assistant Professor
Center for Medicine, Health, and Society
Public Policy Studies
Vanderbilt University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: Several years ago, life expectancy at birth in the United States declined, and this decline has continued every year since. Part of the cause underlying this decline is that midlife mortality – deaths among those 45-54 – has been rising. This increase in midlife mortality has been attributed by some to the “deaths of despair” – a cluster of causes of death including suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol-related disease – and has been most pronounced among middle-aged white adults with a HS degree or less.

In our research, we wanted to better understand the indicators of despair that would be predictive of these causes of death. Things like depression, substance use, and suicidal ideation. And study them in individuals before the period of elevated risk of death – in other words, before they reached middle age. Our goal was to evaluate whether these markers of despair were rising for a younger cohort, and whether this pattern was isolated to white adults with low education.

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TRAP: Traffic Related Air Pollution Linked to Millions of Pediatric Asthma Cases Worldwide

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, PhD
Postdoctoral Scientist in Climate change, Air pollution, and Public Health
Milken Institute School of Public Health (Anenberg Group
The George Washington University, D.C 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Dozens of epidemiological studies have found positive and generally statistically significant associations between long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) and asthma development in children. The evidence is most robust for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a major component of and commonly used surrogate for the complex TRAP mixture. Recent reviews conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada concluded that there is “likely a causal relationship” between long-term NO2 exposure and pediatric asthma development.

Using NO2 as a proxy for TRAP, our study provides the first global estimate of the number of new asthma cases among children that are attributable to traffic pollution, using fine spatial-scale global datasets that can resolve within-city and near-roadway NO2 exposures.

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Medicaid Work Requirements Disproportionately Affect Those with Mental Health or Substance Use Disorders

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Hefei Wen, PhDAssistant Professor, Department of Health Management & PolicyUniversity of Kentucky College of Public Health

Dr. Wen

Hefei Wen, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management & Policy
University of Kentucky College of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Work requirements condition Medicaid eligibility on completing a specified number of hours of employment, work search, job training, or community service. Little is known about how behavioral health and other chronic health conditions intersect with employment status among Medicaid enrollees who may be subject to work requirements.

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Anti-Vaccine Groups Are Not Just Worried About Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Beth Hoffman, B.Sc., graduate studentUniversity of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public HealthResearch Assistant,University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health

Beth Hoffman

Beth Hoffman, B.Sc., graduate student
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
Research Assistant,
University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Vaccine refusal is a public health crisis – low vaccination rates are leading to outbreaks of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Kids Plus Pediatrics, a Pittsburgh-based pediatric practice, posted a video on its Facebook pagef eaturing its practitioners encouraging HPV vaccination to prevent cancer. Nearly a month after the video posted, it caught the attention of multiple anti-vaccination groups and, in an eight-day period, garnered thousands of anti-vaccination comments.

Our team analyzed the profiles of a randomly selected sample of 197 commenters in the hopes that this crisis may be stemmed if we can better understand and communicate with vaccine-hesitant parents.

We determined that, although Kids Plus Pediatrics is an independent practice caring for patients in the Pittsburgh region, the commenters in the sample were spread across 36 states and eight countries.

By delving into the messages that each commenter had publicly posted in the previous two years, we also found that they clustered into four distinct subgroups:

  • “trust,” which emphasized suspicion of the scientific community and concerns about personal liberty;
  • “alternatives,” which focused on chemicals in vaccines and the use of homeopathic remedies instead of vaccination;
  • “safety,” which focused on perceived risks and concerns about vaccination being immoral; and
  • “conspiracy,” which suggested that the government and other entities hide information that this subgroup believes to be facts, including that the polio virus does not exist. 

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Comparison of Local Public Health Departments Highlights Social Inequities

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Megan Wallace, DrPH Department of Epidemiology Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Wallace

Megan Wallace, DrPH
Department of Epidemiology
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Baltimore, Maryland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Local health departments are often evaluated on a nationwide or statewide basis, however, given diversity among counties that exists even at the state level, we felt there might be a better way to group health departments for evaluation.

In this study, we created county-level clusters using local characteristics most associated with the outcomes of interest, which were smoking, motor vehicle crash deaths, and obesity. We then compared county-level percentile rankings for the outcomes within sociodemographic peer clusters vs nationwide rankings. We identified 8 groups of counties with similar local characteristics.

Percentile ranks for the outcomes of interest often differed when counties were compared within their peer groups in comparison with a nationwide scale.  Continue reading

Adolescent Gun Injuries Peak at Ages 15-17

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Me holding USP gun” by Nghị Trần is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Faiz Gani, PhD
Postdoctoral research fellow
Department of Surgery
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Firearm related injuries are a leading cause of injury and death in the United States, yet, due to combination of factors, limited data exist that evaluate these injuries, particularly among younger patients (patients younger than 18 years).

The objective of this study was to describe emergency department utilization for firearm related injuries and to quantitate the financial burden associated with these injuries.

In our study of over 75,000 emergency department visits, we observed that each year, over 8,300 children and adolescents present to the emergency department for the treatment / management of a gunshot injury. Within this sub-population of patients, we observed that these injuries are most frequent among patients aged 15-17 years and while these injuries decreased over time initially, were observed to increase again towards the end of the time period studied.

In addition to describing the clinical burden of these injuries, we also sought to describe the financial burden associated with these injuries. For patients discharged from the emergency department, the average (median) charge associated with their care was $2,445, while for patients admitted as inpatients for further care, the average (median) charge was $44,966.

Collectively these injuries resulted in $2.5 billion in emergency department and hospital charges over the time period studied. This translates to an annual financial burden of approximately $270 million. Continue reading

Following Maria in Puerto Rico Over 1100 Deaths

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Alexis R. Santos-Lozada

Dr. Santos-Lozada

Dr. Alexis R. Santos-Lozada
Director, Graduate Program in Applied Demography
Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminology
Research Affiliate, Population Research Institute
College of Liberal Arts
Penn State University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Dr. Howard and I have been working on the topic of deaths attributable to Hurricane Maria since November, and provided rapid-response estimates by the end of November about the humanitarian crisis experienced by Puerto Ricans following the Hurricane.

Our main findings are that there are approximately 1,139 deaths in excess of historical patterns between September, October and November in Puerto Rico.

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Alarming Increase in Violent and Unintentional Injuries Since 2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD Professor of Public Health and Surgery University of Colorado Denver Statistical Editor, Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Statistical Consultant, Department of Surgery Denver Health Medical Cente

Dr. Sauaia

Dr. Angela Sauaia, MD, PhD
Professor of Public Health and Surgery
University of Colorado Denver
Statistical Editor, Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Statistical Consultant, Department of Surgery
Denver Health Medical Center 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: As injury researchers we monitor national trends in injury.

The CDC WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) is one of the few available open sources of injury data we can use. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, we saw much improvement in deaths due to most injury mechanisms, such as car accidents fatalities. Our study shows, however, that recent trends seem to be eroding these promising survival gains.

Both violent and unintentional injuries alike seem to be increasing, especially since 2014. We are unclear about the causes of this recent increase in trauma-related deaths, but it is an alarming trend.

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Affordable Care Act Linked To Increased Duration of BreastFeeding

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Babies at Brunch!” by TJ DeGroat is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Kandice A. Kapinos, Ph.D.
Economist
Professor
RAND Corporation
Pardee RAND Graduate School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In the U.S., we have relatively high rates of breastfeeding initiation – about 80% of mothers will attempt breastfeeding, but rates drop off precipitously in the first few months of an infant’s life. There are tremendous health benefits for both the mother and child from breastfeeding and estimates of significant cost savings from diseases prevented from breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding can be difficult, especially when you need to return to work or school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, but only 22% of mothers breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.

My coauthors, Tami Gurley-Calvez and Lindsey Bullinger, and I were interested in evaluating provisions in recent healthcare legislation (the Affordable Care Act) that required private insurers to cover lactation support services, including breast pumps and visits with lactation consultants, without cost-sharing.

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“Shall Issue” Gun Law States Associated With Higher Homicide and Firearm Death Rates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences Boston University School of Public Health Boston, MA 02118

Prof. Siegel

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH
Professor, Department of Community Health Sciences
Boston University School of Public Health
Boston, MA 02118

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: A central question in the debate about public policies to reduce firearm violence is whether easier access to concealed handguns increases or decreases the rate of firearm-related homicides. Previous studies on the impact of concealed carry permitting laws have yielded inconsistent results. Most of these studies were conducted more than a decade ago. This study provided a reexamination of this research question with more recent data, up to and including the year 2015.

While all states allow certain persons to carry concealed handguns, there are 3 major variations in permitting policy. In 9 states, law enforcement officials have wide discretion over whether to issue concealed carry permits; these are referred to as “may issue” states because police chiefs can deny a permit if they deem the applicant to be at risk of committing violence, even if there is not a criminal history. In 29 states, there is little or no discretion; these are referred to as “shall-issue” states because permits must be issued if requisite criteria are met. In an additional 12 states, no permit is necessary to carry a concealed handgun.

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Increased Odds of Quitting Smoking When Distance To Store Increased

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Anna Pulakka PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Public Health University of Turku, Finland

Dr. Anna Pulakka

Anna Pulakka PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Public Health
University of Turku, Finland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Smoking is the one of the leading health risks globally. Finland, among some other countries, has set a target for a tobacco-free society by 2040. However, with the current rate of decline in smoking prevalence, the target will not be met. It is therefore important to explore new avenues for helping people to quit smoking.

Recently, researchers have become more interested in availability of tobacco as one determinant for smoking habit. We have learned from cross-sectional studies that people who live in neighborhoods with many stores that sell tobacco, smoke more than those who have less tobacco stores in their neighborhood. What has been lacking is more robust evidence from longitudinal studies on the association between availability of tobacco in neighborhoods and smoking behaviours. We sought to determine whether change in the location of tobacco stores nearby people’s place of residence was associated with the odds of quitting smoking or smoking relapse in a longitudinal setting.

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