public health

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Code Black: Young Doctors Still in Love with Medicine

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary "Code Black."

Dr. Jamie Eng with patient in the documentary “Code Black.”

Don’t eat a sandwich before you sit down to watch the documentary “Code Black.” In one of the first scenes, we watch a team of doctors and nurses cut into a patient. It’s a bloody business, and the camera doesn’t turn away. That’s because this film is about the brilliant chaos of emergency care, and the people drawn to this work.

For all the debate over health care in America, it’s relatively rare to hear from doctors on the front lines, and even more rare to hear from young doctors about a field they’ve recently chosen to devote their lives to. “Code Black,” a documentary by a doctor when he was a resident at LA County’s USC Medical Center, delivers that perspective with punch and passion. It promises a look into “America’s busiest ER.” Continue reading

Whooping Cough Epidemic Continues — 1,100 New Cases in Last Two Weeks

A vial containing the acellular pertussis vaccine. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

A vial containing the acellular pertussis vaccine (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In the two weeks since California health officials declared a whooping cough epidemic, the state has added 1,100 more cases, officials with the California Department of Public Health said Friday.

That brings the total number of cases to 4,558. A third infant died of the disease recently. The baby, from Sacramento County, had started showing symptoms at just 3 weeks of age. The baby was hospitalized for more than a year and then passed away.

Infants are at particular risk because they cannot be vaccinated until they are several weeks old. Generally, the recommendation is that babies receive the first dose of vaccine at 8 weeks, but in light of the epidemic, state health officials say babies can be vaccinated at 6 weeks.

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What Does Climate Change Have to Do with Health? Plenty

A smoggy sunset in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

A smoggy sunset in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

When people think of climate change, they tend to think of it as a science and environmental issue. But climbing levels of greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and rising seas hurts more than the environment. It harms people’s health, too.

“Climate change is one of greatest public health threats of our time,” said Anne Kelsey Lamb of Oakland’s Public Health Institute.

Lamb was talking to a roomful of her own in a gathering this week when some 100 public health professionals from around the state and beyond were in Oakland to learn more about the intersection between climate change and public health — and what they can do about it. Continue reading

Study Finds Girls Entering Puberty Younger; Obesity Implicated

Retailer J.C. Penney features a Girls Plus clothing department tailored to overweight girls in this April, 2004 photo. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Retailer J.C. Penney features a Girls Plus clothing department tailored to overweight girls. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Building on earlier research a major new study has found that girls are starting puberty at even younger ages. The most significant changes were seen in Caucasian girls and in girls who are overweight or obese. Still, girls who were not overweight were also entering puberty younger, the study found.

Researchers at three sites around the country — including the San Francisco Bay Area — followed 1,239 ethnically diverse girls from 2004 to 2011. They looked at breast development, a key marker for the start of puberty.

Girls who mature earlier are at risk for lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression.
Earlier studies had shown that African-American girls had reached this milestone at younger ages. “Now it looks like it’s happening earlier for Caucasian girls,” said Dr. Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist with Kaiser San Francisco and one of the authors of the study. “Particularly, the overweight Caucasian girls are developing earlier than they have in the past.”

Researchers looked at a number of factors, but the “obesity epidemic appears to be a prime driver in the decrease in age at onset of breast development,” the authors wrote.  Continue reading

A Hospital Tells Police Where Fights Happen, and Crime Drops

An ambulance makes its way through revelers in Cardiff city center in Wales in 2010. New measures in the city have reduced injuries caused by violence.

An ambulance makes its way through revelers in Cardiff city center in Wales in 2010. New measures in the city have reduced injuries caused by violence. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

By Nancy Shute, NPR

On Saturday night, the emergency room staff knows all too well what’s coming — people showing up with a broken jaw, a knife wound or a bashed-in face, often after too many hours in a pub. Doctors at the emergency department in Cardiff, Wales, realized that many of the people who were injured in fights never reported it to the police. That realization led to a simple program that has radically reduced the toll of violence.

The hospital already had information on where and how people in the emergency room had been injured — “which bar, which club, which street, which park, which school,” says Dr. Jonathan Shepherd, a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Cardiff University and an author of the study.

Many people who are injured in a fight never reported it to police, it turned out. That was particularly true with fights happening inside pubs and clubs. “They don’t know who the perpetrator was, so what’s the point of going to the police?” Shepherd tells Shots. “And they’re afraid of having their own conduct scrutinized. If it’s a fist fight or gang related or drug related, nobody’s going to want to go to the police.” Continue reading

Money for Prevention Is First to Go in “Doc Fix”

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

The debate over the extension of the payroll tax break has dominated headlines. But as part of the same package deal was an agreement on the so-called “Doc Fix.” That’s the Washington shorthand for finding a way to avoid a 27.4 percent cut in fees to doctors who see Medicare patients. Naturally, doctors were not enthusiastic about having their fees cut so drastically.

Lawmakers figured out a “Doc Fix” but at the cost of the Prevention and Public Health Fund–part of the health care reform law. The deal is not yet final, but it looks like lawmakers will slice $5 billion–or about one-third of its total funding. Public health advocates had fought hard against these cuts, but to no avail.

“I know we’re at a place where difficult decisions have to be made,” said Mary Pittman, President of the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, “but it just doesn’t make sense that all of the difficult decisions end up focused on prevention. If we’re to change the way we think about health and we’re trying to find a way to reduce cost, all directions point to prevention.”

The goal of the Prevention Fund is to provide communities around the country with billions of dollars over the next ten years to invest in effective prevention efforts against heart attacks, cancer and strokes and to reduce tobacco use as well as prevent obesity.

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