Primary texting bans associated with lower traffic fatalities, study finds

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health examined the impact texting-while-driving laws have had on roadway crash-related fatalities, and the findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.Of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 years, 31 percent reported they had read or sent text or email messages while driving at least once in the 30 days prior, according to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That same year, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, and an additional 387,000 people were injured.While completing her doctoral work in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy, Alva O. Ferdinand, Dr.P.H., J.D., conducted a longitudinal panel study to examine within-state changes in roadway fatalities after the enactment of state texting-while-driving bans using roadway fatality data captured in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System between 2000 and 2010.”Very little is known about whether laws banning texting while driving have actually improved roadway safety,” Ferdinand said. “Further, given the considerable variation in the types of laws that states have passed and whom they ban from what, it was necessary to determine which types of laws are most beneficial in improving roadway safety.”Some states have banned all drivers from texting while driving, while others have banned only young drivers from this activity, Ferdinand says. Additionally, some states’ texting bans entail secondary enforcement, meaning an officer must have another reason to stop a vehicle, like speeding or running a red light, before citing a driver for texting while driving. Other states’ texting bans entail primary enforcement, meaning an officer does not have to have another reason for stopping a vehicle.”Our results indicated that primary texting bans were significantly associated with a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups, which equates to an average of 19 deaths prevented per year in states with such bans,” Ferdinand said. “Primarily enforced texting laws that banned only young drivers from texting were the most effective at reducing deaths among the 15- to 21-year-old cohort, with an associated 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among this age group in states with such bans.”States with secondarily enforced restrictions did not see any significant reductions in traffic fatalities.”We were a little surprised to see that primarily enforced texting bans were not associated with significant reductions in fatalities among those ages 21 to 64, who are not considered to be young drivers,” Ferdinand said. “However, states with bans prohibiting the use of cellphones without hands-free technology altogether on all drivers saw significant reductions in fatalities among this particular age group. Thus, although texting-while-driving bans were most effective for reducing traffic-related fatalities among young individuals, handheld bans appear to be most effective for adults.”Ferdinand says these results could aid policymakers interested in improving roadway safety in that they indicate the types of laws that are most effective in reducing deaths among various age groups, as well as those in states with secondarily enforced texting bans advocating for stricter, primarily enforced texting bans.Ferdinand’s mentor, Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy, says it is a key responsibility of health policy researchers to generate high-quality evidence on the health impact of societal policies and laws.”Clearly, distracted driving is a growing problem affecting everyone on the roadways,” Menachemi said. “It is my hope that policymakers act upon our findings so that motor-vehicle deaths can be prevented.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alabama at Birmingham. …

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Don’t like the food? Try paying more

Restaurateurs take note — by cutting your prices, you may be cutting how much people will like your food.Researchers in nutrition, economics and consumer behavior often assume that taste is a given — a person naturally either likes or dislikes a food. But a new study suggests taste perception, as well as feelings of overeating and guilt, can be manipulated by price alone.”We were fascinated to find that pricing has little impact on how much one eats, but a huge impact on how you interpret the experience,” said Brian Wansink, Ph.D., a professor at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University who oversaw the research. “Simply cutting the price of food at a restaurant dramatically affects how customers evaluate and appreciate the food.”The researchers teamed up with a high-quality Italian buffet in upstate New York to study how pricing affects customers’ perceptions. They presented 139 diners with a menu that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet priced at either $4 or $8. Customers were then asked to evaluate the food and the restaurant and rate their first, middle and last taste of the food on a nine-point scale.Those who paid $8 for the buffet reported enjoying their food on average 11 percent more than those who paid $4, though the two groups ate the same amount of food overall. People who paid the lower price also more often reported feeling like they had overeaten, felt more guilt about the meal, and reported liking the food less and less throughout the course of the meal.”We were surprised by the striking pattern we saw,” said Ozge Sigirci, a researcher at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab who conducted the study. “If the food is there, you are going to eat it, but the pricing very much affects how you are going to feel about your meal and how you will evaluate the restaurant.”Public health researchers and health advocates have focused on how all-you-can-eat buffets influence people’s eating habits. On the theory that such restaurants foster overeating and contribute to obesity, some advocates have proposed imposing special taxes on buffet consumers or restaurant owners.The study did not directly address the public health implications of all-you-can-eat buffets, but the researchers said the results could offer lessons about how to optimize a restaurant experience. “If you’re a consumer and want to eat at a buffet, the best thing to do is eat at the most expensive buffet you can afford. You won’t eat more, but you’ll have a better experience overall,” said Wansink.The study fits within a constellation of other work by Wansink and others offering insights about how health behaviors can be manipulated by small changes, such as putting the most healthful foods first in a display or using a smaller dinner plate.”This is an example of how a really small change can transform how a person interacts with food in a way that doesn’t entail dieting,” said Wansink, who is author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, an upcoming book about how design choices influence eating behavior.Ozge Sigirci presented the findings during the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting on Tuesday, April 29.

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Can exercise help reduce methamphetamine use?

The abuse of amphetamine type psychomotor stimulants remains a critical legal and public health problem in the US. In California, 27% of substance abuse treatment admissions are for amphetamines; high treatment-admission rates for amphetamines are also reported for other Western States such as Idaho (25%), Nevada (25%), Arizona (18%), Oregon (16%) and Washington (14%). Additional data show that 36% of the people arrested in San Diego CA, and 23% of men arrested in Portland OR, had methamphetamine in their system upon arrest. A 2009 study by the RAND Corporation estimated the total US costs for methamphetamine at $23.4 billion.Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that physical exercise may be a useful technique to reduce methamphetamine use. Drs. Shawn M. Aarde and Michael A. Taffe used a preclinical model in which male rats are trained to press a lever to obtain intravenous infusions of methamphetamine. Prior work had shown that an extended interval (6 weeks) of voluntary activity on a running wheel could reduce cocaine self-administration in laboratory rats. The investigators now report that running wheel access in only the 22 hours prior to the test session is sufficient to significantly reduce the amount of methamphetamine self-administered. …

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Neurotics don’t just avoid action: They dislike it, study finds

That person we all seem to know who we say is neurotic and unable to take action? Turns out he or she isn’t unable to act but simply doesn’t want to.A study of nearly 4,000 college students in 19 countries has uncovered new details about why neurotic people may avoid making decisions and moving forward with life. Turns out that when they are asked if action is positive, favorable, good, they just don’t like it as much as non-neurotics. Therefore persuasive communications and other interventions may be useful if they simply alter neurotics’ attitudes toward inaction.These findings come the study “Neuroticism and Attitudes Toward Action in 19 Countries.” It is published in the Journal of Personality and was written by Molly E. Ireland, Texas Tech University; Justin Hepler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Hong Li, Battelle Center for Analytics and Public Health; and Dolores Albarracn -the principal investigator of the study– from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.”You’re so neurotic!” It’s a phrase that’s tossed about casually, but what exactly is neuroticism? It is a personality trait defined by the experience of chronic negative affect — including sadness, anxiety, irritability, and self-consciousness — that is easily triggered and difficult to control. Neurotic people tend to avoid acting when confronted with major and minor life stressors, leading to negative life consequences.The researchers sought to determine whether and under what conditions neuroticism is associated with favorable or unfavorable representations of action and inaction. They investigated whether depression and anxiety would decrease proactive behavior among neurotic individuals, and whether a person’s collectivistic tendencies — considering the social consequences of one’s behavior before acting — would moderate the negative associations between neuroticism and action/inaction. The study found neurotics look at action less favorably and inaction more favorably than emotionally stable people do.”People who are less emotionally stable have less positive attitudes towards action and more positive attitudes toward inaction,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, anxiety was primarily responsible for neurotic individuals’ less positive attitudes toward action. …

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Education: States’ standardized tests have a negative impact on parents’ civic engagement

New research from a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that parents of public school students in states with more extensive and stringent student assessment systems express lower trust in government, less confidence in government efficacy, and more negative views of their children’s schools, thereby threatening civic engagement and the potential for future education reform.In a study published by the journal Political Behavior, associate professor Jesse Rhodes merged data from an original survey of public school parents with quantitative measures of the scope and alignment of state standards, testing, and accountability policies, to determine whether and how education reforms influence the parents’ political attitudes and behaviors.He found that highly developed assessment policies alienate parents from government and discourage parental involvement in education, an effect he terms “demobilization.” Parental trust in government was 11 percent lower in states with the most extensive assessment policies, and parental assessments of government effectiveness were 15 percent lower, compared to states with less developed testing polices.Over the past decade, federal education policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have led states to develop and adopt education reforms, including content standards specifying what children should know and be able to do, assessments measuring student progress toward those standards and systems of policies holding schools accountable for performance. As years have passed these policies have extended to a greater number of subjects and a wider range of education levels, but there is considerable state-by-state variation in the policies.While previous studies have examined how these policies affect student achievement, Rhodes’ research is the first to assess how they affect the citizenship practices of public school parents — a key education stakeholder.”Today, with trust in government near an all-time low, government’s authority to accomplish collective objectives is arguably at low ebb,” Rhodes writes in the study. “My findings indicate that standards-based reform policies may be further threatening the foundation of public support that government needs to function effectively.”In addition to their negative views of government, Rhodes also found that parents in states with more developed assessment systems were less likely to become engaged in some parental involvement behaviors, especially contacting teachers and participating in school fundraisers. The likelihood that parents would contact their children’s teachers was 17 percent lower in states with the most stringent testing policies, and the chance they would participate in school fundraisers was 28 percent lower. Parents residing in states with more developed assessment systems were more likely to attend their local school board meetings, but Rhodes argues that this involvement is stimulated by anger and dissatisfaction with the perceived negative consequences of state assessments.He argues that these policies tend to depress civic engagement among parents because they provide few opportunities for parental input and can introduce undesirable changes into schools.”My findings suggest that a major reassessment of standards, testing, and accountability policies is necessary,” Rhodes concludes. “At a minimum, standards-based reforms must be redesigned so that they engage parents more directly in the process of policy design and administration and allay parental concerns about counter-productive consequences. However, given the seriousness of the problems identified here, it is possible that an even more searching reevaluation of the standards-based agenda is necessary. Today, the question for policymakers and citizens is how to design education policies that advance the objective of high achievement for all students while strengthening the practice of citizenship for all adults.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Monkey caloric restriction study shows big benefit; contradicts earlier study

The latest results from a 25-year study of diet and aging in monkeys shows a significant reduction in mortality and in age-associated diseases among those with calorie-restricted diets. The study, begun at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1989, is one of two ongoing, long-term U.S. efforts to examine the effects of a reduced-calorie diet on nonhuman primates.The study of 76 rhesus monkeys, reported Monday in Nature Communications, was performed at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison. When they were 7 to 14 years of age, the monkeys began eating a diet reduced in calories by 30 percent. The comparison monkeys, which ate as much as they wanted, had an increased risk of disease 2.9 times that of the calorie-restricted group, and a threefold increased risk of death.”We think our study is important because it means the biology we have seen in lower organisms is germane to primates,” says Richard Weindruch, a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Public Health, and one of the founders of the UW study. “We continue to believe that mechanisms that combat aging in caloric restriction will offer a lead into drugs or other treatments to slow the onset of disease and death.”Restricting the intake of calories while continuing to supply essential nutrients extends the lifespan of flies, yeast and rodents by as much as 40 percent. Scientists have long wanted to understand the mechanisms for caloric restriction. “We study caloric restriction because it has such a robust effect on aging and the incidence and timing of age related disease,” says corresponding author Rozalyn Anderson, an assistant professor of geriatrics. “Already, people are studying drugs that affect the mechanisms that are active in caloric restriction. There is enormous private-sector interest in some of these drugs.”Still, the effects of caloric restriction on primates have been debated. …

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Carbohydrate digestion and obesity strongly linked

New research indicates that obesity in the general population may be genetically linked to how our bodies digest carbohydrates.Published today in the journal Nature Genetics, the study investigated the relationship between body weight and a gene called AMY1, which is responsible for an enzyme present in our saliva known as salivary amylase. This enzyme is the first to be encountered by food when it enters the mouth, and it begins the process of starch digestion that then continues in the gut.People usually have two copies of each gene, but in some regions of our DNA there can be variability in the number of copies a person carries, which is known as copy number variation. The number of copies of AMY1 can be highly variable between people, and it is believed that higher numbers of copies of the salivary amylase gene have evolved in response to a shift towards diets containing more starch since prehistoric times.Researchers from Imperial College London, in collaboration with other international institutions, looked at the number of copies of the gene AMY1 present in the DNA of thousands of people from the UK, France, Sweden and Singapore. They found that people who carried a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene were at greater risk of obesity.The chance of being obese for people with less than four copies of the AMY1 gene was approximately eight times higher than in those with more than nine copies of this gene. The researchers estimated that with every additional copy of the salivary amylase gene there was approximately a 20 per cent decrease in the odds of becoming obese.Professor Philippe Froguel, Chair in Genomic Medicine in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors on the study, said: “I think this is an important discovery because it suggests that how we digest starch and how the end products from the digestion of complex carbohydrates behave in the gut could be important factors in the risk of obesity. Future research is needed to understand whether or not altering the digestion of starchy food might improve someone’s ability to lose weight, or prevent a person from becoming obese. We are also interested in whether there is a link between this genetic variation and people’s risk of other metabolic disorders such as diabetes, as people with a low number of copies of the salivary amylase gene may also be glucose intolerant.”Dr Mario Falchi, also from Imperial’s School of Public Health and first author of the study, said: “Previous genetic studies investigating obesity have tended to identify variations in genes that act in the brain and often result in differences in appetite, whereas our finding is related to how the body physically handles digestion of carbohydrates. We are now starting to develop a clearer picture of a combination of genetic factors affecting psychological and metabolic processes that contribute to people’s chances of becoming obese. This should ultimately help us to find better ways of tackling obesity.”Dr Julia El-Sayed Moustafa, another lead author from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “Previous studies have found rare genetic variations causing extreme forms of obesity, but because they occur in only a small number of people, they explained very little of the differences in body weight we see in the population. On the other hand, research on more common genetic variations that increase risk of obesity in the general population have so far generally found only a modest effect on obesity risk. …

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Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways

Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research from Oregon State University indicates.”Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and distinguish the beneficial connections between health, religion and spirituality. The result is a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.Religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.The findings were published recently in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Co-authors were Crystal L. Park of the University of Connecticut, and Yu-Jin Jeong and Ritwik Nath of OSU. The research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” said Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality and health and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Child ADHD stimulant medication use leads to BMI rebound in late adolescence

A new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that children treated with stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experienced slower body mass index (BMI) growth than their undiagnosed or untreated peers, followed by a rapid rebound of BMI that exceeded that of children with no history of ADHD or stimulant use and that could continue to obesity.The study, thought to be the most comprehensive analysis of ADHD and stimulant use in children to date, found that the earlier the medication began, and the longer the medication was taken, the slower the BMI growth in earlier childhood but the more rapid the BMI rebound in late adolescence, typically after discontinuation of medication. Researchers concluded that stimulant use, and not a diagnosis of ADHD, was associated with higher BMI and obesity. The study was published in Pediatrics.”Our findings should motivate greater attention to the possibility that longer-term stimulant use plays a role in the development of obesity in children,” said Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, and Medicine at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “Given the dramatic rise in ADHD diagnosis and stimulant treatment for it in recent decades, this is an interesting avenue of research regarding the childhood obesity epidemic, because the rises in each of these roughly parallel one another.”Previous research has found substantial evidence that stimulant use to treat ADHD is associated with growth deficits, and some evidence of growth delays. However, the reported associations of ADHD with obesity in both childhood and adulthood was paradoxical and somewhat unexplained. The results of this study suggest it is likely due to the strong influence that stimulants have on BMI growth, with delays in early childhood and a strong rebound in late adolescence. The study also found longitudinal evidence that unmedicated ADHD is associated with higher BMIs, but these effects were small.ADHD is one of the most common pediatric disorders, with a 9% prevalence among children in the U.S., and ADHD medication is the second most prescribed treatment among children. Over the past 30 years, treatment for ADHD with stimulants has increased rapidly. From 2007 to 2010, 4.2.% of children under age 18 had been prescribed stimulants in the past 30 days, more than five times the amount prescribed to the same-aged children between 1988 and 1984.The study analyzed the electronic health records of 163,820 children, ages 3 to 18, in the Geisinger Health System, a Pennsylvania-based integrated health services organization. …

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The Escalating Debate Over E-Cigarettes

Follow the bouncing ping-pong ball. “E-cigarettes are likely to be gateway devices for nicotine addiction among youth, opening up a whole new market for tobacco.”—Lauren Dutra, postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.“You’ve got two camps here: an abstinence-only camp that thinks anything related to tobacco should be outlawed, and those of us who say abstinence has failed, and that we have to take advantage of every opportunity with a reasonable prospect for harm reduction.”—Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General, now board member of e-cigarette maker NJOY.“Consumers are led to believe that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to cigarettes, despite the fact that they are addictive, and there is no regulatory oversight …

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Negative effects of joining a gang last long after gang membership ends

Imagine two children, both with the exact same risk factors for joining a gang. As teenagers, one joins a gang, the other doesn’t. Even though the first teen eventually leaves the gang, years later he or she is not only at significantly higher risk of being incarcerated and receiving illegal income, but is also less likely to have finished high school and more likely to be in poor health, receiving government assistance or struggling with drug abuse.University of Washington researchers have found that joining a gang in adolescence has significant consequences in adulthood beyond criminal behavior, even after a person leaves the gang. The research is published in the American Journal of Public Health.”It turns out that, like violence, gang membership is as much a public health problem as a criminal justice problem,” said Karl Hill, study co-author and research associate professor in the School of Social Work. “Joining a gang in the teens had enduring consequences on health and well-being.”The Seattle Social Development Project, which was founded by study co-author J. David Hawkins, followed 808 fifth-grade students from 18 elementary schools serving high-crime neighborhoods in Seattle, beginning in 1985. More than half of the students came from low-income families. Participants were interviewed every year until the age of 18, then every three years until the age of 33.According to lead author Amanda Gilman, a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, joining a gang served as a turning point, creating consequences that cascaded into other areas of life for years afterward.”Very few of them reported still being in a gang at age 27. The vast majority had left a long time ago, but the consequences stuck with them long-term,” Gilman said. Researchers used 23 risk factors to calculate a child’s propensity for joining a gang, and then compared 173 youth who had joined a gang with 173 who did not but showed a similar propensity for doing so, so that the only difference between the two groups was gang membership. …

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A shocking diet: Researchers describe microbe that ‘eats’ electricity

There have been plenty of fad diets that captured the public’s imagination over the years, but Harvard scientists have identified what may be the strangest of them all — sunlight and electricity.Led by Peter Girguis, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences, and Arpita Bose, a post-doctoral fellow in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, a team of researchers showed that the commonly found bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris can use natural conductivity to pull electrons from minerals located deep in soil and sediment while remaining at the surface, where they absorb the sunlight needed to produce energy. The study is described in a February 26 paper in Nature Communications.”When you think about electricity and living organisms, most people default to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but we’ve long understood that all organisms actually use electrons — what constitutes electricity — to do work,” Girguis said. “At the heart of this paper is a process called extracellular electron transfer (EET), which involves moving electrons in and out of cells. What we were able to show is that these microbes take up electricity, which goes into their central metabolism, and we were able to describe some of the systems that are involved in that process.”In the wild, the microbes rely on iron to provide the electrons they need to fuel energy generation, but tests in the lab suggest the iron itself isn’t critical for this process. By attaching an electrode to colonies of the microbes in the lab, researchers observed that they could take up electrons from a non-ferrous source, suggesting they might also use other electron-rich minerals — such as other metals and sulfur compounds — in the wild.”That’s a game-changer,” Girguis said. “We have understood for a long time that the aerobic and anaerobic worlds interact mainly through the diffusion of chemicals into and out of those domains. Accordingly, we also believe this process of diffusion governs the rates of many biogeochemical cycles. But this research indicates…that this ability to do EET is, in a sense, an end-run around diffusion. That could change the way we think about the interactions between the aerobic and anaerobic worlds, and might change the way we calculate the rates of biogeochemical cycling.”Using genetic tools, researchers were also able to identify a gene that is critical to the ability to take up electrons. …

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New class of antibiotics discovered by chemists

A team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery have discovered a new class of antibiotics to fight bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other drug-resistant bacteria that threaten public health. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society in an article titled “Discovery of a New Class of Non-beta-lactam Inhibitors of Penicillin-Binding Proteins with Gram-Positive Antibacterial Activity.”The new class, called oxadiazoles, was discovered in silico (by computer) screening and has shown promise in the treatment of MRSA in mouse models of infection. Researchers who screened 1.2 million compounds found that the oxadiazole inhibits a penicillin-binding protein, PBP2a, and the biosynthesis of the cell wall that enables MRSA to resist other drugs. The oxadiazoles are also effective when taken orally. This is an important feature as there is only one marketed antibiotic for MRSA that can be taken orally.MRSA has become a global public-health problem since the 1960s because of its resistance to antibiotics. In the United States alone, 278,000 people are hospitalized and 19,000 die each year from infections caused by MRSA. Only three drugs currently are effective treatments, and resistance to each of those drugs already exists.The researchers have been seeking a solution to MRSA for years. “Professor Mobashery has been working on the mechanisms of resistance in MRSA for a very long time,” Chang said. “As we understand what the mechanisms are, we can devise strategies to develop compounds against MRSA.””Mayland Chang and Shahriar Mobashery’s discovery of a class of compounds that combat drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA could save thousands of lives around the world. We are grateful for their leadership and persistence in fighting drug resistance,” said Greg Crawford, dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame. …

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Pre-term birth leads to increased risk of asthma, wheezing disorders

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts, in collaboration with investigators at the Maastricht University Medical Centre and Maastricht University School of Public Health in the Netherlands and The University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, have published findings strongly suggesting that preterm birth (prior to 37 weeks gestation) increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood and that the risk of developing these conditions increases as the degree of prematurity increases.The findings are based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of 30 studies that investigated the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders among 1.5 million children. These studies were conducted between 1995 and the present, a time span chosen to allow for recent changes in the management of prematurity.Across the studies, 13.7 percent of preterm babies developed asthma/wheezing disorders compared with 8.3 percent of babies born at term, representing a 70 percent increased risk. Children born very early (before 32 weeks gestation) had approximately three times the risk of developing asthma/wheezing disorders compared with babies born at term.”Worldwide, more than 11 percent of babies are born preterm,” said Aziz Sheikh, MD, corresponding author and Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “As asthma is a chronic condition, our findings underscore the need to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in order to develop preventive and therapeutic interventions.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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LGBT youth face greater cancer risks, study shows

A new study led by City College of New York psychologist Margaret Rosario found that youths of same-sex orientation are more likely to engage in behaviors associated with cancer risk than heterosexuals. The peer-reviewed findings appear in the February 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.Titled “Sexual Orientation Disparities in Cancer-Related Risk Behaviors of Tobacco, Alcohol, Sexual Behaviors, and Diet and Physical Activity: Pooled Youth Risk Behavior Surveys,” the study pooled YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) data from 2005 and 2007. The YRBS is a national survey of high school students conducted biennially.Dr. Rosario, professor of psychology in CCNY’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and The Graduate Center, CUNY, and her research team then studied 12 cancer-risk behaviors in sexual minorities (youth with same-sex orientation) and heterosexuals in grades 9 through 12. Of an available sample of 65,871 youth, 7.6 percent were found to be a sexual minority.The 12 cancer-risk behaviors included tobacco use, drinking alcohol, early sex, multiple sexual partners, higher body mass index (BMI) and lack of exercise. The report found that for all 12, sexual minorities were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in the risky behavior.”Sexual minorities are at risk for cancer later in life, I suggest, from a host of behaviors that begin relatively early in life,” said Professor Rosario. “No sex or ethnic racial group is at greater risk or protected for these behaviors. Overall, the study underscores the need for early interventions.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by City College of New York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Massachusetts’ fire-safe cigarette law appears to decrease likelihood of residential fires

A six-year-old Massachusetts law requiring that only “fire-safe” cigarettes (FSCs) be sold in the state appears to decrease the likelihood of unintentional residential fires caused by cigarettes by 28%, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers.The study will appear online February 13, 2014 in the American Journal of Public Health.”This study is the first rigorous population-based study to evaluate the effectiveness of the fire-safe cigarette standards, and shows that science-based tobacco product regulation can protect the public health,” said lead author Hillel Alpert, research scientist at the Center for Global Tobacco Control at HSPH.Burning cigarettes left smoldering on a bed, furniture, or other flammable material are a leading cause of residential fires in the United States, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year in property damage, health care costs, lost productivity, death, and injuries. Young children, seniors, African Americans, Native Americans, the poor, people living in rural areas or in substandard housing, and firefighters are especially at risk.To evaluate the effectiveness of Massachusetts’ Fire Safe Cigarette Law, the researchers analyzed seven years of data from 2004 to 2010 on accidental residential fires, including 1,629 caused by cigarettes. The information was reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System, a system maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.The results appear to show that the likelihood of unintentional residential fires caused by cigarettes decreased by 28% after the Massachusetts law was enacted in 2008. The largest reductions were among cigarette fires in which human factors, such as falling asleep while smoking, were involved, and among fires that were ignited on materials, which are the scenarios for which the standard was developed.”This study confirms that the fire standard compliant (FSC) cigarette law has reduced the number of fires from cigarettes started by igniting furniture and bedding as it was designed to do,” said Massachusetts Fire Marshal Stephen Coan.”We now have the science to support that all tobacco companies throughout the world should voluntarily make their cigarettes less likely to ignite fires,” said Gregory Connolly, professor of the practice of public health and director of the HSPH Center for Global Tobacco Control.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children

Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children — such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia — according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.The report will be published online February 15, 2014 in Lancet Neurology.”The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.The authors say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.”The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development — now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Obese children more likely to have complex elbow fractures, further complications

Pediatric obesity is currently an epidemic, with the prevalence having quadruped over the last 25 years. Children diagnosed with obesity can be at risk for various long-term health issues and may be putting their musculoskeletal system at risk. According to new research in the February issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery(JBJS), obese children who sustain a supracondylar humeral (above the elbow) fracture can be expected to have more complex fractures and experience more postoperative complications than children of a normal weight.”These findings show that children diagnosed with obesity are more likely to sustain these complex fractures from something as simple as falling onto an outstretched hand while standing, and these types of falls are quite common,” said author Michelle S. Caird, MD, assistant professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Michigan. “Our research aims to remind parents that there are many serious risks to childhood obesity, including fractures and surgical complications. It’s important to ensure that children get the proper amount of exercise and to build their bone banks early in life to a strong and healthy frame.”Specific Study DetailsMore than 350 patients ranging in age from 2 to 11 years old who had undergone operative treatment for supracondylar humeral fractures were included in the study. Patient records were reviewed for demographic data, body mass index (BMI) percentile, and injury data. Forty-one children were underweight (BMI <5<sup>th percentile), 182 were normal weight (BMI in the 5th to 85th percentile), 63 were overweight (BMI in the >85th percentile), and 68 were obese (BMI in the >95th percentile). The study included 149 patients with type-2 fractures (a break through part of the bone at the growth plate and crack through the bone shaft), 11 of whom were diagnosed with obesity; and 205 patients with type-3 fractures, 57 of whom were diagnosed with obesity. Complex fractures were defined as Type-3 fractures (completely displaced), fractures with multiple fracture lines, open fractures where the bone is exposed through the skin, and multiple fractures in the same arm. …

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Food insecurity leads to increased incidence of tuberculosis in Zimbabwe

The rise of tuberculosis (TB) in Zimbabwe during the socio-economic crisis of 2008-9 has been linked to widespread food shortage, according to a new study led by Canadian researchers from the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health published in PLOS ONE.”This was the first study to detect the recent TB outbreak in Zimbabwe, and the first anywhere to suggest an association between rising TB incidence and national economic decline in the absence of armed conflict,” said Michael Silverman, assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and senior author of the study. Although the same phenomenon may occur with other infectious diseases, the study focused on TB — one of the largest causes of morbidity and mortality in Zimbabwe, especially among people living with HIV.”Zimbabwe may have been predisposed to this TB outbreak due to the presence of a large HIV-positive population who were particularly vulnerable to the effects of food shortages which led to malnutrition and further damage to already weakened immune systems,” said Silverman.Many developing countries have large HIV positive populations and thus socioeconomic instability could lead to a similar problem elsewhere. “This finding emphasizes the importance of adequate food availability in controlling TB incidence, particularly in areas with high HIV prevalence,” said Silverman.The study also demonstrated that TB incidence appears to be seasonal, with a larger number of cases when food is scarce in the dry season and lower numbers of cases post-harvest when food is more plentiful. Research data also suggests that TB incidence fell back to pre-crisis levels when the economy of the country and food security improved after 2009.”Political instability can lead to economic instability, and this can lead to a health crisis with the most vulnerable people in society the most likely to be harmed,” said Silverman. “It is important for political leaders to be aware that in addition to economic costs, political conflict can potentially have very serious health implications for vulnerable communities.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Tighter economic regulation needed to reverse obesity epidemic, study suggests

Governments could slow — and even reverse — the growing epidemic of obesity by taking measures to counter fast food consumption, according to a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization today.The study, by a team of researchers based in the United States and Ireland, is the first to look at the effects of deregulation in the economy, including the agricultural and food sectors, and the resulting increase in fast food transactions on obesity over time. It suggests that if governments take action, they can prevent overweight and obesity, which can have serious long-term health consequences including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.Rather than looking at the density of fast food outlets or self-reported fast food consumption as researchers have done in the past, the authors took the novel approach of taking data on the number of fast food transactions per capita from 1999 to 2008 in 25 high-income countries and compared them with figures on body mass index (BMI) in the same countries over the same time period as an indication of fast food consumption.A person with BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while one with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.The authors of the study found that while the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita increased from 26.61 to 32.76, average BMI increased from 25.8 to 26.4. Thus, each 1-unit increase in the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita was associated with an increase of 0.0329 in BMI over the study period.”Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide with disastrous consequences for future public health and economic productivity,” said lead author Dr Roberto De Vogli from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis, in the United States.The study focuses on high-income countries, but its findings are also relevant to developing countries as “virtually all nations have undergone a process of market deregulation and globalization — especially in the last three decades,” De Vogli said.The BMI figures also reveal how widespread the problems of overweight and obesity are and that people living in the 25 countries are, on average, overweight and have been for the last 15 years.The average number of annual fast food transactions per capita increased in all 25 countries. The sharpest increases were in Canada (by 16.6 transactions per capita), Australia (14.7), Ireland (12.3) and New Zealand (10.1), while the lowest increases were in countries with more stringent market regulation, such as Italy (1.5), the Netherlands (1.8), Greece (1.9) and Belgium (2.1).They also found that the intake of animal fats and total calories changed only slightly at a time of a sharp increase in obesity.Taking data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the authors found that the intake of animal fats decreased slightly from 212 kcal per capita per day in 1999 to 206 in 2008 and that the caloric intake increased slightly for six of those years with 3432 calories per capita per day in 2002 compared to 3437 in 2008. Yet, most men and women do not need more than about 2500 and 2000 calories respectively a day.”This study shows how important public policies are for addressing the epidemic of obesity,” said Dr Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at WHO.”Policies targeting food and nutrition are needed across several sectors including agriculture, industry, health, social welfare and education,” Branca said, adding: “Countries where the diet is transitioning from one that is high in cereals to one that is high in fat, sugar and processed foods need to take action to align the food supply with the health needs of the population.”The new study echoes a growing body of literature providing evidence for measures that governments could take to reverse the obesity epidemic by hindering the spread of ultra-processed foodstuffs. Such measures include:economic incentives for growers to sell healthy foods and fresh food items rather than ultra-processed foods and subsidies to grow fruit and vegetables; economic disincentives for industries to sell fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks such as an ultra-processed food tax and/or the reduction or elimination of subsidies to growers/companies using corn for rapid tissue growth, excessive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics; zoning policies to control the number and type of food outlets; tighter regulation of the advertising of fast food and soft drinks, especially to children; trade regulations discouraging the importation and consumption of fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks; and more effective labelling systems especially for ultra-processed foods, including fast food and soft drinks. WHO’s 194 Member States agreed on the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases at the World Health Assembly in May 2013. One of the plan’s nine voluntary targets is to “halt the rise in diabetes and obesity.” It also proposes measures that countries can take to tackle obesity, including increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and managing food subsidies and taxes to promote a healthy diet.

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