CDC reports alcohol consumption to be the leading preventable cause of birth defects and disabilities in children; highest whooping cough rates in over 50 years concern public health officials; APHA partners with PBIC for July 24 webinar; and Nobel laureate claims “first step” made in AIDS cure. These stories and more topping public health headlines today, Friday, July 20, 2012.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center — Webinar: Using Health Impact Assessments to connect bicycle and pedestrian safety and health, Tuesday, July 24, 3:30-5 p.m. EDT
Health impact assessments are a valuable tool for estimating the health impact of various projects and policies. This webinar will explore what health impact assessments are and how they can be used to connect bicycle and pedestrian safety and health. Bethany Rogerson, senior associate for the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, will provide an overview of HIA programs and how they can add value to a decision-making process.
CBS News — 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol, CDC says
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in children, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But according to a new report, that’s not stopping pregnant women from drinking. In the latest issue of its journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC investigates drinking rates among pregnant women, and finds about one in 13 pregnant women drink. Of those women, almost one in five reported binge drinking – having four or more drinks in about two hours – during pregnancy. The CDC says there is no known safe amount of alcohol or safe time to drink while pregnant.
USA Today — Whooping cough could reach highest levels since 1959
Health officials said Thursday that the number of cases of whooping cough could reach the highest level in more than 50 years. As of July, nearly 18,000 cases have been reported, more than twice as many as at this time last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. At this pace, the number of whooping cough cases will surpass every year since 1959. Public health officials are concerned the uptick might be due in part to a switch from one vaccine type to another 15 years ago. The change was based in part on now-discredited concerns about the dangers of the older vaccine.
San Francisco Chronicle — Two more whooping cough cases confirmed in RI
Officials have confirmed two more cases of whooping cough in North Kingstown, bringing the total to eight amid a national increase in the disease. Health Department officials announced the new cases Thursday as the agency held a vaccination clinic at North Kingstown High School. Another clinic will be held there Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. There have been 35 cases of whooping cough, also called pertussis, this year in Rhode Island, which sees about 60 cases per year. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 18,000 pertussis cases have been reported nationwide this year, more than twice the number seen at this point last year. Nine children have died.
Washington Post — About half of doctors use electronic records
Just about half of doctors are using electronic health records, according to Health and Human Services’ latest survey on the issue: That’s a pretty high number, historically-speaking: As recently as 2005, just about a quarter of doctors’ offices had gone digital. In the larger scheme of technological adaption, however, it’s dishearteningly low. Imagine walking into a bank, handing over a deposit, and watching your bank teller dutifully copy down the amount onto a pad of paper and stash it away in a file folder. It would feel a bit like a scene from decades ago.
Washington Post — Leading scientists revive hope of eventual AIDS cure, issuing a research road map to get there
For years it seemed hopeless. Now the hunt for a cure for AIDS is back on. International AIDS specialists on Thursday released what they call a road map for research toward a cure for HIV — a strategy for global teams of scientists to explore a number of intriguing leads that just might, years from now, pan out. “Today’s the first step,” said French Nobel laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, co-discoverer of the HIV virus who also co-chaired development of the strategy. “No one thinks it’s going to be easy,” added strategy co-chair Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco. “Some don’t think it’s possible.”
Reuters — Restaurant meals a bit healthier after menu law
Chain restaurants in the Seattle area seem to have made small changes for the better since a 2009 law forced them to put nutrition information on their menus, a new study finds. Eighteen months after the law went into effect in King County, Washington, calorie counts were a bit lower, the study found. “Sit down” chain restaurants did better than fast-food joints: their entrees were an average of 73 calories lighter, versus a small, 19-calorie reduction at fast-food places. There were also some improvements in sodium and saturated fat content.
Kaiser Health News — Hospitals’ readmissions rates not budging
The nation’s hospitals are making little headway in reducing the frequency at which patients are readmitted despite a campaign by the government and the threat of financial penalties, according to Medicare data released Thursday. The government and health policy experts consider frequent readmissions a sign of the shortcomings of the nation’s health care system, with more than one in five Medicare patients returning to the hospital within a month of discharge. Medicare in October will begin to penalize hospitals with higher than expected readmission rates as required by the 2010 federal health law.