Strategies for gun violence reduction discussed by health leaders, incluing APHA’s Georges Benjamin; flu vaccine wins approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and The Huffington Post warns of eight flu preventive measures that don’t work. These stories and more top public health headlines on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
NPR — Will Obama’s order lead to surge in gun research?
Nearly as many Americans die from guns as from car crashes each year. We know plenty about the second problem and far less about the first. A scarcity of research on how to prevent gun violence has left policymakers shooting in the dark as they craft gun control measures without much evidence of what works. That could change with President Barack Obama’s order Wednesday to ease research restrictions pushed through long ago by the gun lobby. The White House declared that a 1996 law banning use of money to “advocate or promote gun control” should not keep the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies from doing any work on the topic. Obama can only do so much, though. Several experts say Congress will have to be on board before anything much changes, especially when it comes to spending money.
New York Times — Flublok, a flu vaccine, wins FDA approval
A new type of flu vaccine won regulatory approval on Wednesday, and its manufacturer said that limited supplies are expected to be available this winter. The vaccine, developed by a small company called Protein Sciences, is made with a process that does not require the virus to be grown in chicken eggs, as is now generally done. That means a vaccine could be ready weeks earlier in the event of a pandemic. “This approval represents a technological advance in the manufacturing of an influenza vaccine,” Dr. Karen Midthun, a senior official at the Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement announcing the agency’s approval of the product, which is called Flublok. The approval comes during one of the more severe flu seasons in recent years, with many Americans rushing to find diminishing supplies of vaccine and spot shortages being reported.
Kaiser Health News — Law banning genetic discrimination doesn’t apply to some insurers
NPR examines a key loophole in the law designed to keep health insurers from raising rates or denying coverage because of genetic issues. The law doesn’t apply to life, disability or long-term-care insurance.
Huffington Post — Flu mistakes: 8 things we think prevent the flu that don’t really work
You’re right to want to do whatever’s in your power to stay flu-free this season, especially given the severity of this year’s outbreak. But before you put your personal flu-prevention plan in action, make sure those methods are actually going to do the trick. We spoke to Pritish Tosh, M.D., an assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic’s Division of Infectious Diseases, to find out the biggest mistakes people are making when it comes to flu prevention. Here’s what not to do.
CNN — More lives being saved: Cancer death rates drop 20 percent
The death rate from cancer in the United States has dropped dramatically in the last two decades, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. American cancer death rates have risen consistently since the 1900s; they peaked in 1991 at 215.1 deaths per 100,000 in the population. The 2009 death rate, which just became available, is 173.1 per 100,000. That’s a 20% decline in cancer death rates from 1991. The report also includes grim news. The ACS estimates 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 580,000 will die of cancer in 2013. As has been the case for decades, only cardiovascular disease will kill more Americans.