In Theory, Efforts To Curb Smoking Could Offer Template For Reducing Alcohol Deaths. But Reality Is More Murky.
Many roadblocks stand in the way to effectively addressing what has ballooned into a major public health crisis. "It's just so socially acceptable, especially among the people who write the laws," says Boston University professor David Jernigan. "It's the drug of choice and incredibly normalized for upper income people in the USA." In other public health news: the flu shot, contraception, scientific experiments, holiday eating, malaria, screen time for kids, and more.
Alcohol Taxes And Restrictions Could Curb Problem Drinking, But Are Hard To Sell
When health officials wanted to reduce deaths from tobacco, they spread messages about the proven cancer risks, pushed to ban smoking in public places and worked to raise taxes on cigarettes. Alcohol, which causes 88,000 deaths a year in the United States, is a similarly grave public health concern. But the way forward is less clear. What worked with smoking may not work with drinking, which still enjoys broad social acceptance. Nearly all the potential solutions are hitting considerable roadblocks. (O'Donnell, 11/19)
One-Third Of US Parents Plan To Skip Flu Shots For Their Kids
Thirty-four percent of US parents said their child was unlikely to get the flu vaccine this year, according to a report published Monday by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. The online poll, which was administered in October, looked at 1,977 parents who had at least one child, whether parents would get their children the flu vaccine and their reasoning, among other things. Of parents polled, 48% said they usually followed the recommendations of their child's health care provider when making choices about the flu vaccine. (Thomas, 11/19)
Scientists Are Creating A Contraceptive That Stops Sperm In Its Tracks
Scientists are trying to create a new kind of contraception with a novel tactic: tangling up sperm so they can’t reach an egg. The project relies on the precision targeting ability of monoclonal antibodies, which are widely used as drugs to treat everything from cancer to Crohn’s disease. Boston University and Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a San Diego-based drug company that specializes in this technology, are spearheading the research, and scientists across the country have signed on to help study the idea. They’ve already scored early support: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recently awarded the team an $8 million grant. (Thielking, 11/20)
The New York Times:
The Experiments Are Fascinating. But Nobody Can Repeat Them.
At this point, it is hardly a surprise to learn that even top scientific journals publish a lot of low-quality work — not just solid experiments that happen, by bad luck, to have yielded conclusions that don’t stand up to replication, but poorly designed studies that had no real chance of succeeding before they were ever conducted. Studies that were dead on arrival. We’ve seen lots of examples. (Gelman, 11/19)
San Jose Mercury News:
Holiday Eating: Is Carb-Cutting The Secret To Losing Weight?
Step away from the mashed potatoes. So long stuffing. Here comes bracing new research about carbohydrates just as we approach holiday feast season. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom that you have to cut calories to lose weight, a large new study recently published in the British Medical Journal shows that overweight adults who cut carbohydrates from their diets and then replaced them with fat sharply increased their metabolisms. After only five months on the low-carb diet, their bodies burned off 250 calories more per day than those who ate a high-carb, low-fat diet, which suggests that cutting carbs may help people maintain their weight loss more easily. The low-carb group also had significantly lower levels of ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone. (D'Sourza, 11/19)
The New York Times:
Omega-3s May Lower The Risk Of Preterm Birth
Taking omega-3 supplements during pregnancy may lower the risk for preterm birth, a review of studies has found. The analysis, in the Cochrane Reviews, considered 70 randomized trials that included almost 20,000 women. A few studied fish consumption, but most tested supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, the fats found in fish. (Bakalar, 11/19)
The New York Times:
The Fight Against Malaria Has Reached A Standstill
Progress against malaria has stalled, and the disease remains a significant threat to billions of people despite the expensive, decades-long efforts to contain it, the World Health Organization reported on Monday. According to the W.H.O.’s latest annual assessment, there were an estimated 220 million cases of malaria last year, and about 435,000 deaths from the disease. Of the dead, 262,000 were children under age 5. (McNeil, 11/19)
The Associated Press:
Limiting Screen Time For Your Kid? It’s Harder Than It Looks
It is Saturday morning, and 10-year-old Henry Hailey is up at the crack of dawn. Still in PJs, his microphone-equipped headphones glowing blue in the dim basement, he fixates on the popular online game “Fortnite” on a large screen. “What?! Right as I was about to finish it, I died,” he calls out disappointedly to his friend Gus, a fellow fifth-grader playing the game from his home just a few blocks away. “Dude, I should NOT have died.” The digital battles resume, and Henry’s enthusiasm never wanes. Would he play all day if his parents let him? “Probably,” he concedes with a slight grin. (Irvine, 11/19)
James Woods Uses Twitter To Help Veteran Contemplating Suicide
Actor James Woods used his Twitter account to call attention and help to a distressed veteran who was contemplating suicide. The "Salvador" actor, 71, alerted the Orlando Police Department Monday night and asked authorities to perform a wellness check on former Marine Andrew MacMasters. (Henderson, 11/20)
The Washington Post:
The Maternity Homes Where ‘Mind Control’ Was Used On Teen Moms To Give Up Their Babies
Karen Wilson Buterbaugh was 16 in the fall of 1965 when she got pregnant by her steady boyfriend. Terrified and in denial, she hid her growing body under an oversized sweater for five months. When she could no longer hide the pregnancy, she finally told her parents. They shipped her off to a maternity home without telling her where she was going. (Bernard and Bogen-Oskwarek, 11/19)
Kaiser Health News:
Fish Oil Drug Looks Heart-Healthy. Just Don’t Swallow It Hook, Line And Sinker.
When biopharma company Amarin teased its latest clinical trial results this fall, it stirred both buzz and controversy in the medical community by suggesting its drug, Vascepa, could transform heart disease prevention. The company’s stock skyrocketed. But this month at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions, an annual who’s who of cardiology, the company unveiled the complete study findings, also published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Luthra, 11/20)