public health

If somebody invented a device that could save the lives of millions of smokers, should society encourage its use? Yes, absolutely, the Parliament of the United Kingdom just concluded in a new report on e-cigarettes.

Published by the Science and Technology Committee, the report does not mince its words. It claims that the UK's National Health Service (NHS) is "missing [an] opportunity" to save lives by overlooking the benefits of e-cigarettes.

The report summary begins...

One of the biggest problems with journalism -- particularly science journalism -- is the fact that many people who practice it aren't qualified to do so. Believe it or not, being a good journalist involves more than knowing how to turn on a computer and pound away aimlessly on a keyboard.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the only requirement for some journalists. A few years ago, I was told by an editor at The Economist that they do not hire journalism majors. Instead, they hire people who studied "something real" and then are taught how to do journalism after they are hired. It's a good rule, and media outlets everywhere would be better off if they all adopted the practice.

The Guardian Blows It... Again

Recently, the British...

Everybody hates heat waves. We hate them so much, in fact, that heat waves have a measurable detrimental impact on our society.

For starters, tempers tend to flare during heat waves. People become more aggressive and violent. As a result, crime increases as well. In general, people feel miserable and take their frustrations out on others.

Given these observations, it seems natural to wonder if people who suffer from mental illness have a more difficult time during heat waves. So a team of British researchers analyzed the literature and published a systematic review of the topic in the journal Public Health....

Multi-drug misuse and abuse - albeit prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) or illicit in nature - is a huge problem (not just in overdose risk). Whether these substances are used alone or in combination, when you throw alcohol into the mix heightening of further impairments is assured. Add operating a vehicle, legalization of marijuana and the inability for accurate, swift roadside testing to determine level of influence for many of these substances and it is the perfect storm for a public health threat - one with many challenges to overcome to ensure safety on the roads. All told, more American drivers are dying in car crashes where drugs are detected than they are from those...

Infectious diseases never go away.

Living in the developed world, it's certainly tempting to think that they do. Our triumph over microbes has lulled many people into a false sense of security, which has, in part, fueled the anti-vaccine movement. If we don't see people dying of diphtheria, is a vaccine against it actually necessary?

Citizens of the developing world don't have the luxury to ask such questions. That's because, on a daily basis, they are reminded of the devastating impact of infectious disease. A recent report by the World Health Organization, called the Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies, provides a glimpse...

Even with the advent of the antibiotic era, infectious diseases are a global health concern. In part, disparate public health infrastructures, barriers to accessing medical care and regions with poor sanitation can be contributing factors. But, another worrisome trend that could represent a huge step back in medical advancement is the surge in antibiotic resistance. Should this pattern continue, many treatments that rely on antibiotics to eliminate harmful bacteria could become inviable options.

Efforts to educate the public on appropriate antibiotic use and to curtail overprescribing, in general, are already underway. The challenge...

It was such a privilege and honor for me to be invited by the incomparable Suzi Abrams and Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey to present on how to be an advocate for yourself or a loved one in the medical realm. To inform from a physician's perspective, I put together a guide on the subject that can be found by scrolling down in this article. The topic of patient advocacy is very close to my heart, so when I was invited to speak by someone I deeply admire who runs an effective, successful program the community vitally needs,...

A multidisciplinary team from Texas just published their work in PLOS Medicine on U.S. vaccination rates in children, specifically focusing on nonmedical exemptions (NMEs) in states and counties. With 72.2% of those 19 to 35 months of age fully vaccinated nationwide, the researchers sought to determine the impact of parental concerns over safety and efficacy in opt out rates due to religious and philosophical beliefs. Their analysis of data was based on the 18 states that allow more nonspecific, philosophical-belief NMEs that can include religious objections.

What did they discover?

         As summarized from...

Unless they're eradicated smallpox-style, infectious diseases never disappear. Like an unlucky penny, they can show up at any time.

The reason is because most microbes can survive elsewhere, either in the environment or other animals or both, a concept known as a "reservoir." That is why prevention is the key to public health. And prevention is achieved primarily through practices such as vaccination, water chlorination, pasteurization, sanitation, and good personal hygiene (as well as common sense). If we take away any one of these practices, we can expect relatively rare infectious diseases to come back. Three stories serve to underscore this crucial lesson.

Rabies in Seattle

Recently, a bat was lying on the ground on the University of Washington...

Not that long ago, if a company had invented a far safer way to deliver nicotine to addicted smokers, politicians would be celebrating. Smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of disease and death in the world. If every smoker quit cigarettes today, we would have a healthier society, and healthcare costs undoubtedly would decrease. That's a win-win.

But today, partisanship has ruined just about everything. It has crept into nearly every aspect of American life, from the workplace and classroom to sporting events and even dinner table conversations. A good idea is rejected simply because the "other team" came up with it.

This is a terrible development for our culture. But it's even worse for areas such as public health, because people die when we implement bad...