Public Health

Blues back ONC patient engagement HIT efforts

December 27, 2011 | Diana Manos, Healthcare IT News

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has pledged its support for the Office of the National Coordinator's (ONC) campaign to promote consumer awareness of health information technology.

“Health information technology has the power to transform the way healthcare is delivered and significantly increase safety, efficiency and the quality of care for all Americans,” said BCBSA officials, in a statement issued Dec. 22. “The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association strongly supports initiatives to advance health information technology and supports efforts by the Office of the National Coordinator ‘to engage and empower individuals to be partners in their health through information technology.’”

BCBSA recently released a new proposal, “Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System: The Pathway to High Quality, Affordable Care” that the group hopes will offer a comprehensive, interconnected action plan “to fundamentally transform the healthcare system.”

Read BCBSA’s "Building Tomorrow’s Healthcare System: The Pathway to High-Quality, Affordable Care in America" on the BCBSA website here.

Research: Global Diseases, Local Needs

by Jessica Ruvinsky, Winter 2012 [Free!]

The diseases that get funded tend to be the ones for which funders can take credit.

Extraordinary and expensive medical treatments are available to people in poor regions, thanks in large part to commitment and funding from Bill & Melinda Gates and other private foundations. But while antiretroviral therapies help millions with HIV live longer and healthier lives, their neighbors continue to die of simple diarrheal diseases.

Private foundations don’t fund the issues that people surveyed in 27 countries think should be the national priority, says Daniel Esser, assistant professor in the international development program at American University. “Whereas national financial assistance for global health shows a weak but at least significant response to preference,” says Esser, “private foundations seem to be responsive to neither preferences nor disease burdens at the national level.”

A 2007 Kaiser/Pew Global Health Survey of the public perceptions of health problems in developing countries let Esser compare disease burdens and local priorities with funding streams, both public and private. HIV/AIDS contributes only 3 percent of the total disease burden in Asia, but was the second most highly funded health category. Tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases are the lowest priority out of nine in the Middle East, but received the third most money from 2005 to 2007.

New HHS Contest Seeks Apps To Track Progress on Public Health Goals

On Monday, HHS launched a contest that challenges software developers to create Web- or mobile device-based applications to help public health officials measure progress on the Leading Health Indicators for the Healthy People 2020 campaign. Healthcare IT News et al.

The contest will award a total of $15,000 for the top three app designs. Submissions are due by March 9, 2012 (Leading Health Indicators App Challenge, 10/31).

HHS Updates Healthy People Initiative, Issues Data Collection Targets

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

During the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association on Monday, HHS announced the Leading Health Indicators for the Healthy People 2020 campaign, National Journal reports.

The list of metrics to track public health goals is updated once per decade.

Oral health, social determinants -- such as education, income, and race -- and maternal, infant and child health were added to the nine existing categories of Leading Health Indicators.

Meanwhile, metrics to track abstinence among young people, which were included in the 10 indicators for 2010, were dropped from the list for 2020.

In related news, HHS officials on Monday released final survey standards in an effort to reduce health care disparities (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/31).

The standards will provide more specific demographic data than previously collected on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language and disability status (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 10/31).

Health Affairs: Agenda for Fighting Health Care Disparities

Among the well-documented deficiencies of US health care is its pronounced lack of equity—not just in access, but also in the quality of care provided whites versus ethnic and racial minorities. The federal government says racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy, more likely to suffer from serious illnesses, and when they do get sick, are less likely to have access to quality health care

The October, 2011, issue of Health Affairs, produced with the support of the Aetna Foundation, provides a progress report on where we are as a nation in addressing these health and health care disparities. It also underscores that a “change” agenda will have to tackle the very fundamentals of existence that characterize the lives of millions of people in twenty-first-century America.

CDC Panel Recommends That Boys, Young Men Receive HPV Vaccine

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at CDC voted 13-0 to recommend that boys and young men receive vaccinations against the human papillomavirus, the New York Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 10/25).

With one committee member abstaining, the panel recommended routine vaccination of boys at age 11 or 12, though boys may receive the shot as early as age nine. The panel also voted 8-5 to recommend that boys and young men ages 13 to 21 who have not have had the shot received a "catch-up" vaccination (Stein, Washington Post, 10/25).

Healthy People 2010 misses targets on obesity and health disparities

Obesity increases across all age groups, and gaps in care continue to widen in many areas, the report shows.

By Christine S. Moyer, amednews staff. Posted Oct. 24, 2011.

The nation's health improved during the past decade as adult cholesterol levels decreased and fewer people smoked cigarettes, according to the final review of Healthy People 2010. Such improvements led to an increase in life expectancy.

But the country fell short of meeting Healthy People 2010 goals in some of the most critical areas, including reducing obesity and health disparities.

Overall, disparities remained unchanged for about 80% of the objectives, according to the report.

For example, minority and low-income groups continue to be less likely to have a regular source of medical care. Cigarette smoking also remains more common among the poor and those with less education compared with college graduates who have higher incomes.

Health disparities worsened in 13% of the objectives. Deaths due to coronary heart disease is one area where disparities increased for minorities and people with no more than a high school degree.

Blue Shield To Return $295M as Part of Pledge To Limit Profits

Friday, October 14, 2011
Blue Shield of California will give back $295 million to fulfill a pledge to cap its profits at 2%. The insurer will give credits to policyholders and payments to health care providers and make community investments. San Francisco Business Times et al.

Disparities Cloud Health Improvements in Past Decade, Report Finds

Kaiser Health News, Christian Torres, 10/06/2011

Minority and low-income groups continue to be less likely to have a regular source of health care when compared to the general population, despite efforts over the past decade to remedy the situation. This and other health disparities persist across race, ethnicity, income level and education, according to the final review of Healthy People 2010, which was released Thursday.

Public Health Services Get Crunched by Budget Woes

The Wall Street Journal Health blog, Betsy McKay, 10/05/2011

Some 55% of the nation’s county and city health departments reduced or eliminated at least one program between July 2010 and June 2011, and the public-health workforce continued to shrink, according to a new survey by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Employers Join the Community Health Movement: A NewPublicHealth Q&A, 10/04/2011

Employer and public health communities have a shared vision: better health and productivity for their employees and community members. NewPublicHealth spoke with Andrew Webber, President and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health, and Jeff Levi, Ph.D., Executive Director for Trust for America’s Health, about the critical role of employers in community prevention efforts.

Getting kids to eat their veggies: USU first in the country to try innovative 'Food Dudes' nutrition program

Published: Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 8:13 p.m. MDT

But a Utah State University researcher is hoping that a program started in England will help change the attitudes of U.S. kids toward eating healthier foods.

The Food Dudes program was created by a psychology professor at Bangor University in North Wales, England. "I started it because I noticed children had switched off eating fruits and vegetables and had switched over to largely junk diets," said professor Fergus Lowe.

Lowe said obesity among children is a global crisis. "It's actually the biggest public health problem of our time. Obesity is a huge issue worldwide. There are now more people who are overweight and obese than there are underfed," he said.

Bill before Jerry Brown brings HPV vaccine debate to California

By Torey Van Oot,
Published: Saturday, Sep. 24, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A

Days before Republican candidates began sparring over a vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer, a bill aimed at expanding access to the shot for California minors made its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk with little fanfare.

Assembly Bill 499, by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would allow those 12 and older to seek medical care to prevent sexually transmitted infections without parental consent.

A coalition of parental rights advocates, vaccination opponents and conservative and religious groups is now rallying against the bill, characterizing it as an affront to parents' rights.

The presidential debates have called new attention to the issue, providing new ammunition for supporters and opponents of the shot.

H.R. 2954, The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2011

House introduced the HealthEquity and Accountability Act of 2011, a bill that complements the efforts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and focuses on eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities. The bill was formally introduced today by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Chair of CAPAC’s Healthcare Taskforce, and included 68 original cosponsors.
The bill, introduced by the members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus — comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — builds on previous successes and provides the tools necessary to address the health and health disparities experienced by minority and underserved communities.

National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity

The National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity provides a common set of goals and objectives for public and private sector initiatives and partnerships to help racial and ethnic minorities -- and other underserved groups -- reach their full health potential.

The strategy -- a product of the National Partnership for Action (NPA) -- incorporates ideas, suggestions and comments from thousands of individuals and organizations across the country. Local groups can use the National Stakeholder Strategy to identify which goals are most important for their communities and adopt the most effective strategies and action steps to help reach them.

Read the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity Plan.

National Partnership for Action

Multiple federal agencies have joined together to form the National Partnership for Action to end health disparities (NPA). It's mainly driven by HHS.
NPA has just formed 10 Regional Health Equity Councils (RHEC). California is in HHS region IX.

Competition aims for obesity-fighting apps that use public data

The Aetna Foundation is offering a prize pool of $50,000 for development of the three best browser-based applications that make it easier for health leaders to find and use public health data to fight obesity. Experts say there is plenty of data on disease rates, lifestyle habits and community wellness resources that can be translated into integrated health models that improve care, as well as lead to small lifestyle changes that have big health effects.

IOM pitches national system for EHR-based disease tracking

“A Nationwide Framework for Surveillance of Cardiovascular and Chronic Lung Diseases” July 22, 2011

An Institute of Medicine report calls on the HHS to develop a national system that leverages EHRs and other patient-based data to help monitor chronic conditions.
Emphasizing the value of a national system, the IOM report goes on to state: "Without a national surveillance system, the gaps in current monitoring approaches will continue to exist, making it more difficult to track the nation's health status despite advances in technology and data collection. A robust surveillance system … will help in monitoring, evaluating, and improving policies, programs, and services and in directing the placement of resources, and it will provide a stronger basis for advocacy and education."

5 Fictions About Social Media for Public Health and Healthcare

As John Mack of Pharma Marketing Blog illustrated from a recent Accenture survey, social media sites are the ones health information seekers are least likely to visit - lagging behind online patient communities, pharma websites and general and medical websites such as Wikipedia and WebMD. This calls for carefully considering your objectives and the way your priority group uses the internet and SNS before jumping to the Facebook and Twitter default.

Accenture - health site visits


Social Media’s Promise for Public Health

Susannah Fox | August 18, 2009

Federal agencies can, and should, be the first responders to health questions. Social media can help. That’s my summary of presentations from last week’s National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media conference, where I had the sense, once again, of a tribal meeting, but this one had the urgency of war council. The enemy is legion: flu virus and Salmonella, yes, but also misinformation and misunderstanding.

Janice Nall of the National Center for Health Marketing at the CDC moderated a panel on social media’s promise for public health which included me, Jeff Lee of Distributive Networks, and Bob McKinnon of YELLOWBRICKROAD Communications. Nall kicked things off by talking about Social Media at CDC, which lists all their initiatives, from Twitter and Flickr to MySpace and Second Life.