Friday, April 30, 2010

More Americans Got Seasonal Flu Vaccination in 2009-10 than in Previous Years

/PRNewswire/ -- More Americans were vaccinated against seasonal flu during the 2009-10 season (40 percent of eligible population) than during the previous flu season (33 percent of eligible population), according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The greatest gain in vaccination rates was in children 6 months to 17 years. About 40 percent of children were vaccinated for seasonal flu last season, representing a 16 percentage point jump from the 2008-09 season.

There also was an increase in the percentage of healthy adults (people without a chronic health condition such as asthma or diabetes), aged 18-49 years old who were vaccinated against seasonal flu. Coverage in this group increased from approximately 22 percent in 2008-09 to approximately 28 percent for the 2009-10 season. Coverage remained stable among adults 18-49 years of age with chronic health conditions, all adults 50-64 years, and those 65 years and older.

"These results are encouraging," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "It's now important that we build on this success next fall and winter. We want people, especially parents, to make getting a flu vaccination each year a regular habit"

The report, "Interim Results: State-Specific Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Coverage --United States, August 2009-January 2010," also highlights state-level seasonal vaccine coverage estimates. Hawaii had the highest percentage of people vaccinated against seasonal flu with nearly 55 percent of people being vaccinated.

"We are identifying the successful programs and lessons learned from the 2009-10 season and the H1N1 pandemic response, and working with states to increase vaccination coverage next season," said Dr. Schuchat.

"This report shows real success in vaccinating school-aged children, and it underscores additional opportunities to expand the use of school-located clinics in the 2010-11 season," Dr. Schuchat added. "There are also opportunities to vaccinate more adults at higher risk for influenza, such as pregnant women and persons with chronic medical conditions."

For the upcoming 2010-11 season, the annual flu vaccine will also protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza.

CDC used data collected during October 2009-February 2010 from two separate surveys: Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and National 2009 H1N1 Flu Survey (NHFS). BRFSS respondents in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories were asked if they (or, in 43 states, their children) had been vaccinated against seasonal flu in the past 12 months, and if so, during which month. NHFS respondents aged 18 and older were asked whether they (or their children) had received seasonal flu vaccination since August, and if so, during which month.

CDC then combined the estimates from BRFSS and NHFS for "Interim Results: State-Specific Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Coverage --United States, August 2009-January 2010." The 2009-10 BRFSS survey included 18,368 children and 152,128 adults; the NHFS included 60,786 children and 31,135 adults.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Leading Women's Organizations Applaud Release of New Report On Women and Lung Cancer

/PRNewswire -- For decades, our organizations have stood together to protect the rights of women, including the health and well being of ourselves and our families. As we have done -- and will continue to do -- for the millions of women who have died from breast, ovarian, cervical, uterine and other gynecological cancers, we stand today in support of those women who have been diagnosed with lung cancer.

We commend Brigham and Women's Hospital's Women's Health Policy and Advocacy Program at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology and the Lung Cancer Alliance on the release of the report Out of Shadows: Women and Lung Cancer. This report indeed brings this disease out of the shadows by providing the most current and comprehensive overview of women's biggest unmet public health challenge: lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women, killing more women each year than breast and all gynecological cancers combined. Lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in the US over twenty years ago. Every day nearly 300 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 200 women will die of it.

Lung cancer incidence in women has increased six-fold over the past 30 years. Many women diagnosed with lung cancer are smokers or former smokers who were lured to tobacco use by tobacco industry advertising that glorified smoking as a symbol of women's independence. We may have "come a long way" but tragically, for too many women, the path traveled ended with lung cancer.

But lung cancer in women cannot be attributed to smoking alone. As the report points out, twenty percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer today have never smoked. Among non-smokers with lung cancer, women appear to be two to three times more likely than men to develop the disease. There also appears to be a rising trend in lung cancer among younger women who have never smoked.

While second-hand smoke is often blamed for lung cancer in non-smoking women, the Report points out that a growing body of evidence suggests that genetic, hormonal, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to differences in lung cancer between women and men. Unfortunately, because lung cancer receives fewer research dollars than any other major cancer, we cannot know the source of these differences.

This striking gap in research funding for a disease that impacts women so heavily is not new. We have long recognized the role of politics in health research funding. With lung cancer, these politics have been complicated by the stigma associated with the disease. Patients blame themselves for their diagnosis; so do their loved ones; and so does the public at large. Add lung cancer's dismal survival rate to this mix, and you understand why there are so few advocates calling for an end to this disease.

We are lending our collective voice to the call to end this deadly disease. Along with every other disease that devastates women, we call upon researchers and the public health community to devote appropriate resources to combat lung cancer. No one deserves to die of lung cancer. No one.

Respectfully,


American Medical Women's Association
Black Women's Health Imperative
Center for Women's Policy Studies
Feminist Majority Foundation
General Federation of Women's Clubs
Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Women's Health Network
National Women's Law Center
Society for Women's Health Research

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tips For Battling Seasonal Allergies

(StatePoint) Allergy season bombards us with pollen and other allergens. But it's not just the great outdoors that cause allergies. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor organic air pollution levels can be two to five times higher than their outdoor equivalent. 

It's time to learn how to fight back against allergies and the pollutants in our homes that trigger them.

More than 67 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms, ranging from hay fever to asthma. And many indoor pollutants -- including dust mites and pet dander -- are the top asthma and allergy triggers in young children. 

Dust mites and dander are particularly difficult to eliminate. A few precautionary measures, however, can make your home relatively allergen-free.

Suck It Up

Vacuuming is one of the fastest ways to eliminate many home allergens and learning to vacuum smarter can help. Always clean a room from top to bottom, starting with curtains, tops of dressers and windowsills. A good vacuum cleaner also is critical, such as those with stretch hoses and special brushes to clean difficult surfaces. 

Consider bagless upright models with more powerful motors that can suck up dust mites from tough crevices, such as Panasonic's new MC-UL915 Jetspin Cyclone that relies on a powerful twelve-amp motor to get rid of lingering mites. This versatile vacuum even comes with an air turbine brush attachment for difficult jobs, like gently removing stubborn pet hair from delicate upholstery. When you're done vacuuming, simply pop out the easy-to-clean dust cup to empty and wash for less mess and a fresher smell.

To maintain a healthy home environment, always use a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA Exhaust Filter that captures particles, such as allergens, irritants and pollutants. For more information about new vacuum cleaner technology, visit www.panasonic.com/vacuums.

It Comes Out In The Wash

Regular washings of linens is key, and the hotter the water the better. Wash bedding weekly with 140-degree water, which is hot enough to kill dust mites. So long as the water is sufficiently hot, it isn't necessary to have an expensive washer with a steam cycle. 

If you prefer to limit your hot water heater to 120 degrees or less to prevent scalding, consider a washing machine with a "sanitary cycle" that superheats water internally. You also can choose special anti-allergen detergents. 

Work The Room

Limiting clutter is one of the simplest ways to reduce home allergens. And if you really want to make your home as allergen-free as possible, there are several easy and inexpensive homemade cleaning solutions. 

For sanitizing countertops, spray a 50-50 mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide (the kind in a brown bottle) and wipe with a dry cloth. Tough bathroom mildew can be cleaned with a 50-50 mixture of water and white vinegar, while soap scum can be removed by sprinkling baking soda and scrubbing with a warm moistened cloth. 

There's only so much you can do to combat outdoor contaminants during allergy season. Take that fight indoors and you'll have a better chance at breathing freely. 

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FDA Issues Statement on IOM Sodium Report

Today’s average sodium intake is several times what the body requires and its long-term effect on our health is very serious. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in three U.S. adults – nearly 75 million people aged 20 or older. An additional 50 million adults suffer from pre-hypertension. High blood pressure can increase the risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure. Too much sodium in the daily diet is a major contributor to high blood pressure.

A new report from the Institute of Medicine this week concludes that national action is imperative to reduce the sodium content of foods if we are to make significant progress toward reducing the risk of hypertension and major cardiovascular events for Americans.

A story in today’s Washington Post leaves a mistaken impression that the FDA has begun the process of regulating the amount of sodium in foods. The FDA is not currently working on regulations nor have they made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time.

Over the coming weeks, the FDA will more thoroughly review the recommendations of the IOM report and build plans for how the FDA can continue to work with other federal agencies, public health and consumer groups, and the food industry to support the reduction of sodium levels in the food supply. The Department of Health and Human Services will be establishing an interagency working group on sodium at the Department that will review options and next steps

Success in reducing sodium intake will require coordinated national action, with participation of all. We are encouraged by the fact that some food manufacturers have already begun or announced their commitment to reduce sodium levels in their products.

As a consumer, you can start lowering your sodium intake today by purchasing foods low in sodium, asking your grocer to carry more low-sodium products, and asking for low-sodium options at restaurants.

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Community Service is a Family's Most Treasured Family Recipe

/PRNewswire/ -- Participating in charitable service and volunteering locally not only can benefit and strengthen your community, it can also strengthen your family ties. The Glad Products Company wants to celebrate and reward families who build bonds by building their communities with its "Recipe for Giving" Contest.

Now through June 30, Glad invites families to submit their own "Recipe for Giving"- or a story, idea and example of how their family gives back with food - whether it's delivering a homemade pumpkin pie to the local fire station every Thanksgiving or hosting an annual charitable bake sale. Entries must be 100 words or less and submitted via the Glad to Give(TM) page on Facebook® or www.gladtogive.com. Each of the four finalists receives $1,000 and will go on to compete in a Cookies for Kids' Cancer(TM) fundraising event for a grand prize voluntourism trip for four to the island of St. Lucia.

Since 2009, the makers of Glad® products have encouraged people to give back through its partnership with Cookies for Kids' Cancer(TM), a non-profit organization committed to raising funds for pediatric cancer research through local bake sales. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18 in the U.S., yet approximately half of the drugs used to treat children with cancer are at least 20 years old(1). In 2009, Glad® and Cookies for Kids' Cancer(TM) inspired families to host more than 600 bake sales that helped raise more than $340,000 for pediatric cancer research.

"Glad's partnership with Cookies for Kids' Cancer started as a simple idea - people use Glad products to organize and store their bake sale treats - but it has transformed into something bigger, helping inspire people to do what they love by making and sharing food to help fight pediatric cancer," said Vicki Haber, PR Manager for Glad®. "We've heard from many of the people who have been getting involved that the time spent together as a family prepping and hosting a bake sale can be a great way to teach their children about the wonders and joy of giving back. We want to help spread this idea of family service, and hear the other ways families are getting involved together."

While Glad® products have always played an important role at any bake sale, now Glad is making them even sweeter. Starting this May, every time a consumer purchases specially marked Glad® products and enters a code online, The Glad Products Company will make a $1 donation to Cookies for Kids' Cancer(TM), up to $200,000.

Learn more about the contest, product match and Cookies for Kids' Cancer at www.GladtoGive.com or on the Glad to Give(TM) page on Facebook®. Register your bake sale, buy cookies and learn more about Cookies for Kids' Cancer(TM) at www.cookiesforkidscancer.org.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

New CDC Study Finds Colorectal Cancer Screening Practices Need Improvement

/PRNewswire/ -- More than 75 percent of primary care physicians in the United States who order or perform the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) as a screening option for colorectal cancer perform an in-office test rather than relying on the home-based test, even though the home-based test is more accurate, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

National guidelines recommend that FOBT testing be done with stool samples collected at home. Previous studies have shown that the in-office FOBT, in which a single stool sample is collected by a physician during a digital rectal examination, is ineffective because it misses 95 percent of cancers or polyps that may become cancer. The in-office test is not recommended for colorectal cancer screening.

The study, "Fecal Occult Blood Testing Beliefs and Practices of U.S. Primary Care Physicians: Serious Deviations from Evidence-Based Recommendations," is published online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine at http://www.springerlink.com/content/p7q4n4114510574t/fulltext.pdf.

"Many primary care physicians continue to use inappropriate FOBT methods to screen for colorectal cancer, thereby missing the potential to save lives," said Marion Nadel, Ph.D., health scientist in CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, and lead author of the study. "FOBT is an important option for screening, but it must be implemented correctly. People who choose FOBT for screening should use high-sensitivity home tests on an annual basis and be sure to follow-up on any positive result."

In this new study, researchers analyzed data from the 2006-2007 National Survey of Primary Care Physicians' Recommendations and Practices for Cancer Screening conducted by the National Cancer Institute in collaboration with CDC and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The scientists looked at whether there has been improvement since 2000, when an earlier study revealed that many primary care physicians used inappropriate methods to implement FOBT.

The current survey included 1,134 primary care physicians who reported ordering or performing FOBT at least once per month. The researchers examined FOBT implementation practices and physicians' beliefs about and use of the newer tests, the high-sensitivity guaiac-based FOBT and the fecal immunochemical tests. In the guaiac-based FOBT, the chemical guaiac is used to detect blood in the stool. In the fecal immunochemical tests, antibodies are used to detect blood in the stool.

Of the physicians who reported that they ordered or performed FOBT, 25 percent said they used in-office FOBT exclusively, and about 53 percent reported using both home and in-office tests. Also, 61 percent of primary care physicians used the standard guaiac-based FOBT, while use of the more sensitive guaiac-based test and the fecal immunochemical tests was significantly lower. The high-sensitivity tests are superior to the standard guaiac-based FOBT in detecting colorectal cancer and advanced lesions.

On a positive note, 93 percent of physicians reported using colonoscopy as a follow-up to a positive FOBT, as recommended in national guidelines.

Screening is recommended for adults aged 50 years and older. Those with a family or personal history of colorectal polyps or cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease, should speak with their physicians about whether to begin screening at an earlier age. Annual FOBT is one of several screening options recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the joint guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. The other recommended screening tests are flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years) and colonoscopy (every 10 years).

Recent reports show that most primary care physicians recommend FOBT, either alone or in addition to colonoscopy, to screen for colorectal cancer. FOBT is preferred by a significant number of adults. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive and easily accessible, and often the only screening test available to people with insufficient insurance coverage or those who live in areas with limited high-quality endoscopic services.

The researchers noted that educational efforts are needed to inform physicians of the recommended practices for screening with FOBT and to raise awareness of the newer high-sensitivity stool tests. The authors also encourage efforts to promote the use of provider tracking and reminder systems to enhance FOBT test completion and follow-up care.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, after lung cancer. In 2006, more than 139,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed and more than 53,000 people died from this disease. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer, thus preventing the disease. In addition, screening can detect cancers at an early stage when treatment can be very effective.

CDC's Colorectal Cancer Control Program funds 26 states and tribal organizations across the U.S. to increase rates of colorectal cancer screening among men and women 50 years of age and older through population-based approaches such as policy and health systems change, outreach, case management, and selective provision of direct screening services.

For more information about CDC's efforts to prevent colorectal cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal and www.cdc.gov/screenforlife.

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March of Dimes CenteringPregnancy(R) Grants Show Progress in Reducing C-Sections, Preterm Birth and Low-Birthweight Babies

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, Kmart honors a March of Dimes-supported group prenatal care program that has successfully reduced c-sections, preterm births and low-birthweight babies during a ceremony at The Institute for Family Health (IFH) in Manhattan.

The March of Dimes provided support totaling $1.27 million in 2009 alone to fund more than 60 CenteringPregnancy programs in 31 of its chapters nationwide. Since 2005, the March of Dimes has invested $4.13 million to fund the expansion of this model of care to more clinics and more women.

The Institute for Family Health has successfully implemented the program, helping their prenatal patients decrease c-sections from 28 percent to 21 percent, preterm births from 8.3 percent to 1.8 percent and decreased low birthweight from 8.3 percent to 2.65 percent, according to results of an IFH evaluation of its 2008-2009 CenteringPregnancy® groups. The group model of prenatal care was developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute, which provides training and support to healthcare providers to adopt this proven intervention.

"It is such a privilege to see first-hand the amazing, life-changing work that is supported by the March of Dimes," said Mark Snyder, Kmart's chief marketing officer. "As a result of our employees and customers' generosity, Kmart is proud to have surpassed the $80 million fundraising milestone this year, and we look forward to continuing our support of such a generous organization and celebrating our shared commitment to giving babies a healthy start in life."

Kmart, the March of Dimes' largest and oldest corporate March for Babies sponsor, will donate gifts to 20 mothers who participated in the Institute's CenteringPregnancy program. Earlier today, Kmart and the March of Dimes opened the world's largest electronic exchange, NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

"We are thrilled to demonstrate to Kmart, our number one sponsor, that their support is making a difference to improve the health of babies and save lives," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "For Kmart to provide these moms, who have participated in the CenteringPregnancy program here at the Institute for Family Health, with gift certificates in addition to their countrywide support for March for Babies, I am truly grateful."

Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant death in the United States, and babies who survive face serious lifelong health problems. More than 543,000 babies are born too soon each year, and the nation's premature birth rate has increased 36 percent since the early 1980s. Each year, preterm births cost the nation more than $26 billion. Worldwide, about 13 million babies are born prematurely each year.

Interest in the CenteringPregnancy model has grown due to a randomized, controlled trial reported in 2007 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, which found that women who received CenteringPregnancy care were 33 percent less likely to have preterm births than women who received standard prenatal care.

"CenteringPregnancy is one of a small number of programs that we know work to reduce premature birth," said Dr. Scott Berns, senior vice president of Chapter Programs, March of Dimes. "Since the evidence has mounted, we have stepped up our investment to make this model available to thousands more women every year."

March for Babies events happen in more than 900 communities all across the United States. Most occur the last weekend of April. To join an event near you, visit marchforbabies.org.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CHPA Calls on Congress to Strengthen Combat Meth Act

/PRNewswire/ -- The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) today called on Congress to amend and strengthen the federal Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act (CMEA) by requiring nationwide electronic tracking (e-tracking) for all over-the-counter (OTC) sales of cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE).

E-tracking is the only solution that will immediately block illegal sales and prevent criminals from buying illegal amounts of PSE to manufacture methamphetamine. At a hearing before the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, CHPA President Linda Suydam made a commitment on behalf of industry to fund a national system and work with the retail community to expand the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) system currently being implemented in eight states that have passed e-tracking legislation. The NPLEx e-tracking system works in real time to stop individuals from exceeding package limits when purchasing PSE-containing medicines. Using sales records that CMEA already requires retailers to keep and which are only made available to law enforcement, NPLEx works across state lines and provides law enforcement with an effective tool to stop methamphetamine production.

"We are asking Congress to significantly improve the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act by leveraging cutting-edge technology to block illegal pseudoephedrine sales nationwide," said Suydam. "Electronic tracking offers the best solution to reducing methamphetamine labs without imposing a costly and unnecessary prescription mandate. Our goal is to stop illegal pseudoephedrine sales while maintaining important over-the-counter access to the 15 million consumers who rely on these medicines each year."

Daviess County Kentucky Sheriff Keith Cain who also testified before the caucus on the merits of electronic tracking added, "NPLEx offers capabilities for controlling the illegal diversion of pseudoephedrine that go far beyond anything available in the prescription arena. A prescription mandate would simply drive the meth cooks underground and cut off access to information critical to finding illegal meth labs."

Ten states have already adopted laws requiring retailers to use an e-tracking system to track PSE sales, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington. Attorneys general from Alabama, Kansas, and Washington submitted letters to the caucus noting their support for electronic tracking and urged consideration of e-tracking at the federal level. CHPA is funding NPLEx in eight of these states to help retailers to comply with these new laws.

"My customers rely on timely access to cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. Electronic logbooks provide a far more reasonable approach than requiring a prescription for OTC medicines. I am pleased that industry is offering to work with the retail community to stop the illegal purchasing of PSE medicines nationwide," noted Tim Tucker, PharmD, a Tennessee pharmacist who is working to implement NPLEx in his state.

Only two states, Oregon and Mississippi, have instead elected to make PSE medicines available by prescription only. Suydam told the caucus that, "when contrasted with electronic tracking, prescription mandates simply fall short. A prescription mandate would be more expensive to consumers, sales limits from CMEA would no longer apply, and there would be no system for real-time blocking of illegal prescription sales within states or across state lines."

Suydam also challenged the effectiveness of Oregon's prescription-only law, noting that most of Oregon's lab reductions occurred prior to the state's prescription mandate and that states across the West achieved similar results without such a burdensome restriction.

"The industry supports federal legislation requiring nationwide tracking, and we are asking that the current paper system be modernized to provide a system that will work seamlessly and more effectively across all states," said Suydam. "E-tracking systems like NPLEx are the most effective tool we have to systematically address methamphetamine production in this country. A multi-state approach to electronic pseudoephedrine sales tracking offers more benefits for law enforcement and consumers than a prescription mandate, but without the substantial and unnecessary costs of a prescription approach."

CHPA is the 129-year-old-trade association representing U.S. manufacturers and distributors of over-the- counter medicines and nutritional supplements.

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