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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

Washington near top, again, in prescription pain pill misuse

by Matt Rosenberg February 12th, 2013

For the second time in a row, Washington ranks in the top five among 50 U.S. states in the percent of people aged 12 and older who reported having misused prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet or codeine in the last year by taking them without a prescription or “simply for the experience or feeling the drug caused.” That’s according to newly published findings for 2010-2011 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an ongoing gauge of various concerns which also revealed last fall that from 2008 through 2010 Seattle ranked second out of 33 U.S. metropolitan regions in suicide attempts.

CDC: flu vaccine has 38% failure rate this season

by Matt Rosenberg January 22nd, 2013

In little more than six out of ten instances – or 62 percent of the time – has flu vaccine actually prevented patients from getting the influenza virus, according to early results for this winter reported from sampling in five U.S. regions including Seattle. The news comes in a recently-released brief from the U.S. Flu Vaccination Effectiveness Network, that was published in the U.S. Centers For Disease Control open access journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The good news for the Seattle area is that it had the highest “influenza-negative rate,” of 76 percent, among the five sampled regional health systems.

Trees a life-saver? Portland expert, UW dean discuss

by Matt Rosenberg January 16th, 2013

Trees aren’t just a nice-to-have, their widespread removal due to pest infestations can actually be associated with higher rates of mortality, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Geoffrey Donovan and a team of researchers. He’s an economist of forestry for the Portland-based Pacific Northwest Research Station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Donovan probed changes in mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and lower respiratory tract diseases such as pneumonia and bronchitis in 15 U.S. states where the spread of a beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer wiped out roughly 100 million ash trees since its appearances in Detroit in 2002. He found that controlling for a range of other factors, and compared to uninfected areas, the pest’s presence and resulting loss of tree canopy was associated with increased mortality of an additional 6.8 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 6,113 total) due to lower respiratory system illnesses; and another 16.7 deaths per year per 100,000 adults (or 15,080 total) connected to cardiovascular malfunction. The infected and uninfected areas were within 1,296 counties in the 15 states.

However, Donovan warned against jumping to conclusions based on the study. In an accompanying commentary. The Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health Howard Frumkin also urged caution but said the study was important as part of a growing wholistic approach in the public health field, to try to quantify the benefits of nature.

Data viz: WA fertility up, abortion down, 1997 to 2011

by Mike Klaczynski January 15th, 2013

From 1997 through 2011 in Washington, abortions are down and fertility is up. Drawn from state Department of Health data, an interactive visualization below that was prepared for Public Data Ferret by Tableau Software of Seattle reveals that within Washington over the 15 years the abortion ratio has been highest in five western counties and lowest in five eastern counties. From 1997 through 2011 the abortion ratio – or abortions per 1,000 live births – was greatest in the counties of King, Pierce, San Juan, Thurston and Jefferson; and lowest in the counties of Garfield, Adams, Grant, Lincoln and Douglas. The state geographic data on abortions is based on county of residence of the woman, not location of the procedure.

Factoring in all 39 Washington counties and all abortions for which the home county of the patient was known (nearly all), the abortion ratio declined markedly from 346.16 abortions per 1,000 live births in 1997 to 230 abortions per 1,000 live births in 2011. On the other hand, the fertility rate, or live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44, grew slightly when counting all 39 Washington counties together, from 61.47 in 1997 to 64.17 in 2011. Across the 15 years in Washington, fertility rates were highest in the eastern or central counties of Adams, Franklin, Grant, Yakima and Okanagan; and lowest in a mix of eastern, central, and western counties. Those were Whitman, Kittitas, San Juan, Garfield and Whatcom.

You can use the data visualization below to reveal abortion ratios, abortion rates and fertility rates for any and all Washington counties in any year from 1997 to 2011 and for all years combined. Using the pull-down menus on the right, below the state map, select the year and statistic to display. For any year and statistic selected, you can scan the comparative results by county in a ranked table under the pull-down menus. You can also hover over a county on the map above for requested data. Additionally, you can single-click on any county on the map for a 15-year line chart below on the left, which will show the general trend and, when hovering directly over the large pinpoints, specific yearly data. Click on that same county once more, on the map above, to go back to the previous view. To get embed code for the viz, click on “share” at bottom left.

The most recent nationwide abortion ratio available is 227 for 2009, according to a Centers For Disease Control report in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly. That compares to a statewide total of 253.7 in 2009 for Washington. Though Washington’s fertility rate has bumped up slightly overall since 1997, it nonetheless tracks closely with the U.S. rate, which is in record decline. According to a National Vital Statistics Report issued by the CDC, the preliminary 2011 U.S. fertility rate of 63.2 is the “lowest rate ever reported for the United States.”

Additional reporting contributed by Matt Rosenberg. Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

OIG report: ignored reforms could save HHS $23B yearly

by Matt Rosenberg January 7th, 2013

The federal government could save more than $23 billion per year and hundreds of billions in the next decade if its Medicare and Medicaid programs and lawmakers acted on ignored audit and efficiency recommendations, some of them now decades old, according to a December 2012 summary report from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. The report is titled “Compendium of Unimplemented Recommendations.”

U.S. report: Montana, Oregon in top tier for underage drinking

by Matt Rosenberg December 3rd, 2012

A survey by the U.S. government on drug use and health shows that from 2008 through 2010, both Oregon and Montana ranked in the top quintile nationally in self-reported underage use of alcohol as a percent of state population age 12 to 20. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health over those three years interviewed 93,700 representative respondents aged 12-20, in their homes across the U.S. to develop projected statewide rates. The resulting report, “State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol: 2008 to 2010,” showed that nationwide on average 26.6 percent of the respondents – all under the legal drinking age of 21 in all 50 state – reported having drank alcohol in the last 30 days. Among the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Montana ranked fourth at 34.84 percent and Oregon seventh at 32.15 percent. More than in any other state except one, Oregon underage drinkers are not themselves purchasing the alcohol they drink, according to the report; only 2.57 percent did so.

Janitors, secretaries most flu-prone workers in Washington

by Matt Rosenberg November 19th, 2012

On the one hand, getting the flu is considered fairly mundane, so long as there’s no pandemic and nobody dies. On the other hand, this common winter nuisance carries a hefty price tag. The annual bill in the United States for seasonal influenza is estimated at $87.1 billion in lost productivity, lost wages, and medical costs. We may suspect workers in certain occupations – such as health care or education – are more prone to get the flu, but there’s been little research on its prevalence across a range of occupations. Now, though, newly-reported data from Washington state provide some clues. A scientific survey of more than 8,700 Washington state workers showed that among 29 different categories it is janitors and cleaners, and secretaries who report the highest occurrence of flu-like symptoms, and truck drivers, technicians and construction laborers the lowest.