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Antibiotics on the Farm: Agriculture’s Role in Drug Resistance

April 10, 2015 Comments off

Antibiotics on the Farm: Agriculture’s Role in Drug Resistance
Source: Center for Global Development

The discovery of antibiotics in the early 20th Century was a major breakthrough for human health, markedly reducing the infection threat from minor cuts, surgery, and cancer treatment. The more antibiotics are used, however, the faster bacteria adapt and become resistant to them. Antibiotic resistance is now spreading so rapidly, and the development of new antibiotics has slowed so much, that there is talk of a nightmarish post-antibiotic future where even minor injuries could once again become deadly if infection sets in. The threat is growing worldwide, but it is a particular problem in poor countries where respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases remain leading causes of death, especially among children.

While the misuse of antibiotics in human health is a key factor in accelerating the emergence of drug resistance, farmers also use large amounts of antibiotics in livestock. Moreover, many administer these drugs in feed and water at low doses for extended periods to promote growth and prevent disease in their animals. Those are ideal conditions allowing drug resistant bacteria to thrive. Many industrialized countries are taking steps to address this risk, but there are often loopholes. And livestock production is growing rapidly in developing countries where antibiotic use is lightly regulated. Policymakers desperately need more information about antibiotic use and resistance in humans and animals so they can assess the risks of this behavior for human health, and determine how aggressive they need to be with policies to change it. At the same time, there is growing evidence that the economic benefit to livestock producers of using antibiotics may be less than thought. Given what is at stake in keeping antibiotics effective, it is prudent to couple improved data collection with steps to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in farm animals.

Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Enhancing Health in the Built Environment

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Enhancing Health in the Built Environment
Source: Urban Land Institute

ULI’s Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Enhancing Health in the Built Environment outlines evidence-supported opportunities for enhancing health outcomes in real estate developments.

Developers, owners, property managers, designers, investors, and others involved in real estate decision making can use the report’s recommendations and strategies to create places that contribute to healthier people and communities, and to enhance and preserve value by meeting growing desires for health-promoting places.

European City Ranking 2015: Best practices for clean air in urban transport

April 3, 2015 Comments off

European City Ranking 2015: Best practices for clean air in urban transport
Source: European Environmental Bureau

Air pollution causes nearly half a million premature deaths each year in the European Union. In busy cities, air quality is usually at its worst, with high concentrations of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone. The average life expectancy of people living in the EU’s most polluted areas is reduced by over two years as a consequence of this. A lot can be done at a local level to avoid these emissions.

Air pollution not only damages human health but also affects our natural environment, by causing acidification and eutrophication. Furthermore, soot, or black carbon (a part of PM10), emitted largely by diesel cars, contributes to global warming by reducing the reflection of sunlight when deposited on snow and ice. The ambient air quality directive (2008/50/EC) demands that local authorities comply with short term and annual limit values of PM10 and NO2. Municipalities have adopt measures to reduce air pollution and to comply with the above mentioned air quality limit values.

What measures have been designed and implemented in some of Europe’s most polluted cities? With this ranking we aim to answer this question and demonstrate that local solutions to reduce air pollution exist. We identify which cities are best at it, and what others can learn from them.

Study shows electronic cigarette vapors contain toxins and have the potential to be a public health concern

April 1, 2015 Comments off

Study shows electronic cigarette vapors contain toxins and have the potential to be a public health concern
Source: RTI International

On the heels of the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) second public workshop to explore the public health considerations associated with e-cigarettes, nonprofit research organization RTI International released a new research paper “Exhaled Electronic Cigarette Emissions: What’s Your Secondhand Exposure?,” which explores the composition of e-cigarette vapor and the potential health impacts of secondhand exposure.

The study finds e-cigarette emissions contain enough nicotine, and numerous other chemicals to cause concern. A non-user may be exposed to secondhand aerosol particles similar in size to tobacco smoke and diesel engine smoke. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are a rapidly growing business with annual sales doubling yearly to $1 billion in 2013, and a current lack of regulation that has allowed for a surge in marketing.

Because e-cigarette products are not yet regulated, the chemicals and devices involved vary widely, as may the potential health impacts. Many factors — including the specific device used — influence the chemical makeup and toxicity of e-cigarette emissions. The full scope of health impacts of e-cigarette smoke, as well as secondhand exposure’s impacts on children, is still unknown.

Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2014

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Monitoring Health Concerns Related to Marijuana in Colorado: 2014 (PDF)
Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

As one of the first two states in the nation to legalize retail marijuana, the Colorado Legislature mandated that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) study the potential public health impacts of marijuana. Though medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, it was largely viewed as an individual doctor/patient decision outside the scope of public health policy. However, the legalization of retail (non- medical) marijuana and the potential for greater availability of marijuana in the community, prompted a closer look at potential health impacts on the population at large.

Legalized retail marijuana presents a paradigm shift, grouping marijuana with other legal substances like alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs, as opposed to illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin. As with alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs, misuse of marijuana can have serious health consequences. Standard public health approaches to alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs is to monitor use patterns and behaviors, health care utilization and potential health impacts, and emerging scientific literature to guide the development of policies or consumer education strategies to prevent serious health consequences. This report presents initial efforts toward monitoring the changes in marijuana use patterns, potential health effects of marijuana use, and the most recent scientific findings associated with marijuana use to help facilitate evidence-based policy decisions and science-based public education campaigns.

Strengthening the Detection of and Early Response to Public Health Emergencies: Lessons from the West African Ebola Epidemic

March 27, 2015 Comments off

Strengthening the Detection of and Early Response to Public Health Emergencies: Lessons from the West African Ebola Epidemic
Source: PLoS Medicine

Summary Points

  • The international response to the West African Ebola virus disease epidemic has exemplified the great potential of the global public health community. However, the protracted early response also revealed critical gaps, which likely resulted in exacerbation of the epidemic.
  • It is incumbent on international health partners to learn from missteps that occurred in the early stages of the epidemic and strengthen our public health capacity to better respond to future public health emergencies.
  • Strategies to consider include development of a more precise system to risk stratify geographic settings susceptible to disease outbreaks, reconsideration of the 2005 International Health Regulations Criteria to allow for earlier responses to localized epidemics before they reach epidemic proportions, increasing the flexibility of the World Health Organization director general to characterize epidemics with more granularity, development of guidelines for best practices to promote partnership with local stakeholders and identify locally acceptable response strategies, and, most importantly, making good on international commitments to establish a fund for public health emergency preparedness and response.
  • The recent success of the global action to stem the Ebola virus disease epidemic is laudable but should not encourage complacency in our efforts to improve the global public health infrastructure.

CRS — International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses (March 16, 2015)

March 25, 2015 Comments off

International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The global illegal drug trade represents a multi-dimensional challenge that has implications for U.S. national interests as well as the international community. Common illegal drugs trafficked internationally include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. According to the U.S. intelligence community, international drug trafficking can undermine political and regional stability and bolster the role and capabilities of transnational criminal organizations in the drug trade. Key regions of concern include Latin America and Afghanistan, which are focal points in U.S. efforts to combat the production and transit of cocaine and heroin, respectively. Drug use and addiction have the potential to negatively affect the social fabric of communities, hinder economic development, and place an additional burden on national public health infrastructures.

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