Category: Research Findings

Is “controversy frame” helpful or harmful to public health?

Does message framing impact public health?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have conducted a nationwide observational experiment to examine the effects of the framing of media coverage (“uniform support” versus “controversy”) on public support for state-mandated HPV vaccination.  The study is published in the November, 2010 issue of Health Affairs, and was featured last week on

More on methods and results after the jump.

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Hyper-texting associated with risky behaviors

Photo from Flickr. By

Nearly 20 percent of teens report hyper-texting, which is sending more than 120 messages per day on school days. Aside from the fact that this means a lot of time is spent on cell phones, researchers recently discovered that “hyper-texters” are more likely to engage in a range of risky behaviors.

According to an article in Medical News Today, hyper-texters are more likely to have tried cigarettes, to be binge drinkers, to have been in a physical fight and to have used illicit drugs.

Additionally, hyper-texters are more likely to have had sex, and hyper-texters are 90 percent more likely to report having had four or more sexual partners.

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Feature: Food evironments and the Feds

Food environments matter, and race and socioeconomic status play an important role in determining how likely you are to be able to get to healthy food, let alone eat it. A 2002 study by Manual Franco investigating food environments in Baltimore found that African Americans were disproportionately more likely to live in areas with less access to healthy food than Caucasians. Elizabeth Baker revealed in a 2006 study that there were more fast-food restaurants in low-income neighborhoods than in high-income areas.Carrot

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The harder side of soft pink

Pink ribbon Chicken Noodle.

One of my best girlfriends celebrated her 38th birthday last weekend at a castle in the North Carolina mountains, surrounded by 26 of her closest friends.  It was her second birthday as a breast cancer survivor… and the same weekend that author Peggy Orenstein asked readers to ‘Think About Pink’ — about the use of breast cancer, pink, and sex appeal to sell products ranging from fried chicken to airline tickets.

I am definitely thinking about pink.

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Playing Tetris may reduce flashbacks

Tetris game on a TV According to an article in Time, scientists at Oxford University have shown that playing Tetris can ward off flashbacks, a major aspect of posttraumatic stress disorder.

In the first study, adults watched a film that contained traumatic content such as bloody surgery scenes. Such images have been found to produce mild flashbacks. Participants watched the film and then either played Tetris, a quiz game or sat quietly. Researchers found that those in the Tetris condition had fewer flashbacks than those in the other two conditions. The effects also continued into the following weeks in which participants were asked to keep a diary recording flashbacks, with people who played Tetris reporting the least flashbacks.

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Provider prescription for patient behavior change: Collaborate, don’t judge

Motivational interviewing by a physician is promising for weight loss promotion. Photo used by Creative Commons.

Physicians remain a respected voice on health behaviors and patients look to them for guidance.  With so many Americans struggling with overweight and obesity, patient-provider communication is an important approach to promoting healthy weight.

 A study of the impact of physician-led motivational interviewing for weight loss has found that collaborative discussion and reflective listening are more helpful than judging or offering unsolicited advice.  Led by Dr. Kathryn Pollack at Duke University, the research was published in the October issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine and presented in the NY Times yesterday. 

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CDC’s “winnable battles” face losers’ wrath

Van Gogh painting - skull with a burning cigarette

Tobacco use is one of the CDC's six "winnable battles," but opponents fear the campaign is short changing other important health issues.

It sounds like a reasonable idea: list six of the country’s pressing public health problems where research points to proven remedies, and then focus on fixing them.

But when the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, chose HIV, obesity/nutrition/physical activity/food safety, teen pregnancy, automobile injuries, and health care associated infections as the top six “winnable battles” in the public health realm, he angered advocates for all the left-out problems.

The AsianWeek Foundation sent out a press release condemning the absence of liver cancer from the winnable battles list. The disease is mostly caused by Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C (there is a vaccine for Hep B, and Hep C can be treated acutely and prevented behaviorally). Asian Week Foundation Director Ted Fang had this to say about the list:

“Hepatitis B and liver cancer are the greatest health disparity for Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, yet CDC has ignored their own data and in the past refused to even list hepatitis B as a leading American health disparity.”

So what will happen to the diseases and problems not on Frieden’s list?

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Questions about sex: Maybe kids should do the talking

Sexual health ad targeting people 50 and older

Part of the Family Planning Association's (United Kingdom) safe sex campaign targeting people older than 50

A number of sexual health interventions are aimed at adolescents, but maybe these programs need to target another group? Time Healthland reported that baby boomers are really the ones participating in more sexually irresponsible behavior. These findings come from a study released in October in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. The study, conducted by researchers at Indiana University, was the largest nationally representative survey of sexual behaviors that has ever been done in the U.S.

According to the article, only about a fifth of 14 to 17-year-olds have had intercourse, and the majority of them report using a condom the last time they did. However, 91 percent of men over 50 reported that they did not use a condom when they had sex with a date or casual acquaintance and 70 percent of them didn’t use a condom with someone they had just met. Females over 50 tend to report being more careful in general, but still the majority of them have sex without a condom.

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Gluten: Friend or foe? Depends on your gut.

One in 133 Americans have celiac, meaning they can't eat anything made from wheat.

One in 133 American have celiac disease, meaning they can't eat anything made from wheat.

A study published recently in the Annals of Medicine reports that cases of celiac disease are on the rise, but especially in the elderly. Celiac disease occurs when one’s digestive tract can no longer tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat.

Katherine Hobson reports on the research, which tested people in the U.S. and Italy, for the Wall Street Journal:

“The study… looked at blood samples from 3,511 adults in both 1974 and then again in 1989. Originally 1 in 501 study participants showed blood markers for celiac disease, but 15 years later, the incidence in the same population had risen to 1 in 219.

What that says is that some people ‘tolerate gluten for 20, 40 or 60 years and then lose that luxury,’ lead study author Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Celiac Research…

When people with celiac disease consume gluten (found in wheat, barley and rye), it triggers an autoimmune response in the gut that can produce symptoms including bloating, diarrhea and other, more serious problems.”

But why does this anti-pizza and pasta disease suddenly occur in an increasingly large number of people, many of them older?

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Breast cancer (and corporation) awareness month

An NFL player wears pink gear as part of the league's pledge to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

An NFL player wears pink gear as part of the league's pledge to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the disease is not the only cause fighting for attention. Corporations are getting their share of the spotlight.

Beauty products company Estee Lauder is sponsoring a “Global Landmarks Illumination Initiative,” lighting up famous landmarks around the world in pink.

Estee Lauder invented the original pink ribbon campaign, and this year it hopes to break the Guinness world record for “Most Landmarks Illuminated for a Cause in 24 Hours.” The NFL is promoting the cause again this year with a campaign called “Crucial Catch.” If you download Delta Airline’s iPhone application this month, and check in for a flight with it, the company will donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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