Sunday, September 25, 2011

Smoking, Fat & Sex. Quick note on public health reports

Among updates from the American Journal of Public Health, these caught my eye:


Tobacco control crusader Stan Glantz and colleagues comment on how people in the global tobacco control community have not only developed a consensus on the evidence, but figured out how to advocate for policies and actions that can reduce the public health of tobacco.
Bonus vocabulary lesson: ep·i·ste·mic/ˌepəˈstemik/ It means something to do with knowledge. In this case it refers to the body of scientific evidence that tobacco control experts developed and draw on.

There are a few reports relating to how fat we're getting. One draws a line connecting obesity in the United States and our poor showing on international measures of life expectancy. The researchers looked at how much longer people could expect to live once they reach middle age. Using 2006 data, they say obesity may slice almost two years off life expectancy for middle age Americans and that's a substantial part of the difference between the US and other countries. The article is Contribution of Obesity to International Differences in Life Expectancy.

Then  there is a re-examination of the effect of obesity in later life. Some reports have indicated that being fat may make less of a difference to life expectancy as we get older. But this analysis concludes that there might be a problem with how some researchers have used the data. The apparent diminishing effect might actually be a mirage caused by the fact that people in older generations aren't as fat as those in younger generations. So being obese in old age may be just as hazardous to your health as being fat when you are young. See Reexamining the Declining Effect of Age on Mortality Differentials Associated With Excess Body Mass: Evidence of Cohort Distortions in the United States.

And then an experiment in Australia concluded that PE classes in elementary school do a better job of keeping kids thinner if they are led by specialists rather than general classroom teachers. There was also some improvement seen in some measures of academic performance. Physical Education, Obesity, and Academic Achievement: A 2-Year Longitudinal Investigation of Australian Elementary School Children


Boyfriends and girlfriends deserve more attention than husbands and wives, at least in the circumstances addressed by a British study.

Imagine you are a local public health official trying to contain a sexually transmitted disease. When you find a case, which makes more of a difference: notifying spouses or other steady partners or tracking down casual hookups? These researchers say that based on their analysis of chlamydia cases, notifying casual partners was a more effective way of interrupting transmission. It takes more work, but the effort may be worth it.  Estimating the Likely Public Health Impact of Partner Notification for a Clinical Service: An Evidence-Based Algorithm

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