Friday, July 31, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Recommendations

On July 29, 2009 the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met to make recommendations about who should receive the H1N1 vaccine when it initially becomes available. They recommended the following groups receive the vaccine first:

  • Pregnant women
  • Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 6 months
  • Healthcare and emergency services personnel
  • All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
  • People aged 25 through 64 years of age who have health conditions that might make them more susceptible to medical complications from influenza

Although not expected, if there is a shortage of the H1N1 vaccine, the first three groups above are still targeted to receive the vaccine, but the last two groups change to:

  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age
  • Children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions.

For more information about the rationale behind selecting these groups, see the H1N1 vaccination recommendations press release.

The CDC stresses that this vaccine is not a substitute for the seasonal flu vaccine. Both may be administered on the same day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cash for Clunkers

Are you considering buying a new car but are not sure if your old car qualifies for the government rebate? (Car Allowance Rebate System) has a frequently asked questions section to help you decide if your old car qualifies and, if so, for what amount($3,500 or $4,500).

Friday, July 24, 2009

CDC Addresses Obesity in the U.S.

A July 24, 2009 report released by the CDC entitled Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States, html version or (pdf version) contains some rather alarming statistics. Approximately two thirds of adults and one fifth of children in the United States are overweight. An estimated 33% of adults are classifed overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-29, 34% are classified obese with a BMI of 30 or greater, and nearly 6% are classified extremely obese with a BMI of 40 or greater. About 17% of children and adolescents fall above the 95 percentile of sex-specific BMI for age growth charts.

The CDC is concerned because being overweight or obese increases the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. To help communities promote healthier eating and active living behaviors, the CDC has initiated the Common Community Measures for Obesity Prevention Project which recommends a set of 24 strategies and measurements for communities to use to "plan and monitor environmental and policy-level changes for obesity prevention." The 24 strategies fall under six general strategies:

  • promote the availability of affordable healthy food and beverages
  • support healthy food and beverage choices
  • encourage breastfeeding
  • encourage physical activity or limit sedentary activity among children and youth
  • create safe communities that support physical activity
  • encourage communities to organize for change.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Older Population

The Census Bureau has released today, Monday, July 20, 2009 a study entitled, An Aging World: 2008. Commissioned by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging, the study contains detailed international information about life expectancy; health; disability; gender balance; marital status; living arrangements; education and literacy; labor force participation and retirement; and pensions.

Statistics that might be surprising include the current rate of growth of older people in developing countries is more than double that in developed nations. Also, the so-called "oldest old" or those 80 and above are the fastest growing portion of the total population in many countries. For more details about the report, see NIH News.

Moon Walk

The last few weeks t.v. stations have constantly played images of Michael Jackson moonwalking, but today's moonwalking image is a 40 year old video of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the surface of the moon and uttering the now famous, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." Walking across the surface of the moon along with fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin while astronaut Michael Collins manned the space module, Armstrong likened the scenery to the American dessert.

YouTube has made available videos of both the moon landing and Armstrong's speech. NASA has a link to the news conference of President Obama with Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins at 2:30 p.m. today. Also available through NASA is the text of President Kennedy's May 25, 1961 speech proposing to put a human on the Moon by the end of the decade and his Sept. 12, 1961 address at Rice University with his oft-quoted words "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Given this Rice and Houston connection, SpaceFest is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a four day (July 17-20, 2009) celebration at Houston's downtown park, Discovery Green. Entertainment includes music, space films, historical exhibits, and activities for kids.

For more information about Rice University's extensive involvement in space initiatives, see the Rice News story "We choose to go to the moon."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Security and Stability in Afghanistan

The Department of Defense has released its latest version (June 2009) of Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report states the "core goal for the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan is to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaida and its extremist allies, their support structures, and their safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country."

In order to achieve the core goal, the report lists the following objectives:

  • Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.
  • Promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.
  • Developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.
  • Assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan and a vibrant economy that provides opportunity for the people of Pakistan.
  • Involving the international community to actively assist in addressing these objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an important leadership role for the UN.

The 76 page report includes an executive summary, acronyms, statistics and tables, and discussion about strategies to meet the objectives.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Track Environmental Exposures & Chronic Health Conditions

According to a July 7, 2009 press release the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched the online Environmental Public Health Tracking Network which enables users to track environmental exposures and chronic health conditions. According to Michael McGeehin, Ph.D., director of the Division of Environmental Hazard and Health Effects of CDC's National Center for Environmental Health, "The Tracking Network is the foundation we need to make better environmental health decisions and help prevent chronic illnesses, such as asthma, cancer, and heart disease."

This program has already proven beneficial for the Utah Department of Health which received a call from a person concerned about incidents of cancer in his neighborhood. Instead of taking a year to complete a study, in less than a day the tracking program was able to determine the likelihood of cancer in his area was no greater than in the state as a whole.

In addition to the press release and site, A YouTube video is available with more details about the program.