Kentuckians with lower incomes are much more likely to try e-cigarettes, new poll shows

foundation for a healthy KYDespite warnings that e-cigarettes can be harmful, nearly 40 percent of Kentuckians age 18-45 have tried an e-cig, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP). In fact, Kentuckians with lower incomes also were about 74 percent more likely to have tried vaping than those with higher incomes.

“Research suggests that e-cigs may be a gateway to using other forms of tobacco, and they can be just as harmful,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. “They expose users to toxic chemicals, including nicotine, which long has been proven to be addictive and responsible for a wide range of health issues. E-cigs are simply not a safe alternative to smoking, especially for young adults and nonsmokers.”

KHIP also asked opinions about the safety of e-cigarettes. About three in 10 Kentucky adults thought e-cigs were safer than tobacco cigarettes, and 19 percent thought they were less safe. A much larger proportion – 45 percent – thought there was no difference in safety between the two.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report in December 2016 stating that the use of e-cigarettes by youth and young adults often leads to cigarette smoking, other tobacco use and nicotine addiction, with all the health dangers associated with nicotine addiction. The agency raised concerns that e-cig marketers have been using tactics that attract youth and young adults and said that the incidence of this age group trying e-cigs doubled from 2013 to 2014, the latest date for which data was available. The U.S. Surgeon General has called the rising use of e-cigarettes among young adults a “major public health problem.”

To see the full KHIP report on e-smoking, please click here.

 

Kentucky officials raise flu level to ‘widespread’ for the state

Kentucky Unbridled Spirit logoThe Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), which is part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), has raised the flu level in the state from “regional” to “widespread,” which is the highest level of flu activity, indicating increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

“With widespread flu activity reported in Kentucky, now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by getting a flu shot”, DPH Commissioner Hiram C. Polk, Jr., M.D., said in a news release. “We urge anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals six months of age and older. However, the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used because it has been shown to be ineffective.

People who are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:

  • Children age 6 months through 59 months
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
  • People age 50 or older
  • People with extreme obesity (Body Mass Index of 40 or greater)
  • People age 6 months and older with chronic health problems
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children younger than age 5
  • Household contacts and caregivers or people who live with a person at high-risk for complications from the flu
  • Health care workers, including physicians, nurses, and other workers in inpatient and outpatient-care settings, medical emergency-response workers (e.g., paramedics and emergency medical technicians), employees of nursing home and long-term care facilities who have contact with patients or residents, and students in these professions who will have contact with patients

“You should also follow the advice your parents gave you to prevent flu and other illnesses that tend to circulate at this time of year – wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home when you’re sick,” concluded CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Gilsson.

For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.

 

Kentucky once again tops the list of U.S. adult smoking rates

CDC imageOnce again, Kentucky ranks first for its adult smoking rates, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the report, Kentucky retook the top spot from West Virginia in 2015 with an adult smoking rate of 25.9 percent; West Virginia’s is 25.7 percent, followed closely by Arkansas at 24.9 percent.

Smoking rates have declined across the nation almost 28 percent since 2005, from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.1 percent in 2015, according to the report, which is based on the 2015 National Health Interview Survey. Kentucky’s smoking rates declined 10 percent in the same time frame, from 28.7 percent to 25.9 percent, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a constant national poll conducted by the CDC.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths,” says the CDC.

The state’s high smoking rate also comes with a hefty price tag, as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimates Kentucky’s smoking-related health costs at $1.92 billion a year. The group ranks Kentucky 37th in protecting children from tobacco, and says 17 percent of its high school students smoke.

 

Overall U.S. death rate declines after seeing rare rise in 2015

CDC imageThe overall U.S. mortality rate declined in the first quarter of this year, according to preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The news came as a relief to researchers who had been taken aback by a rise in the nation’s death rate in 2015, an event that has happened only a few times in the past 25 years. Researchers believed the increase was due in part by a rise in fatal drug overdoses, which have been on the upswing since the 1990s.

“This is good news, given that there was an increase in mortality in 2015,” Andrew Fenelon, assistant professor of health administration at the University of Maryland, said in a New York Times article. “Maybe the 2015 increase was a quick blip, and the trend of decline will continue.”

The mortality rate — a measure of deaths per 100,000 people — is a key indicator of the health of the nation. It almost always declines, driven by improvements in medical care and healthier living through diet and exercise.

The data showed decreases for a number of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and others. The data is based on all death records received by the center as of June 19 and could still change.

ADHD medication might help encourage children to avoid risky behaviors, new study shows

Researchers have found that medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is more common in Kentucky than any other state, may offer some additional long-term benefits by discouraging children from risky behaviors.

“Treatment with ADHD medication made children less likely to suffer consequences of risky behaviors such as sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse during their teen years and injuries,” says a Princeton University news release.

The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that Kentucky leads the nation in the percentage of children ages 4-17 with ADHD at 15 percent; the national percentage is 11 percent. Almost 70 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD are treated with medications, according to a Kentucky Health News article.

“ADHD is such a major issue, but no one seemed to be able to give a very definite answer to the long-term effect of the medication,” researcher Anna Chorniy said in the Princeton news release. “For our sample population, we were able to see everyone who had an ADHD diagnosis and track their health over time to identify any potential benefits of the medication or the lack of thereof.”

The study, published in the journal Labour Economics, looked at Medicaid claims for nearly 150,000 children diagnosed with ADHD in South Carolina between 2003 and 2013.

 

Kentucky Public Health Officials Caution Pregnant Women To Avoid Traveling to Zika-Affected Areas

CDC imageThe Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is warning Kentuckians, particularly pregnant women and women planning to become pregnant, to avoid traveling to areas of the world with active Zika virus transmission. The virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito.

“We strongly warn everyone – especially pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant – avoid traveling to countries where Zika virus is circulating,” Dr. Hiram Polk, DPH commissioner said in a news release. “With Kentuckians competing in and attending the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this summer, we must remain vigilant and take steps to protect ourselves. This includes being knowledgeable about where the virus is spreading, consulting with a healthcare provider, and following public health recommendations to avoid mosquito bites.”

For a full list of affected countries and regions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), please click here.

“If you are unsure about the presence of Zika in the area in which you are traveling, err on the side of caution. Use repellent and wear protective clothing to avoid mosquito bites,” Dr. Polk said. “Furthermore, travelers should continue these practices for three weeks upon returning home to avoid spreading Zika locally.”

Kentuckians planning international travel are particularly encouraged to consult the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Website for country-specific health information for travelers. A special link about Zika Travel Information is found on that site.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent infection and no specific antiviral treatment for Zika infection. Its most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, although many infected individuals have no symptoms at all.

For further information, click here to visit the DPH website. Zika virus awareness and prevention Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are available online by clicking here.

 

Births to teen moms declines to lowest rate since tracking began

Laughing baby with young motherA report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Center for National Health Statistics shows that births to teen mothers in the U.S. is now at the lowest rate since tracking began.

The rate declined by 8% from 2014 to 2015, and now sits at 22.3 births per 1,000 mothers ages 15 to 19. Birth certificate data showed about 230,000 teen births last year, compared with almost 645,000 in 1970.

“The continued decline is really quite amazing,” Brady Hamilton, the lead author of the report, told The Associated Press.

The report also showed that the birth rate for women in their early 20s declined to 76.9 births per 1,000 women, and the rate for women in their late 20s declined to 104.3 births, both record lows. Meanwhile, birth rates for women in their 30s and early 40s increased in 2015.

 

 

Intravenous drug users in many Kentucky counties at high risk of getting HIV or hepatitis C, CDC study shows

CDC imageA preliminary report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 220 counties in the United States as being most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C among those who inject drugs in those communities, and 54 of those counties are in Kentucky.

Kentucky leads the nation in the rate of acute hepatitis C, with 4.1 cases for every 100,000 residents, more than six times the national average, according to the CDC.

“Both HIV and hepatitis C can be transmitted when people who inject drugs share their needles,” Doug Hogan, acting communications director for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an e-mail to Kentucky Health News. “Many of Kentucky’s HCV cases are among rural youth, ages 12-29, who have been sharing needles.”

The Kentucky counties that are in the top 10 nationally based on their vulnerability to the rapid spread of HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs are: Wolfe (1st), Breathitt (3rd), Perry (4th), Clay (5th), Bell (6th), Leslie (8th), Knox (9th), and Floyd (10th).

Researchers looked at all 3,143 U.S. counties and based their rankings on six variables: the number of overdose deaths, per-capita-income, unemployment, population studies, prescription opioid sales, and prescription sales for opioid treatments such as buprenorphine. The report points out that this does not mean that HIV or hepatitis C outbreaks are inevitable in these counties, or that there is a current problem with intravenous drug users in these counties, but says that intravenous drug users in these counties are at a higher risk.

Click here to read the CDC report.

 

CDC offers tips for mental health care professionals to help their patients quit smoking

CDC imageAs part of its “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a set of resources for mental health professionals to help their patients fight tobacco use and quit smoking.

Studies show that people with mental health conditions are more likely to smoke than those who don’t, according to the CDC website. They suggest that primary care providers (PCPs) and mental health care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based smoking cessation treatments.

To help them with these conversations, the CDC has provided a set of documents and resources to help explain how mental health care professionals can get involved and support their patients, offers suggestions about how to conduct a brief tobacco intervention, shares important reasons to quit smoking, and more. These are available online by clicking here.

 

Catching up, thanks to the Kentucky Health News independent news services

Inside Passport has been on a bit of a hiatus recently, but thankfully our friends at Kentucky Health News have been working hard to make sure nothing slips through. Here is a look at some key items that they’ve posted recently:

  • Colon Cancer Screenings: All too often Kentuckians don’t get screened for colon cancer because of fear, embarrassment, lack of access and cost concerns, but with March being National Colorectal Awareness Month it is a good time to reconsider these concerns, know that preventive screenings are covered by most health plans, and recognize that a decision to get screened could save your life.
  • Preventive Health: A study that looked at preventive health services among states in three categories found that Kentucky fell near the middle of the pack for most of the measures, but was in the top 10 for adult flu vaccinations and top five for prevention of high blood pressure, but in the bottom 10 for human papilloma virus vaccinations for males.
  • The future of Kynect and Expanded Medicaid: Democratic state Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville has filed bills to keep Gov. Matt Bevin from keeping his campaign promises to dismantle the Kynect health-insurance exchange and scale back the expansion of Medicaid under federal health reform. Owens acknowledged that House Bill 5 and House Bill 6 would likely get nowhere in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans who support Bevin’s approaches. However, but the filing of the bills prompted a lively discussion among four legislators on Bill Goodman’s “Kentucky Tonight” program on KET Feb. 29.
  • Poll about Kentuckians’ health: Regardless of how Kentucky adults describe their health status, almost two-thirds of them said it would be difficult or very difficult to make positive changes in their health, citing time, money and motivation as their main barriers, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll.
  • Free school meals: During the 2014-15 school year, 104 of the 173 public school districts in Kentucky provided free breakfast and lunch to all students, with 610 schools and 279,263 children benefiting in the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
  • Smoking-ban bill: Despite early hope, the bill to ban smoking in Kentucky workplaces was likely dead on arrival this year.
  • Zika in Kentucky: After the first case of Zika was confirmed in Kentucky March 9, health officials held a news conference at the Capitol to raise awareness of the virus, noting that the state was coming up on the spring travel season.
  • Making Kentucky tobacco-free: An overwhelming majority of Kentucky adults, 85 percent, want schools to be tobacco-free, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll. But only 28 percent of the state’s school districts have “protected students, staff members, teachers and guests from secondhand smoke by enacting 100 percent tobacco-free school policies,” says a press release from Interact for Health, which co-sponsored the poll with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.
  • Painkiller prescriptions: Kentucky has the nation’s fourth highest rate of painkiller prescriptions, at about 130 prescriptions for every 100 people, Christine Vestal reports for Stateline. The high rate of painkiller prescriptions is being blamed on a rising rate of overdose deaths, leading health and government officials in many states to call for a limit on the number and strength of painkiller pills prescribed by doctors.
  • CDC recommendations for reducing overdoses: Doctors who prescribe highly addictive painkillers for chronic pain should stop and be much more careful to thwart “an epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses” that is “doctor-driven,” the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said March 15.
  • Annual Kentucky county health rankings: The sixth annual County Health Rankings report shows little change in Kentucky’s top and bottom rankings, but there were a few surprises, with several counties showing up in the top 10 for the first time.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. For more information, go online to kyhealthnews.blogspot.com.