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Monday, July 25, 2011

IOM Releases New Report on Clinical Preventive Services for Women

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) charged the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with reviewing the current Affordable Care Act (ACA) preventive services recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and Bright Futures, to see if there were any gaps pertaining to women’s health. Several factors are unique to women and influence their health differently than men: women live longer than men, have higher rates of chronic disease and disability, and have more need of medical attention due to being able to have children. With the ACA’s shift to preventive care, the impact on women’s health and well-being will be profound. In fact, earlier this year, Partnership’s President Jud Richland testified before the IOM panel in support of additional insurance coverage for women for services with proven effectiveness.

Last week the IOM panel released its report Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps detailing the findings. It concluded that eight additional preventive services should be added to the services that health plans will cover with no co-pays or deductibles under the Women’s Health Amendment in the ACA.  Eliminating financial barriers would increase the number of women getting these services.

These services include improved screening and counseling for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and HPV; annual well-woman preventive care visits; gestational diabetes screening for pregnant women; lactation counseling and equipment for breast-feeding mothers; and additional screening and counseling to detect and prevent domestic violence. The report also recommends that insurers cover "the full range" of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, as well as sterilization and reproductive counseling at no cost to the patients, to prevent unintended pregnancy.

If the IOM’s recommendations are accepted by the DHHS, women will no longer have to pay any out-of-pocket costs for any of these preventive services. DHHS could possibly make a decision and release their updated regulations by August 1st.  Committee chair Linda Rosenstock, Dean, School of Public Health, UCLA, says, “This report provides a road map for improving the health and well-being of women. The eight services we identified are necessary to support women’s optimal health and well-being.”

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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Labels: AffordableCareAct, HHS, IOM, USPSTF, women

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Report on Health Effects of Transportation Policies Could Help Policymakers

In this age of federal budget cuts, transportation will be no exception. Earlier this month, John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, released his proposal for reauthorizing the long overdue surface transportation act. Although the proposal has both positives and negatives, it focuses heavily on the highway system and eliminates or consolidates many programs that impact public health and safety.

The transportation bill is an important avenue for improving public health and safety. It funds programs that modify our environment to make physical activity easier and more convenient for millions of Americans. The real or perceived inability to safely walk or bike to near destinations keeps people in their cars and sedentary — the result is traffic congestion, air pollution, and bigger waistlines. Safe Routes to Schools, Transportation Enhancement Program, Recreational Trails Program, and others are on the chopping block. The transportation act also funds public transit systems, which are relied upon by those who cannot or chose not to drive and reduce air pollution by taking cars off the road.

Policymakers debating tough issues, such as what to fund and what to cut, need information on the health ramifications of their decisions. While some might say that health doesn’t belong in the transportation act, the truth is that many policies impact health, a concept that has gained traction among public health leaders. Harnessing the power of seemingly irrelevant policies could help the nation efficiently and more cheaply improve health and stave off chronic disease than funding expensive health care programs.

Partnership for Prevention today released a report that adds to the growing body of evidence that ‘health in all policies’ is an important concept to embrace. Transportation and Health: Policy Interventions for Safer, Healthier People and Communities contains transportation policy options and summarizes the science on how they impact health. The three areas examined are: the environment and environmental health, community design and active transportation, and motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities. Policymakers at all levels that are faced with hard decisions regarding transportation can use this report to inform their decision-making.

Alyson Hazen Kristensen, MPH
Senior Fellow & Program Officer

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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Labels: community, environment, policy, transportation

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies

Today, the CDC released a new report called Smoking in Top-Grossing Movies—United States, 2010 which provides details about tobacco use in movies in the last year. The percentage of 2010 top-grossing movies with no tobacco incidents was the highest observed in over two decades, indicating continuing progress towards the US Department of Health and Human Service’s goal of reducing youth exposure to onscreen smoking.

From 2005 to 2010, the number of onscreen tobacco incidents in youth-rated (G, PG, or PG-13) movies decreased by 71.6% and the average number of smoking incidents per youth-rated movie decreased by 66.2%. However, the degree of reduction varied considerably by motion picture company. Out of the six major motion picture companies, three have published policies designed to reduce tobacco use in their movies. The companies with anti-tobacco policies had an average decrease in tobacco use incidents of 95.8% compared with the average decrease of 41.7% among the three companies without policies.

Reducing the number of smoking depictions that youths are exposed to in movies is critical. A recent meta-analysis of four studies attributed 44% of youth smoking initiation to viewing tobacco incidents in movies. Additionally, adolescents with the most exposure to onscreen tobacco use are twice as likely to begin smoking as those who are less exposed. If motion picture companies continue to lessen the presence of cigarettes and other tobacco products in their films, this could lead to significant public health improvements among adolescents.

The three motion picture companies with anti-tobacco policies had the greatest success in reducing tobacco imagery in their movies and have shown the remarkable difference that an enforceable anti-tobacco policy can make in preventing adolescent smoking initiation. Other movie companies can help contribute to the reduction in youth smoking by giving films with tobacco incidents an R-rating, following the recommendations of the World Health Organization and other public health groups. Since youths do view some R-rated movies, it is also recommended that anti-tobacco advertisements are shown before movies that depict smoking.

State policymakers and local health organizations can also help prevent youth smoking by designing and enforcing policies which discourage representations of tobacco use in movies. All states offer movie producers tax credits or cash rebates to attract movie production to their states, and limiting eligibility for state subsidies to tobacco free-movies is a strategy which could be added to state tobacco control programs. Other policy recommendations include certifying no payments for showing tobacco use and eliminating tobacco brands in movies.

Removing imagery which glorifies smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products is vital to reducing the use of these harmful products by youth. If all major motion picture companies adopt anti-tobacco policies and limit youth exposure to smoking, it will have a significant impact on the health and well being of adolescents by preventing tobacco addiction and tobacco-related disease.

Jenna Frkovich
Tobacco Control Team

Posted by: Brian McCue at 12:00 AM
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