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A New Tone for Health Authority?

The Chinese government is taking a softer, more cuddly approach to marketing its one child policy, according to an article in yesterday's Gaurdian. The shift is definitely a sign of changing times for that country, but I think it has an interesting parallel here in the U.S.

From the article: 

What's up Doc? Did you remember to wash your hands?

A couple of years ago, Atul Gawande described in the New Yorker a study designed by Dr. Peter Pronovost of Johns Hopkins in which he implimented a short checklist to see if it could decrease a frequent problem in intesive care units -- intravenous catheter infections.  The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were oustanding; following five simple steps led the rate of catheter related bloodstream infections to drop 66%.The first step was "wash hands with soap."

A recent post on the Nudge blog—hosted by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, authors of the well-known book of the same title—described a different tactic for getting medical personnel to wash their hands: secret agents!

A new iPhone app provides opportunities for grassroots, participatory epidemiology

Outbreaks Near Me enables users to track and report outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as H1N1 (swine flu), on the ground in real time. This new iPhone app is from HealthMap, a website that mines the Internet for disparate data sources of varying reliability—from news sources (such as Google News) to curated personal accounts (such as ProMED) to validated official alerts (such as World Health Organization)—to track and map infectious disease outbreaks.

What You Know Can Kill You

"Smoking can kill you"--it's an old message, but appears as one of several new blunt warning labels on packs of cigarettes along with other much more explicit messages such as "Cigarettes cause cancer." Though the new warning labels are aimed at more directly communicating the health risks of smoking to encourage people to quit, a small study suggests the new labels may have the opposite effect, at least for some smokers who view smoking as a positive aspect of their self-identities.

Drive-Through Medicine

If you get your flu shot from while sitting in your car at some point in the future, don't be surprised. A group of emergency room workers from Stanford tested the idea recently through a simulated trial where approximately 50 cars of volunteers acted out various health scenarios with the hope of helping hospital officials develop plans to triage patients during a pandemic.

Can Twitter be good for public health?

From CNET News, via my colleague, Sean Ness:

Sick City is a new Twitter mashup that tracks people's tweets
about being sick, having sore throats, and other physical maladies. The public health benefit of this? "The tool lets you track these occurrences both by city and each specific ailment. And the stats go back to the last 31 days, which can show you if a certain type of sickness is trending."

Climate change and public health

This Reuters headline--"Climate change seen aiding spread of deadly diseases"--brought back memories of our Green Health map and conference.  In 2003, the World Health Organization published a report on  climate change as a significant and emerging threat to public health, noting that many important diseases (such as malaria and dengue, as well as malnutrition and diarrhea) are highly sensitive to changing temperatures
and precipitation. 

Avon calling . . . to improve health in developing countries?

I came across an organization called LivingGoods--the banner on its website certainly piqued my interest:

But the first sentence in the description of LivingGoods struck me as odd: "Living Goods operates Avon-like networks of door-to-door Health Promoters who make a modest income selling essential health products at prices affordable to the poor." Avon calling? In Africa?

The future of cigarettes?

I don't usually think of Wired as a source of information for the Health Horizons blog, but this recent headline caught my eye: The Cigarette of the Future: All the Cancer, None of the Nicotine." The article considers the evolution of tobacco as envisioned by the FDA's former director of the Office of Tobacco Programs, Mitch Zeller.

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