American Public Health Association (APHA)

May 2021 AJPH Issue Tackles Asthmatic Results to Power Plant Closures, Cannabis for Harm Reduction, COVID Risks at Homeless Shelters and Pandemic Measures

To request a full copy of any of these studies or for information on scheduling interviews with an expert, contact APHA Media Relations.

American Journal of Public Health May issue highlights:

  • Coal-fired power plant closures tied to fewer asthma ER visits for kids
  • Many who use illicit drugs turn to cannabis for harm reduction
  • Bed setup, testing access can reduce COVID-19 risks at homeless shelters
  • Support for pandemic measures varies by age, partisanship, trust in science

Coal-fired power plant closures tied to fewer asthma ER visits for kids

Closing coal-fired power plants can lead to better respiratory health among young children, according to a new study in the May issue of AJPH.

To conduct the study, researchers analyzed data on wind, population, fine particulate air pollution, and asthma-related emergency department visits by ZIP code. The data included children ages 0 to 4 years old in Chicago between 2009 and 2017, and zeroed in on neighborhoods near three coal-fired power plants before and after their closures. Prior studies have shown a positive link between childhood respiratory issues and exposure to air pollution.

The new AJPH study found that asthma-related emergency department visits among young children decreased by 12% in ZIP codes near the three power plants after their closures, compared to ZIP codes farther away from the shuttered plants. More specifically, emergency department visits went down by more than 35 visits per 10,000 children ages 0 to 4.

“Young children, especially low-income and minority children living near operational power plants, are particularly susceptible and vulnerable to the consequences of exposure to air pollution,” the study stated. “Thus, public health may have much to gain from coal-fired power plant closures.”

[Author contact: Sarah Komisarow, Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, Durham, North Carolina. “The Effect of Coal-Fired Power Plant Closures on Emergency Department Visits for Asthma-Related Conditions Among 0- to 4-Year-Old Children in Chicago, 2009-2017”]

Many who use illicit drugs turn to cannabis for harm reduction

Cannabis use is a common harm reduction strategy among people who use illicit drugs, finds a new study in May’s AJPH.

Using data from three prospective cohort studies of marginalized people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada, researchers focused how many used cannabis for harm reduction purposes, which was defined as using it as a substitute for drugs such as heroin, cocaine or alcohol; using it to treat withdrawal symptoms; or using cannabis to help come down off another drug.

Overall, the study found that about one in four people who used cannabis said they did so for harm reduction purposes at least once during the study period, which spanned from June 2016 to May 2018. The most frequent reasons people used cannabis for harm reduction were as substitutes for stimulants and illicit opioids.

Authors noted that in light of the nation’s ongoing opioid addiction crisis, the use of cannabis-related harm reduction strategies should garner more study.

“Further research may allow for a better understanding of circumstances under which individuals choose this harm-reduction strategy,” they wrote. “These insights may contribute to public health–based strategies to address drug-related harms or regulate licit medical and recreational cannabis systems.”

[Author contact: M. Eugenia Socías, British Columbia Centre on Substance Abuse, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “Use of Cannabis for Harm Reduction Among People at High Risk for Overdose in Vancouver, Canada (2016-2018)”]

Bed setup, testing access can reduce COVID-19 risks at homeless shelters

Factors such as sleeping arrangements and on-site medical services can help control the spread of COVID-19 in homeless shelters, according to a new study in May’s AJPH.

Researchers analyzed data from site assessments reported from 63 homeless shelters in seven urban areas in the U.S. Data included information on both shelter characteristics and infection prevention practices, such as staffing policies and face mask use. They found that shelters practicing head-to-toe sleeping — or setting up the beds so that a person’s head lies opposite his or her neighbor’s feet — were also less likely to experience high COVID-19 infection prevalence.

In addition, shelters that made symptomatic staff stay home were also less likely to experience high COVID-19 prevalence, when compared to shelters that let symptomatic staff keep working. Shelters with on-site medical services, including COVID-19 testing, were also less likely to have very high COVID-19 prevalence.

“These data show that universal testing at homeless shelters can identify high prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, even in areas with low incidence of COVID-19, and shelters have adopted a range of infection prevention practices,” researchers wrote.

[Author contact: Julie L. Self, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. “Shelter Characteristics, Infection Prevention Practices, and Universal Testing for SARS-CoV-2 at Homeless Shelters in 7 US Urban Areas”]

Support for pandemic measures varies by age, partisanship, trust in science

As of last November, most Americans still supported mask wearing and contact tracing, with differences most pronounced according to age, partisanship and trust in science, finds new research published in May’s AJPH.

The study is based on data from three waves of a nationally representative survey — the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Civic Life and Public Health Survey — which gathered information from U.S. adults last April, July and November. Researchers found that support for social distancing dropped from 89% in April to 79% in July and 78% in November. In July and November, over three-quarters still supported wearing face masks and about as many supported contact tracing.

However, researchers found sizeable differences by age, partisanship and trust in science. For example, in November, the support gap between Democrats and Republicans was 28 percentage points for contact tracing. The support gap for mask wearing between adults who trusted in science a lot and those who did not was 46 percentage points. Having a more fluid worldview was also associated with higher support for contact tracing.

Young adults reported much lower support for measures such as mask wearing and contact tracing than people older than 50.

“Developing persuasive communication efforts targeting young adults, political conservatives, and those distrusting science should be a critical priority,” the authors wrote.

[Author contact: Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland “Support for Social Distancing, Mask Wearing, and Contact Tracing to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic in a National Cohort of US Adults in April, July, and November 2020”]

Check out the full list of AJPH research papers that published online in our First Look area.

 

These articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. AJPH is published by the American Public Health Association and is available at ajph.org.

 

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to APHA Media Relations. A single print issue of the Journal is available for $35 from the Journal’s Subscriptions Department. If you are not a member of the press, a member of APHA or a subscriber, online single-issue access is $30, and online single-article access is $22 at AJPH.org. For direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email us.

 

To stay up-to-date on the latest in public health research, sign up for new content email alerts.

 

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APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence policy to improve the public's health.



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13-Jun-2021 12:05 PM EDT
COVID-19 Pandemic Drinking: Increases Among Women, Black Adults, and People with Children
Research Society on Alcoholism

Risky drinking has been a public health concern in the U.S. for decades, but the significant increase in retail alcohol sales following COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders in particular raised red flags for alcohol researchers. New research has assessed changes in alcohol drinking patterns from before to after the enactment of stay-at-home orders. These results and others will be shared at the 44th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), which will be held virtually this year from the 19th - 23rd of June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

13-Jun-2021 1:05 PM EDT
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Alcohol Consumption Is Far From ‘One Size Fits All’
Research Society on Alcoholism

An ongoing analysis of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol and related outcomes shows that COVID-related stressors experienced by study participants – including work-, financial-, and family-related stressors – are having a varied impact on individuals with and without alcohol use disorders (AUDs). These results will be shared at the 44th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), which will be held virtually this year from the 19th - 23rd of June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newswise:Video Embedded newswise-expert-panels-on-covid-19-pandemic-notable-excerpts-quotes-and-videos-available
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Released: 18-Jun-2021 2:10 PM EDT
Newswise Expert Panels on COVID-19 Pandemic: Notable excerpts, quotes and videos available
Newswise

Newswise is hosting a series of Expert Panels discussion on unique aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This tip sheet includes some notable quotes from the panelists.

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Embargo will expire: 23-Jun-2021 8:00 AM EDT Released to reporters: 18-Jun-2021 11:00 AM EDT

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Released: 18-Jun-2021 8:55 AM EDT
VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPT AVAILABLE: Vaccines and Male Fertility Event for June 17, 2021
Newswise

This upcoming JAMA-published study examined whether the COVID-19 vaccine impacts male fertility.

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Released: 18-Jun-2021 7:05 AM EDT
Teamwork saves lives: COVID-19 hospital network shares key findings to improve care
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Data sharing among 40 Michigan hospitals about the care and outcomes for thousands of inpatients with COVID-19 has led to reduced variation and findings that could inform care anywhere, including approaches for preventing blood clots and reducing overuse of antibiotics, as well as a risk prediction tool.

Released: 18-Jun-2021 7:05 AM EDT
One-third of older Americans delayed health care over COVID concerns
Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan

Nearly one in three Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 put off an in-person appointment for medical care in 2020 because they were worried about exposure to the novel coronavirus, new national poll data show.

Released: 17-Jun-2021 4:15 PM EDT
UNC Researchers Lead Study of Diabetes Treatment of COVID-19 Patients
University of North Carolina School of Medicine

Diabetes is one of the comorbidities most strongly associated with severe COVID-19 in the US, and data from early in the pandemic suggested individuals with type 2 diabetes faced twice the risk of death from COVID-19 and a greater risk of requiring hospitalization and intensive care. A new study shows best treatment options.

Released: 17-Jun-2021 4:10 PM EDT
Vaccination, Previous Infection, Protect Against COVID-19 gamma/P.1 Variant in Animal Model
University of Wisconsin-Madison

In a new study using variant virus recovered from one of the original travelers, researchers in the U.S. and Japan have found that vaccination with an mRNA vaccine induces antibody responses that would protect humans from infection with the gamma/P.1 variant.


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