TIME Addiction

A New Government Anti-Smoking Campaign Includes E-Cigs

Past campaigns have increased calls to quitlines by 80%

A new federal ad campaign against smoking features e-cigarettes for the first time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest ad in its ongoing “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign. The campaign features real Americans who have experienced serious health or social consequences from smoking. Often the ads are explicit. On March 30, the first ad about e-cigarettes, as opposed to traditional tobacco, will air.

The ad features a 35-year-old woman named Kristy who picked up e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking. She ended up using both products. Eventually she had a collapsed lung and was diagnosed with lung disease. She’s a married mother of three who works as a truck driver.

Kristy's Tip Print Full Page Ad
CDC

“Nationally, about 3 in 4 adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes,” the CDC says in a statement. “If you only cut down the number of cigarettes you smoke by adding another tobacco product, like e-cigarettes, you still face serious health risks.”

Other ads focus on side effects like vision loss and colorectal cancer.

In 2014, the CDC says the national quit line received 80% more calls when the ads were on the air, and since 2012 the ads have generated more than 500,000 additional calls. The ads will run for 20 weeks on TV, radio, online, billboards, in theaters and in magazines and newspapers. Kristy’s ads will be on the radio and in print.

The ads encourage smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit www.cdc.gov/tips.

Read next: These 4D Ultrasound Photos Show How Fetuses Respond to Their Mothers’ Smoking

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TIME Research

High Blood Pressure Related Deaths Are Way Up: CDC

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Hypertension is a factor in many U.S. deaths

Deaths related to high blood pressure, have risen significantly over the last 13 years, according to new federal data.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics shows the number of hypertension-related deaths increased 61.8%, from 2000 to 2013. The researchers analyzed national cause-of-death data files and defined hypertension-related death as any mention of hypertension on the death certificate. They found that over the 13 year period, the rate rose for both sexes age 45 and older.

But report also found that the proportion of deaths where heart disease was the underlying cause of death dropped by about 6%. The proportion of deaths where stroke was the underlying cause also dropped by about 5%.

“In the areas we’ve been focusing on for the last two to three decades we really have seen a reduction in deaths,” says Dr. Clyde Yancy chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The lens has to increase now. This is an important message to get out that there are multiple reasons you want to get rid of hypertension, not just reducing stroke and heart disease, but minimizing the impact on diabetes and reducing your risk for cancer.” Yancy was not involved in the research.

While it is generally accepted that high blood pressure can lead to heart-related problems, studies have also shown links between hypertension and other chronic diseases. For instance, prior data has shown that hypertension can increase the risk of dying from cancer and developing the disease in the first place. The researchers report that heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes accounted for 65% of all the deaths with a mention of hypertension in 2000 and 54% in 2013.

Overall, the report shows that one out of six hypertension-related deaths was due to high blood pressure as the underlying cause. In the other deaths, high blood pressure was listed as a contributing factor.

TIME public health

Scathing Report Calls Lab Safety at CDC ‘Insufficient’

The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.
Tami Chappell – Reuters The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.

A new public report from outside experts assessing laboratory safety at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes down severely on the government agency.

In 2014 and early 2015, the CDC was the site of a series of mishaps, from a lab technician the agency thought was potentially exposed to live Ebola virus through an accidental tube swap to the possible release of anthrax. In response, the agency formed an external laboratory safety workgroup to assess the CDC’s internal protocols and provide advice and recommendations. The CDC just publically posted the report, which describes the CDC’s commitment to safety as “inconsistent and insufficient at multiple levels,” to its website.

“Safety is not integrated into strategic planning and is not currently part of the CDC culture, enterprise-wide,” the report says. “Interviews and surveys demonstrated that many employees neither understand the agency’s response to accidents nor how that information is communicated to the larger agency community outside immediately affected labs.”

The authors write that “disturbingly” many of these responses were among people who work in the CDC’s highest biosafety level labs. “Laboratory safety training is inadequate,” the report authors write, adding that across the CDC, workers say they fear negative repercussions for reporting instances where there may have been an exposure to hazardous material. Staff at the CDC view the Environment, Safety, and Health Compliance Office (ESHCO)—the office meant to protect CDC workers and create a safe working environment—as having “inadequate expertise” in lab safety, the report says.

The report makes recommendations, like “staffing [ESHCO] with scientists with professional qualifications in research and/or laboratory safety” and establishing consistent safety practices across the agency.

“CDC concurs with these recommendations, has made progress towards implementing them, and will soon report on that progress,” the CDC says in a statement on its website. “CDC’s aim is to improve the culture of laboratory safety across the agency and minimize the risks associated with laboratory work.”

“It should be noted that although the [workgroup] presented its findings to the full committee in January, it began its review of CDC’s laboratories last August and did the bulk of its assessment at CDC in August and September,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told TIME. “So the said report reflects observations of the workgroup made several months ago.”

Skinner the CDC has made progress, and is implementing actions to “address the root causes of recent incidents and to provide redundant safeguards across the agency.” Some of these changes include establishing new positions for lab safety oversight and implementing new training procedures and safety protocols.

TIME Cancer

66% of People Diagnosed with Cancer Survive At Least 5 Years

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Two out of three people with invasive cancer survive five years or more

Two out of three Americans with invasive cancer—the kind that has spread to nearby healthy tissue—are living five years or more after diagnosis, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Data has shown that early detection and innovation in cancer treatment have increased the number of cancer survivors over the last several years, and the new report, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows that even patients with invasive cancer have encouraging survival rates.

To reach these numbers, CDC researchers looked at the number of cancer cases reported to U.S. cancer registries in 2011, the year of the most recently available data. That year saw 1,532,066 invasive cancer cases, or 451 cases per 100,000 people.

The CDC reports that the most common cancer sites were prostate, breast, lung, and colon and rectum. The five-year survival rates for those cancers came out to 97% for prostate cancer, 88% for breast cancer, 63% for colorectal cancer and 18% for lung cancer. While the rates were relatively even among men and women, racial disparities existed; 65% of white people had a five-year relative survival rate, and 60% of black people had the same.

In the report, the researchers say they hope public health experts use the data to determine what groups of people have higher rates of cancer and lower rates of survival. These groups may benefit most from cancer control efforts. “Using these data to effectively develop comprehensive cancer control programs, including supporting the needs of cancer survivors, can help reduce cancer incidence and improve survival,” the authors write.

TIME Addiction

Heroin-Related Deaths Have Quadrupled in America

New federal data reports bad news for America's heroin problem

Correction appended, March 5

Heroin-related deaths nearly tripled in the U.S. within just three years and quadrupled in 13, according to new federal data.

The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that from 2000 to 2013, drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased fourfold, from 0.7 deaths per 100,000 people to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate was about four times higher among men than among women in 2013.

Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths have increased in all age groups, races and ethnic groups, the data show. Every region in the U.S. also experienced an increase, and the Midwest experienced the biggest jump.

One reason for the spike is America’s growing painkiller problem. The NCHS released another report last month showing that significantly more people over age 20 are using opioids. The number of people who used a painkiller stronger than morphine increased from 17% to 37% from the early 2000s to about a decade later.

CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.

People who are hooked on painkillers may make the switch to heroin since it’s cheaper and doesn’t need a prescription, according to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the chief medical officer of the Phoenix House, a national nonprofit drug and alcohol-rehabilitation organization. Both drugs come from the opium poppy and therefore offer a similar high. “We are seeing heroin deaths sky rocketing because we have an epidemic of people addicted to opioids. There are new markets like suburbs where heroin didn’t used to exist,” says Kolodny. (He was not involved in the research.)

MORE Why You Don’t Know About the Heroin Vaccine

Prior data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that painkillers are a growing problem. In 2014, the CDC reported that physicians wrote 259 million painkiller prescription in a single year — the equivalent of a bottle of pills per American — and almost 50 Americans die every day from a prescription-painkiller overdose. The agency recommends that states run prescription-drug prescribing databases to track overprescribing and consider policies that reduce risky prescribing practices.

As states and the White House struggle to tackle opioid addiction, some experts are skeptical about whether such efforts are enough to solve the problem. “We are dealing with the worst drug epidemic in our history,” says Kolodny. “There’s no evidence it’s plateauing.”

Read next: Ohio Steps Up Fight Against Heroin Deaths

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the timeline of the U.S. heroin-related death rate.

TIME Addiction

America’s Pain Killer Problem is Growing, Federal Data Shows

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New data shows America's use of opioids hasn't declined

New federal data released Wednesday reveals the state of America’s pain killer use.

According to the numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the percentage of adults age 20 and over using prescription pain killers remains significantly higher than in the past, with people also taking stronger painkillers than before. Between 2011–2012, nearly 7% of adults reported using a prescription opioid analgesic in the past 30 days, compared to 5% in 2003-2006.

MORE: The Problem With Treating Pain in America

The report also shows that when comparing data from 1999–2002 with 2011–2012, the number of prescription pain killer users who took a medication stronger than morphine increased from 17.0% to 37%. Given the growth of pain killer addiction and related deaths, high usage makes many public health experts uneasy. Prior data from the CDC has also shown that nearly 50 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers every day.

In 2014, the CDC found that doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain killers in a single year, which is enough for every U.S. adult to have a bottle of pills.

The new data shows that women are more likely than men to be using prescription pain killers. Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to use opioid analgesics than Hispanic adults. There was no difference between non-Hispanic white adults and non-Hispanic black adults.

MORE: Why You’ve Never Heard of the Vaccine For Heroin Addiction

As TIME has recently reported, the growing opioid addiction problem is seeding a heroin problem. Since both drugs come from the opioid poppy, they offer similar highs, but heroin, while illegal, is cheaper and doesn’t require a prescription. As states across the nation face opioid issues, the CDC will continue to recommend states step up to the task of keeping an eye on prescribing practices. Some strategies recommended by the CDC are implementing state-run databases that track prescriptions in order to determine any over-prescribing problems as well as introducing policies that discourage risky prescribing among pain clinics.

TIME medicine

Why Doctors Should Start Prescribing Downward Dog

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Complementary medicine is gaining traction with adults and kids alike

Americans are slowly but surely embracing complementary medicine—alternative practices to go with standard treatment—according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Two new surveys show that while the overall use of complementary health approaches has remained relatively stable over the years at 34%, certain types are rapidly gaining popularity, especially yoga. Other common complementary practices are taking dietary supplements, doing tai chi and qi gong, meditating and getting chiropractic care.

More and more children are also doing yoga, the survey finds, and they typically use it for ailments like back or neck pain, nerve conditions and anxiety. Interestingly, the majority of children didn’t just practice yoga for exercise, but for meditation and deep breathing. Other new research is showing that when kids practice mindfulness and meditation, they gain a range of health benefits from more self-control to higher math scores.

“The low cost and the ability to practice in one’s own home may contribute to yoga’s growing popularity,” the authors write. “Furthermore, public school systems are beginning to incorporate yoga into their fitness programs, which may accelerate use by children in the future.”

Even though many complementary practices are ancient in other countries, it’s still relatively new in the United States. Medical institutions are increasingly willing to meet patients halfway with therapies that won’t cause harm, as long as practices are safe and don’t ignore the need for conventional medicine and pharmaceuticals when necessarily. In January 2014, the Cleveland Clinic opened a Chinese herbal therapy clinic, and experts at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota say the appetite for more integrative medicine in the hospital setting is growing. “Acupuncture is a huge practice [here],” says Dr. Brent Baur, director of the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. “Right now our demand for acupuncture outstrips our ability to meet that demand probably three to one. We can’t even come close to keeping up.”

“I think [interest] is being propelled by economics because our health care system is in such desperate trouble,” says Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a pioneer of integrative medicine in the U.S. “The great promise of integrative medicine is that it can lower costs while increasing outcomes. It does that by emphasizing lifestyle medicine and by bringing into the mainstream techniques that do not involve expensive technology.”

In a World Health Organization survey of 129 countries, 80% recognize the use of acupuncture. The U.S. may be catching up; other research shows that about four in 10 U.S. adults and one in nine kids use some form of complementary and alternative medicine.

TIME Infectious Disease

Georgia Gets First Case of Measles in 3 Years

National case numbers reach over 120

Georgia’s Department of Public Health confirmed on Monday that the state has its first case of measles since 2012.

An infant who traveled to Atlanta from outside the country is now being treated for the disease at Egleston Hospital at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

State officials, the hospital, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Prevention (CDC) are working together to identify other people who may have been exposed to the disease.

According to the health department, over 98% of incoming kindergarteners in the state have received all their school-mandated shots, including the full two doses of the measles vaccine.

New numbers released by the CDC on Monday show there are currently 121 cases of measles from 17 states, an outbreak which reportedly began at a Disneyland resort in southern California.

“We don’t need to be alarmists. We need to be aware,” said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement. “What happened in Disneyland is an alert that we live in a world now in which international travel is very common and frequent, and diseases are only hours away.”

 

TIME Infectious Disease

Millennials More Likely to Say Vaccines Are a Parent’s Choice

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41% of people aged between 18 and 29 agreed parents should decide on vaccinations — far higher than other age groups

Most Americans agree that vaccines are a really good thing for public health, but a new poll shows that people aged between 18 and 29 are most likely to say vaccines should be a parental choice instead of a requirement.

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 68% of American adults across all age groups believe vaccines should be mandatory and 30% say it should be up to parents to decide.

But young adults are the most likely to agree with the latter statement, with about 41% of people age 18 to 29 saying parents should be the ones to decide whether or not to vaccinate their child. Among adults age 65 and older, only 20% feel this way.

Pew says one reason older adults are far likelier to be in support of mandatory vaccinations is that they remember what it was like when some of these infectious diseases, like the measles, were prevalent. Measles was considered eliminated in the United States in 2000, thanks to high rates of immunizations.

Health officials say the recent outbreak of measles in the U.S.—which has infected 102 people—is spreading due to parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids.

MORE: Feds Say Measles Outbreak Tops 100 Cases

While the public may be slightly more split on the issue—though the large majority support vaccines—physicians are not so split. A separate poll released on Monday by the physician social network community SERMO showed 92% of physicians say the current measles outbreak is directly attributable to parents not vaccinating their kids, and 72% believe unvaccinated kids should not be allowed in public schools.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 102 cases in the month of January. To put that into perspective, that’s about the number of cases the U.S. experiences in a typical year. In 2014, the U.S. had its highest number of reported cases of measles at 600.

TIME Infectious Disease

Feds Say Measles Outbreak Tops 100 Cases

Carmen Lopez, Charles Goodman
Damian Dovarganes—AP Pediatrician Dr. Charles Goodman talks with Carmen Lopez, who is holding her 18-month-old son Daniel after being vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, at his practice in Northridge, Calif., on Jan. 29, 2015

The majority of people with the disease were not vaccinated

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has reached 102, according to new numbers released on Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Between Jan. 1 to Jan. 30, 102 cases of the measles were reported to the CDC from 14 different states. The majority of the cases are from an ongoing outbreak linked to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. The CDC says the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.

“It’s only January and we have already had a very large number of measles cases — as many cases as we have all year in typical years,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service said in a press conference last Thursday. “This worries me, and I want to do everything possible to prevent measles from getting a foothold in the United States and becoming endemic again.”

Medical officials have not yet determined how this year’s outbreak began, but the CDC says measles were likely brought over by travelers from overseas. The people infected in the current outbreak have exposed others at the amusement park as well as schools, day cares, emergency departments, airplanes and outpatient clinics, the CDC says. In 2014, the U.S. had the highest number of measles cases reported in over 20 years, at over 600 cases.

The U.S. declared measles eliminated in the country in 2000, meaning it was no longer a disease native to the U.S. Strong immunization rates will keep it that way, which makes parents who do not vaccinate their children a concern to health officials.

A recent poll showed 92% of physicians believe the current outbreak is directly attributable to parents not vaccinating their kids, and 72% believe unvaccinated kids should not be allowed in public schools.

The measles vaccine, called MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), is nearly 100% effective at preventing measles, which is a highly contagious disease. In kids measles can cause serious complications like pneumonia, long-term brain damage and deafness.

The CDC recommends all kids get two doses of MMR vaccine; the first at age 12 through 15 months and the second at 4 through 6 years. Adults who are unsure whether they got the vaccine should get one, says the agency, since there is no harm in getting it a second time. On Friday, the White House urged parents to listen to health professionals on vaccinations.

Read next: Christie Says Parents Should Have a Choice on Measles Vaccine

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