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PHI in the News

Short of breath? Chest pains? Smoke-related health impacts from Holy fire felt across Southern California

August 10, 2018 | Laylan Connelly and Martin Wisckol | The Orange County Register

In Southern California the Holy fire has burned more than 18,000 acres, leaving unhealthy levels of smoke lingering in the air. Wildfire smoke can travel long distances and is laden with particulate matter, which triggers asthma and worsens lung and heart disease, says Dr. Linda Rudolph, director of PHI's Center for Climate Change and Health, in this Orange County Register article.  more

Pollution Makes the Personal Political

August 08, 2018 | Ada Statler | Sierra Magazine

At the age of 19, Jose Gurrola ran for city council in his hometown of Arvin, CA, and won. Gurrola, who has had asthma for as long as he can remember, wanted a lot of things for the city, but more than anything, he wanted to clean up the air in an area surrounded by agricultural operations and oil production. This profile of Gurrola's efforts cites a recent report from PHI's California Environmental Health Tracking Program finding that preterm births attributable just to particulate matter pollution cost Kern County, where Arvin is located, over $45 million annually.  more

To understand Philly’s gun violence crisis, in-depth reporting is needed

August 03, 2018 | Jessica Beard and Jim MacMillan | The Philadelphia Inquirer

This op-ed from a trauma surgeon who cares for people injured by guns every day and a journalist with decades of experience reporting on gun violence argues that stories about gun violence are far more complex than the cursory news reports they often receive. In recent years, gun violence has rightly been recognized as a public health problem. The authors highlight the role journalists can play as part of the solution, referencing a recent study from PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group which found that "not enough people recognize that violence is preventable, in large part because of the public discourse around gun violence, which portrays it as extreme and inevitable."   more

Learn Before You Leap: The Catalytic Power of a Learning Network

July 27, 2018 | David Ehrlichman & David Sawyer | Stanford Social Innovation Review

There are currently nearly two-dozen multipurpose prevention technology (MPT) products in development—items that simultaneously deliver varied combinations of contraception, HIV prevention, and prevention of other STIs—and MPTs have become widely recognized as a new class of comprehensive prevention products in sexual and reproductive health.

The authors of this deep dive into social sector learning networks say the MPT field could never have advanced this far, or this fast, without the catalytic role of the Initiative for MPTs and the active role that PHI's CAMI Health has played as the network’s secretariat to coordinate activities in the field.  more

“Sin” taxes are less efficient than they look—but they do help improve public health

July 26, 2018 | The Economist

This article on so-called sin taxes—levies on socially harmful products and practices—includes a look at soda taxes, and references PHI's joint study last year with researchers at the University of North Carolina which found that the city of Berkeley's soda tax is working as intended. The study found that after the tax was implemented, sales of sugary drinks fell by almost 10%, while sales of bottled water and other healthier beverages rose.  more

Health Systems Take on Role as Anchor Institutions, Enhance Community Development

July 25, 2018 | Jaime Rosenberg | American Journal of Managed Care

On a recent webcast discussing health systems' role as anchor institutions working to improve the physical, social and economic environments in their region, PHI's Douglas Jutte, executive director of the Build Healthy Places Network, underscored the burden of avoidable chronic disease: "We spend about $3.5 trillion per year on medical care, and what’s worth remembering is that 85% of that is spent on chronic disease.”  more

Photo: Getty/AndreyPopov

CMS physician payment proposal nudges open the door for telehealth

July 16, 2018 | Evan Sweeney | Fierce Healthcare

Telehealth advocates are celebrating a proposed rule released last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that would reimburse physicians for certain virtual interactions, a move that some see as a significant first step in overcoming telehealth payment obstacles and paving the way for using telehealth services for substance abuse treatment. Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy, says the agency had to work around some legal payment restrictions that limit telehealth reimbursements to rural facilities.  more

Are state Medicaid policies helping or hurting telehealth? 7 stats

July 11, 2018 | Julie Spitzer | Becker's Hospital Review

Laws governing reimbursement often stand in the way of telehealth adoption — either hospitals don't want to offer it over confusion about getting paid or patients don't want to use it over confusion as to who pays. However, most state Medicaid programs — 49 states and the District of Columbia — reimburse live video telehealth, according to data from PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy.  more

How can City Hall improve our health? A new push in Pinellas hopes to show the way.

July 11, 2018 | Justine Griffin | Tampa Bay Times

The city of St. Petersburg, Florida, recently announced a Health In All Policies project aimed at getting local officials to think more deeply about the impact of their decisions, large and small, on residents’ well-being. PHI is a national and international leader in the Health in All Policies (HiAP) movement, as this article notes. Our members on the California HiAP Task Force provide consultations on the approach for local communities across the country.  more

Preparing for the health impacts of a fiery future

July 10, 2018 | Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH | The San Bernardino Sun

More than a dozen large wildfires are currently burning in the western U.S., including a blaze in Colorado that has torched more than 23,000 acres. Welcome to the new normal, says Dr. Linda Rudolph, director of PHI's Center for Climate Change and Health. On a warming planet, we are seeing more of the hot, dry conditions that have turned the American West into a tinderbox.

Given the huge public health impacts of wildfires, especially on low-income and marginalized populations, here are some actions we can take to protect our communities.  more

In Public Health, It's Hard To Prove Benefits Of Alcohol — But Easy To Show Its Harms

July 09, 2018 | Christina Mair | WBUR

While the rising opioid epidemic has rightfully received considerable attention in the past five years, the author of this commentary says it is important to remember that alcohol is involved in a greater number of deaths and physical and social problems. The article references the disparities work of scientists Nina Mulia and Sarah Zemore at PHI's Alcohol Research Group, who have found that African-American and Hispanic drinkers in the U.S. experience a greater number of social consequences of drinking than white Americans.  more

The doctor will see you now – online. Virtual house calls offered widely in Sacramento region

June 22, 2018 | Hannah Holzer | The Sacramento Bee

House calls are making a comeback, with a virtual twist: Three of the Sacramento region's four major health providers – Kaiser Permanente, UC Davis Health and now Sutter Health – offer video visits with primary care providers. Telemedicine technology has been adopted rapidly, and health care companies are seeing a growing number of people who are not only willing, but demanding, to consult medical professionals online.

Mei Wa Kwong, head of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy, tells The Sacramento Bee that patients don't have to pay for things like parking if they're doing a home visit or additional fuel costs if they're consulting from a rural hospital. They are also able to take less time away from work, and they are likely to see a provider sooner than if they waited for a face-to-face appointment, meaning they are diagnosed earlier and can be served by less-costly treatments.  more

Officials Say Opioid Overdose Deaths Dropped By Half

June 20, 2018 | Bay City News Service | SFGate

Officials with the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency said recently-released data reveal that the number of opioid overdose deaths decreased by nearly 50 percent in recent years. Officials said they are working with multiple partners to reduce and prevent the misuse of opioids and associated mortality rates through a coalition that's part of the California Opioid Safety Network at the Public Health Institute.  more

Women Around the World Lack Access to Comprehensive Contraception—This is the Solution

June 08, 2018 | Bethany Young Holt | Ms. Magazine

From a young woman in Ethiopia named Gelete to her own college-age daughter, PHI's Bethany Young Holt knows that women across the globe need comprehensive methods they can control and use discreetly to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs like HIV. With the growing STI epidemic in many parts of the world, including in states like California, Young Holt explains in this article for Ms. Magazine why she has been fighting alongside other researchers for nearly three decades to help bring multipurpose prevention technologies—products that deliver varied combinations of HIV prevention, prevention of other STIs and contraception—to market.  more

New study says more than one alcoholic drink a day could shorten your life. Now, what?

May 30, 2018 | Gabriella Boston | The Washington Post

A large study recently published in the journal Lancet says the heart-healthy benefits from moderate drinking are slight, while the risk of stroke and other fatal heart conditions are significant. PHI's William Kerr, senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group, weighs in on the study in this Washington Post article, saying the study can prompt a useful discussion about individual behavior and about drinking guidelines.  more

California could make food more affordable and help farmers; here’s how

May 21, 2018 | Michael Dimock & Eli Zigas | The San Francisco Chronicle

California could lead efforts to make healthy food more affordable for low-income people while also supporting its farmers by renewing and expanding its nutrition incentive program, say PHI's Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, and SPUR Food and Agriculture Policy Director Eli Zigas in this San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

They argue that the nutrition incentive programs have a proven track record of improving nutrition, fighting hunger and supporting farmers—and strengthening them would serve as a stark counterpoint to the federal Farm Bill favored by House Republican leadership in Washington, which would cut millions of Americans from SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).  more

State Medicaid Programs Are Seeing the Value of Telehealth at Home

May 15, 2018 | Eric Wicklund | mHealthIntelligence

In its spring 2018 update of the State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies report, PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy finds that more state programs are reimbursing for telehealth services originating from the patient's home, and that some states have added schools to the list of approved originating sites. It also finds that some 160 telehealth-related bills have been introduced during the 2018 legislative session in 44 states, continuing a digital health trend that saw more than 200 pieces of legislation introduced during the 2017 session.  more

Image: Center for Health Journalism

How one rural California county went from the state’s highest rate of opioid deaths — to zero

May 14, 2018 | Elizabeth Zach | Center for Health Journalism

The national opioid epidemic has been playing out most markedly in remote, rural areas like Plumas County in California, which in recent years had the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in the state despite being the eighth least populous. But the county has seen a dramatic drop in opioid-related deaths recently, a reversal credited in part to a network of regional coalitions tackling the problem across the state. The coalitions were formed by the California Health Care Foundation, and are now part of the California Opioid Safety Network, which is managed by PHI's Center for Health Leadership and Practice.  more

Using less plastic leads to fewer harmful chemicals in the body

May 11, 2018 | Katherine Martinko | TreeHugger

A small new pilot study by PHI's Child Health and Development Studies program, called ReThink Plastic, has found that taking steps to minimize exposure to plastic can reduce the number of these chemicals found in a woman's bloodstream within a fairly short time frame. Many plastics contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals that can enter a person's body through food packaging, receipts, and more, and there is strong evidence linking these chemicals to breast cancer.   more

Virtual doctor visits are getting more popular, but questions remain about who pays

May 06, 2018 | Steven Findlay | The Washington Post

The federal budget law Congress passed in February included a provision that significantly expands the use of telemedicine. The new law allows Medicare to cover telemedicine services for people who have had a stroke and those who get kidney dialysis. It also permits Medicare Advantage plans to offer telemedicine as a covered benefit.

“There’s much broader recognition of the benefits,” Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy told the Washington Post. “The law is the latest to make telemedicine more accessible. But we still have a ways to go before most consumers are aware of the option.”  more

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