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PHI in the News

The case for raising the alcohol tax

December 13, 2018 | German Lopez | Vox

The death toll of excessive drinking is higher than deaths due to guns, cars, drug overdoses, or HIV/AIDS have ever been in a single year in the U.S. Research shows that a higher alcohol tax would reduce drinking, saving thousands of lives and preventing crime and public health problems. Yet alcohol taxes have decreased over the past few decades, due to tax cuts but particularly because taxes haven't kept up with inflation, according to this Vox article, which cites a 2013 study by PHI's Alcohol Research Group (ARG) on alcohol costs relative to people’s income.

"Following Prohibition, taxes were put on that were pretty substantial, especially on liquor but on beer and wine as well,” said ARG's William Kerr. “But starting in the ’60s, the updates didn’t happen, either federally or [in the] states. And starting in the late ’60s and especially in the ’70s, there was really high inflation. So that was the transition from high taxes to lower.”  more

Report Warns Climate Change Will Affect Health, Especially for Most Vulnerable Populations

December 12, 2018 | Claudia Boyd-Barrett | California Health Report

After a recent state report found that Californians are likely to experience more physical and mental health problems, injuries and death in the coming decades as a result climate change, PHI's Linda Rudolph said,  “We really are talking about catastrophic health consequences… It’s an existential question for humanity.” Rudolph, who heads up the Center for Climate Change and Health, added that many strategies for lowering carbon emissions improve people’s health at the same time.  more

Sweltering in Nursing Home, 95-Year-Old Succumbs to Heat, as Climate Endangers Most Vulnerable

December 09, 2018 | Molly Peterson | KQED

A deadly and growing threat to nursing home patients that remains overlooked is extreme heat--even as climate change makes extreme weather patterns more likely and severe, according to this KQED story. Climate change raises real questions about how ready our healthcare system is for more frequent hazards, says Linda Rudolph, the director of PHI's Center for Climate Change and Health.

“We need to take a look at our planning, and our local and state laws and regulations to make sure that every school, every skilled nursing facility, every nursing home, and every hospital have plans in place that are based on what we know is in the forecast for these extreme and prolonged heat events.”  more

The Power of Public-Private Partnerships to Foster Health Through Innovation

December 05, 2018 | Elissa Lee | U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Channel Kindness image5Earlier this year, PHI, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center and the American Heart Association hosted a Health Learning Tour in Los Angeles, California, that brought together business leaders and other industry experts to explore practical and profitable opportunities that help drive community health and wellbeing while driving growth, performance, competitiveness, and innovation. This article summarizes the key takeaways from the tour. PHI President and CEO Mary A. Pittman, who was the keynote speaker for the event, noted the need to address health disparities: “We are here today because we are sick to death that our communities are sick to death.”  more

Government is 'Limited' in Spurring Telehealth Innovation, says Expert

November 28, 2018

Mei Kwong, the executive director of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), said in an episode of "Boundless" that aired Wednesday that the government is limited in what it can do to promote telehealth policy. "With the government, both on the federal and state level, what they can do with telehealth policy that will help spur innovation and competition as a result of that will be to expand some of the policies around telehealth," Mei Kwong told Hill.TV.  more

CMS Gives Telehealth a Nudge With Coverage for Virtual Check-Ins

November 05, 2018 | Eric Wicklund | mHealth Intelligence

Last week’s release of The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program offered good news for providers looking to implement telemedicine for virtual check-ins. While much of the attention was focused on expanded reimbursement for remote patient monitoring services, an overlooked section of the 2,378-page document detailed Medicare coverage for “Brief Communication Technology-Based Service” (HCPCS code G2012). Simply put, this new code gives providers an opportunity to use telehealth to check in with their patients at certain times on care management issues. PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy was quoted in this article.   more

5 Surprising Ways In Which Telemedicine Is Revolutionizing Healthcare

November 02, 2018 | Shourjya Sanyal | Forbes

“Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery,” said PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP). CCHP further classify telehealth into four types of services, live-video conferencing, mobile health, remote patient monitoring, and store-and-forward. Most telehealth platforms provide one or more of these services, to a niche patient or consumer segment. Here are five surprising ways that telemedicine is revolutionizing healthcare.   more

Investigation Finds Home Can Be the Most Dangerous Place in a Heat Wave

October 24, 2018 | Molly Peterson | KQED

Image result for kqed logoHeat is one of the top public health threats from climate change, according to the state of California. The illnesses and deaths that result from it are preventable. But where people spend the majority of their time, at home, no right to cooling is guaranteed. Public officials around the Bay Area are still figuring out how to warn people and how to respond to heat—both as an extreme event, and as an emerging health threat.

PHI's Linda Rudolph spoke with KQED about the public health impacts of a rising climate.  more

CCHP Report Shows States Are Still Looking For Value in Telehealth

October 24, 2018 | Eric Wicklund | mHealthIntelligence

This article in mHealthIntelligence examines the latest edition of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy's State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Report, finding that little has changed in the connected health market in the last year. CCHP's report, the 16th update since it was first released in 2013, finds “very little movement” in the number of states reimbursing through Medicaid for live video, asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth or remote patient monitoring, with video-based virtual care still the most popular. What the report did find, though, is that states are tweaking their guidelines to either remove specific barriers or define specific places or uses for which telehealth and telemedicine is allowed and funded.  more

Extreme Heat Killed 14 People in the Bay Area Last Year. 11 Takeaways From Our Investigation

October 17, 2018 | Molly Peterson | KQED

Even in cool, coastal California, extreme heat sickens and kills people. In 2017, extreme heat killed 14 people in the Bay Area. Over Labor Day weekend, six alone died in San Francisco. The heat also sent hundreds more to the hospital. In July, August, and September this summer, KQED measured heat in 31 homes, in four counties, across the state, and found that in every home, it was hotter inside than outside -- even after the sun went down -- depriving people of the ability to cool off at night. Within two decades, scientists predict extremely hot days in the Bay Area three to four times more often than in recent years. Climate-driven heat isn’t simply sending more people to hospitals. It’s changing our relationships to the built environment, through big decisions and little ones. And as systems evolve, Californians are mostly on their own as they try to cope with a familiar, but growing, danger.

  more

Seniors: Arthritis, Depression … and Cannabis

October 12, 2018 | Chris Conrad | The Leaf Online

The link between depression, arthritis, and cannabis is part of the generational turn-around that could lead to greater margins of victory for cannabis at the election polls. Research by PHI's Alcohol Research Group was quoted that assessed trends in marijuana use between the years 1984 and 2015. Authors reported that, compared with older Americans 30 years ago, older respondents today are some 20 times more likely to acknowledge using cannabis. This suggests the stigma of cannabis from drug war propaganda has been eroded and education is reaching seniors. “We found that rates of use among older groups increased quite significantly since the 1980s, especially for men in their fifties and sixties,” the study’s lead author stated in a press release. Their finding is consistent with those of other studies reporting upticks in cannabis use by seniors.  more

Questions and Answers About Virtual Health Care

October 12, 2018 | Ann Carrns | The New York Times

As the annual open enrollment season for health benefits gets underway, more large employers are offering services that let patients consult doctors who are in a separate location, using technology like secure video chats or remote monitoring. About three-quarters of large firms that offer health insurance now cover such “telemedicine,” a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found. That is up from 27 percent three years ago.

“It has not quite hit the mainstream yet,” said Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of virtual technologies in health care. It’s hard for some people to break out of the tradition of going to a doctor’s office, Ms. Kwong said. Some people simply may not know the services are available or how they work. She said offering demonstrations of the technology might be helpful. “Seeing is believing, for a lot of folks,” Ms. Kwong said.  more

Maps are Powerful Tools for Revealing Health Disparities

September 26, 2018 | Anna Maria Barry-Jester | Originally published in Center for Health Journalism

One of the underlying philosophies of the social determinants of health is that place matters. The conditions of the neighborhood you grow up in, the air you breathe, and the job opportunities you have can have a profound impact on how long and how well you live, and these things are frequently experienced by communities, not just individuals. Maps can be profound tools for telling stories about public health. PHI's California Environmental Health Tracking Program and their data on agricultural pesticide use were cited in the article.  more

Now that recreational marijuana is legal, what should advertising look like?

September 18, 2018 | Michell Eloy | KCRW

Photo by Michell Eloy/KCRWIn California and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, most TV and radio ads for cannabis are not an option, since it is still illegal at the federal level, and online platforms like Facebook and Google also don't allow the ads. This story by KCRW in Los Angeles examines the current temporary regulations in California that seek to further limit children's exposure to cannabis marketing—and whether those regulations should be taken a step further.

The piece includes an interview with PHI's Dr. Lynn Silver, who leads our Getting it Right from the Start: Local Regulation of Recreational Marijuana project, who says she wants to see even stronger regulations in California to protect young people, namely by adding a warning to any billboard, poster or product that a child might see.  more

Hospitals Take Aim at ‘The Greatest Health Threat of the 21st Century’

September 14, 2018 | Justine Calma | Grist

One of the larger themes at this week’s massive Global Climate Action Summit taking place in San Francisco is the relationship between climate change and human health. Healthcare institutions representing more than 17,000 hospitals and clinics across more than two dozen countries agreed to slash four coal plants’ worth of carbon emissions from their operations each year. The initiative, led by the Global Climate and Health Forum, calls climate change “the greatest health threat of the 21st century. ” PHI and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, for which PHI is the secretariat, were among the host organizations for the forum.

“Our biggest hope is that the summit will serve to mobilize people in the health sector around the world to really step up and take action,” says Linda Rudolph, who heads PHI’s Center for Climate Change and Health and the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance.  more

Sacramento Is Making Urban Agriculture a Way of Life

September 12, 2018 | Heather Gehlert | Civil Eats

Photo courtesy of BMSG.As the food movement gains strength and farm-to-fork practices become increasingly popular, many cities across the United States are investing in urban agriculture, both to attract tourists and to improve community health. Yet few places have been more vocal in their efforts to expand urban agriculture as Sacramento, California. Heather Gehlert from PHI's Berkeley Media Studies Group explains in this Civil Eats article that instead of focusing primarily on food, advocates there are working to highlight the people who grow and sell it—and to make sure that everyone benefits equally from the area’s bounty.   more

Is it True That Weed Addiction Is Becoming a Problem?

August 21, 2018 | Elizabeth King | Brit + Co

In recent years there has been a rise in the total number of adults using marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes, and an increasing number of states have legalized use in some form or another. This Brit + Co article exploring the evidence on cannabis addiction cites a 2017 study from PHI's Alcohol Research Group, which found that recent increases in use among American adults were not specifically associated with the legalization of medicinal or recreational marijuana.

“Our findings suggest that US society has become more tolerant and accepting of marijuana use and less concerned with risks, which has led to broader use,” said Dr. William Kerr, ARG's senior scientist.  more

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

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