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PHI in the News

“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

Telemedicine Takes Transgender Care Beyond The City

May 05, 2018 | Keren Landman | NPR

Twenty-two percent of transgender people say they have avoided a doctor or seeking health care out of concern that they would be discriminated against, and many fear discrimination will increase with strengthened protections for doctors and nurses refusing to provide certain care on religious grounds. In rural areas, doctors and nurses competent in transgender care are few and far between, and it can also be a challenge to find providers who offer respectful care for medical issues unrelated to gender identity.

"That is one of the beauties of telehealth," Mei Kwong, executive director of PHI's Center for Connected Health Policy, told NPR in this article that dives into the possibilities of remote video medical consultations. Kwong goes on to say that in communities where everybody knows each other's business, telemedicine adds a level of confidentiality that is particularly beneficial to people with potentially stigmatizing conditions.  more

More older Americans are smoking marijuana

April 25, 2018 | Keith Humphreys | Washington Post

Marijuana consumption in the U.S. is more prevalent today than during the conservative 1980s, but new research shows that the change has been driven by older Americans.

Researchers William Kerr, Camillia Lui and Yu Ye with PHI's Alcohol Research Group found in a recent study that only two age groups showed a significant rise in use. Compared with older Americans 30 years ago, Americans age 50 to 59 and 60 and older today are a remarkable 20 times more likely to use marijuana.  more

Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would be disastrous for public health

April 13, 2018 | Marta Induni | STAT

PHI's Marta Induni relies on data from the decennial census to ensure accurate representation when she designs and administers public health surveys. She says the Trump administration’s eleventh-hour decision to add a question about citizenship to the census will almost certainly have a major chilling effect among immigrants, compromising vital public health research and ultimately damaging the public's health.

Read more in her op-ed for STAT.  more

SARA gains momentum in opioid addiction fight

April 13, 2018 | The Siskiyou Daily News

Siskiyou Against Rx Addiction, a community-based coalition in Northern California tackling the opioid epidemic, is profiled in this local news article. The SARA coalition is part of the California Opioid Safety Network, managed by PHI's Center for Health Leadership and Practice and funded by the California Health Care Foundation. SARA has chosen to focus on implementing collective actions in the areas of public education, safe prescribing, access to naloxone and medication assisted treatment, and policy change.  more

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