President Barack Obama has declared the week of September 11-16, 2011 as National Health Information Technology Week. See the official proclamation at Presidential Proclamation – National Health Information Technology Week. In addition, the 2008 Federal Strategic Health IT Plan has been updated to meet the new realities for health IT and IT policies. See more on the Federal Strategic Health IT Plan: 2011-2015 at the Health IT Buzz Blog Post.
Presidential Proclamation – National Health Information Technology Week
Report on Disparities from the Synthesis Project
Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Synthesis Project has released a report on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to and Quality of Health Care. Among the key findings: “The largest access disparities are for Spanish-speaking Hispanics.” (Thanks to Siobhan Champ-Blackwell.)
Responding to the Epidemic: Strategies for Improving Diabetes Care in Texas
An alarming rate of increase is projected for the incidence of diabetes in Texas over the next 30 years. Based on statistics from the Office of the State Demographer, Texas will see an increase of 156,000 new cases of diabetes each year. A newly released report from the Texas Health Institute (THI) recommends a plan of action to curtail these predictions. According to the report, “The State Demographer projects a quadrupling of the number of adult Texans with diabetes from approximately 2.2 million in 2010 to almost 8 million by 2040.” Counties in the Texas border region are expected to be particularly hard hit. Given that rates of diabetes in Hispanic populations are higher than the national average, “There are a large number of Hispanic residents at high-risk of developing diabetes, particularly in South Texas, where obesity rates are very high and insurance coverage is very low.”
San Antonio Health Profiles Available
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) has released its latest annual summary of community health data, including data from 2007. The report shows a decrease in the number of births to mothers under the age of 18, but a continued increase in obesity (29.7% of area residents had a BMI of 30 or higher in 2007). There has also been a continued increase in cases of child abuse and neglect (16.2 confirmed cases per 1,000 children in 2007, up from 8.1 cases per 1,000 children in 2001).
South Texas Health Status Review
The South Texas Health Status Review is “the first comprehensive statistical illustration of health disparities that impact residents in South Texas’ 38 counties.” Released in 2008, it was prepared by UT HSC’s Institute for Health Promotion Research. The Institute’s director, Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, was elected to the Institute of Medicine last October.
State Rankings of Health
The report America’s Health Rankings 2008 is now available from the United Health Foundation. It reports that Texas is now ranked 46th in the nation – dropping from 37 in 2007. Only Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana ranked lower than Texas. According to the report, Texas faces challenges due to limited access to primary care, a high rate of uninsured population, a high percentage of children in poverty, and a high incidence of infectious disease.
The complete national report or state-by-state reports can be downloaded from http://www.americashealthrankings.org/2008/index.html.
Study of Border Moms Reveals Similarities and Differences
The results of a study conducted in 2005 of almost 1,000 new mothers on both sides of the border by the Brownsville-Matamoros Sister City Project for Women’s Health has revealed both similarities and differences in pregnancy and health practices.
The basis for conducting the study was to see if the data they collected would accurately represent what was happening along the border. Sister cities were chosen in hopes that similar studies might be conducted in other sister cities along the border.
Among the similarities was the fact that nearly half of the pregnancies on both sides of the border were unplanned. According to Dr. Brian Castrucci with the Texas Department of State Health Services, this should cause concern. “Almost every piece of reproductive health is based on planned pregnancies. Take folic acid, get prenatal care, be healthy before you get pregnant – all based on a planned model.” The large number of unplanned pregnancies presents an opportunity for both nations to collaborate on addressing this problem. Other similarities included the age upon having sex for the first time and the percentage of women under the age of 20 giving birth.
Differences between the two sides included figures that showed Brownsville women were more likely to see a doctor in their first trimester, but Matamoros women were more likely to receive counseling about postpartum contraception during prenatal care. Matmoros women were almost four times more likely to begin breastfeeding before leaving the hospital and less than half as likely to drink alcohol. According to Dr. Carstrucci, the reasons behind some of the differences may fall more under the category of government policy than cultural differences.
Results of the study have been published online in English and Spanish in multiple papers in the October 2008 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.
Study on sex tourism along the border, and its consequences
A recent study by researchers at the University of California San Diego, in cooperation with partners on both sides of the border, reveals some of the serious health consequences of sex tourism in Mexican border cities, and urges binational prevention efforts — focused on both the sex workers and their customers — in an effort to prevent the very real possibility of a generalized HIV/STI epidemic.
The paper, “Characteristics of Female Sex Workers With US Clients in Two Mexico-US Border Cities,” currently appears online and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The paper reports on the initial stage of a behavioral-intervention study to promote safer sex, involving 474 female sex workers (FSW) in Tijuana, BC (across the border from San Diego CA) and 450 in Ciudad Juárez, Chih (across from El Paso TX), who had reported unprotected sex encounters in the previous 2 months and who had not previously tested positive for HIV. The subjects were interviewed on working and social conditions, financial need, risk behaviors, sociodemographic characteristics, and physical & psychiatric health, and they provided samples for HIV and STI testing.
The paper found that in comparison to the overall group of sex workers studied in Tijuana and Cd. Juárez, the subset who said they had US clients were younger on average than the group as a whole, and more likely to:
- speak English,
- engage in unprotected sex,
- report risky behavior involving injecting drugs,
- have syphilis titers (16% vs. 10% overall),
- have gonorrhea (8% vs. 2%), and
- test positive for HIV (30% vs. 20%).
In addition, the paper indicates that “FSWs reporting US clients also had greater numbers of male clients and were more likely to report earning more money for having sex without a condom… The practice of offering more money for unprotected sex is not unique to our settings, as it has been reported elsewhere. Since FSWs in Mexico are primarily engaged in sex work due to economic need, this practice threatens to undermine HIV and STI prevention efforts and should be actively discouraged.”
Although this paper specifically studied Tijuana and Cd. Juárez, the conditions and regulations surrounding the sex trade in those cities have been described as similar to those present in the “Zonas Rojas” or “Boystowns” in Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo — so the study’s findings deserve attention in the South Texas health community as well. The paper is summarized in this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, which also includes this link to the full text of the paper; it was also recently covered in this segment from PRI’s “The World”. Here’s the full citation:
Strathdee SA, Lozada R, Semple SJ, Orozovich P, Pu M, Staines-Orozco H, Fraga-Vallejo M, Amaro H, Delatorre A, Magis-Rodríguez C, Patterson TL. Characteristics of Female Sex Workers With US Clients in Two Mexico-US Border Cities. Sex Transm Dis [forthcoming]. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0b013e31815b0 OVID JumpStart link
Surgeon General’s Workshop on Improving Health Literacy
Proceedings from the Surgeon General’s Workshop on Improving Health Literacy, held on September 7, 2006, were recently made available on the DHHS Web site. A separate panel focused on the needs of special populations, with findings and recommendations especially relevant to health literacy initiatives in South Texas and along the US-Mexico border.
Texas-Mexican Border Study finds pesticides a BIG problem.
HARLINGEN,TX— Air samples from homes of Hispanic mothers-to-be along the Texas-Mexico border contained multiple pesticides in a majority of the houses, according to a study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
Several studies have reported that pesticide exposure may adversely affect mental and motor development of the infants during infancy and childhood. The new report is in the summer issue of the Texas Public Health Journal .
Click Here to read the entire story as it appears in the HSC News Publication, and what suggestions are being made to remedy the situation. Story by Will Sansom and Sheila Hotchkin.