News Article | May 3, 2017
Receive press releases from U.S. Veg Corp.: By Email U.S. Veg Corp's Vegan Fest Bringing the Farm to the City New York, NY, May 03, 2017 --( One speaker is Irina Anta. After graduating from Yale Law School, she joined the Compassion Over Killing (COK) organization as legal counsel. Her talk at the festival is titled "Introduction to Factory Farming." COK works to protect farmed animals through litigation and undercover investigation. Most recently Anta assisted with an investigation of Superior Farms, exposing abuses at the largest lamb slaughter facility in the country. A lifetime lover of animals, she became particularly passionate about farm animal issues in law school after watching documentaries about industrial agriculture. Now based in Washington DC, she is able to speak for the animals not only in English but in Russian, Spanish and Italian as well. Another festival presenter is Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary. For 30 years he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. Time Magazine has called him “the conscience of the food movement.” He is also a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Baur grew up in Hollywood, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and obtained a masters degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University. Farm Sanctuary’s first rescued animal was a sick sheep who had been discarded on a pile of dead animals behind the Lancaster, Pennsylvania stockyards in 1986. The sheep, who regained her health and lived for more than 10 years, was named Hilda. Sanctuary team members raised funds for their fledgling organization by selling vegan hot dogs out of a VW van in the parking lot at Grateful Dead concerts, among other exploits. Baur played a role in passing the first U.S. laws to restrict industrial animal farming systems. In 2002, he led a campaign in Florida to pass a ballot initiative banning gestation crates for pigs. He and Farm Sanctuary were also sponsors of California’s Proposition 2 to ban veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages, which passed in 2008 with more than 63% of the vote. In 2012, Baur started competing in marathons and triathlons to demonstrate how plant-based foods can fuel top athletic performance. In July 2013, he participated in his first full Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid, NY. Baur’s best-selling books include Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, and Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. His festival talk will be based on these topics. Other speakers at the festival will include physicians, professional athletes, vegan chefs, legislators, and dietitians. There will also be special children’s activities, a ballet performance, yoga classes, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, and book signings. Additionally, the festival grounds will be packed with a variety of vegan vendors, offering cruelty-free clothing, beauty products, and food. Many of the food vendors will dish up free samples for attendees as they wind their way through the pavilion. The New York City Vegetarian Food Festival is presented by U.S. Veg Corp, a production and marketing company which also founded and produces the Arizona and California Vegetarian Food Festivals. Additionally, it produces other plant-based events throughout the year including various vegan food competitions, Vegan Drinks Brooklyn, and other smaller scale events. For more information on the upcoming New York festival or to purchase tickets, please visit http://nycvegfoodfest.com/index.php. New York, NY, May 03, 2017 --( PR.com )-- Farm animals will find a place in the heart of the city, as the seventh annual New York City Vegetarian Food Festival presents two highly respected animal advocates, May 20-21 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea.One speaker is Irina Anta. After graduating from Yale Law School, she joined the Compassion Over Killing (COK) organization as legal counsel. Her talk at the festival is titled "Introduction to Factory Farming."COK works to protect farmed animals through litigation and undercover investigation. Most recently Anta assisted with an investigation of Superior Farms, exposing abuses at the largest lamb slaughter facility in the country.A lifetime lover of animals, she became particularly passionate about farm animal issues in law school after watching documentaries about industrial agriculture. Now based in Washington DC, she is able to speak for the animals not only in English but in Russian, Spanish and Italian as well.Another festival presenter is Gene Baur, co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary. For 30 years he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. Time Magazine has called him “the conscience of the food movement.”He is also a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Baur grew up in Hollywood, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and obtained a masters degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University.Farm Sanctuary’s first rescued animal was a sick sheep who had been discarded on a pile of dead animals behind the Lancaster, Pennsylvania stockyards in 1986. The sheep, who regained her health and lived for more than 10 years, was named Hilda. Sanctuary team members raised funds for their fledgling organization by selling vegan hot dogs out of a VW van in the parking lot at Grateful Dead concerts, among other exploits.Baur played a role in passing the first U.S. laws to restrict industrial animal farming systems. In 2002, he led a campaign in Florida to pass a ballot initiative banning gestation crates for pigs. He and Farm Sanctuary were also sponsors of California’s Proposition 2 to ban veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages, which passed in 2008 with more than 63% of the vote.In 2012, Baur started competing in marathons and triathlons to demonstrate how plant-based foods can fuel top athletic performance. In July 2013, he participated in his first full Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid, NY.Baur’s best-selling books include Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, and Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. His festival talk will be based on these topics.Other speakers at the festival will include physicians, professional athletes, vegan chefs, legislators, and dietitians. There will also be special children’s activities, a ballet performance, yoga classes, film screenings, cooking demonstrations, and book signings.Additionally, the festival grounds will be packed with a variety of vegan vendors, offering cruelty-free clothing, beauty products, and food. Many of the food vendors will dish up free samples for attendees as they wind their way through the pavilion.The New York City Vegetarian Food Festival is presented by U.S. Veg Corp, a production and marketing company which also founded and produces the Arizona and California Vegetarian Food Festivals. Additionally, it produces other plant-based events throughout the year including various vegan food competitions, Vegan Drinks Brooklyn, and other smaller scale events.For more information on the upcoming New York festival or to purchase tickets, please visit http://nycvegfoodfest.com/index.php. Click here to view the list of recent Press Releases from U.S. Veg Corp.
News Article | May 3, 2017
Even a relatively mild Zika outbreak in the United States could cost more than $183 million in medical costs and productivity losses, suggests a computational analysis led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers, while a more severe one could result in $1.2 billion or more in medical costs and productivity losses. Reporting last week in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the researchers estimated the potential impact of a Zika outbreak based on a variety of epidemic sizes. They focused on five Southeastern states and Texas, the U.S. locations most populated by Aedes aegypti, the mosquito most likely to carry the disease. While many people with Zika show mild symptoms, if any, a Zika infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects such as microcephaly or other severe brain defects. In regions affected by Zika there have also been increased reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare illness of the nervous system. There is no treatment nor is there a vaccine to prevent Zika. "This is a threat that has not gone away. Zika is still spreading silently and we are just now approaching mosquito season in the United States, which has the potential of significantly increasing the spread," says study leader Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, an associate professor in the Department of International Health at the Bloomberg School. "There's still a lot we don't know about the virus, but it is becoming clear that more resources will be needed to protect public health. Understanding what a Zika epidemic might look like, however, can really help us with planning and policy making as we prepare." With funding for Zika detection, prevention and control still uncertain, policymakers need estimates of Zika costs to help guide funding decisions, the researchers say. It is unclear how many people in the United States have already been infected and how many more cases will occur this summer, but the findings, they say, are further evidence that the costs of any Zika outbreak would be high. For their research, Lee and his colleagues from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Yale and the National School of Tropical Medicine developed and ran a computational model based on different rates of spread of Zika if it were to hit Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, taking into account factors including health care costs - such as visits to the doctor, laboratory tests and the lifetime cost of caring for a child born with microcephaly - as well as productivity losses. Even when assuming an attack rate - that is, the percentage of the population that eventually gets infected - of only 0.01 percent, the model estimates that Zika would cost more than $183 million and cause more than 7,000 infections, two cases of microcephaly and four cases of Guillain-Barré. An attack rate of one percent would cause more than 704,000 infections, 200 cases of microcephaly and 423 cases of Guillain-Barré. The one-percent attack rate could result in $1.2 billion in medical costs and productivity losses. A 10-percent attack rate could result in more than $10.3 billion in medical costs and productivity losses. These attack rates would still be substantially lower than those observed in French Polynesia (66 percent), Yap Island in Micronesia (73 percent) and State of Bahia in Brazil (32 percent) where the current Zika outbreak is believed to have originated. They are also lower than recent outbreaks of chikungunya, a virus spread the same way as Zika, including one in Puerto Rico (23.5 percent). After much delay last year, Congress allocated $1.1 billion for mosquito control efforts and vaccine development, as well as for emergency health care for Puerto Rico, where more than 35,000 people contracted the virus. Lee believes far more money may be necessary, given his estimates for medical care. "Without details regarding the Zika-prevention measures that would be implemented and how effective these may be, it is unclear what percentage of these costs may be averted," Lee says. "But our model shows it is very likely that preventing an epidemic - or at least finding ways to slow one down - would save money, especially since epidemics like Zika have hidden costs that aren't always considered." "The Potential Economic Burden of Zika in the Continental United States," was written by Bruce Y. Lee; Jorge A. Alfaro-Murillo; Alyssa S. Parpia; Lindsey Asti; Patrick T. Wedlock; Peter J. Hotez and Alison P. Galvani. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Studies (U01 GM087719 and U01 GM105627), Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U54HD070725 and U01 HD086861), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01HS023317) and the United States Agency for International Development (AID-OAA-A-15-00064).
News Article | May 4, 2017
As United States policymakers debate how to devote money and resources to the Zika virus outbreak, understanding the potential economic impact of the virus in the US is key. Now, using a new computational model described in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers have calculated that Zika, depending on the rate at which it infected people in at-risk states, could result in total costs ranging from $183 million to over $1.2 billion. Since 2015, a strain of Zika virus originating in Brazil has been spreading internationally, with cases now confirmed in more than 40 countries, including the US. Six states -- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas -- are at greatest risk of local Zika emergence. Zika can lead to a range of symptoms including fever, muscle pain, and headaches that have repercussions on medical costs and productivity. In addition, the virus has been linked to more serious Guillain-Barré Syndrome and severe birth defects. In the new work, Bruce Lee of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Alison Galvani of Yale School of Public Health, and colleagues developed a computational model of the economic burden of Zika in the six most at-risk states under a range of hypothetical scenarios. They were able to calculate economic costs to the country under different infection rates, and determine what infection rates would be needed to reach certain cost thresholds. Across the six states, they calculated that an attack rate of 0.01% would cost society $183.4 million, including both direct medical costs and lost productivity. An attack rate of 0.025% would cost $198.6 million, 0.1% would cost $274.6 million, 1% would cost $1.2 billion, and 2% would exceed $2 billion. For comparison, the attack rate of Zika in French Polynesia and that of chikungunya -- a similar virus--in Puerto Rico have both exceeded 10%. The numbers reported in this new study did not include any potential impact on tourism or travel, any impact beyond the six most at-risk states, nor lost productivity and medical costs associated with fear of Zika or infected family and friends. "As we aimed to be conservative in our estimations, our model in many ways may underestimate the economic burden of Zika," the researchers say. "Our analyses indicate that the health and economic burden of even low attack rates of Zika in the Continental US would be both substantial and enduring." In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases: http://journals. Citation: Lee BY, Alfaro-Murillo JA, Parpia AS, Asti L, Wedlock PT, Hotez PJ, et al. (2017) The potential economic burden of Zika in the continental United States. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 11(4): e0005531. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0005531 Funding: This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH U01 GM087719, U01 GM105627, U54HD070725, U01 HD086861). Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ R01HS023317), and USAID via grant AID-OAA-A-15-00064. The funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
News Article | May 2, 2017
Getting half of American 8- to 11-year-olds into 25 minutes of physical activity three times a week would save $21.9 billion in medical costs and lost wages over their lifetimes, new research suggests. The relatively modest increase—from the current 32 percent to 50 percent of kids participating in exercise, active play, or sports that often—would also result in 340,000 fewer obese and overweight youth, a reduction of more than 4 percent, the study calculates. “Physical activity not only makes kids feel better and helps them develop healthy habits, it’s also good for the nation’s bottom line,” says Bruce Y. Lee, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins University. “Our findings show that encouraging exercise and investing in physical activity such as school recess and youth sports leagues when kids are young pays big dividends as they grow up.” The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggests an even bigger payoff if every current 8- through 11-year-old in the United States exercised 75 minutes over three sessions weekly. In that case, the researchers estimate, $62.3 billion in medical costs and lost wages over the course of their lifetimes could be avoided and 1.2 million fewer youths would be overweight or obese. And the savings would multiply if not just current 8-to-11 year olds, but every future cohort of elementary school children upped their game. Studies have shown that a high body mass index at age 18 is associated with a high BMI throughout adulthood and a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other maladies linked to excess weight. The illnesses lead to high medical costs and productivity losses. In recent decades, there has been what experts describe as a growing epidemic of obesity in the United States. Lee and colleagues from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center at Carnegie Mellon University developed a computer simulation using their Virtual Population for Obesity Prevention software. They plugged in information representing current US children to show how changes in physical activity as kids could affect them—and the economy—throughout their lifetimes. The model relied on data from the 2005 and 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and from the National Center for Health Statistics. Exercise totaling at least 25 minutes a day, three days a week, is a guideline developed for kids by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. The researchers found that maintaining the current low 32 percent compliance would result in 8.1 million of today’s 8- to 11-year-olds being overweight or obese by 2020. That would trigger $2.8 trillion in additional medical costs and lost wages over their lifetimes. An overweight person’s lifetime medical costs average $62,331 and lost wages average $93,075. For an obese person, these amounts are even greater. “Even modest increases in physical activity could yield billions of dollars in savings,” Lee says. The costs averted are likely an underestimate, he says, as there are other benefits of physical activity that don’t affect weight, such as improving bone density, improving mood, and building muscle. Lee says that the spending averted by healthy levels of physical activity would more than make up for costs of programs designed to increase activity levels. “As the prevalence of childhood obesity grows, so will the value of increasing physical activity,” he says. “We need to be adding physical education programs and not cutting them. We need to encourage kids to be active, to reduce screen time and get them running around again. It’s important for their physical health—and the nation’s financial health.” Funding for the research came from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
News Article | May 3, 2017
The report calls on the Security Council and countries to take concrete steps toward preventing attacks and ending impunity, as recommended last year by the UN Secretary General. These steps include regular reporting by countries to the UN on actions taken to prevent attacks, investigating those that occur and holding perpetrators accountable. Where member states fail to act, the Secretary urged, the Security Council should initiate thorough investigations and establish accountability procedures. The Security Council and states have failed to take these actions. "Our findings cry out for a level of commitment and follow-through by the international community and individual governments that has been absent since the passage of Security Council Resolution 2286 a year ago," said Leonard S. Rubenstein, director of the Program on Human Rights, Health and Conflict at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and chair of the coalition. In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) verified 108 attacks on health facilities, and the deaths of 91 health professionals in 2016. "The all-out assault on health facilities and professionals in Syria is the worst pattern of such attacks in modern history," said Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy at PHR. "2016 marked one of the worst years we've documented," she said. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported 119 attacks on health facilities and personnel, up from 63 the year before. In Yemen, UNICEF verified 93 attacks on hospitals over a period from March 2015 to December 2016. The numbers noted in the report may greatly understate the extent and severity of attacks, the report says, because documentation of attacks remains spotty. "We know that in places like South Sudan and Iraq, many vicious attacks on health care have been inflicted by parties to the conflicts," said Laura Hoemeke, director of communications and advocacy at IntraHealth International. "These attacks cascade into lack of access to health care for suffering populations, but no one is collecting the number of attacks." The report reveals that while bombing and shelling of health facilities is the most obvious and devastating form of attack, violence against health care takes many forms. "In Afghanistan, we found patterns of intimidation and threats against health workers, and occupation of health facilities," said Christine Monaghan, a researcher at Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict, which engaged in a field investigation in Afghanistan. "There were 13 recorded attacks on vaccinators, in which ten people were killed and 16 were abducted," she said. Continued obstruction of access to care is another key finding. In Ukraine, checkpoints, as well as the difficulty of crossing conflict lines, have impeded access to care for a third of households in conflict-affected areas, with dire implications for the 50 percent of families in the region suffering from chronic diseases. In Turkey, curfews prevented injured people from reaching care, resulting in needless civilian deaths. In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported 416 instances of violence or interference with its ambulances, injuring 162 emergency medical technicians. Accountability for these assaults is largely absent, the report said. A review by Human Rights Watch of 25 incidents of attacks on health care in ten countries between 2013 and 2016, resulting in the deaths of more than 230 people and the closure or destruction of six hospitals, found that either no proceedings for accountability were undertaken at all or the results of proceedings were inadequate. "Without accountability, these attacks won't stop, and efforts to investigate these kinds of incidents—and pursue justice where relevant—have been half-hearted or worse," said Diederik Lohman, director of health and human rights at Human Rights Watch. This fourth global report from the coalition relies on field investigations by coalition members as well as secondary data from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other sources. It can be accessed at: safeguardinghealth.org/report2017 The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition consists of more than 30 organizations working to protect health workers and services threatened by war or civil unrest. The coalition raises awareness of global attacks on health and presses governments and United Nations agencies for greater global action to protect the security of health care. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/health-workers-and-facilities-in-23-conflict-ridden-countries-attacked-with-impunity-in-2016-300450139.html
News Article | April 17, 2017
Cholera cases in East Africa increase by roughly 50,000 during El Niño, the cyclical weather occurrence that profoundly changes global weather patterns, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests. The findings, researchers say, could help health ministries anticipate future cholera surges during El Niño years and save lives. The researchers, reporting April 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used sophisticated mapping to pinpoint the location of clusters of cholera cases before, during and after El Niño years. Cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterial disease, typically contracted from infected water supplies and causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. Africa has the most cholera deaths in the world. "We usually know when El Niño is coming six to 12 months before it occurs," says study leader Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. "Knowing there is elevated cholera risk in a particular region can help reduce the number of deaths that result. If you have cholera treatment centers available, fast, supportive care can reduce the fatality rate from cholera from as high as 30 percent to next to nothing." The total number of cases of cholera across Africa as a whole were about the same in El Niño years as compared to non-El Niño years, the researchers found, but the geographic distribution of illnesses was fundamentally different. El Niño conditions in the equatorial Pacific region strongly impact weather conditions globally, including increasing rainfall in East Africa and decreasing rainfall in drier areas of northern and southern Africa. During the years classified as El Niño between 2000 and 2014, cholera incidence increased threefold in regions such as East Africa that had the strongest association between El Niño and cholera, with 177 million people living in areas that experienced an increase in cholera cases during a time of additional rainfall. At the same time, there were 30,000 fewer cases in southern Africa during El Niño where there was less rainfall than normal. Parts of central West Africa, however, saw significantly fewer cases of cholera, but with little change in rainfall patterns. While El Niño brings wetter and warmer weather to East Africa, rainfall is not the only variable that appears to impact cholera rates, Lessler says. Cholera is almost always linked to vulnerable water systems. In some areas, massive rainfall can overrun sewer systems and contaminate drinking water. In other locations, however, dry conditions can mean that clean water sources aren't available and people must consume water from sources known to be contaminated. "Countries in East Africa, including Tanzania and Kenya, have experienced several large cholera outbreaks in recent decades," says study author Sean Moore, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology. "Linking these outbreaks to El Niño events and increased rainfall improves our understanding of the environmental conditions that promote cholera transmission in the region and will help predict future outbreaks." For the study, Lessler, Moore and their colleagues collected data on cholera cases in Africa from 360 separate data sets, analyzing 17,000 annual observations from 3,710 different locations between 2000 and 2014. The researchers note that there were weak El Niño years from 2004 to 2007, while 2002-2003 and 2009-2010 were classified as moderate-to-strong El Niño years. They say that 2015-2016 was also an El Niño year with the largest cholera outbreak since the 1997-1998 El Niño occurring in Tanzania. Using this knowledge of a link between cholera and El Niño could allow countries to prepare for outbreaks long before they start, Lessler says. Currently, there is an approved vaccine for cholera, but its effects are not lifelong and there are not enough doses for everyone in areas that could be impacted by El Niño. Once there is more vaccine, he says, it can be another tool for health officials to use as they try to prevent deadly cholera in their nations. As climate change continues, disease patterns will continue to change as well, Lessler says. Often, the story is that climate change will put more people at risk for more types of diseases. "But what the link between cholera and El Niño tells us is that changes may be subtler than that," he says. "There will be winners and losers. It's not a one-way street." "El Niño and the Shifting Geography of Cholera in Africa" was written by Sean Moore, Andrew Azman, Benjamin Zaitchik, Eric Mintz, Joan Brunkard, Dominique Legros, Alexandra Hill, Heather McKay, Francisco Luquero, David Olson and Justin Lessler. The research was supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Cholera data was provided by the Ministries of Health of Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, South Sudan and Nigeria as well as Médecins Sans Frontières and MSF/Epicentre, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Relief Agency.
News Article | February 23, 2017
Poverty Plus A Poisonous Plant Blamed For Paralysis In Rural Africa For nearly a century, people have reported mysterious epidemics of permanent paralysis in rural regions of Africa. In 1990, Hans Rosling a Swedish epidemiologist and pop-star statistician, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this month, linked the malady to cyanide in the staple crop, cassava. But Rosling would protest if I told you that cassava causes this incurable disease he called konzo. The disease requires more than a poisonous plant. Namely, poverty, severe malnourishment, conflict and a lack of infrastructure – most affected areas are far away from markets, clinics and paved roads. "If you do not find the true cause, you do not act correctly," Rosling told me last September. To understand the connection between cassava, poverty, conflict and konzo, photographer Neil Brandvold and I traveled to a remote region in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where more than 3,500 people have been brought to their knees by konzo over the past 20 years. The town is called Kahemba, which, in the region's language, Chokwe, means the "the place of suffering." In the DRC, cassava is served as a doughy ball called fufu that accompanies stews and greens like cassava leaves and spinach. The dish begins when women unearth thick, starchy cassava roots from the soil, and soak them in a stream for about a week. Then they dry the roots in the sun, and next beat them into flour. Add water, mix, and the fufu is ready. Whether or not it is intentional, women make cassava safe to eat when they soak the roots. Over time, water degrades cyanide found in bitter varieties of the plant. But sometimes people here in the DRC are forced to skip the time-consuming step. Jean-Paul Mugisho, a 26-year old man with konzo, told me why he ate cassava that had not been soaked in water when he was young. Since 1996, his area of the country, Kivu, has been mired in violence. Dozens of armed groups—many supported by surrounding nations — and the country's army have been at war. With more than 5 million dead, the ongoing conflict in the DRC is the bloodiest since World War II. Militias take over towns and loot farms for food, he said. They unearth roots of sweet cassava, but leave the bitter ones in the ground because they taste terrible when raw. So, roots from bitter cassava "hide out" in the ground, Mugisho said. They can remain in the soil for months without falling prey to pests. Researchers suspect that has to do with the toxins that bitter varieties have evolved to contain. So families that flee their farms find their roots safely in the ground when they return. Alternatively, they take the roots on the run. But soaking them requires a stable location, a safe place they can stay at for at least a few days. And baring that, hungry people eat the roots without processing them sufficiently. Mugisho said he remembers not liking the taste, but no one knew they were dangerous. When asked how to prevent konzo, Mugisho said, "The government needs to stop the army and warring groups." Born in 1953, Cécile Mwandjombi (far left in the picture) told me how the land has changed since her youth. The population of Kahemba was smaller, she said, and people had space to rotate crops including cassava, cabbage, spinach and onions. That's no longer done because there are more mouths to feed than arable land. Over-farming, and perhaps an increase in droughts, has rendered the soil as cracked and dry as sand. Mwandjombi said that prior to the country's independence, Belgium colonizers had distributed seeds and farm tools — unlike the country's current government. Now, after a dry season kills all crops except for drought-resistant bitter cassava, people have little to plant. Outbreaks of konzo predictably follow because the disease preys on the malnourished. Eating bitter cassava poses no risk to my health for example, because I eat protein, too. Amino acids from meat and beans help the body detoxify this level of poison. Kahemba's inhabitants aren't so lucky. Mwandjombi's two daughters (pictured above) have been disabled by konzo. "In the dry seasons, my daughters and I eat just once a day," Mwandjombi said. "We eat fufu alone with nothing else." Etienne Tshiluanjim, a skeleton-thin 28-year old, does not soak cassava roots because his wheelchair cannot traverse dirt paths leading to the river, his only source of fresh water. His mother cannot stand either. Konzo has come for his two little brothers as well. And his father has abandoned them. Neighbors donate cassava every few days. At dusk, a woman carrying a basket of starchy roots arrived. "I know cassava caused this condition," said Marie Kavumbu, Etienne's mother. "But how can we ask for this cassava to be soaked? We haven't eaten for two days and we cannot wait." Rosling officially gave konzo its name in 1990. He connected the symptoms he'd seen in Mozambique, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo to unprocessed cassava, and chose a Congolese tribal word for the condition—konzo. It originally referred to trapped antelopes tethered at their knees. Rosling and his colleagues chose this over a name that indicted cassava. After all, he said, "It is the fifth staple crop of mankind." Instead, Rosling placed blame on extreme poverty—a condition defined by people living on less than $1.60 per day. But that number implies cash, and people in extreme poverty, in places like Kahemba, have none. They have one or no crops in the ground. Babies are born dangerously below weight. Adults have no access to jobs. Rosling argues that people in this state are sitting ducks for emerging disease and conflict. "You need to lift people out of supreme poverty," he said. "It is misery." Economic growth, however, is not on the horizon in the DRC. The violence feels relentless. On Valentine's Day, the United Nations reported that Congolese soldiers had killed at least 101 people in the course of five days. It was the most recent event in a wave of instability that surged after President Joseph Kabila refused to relinquish his 16-year reign in December. In the meantime, the best hope for preventing konzo is education. One Congolese researcher who trained with Rosling, Desire Tshala, now at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, travels for days on dirt roads to teach communities how important it is to soak cassava before consumption. And minus a cure, the best hope for those stricken with konzo is employment. A nurse who had been crippled in his youth due to tuberculosis, Theodore Nabarhimba, explained how jobs provide money and a sense of community and purpose. "We need to reinsert people into society," he said. Gaby Ngabu Kasongo, pictured above, told me he might be dead if it weren't for his aunt, who found him a job as a tailor, and a radiant girl friend who sat leisurely by his side. "We — all the konzo people — are suffering," he said, "But though I am not well, I am comfortable." Science journalist Amy Maxmen traveled to the DRC to write about konzo for Global Health NOW at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Photographer Neil Brandvold's photographs were made possible with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
News Article | February 23, 2017
More than two in five people receiving buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction, are also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers - and two-thirds are prescribed opioids after their treatment is complete, a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study suggests. The findings, published Feb. 23 in the journal Addiction, demonstrate the need for greater resources devoted to medication-assisted treatment, a common clinical tool to address the epidemic. The idea behind medication-assisted treatment is that patients are given low-dose opioids that produce some of the effects of opioids while staving off physical withdrawal symptoms. The low-dose opioids produce weaker effects than drugs such as oxycodone or heroin, which come with the risk of addiction and overdose. With medication-assisted treatment, rigorous studies have shown that patients are more able to remain healthy and productive members of society. Historically, the most common drug to treat opioid use disorders has been methadone, though over the past 15 years, buprenorphine, a shorter-acting opioid similar to methadone, has been increasingly used instead. For this study, the researchers looked at prescriptions for buprenorphine and Suboxone, a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, an anti-overdose medication. Rather than requiring a special clinic like methadone does, buprenorphine can be prescribed in a doctor's office, making it accessible to more patients. "Policymakers may believe that people treated for opioid addiction are cured, but people with substance use disorders have a lifelong vulnerability, even if they are not actively using," says study leader G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the co-director of the School's Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. "Our findings highlight the importance of stable, ongoing care for these patients." Increases in prescription opioid use over the past two decades have led to an epidemic of addiction, injuries and deaths in the United States. In 2013, providers wrote nearly 250 million opioid prescriptions, enough to supply every adult in the United States with a bottle of pills. While it is sometimes appropriate for a patient to receive a prescription opioid during medication-assisted treatment - patients who are in acute pain from a major trauma or surgery may require short-term prescription opioids in addition to their medication-assisted treatment - the researchers say they are concerned to see such high rates of combined use of these products. This pattern suggests that many patients do not have well-coordinated treatment for opioid use disorders and chronic pain, which could lead to higher rates of relapse or overdose, Alexander says. For their study, Alexander and his colleagues examined pharmacy claims for more than 38,000 new buprenorphine users who filled prescriptions between 2006 and 2013 in 11 states. They looked at non-buprenorphine opioid prescriptions before, during, and after each patient's first course of buprenorphine treatment, which typically lasted between one to six months. Even though there are no universally agreed-upon guidelines regarding the optimal length of treatment, most people discontinued buprenorphine within three months. They found that 43 percent of patients who received buprenorphine filled an opioid prescription during treatment and 67 percent filled an opioid prescription during the 12 months following buprenorphine treatment. Most patients continued to receive similar amounts of opioids before and after buprenorphine treatment. Because the study data lacked information on patients' use of illegal opioids like heroin, the results likely underestimate the proportion of patients using opioids during and after buprenorphine treatment. "The statistics are startling," says Alexander, "but are consistent with studies of patients treated with methadone showing that many patients resume opioid use after treatment." Recent federal efforts have tried to improve the availability of medication-assisted treatment, so providing ongoing professional education and support to these providers will be important. "Unlike methadone, buprenorphine can be prescribed for opioid use disorders in primary care, so it is an important treatment option for clinicians and patients to have," says study co-author Matthew Daubresse, a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. "But many patients, especially those with shorter lengths of treatment, appear to be continuing to use prescription opioids during and after buprenorphine treatment. We need to find better ways to keep patients engaged in long-term treatment, and these efforts couldn't be more urgent given how many Americans continue to die or get injured from opioids." "Non-Buprenorphine Opioid Utilizations Among Patients Using Buprenorphine" was written by Matthew Daubresse, Brendan Saloner, Harold A. Pollack and G. Caleb Alexander. The work was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Cooperative Agreement U01CE002499. Alexander is chair of the FDA's Peripheral and Central Nervous System Advisory Committee, serves as a paid consultant to a mobile start-up PainNavigator, serves as a consultant to QuintileIMS and serves on its advisory board. This arrangement has been reviewed and approved by Johns Hopkins University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.
News Article | February 21, 2017
QUINCY, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Shields Health Solutions, a creator of specialty pharmacies for hospitals and health systems nationwide, today announced Prashant K Dilwali has joined the company’s executive team as Director of Business Operations. In his new role Prashant is responsible for establishing best practices across the patient support systems that the company has put in place to serve thousands of chronically ill patients. He also provides support identifying and analyzing new business opportunities. “Prashant is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant minds in healthcare today and we are delighted to have him join our growing executive team,” said Jack Shields, CEO, Shields Health Solutions. “We are adding the top talent in the country to our executive team right here in Quincy, heading into another year of double-digit growth. I know Prashant will play a vital role helping us meet the aggressive goals we have set out for the next few years, especially because we put patient health above all else and he is responsible for ensuring our operations continue to be the best in the industry at doing just that.” Prior to joining Shields, Prashant was Director of Finance at US Anesthesia Partners where he was responsible for budgeting and analytics. He has worked as a turnaround management consultant at Alvarez & Marsal’s Healthcare Industry Group – implementing both financial and operational restructuring. Prashant has also worked at Trinity Partners and Scientia Advisors as a strategy consultant to healthcare and life sciences companies – identifying new business opportunities and forecasting market capture. Prashant holds a Masters of Health Administration from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Bachelors of Science in Biology with a minor in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. About Shields Health Solutions Shields Health Solutions partners with hospital leaders on every aspect of specialty pharmacy creation and management. The company provides the fastest, lowest risk model for Hospitals to create a hospital-owned specialty pharmacy business, eliminating risks associated with Limited Distribution Drug (LDD) contracts, payor contracts, pharmacy accreditations, infrastructure set up and more. Shields Health Solutions handles it all, whether hospital leaders want to build from scratch or add specialty capabilities to their existing pharmacy programs. In 2012 Shields Health Solutions broke new ground by introducing the first hospital-owned specialty pharmacy for a health system. Today many of the most respected hospitals in the country, including UMass Memorial, Fairview Health Services and Hartford Healthcare, are serving their chronically ill, complex patient populations using specialty pharmacy best practices developed collaboratively with Shields. The breakthrough of Shields Specialty Pharmacy is based on 40 years of partnerships with 30 hospital systems, building Shields Dialysis Centers, Shields Advanced Imaging Centers (Shields MRI) and Shields Radiation Therapy Centers. What we are doing today with Specialty Pharmacy is once again bringing best practices into a new area of healthcare, returning patients to the center of the care model, while helping healthcare leaders deliver better care more efficiently. Today, Shields Health Solutions is one of the fastest growing companies in America.
News Article | January 24, 2017
Most women are at greater risk of dying from cervical cancer than previously thought. The study supporting this statement also points out the racial differences in the risks of dying from the disease. Prior estimates also took into consideration women who had undergone a hysterectomy, and who were no longer at risk. This paper is the first to only include women who still have a cervix. The research, published, Jan. 23, in the journal Cancer of the American Cancer Society, obtained estimates from the National Center for Health Statistics and the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Mortality Database. The time frame analyzed as part of this research was from 2002 to 2012. "A correction for hysterectomy has revealed that cervical cancer mortality rates are underestimated, particularly in black women. The highest rates are seen in the oldest black women, and public health efforts should focus on appropriate screening and adequate treatment in this population," noted the research. Black women across the United States die from cervical cancer at a 77 percent higher rate than previously estimated, with a corrected rate of 10.1 per 100,000 women instead of 5.7. While white women also die at a higher rate due to this disease, the percentage is 47 percent, i.e. 4.7 per 100,000 women instead of 3.2 as previously thought. The situation among white women is still very serious, but significantly lower compared to black women. Aside from pointing out a much more serious concerning the disease itself, this correction also shows a 44 percent higher disparity between races. Additionally, throughout the decade during which the analysis was carried out, deaths caused by cervical cancer among white women dropped by 0.8 percent annually, compared to 3.6 percent annually among black women. Although trends over time show that the racial disparity in cervical cancer mortality is closing, these data emphasize that it should remain a priority area," noted Dr. Anne Rositch, PhD, MSPH, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and lead author of the research. According to CDC recommendations, regular screening tests starting at age 21 are highly important. Should the results of these tests be within normal limits, the chances of getting the disease for the following years are very low. However, starting from the age of 30, the Pap test should be accompanied by an HPV test to take all precautions. Supposing both the test results are normal, consequent regular check-ups are still necessary to minimize the chances of getting the disease. In the case of women who are 65 or older, a Pap test may not be necessary, if the cervix was removed for non-cancerous reasons, or if the Pap test results were normal for several years in a row. "Early on, cervical cancer may not cause signs and symptoms. Advanced cervical cancer may cause bleeding or discharge from the vagina that is not normal for you, such as bleeding after sex. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer, but the only way to know is to see your doctor," notes a CDC 2016 fact sheet on cervical cancer. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.