Former CDC Director Says NRA “Terrorized” Gun Violence Researchers

The Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) has published numerous studies analyzing firearms-related deaths and injuries data, but over the last 16 years, the NCIPC hasn’t conducted a single study exploring why such acts of violence take place. The reason, several former CDC directors say, is because pro-gun lobbyists made the topic of gun violence research forbidden through several measures adopted in the mid 1990s. In 1996, several legislators co-sponsored an amendment that would cut the CDC’s budget, with a House Appropriations Committee adopting an additional amendment that prohibited CDC funding “to advocate or promote gun control.” Eventually, $2.6 million was removed from the CDC’s budget — the exact amount that the NCIPC spent on firearms injuries studies a year prior. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long been critical of the CDC, with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre recently telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) that he believed the agency was promoting a political agenda through the NCIPC in 1995. Other gun proponents agreed.

Vaccines That Keep the Monsters of the Past at Bay

In 1867, a yellow fever epidemic swept Memphis… Across the street from me, ten persons lay dead from the plague. The dead surrounded us. They were buried in night quickly and without ceremony. All about my house at night I could hear weeping and the cries of delirium. One by one, my four little children sickened and died.

New CDC Report Shines Light on Teen Suicide Trends

A new report states that the number of attempted suicides by teens has dramatically increased in the last few years. The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States 2011, published last week in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report — examined several teenage suicide trends. It found the attempted suicide rate increased from 6.3 percent of the nation’s high school population in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2011. Additionally, the report finds that almost 16 percent of the nation’s high school students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2011, an increase from 13.8 percent just two years earlier. Compared to 2009 statistics, researchers say that American high school students are generally more depressed, with more than a quarter of students reporting that they felt “sad or hopeless almost every day” for two or more weeks in a row.

Addiction, Recovery and the Dangers Young People Face Today

Robotripping, dank, bath salts, spice, triple C’s, skittles, Roxies, Oxys, Xanibars, K2, if these names don’t sound familiar, the current trends in juvenile drug abuse are as surprising to you as they were to me. A recovering addict myself, I was alarmed to learn what kinds of drugs are being used by our youth today.  The drugs are mostly synthetic, increasingly lethal, tend to require medically supervised withdrawal, and, in many cases, are undetectable by drug test. In 2010, SAMHSA reported 10.1 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users.   That same year, the rate of current illicit drug use was higher among young adults aged 18 to 25, stood at 21.5 percent. The rate of binge drinking in 2010 was 40.6 percent for young adults aged 18 to 25. Heavy alcohol use was reported by 13.6 percent of persons aged 18 to 25.  According to the CDC about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Sharp Decline in Child Deaths From Unintentional Injury, CDC Finds

Fewer children are dying from unintentional injuries, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A new Vital Signs report published by the CDC says death rates from unintentional injuries among children and adolescents from birth to age 19 declined by nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2009, saving the lives of more than 11,000 children. “In order to keep our kids safe from injuries we need two things: safer environments and knowledgeable parents,” Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, said in a conference call with journalists. “Everyone has a role in keeping kids safe.”

More than 9,000 children in the United States died as a result of unintentional injury in 2009. The report does not include information on injuries from violence.

The United States of Autism?

For 10 years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking the increase in diagnoses of autism in kids. Last month, the CDC released data showing that one in 88 children in the United States is being diagnosed with a cluster of symptoms associated with autism, which include:

• rigidity, or opposition to change

• difficulty interacting with others

• trouble making eye contact

• attachment to objects

• issues with language and self-expression. The results are skewed towards boys, with one in 54 being diagnosed, as compared to one in 252 girls. This is a 23 percent increase in cases since the CDC’s last report in 2009. But more shockingly is the 78 percent increase since 2007.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Rates Increasing, CDC Report Finds

According to new Centers for Disease Control data, the prevalence rates for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children has increased, with an estimated one in 88 eight-year-olds in the United States currently diagnosed with an ASD such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome. In a Surveillance Summary published last week in the Morbidity and Mortality Report, the CDC notes a 23 percent jump in autism spectrum disorder diagnoses from 2006 to 2008, with an estimated 78 percent increase in cases from 2002 to 2008. According to the findings, the diagnosis rates between black and Hispanic children and whites are closing, with African-American children being diagnosed at a rate of 10.2 cases per 1,000 compared to 12 cases per 1,000 for Caucasian children. The new data reports that 7.9 in 1,000 Hispanic children may be affected by disorders such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS ). According to the findings, boys are five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Mandatory Cigarette Health Warning Labels

This week a federal judge ruled in favor of tobacco companies challenging a FDA requirement that would force cigarette manufacturers to place graphic warning labels on their products. “The government has failed to carry both its burden of demonstrating a compelling interest and its burden of demonstrating that the rule is narrowly tailored to achieve a constitutionally permissible form of compelled commercial speech,” U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said. The ruling stems from a 2009 law passed by Congress that required the FDA to enforce new warning requirements, which included manufacturers placing color labels on their products which covered at least half of the packaging space, as well as on 20 percent of print advertisements for cigarettes. Last summer, the FDA unveiled nine warning labels – among them, photographs of charred lungs and corpses – that were expected to be placed on all cigarette packages in the United States by September 2012. Last year, Judge Leon allowed a preliminary injunction which prevented the mandatory warnings from being placed on tobacco products, a decision challenged by the Obama administration and currently awaiting a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling.

New Report Shows the Crippling Cost of Child Abuse

This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report quantifying the costs of child maltreatment in the United States. The report underscores that child maltreatment is a serious public health issue with financial impacts comparable to a stroke and Type 2 diabetes. What the report does not quantify is the loss of a child’s innocence. What is the price of the smile on a baby’s face when he takes his first steps, or on the 8-year-old who scores her first goal, or on the 12-year-old who wins his class spelling bee? What about the joy and love brought into the lives of family and friends by that child?

Enrollment in Kids’ Health Insurance Programs Grow Under Medicaid Bonus Program

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services awarded 23 states approximately $296 million in bonuses for increasing the number of children enrolled in health insurance programs.
The bonuses, funded by the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA), came a week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating that about 1.2 million more children have health insurance in the United States than three years prior. According to the most recent estimates, approximately 93 percent of the nation’s children now have some form of health insurance coverage, a 2 percent increase from federal levels around 2008. When the Children’s Health Insurance Program was initially created in 1997, the national statistics hovered around 86 percent. In addition to providing performance bonuses for states that simplify and increase coverage for children, CHIRPA provisions allow states to enroll children using information culled from other public programs, as well as automatic eligibility for babies whose mothers are already covered by Medicaid or CHIP programs.

Cindy Mann, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that although the nation faces “serious fiscal challenges,” she still believes that children’s health should remain “a top priority” for states. “Not only have more states qualified for performance bonuses in the past,” she said, “but many have continued to improve the efficiency of their programs.”

In 2010, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services awarded more than $217 million in CHIPRA Performance Bonuses to 16 states, all of which qualified for performance bonuses again in 2011.