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7 Native American Inventions That Revolutionized Medicine And Public Health

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a time of recognition for the substantial contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S. But, the month and remembrance, like many Native influences, still frequently go unrecognized in our day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the invention of vital infrastructure such as cable suspension bridges or sport for fun like lacrosse, so much of what exists in modern culture today is a direct result of what was created before newcomers occupied these lands.

And the world’s health ecosystem, ranging from preventative measures to administration of medicine is no different, owing much of its practices and innovations to those ancestral peoples and healers.

Here are seven inventions used every day in medicine and public health that we owe to Native Americans. And in most cases, couldn’t live without today:

1. Syringes

In 1853 a Scottish doctor named Alexander Wood was credited for the creation of the first hypodermic syringe, but a much earlier tool existed. Before colonization, Indigenous peoples had created a method using a sharpened hollowed-out bird bone connected to an animal bladder that could hold and inject fluids into the body. These earliest syringes were used to do everything from inject medicine to irrigate wounds. There are also cases in which these tools were even used to clean ears and serve as enemas.     

2. Pain Relievers

Native American healers led the way in pain relief. For example, willow bark (the bark of a tree) is widely known to have been ingested as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. In fact, it contains a chemical called salicin, which is a confirmed anti-inflammatory that when consumed generates salicylic acid – the active ingredient in modern-day aspirin tablets. In addition to many ingestible pain relievers, topical ointments were also frequently used for wounds, cuts and bruises. Two well-documented pain relievers include capsaicin (a chemical still referenced today that is derived from peppers) and jimson weed as a topical analgesic.

3. Oral Birth Control

Oral birth control was introduced to the United States in the 1960’s as a means of preventing pregnancy. But something with a similar purpose existed in indigenous cultures long before. Plant-based practices such as ingesting herbs dogbane and stoneseed were used for at least two centuries earlier than western pharmaceuticals to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And while they are not as effective as current oral contraception, there are studies suggesting stoneseed in particular has contraceptive properties.

4. Sun Screen

North American Indians have medicinal purposes for more than 2,500 plant species – and that is just what’s currently known between existing practices. But, for hundreds of years many Native cultures had a common skin application that involved mixing ground plants with water to create products that protected skin from the sun. Sunflower oil, wallflower and sap from

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fitness

BRTA: No fitness certificate for public transport without no smoking sign

File photo of Bus drivers often have to work exceptionally long hours, resulting in greater chances of accidents as they tire Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Survey found over 91% of bus drivers and helpers smoke on the bus

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) have instructed all their circle offices to check that there are “no smoking” signs on public transports when examining fitness certificates.

Strict action will be taken if “no smoking” signs are not found on transports, according to a press release.

On September 7 this year, the BRTA organized a meeting with the assistance of Health Sector, Dhaka Ahsania Mission and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids at the conference room of the BRTA headquarters. The meeting was organized to disseminate baseline survey findings on compliance with Tobacco Control Law on public transports in Dhaka city. 

BRTA Chairman and Additional Secretary Noor Mohammad Mazumdar was the chief guest at the meeting.

The cross-sectional survey was carried out in October 2019 on 22 routes in Dhaka. A total 417 non-air-conditioned public buses were observed.

The survey found 91.3% of bus drivers and helpers smoked on the bus, even though the Tobacco Control Law explicitly states that public transports should be kept smoke free. As a result, a major recommendation of the survey was to not provide fitness certificate for public transports that did not have no smoking signs.

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medicine

Wear masks, Michigan Medicine leaders tell public as hospitalizations surge

ANN ARBOR, MI — Michigan Medicine leaders are calling on the public to not let its guard down as hospitals across the state experience rapid surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It’s imperative Michigan caregivers stay healthy so they can take care of an expected surge in cases this winter, Marschall Runge, Michigan Medicine CEO and dean of the University of Michigan’s medical school, said in a Thursday, Nov. 18 news conference that also announced a joint nationwide campaign to encourage mask wearing.

Michigan Medicine has joined around 100 of the nation’s top health care systems in the #MaskUp campaign, which urges all Americans to mask up, in an effort to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Runge said.

A large surge in cases requiring hospitalizations for COVID-19 due to the lack of adherence to mitigation strategies has the potential to overwhelm health systems, said Laraine Washer, Michigan Medicine’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology.

“I’m very glad that we at Michigan Medicine are joining with healthcare systems nationwide to encourage the simple behaviors that are proven to work: Mask up, socially distance, wash your hands,” Washer said.

Like many other hospitals across the state, Michigan Medicine is facing short staffing, Runge said, adding the healthcare system is developing a plan to make sure it can provide necessary care.

“Given the widespread community transmission, hospitals are also managing staffing limitations due to employee illness, absences and responsibilities for childcare,” Washer said.

During the past three weeks, Michigan Medicine has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, Runge said. This week alone, Michigan Medicine had as many as 75 COVID-19 positive patients at one time, with up to 20 of them being critically ill and requiring ICU care, officials said.

“Following the spring and early summer COVID surge — the first wave, so to speak — we resumed care of many non-COVID patients that need hospitalization, and our hospitals are about 90% full as a result,” Runge said. “With that high occupancy, which we did manage pre-COVID, that puts additional strain on our response to the pandemic.”

The health system’s testing capacity is approximately 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, while its laboratories continue to develop new strategies to implement different types of COVID tests, officials said.

Michigan Medicine’s testing results recently showed about 14% of those tested are testing positive for COVID, well above the 5% mark reported for most of the summer months, Runge said.

“At Michigan Medicine, and all of Michigan’s healthcare providers, we need your help,” Runge said. “To combat a pandemic we need supplies, we need space and most importantly staff.”

The increased hospital capacity is putting a burden on the number of beds, as well as staff and healthcare providers, Runge said. A large surge of cases also carries a risk of challenging the amount of personal protective equipment required to keep healthcare workers safe, health officials said.

The number of confirmed cases in Michigan reached more than 277,800 this week, including 8,190 deaths.

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medicine

The New York Academy of Medicine Honors Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York, with Prestigious Public Health Award

The Stephen Smith Medal recognizes Governor Cuomo’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic

New York, NY, Nov. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has awarded its prestigious 2020 Stephen Smith Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health to the Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, in recognition of his leadership of the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Governor Cuomo accepted the award at NYAM’s 173rd Annual Meeting of the Fellows, which was held virtually on November 12. The event included the induction of 66 new NYAM Fellows and Members, whose names were read by special guests Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health for New York State, and Dr. Dave Chokshi, Commissioner of Health for New York City. View the full event video here and the event program here. 

“Every day during the height of the pandemic in New York, we looked to Governor Cuomo for his leadership and compassion as we weathered this extraordinary challenge,” said NYAM President Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS. “His priority was to safeguard the people of New York, and for that we are forever grateful and inspired by his leadership. NYAM is honored to recognize Governor Cuomo’s significant contributions to public health with the 2020 Stephen Smith Medal.”

Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health, introduced the award. Mr. Dowling served in New York State government for 12 years, including as deputy secretary to former governor Mario Cuomo. 

“During a crisis like this, leadership really, really matters,” Mr. Dowling said. “Leadership that tells the truth. Leadership that uses facts and science to guide decisions. Leadership that builds trust. Leadership that unifies, that brings people together, that focuses people on the central mission of how we deal with issues such as this. … Here in New York, as I know you will all agree with me, we have been very, very fortunate indeed because we have Governor Andrew Cuomo, a model of such leadership.”

”When Governor Cuomo designated University Hospital of Brooklyn as a COVID-only facility, we understood the magnitude of that designation and the trust he placed in our frontline staff,” said NYAM Board Chair and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University President Wayne J. Riley, MD. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, working with the New York State Department of Health and other partners, we were able to significantly flatten the curve and the spread of the virus by following and adhering to public health guidelines.”

“During these darkest days of COVID, we also saw the light,” Governor Cuomo said in his acceptance speech. “We saw 30,000 retired doctors and nurses return to service to battle the pandemic. We saw 10,000 healthcare professionals from around the country volunteer to come to New York at the height of the pandemic. We saw healthcare professionals become battlefield heroes in saving lives. And we saw the people of New York State rise to the occasion. … I hope and pray a COVID-19-type crisis never happens again, but

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dentist

Former vice mayor, longtime dentist and noted public servant Butler dies at 96 | Local News



wendell butler

Wendell Butler




Wendell Butler was a giant of Roanoke government, education, religious faith and medical care — a “gentle giant,” according to people who knew him.

“He was just a pillar of integrity, honesty and care,” said Wanda Walters, one of Butler’s daughters.

Butler, who died Thursday at the age of 96, was a former Roanoke vice mayor who served as the first Black chairman of the Roanoke School Board as well as on numerous other boards and commissions.

Plus, he was a well-known dentist who served predominantly northwest Roanoke families for decades while working in his office on 11th Street Northwest.

“He was everybody’s dentist,” Walters said.

Butler died less than three weeks after the death of his wife of 71 years, Susie Butler, who was also 96. Both Butlers died from complications of COVID-19, the family said.

Wendell Butler was a native Texan who studied at Howard University, where he met Susie, a standout athlete and dancer. In 1953, four years after they married, the Butlers moved with their young family to Roanoke, close to Susie’s hometown of Covington.

As legal racial segregation crumbled throughout Virginia, Butler became more involved with public service. In 1968, he was appointed to the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s board of commissioners. Two years later, the Roanoke City Council appointed him to the school board, where he served for 10 years and became the first African American chair in 1976.

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medicine

Commentary: Why scientists and public health officials need to address vaccine mistrust instead of dismissing it

Recent polls indicate that more than a third of the country has concerns about a vaccine that in all likelihood will be the only reliable way to end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These results reflect a similar public sentiment in the U.S. in the 1950s when a polio vaccine was introduced. There are likely multiple reasons for this suspicion, including safety concerns, lack of transparency from the scientific community, lack of trust in the government and the desire to wait until a longer track record of safety can be established.
We are experts in media literacy, health and political communication and biostatistics and biomedical research for future health care providers, from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow Center for Media & Health Promotion Research and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. We also live in the communities we hope to serve with our science.
Based on our research, we believe that officials need to use this testing period to build trust, not to create reasons for diminishing it. Respect and forthrightness can turn the tone from adversarial to collaborative, and from a provider-directed practice to a shared decision-making process. Scientists and public health officials must anticipate and address people’s concerns and not brush aside concerns, a process that has become commonplace across other areas of the provider-patient relationship, but vaccine decisions remain a notable exception.
Vaccines and complications
Vaccines are among the safest, most transformative drugs on Earth, with adverse events so low that very nearly universal vaccination is a reasonable expectation. With such a safety record, and with so much at risk with diseases like COVID-19, measles and influenza, vaccine advocates have good reason to stress the overwhelmingly positive safety record.
History has included some vaccines of questionable quality as well as vaccination tactics of even more concern. Certain minority groups have been targeted with egregious coercion. This included cases of forced vaccination for smallpox of African Americans at gunpoint in the southern United States in the early 1900s. At a tenement house in Manhattan’s Little Italy, over 200 men in 1901 in essence performed a smallpox vaccination raid in the middle of the night, trying to vaccinate as many people as they could.
When the miracle vaccine for polio was widely distributed in 1955, speed took precedent over safety, and many doses were distributed that contained live polio virus. As a result, 70,000 children developed muscle weakness, 164 were paralyzed permanently and 10 children died. This led to direct government intervention that has led to thousands of required tests in order to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Instances like these undoubtedly fuel people’s concerns. Such occurrences should give us all pause, scientist or not, to do better next time and strive to never repeat such notable grievances.
Why can’t vaccines bounce back from mistakes?
As medical and public health researchers, we have found it interesting that corporations that have been lax and dishonest have bounced back without lasting damage to their reputations. For example, Volkswagen was caught in

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health

Revealing Prince William’s coronavirus illness would have been a public service

The news that Britain’s Prince William battled covid-19 in April but didn’t publicly disclose his illness is a blow to more than royal credibility. By remaining silent when England was in a pandemic lockdown, William passed up an opportunity to play a positive role during a public health crisis — possibly to his future subjects’ detriment.



a man wearing a suit and hat standing next to a woman: Britain's Prince William looks on as Queen Elizabeth II unveils a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, England, on Oct. 15. (Ben Stansall/Pool via AP)


© Ben Stansall/AP
Britain’s Prince William looks on as Queen Elizabeth II unveils a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, England, on Oct. 15. (Ben Stansall/Pool via AP)

At one point while he was sick, the prince “struggled to breathe,“ according to the Sun, the British tabloid that broke the story. William, second in line to the throne, was stricken shortly after his father, Prince Charles, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson contracted the virus in late March. William, now 38, isolated at his country home, in Norfolk, England, and was treated by palace doctors.

William’s illness became public after he reportedly told an observer about it at a recent event, saying, “There were important things going on, and I didn’t want to worry anyone.“

There is a logic to some arguments against disclosure: Kensington Palace wanted to avoid further public anxiety when the immediate heir to the throne and prime minister were also known to be sick. The royal family might not have wanted to steal thunder from the queen’s rare broadcast in early April thanking front-line workers and reassuring Britons in lockdown that “better days will return.“ And many royal medical procedures and illnesses have been made public only after having been addressed.

It makes no sense, however, to have kept William’s illness a secret in the spring, when disclosing it might have profoundly affected people’s understanding of the pandemic threat.

Coronavirus infections have risen sharply in Britain, where the Office for National Statistics estimated last week that 1 in 100 people in England have covid-19, up from 1 in 200 about a month ago. In July, the share was 1 in 2,300.

With the number of covid cases on course to overtake the National Health Service’s capacity, the prime minister recently announced a four-week lockdown — to begin Thursday — and the closure of nonessential businesses. Criticism of this second lockdown (the government is “giving in to the scientific advisers,” opined a former leader of Johnson’s own Conservative Party) is itself an argument for telling the public about William’s experience.

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 1 million covid cases and more than 46,000 deaths. In April, when Johnson was moved to intensive care, Britain had recorded some 48,000 confirmed cases and about 4,900 deaths.

Knowing that the virus had sickened William, an athletic former helicopter pilot with three young children, might have influenced people’s understanding of the pandemic threat. The share of Britons wearing face masks in public didn’t climb above 50 percent until the first week of July, according to U.K. government data. It was

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health

Connecticut Department of Public Health receives five-year, $3.5M grant from CDC to fund suicide prevention efforts

The Connecticut Department of Public Health has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance statewide suicide prevention efforts, Gov. Ned Lamont announced at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford Thursday morning.

The grant, which runs through Aug. 31, 2025, will be a joint effort between DPH, the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and UConn Health. The prevention efforts will concentrate on populations that are disproportionately impacted by suicide or attempted suicide, including middle-aged adults, particularly men with mental illness or substance use disorder, and adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24).

State officials at the news conference spoke about the intense mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Connecticut residents.

With COVID-19 cases increasing and the winter approaching, “I can feel the stress building again,” Lamont said. He described a “witches’ brew” of health concerns, economic distress and social isolation.

“I hear a lot of, ‘I thought we had a light at the end of the COVID tunnel and it looks like it’s receding,’ ” Lamont said. “I hear the economic anxiety every day.”

Dr. Steven Wolf, chairman of emergency medicine at St. Francis, said that social isolation has exacerbated local residents’ experiences of mental illness and substance use disorder.

Seven people under the age of 18 have died by suicide in Connecticut this year, including four since October, according to Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Connecticut averages about eight suicides of children under the age of 18 annually, Vannessa Dorantes, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Children and Families, said. She emphasized that the state must “work together to get that number to zero.”

On average, 403 Connecticut residents died annually of suicide between 2015 and 2019, a 14% increase from the annual average of 351 residents between 2010 and 2014, according to state officials.

“Though Connecticut has one of the lowest suicide rates in the United States, we know even one death is too much,” Delphin-Rittmon said.

Karen Jarmoc, president & CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that calls to CTSafeConnect, the organization’s domestic violence hotline, rose by 30% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic violence advocacy groups across the state faced increased demand for their services.

“When the pandemic hit in March in our state, understandably there were shut-in orders to keep people safe from a public health standpoint,” Jarmoc said. “From our perspective, it created a precarious situation where victims of domestic violence were shut in with their abusive partner.”

Early in the pandemic, 18 sites across the state that house victims of domestic violence had to send some people to hotels in order to reduce capacity and the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, she said. That resulted in more than $390,000 in unexpected fees to house about 200 adults and 200 children in hotels, from March through

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fitness

Wearable fitness devices can improve public health efforts to control COVID-19

Examining data from the first six weeks of their landmark DETECT study, a team of scientists from the Scripps Research Translational Institute sees encouraging signs that wearable fitness devices can improve public health efforts to control COVID-19.

The DETECT study, launched on March 25, uses a mobile app to collect smartwatch and activity tracker data from consenting participants, and also gathers their self-reported symptoms and diagnostic test results. Any adult living in the United States is eligible to participate in the study by downloading the research app, MyDataHelps.

In a study that appears today in Nature Medicine, the Scripps Research team reports that wearable devices like Fitbit are capable of identifying cases of COVID-19 by evaluating changes in heart rate, sleep and activity levels, along with self-reported symptom data–and can identify cases with greater success than looking at symptoms alone.

What’s exciting here is that we now have a validated digital signal for COVID-19. The next step is to use this to prevent emerging outbreaks from spreading. Roughly 100 million Americans already have a wearable tracker or smartwatch and can help us; all we need is a tiny fraction of them–just 1 percent or 2 percent–to use the app.”


Eric Topol, MD, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and executive vice president of Scripps Research

With data from the app, researchers can see when participants fall out of their normal range for sleep, activity level or resting heart rate; deviations from individual norms are a sign of viral illness or infection.

But how do they know if the illness causing those changes is COVID-19? To answer that question, the team reviewed data from those who reported developing symptoms and were tested for the novel coronavirus. Knowing the test results enabled them to pinpoint specific changes indicative of COVID-19 versus other illnesses.

“One of the greatest challenges in stopping COVID-19 from spreading is the ability to quickly identify, trace and isolate infected individuals,” says Giorgio Quer, PhD, director of artificial intelligence at Scripps Research Translational Institute and first author of the study. “Early identification of those who are pre-symptomatic or even asymptomatic would be especially valuable, as people may potentially be even more infectious during this period. That’s the ultimate goal.”

For the study, the team used health data from fitness wearables and other devices to identify–with roughly 80% prediction accuracy–whether a person who reported symptoms was likely to have COVID-19. This is a significant improvement from other models that only evaluated self-reported symptoms.

As of June 7, 30,529 individuals had enrolled in the study, with representation from every U.S. state. Of these, 3,811 reported symptoms, 54 tested positive for the coronavirus and 279 tested negative. More sleep and less activity than an individual’s normal levels were significant factors in predicting coronavirus infection.

The predictive model under development in DETECT might someday help public health officials spot coronavirus hotspots early. It also may encourage people

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health

Hours after Lightfoot announces new COVID-19 restrictions, Birx warns during Chicago visit that closing public spaces won’t be enough

CHICAGO — Just hours after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions on businesses in response to rising COVID-19 cases, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx cautioned that closing public spaces won’t be enough to stop the illness’s spread.



a person wearing a suit and tie: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.


© Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Birx said it’s possible some of the recent spread is happening in people’s homes, during family gatherings, as the weather gets colder. She spoke at a news conference following a private meeting with leaders from Rush University System for Health, Northwestern Medicine and the Illinois and Chicago departments of public health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

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“It won’t be as simple as closing public spaces because public spaces … were very safe over the summer and probably remain safe,” Birx said. “This is really something that has happened in the last three to four weeks. What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors.”

On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew for nonessential businesses and no more indoor service at bars that don’t serve food. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in suburban counties with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

On Thursday the state announced 4,942 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the statewide rolling positivity rate stood at 5.7%, up from 3.7% two weeks earlier. In Illinois, 2,463 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, according to Thursday figures, up from 1,812 two weeks earlier.

Birx also said Thursday that she advocated for weekly testing while meeting privately with hospital and public health leaders.

She said, at the news conference, that finding the “silent cases” and asymptomatic cases is “critical in preventing community spread.”

She recommended asking certain community members — such as community college students, teachers or hospital workers — if they would be willing to be tested weekly. She said universities that have tested students weekly have had more success limiting infections than those that only tested students who had been directly exposed to COVID-19 or had symptoms.

Birx said testing, along with mask-wearing and social distancing, are key to getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.

When asked what she’s doing to get President Donald Trump to understand the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing, she said: “My public health guidance is consistent no matter who I’m speaking to. I think you can see there’s a diversity of how people relate to that message.”

———

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