Massachusetts Look to Raise the Legal Age for Buying Cigarettes to 21

Tobacco use is one of the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015), cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, with more than 41,000 of these deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. To add on, several studies suggests that about 90% of daily smokers first used cigarettes before the age of 19. Thus, Massachusetts’ lawmakers are weighing the possibility to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21. Continue reading “Massachusetts Look to Raise the Legal Age for Buying Cigarettes to 21”

The lack of Public Health in US healthcare system

Jenny Mistretta

November Analytical Posting

Title of Article: “US Public Health Funding on the Decline” by Lisa Rapaport


In this article, Lisa Rapaport discusses the issue of a decline in funding for public health initiatives in the United States. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the expenditures spent on public health decreased by 9.3% since 2008. Rapaport writes that the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, stated that the healthcare funding for public health would rise by 15 billion dollars. However, laws passed beginning in 2012 cut this number down by over 6.5 billion dollars. This article utilizes statistical data to showcase the immense issue of a lack of public health initiatives that plagues the United States healthcare system.

This article directly relates to what we have learned this semester about the US healthcare system. The United States spends over 2 trillion dollars each year on healthcare, yet health outcomes are far from ideal. For example, the US is ranked 43rd in life expectancy and the infant mortality rate is not desirable either. There are many reasons that contribute to the poor health outcomes among Americans, one being the lack of public health initiatives. The medical profession is founded on curing individual patients, rather than focusing on the prevention of diseases. In the United States, we are constantly pouring money into treating patients’ acute illnesses, rather than stepping back and treating the core root of the problem. For example, the law prevents clean needles from being to given to those struggling with drug addictions. This causes a drastic increase in the prevalence of HIV among drug users due to the sharing of contaminated needles. These patients must then be treated in the hospital, which ultimately causes excess money to be spent, and a lower quality of life for the patient.

The decline in public health funding is only one manifestation of the lack of public health initiatives that embodies the US healthcare system. For example, medical school education focuses on the treatment of sick patients, rather than prevention. Therefore, the foundation of the medical profession is not founded on public health and providing equal care for all. Additionally, doctors are pressured into seeing patients for incredibly short appointments, before moving on to the next patient. This causes doctors to not have the time and necessity to promote healthy lifestyles (and thus prevention) to patients because treating the patient’s symptoms through medication has faster outcomes.

Rapaport’s article displays that the US is continuing to ignore one of the major issues regarding our healthcare system. I hope that in the coming years there is a push to increase public health funding so that the citizens of the United States can be treated equally and have a higher quality of life through disease prevention.

Is autism spectrum disorder increasing in the US?

This recent news talked about whether the number of cases of children with autism in the US have increased, or if it was a matter of better case reporting in the last few years.

According to the Center for Disease control and Prevention, the number of cases of children with autism spectrum disorder has increased by 30%, compared to the number of cases in 2012.

Turns out that, starting in 2014, the survey given to parents who were asked about autism symptoms in their children was slightly changed. Researchers repositioned the questions regarding autism at the beginning of the survey, whereas other questions about other developmental disorders were located at the end of the survey. They realized that, coincidentally or not, the number of reported cases of autism went up, and the number of reporter cases of other developmental disorders went down.

The fact that autism is a complicated disease to diagnose only makes things trickier. There is no blood test that can confirm the presence of autism. The Center for Health Statistics found that 13% of the children who were first diagnosed with autism obtained a different diagnosis later, after further examinations. This just goes to show how complicated it can become to obtain data for such disorder.

I personally think that the issue regarding the design of the survey for parents is true not only for autism, but for other conditions as well. For example, in the field of epidemiology, researchers pay special attention to the order of the questions in a survey, particularly if these are questions with certain stigmas embedded in them. Turns out that people is more likely to answer honestly when these questions are in the middle of the survey, as opposed to the beginning. This is because, if this question were to be the first one, it would be more obvious to other individuals around what their answer was. In this particular case, researchers were not attributing this to social stigma related to autism; however, it goes to show how the method of data collection can have an important impact on the results obtained.

Discussion question: The Silent Curriculum

In lecture and discussion, we spoke about how socioeconomic status does, in fact, greatly influence health. We analyzed scenarios and watched videos on how the poorer populations in America were more susceptible to a decline in health just by where they lived or the quality of food they ate. Socioeconomic status, and furthermore diseases themselves, are sometimes, but never always, indicative of race, yet we never study why these differences occur. My question is how, as future medical professionals, can we understand and break down the differences in health among races? Will we ever know why certain races have worse health than others? If so, can we ever change that?

Medical Professionals and Their Roles as Advocates for Their Patients’ Overall Health

In the New York Times article, “Pediatricians Are Asked to Join Fight Against Childhood Hunger,” Catherine Saint Louis commends the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for its new policy that addresses the issue of food insecurity as a major contextual factor that influences U.S population health. She draws attention to how food insecurity has been found to cause many behavioral problems and hospitalizations for developing children. She also states that the lack of proper nutrition for these children contributes to the rising costs of health care. Saint Louis argues that the negative health outcomes in children from food insecurity amongst families is due impart to the medical practice of pediatricians. Saint Louis draws on claims from Dr. Chilton of Children’s HealthWatch that pediatricians do not adequately research childhood hunger; it has also been difficult to get the physician community to focus on the issue of food insecurity and the negative health effects it causes for their patients. The academy now urges pediatricians to screen their patients for food insecurity using a screening method that inquires if in the past year, money for a lasting food supply was a concern the parent(s) had encountered. If it is incorporated into standard routine of the doctor check-up process, this proposed screening method is helpful in that it removes the communication barrier experienced by parents that may be embarrassed to admit food insecurity and to seek help from a medical professional.

Continue reading “Medical Professionals and Their Roles as Advocates for Their Patients’ Overall Health”

Self-Efficacy in the Health Belief Model

In Chapter 2 of The Sociology of Health, Illness & Health Care, Weitz describes the Health Belief Model, a psychological model used to effectively predict and account for health behaviors of a population. Through consideration of diversity in the collective attitude and beliefs of a group of individuals, the model outlines several core assumptions indicative as to why a particular individual acts in a health-related action. Some of the assumptions include: perceived susceptibility, one’s consideration of the chances of acquiring a condition, perceived severity, one’s consideration of the consequences to a condition, and perceived benefits, one’s belief that he or she can take the greatest course of action to reduce the risk or danger of a condition. Weitz addresses the model’s underlying concept of self-efficacy and applies its effect in a hypothetical perspective of those with power in healthcare. He suggests that under the consideration of the assumptions outlined in the model, individuals responsible for the promotion or other public expression of particular forms of medicine would be more inclined to empathize with the general public and heed warning to the possible side effects and dangers of not only an immediate medication, but as well as an unhealthy lifestyle often seen in Americans today. Continue reading “Self-Efficacy in the Health Belief Model”

Drug Pricing: Public Health Implications (online presentation)

Thought some of you might be interested in this upcoming online presentation hosted by the Harvard School of Public Health:

Friday, October 23, 2015, 12:30-1:30pm ET

Join Us Online:
October 23, 12:30-1:30pmET
@ForumHSPH #MedPricing
Email questions for the panelists.

Presented in Collaboration with Reuters and in Association with Harvard HealthPublications


Steven Pearson, President of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review and Lecturer at Harvard Medical School

Aaron Kesselheim, Director, Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Meredith Rosenthal, Professor of Health Economics and Policy, Harvard T.H. Chan School ofPublic Health

Lowell Schnipper, Clinical Director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center, and Chair, American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force

Caroline Humer, Correspondent, Reuters