Public Health

Divine Harvester / Flickr

The debate over gun control may be focused on the nation’s capital, but one local official says King County will soon take measures of its own.

About 125 people die each year of gun violence in King County. Executive Dow Constantine says the way a county government can chip away at that number is through a public health approach. He announced in his state of the county address that he is directing the health department to collect new data on gun deaths and injuries.

Benimoto photo / Flickr

If you live in the Evergreen State, chances are, you like trees. Cities around the Pacific Northwest do a lot to protect them. 

But, do they really make us healthier? An economist with the US forest service in Portland is working on that question.

Geoffrey Donovan  loves trees. He’s already shown they make home prices go up, energy use go down and they tend to keep crime rates down as well. So what about public health?

MMWR / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Fewer Washington parents are opting their children out of vaccinations, giving the state one of the biggest drops in vaccine exemptions in the country. Two years ago Washington had the highest rate of vaccine exemptions in the nation, with 6.2 percent of kindergartners taking a medical, religious or philosophical pass on getting one or more immunizations.

Centers for Disease Control

Federal regulators are looking into a health hazard that sent a Tacoma man to the hospital over the weekend.

Adam Wojtanowicz ate a grilled steak, and ended up in surgery. It had nothing to do with the meat, or even cooking with fire – no, Wojtanowicz actually ingested a metal bristle from the wire brush used to clean the grill. That little whisker of steel can wreak havoc on the digestive system, puncturing intestines or other organs. 

It turns out to be a rare but not unique injury.

CDC

Don’t be surprised if you notice a few co-workers are out sick, or if a stomach bug seems to be hitting your family. Winter is peak time for sharing germs – and right now, at least, most of those are NOT the flu bug.

For Lisa Steinbrueck of Seattle, it seemed at first like food poisoning:

Public Health Seattle & King County

Why spend $800,000 to advertise what seems like common knowledge?  That smoking is bad for you, that eating nutritious foods is better than a diet of fast-food and physical activity is a good idea?

Because too many of us have trouble following those golden rules.

Public Health Seattle & King County

A major ad campaign launches this week to promote healthy living, with advertisements featured on Seattle-area television, radio and billboards. Just about the only place you won’t find the ads is on Metro buses.

The transit agency says the advertisements violate its new policy regarding public service announcements. The policy, adopted April 8th, prohibits ads that express a viewpoint on “matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues.”

IHME

If you live in certain counties in Washington, your life probably won’t be much longer than someone's in Albania or Mexico. On the other hand, the healthiest counties have life expectancies similar to Switzerland and Sweden.

This comes from new research showing life expectancy in many American communities is failing to keep up with the rest of the world. And the growing health gap is affecting women more than men.

Thirty years ago this month, the first cases of AIDS were identified by the medical community. It was still a mystery disease. A strange form of pneumonia was striking young men in Los Angeles. Since then, the epidemic has been a dramatic roller-coaster of death, disease, politics and what some people call the greatest medical success story of the past half century. 

(This interactive timeline is from the federal AIDS.gov website. Click and scroll for dates and highlights.)

I sat down with Dr. Bob Wood, one of the most prominent local faces of AIDS and the fight to contain it, to discuss the highlights and low points. You can listen to the interview by clicking on "Audio."

Charla Bear / KPLU

Over the past few years, a lot of people have pushed to get local, fresh produce into meals at public schools. Far less attention has been focused on kids in childcare programs. That effort is finally underway.  

AP

Record numbers of parents in the Northwest are seeking waivers from mandatory child immunization requirements. The trend alarms public health officials. They say it creates increased risk for disease outbreaks. Washington, Oregon, and Idaho are all moving to sway vaccine skeptics.

All U.S. states require parents to immunize their children before sending them to school.

John Froschauer / AP

My friends always tend to disbelieve me (in general, but also specifically) when I tell them that one out of every three people on the planet has been infected with tuberculosis.

So where are all these consumptive folks, they might say? — This is assuming they know that TB used to be called consumption because of the way it “consumed” and withered the body as the infection progressed.

They’re everywhere, I’d reply, including right here in wealthy and smug Seattle.

Seattle, in fact, has one of the worst problems with TB in the nation. But it’s always here, managed by the public health folks, so it’s hardly news.

The news is that it’s World TB Day.

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AP Photo

From Chehalis to Chicago, local health food stores are seeing their stock of potassium iodide pills sell out, as public fear over radiation fallout from Japan's damaged nuclear plants continues.

The trouble is the fear doesn't match the risk, say numerous scientists and government officials, both here and across the nation, according to The News Tribune and other reports.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was in Seattle this week, to hear about local efforts to make the medical system more efficient.

Sebelius is in charge of implementing the new national health care law – and defending it. The Affordable Care Act has been under fierce attack by Republicans and their allies. Democrats and their supporters recently hired political strategists to launch a campaign in defense of the law.

At the same time, Sebelius has been trying to sell it across the country, alongside sympathetic mayors and governors. 

Photo by derekb/Flickr

If those cuts don't sound harsh enough, you can add "low-income" and "people of color" to the headline. 

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