HEALTH

Americans set to repeat unhealthy habits this holiday season

BY Michael Johnsen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Heading into the 2010 holiday shopping season, Americans appear ready to repeat unhealthy eating and exercise habits, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways well-being index released Thursday.

 

The WBI healthy behavior sub-index — which measures incidence of smoking, eating healthy, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and exercise — slipped for the third consecutive month, falling to 63.8 in October. The percentage of respondents who exercised three or more times a week has dropped two points since July to 51.7%, while the percent who said they ate healthy and the percent consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day both dropped in the same time period.

 

The percentage of respondents who report smoking has remained consistent in nearly three years of measurement, hovering around October’s 20.6% with very little variation.

 

Over the past two years that Gallup-Healthways has been measuring WBI, the healthy behavior sub-index dropped steadily from September through December before recovering in January, once everyone made their New Year’s resolutions.

 

 

The physical health sub-index, which measures the number of sick days used in the past month, obesity, cold, flu and headaches, among other things, dropped to 76.2 in October from 76.6 in September. Daily flu incidents increased by one point, and daily cold increased by four, both very much in line with previous years. Seasonal influences and increased rates of headache likely will create a drag on the PHI through the end of the cold-and-flu season in March, Gallup-Healthways reported.

 

The WBI, which helps illustrate the picture of American well-being across several matrices, recently tabulated its 1 millionth survey. The WBI is a daily assessment of U.S. residents’ health and well-being. By interviewing at least 1,000 U.S. adults every day, the WBI provides real-time measurement and insights needed to improve health, increase productivity and lower healthcare costs. Public and private sector leaders use data on life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to public services to develop and prioritize public initiatives.

 

“Prior to this work, how well-being was intertwined with daily life was unknown,” stated Nikki Duggan, Healthways lead WBI data analyst. “We didn’t know the impact elements, such as happiness, anger, stress, health status, employment status and neighborhood safety, had on the whole,” she said. “Through these million people sharing their lives, we have uncovered incredibly valuable insight for our country and its people. We have heard both concern and hope over the past three years of our surveying.”

 

 

The survey’s inception in January 2008 provided researchers with a snapshot of America prior to the recession, and also a baseline against which to measure the impact of the stock market crash in October of that year. Within two months, overall well-being fell 2.8 points, while life evaluation index scores, the measure of people’s current life perception and hope for the future fell 5.6 points within one month.

 

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Report: Cessation programs fall by the wayside

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK According to a recently published Dow Jones report, state-funded tobacco-prevention programs quickly are becoming the latest casualty of constricting state budgets, prompting concern among public health groups around the nation’s progress toward getting adult smokers to quit.

 

The number of adults who smoke has remained relatively steady since 2004 — 20.6% of the population were smokers in 2009.

 

 

According to the report, the $517 million allocated by states for tobacco prevention and cessation in fiscal-year 2011 is down 9.2% from $569 million a year earlier and 28% less than states spent in 2008.

 

 

“There’s a risk of a setback," said CDC director Thomas Frieden, according to Dow Jones. "The data are very clear. The more we invest in tobacco control, the fewer people smoke, and that prevents illness, disability, deaths and healthcare costs."

 

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AMCC, Walgreens drive awareness around expired medicines in the home

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens on Wednesday released a survey that found 2-in-5 American households have at least one bottle of expired over-the-counter medicine in their medicine cabinets. In addition, when consumers dispose of medication, more than 60% of those surveyed said they disposed of medications in the household garbage.

The most common OTC medications that shoppers had on hand include pain relievers, cough-cold treatments and allergy relief.

Walgreens’ research is timely, especially considering the amount of awareness presently being raised around those medicine cabinets and proper medicine disposal. This Saturday, Nov. 13, the American Medicine Chest Challenge — a public health initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse — will be held in thousands of communities. And while AMCC’s primary focus is the prevention of teenage abuse of those medicines found in mom and dad’s medicine cabinet, the challenge still will prompt many of those parents to poke around, and thereby discover those expired medicines.

The initiative is asking parents to take a five-step challenge — take stock of those medicines in the home; secure the medicine chest; take medicine only as prescribed or according to the drug facts label; dispose of unused, unwanted and expired medicine; and talk to their children around the dangers of medicine. Partnering with AMCC around the initiative are the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the Partnership at DrugFree.org and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

In September, Walgreens launched the first ongoing, nationwide Safe Medication Disposal Program, a safe and environmentally responsible alternative way to dispose of unused or expired medications. For $2.99, customers can purchase a specially designed envelope available at any Walgreens pharmacy counter that allows them to place, seal and mail prescription or over-the-counter medications they no longer use for safe, eco-friendly disposal. Outside of the recent Walgreens solution, information on where to dispose of medicines can be found on AmericanMedicineChest.com.

The Walgreens survey also found that 55% of consumers suggested they knowingly would use those expired drugs, especially if the expiration date was within a few months passed. And though most parents more frequently tend to check expiration dates, more than one-third said they have given their children medication that had expired in the previous six months.

“With cough-cold and flu season now well under way, consumers should check for medications on hand, note expiration dates and replace commonly used medications as needed to make sure they’re prepared to immediately meet their family’s needs in the event of an illness,” stated Walgreens chief medical officer Cheryl Pegus. “Coming down with an illness and not having an OTC pain reliever or cough-cold medication readily available only makes the situation worse,” Pegus said. “To ensure that you have safe medications at home, you should check your medicines for expiration dates with each change of season.”

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