HEALTH

Walgreens Flu Index: Flu picking up in pockets of the Midwest, across the South

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill.— The flu continues to pick up in pockets of the Midwest and across the South, according to the latest Walgreens Flu Index report. Three areas in Texas were included in the top ten designated market areas that saw the most gain in flu activity last week, according to the report. However, Rockford, Ill. saw the greatest increase in flu activity across the nation. 
 
The Walgreens Flu Index is a weekly report developed to provide state- and market-specific information regarding flu activity, and ranking of those experiencing the highest incidences of influenza across the country. With the ability to generate hyper-local data that’s as specific as a single zip code, the Index aims to drive consumer awareness and prevention within communities, while also serving as a valuable resource for health departments, media and others at the local level, Walgreens stated. 
 
The top 10 DMAs with flu activity for the week ended Dec. 12 were: 
  1. Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas;
  2. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
  3. Chattanooga, Tenn.;
  4. New Orleans;
  5. Rockford, Ill.;
  6. Baton Rouge, La.;
  7. Houston;
  8. Tallahassee, Fla. – Thomasville Ga.;
  9. St. Louis; and
  10. Paducah, Ky. – Cape Girardeau, Mo. – Harrisburg, Ill.
The top 10 states with flu activity were: 
  1. Louisiana;
  2. Texas;
  3. Mississippi;
  4. Alabama;
  5. Tennessee;
  6. Illinois;
  7. Kentucky;
  8. Missouri;
  9. Georgia; and
  10. Oklahoma.
The top 10 DMAs with flu activity gains for the week ended Dec. 12 as compared to the week ended Dec. 5 were: 
  1. Rockford, Ill.;
  2. Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas;
  3. Chattanooga, Tenn.;
  4. Ft. Wayne, Ind.;
  5. Austin, Texas;
  6. Paducah, Ky. – Cape Girardeau, Mo. – Harrisburg, Ill.;
  7. Oklahoma City, Okla.;
  8. Harlingen – Weslaco – Brownsville – McAllen, Texas;
  9. Nashville, Tenn.; and
  10. Louisville, Ky.
The top 10 states with flu activity gains were: 
  1. Kentucky;
  2. Texas;
  3. Mississippi;
  4. Tennessee;
  5. Illinois;
  6. Missouri;
  7. Oklahoma;
  8. Iowa;
  9. Indiana; and
  10. Colorado.
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Prevention contributing to decline in teenage opioid, DXM abuse

BY Michael Johnsen

 
BETHESDA, Md. — Use of cigarettes, alcohol and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens has declined since 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future survey, released Tuesday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, use of e-cigarettes, measured in the report for the first time, is high.
 
“With the rates of many drugs decreasing, and the rates of marijuana use appearing to level off, it is possible that prevention efforts are having an effect,” said NIDA director Nora Volkow. “It is now more important than ever for the public health community to continue to educate teens, parents, teachers, community leaders, the media and healthcare providers about the specific harms of drug use among teens, whose brains are still developing.”
 
“This year’s Monitoring the Future data show promising signs on the declining rates of adolescent substance use, and reinforce the need to continue efforts on prevention, treatment and recovery,” said National Drug Control Policy acting director Michael Botticelli. “The Obama administration remains steadfast in its commitment to reduce drug use and its consequences — and we know that the best way to reduce drug use is to prevent it from ever starting. I encourage parents, teachers, coaches and mentors to have a conversation with a young person in their lives about making the healthy decisions that will keep them on a path toward a successful future.”
 
The findings related to prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse continued positive downward trends in 2014. Past year use of narcotics other than heroin — which includes all opioid pain relievers — was reported by 6.1% of high school seniors, compared with 7.1% a year ago and markedly lower than the 2004 peak of 9.5%. Past year use of the opioid pain reliever Vicodin showed a significant five-year drop, with 4.8% of 12th graders using Vicodin for non-medical reasons, half of what it was just five years ago, at 9.7%.
 
There was also a drop in the past year use of cough-cold medicines containing dextromethorphan among eighth graders, with only 2% using them for non-medical reasons, down from 3.8% five years ago. 
 
“The results of this year’s Monitoring the Future survey demonstrate that prevention efforts make a difference,"
 stated Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “Our teen education campaign, in collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, highlights the social disapproval and side effects of cough medicine abuse behaviors. This year, we expanded our outreach to teens by launching a mobile app called DXMLabworks and a revamped, mobile- and search-optimized website called WhatIsDXM.com," he said. "To date, 5.5 million teens have directly engaged with campaign content by watching, downloading, playing, sharing and commenting."
 
By contrast, past year non-medical use of the stimulant Adderall — often prescribed for ADHD — remained relatively steady, at 6.8% for high school seniors. The survey continues to show that most teens get these medicines from friends or relatives and to a lesser degree from their own prescriptions.
 
These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation’s youth. The MTF survey, which measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.
 
Overall, 41,551 students from 377 public and private schools participated in this year's MTF survey. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year and past month. Questions also are asked about daily cigarette and marijuana use. 
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Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus advises use of supplements to address nutrient shortfall

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Nationally recognized nutrition expert Danielle Omar told an audience of Capitol Hill staffers to take the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans to heart, noting that eating a balanced diet requires a heightened level of planning, patience and know-how. She added that Americans rarely get all the nutrients they need from food alone, and that’s where supplementing smartly can play an important role. 
 
Omar was a guest of the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus at a luncheon briefing held in cooperation with the leading trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry, including the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Natural Products Association and the United Natural Products Alliance.
 
A fundamental premise of the Dietary Guidelines is that Americans should obtain nutrients primarily from food, while balancing energy intake with energy expenditure. Maximizing nutrient-dense foods is a shared public health goal, yet data consistently shows that consumption of these foods is lower than recommended and, consequently, major nutrient shortfalls still exist.
 
During the educational briefing, Omar expounded on the current Dietary Guidelines recommendations, outlined options to bridge nutritional gaps and provided helpful tips for better health-and-wellness. As a registered dietitian based in Northern Virginia, Omar shared her expertise on her functional nutrition approach to moving beyond the standard of calories and carbs, and toward tangible means of helping working Americans realize their health goals.
 
Omar is a nationally recognized speaker and author of “Skinny Juices, 101 Juicing Recipes for Detox and Weight Loss.” She is a Washingtonian Magazine Top Nutritionist, and a health contributor for several news outlets including ABC, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Omar also gives health and nutrition advice on her blog Food Confidence.
 
This was the DSC’s 7th educational briefing in the 113th Congress. DSC educational briefings are held throughout the year, featuring nationally recognized authors, lecturers and authorities on health-and-wellness who provide tips and insights for better nutrition, including how dietary supplements can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. These briefings also help to educate congressional staff about constituent access to safe and beneficial dietary supplements, and legislative and regulatory issues associated with these products. In addition, DSC members receive regular updates on any new and ongoing developments in the dietary supplement arena.
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