The ASTHO Take: A Week in Public Health News (November 13)

November 13, 2015|5:19 p.m.| Virgie Townsend

Must-read news for leaders in public health.

  • New Data Suggest Lower Blood Pressure Target Would Save Lives

Current blood pressure guidelines recommend a systolic blood pressure target of 140, but data released on Monday shows that a systolic blood pressure of 120 reduces deaths among hypertension patients by 26 percent, and lowers heart failure cases among the patients by 38 percent.

“This study provides potentially lifesaving information,” said National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Director Gary H. Gibbons in a statement in September, after the institute decided that the results needed to be released early to promote public health.

The new figures are poised to change U.S. guidelines for people with high blood pressure. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology plan to take the findings into account as they draft new hypertension recommendations for release next year.

An unrelated report from CDC earlier this week found that 47 percent of people in the United States with hypertension are not controlling their high blood pressure, which may complicate efforts to help patients achieve a 120 target.

To help states address hypertension in their jurisdictions, ASTHO supports the Million Hearts initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. As part of its work, ASTHO, with assistance from CDC, convened the State Learning Collaborative to Improve Blood Pressure Control. Fifteen states, Palau, and the District of Columbia have come together in the collaborative to implement best practices and evidence based policies to identify, control, and improve blood pressure in their jurisdictions.

  • More Women Choosing Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

The number of U.S. women using long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, new CDC statistics show. Although LARC still trails the pill, sterilization, and condoms in its use as a contraceptive method, almost 12 percent of women now use LARC, with intrauterine devices serving as the most popular form of LARC.

Megan Kavanaugh, senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, attributes the rise in IUD use to greater access to IUD trainings for healthcare providers, as well as increased contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Because they don’t require daily upkeep and also reduce the risk of human error, LARC are linked to reduced teen pregnancy rates and improved birth outcomes. However, they also preserve fertility, allowing users to try to get pregnant soon after their LARC is removed.

In 2014, ASTHO launched a LARC Learning Community to assist states in the implementation of LARC initiatives focusing on post-partum insertion following delivery.

“In the last couple of years, there’s been this convergence of [the] best evidence coming out and this drive to make sure we’re purchasing the best health care,” ASTHO Chief Program Officer of Community Health and Prevention Lisa Waddell said in a recent interview. “These are highly effective devices…You’re seeing a systems change.”

  • Housing Department Proposes Smoking Ban for Public Housing

On Thursday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule that would prohibit lit tobacco products in public housing and outdoor surrounding areas up to 25 feet from the buildings.

“We have a responsibility to protect public housing residents from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, especially the elderly and children who suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases," Julian Castro, HUD secretary, said in a statement. "This proposed rule will help improve the health of more than 760,000 children and help public housing agencies save $153 million every year in healthcare, repairs and preventable fires."

HUD is seeking comments on the proposed rule over the next 60 days.