CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Work Highlights Smoking Cessation

January 9, 2015

MMWR News Synopsis for December 18, 2014


Smoking Cessation Among Users of Telephone and Web-Based Interventions — Four States, 2011–2012


Tobacco cessation services are available for free in every state. Smokers who use these services better their odds of successfully quitting smoking. Smoking causes 480,000 deaths a year in the United States. All states offer access to telephone or web based tobacco cessation services, and these services are freely available to people who want to quit smoking. Using these services, and in particular, using both services in combination, increases the chances of quitting successfully. States can help a greater number of people quit smoking by offering both telephone and web-based tobacco cessation services instead of offering only one.


Tetrodotoxin Poisoning Outbreak from Imported Dried Puffer Fish — Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2014

Health care providers who work in emergency departments or with persons from countries with a tradition of puffer fish consumption should be aware of the potential public health threat of puffer fish poisoning and should coordinate with their local poison centers and health departments to investigate any suspected cases. Puffer fish is a highly regulated product in the U.S. due to its potential toxicity yet is a delicacy in many cultures. Health care providers who work in emergency departments or with persons from countries with a tradition of puffer fish consumption should be aware of this potential public health threat and coordinate with their local poison centers and health departments to investigate any suspected cases of puffer fish poisoning to determine the source of the fish, whether it was legally imported, and whether additional contaminated product needs to be removed from commerce.


Perceptions of the Risk for Ebola and Health Facility Use Among Pregnant and Lactating Women and Community Health Workers — Kenema District, Sierra Leone, September 2014


During a complex humanitarian crisis such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, it is critical to consider the impact of the crisis on the delivery of routine health services and on health care seeking among vulnerable populations. Fear and misconceptions of Ebola were found to contribute to decreased health facility use in focus group discussions with health workers and pregnant and lactating women in Kenema District, Sierra Leone. In a country with the highest ratio of maternal deaths and fourth highest rate of newborn deaths in the world, use of routine maternal and newborn health care is essential to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes. Infection prevention and control trainings were found to reduce fear among health care workers and may be an important strategy to increase women’s confidence in health facility safety. This information is being used to create messaging to encourage use of maternal and newborn health care services across Sierra Leone.


Notes from the Field:


Aseptic Meningitis Outbreak Associated with Echovirus 30 Among High School Football Players — Los Angeles County, California, 2014



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University of Arizona Team to Use Social Media in Study of E-Cigarettes

December 11, 2014
UA Eller College of Management | December 10, 2014

Five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health will support project that is as much about data-gathering methods as it is about public health.

 When Facebook announced in September that it would use all that personal data it collects to roll out a new ad platform to rival Google, privacy advocates groaned and marketers grinned.  But what if all that intelligence could be used to crack open one of today’s most pressing — yet least understood — public health issues?
Professor Daniel Zeng of the UA's Eller College of Management expects to create "a suite of novel technologies" for studying e-cigarettes.

Professor Daniel Zeng of the UA’s Eller College of Management expects to create “a suite of novel technologies” for studying e-cigarettes.

That’s precisely the vision of the University of Arizona’sDaniel Zeng, MIS professor at the Eller College of Management, and Scott Leischow, adjunct faculty in the UA College of Medicine and professor of health services research at Arizona’s Mayo Clinic.

Fusing cutting-edge informatics and public health, their plan to scrape social media to create the world’s best data on e-cigarette usage and marketing recently won a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The project will tackle four distinct goals. It will:

  • Create a massive, real-time and continuously growing data set of what consumers and marketers say about e-cigarettes on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as social media forums focused on e-cigarettes and “vaping.”
  • Mine that content for insights into why people use e-cigarettes, how they believe they affect their health and whether they help them quit smoking.
  • Document the marketing landscape — all the ways brands and vendors use these channels to promote their products and how consumers respond.
  • Integrate all of that information in the world’s first one-stop resource for wide-ranging data on e-cigarettes as revealed through social media as a tool for other researchers, health care professionals and more.

While e-cigarettes are relatively new in the U.S. — they were introduced in 2007 — sales are doubling annually and were expected to reach $1 billion last year. Even so, any time public dollars fund research, two questions naturally arise: Why study this? And why study it this way?

“There’s so much we don’t know about e-cigarettes,” Leischow says. “The scientific community has found mixed data on whether they’re helpful for smoking cessation. We have questions about how different flavorings impact use, particularly among minors. And many health professionals worry that e-cigarettes may ultimately lead to more young people taking up smoking. All of these blind spots around a product that is still totally unregulated make this a top-priority area for the FDA.”

As for why it makes sense to study e-cigarettes in this way, Zeng’s MIS expertise holds the key.  By mining social media in real time, as Zeng and Leischow have proposed, there are a number of strategic advantages:

  • Data comes from people interacting naturally in their day-to-day lives, thus removing “presentation bias” problems intrinsic in surveys.
  • The data collection is automated, which means sample size is not constrained by how much money or how many eyeball hours researchers can muster.
  • The lack of constraint also makes anecdotal information scientifically relevant: One personal story is just that, but 10,000 or 100,000 personal stories over time equal robust statistical data.
  • Because content is processed by algorithms, not people, data is available in near real time, not months or even years after countless hours of labor-intensive review. Read the rest of this entry »

Registration Open: AZ Health Equity Conference

August 27, 2014

On behalf of the Arizona Health Equity Conference Planning Committee, we are pleased to announce that REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN. This statewide conference will take place on Thursday, October 30th at the Glendale Civic Center. It will highlight the current health equity research and outreach taking place in Arizona, and will connect partners to promote new collaborations. Attendees will include physicians, nurses, researchers, clinicians, public health professionals, community health workers, social workers, and non-profit partners. Continuing education credits through AZPHA and GVAHEC are also being pursued. Spots are limited, and we have received high interest, so we highly encourage you to sign up as soon as possible. Please click on the conference website for the agenda, and share broadly.


Thank you!


Chara Chamie & Members of the Planning Team



Now available: Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings (STARS) surveillance tool and

August 15, 2014

We are excited to announce that the Standardized Tobacco Assessment for Retail Settings (STARS) surveillance tool and accompanying training materials are now available on the State and Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Research Initiative website here:

The STARS package is intended for use by self-trained adults and youth to gather information on the retail tobacco environment, which can inform effective tobacco control policy solutions. The STARS tool has 20 items assessing placement, promotion, price and availability of tobacco products in the retail setting.  Training materials include a 93-slide PowerPoint presentation for individual- or group-administered instruction, and a Pocket Guide to be used in the field.  An Excel Data Entry Template is also provided for organizing and analyzing STARS data.

I hope you find the STARS tool and supporting materials to be user-friendly and policy relevant.  Please forward this e-mail to your professional colleagues, community coalition members, and others interested in protecting our communities from the impact of retail tobacco marketing.



Nikie Sarris, MPH

Research Public Health Analyst

Community Health Promotion Research

RTI International