Prevention Policy Matters Blog

The Prevention Policy Matters Blog helps translate public health policy into practice, offering innovative ways to make national guidelines work in communities across the nation. Discover insights and practical tips from experts across all of ODPHP’s divisions, as well as compelling stories from other professionals.

There are around 4 million births per year in the United States. Several hundred thousand of these infants are admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) annually because of a national prematurity rate of 9.6%, as well as 2-3% rate of congenital anomalies.  
In recognition of National Health Literacy Month, we’re highlighting a resource for health care providers that uses strategies for improving health literacy to promote safe use of medication in order to prevent adverse drug events (ADEs). Health literacy is the degree to which a person has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. A person’s health literacy influences the way they access and use health information and services.
“Learn or perish” would be an apt slogan for health systems today. The rate of change in health care is high. Technological advancements, research, innovation, and market dynamics all drive the soaring complexity of the health care system. In order to survive, health systems must learn how to adapt, and in the process – we argue – address health literacy. 
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States — every year, it’s responsible for 480,000 deaths. While smoking is on the decline in the United States, more than 2,500 young people smoke their first cigarette each day. In fact, 9 in 10 adults who smoke say they tried their first cigarette before age 18; and nearly all tried their first cigarette by young adulthood.
Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting children in the United States. When it’s not treated, tooth decay can cause pain and infections — and may interfere with a child’s ability to eat, talk, learn, and play. One evidence-based strategy for preventing tooth decay in children is the use of dental sealants — thin coatings that are painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Studies in children show that sealants can reduce tooth decay in permanent molars by 80% for 2 years after placement, and they keep protecting against 50% of cavities for up to 4 years.
September marks Go4Life Month, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This year's campaign challenges older adults to “Move More with Go4Life®!” by stepping up physical activity, working out a bit more frequently, and trying all four types of recommended exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.
The importance of seasonal influenza vaccine for health care workers and high risk groups has been well documented, yet health care worker (HCW) influenza vaccination rates have risen only minimally over the past 20 years and are far short of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 goals whose target is a 90 percent vaccination rate. One of the fundamental tenets of health care is to care for patients while protecting ourselves from harm. Because HCWs work in an environment where frequent contact with infectious patients is routine, we are at risk for exposure to influenza with possible transmission to other patients, their families, and other HCWs. The situation calls for a review of attitudes and beliefs toward influenza vaccination with a focus on the successful strategies associated with increased HCW vaccination rates.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and this year’s theme is Charting the Course Together. The focus is on using data to connect breastfeeding to a range of other health topics. An important health topic is the role that breastfeeding plays in infant and child health outcomes. Systematic reviews that highlight some of these key outcomes will be available in 2018.
High school graduation is an important predictor for overall health outcomes. High school graduates have less chance of being in prison, greater financial stability as adults, and fewer health problems. In the United States, public high school graduation rates are rising. According to a 2017 National Center for Education Statistics report, the number of students who entered 9th grade and graduated with a regular diploma after 4 years increased from 79% in 2010–2011 to 83% in 2014–2015.