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Teens not getting the message about texting and driving

Survey suggests state anti-texting laws are not highly effective

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A new risk-behavior study shows that texting while driving is very common.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite the wave of horrifying ads featuring parents of teens who died as a result of texting while driving, the message isn’t sinking in with the target demographic.

Nearly 43 percent of high school students of driving age who were surveyed in 2011 reported texting while driving at least once in the preceding 30 days, according to a study by researchers with the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

“Texting while driving has become, in the words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a ‘national epidemic,'” said lead researchers Alexandra Bailin. “Although teens may be developmentally predisposed to engage in risk-taking behavior, reducing the prevalence of texting while driving is an obvious and important way to ensure the health and safety of teen drivers, their passengers and the surrounding public,” Bailin said. Continue reading

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Will global warming intensify flu outbreaks?

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Warmer winters have been linked with more severe flu outbreaks. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Infection patterns suggest a link between warm winters followed by more severe outbreaks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After study waves of flu sickness going back to about 1997 and matching them against climate records, researchers say that the warmer winters expected with global warming could lead to earlier and more severe flu seasons.

The researchers said data from the Centers for Disease Control, indicates a pattern for both A and B strains: Warm winters are usually followed by heavy flu seasons.

“It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence,” said Sherry Towers, research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University. “And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse.” Continue reading

Health: Tackling the obesity epidemic

Good, but not so healthy.

Mix of policy options needed to discourage junk food consumption and encourage healthy lifestyles

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With obesity rates still on the rise in North America, governments are under pressure to take stronger regulatory steps to curb rising health-care costs for maladies such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

A recently published series of papers from the University of Alberta examines some of the options available for policy makers seeking to promote healthier eating, including zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants, mandatory menu labels, higher taxes on junk food or even incentive-based approaches for pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

“Since eating and physical activity behavior are complex and influenced by many factors, a single policy measure on its own is not going to be the magic bullet,” said Nola Ries, of the university’s Faculty of Law’s Health Law and Science Policy Group. “Measures at multiple levels — directed at the food and beverage industry, at individuals, at those who educate and those who restrict — must work together to be effective.” Continue reading

Health: Feds push to ban junk food ads aimed at kids

Will Froot Loops now come in plain brown box?

Set of voluntary nutrition and advertising guidelines up for public comment

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — As childhood obesity becomes an increasingly widespread problem, three federal agencies have teamed up with food manufacturers to develop a set of voluntary advertising and nutritional guidelines that would dramatically change the way snack foods are presented to children 17 or younger. Many of the products currently advertised to kids would not meet the new guidelines.

The guidelines would affect both television advertising as well the increasingly common ads on social media networks like Facebook and MySpace. Basically, the Obama administration, backed by Congress, wants food companies to cut back on aggressively advertising junk food to youngsters. At this point, the agencies have issued a draft proposal outlining several options and wants public feedback.

The upward spiral of obesity rates has slowed in the past few years, but still, nearly one in three American children are overweight, as defined by Center for Disease Control standards. According to the latest figures available (from 2007-2008), 10.4 of U.S. children aged 2 to 5 are obese, 19.6 percent of 6-11 year olds are obese and 18.1 percent of 12-19 year olds are obese. Continue reading

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