Roundup: Florida Improves in Ranking of Healthiest States, Now at No. 32

Some states are significantly healthier than others, according to an updated ranking of how states are faring with a variety of challenges, including rates of infectious diseases, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and infant mortality, and even the availability of health care providers.

Florida, along with Utah, saw the largest increase in rankings since last year, with the Sunshine State rising four places to No. 32 in the country, according to the “America’s Health Rankings” report by the United Health Foundation. Florida’s status based on children in poverty, disparity in health status and frequent mental distress all improved. Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Utah and Connecticut rank as the five healthiest states, while West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi rank the least healthy.

For the third consecutive year, premature death increased nationally. Cardiovascular deaths and drug deaths also increased. The nation’s premature death rate — measured as the number of years of potential life lost before age 75 — has increased 3 percent since 2015. That jump is fueled in part by drug-related deaths, which increased 7 percent during that time, and cardiovascular deaths, which increased by 2 percent.

More than six out of 10 drug deaths involve an opioid, primarily prescription pain relievers (morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone) or heroin, the report states.

According to America’s Health Rankings, here are Florida’s strengths and challenges:

• Low levels of air pollution
• Low prevalence of obesity
• Low cardiovascular death rate
• High percentage of uninsured population
• High prevalence of physical inactivity
• High incidence of Salmonella

“States incorporate the report into their annual review of programs, and many organizations use the report as a reference point when assigning goals for health-improvement programs,” say the authors of America’s Health Rankings.

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Study: E-cigarette Leads to Tobacco Smoking Among Young People

The role of e-cigarettes, or vaping, especially among teens and young adults, has become a growing target of studies to determine if these devices can lead to traditional tobacco smoking. A new research paper published in the American Journal of Medicine, found that e-cigarettes are, indeed, a springboard to smoking.

University of Pittsburgh researchers surveyed a group of 18- to 30-year-old non-smokers in March of 2013, and then again 18 months later. The study found that 47.7 percent of those who had used e-cigarettes went on to try smoking, compared to 10.2 percent of those who had not tried e-cigarettes.

The study, the first nationally representative survey of its type, demonstrates “that e-cigarettes are serving as a gateway to traditional smoking, contrary to their purported value as a smoking cessation tool,” its authors state.

“Early evidence on the potential value of e-cigarettes for cessation or reduction of cigarette smoking has been mixed,” said lead author Brian A. Primack, M.D., director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, and dean of Pitt’s Honors College. “Our study finds that in nonsmokers, e-cigarettes make people more likely to start smoking. This supports policy and educational interventions designed to decrease the use of e-cigarettes among nonsmokers.”

More research is necessary to determine why e-cigarettes increase the risk of someone transitioning to tobacco cigarettes. But University of Pittsburgh researchers said that there are several factors that seemed to play a role, including that “using e-cigarettes mimics the behavior of smoking traditional cigarettes, the sweet vape is a gentle introduction to smoking harsher tobacco and the build-up of nicotine addiction could lead e-cigarette users to seek out more nicotine-packed tobacco cigarettes.”

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Meningitis Suspected in Deaths of 2 Children at Miami Daycare Center

Florida health officials have confirmed that one of the two children at a downtown Miami childcare center tested positive for pneumococcal meningitis, an infectious disease caused by a common bacteria that spreads person-to-person through sneezing, coughing and direct contact with the saliva or mucus of the sick individual.

The second child, also a boy, is suspected of having contracted meningitis as well, but the he reportedly died in Belize after having stayed at the Miami daycare center. Because the child died outside of the U.S., state officials have been unable to perform laboratory testing to confirm meningitis, according to the Florida Department of Health. State health officials did not identify the children.

The first child, a 22-month-old boy, died on Dec. 3 from an illness that was initially diagnosed as pneumonia. The second child, a 2-year-old boy, died a week later — after also being first diagnosed with pneumonia. Doctors treat bacterial meningitis with a number of antibiotics, but it is vital to start treatment as soon as possible. The most effective way to protect you and your child against certain types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the CDC cautions that the vaccines targeting these bacteria are not 100 percent effective.

The childcare center that tended to the two boys — the YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Center Day Care — closed Tuesday. State and county regulators said the center will not reopen until health administrators have declared it safe. Kerry-Ann Royes, director of YWCA Miami, told the Miami Herald that she closed the center as a precaution.

In a letter dated Dec. 7 that was directed at the parents of children at the Donaldson center, health officials said “a child” who attends the center had been diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis.

“This meningitis is caused by a very common bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes ear infections, pneumonia, and rarely meningitis. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, severe headache, stiff neck, drowsiness or confusion, nausea, and vomiting,” wrote Reynald Jean, M.D., the Florida Health Department’s director of Epidemiology, Disease Control, Clinical Laboratory and Immunization Services.

Dr. Jean also advised parents of children with sickle-cell anemia, HIV, no spleen, kidney disease or compromised immune systems to contact their family doctor.


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