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Achieving COVID-19 herd immunity through infection is dangerous, deadly, and might not even work

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THE CONVERSATION - White House advisers offer a “natural” approach to herd immunity as a way to reduce the need for public health control measures. BCHS chair Steven Albert asserts that this infection-based approach would almost certainly fail. Recklessly dropping social distancing and mask-wearing, reopening restaurants, and allowing large gatherings will overwhelm hospital systems and skyrocket mortality without producing the desired herd immu... 

Gilead’s Covid drug win could clog pipeline for other treatments

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BLOOMBERG LAW - The future of Covid-19 treatment research is cloudier after the FDA approved Gilead Sciences Inc.'s remdesivir. The approval solidifies the standard of care for hospitalized virus patients in the U.S. Shortages of remdesivir could slow down the development of other new Covid-19 drugs that might now be required to use it in their clinical trials. The approval doesn’t necessarily block other virus treatments from being authorized, ... 

Bacterial metabolism of dietary soy may lower risk factor for dementia

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NEUROSCIENCE NEWS - A metabolite produced following consumption of dietary soy may decrease a key risk factor for dementia--with the help of the right bacteria.  According to a discovery by EPI's  Akira Sekikaw a , elderly Japanese men and women who produce equol--a metabolite of dietary soy created by certain types of gut bacteria--display lower levels of white matter lesions within the brain.  

Study shows how HIV and cancer drugs accelerate cellular aging

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INSIDE LIVE CHANGING MEDICINE - Why do HIV patients tend to show premature signs of aging: cancer, cognitive diseases, osteoporosis? Is the virus itself is causing aging or the drugs being used to treat the virus? In a new study published in Nature Communications , doctoral student Samantha Sanford (EOH '21) found that HIV drugs hasten aging by blocking telomeres—the protective tips on the end of our chromosomes—from replenishing themselves. ... 

COVID-19 & Health Disparities (video)

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As part of the Conversations about COVID-19 seminar series, EPI doctoral candidate Chantele Mitchell Miland , and Pitt's director of health sciences diversity, equity, and inclusion, Mario Browne (BCHS '05), discuss COVID-19 and health disparities.  

The pandemic is rewriting the rules of science. But at what cost? Burke weighs in

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WASHINGTON POST - The pandemic has upended norms of the scientific process, from the way studies are funded through the publication of findings. As a result, modelers, like other scientists, have been scrambling to fund and ramp up their operations. The upshot is a lack of agility that has always haunted public health, said Donald S. Burke. “Things that aren’t yet a problem don’t get attention,” he said. “Yesterday’s problem is funded for a few ... 

Staying social can boost healthy ‘gray matter’ in aging brains

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US NEWS (HealthDay News) — Older adults who get together with friends, volunteer, or go to classes have healthier brains, which could help them ward off dementia, according to a new study led by postdoc Cynthia Fox of EPI. Being socially engaged—even moderately—with at least one relative or friend activates parts of the brain needed to recognize familiar faces and emotions, make decisions, and feel rewarded. "We need to do more research on the d... 

The opioid crisis didn’t disappear amid the pandemic. It still calls for urgent action.

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THE WASHINGTON POST - Despite the predominance of the coronavirus pandemic among national priorities, the paper's editorial board urges the dedication of public health funds and attention to the ongoing opioid crisis, citing data gathered by HPM's Hawre Jalal and EPI's Donald S. Burke which suggests that the 2018 decline in mortality traced to a short-term drop in the supply of a particularly deadly Chinese-made synthetic opioid, carfentanil, ra... 

Opresko selected for scientific leadership award

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EOH's Patricia Opresko is the 2020 recipient of the Merrill J. Egorin Excellence in Scientific Leadership Award.  This award honors a faculty member that exemplifies scientific passion and scholastic dedication. Patricia is recognized as an outstanding mentor, and for her exceptional leadership in cancer research, including her work with the Genome Stability Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.  

HIV-related stigma in healthcare settings during COVID-19 (video)

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As part of the Conversations about COVID-19 seminar series, Mackey Friedman of IDM and BCHS joins IDM's Sarah Krier to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the lives of people living with HIV including their beliefs and attitudes about their healthcare needs and experiences.  

Exempt from inspection: States ignore lead-contaminated meat in food banks

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ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH NEWS -  Food banks in the U.S. are on course for a preventable collision between record-setting food insecurity and lead-contaminated meat. Though hunter-donated meat provides crucial protein to U.S. food banks, a lack of oversight could result in potentially hundreds of thousands of lead-contaminated meals this year according to a recent article by MPH student Samantha Totoni (EOH '21).  

CDC awards PERU $3.5 million to establish suicide prevention program to for veterans in northwest Pa.

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ERIE NEWS - The CDC will award Pitt's Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) $700,000 in funding annually for the next five years to create the Northwest Pennsylvania Veteran Suicide Prevention Program, a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention, focusing especially on service members, veterans, and their families. Led by Jan Pringle (EPI '86), PERU employs several Pitt Public Health alumni in its various programs.  

Gellad criticizes how Science gets political as Trump touts experimental coronavirus drugs

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AXIOS - "We have an emergency use authorization that I want to get signed immediately," Trump said in a video Thursday. "The problem is every therapy for coronavirus has become politicized—every single therapy, and that's the last thing you want in a pandemic, so this is just next in line," said the Department of Health Policy and Management's  Walid Gellad , director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of P... 

Harm Reduction Approach: Implications for the COVID-19 Pandemic

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BCHS's Mary Hawk and Harvard's Julia Marcus introduce the harm reduction approach and describe how the principles can be applied to public health messaging during COVID-19. They discuss how to balance general uncertainty, concerns about what is best for population and personal health, and the tensions between collectivism and individualism.  

Frailty factor: How well you walk when you’re older may depend on one gene

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STUDY FINDS  – While many seniors try to keep frailty at bay through diet and exercise, a PItt study finds that who becomes infirm may come down to one gene. “Most people think about dopamine’s role in mobility in the context of Parkinson’s disease, but not in normal aging," says lead author EPI's Caterina Rosano, "We found that in older, frail adults, those who have a high-dopamine genotype are more likely to maintain a faster gait and may be ... 

'I won't be used as a guinea pig for white people' - Black Pittsburghers think twice about vaccine trials

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NEW YORK TIMES - Mistrust of vaccines runs deep in African-American communities. Against formidable odds, Fr. Paul Abernathy and his teams are trying to convince residents fo Pittsburgh's Black neighborhoods to volunteer for trials testing a COVID-19 shot. “The community health deputies have been instrumental in communicating about the vaccine registry in authentic ways,” said Elizabeth Miller of BCHS and Pitt Medicine, who coordinates outreach ... 

Burke and Baumann take filmmaking to the health sciences

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Jessica Burke and Sara Baumann (BCHS '19) have created a new form of public health research called Collaborative Filmmaking. The six-step process engages its participants to create a detailed, multimedia form of study rarely seen in the field. Baumann said she knew Pitt was the right fit for her studies when she came across the work of  Jessica Burke , professor and associate chair in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Scienc... 

Global Responses to COVID-19 (video)

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Organized and moderated by Pitt Public Health's Global Health Student Association, a panel of researchers from around the world discusses critical questions around the current pandemic. Panelists in this intriguing discussion include Dr. Solomon F. Ofori-Acquah (Accra, Ghana), Dr. Jean Nachega (EPI; Capetown, South Africa), Dr. Andrew Martin (London, England), and our student moderator Bethany Flage (GHSA president).  

Revisiting Freedom House Ambulance: A Call for a Modern and Inclusive Public Health Initiative (video)

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Freedom House Enterprises ambulance services was a pioneering program designed to be representative of the community it served (Pittsburgh's Hill District), provide a pathway for upward mobility, and address a severe disparity in pre-hospital care. The collaboration between Phil Hallen, Peter Safar, and James McCoy Jr., developed into a groundbreaking endeavor that shaped modern EMS.  

Nace: Nursing homes need more federal help for COVID-19 testing, PPE

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POST-GAZETTE – David Nace (EPI '95), UPMC Senior Communities, was one of two dozen geriatric care experts tapped by the Trump administration to draw up recommendations on improving care and preventing future outbreaks. He said we needed to be rapidly investing in testing and PPE, but it never happened. And the report didn't include the creation of a database to quickly reach top officials at each facility, which “makes no sense.”  

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Mendez receives national recognition for maternal and child health research 

Mendez receives national recognition for maternal and child health research

PITTWIRE - The Coalition for Excellence in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology and 15 national health organizations selected EPI's Dara Mendez as the recipient of the 2020 Award for Effective Practice at the Community Level. Mendez specializes in understanding and addressing racial and socioecon... (09/07/2020)
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University draws on own experts to guide health and safety decisions 

University draws on own experts to guide health and safety decisions

PITTWIRE - The new Healthcare Advisory Group, headed by Anantha Shekhar, new senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of Pitt Med, will monitor the health status of the campus and ensure compliance with legal regulations. Members, including HPM’s Mark Roberts, EPI’s Anne Newman, EOH’... (06/17/2020)
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O'Neal Summons Satan for Starring Role 

O'Neal Summons Satan for Starring Role

PITTWIRE - Pitt Public Health staff member Scott O'Neal recently took center stage to sing the title role in the world premiere of "Satan's Fall," composed by Steward Copeland, founder of the iconic New Wave band The Police. The metal opera, based on "Paradise Lost", was co-commissioned by the Mend... (02/24/2020)


Featuring the latest research, opportunities, and groundbreaking developments from CEPH-accredited schools and programs of public health. Review theFriday Letter submission guidelines then share your story ideas via publichealth.pitt.edu/share-news or contact phcomm@pitt.edu. 
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Staying social can boost healthy ‘gray matter’ in aging brains 

Staying social can boost healthy ‘gray matter’ in aging brains

US NEWS (HealthDay News) — Older adults who get together with friends, volunteer, or go to classes have healthier brains, which could help them ward off dementia, according to a new study led by postdoc Cynthia Fox of EPI. Being socially engaged—even moderately—with at least one relative or friend ... (10/20/2020)