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Roberts says social distancing is our best tool in fighting COVID-19

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90.5 WESA - “If nobody ever went out and nobody ever touched anybody else, this disease could not pass at all,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. He thinks the current restrictions on daily life need to continue for the time being. “If people went about their lives as normal, there would be tens of thousands of cases requiring hospitalization in western Pennsylvania alone.”  

BCHS alum Arnold on harm-reduction during the coronavirus shutdown

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PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/SPOTLIGHT PA - At Prevention Point Pittsburgh, staff have been trying to raise awareness of COVID-19 for weeks. “If someone shows symptoms, they’re given gloves, a face mask, and extra harm reduction supplies so they can self-quarantine,” said executive director Aaron Arnold (BCHS '13). If the person wants medical help, the staff can arrange that, too. Since early March, they've been including a tip sheet in supply bags tha... 

Angus comments on top 10 ICU must-dos for COVID-19

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MEDSCAPE - In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association issued just days after these new guidelines, Derek C. Angus, HPM distinguished professor and associate editor with JAMA, and his colleague Lamontagne of Canada say these "represent an excellent first step toward optimal, evidence-informed care for patients with COVID-19.”  

Pitt Public Health updates FRED model forecasting as state sees lower rate of hospitalizations than China

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KDKA – When will we see a COVID-19 peak? Health Secretary Rachel Levine said they’re working with Pitt’s FRED researchers to update information. Modeling infectious diseases is complex, and there are several impacting factors like how the disease is spread, the effects of social distancing, and the percent of people hospitalized. Because hospitalization rates are lower here than in China, this new data changes how the models are interpreted.  

Wenzel on the burning problem of America’s sugar cane growers

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BLOOMBERG QUINT - Sally Wenzel, EOH professor and director of Pitt Medical Center's Asthma Institute, says that “The only way to answer the question” as to whether sugarcane burning is the direct cause of the respiratory issues that residents experience “is with a better level of granularity—to do a person-based study, as opposed to a population-based study” such as the ones published so far.  

Pitt Public Health is part of Wolf’s “army of medical professionals” to address COVID-19 crisis

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PUBLICSOURCE - Gov. Wolf said the state is ramping up efforts to expand capacity in the state’s healthcare system in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases. He added that the state has enough capacity to handle all of its COVID-19 cases if the state’s efforts to socially isolate individuals are successful. All of the models they have looked at, including one from Pitt Public Health' FRED program, depend on effective social distancing.  

State reaches out to Pitt health modeling to help COVID-19 response

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PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES - Health Secretary Rachel Levine specifically singled out Pitt's Framework for Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED) for help with complex population-health modeling. The program was developed to model outbreaks of communicable diseases like influenza, dengue fever, and measles, and help local and state decision makers know what interventions to take. Pennsylvania's Department of Health doesn't do that type of modeling.  

Newman finds daily aspirin does not lower Alzheimer’s risk

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NEW YORK TIMES - “If you’re 70 or older and healthy, without evidence of cardiovascular disease, it’s very difficult to improve on your success. The relatively low risk of dementia in this study was not further lowered with aspirin,” said Anne Newman, study co-author . Nor did they find effect in various subgroups either—people with hypertension or diabetes, smokers, people with high cholesterol, or those who were overweight or obese.  

Newman encourages researchers to adapt clinical studies to alleviate impact of pandemic

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NEURO NEWS – To minimize disruption and preserve integrity while still ensuring participant health and safety, EPI chair Anne Newman tells JAMA that sustaining ongoing trials could help millions of people realize substantial, durable health benefits that will be important post-pandemic. Therefore, efforts and resources should be dedicated to support continuing randomized trials using creative and thoughtful methods and proactive planning.  

Mellors says natural remedies haven’t been shown to help you fight the coronavirus

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DISCOVER - As COVID-19 blasts across the globe, viral wellness videos and posts are springing up in its wake. But so far, says John Mellors, IDM professor and chief of infectious diseases at Pitt, no randomized clinical trials have shown vitamins or natural remedies to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.  He adds, if you're already eating a balanced diet, suppliments probably aren’t going to juice your COVID-19 immunity.  

Could Pennsylvania’s vacant hotels be turned into coronavirus field hospitals?

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PENN LIVE - “There’s a substantial likelihood we are going to see a surge that might reflect the worst-case scenario,” said HPM's Jeremy Kahn, also professor of critical care medicine. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as too extreme.... I'm a little skeptical this is the most efficient solution." It would be best to move less severe cases before putting critically ill patients “in an ad-hoc ICU at a dorm or hotel.”  

FRED modeling platform predicts high COVID-19 hospitalizations

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FRED offers frightening predictions about what Pennsylvania residents could face with COVID-19. “These are very scary numbers, and one thing I hope to impress upon people is that this is serious,” said Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab and chair of health policy and management. “Social distancing is seriously important…. There’s hope that further action can drive that prediction downward.”  

An epidemiological forecast model and software assessing interventions on COVID-19 epidemic in China

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MEDRXIV (2/29/20) -  Pitt Biostats' Lu Tang and collaborators from Michigan develop a health informatics toolbox that enables public health workers to timely analyze and evaluate the time-course dynamics of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection using the publicly available data from the China CDC. This toolbox is built upon a hierarchical epidemiological model in which two observed time series of daily proportions of infected and removed ca... 

Hernandez finds price of brand-name drugs has increased 3x faster than inflation

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90.5 WESA – Inmaculada Hernandez (HPM ’16) said what’s concerning is that discounts are often paid directly to insurers. This means people who are un- or under-insured generally don’t benefit from the markdowns. “This is probably increasing disparities in health care access…. We are not doing a good job of protecting patients against increases in co-pays, out-of-pocket costs and certainly those that don’t have insurance.”  

What is epidemiology? Kuller explains.

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LIVE SCIENCE – Epidemiologists are disease detectives who save lives by studying and preventing the spread of the worst diseases. EPI’s professor emeritus Lewis Kuller was asked to clarify: “Epidemiology is a tool to understand the distribution of disease in populations, and the factors that lead to higher or lower rates of disease and ways of effectively preventing disease.”  

Van Panhuis turns rapid Coronavirus data sharing into sustainable research infrastructure

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Many of the 300 MIDAS members are conducting modeling research on COVID-19 and are contributing to an extraordinary international collection of data and information regarding the outbreak. “It’s exciting and gratifying to be able to do something useful to help with this pandemic,” said EPI's Wilbert van Panhuis. “We’re playing a crucial role in bringing the infectious disease modeling research community together to efficiently share information.... 

Burke on how contagious the new coronavirus is compared to flu and SARS

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NEWSWEEK - Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he was concerned that the reproduction number (RO) may be higher than originally estimated. The U.S. case count has been increasing exponentially. If the time between successive cases in the chain of transmission is four days, then the RO would have to be 3 to 4 to sustain this rate. “But the case count is confounded because case testing and reporting are increasing, and that ... 

Burke on what we can learn about coronavirus from National Geographic author David Quammen’s brilliant book ‘Spillover’

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THE HILL - Epidemiologist Donald Burke emphasized the need to improve the scientific basis to improve readiness: the understanding of which virus groups to watch, the field capabilities to detect spillovers in remote places before they become regional outbreaks, the organizational capacities to control outbreaks before they become pandemics, plus the laboratory tools and skills to recognize known viruses speedily, to characterize new viruses alm... 

Albert on how Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave policy might help slow the spread of coronavirus

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90.5 WESA - A 2013 Pitt study simulating flu transmissions found that universal access to paid sick leave reduced workplace flu infections by 6 percent. BCHS’ Steven Albert estimated that about 12 percent of flu transmissions occur in the workplace, largely when people come to work feeling sick. He said the coronavirus pandemic highlights the importance of having stronger public health policies that include paid sick leave.  

Boggs helps Reddit‘s coronavirus community became a destination

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NBC NEWS – In January when Emerson Boggs (IDM PhD candidate) began moderating a small Reddit community dedicated to a new coronavirus in China, she had no idea that two months later the message board would grow to more than 1.2 million members. Daily Boggs and her colleagues process thousands of comments and posts, making sure posts are scientifically accurate. "The pace of the outbreak has really shown the deficiencies of traditional outbreak r... 

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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)
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Parker elected Hastings Center fellow 

Parker elected Hastings Center fellow

PITTWIRE - HUGEN's Lisa Parker was recently elected fellow to The Hastings Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of research scholars studying ethical questions in medicine, science and technology that help inform policy, practice and public understanding. Parker, along with Robert Arnold o... (02/05/2020)
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Sabik sees decline in late stage cancer diagnoses after health reform law 

Sabik sees decline in late stage cancer diagnoses after health reform law

PITT WIRE - Advanced stage cancer diagnoses declined following health insurance expansion in Massachusetts, likely due to increased access to screening and diagnostic services that identified cancers earlier, according to new research led by health economists including HPM's Lindsay Sabik. “Colorec... (01/28/2020)


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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El Khoudary finds heart disease risk grows as women move through menopause 

El Khoudary finds heart disease risk grows as women move through menopause

ASPPH FRIDAY LETTER - A marker for heart disease risk considerably worsens as women transition through menopause. Black women experience this accelerated decline earlier in menopause than their white counterparts. According EPI's Samar El Khoudary, the findings add to growing evidence that menopaus... (02/10/2020)
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Sabik finds decline in advanced stage cancer diagnoses following health reform law 

Sabik finds decline in advanced stage cancer diagnoses following health reform law

ASPPH FRIDAY LETTER - Advanced stage cancer diagnoses declined following health insurance expansion in Massachusetts, likely due to increased access to screening and diagnostic services that identified cancers earlier, according to new research led by health economists including HPM's Lindsay Sabik... (02/04/2020)
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Miller's research proves program effective in preventing dating violence with middle school students 

Miller's research proves program effective in preventing dating violence with middle school students

ASPPH FRIDAY LETTER - Coaching Boys Into Men, a program that seeks to prevent dating violence and sexual assault, reduces abusive behaviors among middle school male athletes toward their female peers, according to clinical trial results published in JAMA Pediatrics. The trial, examining the short- ... (01/28/2020)