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LATEST NEWS HIGHLIGHTS

New Episode: NPHIC’s Public Health Speaks Podcast

NPHIC's Podcast, "Public Health Speaks" is a bi-monthly podcast series covering topical public health issues to educate, inform and assist our members, partners, and affiliate organizations in understanding and overcoming urgent communication challenges. In NPHIC’s latest Public Health Speaks Podcast, Olivia Biggs, of the National Public Health Information Coalition, discusses how Immunization Managers and Public Information Officers can Collaborate to Improve Immunization Policy Outcomes, as the pandemic winds down. We hear from Brent Ewig, Chief Policy and Government Relations Officer, who monitors the immunization policy landscape and develops resources to support the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM) members engaging in effective policy development. Listen to the episode here.

Long COVID May be ‘The Next Public Health Disaster’

Millions of Americans have developed long COVID, also known as long-haul COVID, post-COVID or post-acute COVID syndrome. Up to 30% of Americans who get COVID-19 have developed long-haul symptoms, affecting as many as 23 million Americans, according to the U.S. HHS. Long COVID demonstrates that the virus is taking a lingering, pervasive and perhaps even more insidious toll. Medical experts have called it “the next public health disaster in the making.” But the tentacles of long COVID reach far beyond its medical impact: from the labor gap to disability benefits, life insurance, household debt, forfeit retirement savings and financial ruin. Read more from CNBC here.

Twitter Will No Longer Enforce its COVID Misinformation Policy

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus. Last week, Twitter's online rules were updated to say, "Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy." Twitter's decision to no longer remove false claims about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines disappointed public health officials, however, who said it could lead to more false claims about the virus, or the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Read more from NPR here.

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Catch Anxiety Symptoms Early: National Recommendation to Screen Children Ages 8-18 

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On October 11, 2022, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended, for the first time, that children aged 8 and up should be screened for anxiety. This recommendation comes after the 2018-2019 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) found that 7.8% of children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years had a current anxiety disorder. 

The new recommendation applies to children who are not already diagnosed with a mental health condition and who don’t have recognized symptoms of anxiety, depression, or suicide. However, the USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for anxiety in children 7 years or younger. 

This is a very exciting recommendation since it is important to catch these conditions early because anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence are associated with an increased likelihood of a future anxiety disorder or depression in adulthood. 

Though not a new recommendation, kids aged 12 and up should also be screened for depression, the task force advised, which is consistent with their findings in 2016. 

Before delving into the implications of USPSTF’s recommendations, it’s worth defining what anxiety is and its prevalence among children. 

Recent Developments in “Best Before” Food Labeling Practices 

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You might be eyeing those strawberries in your refrigerator, but you don’t remember when you bought them. You look at the date on the packaging and notice that it has passed. Are the strawberries still safe to eat? You hate to waste what appears to be good food, but you also do not want you or your family to get sick. 

Like many people, you might be confused by the different “best before” or “use by” dates on many food items. Out of concern for your health, you might have thrown out food prematurely because of what looks like an “expiration” date. Unfortunately, misconceptions about these labels and fears of eating unhealthy foods contribute to U.S. households wasting an estimated 20% of their food each year. 

The Source of Confusion 

In the 1970s, food manufacturers began adding date labels to their products. While no regulations exist for these labels on most perishable foods, U.S. law requires that baby formula have “use by” dates. 

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an initiative to cut down on food waste. The primary problem stemmed from consumers throwing away food that was still safe because, according to the date labeling, such food appeared to “expire.” To help curb the waste, the FDA recommended that manufacturers use “best if used by” to indicate freshness and to label perishable foods with “use by” labeling. 

Research suggests that the wording of these labels makes a difference in how well consumers understand their meanings and how much food they unnecessarily throw out. Cornell University led a study finding that people interpret phrases like “use by” to relate solely to safety. In contrast, they view “best by” or “best if used by” as indicators of an item’s quality or freshness. According to the researchers, people are less likely to throw away food with “best by” labeling than “use by” terms. 

Ready or Not–Here It Comes: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration Expires Early in 2023 

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President Biden’s COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) declaration is ending soon and is not being renewed. The exact deadline is unclear—it may be as early as January or as late as April, but regardless the end of special pandemic accommodations is soon to be evaluated. The implications of the end of this declaration are enormous. 

There will be instances where new policies and procedures will remain in effect; however, there will be many instances where policies and procedures revert to the way they were before the pandemic. 

PHE declarations began in January 2020 and were eligible to be renewed every 90 days later. With the number of deaths per day holding steady at about 300—while still high, the Biden administration felt it was time to shift from a state of pandemic emergency and start to return to “normal.” 

However, while Biden is cautiously optimistic about COVID-19’s grip loosening, he still believes there needs to be targeted support to remain prepared and nimble if there is another outbreak of COVID-19 or one of its variants. As such, he has sent a $9.25 billion proposal to Congress for COVID-19 support. 

Below are some highlights of what’s included in the bill: 

  • $2.5 million "to ensure continued access to vaccines and therapeutics (including for the uninsured) as transition to commercialization of vaccines and therapeutics continues and for Strategic National Stockpile maintenance costs" 
  • $5 billion for "development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics" 
  • $750 million for Long Covid research and treatment 
  • $1 billion in funding for the State Department to "provide support to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, including through vaccines, tests, and treatments, and through efforts to close gaps in routine immunizations” 

Marijuana Classification: The Stakes are “High”

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On October 6, 2022, President Joe Biden pardoned all people convicted previously of federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. He encouraged state governors to do the same. 

Skeptical about whether marijuana should continue to be categorized as a Schedule I drug, the President asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review the classification of marijuana. The Biden administration has not yet decided whether it plans on removing marijuana from the drug schedule entirely (de-scheduling) or placing it on a less-restrictive tier (rescheduling). 

Schedule I drugs have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” LSD, ecstasy, and heroin are examples of Schedule I drugs. 

“The current classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug doesn’t make sense. … It does have medicinal properties and a pretty low potential of abuse,” said Carrie Cuttler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University and a researcher involved with the University’s Center for Cannabis Policy, Research, and Outreach. 

Let's explore the rationale for removing marijuana as a Schedule I drug and the pros/cons of rescheduling or de-scheduling it. 


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