For Immediate Release
Contact: For copies of articles, call Olivia Chang, (202) 777-2511 or e-mail olivia.chang@apha.org .

June 2004 AJPH Press Release

All articles are online at www.ajph.org after the embargo. To view the preliminary table of contents, visit http://www.ajph.org/future/94.6.shtml

American Journal of Public Health June 2004 Highlights

  • Racial/ethnic disparities widening for preschool immunization rates
  • Americans not eating enough fruits and veggies
  • Childhood vaccines don’t increase risk for asthma, eczema
  • Faith-based programs can improve health
  • A vaccine success story: Hepatitis A rates down dramatically among American Indians/Alaska Natives
  • Project D.A.R.E falling short of drug abuse prevention goals

The articles highlighted below appear in the June 2004 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Public Health Association.


Racial/ethnic disparities widening for preschool immunization rates

Even though preschool immunization rates in the United States have reached an all-time high, there are some widening racial and ethnic disparities persist among those who have received their recommended protections against such diseases as diphtheria, polio and measles. According to a study of National Immunization Survey data from 1996 through 2001, the immunization coverage gap between white and black children widened by an average of 1.1 percent each year. The gap between white and Hispanic children widened by an average of 0.5 percent each year as the gap between white and Asian children narrowed by 0.8 percent each year. [From: “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Preschool Immunizations: United States, 1996-2001.” Contact: Susan Y. Chu, PhD, MSPH, National Immunization Program, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syc1@cdc.gov ]

Americans not eating enough fruits and veggies

Despite widespread public education campaigns touting the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, Americans aren’t upping their intake of the foods.

According to a study tracking the fruit and vegetable consumption of more than 434,000 adults from 1994-2000, the average person eats fewer than the recommended daily servings and was actually eating fewer fruits and vegetables in 2000 than in 1994. The national daily recommendation is three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit, yet Americans surveyed ate fewer than four daily servings of fruits and vegetables during the six-year study period. In 1994, the mean frequency of daily fruit and vegetable consumption was 3.44 servings, compared with 3.37 servings in 2000. The percentage of adults eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily remained almost unchanged at about 24.5 percent.

Changing American’s dietary habits is an uphill battle, the study’s authors said, and some of the challenge lies in the ways other food is marketed. While the National Cancer Institute spent about $40 million on its “5 A Day for Better Health” campaign between 1992 and 1999, industry marketing of food, fast food and beverages hit $10 billion in 1999 alone.

“Our findings underscore the need to broaden the traditional approach beyond increasing awareness and education,” the study’s authors said. “Innovative research is necessary to assess the influence of the environment and policy on behavior change and to develop cost-effective dietary approaches that promote long-term change.” [From: “Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults in the United States: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1994-2000. Contact: Mary Serdula, MD, MPH, Chronic Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, mks1@cdc.gov ]

Childhood vaccines don’t increase risk for asthma, eczema

Childhood vaccinations do not increase the risk of developing asthma or eczema, according to a study of almost 30,000 British children, ages newborn to 11.

Although researchers found an increased risk of developing asthma and eczema linked to the diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus vaccine and the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine, the increase was recorded only among children who rarely received medical care. After adjusting for what they termed “consulting frequency,” the researchers found no link between the vaccines and asthma and eczema. They also cited several other studies that have debunked the hypothesis that increasing rates of childhood asthma and eczema are linked to vaccinations.

“These data, together with other published evidence, suggest that current vaccination practices do not have an adverse effect on the incidence of allergic disease.”

[From: “Vaccination and Allergic Disease: A Birth Cohort Study.” Contact: Tricia M. McKeever, City Hospital, Notingham, England, tricia.mckeever@nottingham.ac.uk .]

Faith-based programs can improve health

Health programs based in churches, synagogues and other places of worship can have a positive and lasting impact on people’s health, according to a review of such programs.

Researchers conducted a literature review of all faith-based health programs included in health databases from 1990 through 2000. Most programs studied focused on primary prevention, general health maintenance, cardiovascular health or cancer. For parishioners and community members who participated in the faith-based health programs, positive outcomes included lowered cholesterol and blood pressure levels, weight loss, and fewer disease symptoms increases in mammography and breast self-examination.

The study’s authors recommended more frequent evaluation of faith-based health programs and a better system of sharing success stories with the public health and religious community. [From: “Health Programs in Faith-Based Organizations: Are They Effective?” Contact: Mark J. DeHaven, PhD, Division of Community Medicine, Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas,mark.dehaven@utsouthwestern.edu ]

A vaccine success story: Hepatitis A rates down dramatically among American Indians/Alaska Natives

Hepatitis A rates have reached historic lows, declining twentyfold during a time when vaccination of American Indian and Alaska Native children was recommended. For decades, hepatitis A was endemic in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, with periodic community-wide outbreaks occurring every five to 10 years. The lifetime risk of hepatitis A virus infection approached 90 percent among American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations and in Alaskan villages.

Researchers looked at hepatitis A rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives nationally and vaccination coverage among children living on the largest American Indian reservation. They found that hepatitis A rates declined twentyfold during 1997-2001 and during that same time period, an estimated 77 percent of children living on the largest reservation had received at least one dose of hepatitis A vaccine, and more than half had completed the vaccine series.

“The remarkable decline in hepatitis A incidence among American Indians and Alaska Natives coincident with increasing hepatitis A vaccination coverage indicates that there has been a fundamental alteration in hepatitis A epidemiology in [these] communities,” the study’s authors wrote. [From: “Hepatitis A Incidence and Hepatitis A Vaccination among American Indians and Alaska Natives, 1990-2001.” Contact: Stephanie Bialek, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, zqg7@cdc.gov.]

Project D.A.R.E falling short of drug abuse prevention goals

An updated analysis of the effectiveness of Project D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in preventing alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use among school-aged youth found the program is not effective.

Researchers examined 11 studies published from 1991-2002 that included assessments of students’ use of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs both before and after participation in the program. The only studies showing even marginally better outcomes among D.A.R.E. participants had the smallest sample sizes.

Project D.A.R.E. is one of the most widely used substance abuse programs targeted at school-age children and teens. “Given the tremendous expenditures in time and money involved with D.A.R.E, it would appear that continued efforts should focus on other techniques and programs that might produce more substantial effects,” the study’s authors wrote. “The fact that half of the included studies reported no beneficial effect of D.A.R.E beyond what would be expected by chance casts serious doubt on its utility.”

[From: “Project D.A.R.E Outcome Effectiveness Revisited.” Contact: Steven L. West, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University, Department of Rehabilitation Counseling, slwest2@vcu.edu ]
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