For Immediate Release
Contact: For copies of articles, call Olivia Chang, (202) 777-2511 or e-mail

January 2005 AJPH Press Release

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American Journal of Public Health January 2005 Highlights

The articles highlighted below appear in the January 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Public Health Association.

Working while ill boosts heart-attack risk

People who schlep into the office even when battling a cold or other illness are not only putting their co-workers at risk for infection, they’re increasing their risk for heart attack.

A study found that out of more than 5,000 British civil servants, those who took no sick days but worked while ill were twice as likely to suffer a “serious coronary event” as their co-workers who took sick leave. The risk for heart problems was highest among those who rated their own health as average or lower and were suffering from some psychological distress.

The study’s authors hypothesized that some of the contributors to higher heart-attack risk among people who fail to call in sick include a history of ignoring health problems and the added stress of trying to work while ill.

[From: “Working While Ill as a Risk Factor for Serious Coronary Events: The Whitehall II Study.” Contact: Mika Kivimäki, PhD, Department of Psychology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki,]

Snowy roads lead to more crashes

The year’s first snowfall is one of the toughest for drivers, especially elderly drivers and any snowy day is cause for extra caution on the roads.

A study linked 1.4 million fatal crashes recorded from 1975 through 2000 in the 48 contiguous states to daily state weather data. Researchers found that fewer fatal crashes occurred on snowy days than dry days, but snowy roads were associated with an increase in non-fatal crashes and fender benders. The first snowy day of the year was substantially more dangerous than other snowy days in terms of deadly crashes, especially among the elderly.

“The toll of snow-related crashes is substantial,” wrote the study’s authors, who estimate snowy roads cause an additional 45,000 non-fatal injury crashes and 150,000 property-damage-only crashes each year.

[From: “Effects of Snowfalls on Motor Vehicle Collisions. Contact: Daniel Eisenberg, PhD, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Mich.,]

Wealthier school systems more likely to diagnose autistic kids

About 70 percent of developmental delays are first diagnosed by school system officials, and the affluence of the school system may have a lot to do with how many children are falling through the cracks.

According to a study of data collected by school systems in Texas, the wealthier the school district, the more likely children with, an autism were referred for treatment. Researchers found that each increase in decile of school revenue was associated with an increase of 0.16 per 10,000 children identified as being autistic. The higher the proportion of “economically disadvantaged” children in a school district, the lower the percentage of autism diagnoses at school age.

“Further research is needed to determine which revenue and spending patterns are associated with” autism diagnoses, the study’s authors wrote. “In the meantime, it is important to consider providing resources to poorer districts and economically disadvantaged communities to help them identify children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental delays that require attention.”

[From: “School District Resources and Identification of Children With Autistic Disorder.” Contact: Raymond F. Palmer, PhD, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio,]

One in five HIV-positive men knowingly put sexual partners at risk

One in five HIV-positive men who have a single, steady male sexual partner are putting those partners at risk by having unprotected sex.

According to a study of 970 HIV-positive homosexual men who had a steady male-sexual partner who either was HIV-negative or had an unknown HIV infection status, 21 percent reported having unprotected anal intercourse with that partner. In a subset of 674 men who knew they were HIV-positive, 141 reported unprotected sex with their partner. Several factors increased a man’s likelihood to have unprotected sex: crack cocaine use; no education beyond high school; identifying themselves as heterosexual yet having a male partner; and having a partner with unknown HIV status.

The study’s authors said their findings underscore “the need to expand HIV prevention interventions among these men.”

[From: “Unprotected Anal Intercourse Among HIV-Positive Men Who Have a Steady Male Sexual Partner With Negative or Unknown HIV Serostatus.” Contact: Paul Denning, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta,]

Healthy lifestyles offer more heart protection than medical advances

Quitting smoking and keeping both cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels are far more likely to prevent deadly heart attacks than medical advances such as bypass surgery.

A study that looked at the number of coronary deaths in England and Wales found about 68,000 fewer such deaths in 2000 than in 1981. But researchers attributed 79 percent of the lives saved to lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation. And they suggest widespread campaigns aimed at promoting physical fitness and a healthy diet could save many more lives each year.

[From: “Life-Years Gained from Modern Cardiological Treatments and Population Risk Factor Changes in England and Wales, 1981-2000.” Contact: Belgin Unal, Department of Public Health, Dokuz Eylul University School of Medicine, Izmir, Turkey,]

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