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For Immediate Release
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News from the June 2010 American Journal of Public Health

AJPH News Release


EMBARGOED UNTIL April 15, 2010, 4 PM (ET)


CONTACT:  For copies of articles or full table of contents of issue, call APHA Communications at 202-777-2511 or email us.


The articles below will be published online April 15, 2010, at 4 p.m. (ET) by the American Journal of Public Health under “First Look,” and they are currently scheduled to appear in the June 2010 print issue of the Journal. “First Look” articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. The American Journal of Public Health is published by the American Public Health Association.


American Journal of Public Health Highlights:

·         Drop in Gun-Related New York City Homicides Related to Declines in Cocaine, Alcohol Use and Other Social Determinants

·         Women Prefer Low-Cost Convenience When Purchasing Oral Contraceptives

·         Restaurant Patrons Order Healthier When Nutritional Info Is Displayed

Drop in Gun-Related New York City Homicides Related to Declines in Cocaine, Alcohol Use and Other Social Determinants


A new study found that during a time of dramatic citywide decrease in homicides in New York City in the 1990s, social changes had distinctive relationships with the decline of age-specific homicide rates.


Researchers investigated whether New York City’s gun-related homicide rates in the 1990s were associated with a range of social determinants of homicide rates. Using cross-sectional time-series data for 74 New York City police precincts from 1990 to 1999, researchers examined 8,820 recorded firearm-related homicides. They noted a decline in cocaine-market activity was associated with a falling homicide rate for people aged 15-24 years and for those aged 35 years or older. Also, decreased levels of alcohol consumption were associated with a reduced rate of homicide for those aged 25-34 years. Among those aged 25 years and older, growth in welfare receipt among neighborhood residents was associated with reduced levels of homicide. Lastly, increased misdemeanor policing played the strongest protective role among adults aged 35 and older.


“The heterogeneity in homicide rates by age group and the differential response to social changes by different age groups underscore the need to examine age-specific patterns to understand more fully the processes that drive aggregate trends in homicide,” said the study’s authors. “Substance use prevention policies and expansion of the social safety net may lead to major reductions in homicide rates among age groups that drive city homicide trends.”


[From: “Investigating the Effect of Social Changes on Age-Specific Gun-Related Homicide Rates in New York City During the 1990s.” Contact: Magdalena Cerdá, Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, New York Academy of Medicine].

Women Prefer Low-Cost Convenience When Purchasing Oral Contraceptives

A new study suggests that women of different ages, backgrounds and educational levels would likely take advantage of an over-the-counter option were oral contraceptives available in the United States at low cost.


Currently in the U.S., oral contraceptives require a prescription from a clinician and are not available over-the-counter. However, in Mexico, oral contraceptives are available through an over-the-counter option in pharmacies. As part of the Border Contraceptive Access Study, researchers examined the practices of oral contraceptive users living in El Paso, Texas, to assess their motivations for patronizing a U.S. clinic or a Mexican pharmacy with over-the-counter pills to determine which women were likely to use the over-the-counter option. Researchers surveyed 532 clinic users and 514 pharmacy users about their choices and motivations for their oral contraceptive source. They found that older women and women born and educated in Mexico were more likely to patronize pharmacies with the over-the-counter option. Cost of pills was the main motivation for choosing their source for 40 percent of pharmacy users and 23 percent of clinic users. A large majority of clinic users placed a high value on the other medical services, in addition to contraceptives, that they received at their clinic. In favor of the over-the counter option, women expressed the importance of convenience and easy accessibility to family planning methods, also leading to improved continuation of taking the pills consistently.


“Our findings confirm those of hypothetical surveys documenting U.S. women’s interest in obtaining oral contraceptives over the counter. When given the opportunity, women take advantage of over-the-counter access for a wide variety of reasons,” said the study’s authors.

[From: “Clinic Versus Over-the-Counter Access to Oral Contraception: Choices Women Make Along the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Contact: Joseph E. Potter, PhD, Population Research Center, University of Texas, El Paso, Texas]. 

Restaurant Patrons Order Healthier When Nutritional Info Is Displayed


Providing nutritional information on restaurant menus may encourage a subset of restaurant patrons to significantly alter their food choices, a new study concludes.

Researchers assessed whether labeling restaurant menus with information on the nutrient content of menu items would cause customers to alter their ordering patterns. They observed six full-service restaurants in Pierce County, Wash., that added nutritional information to their menus. They assessed the pre-labeling versus post-labeling difference in nutrient content of entrees sold, as well as surveyed restaurant patrons about whether they noticed the nutritional information and used it in their ordering. The results showed that the average post-labeling entrée sold contained about 15 fewer calories, 1.5 fewer grams of fat and 45 fewer milligrams of sodium than did the average entrée sold before labeling. Furthermore, 71 percent of patrons reported noticing the nutritional information.


“The findings in this study suggest that menu labeling could have significant impact on meals ordered by some individuals. Deliberating over a menu seems to be an occasion when cognition plays a role and thus when rational food decisions might be made,” the study’s authors concluded.

[From: “Evaluation of a Voluntary Menu-Labeling Program in Full-Service Restaurants.” Contact: Elizabeth Pulos, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Tacoma, Wash.].         

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The American Journal of Public Health is the monthly journal of the American Public Health Association. APHA is a leading publisher of books and periodicals promoting sound scientific standards, action programs and public policy to enhance health.   

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