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October 2021 highlights from the American Journal of Public Health

Date: Oct 08 2021

To request a full copy of any of these studies or for information on scheduling interviews with an expert, contact APHA Media Relations.

American Journal of Public Health October issue highlights:

  • Significant racial disparities in youth e-cigarette patterns
  • Police-initiated encounters associated with youth self-harm
  • Opioid overdose deaths rise among Black Americans
  • Study compares excess deaths in New York City, Mexico City during pandemic

Significant racial disparities in youth e-cigarette patterns

The U.S. has made huge progress in reducing youth tobacco use, but not all young people are benefiting, finds a new study published in the October issue of AJPH.

Using data from the 2014-2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, researchers set out to identify racial disparities in youth electronic cigarette use, which has soared in recent years. Among current e-cigarette users, dual use — or using e-cigarettes as well as combustible cigarettes or other tobacco products — decreased significantly across all racial and ethnic groups, except among Black youth. Frequent use of e-cigarettes and use of flavored e-cigarettes went up among white and Hispanic youth, but not among Black youth.

Researchers noted that rates of dual use may also widen disparities in tobacco-related health outcomes, as use of multiple tobacco products is associated with increased risk of dependence and addiction.

“These remarkable disparities in e-cigarette use behaviors underscore the importance of developing and implementing tailored strategies to address the e-cigarette use epidemic across race/ethnicity,” authors wrote.

[Author contact: Hongying Dai, Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska. “Racial Disparities of E-Cigarette Use Among US Youths: 2014-2019”;]

Police-initiated encounters associated with youth self-harm

Police-initiated encounters were associated with self-harm and attempted suicide among a large cohort of youth in the United Kingdom, finds a new study in October’s AJPH.

The study is based on data from 2012 to 2019 from more than 10,000 youth participating in the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Researchers found that youth who experienced police stops by age 14 also reported significantly higher rates of both self-harm and attempted suicide by the age of 17. In general, researchers said the patterns did not vary by sociodemographic factors.

About 18% to about 40% of associations between police stops and poor outcomes were explained by mental distress. Researchers noted that school counselors and social workers may be especially well-positioned to help youth after such experiences.

“While causal relationships cannot be definitively determined from these data, findings echo extant work revealing psychological distress and mental health challenges following youth-police encounters,” they wrote.

[Author contact: Dylan Jackson, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. “Adolescent Police Stops, Self-Harm, and Attempted Suicide: Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, 2012-2019”]

Opioid overdose deaths rise among Black Americans

Even as opioid overdose deaths stayed flat, rates went up among Black Americans, finds a new study in the October issue of AJPH.

To conduct the study, researchers examined 2018-2019 state death certificate records from 67 communities in Kentucky, New York, Massachusetts and Ohio taking part in the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Communities Study. They found that while overall opioid overdose death rates went relatively unchanged between 2018 and 2019, the rate increased 40% for Black residents relative to white residents.

Opioid overdose death rates increased among Black residents in the Kentucky and Ohio communities. Such death rates remained stable for Black residents in the New York communities, though death rates declined for their white peers.

“These data add to the evidence of worsening disparities in opioid overdose deaths by race/ethnicity,” the study stated. “An antiracist public health approach that explicitly examines the role of racism is urgently needed in research, public health and policy approaches to address the crisis of opioid-related harms.”

[Author contact: Marc Larochelle, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts. “Disparities in Opioid Overdose Death Trends by Race/Ethnicity, 2018-2019, From the HEALing Communities Study”]

Study compares excess deaths in New York City, Mexico City during pandemic

Overall excess mortality was higher in New York City than in Mexico City during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new findings in the October AJPH. But the study found big differences by age group.

Using all-cause death data from both cities going back to 2017, researchers estimated 259 excess deaths per 100,000 people in Mexico City between March 1 and Aug. 29, 2020, compared to 311 deaths per 100,000 in New York City. However, the number of excess deaths among people ages 25 to 44 was much higher in Mexico City — at 77 deaths per 100,000 people — than in New York City — at 34 deaths per 100,000.

Seventy-five percent of excess deaths in New York City occurred among adults ages 65 and older, compared to 50% of excess deaths in Mexico City.

“Comparisons of excess all-cause mortality across populations and age groups may allow a more complete assessment of pandemic effects and provide important information on mitigation strategies and susceptibility,” researchers wrote.

[Author contact: Martín Lajous, Centro de Investigación en Salud Poblacional, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, Cuidad de México, Mexico. “Excess Deaths in Mexico City and New York City During the COVID-19 Pandemic, March to August 2020”]

Check out the full list of AJPH research papers that published online in our First Look area.

These articles have undergone peer review, copyediting and approval by authors but have not yet been printed to paper or posted online by issue. AJPH is published by the American Public Health Association and is available at ajph.org.

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to APHA Media Relations. A single print issue of the Journal is available for $35 from the Journal’s Subscriptions Department. If you are not a member of the press, a member of APHA or a subscriber, online single-issue access is $30, and online single-article access is $22 at AJPH.org. For direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email us.

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