September 2019 Highlights

Date: Sep 19 2019

CONTACT: Arnice Cottom, 202-777-3913

American Journal of Public Health November issue research highlights:

Shift workers have a higher risk of poor mental health

Shift workers are at higher risk for poor mental health, particularly symptoms of depression, a new systemic review in the November issue of APHA’s American Journal of Public Health finds. People who do shift work, defined as working outside the standard hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., often have their sleep-wake cycle disrupted, with implications for their physical and mental.

In the new meta-analysis, researchers reviewed seven longitudinal studies involving more than 28,000 people. They found that compared to people who work standard hours, shift workers had a 30% higher risk of poor mental health and depression. Women were especially affected, with a 70% higher risk of depression among shift workers, compared to women who worked day shifts.

Noting that poor mental health costs the U.S. health care system millions and affects quality of life, the study researchers called for programs that can minimize poor mental health among shift workers.

[Author contact: Luciana Torquati, PhD, Sports and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK, “Shift work and Poor Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies.”]

Court interventions can boost student fitness

When courts force school districts to meet physical education requirements, student health can improve, according to a study in the November AJPH.

While California education laws require that elementary students receive 200 minutes a day of physical education, not all schools were in compliance as of 2010. Lawsuits were filed against 128 school districts, leading to settlements that forced schools to meet the requirement.

Researchers looked at physical activity data for fifth-graders attending state schools before and after the court settlements, finding that the litigation led to a 1-percentage point increase in the proportion of fifth-graders meeting cardio-respiratory fitness standards.

Schools that were not in compliance with the physical education requirements before the lawsuits had a higher percentage of Hispanic, black and low-income students and were less likely to meet physical fitness standards.

While the litigation was beneficial, researchers suggested that it would be more cost-effective for the Department of Education to mandate tracking of physical education time and reporting.

[Author Contact: Hannah R. Thompson, PhD, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA. “Impact of Physical Education Litigation of Fifth Graders Cardio-Respiratory Fitness, California, 2007-2018.”]

Program linked to decreases in firearm violence, but increases in other violence

An innovative Richmond, California, program to prevent gun violence led to a drop in firearm-related hospital visits and crimes in the city, according to a study in the November AJPH. Operation Peacemaker Fellowship, implemented by the Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety, was an 18-month program involving community residents who were believed to be most associated with firearm crimes. The fellowship included individual cognitive behavioral therapy, case management, substance abuse treatment, social service navigation and a $1,000 a month stipend.

The program was associated with a significant reduction in firearm-related violence, with 55% fewer deaths per hospital visits and 43% fewer crimes, the new AJPH study found.

However, the study also found that the program was associated with increases in nonfirearm-related violence, with 16% more deaths per hospital visits and 3% more crimes. Researchers suggested the increases may be because other weapons or bodily force were substituted when firearms were lessened, or that removing key people from participation in violence created a power void, among other possibilities.

As the Operation Peacemaker Fellowship has received nationwide attention and is being replicated in other cities, study researchers advised that organizers measure nonfirearm-related violence during their work.

[Author contact: Ellicott C. Matthay, PhD, Center for Health and Community, University of California, San Francisco, CA “Firearm and nonfirearm violence after Operation Peacemaker Fellowship in Richmond, California 1996-2016.”]

Preterm birth rates in China vary by region

Across China, 7.3% of all annual births are preterm, though rates are higher in less developed areas of the country, a study in the November issue of AJPH finds.

Complications from preterm birth — defined as delivery that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation — were the leading cause of death for children under 5 in China as of 2015. Preterm births accounted for 7.3 per 100 total births and 6.7 per 100 of live births from 2015 to 2016, the study found.

Researchers found that preterm birth rates varied widely by region. An 11.4% rate was recorded for southwest China and 10.3% for northwest China. The regions are less developed than other parts of the country, the researchers noted, supporting a link between low socio-economic status and preterm births.

Factors associated with preterm births included sexually transmitted disease, history of miscarriage or stillbirth and fetal abnormalities.

[Author contact: Chang Chen, PhD, The Ministry of Education – Shanghai, Key Laboratory of Children’s Environmental Health, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China. “Preterm Birth in China between 2015 and 2016.”]


Find a full list of AJPH research papers published online below:

  • Lessons From the Long and Winding Road to Medicare for All
  • -Political Accommodations in Multipayer Health Care Systems: Implications for the United States
  • States as Policy Laboratories: The Politics of State-Based Single-Payer Proposals
  • Options for Dialing Down from Single Payer
  • Public Health Research Priorities to Address Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting in the United States
  • Sexual Minority Women and Contraceptive Use: Complex Pathways Between Sexual Orientation and Health Outcomes
  • A Public Health of Consequence: Shifting the Cultural Narrative From Churning Grants to a Scholarship of Consequence
  • The Emergence of the Tobacco 21 Movement From Needham, Massachusetts, to Throughout the United States (2003–2019)
  • Impact of Physical Education Litigation on Fifth Graders’ Cardio–Respiratory Fitness, California, 2007–2018
  • -Paraphernalia Laws, Criminalizing Possession and Distribution of Items Used to Consume Illicit Drugs, and Injection-Related Harm
  • Uneven Access to Smoke-Free Laws and Policies and Its Effect on Health Equity in the United States: 2000–2019
  • Considerations for Modernized Criminal HIV Laws and Assessment of Legal Protections Against -Release of Identified HIV Surveillance Data for Law Enforcement
  • The Contested Whiteness of Arab Identity in the United States: Implications for Health Disparities Research
  • -Firearm Policy: Physician Organizations' Role in Political Action Committee Funds, 2018
  • HIV Testing, Access to HIV-Related Services, and Late-Stage HIV Diagnoses Across US States, 2013–2016
  • Shift Work and Poor Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies
  • -Preterm Birth in China between 2015 and 2016
  • -Firearm and Nonfirearm Violence After Operation Peacemaker Fellowship in Richmond, California, 1996–2016

The articles above were published online August 15, 2019, at 4 p.m. EDT by AJPH under “First Look.”

“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. AJPH is published by the American Public Health Association, and is available at www.ajph.org.

Complimentary online access to the Journal is available to credentialed members of the media. Address inquiries to Arnice Cottom at APHA. 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 www.ajph.org. For direct customer service, call 202-777-2516, or email us.
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