January 2020 Highlights

Date: Jan 16 2020

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

American Journal of Public Health March issue research highlights

Fatal crashes increase in states that decriminalized marijuana

U.S. states that decriminalized marijuana show an increase of fatal traffic crashes in their cities, a study in the March issue of APHA's American Journal of Public Health finds.

Researchers examined 2010-2017 city data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a census of crash deaths that included drug or alcohol levels in drivers’ blood.

States with decriminalization marijuana laws enacted within the time period showed a 13% increase in fatal car crashes among 15- to 24-year-old males in their cities, the study said. Crashes in which a driver tested positive for marijuana were more frequent in the months immediately after decriminalization. There was no increase in fatal car crashes among women of any age and men above age 24.

The same study method was applied to states with medical marijuana laws. In those states, researchers found a decrease of fatal car crashes. The decline occurred across both genders and all age groups, the most pronounced being a 14% decrease among 15- to 24-year-old males.

Researchers said the difference may be linked to the ways marijuana policies influence behavior. Medical marijuana laws require that the drug be taken at home, so people are less likely to be driving while under the influence, researchers said. But in the states with decriminalized marijuana, drivers can use the drug whenever they want, including before or while driving.

Marijuana policies have significant effects on the number of fatal car crashes involving young men, the researchers concluded.

[Author contact: Maria Baquero, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York City. “Health Behaviors and Outcomes Associated with Personal and Family History of Criminal Justice System Involvement, New York City, 2017.”]

Poor health common in families of the incarcerated

People who have been incarcerated are not the only ones to have poorer health. Their relatives are more likely to as well, experiencing more chronic ailments than other families, a study in the March issue of AJPH finds.

Researchers examined data from more than 10,000 people who participated in the 2017 New York City Community Health Survey, then randomly chose survey participants to interview and self-report on their health history. Among those, 17% were personally involved or had a family member personally involved in the city’s criminal justice system.

Other studies have shown that people who have been incarcerated have poorer health than people who have never been incarcerated or on probation. The new AJPH study is one of the first to show that families of people with criminal records also have poorer health, researchers said.

Family members of people who have been incarcerated were more likely to be depressed and drink heavily and to have hypertension, diabetes and obesity, among other health and behavioral outcomes. They were also more likely to be black or Hispanic and live in poverty in a disadvantaged neighborhood.

The findings suggest that the family of someone who has been imprisoned or on probation may experience ill health on a level similar to that of the convicted person, creating a broad population needing intervention and health care.

“The increased and often complex burden of people with a history of (criminal justice system) involvement and their families warrants health care and social service resources that can adequately address their well-being,” researchers said.

[Author contact:Amanda C. Cook, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green. “Marijuana Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Laws, and Fatal Traffic Crashes in US Cities, 2010-2017.”]

Hospital records may offer more accurate count of U.S. homeless population

State hospital records that show if a patient is homeless may provide a better count of the population than traditional means, a study in the March issue of AJPH finds.

Researchers examined the Illinois Hospital Discharge Database for 2011-2018. During that period, hospital visits by people who were homeless tripled. Meanwhile, studies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the traditional method to estimate homelessness, found that the state homeless population declined by 24% over the same period.

Researchers suggested the wide discrepancy may be because health providers are identifying the population on admittance forms more consistently. Another possibility is that expanding Medicaid coverage in the state may have allowed more non-emergency department care for people who are homeless.

Even so, HUD appears to be undercounting the homeless population in Illinois, researchers said. Using hospital records to augment HUD estimates would likely result in more accurate numbers of the population.

“These estimates are of critical importance, because they are used to direct resources and assess the reach and efficacy of policy and supportive services for those affected by homelessness,” researchers said.

[Author contact: Dana Madigan, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago. "Comparison of State Hospital Visits with Housing and Urban Development Estimates of Homeless: Illinois, 2011-2018."]

AJPH  articles to be published online Jan. 16 include:

  • Identifying Needs for Advancing the Profession and Workforce in Environmental Health
  • Global Prison Healthcare Governance and Health Equity: A Critical Lack of Evidence
  • Anchor Institutions: Best Practices to Address Social Needs and Social Determinants of Health
  • Policy Opportunities to Address Gaps in Medicaid Coverage During Reentry After Incarceration
  • Transferring Ethnic Marketing Strategies from Tobacco to Food Corporations: Philip Morris and Kraft General Foods
  • Reproductive Injustice at the US Border
  • Preemption in Tobacco Control: A Framework for Other Areas of Public Health
  • Denials of Judicial Bypass Petitions for Abortion in Texas Before and After Texas 2016 Bypass Process Change (2001-2018)
  • Older Americans Preferences between Lower Drug Prices and Prescription Drug Plan Choice, 2019
  • Correlates of HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Indications and Uptake, Chicago, 2015-2018
  • Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC)?O157:H7 and Romaine Lettuce: Source Labeling, Prevention, and Business
  • Marijuana Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Laws, and Fatal Traffic Crashes in U.S. Cities, 2010-2017
  • Health Behaviors and Outcomes Associated with Personal and Family History Criminal Justice System Involvement, New York City, 2017
  • HPV Vaccination Schedule: Adherence Among Commercially Insured Adolescents and Young Adults in the U.S., 2011-2017
  • Comparison of State Hospital Visits with Housing and Urban Development Estimates of Homeless, 2011-2018
  • Outbreak of HIV Controlled Following Effective Access to Care and Harm Reduction in North Carolina (2017-18)
  • Health and Health-Related Resources in Newly Designated Federally Qualified Opportunity Zones, US, 2012-2016

The articles above will be published online Jan. 16 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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