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Anticipated spill from deteriorating Red Sea oil tanker threatens public health, Stanford-led study finds

October 11, 2021. An oil spill from the FSO Safer could increase cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations and disrupt access to food and water for millions of people, researchers predict. This Stanford Medicine News Center release features Benjamin Huynh and David Rehkopf and references recent research by Mathew Kiang and colleagues. 

This release features new research recently published in Nature Sustainability

Text Messages to Improve Early Literacy in Children Who Live in Low-Income Settings

September 24, 2021. Although we know that school readiness is a predictor for later success, both in school and in life, there continue to be disparities in school readiness.

“A Text-based Intervention to Promote Literacy: a Randomized Controlled Trial,” which is authored by Dr. Lisa Chamberlain and colleagues at Stanford University and Oregon Health and Sciences University and is being early released by Pediatrics this week (10.1542/peds.2020-049648).

The authors tested a text messaging program called TipsByText, in which parents of 3- and 4-year-olds received text messages three times weekly for 7 months. All families were recruited at 2 public pediatric clinics, which largely serve families with low income.

Making space for underrepresented students in population health

September 24, 2021. Over the summer, one dozen aspiring population health researchers -- college students from around the country who are underrepresented in the field -- worked with faculty mentors at Stanford Medicine to design and carry out research projects focused on topics such as ovarian cancer outcomes in Black women.

Together they formed the first cohort of students to participate in the Advancing Health Equity and Diversity program.

David Rehkopf, an associate professor of medicine and of epidemiology and population health who helps lead the program, said it was designed help address the lack of diversity in population health sciences -- and to generate enthusiasm for the field.

Statins may be effective treatment for patients with ulcerative colitis

September 16, 2021. There may be good news for the nearly 1 million people battling ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel condition with no real cure: Statins, a commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug, seem to be an effective, if unexpected, treatment for the condition, according to a new Stanford Medicine study. 

Currently, the only lines of defense against ulcerative colitis are anti-inflammatory drugs, which don’t always work, and a colectomy, the surgical removal of part or all of the colon. Discovering another option is significant, said Purvesh Khatri, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of biomedical data science, and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences, who led the research.

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Breaking down anti-Asian racism during the pandemic

September 15, 2021.  "While there was negative press out there around China, we were surprised to see that the discrimination was also being felt by non-Chinese Asian sub-groups, including Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean Americans," said Latha Palaniappan, MD, professor of medicine and associate faculty director at the Center for Population Health Sciences, who shared senior authorship of the study with Lin.

Is it bad for your health when air quality is 'moderate' for days and weeks?

September 2, 2021. Nearly a year ago, Marshall Burke, a Stanford University professor and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences, and several other researchers at Stanford estimated that the pollution from a stretch of heavy wildfire smoke likely led to as many as 3,000 “excess” deaths in California in just one month, mainly among people 65 and older, and many of whom had underlying conditions.

Burke and his team called it the “hidden cost of air pollution exposure.”

At least part of the hidden cost currently seems to be a rise in preterm births, but much is still unknown about the other impacts of moderate air quality from wildfire smoke on our health, Burke said.

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Data in Crisis: Rethinking Disaster Preparedness in the United States

September 1, 2021. Satchit Balsari, M.D., M.P.H., PHS Faculty Fellow Mathew V. Kiang, Sc.D. (pictured here), and Caroline O. Buckee, D.Phil. have released a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that claims "Building integrated translational pipelines that use data rapidly and effectively to address health effects of natural disasters will require substantial investment, which must rely on evidence of which approaches improve outcomes. But promising solutions are available."

Economic analysis busts telemedicine myths

September 1, 2021.  For years, telemedicine didn't take off, despite expectations it would revolutionize health care delivery. In the United States, for example, remote visits accounted for a slim percentage of primary care visits before 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed all of that. Stay-at-home orders and regulatory changes fueled an unprecedented surge in virtual doctor visits.

"Policymakers or doctors or patients should find more comfort that scaling up telemedicine is not harmful," said Liran Einav, PhD, a Stanford University professor of economics, faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences, and a co-author of the paper, which hasn't yet been peer-reviewed.

Stanford Medicine introduces population health research to diverse cohort

September 1, 2021.  Under the new Advancing Health Equity and Diversity (AHEaD) program, the School of Medicine invited college students from across the country to spend the summer doing population health research.

This summer, David Rehkopf, a social epidemiologist and director of the Center for Population Health Sciences at Stanford Medicine, invited two undergraduate students to join his research project on the long-term health effects of the New Deal, a series of programs and projects instituted during the Great Depression.

Lesley Park, associate director of education at the Center for Population Health Sciences, said the speakers were chosen to reflect a wide variety of backgrounds and interests.

A New Breed of Crisis: War and Warming Collide in Afghanistan

September 1, 2021.  Unrest and climate change are creating an agonizing feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Afghanistan embodies a new breed of international crisis, where the hazards of war collide with the hazards of climate change, creating a nightmarish feedback loop that punishes some of the world’s most vulnerable people and destroys their countries’ ability to cope.

Climate change cannot be blamed for any single war, and certainly not the one in Afghanistan. But rising temperatures, and the weather shocks that come with it, act as what Marshall Burke, a Stanford University professor and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences, calls “a finger on the scale that makes underlying conflict worse.” That is particularly true, he argued, in places that have undergone a long conflict and where government institutions have all but dissolved.

Stanford researchers explore how people respond to wildfire smoke

August 30, 2021.  As wildfires become commonplace in the western U.S. and around the world, checking the daily air quality warning has become as routine as checking the weather. But what people do with that data – whether it drives them to slip on a mask before stepping outside or seal up their homes against smoke – is not always straightforward or rational, according to new Stanford research.

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Scholars in Service

August 26, 2021.  Four Stanford faculty will work in government and community organizations to address social issues and disparities made worse by COVID-19.

Suzan Carmichael, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology, and and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences, will work with the Louisiana Department of Public Health to identify strategies to reduce maternal mortality, especially among Black mothers in Louisiana.

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Wildfire smoke and early births

August 23, 2021.  Smoke from wildfires may have contributed to thousands of additional premature births in California between 2007 and 2012. The findings underscore the value of reducing the risk of big, extreme wildfires and suggest pregnant people should avoid very smoky air.

This year could be worse, said Stanford environmental economist and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health SciencesMarshall Burke, a co-author of the new study. And yet much remains unknown about the health impacts of these noxious plumes, which contribute a growing portion of fine particle pollution nationwide and have a different chemical makeup from other ambient sources of PM 2.5, such as agriculture, tailpipe emissions and industry.

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How Wildfire Smoke Supercharges the Coronavirus

August 18, 2021.  Marshall Burke, an associate professor of earth systems sciences and faculty fellow with the Center for Population Health Sciences at Stanford University, salutes that assessment. He is part of a team that has been studying the impact of growing wildfire seasons on human health, and the news is not good.

Smoke, just like COVID, targets more vulnerable groups of citizens including those with immature or older lungs.

There is still much to learn about the health impact of wildfire smoke on people living in burning landscapes, noted Burke. It’s as if we exist in a thick haze, trying to understand how to piece together the effects of climate change, a mutating coronavirus and connected threats.

“It has all changed so rapidly,” he said, “that the science hasn’t caught up yet.” 

COVID-19 prompts telemedicine shift

August 10, 2021.  A hybrid approach to patient care is in our future, and a recent Stanford study by SIEPR’s Liran Einav (faculty fellow with the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences) and his colleagues dispels myths about the impact of telemedicine adoption on health care quality and costs. “Policymakers or doctors or patients should find more comfort that scaling up telemedicine is not harmful,” Einav says. 

Stanford researchers develop a better way to track methane in the skies

August 9, 2021. Several studies have found that the EPA underestimates the amount of methane leaking from U.S. oil and gas operations by as much as half. A new Stanford-led study shows how better data can lead to more accurate estimates and points to some of the causes of the EPA’s undercount. This Stanford News release features new research by Jeff Rutherford and PHS Faculty Fellow, Adam Brandt

Global warming increased U.S. crop insurance losses by $27 billion in 27 years, Stanford study finds

August 4, 2021.  A new Stanford University study shows hot, dry conditions caused by climate change have added billions of dollars to the cost of the federally subsidized insurance program that protects farmers against drops in crop prices and yields.

The U.S. crop insurance program, created in the wake of the 1930s Dust Bowl and expanded in 1980, now covers more than 80 percent of American cropland and costs the government an average of nearly $9 billion per year. “It’s far and away the largest source of farm support in the country,” said study co-author Marshall Burke, an associate professor of Earth system science and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), and faculty fellow at the Center for Population Health Sciences.

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