2B4: potential immune target for sepsis survival

Emory immunologists have identified a potential target for treatments aimed at reducing mortality in sepsis, an often deadly reaction to Read more

EHR data superior for studying sepsis

Analysis of EHR data says sepsis rates and mortality have been holding steady, contrary to what is suggested by after-the-fact Read more

New pediatric digestive/liver disease gene identified by international team

A multinational team of researchers describes a newly identified cause of congenital diarrhea and liver disease in Read more

public health

Microbiome enthusiasm at Emory

At what point did the human microbiome become such a hot topic?

When it was shown that babies born by Cesarean section are colonized with different bacteria than those born vaginally? With the cardiovascular studies of microbial byproducts of meat digestion? With the advent of fecal transplant as a proposed treatment for Clostricium difficile infection?

The bacteria and other microbes that live within the human body are thought to influence not only digestive health, but metabolic and autoimmune diseases as well, possibly even psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. The field is being propelled by next-generation sequencing technology, and Nature had to publish an editorial guarding against hype (a major theme: correlation is not causation).

At Emory, investigators from several departments are involved in microbiome-related work, and the number is expanding, and assembling a comprehensive list is becoming more difficult. Researchers interested in the topic are planning Emory’s first microbiome symposium in November, organized by Jennifer Mulle (read her intriguing review on autism spectrum disorders and the microbiome).

Microbial genomics expert Tim Read, infectious diseases specialist Colleen Kraft and intestinal pathologist Andrew Neish have formed an Emory microbiome interest group with a listserv and seminars.

Microbiome symposium sponsors: ACTSI, Hercules Exposome Center, Emory University School of Medicine, Omega Biotek, CFDE, Ubiome. Read more

Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Immunology, Neuro Leave a comment

Dr. Kutner Receives Award for Excellence in Public Health

Michael Kutner

Michael Kutner, PhD, the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award

The Rollins School of Public Health is on a 35-year trajectory that dreams are only made of. What began as a small working group tasked with formulating a strategic plan for Emory’s school of public health, evolved into a Masters of Community Health program (MCH) and degree in 1975. Finally, in 1990, Emory approved the public health school, the university’s first new school in 71 years. Michael Kutner, PhD has been there every step of the way, and as a result is the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award. The award honors faculty members from Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center who, through their lifetime of work, exemplify excellence in public health.

For 40 years, Dr. Kutner has played a key role in building the school of public health and advancing programs of research across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.  He joined Emory’s School of Medicine in 1971, was a key figure on that small planning group for a school of public health, and served as Interim Chair of the medical school’s Department of Statistics and Biometry in 1986.

When Dr. Hatcher and the Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Emory University School of Public Health in 1990, Dr. Kutner was appointed the inaugural Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  As he has stated on numerous occasions that subsequent events after this appointment “went way beyond our wildest dreams.”

He played a major role in creating the organizational structure of the school—curriculum, strategic faculty and chair recruitments, committees, policies and procedures—and for securing its initial accreditation.

Dr. Kutner always carried public health with him. In 1994, he served as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and returned to the Rollins School of Public Health in 2000.  In 2004, he was named Rollins Professor and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, where he served until 2009.

Throughout his Emory career, Dr. Kutner has provided critical support for biomedical research.  He developed the Biostatistics Consulting Center, collaborated with scores of investigators, and has co-authored over 150 articles in leading health and medical journals.   He is former Director for Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design for the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute and is currently the Biostatistics Core Director for the Center for AIDS Research.  He is known around the world for his widely adopted textbooks, Applied Linear Regression Models and Applied Linear Statistical Models.

Dr. Kutner’s lifetime contributions to research, teaching and mentoring are not only legendary, but they give integrity and energy to public health and to Emory. On April 5th, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and the Rollins School of Public Health will celebrate Dr. Kutner’s distinguished career with a reception in the RSPH Klamon Room at 4 p.m.

RSVP to Nancy Sterk at nsterk@emory.edu.

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March madness: National global health case competition features 13 universities

March Madness of a different flavor overtook Emory University March 18-19 as more than 200 students, judges, observers and staff convened for the first national Emory Global Health Case Competition.

The competition involved 20 teams of five students each, representing at least three academic disciplines per team. Emory fielded eight teams, and 12 teams came from leading universities across the country: Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Yeshiva, Duke, Vanderbilt, UAB, USC, UCSF, Rice, and Texas A&M. All these universities are members of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

The first-place team, from Emory (l-r): Jason Myers, Candler School of Theology; Abdul Wahab Shaikh, Goizueta Business School; Stephanie Stawicki, Laney Graduate School; Andrew K. Stein, Goizueta Business School; Jenna Blumenthal, Laney Graduate School; Krista Bauer (judge), GE director of global programs; Meridith Mikulich, School of Nursing (not pictured)

As in two past local and regional case competitions, this year’s event was student initiated, developed, planned, staffed and conducted.

This year’s signature sponsor was GE, with additional sponsorship from Douglas and Barbara Engmann, and internal Emory funding.

“Global health continues to grow as a primary interest of students at universities across the United States, and the Emory Global Health Case Competition has gained a reputation as the leading national team event to showcase the creativity, passion, and intellect of our future leaders in global health,” says Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, director of the Emory Global Health Institute.

The Feb. 17, 2011 issue of The Lancet included an article by Koplan and Mohammed K. Ali, assistant professor of global health at Rollins School of Public Health on the benefits of problem-based competitions to promote global health in universities.

Teams worked through the night on Friday for their Saturday morning presentations. The case involved a proposal for improving conditions in several East African refugee camps in the face of a severe budget cut. Judges were blinded to the academic affiliations of the teams, but Emory won the top two prizes (first prize was $5,000). UCSF and Dartmouth received honorable mentions, and Rice was given an innovation award.

 

Posted on by Holly Korschun in Uncategorized Leave a comment

HIV in metro Atlanta concentrated in four-county geographic cluster

The HIV epidemic in metropolitan Atlanta is concentrated mainly in one cluster of four metro area counties – Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, and Gwinnett that includes 60 percent of Georgia’s HIV cases, according to a study by researchers in the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

In a paper published in the Journal of Urban Health, the researchers found that the rate of HIV in the cluster is 1.34 percent. This fits the World Health Organization’s description of a “generalized epidemic” (>1 percent). Outside the cluster, the HIV prevalence in Georgia is 0.32 percent.

The researchers matched HIV prevalence data from the Georgia Division of Public Health, as of October 2007, to census tracts. They also used data from the 2000 census to examine population characteristics such as poverty, race/ethnicity, and drug use.

The large Atlanta HIV cluster is characterized by a high prevalence of poverty along with behaviors that increase the risk of HIV exposure such as injection drug use and men having sex with men.

The investigators also found that 42 percent of HIV service providers in Atlanta are located in the concentrated cluster, which should facilitate prevention and treatment.

Paula Frew, MPH, PhD

“A major aim of our study was to improve public health practice by informing local planning efforts for HIV services,” says corresponding author Paula Frew, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and an investigator in the Emory CFAR.

With more than 50,000 new HIV infections reported yearly in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be a major public health problem. The number of HIV/AIDS cases is increasing faster in the South compared to other areas of the country. According to Kaiser State Health Facts, Georgia ranks 9th in the nation in the number of HIV/AIDS cases with more than 3,000 new HIV infections diagnosed in 2007.

The study showed differences between Atlanta and other large cities in the distribution of HIV cases. While cases in several other large cities were concentrated in specific neighborhoods, HIV cases in metro Atlanta are more generalized within the four-county metro area. All the cities, however, were similar in the link between HIV, poverty and men having sex with men.

“Prevention efforts targeted to the populations living in this identified area, including efforts to address their specific needs, may be most beneficial in curtailing the epidemic within this cluster,” Frew says.

Other authors of the paper include Emory CFAR members Brooke Hixson, MPH; Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD; and Carlos del Rio, MD.

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The science behind the Mediterranean diet

The diet calls for lots of fruits and vegetables.

Researchers, physicians, and health care providers from across the United States and Italy met recently at the Rollins School of Public Health for the first Emory Conference on Mediterranean Diet and Health. Participants focused on the diet’s relation to cardiovascular disease, cancer, neuropsychiatric disorders, and vascular health.

The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish and red wine; low consumption of cheese and red meat; and olive oil as the chief source of fat, explains Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, one of the conference chairs.

When topped with exercise, the Mediterranean diet—really a pattern of eating habits traditionally followed by people in the Mediterranean regions in the early 1960s—has proven beneficial for many throughout the years. But why this is so isn’t clear.
Read more

Posted on by Robin Tricoles in Heart Leave a comment

Global climate change and health risks

Public health experts, including researchers, practitioners and policy makers from Emory, CARE, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public and private organizations met at Emory recently for a symposium focusing on the health risks associated with global climate change.

Climate change is affecting the growth of crops, access to water, floods, malnutrition, and the prevalence of disease.

The goal was to form an agenda to develop the tools, policies, and approaches needed to address climate health risks and incorporate climate change adaptation into global health and development work.

And for good reason: right now climate change is contributing to the destruction of livelihoods and the aggravation of social inequalities, said speaker Jean-Michel Vigreux. Vigreux, CARE’s senior vice president of program quality and impact, said climate change is affecting the growth of crops, access to water, floods, malnutrition, and the prevalence of disease–especially climate sensitive disease. All this, he says, disproportionately affects the poor and other vulnerable populations.

Read more

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Linking science and action through national public health institutes

As public health leaders from nearly 50 countries gathered this week at the Emory Conference Center, they had a common goal: strengthening individual public health institutes and establishing partnerships to significantly reduce death and disease globally.

The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) held its fifth annual meeting – and the first in the United States – in Atlanta, jointly hosted by IANPHI, located in the Emory Global Health Institute, and by the CDC. IANPHI is not a typical organization, pointed out IANPHI President Jeff Koplan. It’s a partnership of more than 80 members who are directors of CDC-like institutes around the world, and it exists for the partners to build relationships and actively support each other. IANPHI is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, president of IANPHI

As the world “shrinks” due to easier and more frequent air travel and migration, the effects on public health can be both positive and negative. On the negative side, communicable diseases and lifestyles that contribute to non-communicable diseases are transmitted much more rapidly around the world. But on the positive side, nations can work together much more efficiently to address public health challenges as committed partners.

Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, emphasized the importance of a national focus in each country on public health problems, and linking national efforts with local programs. Having adequate resources for public health will be essential in successful monitoring and disease response as well as driving down healthcare costs around the world, he said.

A major theme of the IANPHI conference was non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in addition to communicable diseases (CDs), which traditionally have been the focus of global public health efforts.  NCDs now kill far more people than CDs throughout the world, Frieden pointed out.  Significant progress can be made against NCDs with the right approach. Frieden gave the example of Uruguay, where 1 in 4 smokers quit smoking after a major public health effort.

Kevin DeCock, director of the CDC’s new Center for Global Health, pointed out the fundamental changes in public health that have come about because of new technologies, such as cell phones and computers as well as new public health networks that allow much quicker responses. Only a few decades ago, information about disease outbreaks in less developed countries was communicated only after the disease had already peaked. Now that information can be sent almost instantaneously.

Public health leaders from four countries – Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, and Ethiopia – gave examples of successful IANPHI-funded projects. Despite extremely limited resources in many countries, Koplan pointed out, these countries have made extraordinary and concrete progress in improving public health infrastructure and in decreasing disease and death from challenging public health problems.

Posted on by Holly Korschun in Uncategorized Leave a comment

Number of diabetic Americans could triple by 2050

As many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050, federal officials recently announced.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 10 have diabetes now – approximately 24 million Americans – but that number could grow to 1 in 5 or even 1 in 3 by mid-century if current trends continue.

The report was published in the Oct. 22 issue of Population Health Metrics. Edward Gregg, Emory adjunct professor of global health, and David Williamson, Emory visiting professor of global health, were co-authors.

The CDC’s projections have been a work in progress. The last revision put the number at 39 million in 2050. The new estimate takes it to the range of 76 million to 100 million.

The growth in U.S. diabetes cases has been closely tied to escalating obesity rates. A corresponding rise in diabetes has even prompted researchers to coin a new hybrid term: diabesity.

“There is an epidemic going on that, if left unchecked, will have a huge effect on the U.S. population and on health care costs,” says K. M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc, MBA, professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health, who came to Emory from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “The numbers are very worrying.”

K. M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc, MBA

Narayan also heads the Emory Global Diabetes Research Center, which aims to find solutions to the growing global diabetes epidemic. The Center serves as the research leader and hub for population-based research and large intervention trials throughout South Asia and globally.

“Whatever we do, the fruits of our research have to be available to people everywhere,” says Narayan.

Read more about Dr. Narayan’s global efforts and diabetes research underway at Emory.

Hear Dr. Narayan talk about the Global Diabetes Research Center.

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New Emory center expands diabetes prevention

According to the CDC, an estimated 23.6 million Americans live with diabetes. The Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center (DTTAC), based at the Rollins School of Public Health, aims to reduce the burden of the disease.

Established with a $2 million grant from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, DTTAC is modeled after the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium. Both programs provide training, expertise, and materials to state public health departments to strengthen leadership, organizational capacity, and partnerships in prevention and control. DTTAC also works with the National Diabetes Prevention Program, the framework for community-based lifestyle intervention to prevent type-2 diabetes among those at high risk of the disease.

“We need to act with urgency to reach individuals and their families early if we are to prevent and reduce suffering from diabetes,” says Linelle Blais, DTTAC director and associate research professor at Rollins. “By developing services that build capacity, our goal is to better equip local, state, and national partners to deliver evidence-based community interventions and effective diabetes programs.”

Linelle Blais, DTTAC director

DTTAC is helping spearhead the national rollout of a lifestyle intervention program modeled on research from the NIH’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) clinical trial. The program seeks to prevent diabetes by helping participants adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as being physically active at least 150 minutes per week and losing 7 percent of their body weight. In the DPP clinical trial, participants who made these changes saw their diabetes risk drop by 58 percent.

The success of diabetes prevention programs at Indiana University, the University of Pittsburgh, and YMCAs around the country will also shape DTTAC training. Experts regard these examples as cost-effective models.

Read more about DTTAC in the fall 2010 issue of Public Health magazine.

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Higher education linked to improved heart disease outcomes in richer countries

A higher level of education is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and stroke for people who live in rich countries, but not for those in low- and middle-income nations, according to the findings of a recent study led by Emory epidemiologist and cardiologist Abhinav Goyal, MD, MHS.

Abhinav Goyal, MD, MHS

The study published in the Sept. 7, 2010, issue of the journal Circulation, a publication of the American Heart Association, is one of the first international studies to compare the link between formal education and heart disease and stroke. It examined data on 61,332 people from 44 countries who had been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke, or peripheral arterial disease, or who had cardiovascular disease risk factors such as smoking or obesity.

Goyal and team found that highly educated men in high-income countries had the lowest level of cardiovascular disease. However, their findings suggest that research conducted in richer nations can’t always be applied to poorer countries.

“We can’t simply take studies that are conducted in high-income countries, particularly as they relate to socioeconomic status and health outcomes, and extrapolate them to low- and middle-income countries,” says Goyal, assistant professor of epidemiology and cardiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and Emory School of Medicine. “We need dedicated studies in those settings.”

The research team was surprised to find that despite decreased heart disease risk among the higher educated in industrialized nations, nearly half of the highly educated women from high-income countries smoked, compared with 35 percent for those with the least amount of schooling. For men, smoking rates were virtually the same across educational groups in low- and middle-income countries.

“Everyone needs to be educated about the risk of heart disease in particular, and counseled to adopt healthy lifestyles and to quit smoking,” Goyal says.

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