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Measles case confirmed in Lowell, public health warning issued

Lowell Community Health Center issued a measles warning Saturday after a child was diagnosed there with the contagious respiratory disease.

In a statement, the health center said the patient was “immediately isolated” when diagnosed on Thursday, and now is recovering at home.

Officials said anyone who was in the health center’s main lobby, pediatric waiting room, pharmacy, or lab on Thursday between the hours of 12:53 p.m. and 5:22 p.m. might have been exposed.

Lowell CHC has been working with the Lowell Health Department and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to find individuals who were at risk of exposure.

Dr. Randi Berkowitz, Lowell CHC’s chief medical officer, said that if anyone was exposed to measles on Thursday, they are likely not yet contagious.

“We start to worry about measles being contagious at around five days,” Berkowitz said. “The individual…came in on Thursday so that’s a little more than two days ago now.”

Anyone who has already been vaccinated is not at risk, according to the health center’s statement. Those born in the US before 1957 are also likely immune to the disease.

Lowell CHC asked that any patients who visited during those hours and haven’t been vaccinated to go in to be immunized. The health center will be open for these patients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Any non-Lowell CHC patients who might have been exposed should contact their primary care doctor, the statement said. They will also be able to be tested and vaccinated at Lowell CHC.

The statement said that anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated “must exclude themselves from public activities, including work or school, from day five through day 21 of exposure, to avoid spreading the disease.”

Sophia Eppolito can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SophiaEppolito.

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Annoying robo-calls are at ‘epidemic levels’ this health open-enrollment season

“Anna” will not stop calling. She really, really wants to sell you health insurance.

What a lot of consumers really, really want is to smack Anna upside her robo-calling head.

With health insurance open-enrollment season underway, automated phone calls offering Affordable Care Act or other health plans are spiking — and driving many consumers to the brink. California residents may have it worst, because its open-enrollment period is twice as long as in other parts of the country.

“It’s at epidemic levels at this time of year,” said Aaron Foss, founder of Nomorobo, who estimates his spam-call-blocking service, based in Long Island, headed off more than 850,000 health-related robo-calls in October alone — nearly five times the interceptions for September.

Nomorobo tracked about 820 different robo-call pitches for health insurance in the last week of October. More than 100 of them were from the robot Anna.

Almost all of these calls are illegal, according to rules published by the Federal Trade Commission in 2009. Many offer skimpy health plans that do not cover what you might need, insurance regulators and consumer advocates say. Others, they say, are downright fraudulent, with unscrupulous insurance “brokers” taking payment and promising insurance that never comes through.

Alice Cave, 62, a retired data analyst from Alexandria, Va., who spends winters in Tucson, said she has gotten so many of these calls that she typically will not answer her phone unless she recognizes the number. Recently, expecting a call from a California reporter, she answered her cellphone.

It was “Anne.” (Anna’s robot cousin? Other relatives include “Jordan,” “Allison” and “Mandy,” although variants on Anna remain most prevalent.)

“She was saying, ‘I really need to talk to you — we’ve got deals on health insurance.’ I thought, ‘God, what a crock,’ ” Cave said. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Anything that comes in on the phone, I’m going to be skeptical. Why would they offer me this deal? I already have great insurance. It’s crazy.”

Some fed-up consumers try to stymie robo-callers, with amusing results. Twitter user Jon Heise in June confounded his robot by insisting, after whatever it said, that he was a “meat popsicle.” Eventually, it hung up.

It’s not all fun and games. The California Department of Insurance is investigating health insurance robo-calls, said Janice Rocco, deputy commissioner for health policy and reform. In late August, the agency filed a court order against Health Plan Intermediaries Holdings, accusing the Florida company of deceptive and misleading practices in selling “Obamacare” plans that did not comply with the health law. The company could face fines of up to $10,000 per violation, Rocco said.

In this case, the company’s robo-calls featured “Anne,” according to the court order. In its legal response, the company did not admit to the agency’s allegations and denied responsibility. A hearing date has not yet been set, Rocco said. (Arkansas’ insurance commissioner issued a cease-and-desist order against the company in 2016.)

Under federal law, calls using prerecorded messages are legal only for such things as doctor appointment reminders, flight cancellations, credit card fraud alerts and political candidates. Calls to sell products and services are not.

In a typical robo-call sales pitch, a friendly female voice comes on the line. Sometimes the call appears to originate from major insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield or Aetna or from a local number a caller might suppose is a school or neighbor.

Often, the voice will ask the consumer to dial “1” to enroll or “2” to opt out of future calls. Both options can be a trap, experts say.

“If you pick up, you become a lead that’s sent to health insurance agents or brokers,” Nomorobo’s Foss said. And option 2 doesn’t put you on a do-not-call list; it merely lets the spammers know they’ve hit a working number, he said.

A reporter from Kaiser Health News connected with one of the insurance brokers behind one of these robo-calls by pressing the dreaded “1.”

A man identifying himself as “Ray Khan” said he is a licensed insurance broker and provided a National Insurance Producer Registry number. The reporter was unable to locate Khan in that national registry with that number, which was not assigned to anyone.

Khan asked for the reporter’s Social Security number and other personal information. He said he did not have an office and that enrollment needed to be done over the phone. He referred the caller to a website that does not provide information about plans offered but is a platform for consumers to be contacted by brokers.

“It’s a legitimate company. We work for different insurance carriers,” Khan said. “You have to trust someone if you want to do it.”

That is what you shouldn’t do — trust folks who call you out of the blue, Rocco said. “Someone selling a comprehensive medical plan is not going to be reaching you via a robo-call,” she said.

Most of what is sold through these automated calls are “skinny plans” that don’t comply with ACA requirements, or are short-term insurance plans, which typically offer coverage for only a few months and often don’t cover preexisting conditions or prescription drugs. Such plans have been outlawed in California, starting Jan. 1.

Despite state and federal crackdowns — some involving multimillion-dollar fines — robo-calls aren’t going away anytime soon. So the best thing for consumers to do when they receive one is to just hang up or, like Cave, not respond to unfamiliar numbers, advises the Federal Communications Commission.

Instead, check out the Obamacare exchange,, or your state’s marketplace.

— Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service and an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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These Plant Chemicals Could Help Your Heart’s Health

CHICAGO — Drinking a cup of tea or eating a handful of berries a day may help protect against heart disease, a new study suggests.

The research, presented here yesterday (Nov. 10) at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions annual meeting, found that daily consumption of small amounts of flavonoids — compounds found in berries, tea, chocolate, wine and many other fruits and plants — was associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

This association (which is not to be confused with a cause-and-effect finding) is not new; previous research has also found a link between flavonoids and heart disease risk. But the new study — one of the largest done to date — adds stronger evidence to the idea that flavonoids may protect the heart, said co-lead study author Nicola Bondonno, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Biomedical Science at the University of Western Australia. [5 Surprising Ways to Be Heart Healthy]

In the study, Bondonno and her team analyzed data from nearly 53,000 people who had participated in the long-running Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study, which began in the 1990s. At the beginning of that study, participants filled out a questionnaire with information about what types of foods they ate and how often they ate them. The researchers then tracked the participants’ health for more than two decades.

After a 23-year follow-up period, around 12,000 of the participants had developed some sort of heart condition.

The researchers found that people who reported eating around 500 milligrams or more of flavonoids daily had a lower risk of developing ischemic heart disease (where the heart’s major blood vessels are narrowed, reducing blood flow to the heart), stroke and peripheral artery disease (where blood vessels in the body are narrowed, reducing blood flow throughout the body). This association was the greatest for the latter, the researchers found.

Bondonno noted that 500 mg of flavonoids is “very easy to eat in one day.” You would get that amount of flavonoids from “a cup of tea, a handful of blueberries, maybe some broccoli,” she said. They also found that, on average, it didn’t make too much of a difference how much more flavonoids healthy people consumed once they passed the 500 mg/day threshold.

The reason flavonoids could have a protective role against heart disease is because of their anti-inflammatory properties, Bondonno told Live Science. Inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, she said.

The researchers noted that the association between flavonoids and reduced heart disease risk varied for different groups of people. The link between flavonoids and reduced risk of heart disease in smokers, for example, wasn’t observed at 500 mg of flavonoids a day; rather, smokers needed to eat more flavonoids for the link to be apparent. Similar results were seen in people who drank alcohol and in men. However, it was in these three groups that the researchers found that flavonoid intake was associated with the greatest reduction in risk.

In their analysis, Bondonno and her team made sure to take people’s whole diets into consideration, because people who tend to eat lots of fruits and vegetables (and in turn, consume a lot of flavonoids), tend to have better diets in general, eating more fiber and fish and less processed food, which are all “associated with heart disease,” Bondonno said. When they adjusted for these diets in their report, they found that the association between flavonoid intake and reduced heart disease risk was still there, but a bit weaker. In other words, flavonoids may not play as big a role in heart disease risk as a healthy diet would in general. [11 Ways Processed Food Is Different from Real Food]

Further, the study was conducted only in Danish people, and though these results shouldn’t be extrapolated, “these kinds of associations have been seen in other populations,” Bondonno said.

The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Democrats Won a Mandate on Health Care. How Will They Use It?

Another idea is for the federal government to provide money to states to help pay the largest medical claims. Such assistance, which provides insurance for insurance carriers, has proved effective in reducing premiums in Alaska and Minnesota, and several other states will try it next year.

In addition, many Democrats say they want to provide more money to help consumers enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Over the last two years, Mr. Trump has cut the funds for insurance counselors and enrollment assistance by 84 percent, to $10 million.

Mr. Trump said he believed he could work with Democrats in Congress on “lowering the cost of prescription drugs,” and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said the issue was sure to be on the agenda.

Democrats have praised two of the proposals Mr. Trump has advanced in recent weeks. One would require drug manufacturers to include the list prices of drugs in television advertising. The other would reduce Medicare payments for certain high-cost drugs by using the average of prices in other advanced industrial countries as a benchmark in deciding what Medicare should pay.

Drug companies oppose both ideas. They say the price disclosures would confuse consumers, who often pay less than the full list price. And drug lobbyists say Mr. Trump’s proposal for an “international price index” would just import price controls from other countries.

Lawmakers from both parties could also find common ground with the administration on a bill that requires manufacturers of brand-name drugs to make samples available to generic drug companies trying to develop inexpensive copies of those medicines.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, says some drug makers have tried to stifle competition by blocking access to samples.

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How to care for your health this National Diabetes Month – WLS

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This Diabetes Awareness Month, watch out for added sugars.

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Fish-oil drugs protect heart health, two studies say

Lenny Bernstein November 10 at 3:00 PM

Two major studies released Saturday provide evidence that medications derived from fish oil are effective in protecting people from fatal heart attacks, strokes and other forms of cardiovascular disease.

The large, multiyear research efforts tested different formulations and quantities of drugs made with Omega-3 fatty acids on two groups of people: one that suffered from cardiovascular disease or diabetes and another that represented the general population. Both studies found that people who took the drugs every day enjoyed protection against some heart and circulatory problems compared with those given a placebo.

In a look at another commonly consumed supplement, vitamin D, researchers found no effect on heart disease but saw a link to a decline in cancer deaths over time.

The research was released Saturday at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Sessions in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 43 million people in the United States take statins to lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, and the drugs are credited with reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But heart disease remains the leading killer of Americans. In recent years, a long, steady decrease in heart disease deaths has slowed. So researchers are seeking other ways to combat cardiovascular disease beyond known protective factors such as changes in diet, exercise and smoking habits.

One of the studies unveiled Saturday, named by the acronym REDUCE-IT, determined that people with cardiovascular disease who were already taking statins stood less chance of serious heart issues when they were also given two grams of the drug Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) twice a day.

The drug is a purified version of a fish-oil component that targets triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood. Elevated triglycerides can harden or thicken arteries, potentially leading to strokes and heart attacks. People who took the drug were compared with those who were given a placebo. The study involved more than 8,000 people.

The drug is made by Amarin Corp., which sponsored the research. In September, Amarin announced that the study had met its primary goals.

Deepak L. Bhatt, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who led the study, said the results could change the practice of cardiology in the same way that the introduction of statins did more than 30 years ago.

“Honestly, I’ve been doing clinical trials for a long time. And I’ve not been involved in a trial that has this much potential to improve the lives of perhaps tens of millions of people,” Bhatt said.

In 2007, a large study in Japan determined that the same component of fish oil used in the REDUCE-IT study showed promise in protecting against cardiovascular problems. But that research did not compare the substance against a placebo, and was complicated by the large amount of fish in the typical Japanese diet.

The other fish-oil study released Saturday, called VITAL, looked at the effect of a different formulation of Omega-3 fatty acids in a drug called Lovaza. Researchers followed nearly 26,000 people for a median of more than five years. The results suggested that people given the drug were 28 percent less likely to suffer heart attacks than those given a placebo, and 8 percent less likely to have a variety of cardiovascular events. The effect was even more pronounced among African Americans, but the lead researcher said the results need further study before they can be relied upon.

People who ate fewer than 1.5 servings of fish weekly saw a drop in the number of heart attacks suffered when they increased their consumption of Omega-3s by taking the drug. The study did not find a decline in strokes.

JoAnne Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who led the study, said it “further supports . . . the benefits of Omega-3 in heart health.”

Manson called the results “promising signals” about fish-oil consumption, but said they are not conclusive enough to compel people to begin taking the drug or fish-oil supplements. The study also showed that the medication is safe enough that people already taking fish oil have no reason to stop, she said in an interview.

People in the study were given 840 milligrams of the key fatty acids in fish oil each day, less than is found in a typical serving of salmon.

“We would encourage starting with more fish in the diet and having at least two servings a week,” Manson said. “One advantage of doing it through the diet . . . is that fish can replace red meat, saturated fat and processed food.”

Lovaza is manufactured by GSK, but is available in generic form. The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The VITAL study also looked at vitamin D, which is often recommended to improve bone health in older women and for overall health in other people. It found that the vitamin had no effect on heart attacks or strokes and did not affect the incidence of cancer.

But vitamin D consumption may have some role in reducing the number of deaths from cancer two or more years later, the research showed. Manson suggested that vitamin D may help prevent cancers from metastasizing or becoming more invasive. But she said that idea needs more research.

She said people already taking modest amounts vitamin D, especially on the advice of doctors, have no reason to stop. But she warned against taking huge doses of the vitamin, such as 5,000 or 10,000 international units a day, unless a clinician recommends it, because the safety of that practice is not known.

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Lady Gaga shares mental health struggle, thoughts of suicide: ‘My inner voice shut down’


At the Patron of Artists Awards, Lada Gaga spoke about kindness, mental health outreach and her own struggles.

BEVERLY HILLS — Lady Gaga pre-empted her speech Thursday night about the need for mental health programs with a warning.

“I feel very much like I do not belong here,” the pop star-turned-Oscar-buzzworthy actress said to actors and producers at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s annual fundraiser Patron Of the Artists Awards, where Spike Lee, Harrison Ford and Jeffrey Katzenberg were also honored. 

“So I spent three-and-a-half hours writing what I was going to say. And as I’ve been sitting here all night, I’ve been going, ‘Oh my God, your speech is too long and everybody’s going to get bored.’ “

At about 20 minutes, the speech was long, yes. But the room of actors was riveted by what Gaga said from the podium about kindness, mental health outreach and her own struggles.

“We are losing a generation of young people who do not believe that their voices are worth hearing,” she said, suggesting that SAG-AFTRA partner with Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to provide mental health teams for those suffering. “The need in this world for kindness is paralyzing. The negative news and tragedies are nonstop and overwhelming.”

She referenced the shooting Wednesday night at a California bar that left 13 dead, including the suspected gunman. 

“We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness,” she said. “It is dangerous and we know this, because amongst other shootings and acts of violence, just last night there was a shooting in Thousand Oaks by a veteran who was believed to have suffered from untreated post-traumatic-stress disorder (according to authorities he had an episode of erratic behavior last spring that suggested PTSD) which is a mental issue. We know that this is dangerous, we know that it’s important and we have to pay attention to it.”

Experts say the actions of the California bar shooting suspect Ian David Long, 28, a Marine Corps veteran, should not be blamed on PTSD.

Lady Gaga continued: “When I speak about mental health, especially when I’m speaking about mine, it is often met with quietness. Or maybe, a somber line of fans, waiting outside to whisper to me in the shadows about their darkest secrets. We need to bring mental health into the light.”

As a way of example, Gaga shared her own “list” of issues she’s had to deal with.

She’s had “symptoms of dissociation and PTSD” which turned into “physical chronic pain, fibromyalgia, panic attacks, acute trauma responses and debilitating mental spirals that have included suicidal ideation and masochistic behavior.”

After years of saying ‘yes’ to every job opportunity she was offered, the word ‘yes’ “became too automatic, and my inner voice shut down, which I have learned now is very unhealthy,” she said. “I was not empowered to say no. I began to notice that I would stare off into space and black out for seconds or minutes. I would see flashes of things I was tormented by, experiences that were filed away.

“I’m telling you this, because for me it was too late,” she said. “I wish I had mental health resources then.”

The evening’s MC, Rachel Bloom, was so compelled by Gaga’s speech that she opened up about her own mental illnesses before closing the show.

“I, too, suffer from anxiety and depression. I thank God every day for my Prozac. And part of the reason I have treatment is because I can afford it,” Bloom said. “I just want to say thank you to Lady Gaga for that speech.”

Google hires a health care CEO to organize its fragmented health initiatives

Google has hired Geisinger Health CEO David Feinberg to oversee its many health care initiatives, reporting to AI chief Jeff Dean and working closely with CEO Sundar Pichai to organize Google’s various health-related ventures.

Google has been interested in health care for some time; its current efforts are quite fragmented, and they span across several teams and its parent Alphabet’s companies, including Nest, Verily, Calico, DeepMind, and Google Fit. In 2008, Google launched a project called Google Health, which aimed to unify patients’ medical data stored by different providers. It ultimately folded in 2013, and paved the way for Google Fit, a fitness ecosystem for Android phones and WearOS smartwatches. Google Fit is the company’s only consumer-facing product focused on health thus far, though Nest — a subsidiary of Google Home — is reported to be working on getting into the digital health business as well.

In July, it was reported that Nest had quietly acquired health monitoring startup Senosis. CNBC reported that the company had been talking with senior living facilities about incorporating Nest devices which could sense falls, and automatically turn on lights with motion sensors when people wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

Feinberg’s boss Jeff Dean leads Google’s AI research division, which manages Google Brain, a deep learning AI research team which is sometimes internally referred to as “Medical Brain.” According to CNBC, Google Brain has recently been focusing on a research project called Medical Digital Assist, which uses AI-powered speech recognition to help physicians take notes during a hospital visit.

Other Google teams like Search and Cloud have been helping the company’s health initiatives in more subtle ways, like adding fact-checked medical information to the Knowledge Graph, and offering cloud services to health care providers. Last July, Google Cloud hired former Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove to advise the team, with Cosgrove noting that he is particularly interested in building apps to help modernize hospitals.

Google’s parent Alphabet also invests and owns two research and development organizations, Verily and Calico. Most recently, Google and Verily’s scientists used machine learning to analyze eye scan datasets of 300,000 patients to assess a patient’s risk of heart disease. Calico, on the other hand, has more ominous goals of “curing death” to extend the human lifespan. Budgeted with a $1.5 billion investment from Google, the company has been studying genomes to unlock the secrets of aging — most notably, with experiments involving naked mole rats.

Feinberg’s hire is an indication that the company wants to unify its many health initiatives spanning across its web services, software, hardware, and AI-backed bets; a source told The Wall Street Journal that Feinberg is expected to provide strategic direction, though it is unclear whether his role will encompass experimental efforts by Alphabet.

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Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis?

Researchers followed a group of kids from childhood into adulthood to track the link between trauma in early life and adult mental health.

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Researchers followed a group of kids from childhood into adulthood to track the link between trauma in early life and adult mental health.

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When public health officials get wind of an outbreak of Hepatitis A or influenza, they spring into action with public awareness campaigns, monitoring and outreach. But should they be acting with equal urgency when it comes to childhood trauma?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer should be yes. It shows how the effects of childhood trauma persist and are linked to mental illness and addiction in adulthood. And, researchers say, it suggests that it might be more effective to approach trauma as a public health crisis than to limit treatment to individuals.

The study drew on the experiences of participants from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which followed 1,420 children from mostly rural parts of western North Carolina, over a period of 22 years. They were interviewed annually during their childhood, then four additional times during adulthood.

This study has something other similar studies don’t, says William Copeland, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont who led the research. Instead of relying on recalled reports of childhood trauma, the researchers analyzed data collected while the participants were kids and their experiences were fresh. And the researchers applied rigorous statistical analysis to rule out confounding factors.

Even when the team accounted for other adversities aside from trauma, like low income and family hardships, and adult traumas, the associations between childhood trauma and adult hardships remained clear. The associations remained clear.

The study is “probably the most rigorous test we have to date of the hypothesis that early childhood trauma has these strong, independent effects on adult outcomes,” he says.

For Copeland, the wide-ranging impacts of trauma call for broad-based policy solutions in addition to individual interventions. “It has to be a discussion we have on a public health policy level,” he says.

Nearly 31 percent of the children told researchers they had experienced one traumatic event, like a life-threatening injury, sexual or physical abuse, or witnessing or hearing about a loved one’s traumatic experience. And 22.5 percent of participants had experienced two traumas, while 14.8 percent experienced three or more.

To Head Off Trauma's Legacy, Start Young

The childhoods of participants who went through traumatic events and those who didn’t were markedly different. Participants with trauma histories were 1.5 times as likely to have psychiatric problems and experience family instability and dysfunction than those without, and 1.4 times as likely to be bullied. They were also 1.3 times more likely to be poor than participants who didn’t experience trauma.

When these children grew up, psychiatric problems and other issues persisted. Even after researchers adjusted for factors like recall bias, race and sex, the impact of those childhood psychiatric problems and hardships, the associations remained. Participants who experienced childhood trauma were 1.3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than adults than those who did not experience trauma, and 1.2 times more likely to develop depression or substance abuse disorder.

Participants with histories of trauma were also more likely to experience health problems, participate in risky behavior, struggle financially, and have violent relationships or problems making friends. And the more childhood trauma a person experienced, the more likely they were to have those problems in adulthood.

Copeland acknowledges the study’s limitations—it included mostly white participants in rural settings, and a disproportionately high number of Native American participants compared to the rest of the United States due to the area’s high concentration of members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. But the study is nonetheless important, says Kathryn Magruder, an epidemiologist and professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“I think it should put to rest any kind of speculation about early childhood trauma and later life difficulties,” she says.

Though the link has been shown in earlier research, Magruder says, this new study can help direct future research and policy. “Why are we revisiting it? Because it is time to think about prevention,” she says. Trauma is a public health problem, she adds, and should be met with a public health approach.

Psychologist Marc Gelkopf agrees. In an editorial published along with the study, he writes: “If the ills of our societies, including trauma, are to be tackled seriously, then injustice must be held accountable.”

Childhood Trauma And Its Lifelong Health Effects More Prevalent Among Minorities

The policy implications are clear, says Jonathan Purtle, a mental health policy researcher and assistant professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “We need to prevent these things from happening to children and support family and community so that people can be more resilient,” he says. Policymakers can create coalitions around issues like mental health and trauma-informed approaches in contexts like education and healthcare, he says.

One step in that direction comes with the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a bipartisan bill to address the opioid crisis that was signed into law October 24. The law recognizes links between early childhood trauma and substance abuse. It includes grants to improve trauma support services in schools, created a task force to provide recommendations on how the federal government can help families whose lives have been impacted by trauma and substance abuse, and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to help early childhood and education providers spot and address trauma.

Bills like the SUPPORT Act enjoy bipartisan and are a promising start, says Purtle — but they don’t go far enough. To really reduce trauma and mitigate its effects, he says, policymakers must pursue community investment and policies like minimum wage laws that reduce economic pressure on people who are struggling.

“It’s more than just ‘toughen up and deal with it,’ ” he says. “A lot of it comes down to people not having to live their lives in a state of chronic and constant stress.”

Erin Blakemore is a science writer based in Boulder, Colo.

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Suspect met with mental health specialist in past

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