Public Health in the News – July 20, 2014


  • Among the victims of the Malaysian Airlines plane that was shot down this past week was Joep Lange, a prominent AIDS researcher.
  • “After malaria is controlled, what’s next?” Science blog The Mermaid’s Tale discusses this question and talks about the different mindsets needed for malaria control vs. elimination.
  • Many scientists have signed an open letter calling for reforms of Europe’s Human Brain Project, a large-scale neuroscience initiative. Here’s why.



  • After adopting a Medicare expansion proved to be more costly than expected, the Cook County health system is facing a $63.5 million deficit by the end of the year.


  • Niacin, a drug prescribed to fight heart attack and stroke, may not provide any benefit while increasing risk of death, according to a new study and an accompanying editorial by NU cardiologist and chair of the Department of Preventative Medicine, Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones.
  • NU professor Dr. Seema Khan and colleagues have released a study indicating that the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen may have fewer side effects when used as a gel.
  • Dr. Shyam Prabhakaran, NU neurology professor, was interviewed on Chicago Tonight regarding strokes in women.

Public Health in the News – July 13, 2014



  • After two incidents, federal health officials announced Friday that they had temporarily closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
  • Sad news to report – the “Mississippi baby,” thought to have been cured to HIV as an infant is now showing signs of infection, according to new reports.
  • According to a recent vote by the Berkeley City Council, those considered poor (making less than $32,000 per year) will be entitled to free marijuana related to their treatments so that no one goes without medical care.
  • AIDSVu, a new project out of Emory University, presents fascinating graphics of the spread of HIV throughout the U.S., including Chicago.


  • The Chicago Department of Public Health has been named “Public Health Department of the Year” by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Way to go CDPH!
  • MedCity News presents a report on the $56 million dollars of the Affordable Care Act funds that have been given to new Illinois health initiatives.


Public Health in the News – July 6, 2014


  • When researchers studying ways to solve global food issues needed a cheap, modular, transparent material in which to grow plants for their experiments, they turned to Legos.
  • A new test that can diagnose tuberculosis much more quickly than other methods has been developed by scientists at Stanford University.
  • People infected with malaria give off odors that attract more mosquitos, a new study finds. This may help researchers develop new ways of detecting people who have been infected.



Public Health in the News – June 29, 2014



  • Adding a newer test to digital mammograms can increase the detection rate for breast cancer and decrease nerve-racking false alarms, in which suspicious findings lead women to get extra scans that turn out normal, a study found.
  • On Tuesday the American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy asserting that doctors should tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth to improve brain development.


  • Chicagoans must be doing something right! The City of Chicago reports life expectancy has climbed to 77.8 years, growing twice as fast as the rest of the U.S. over the past twenty years.
  • Mayor Emmanuel, with the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, announced the launch of PlayStreets 2014, which will host 140 events over the summer to get families active.
  • The City of Chicago Department of Public Health is conducting mosquito tracking and abatement in an effort to curb West Nile Virus and other vector borne viruses.


  • Katherine Wisner was quoted in the New York Times about her work on postpartum depression treatment and screening.
  • What impact is the ACA having in emergency room visits? Dr. James Adams is quoted in a Chicago Sun Times article on this subject.

The Latest Volume of the Northwestern Public Health Review is Here!

The second edition of the Northwestern Public Health Review is here! Below, find an overview of this edition’s articles.

Letter from the Editors

Celeste Mallama and Osefame Ewaleifoh

We are delighted to welcome you to the second edition of the Northwestern Public Health Review (NPHR). We have come a long way since our first issue, and it has been an exciting journey. Among other things, we have started a highly active public health blog (, hosted the first ‘Public Health Matters’ reception, and started a growing public health bookshelf that highlights new and innovative public health works ( Perhaps most significantly, we have grown from two student editors to a diverse and dynamic editorial board consisting of 18 students and faculty members, drawn from various programs across the university. Working together, we pledge to continuously bring you the most insightful and engaging public health stories and perspectives. Read on

Inside the Journal:

Prisons As Insane Asylums
by Arvin Akhavan

art by Elise Walker
Art by Elise Walker

This article explores the growing need for jails to operate as mental health facilities.

Social Networks and Text Messaging in Public Health
by Ekkehard Beck and Benjamin Armbruster

At the frontier of prevention interventions,  a study of social network analysis to visualize and model existing real-world networks.

Northwestern’s Project Rishi: Health Interventions in Charnia
by Srivarshini Cherukpalli

A founding member of Northwestern’s RISHI chapter, currently a senior undergraduate, describes the work she and her colleagues have done in India.

Milestones in Public Health: Public Safety Trends
by Osefame Ewaleifoh

Advances and critical turning points that exemplify the consequence of highly impactful multi-disciplinary approaches to public health.

New Rationale for Treatment as Prevention
by Adina Goldberger

Cost-effective HIV management strategies from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). Our blog post contributes to this piece.

The Affordable Care Act and Public Health
by Neil Jordan, PhD, and Philethea Duckett, MPA

We highlight some of the features of the ACA that directly or indirectly target public health.

Sleep as a Pubic Health Issue
by Nelly Papalambros

Sleep and circadian rhythms are often overlooked, and it is time for their debut as a public health issue. Our blog post contributes to this piece.

The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission
by John Phair

Dr. John Phair reflects on his time at the ABCC.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road Ahead
by Sarah Jane Quillin

Avenues to curb texting & driving in the US. Our blog post contributes to this piece.

Responsible Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects
by Lewis M. Smith

Historical lessons and public health implications.

Alumni Spotlight: Discovering What It Means to Work in “Public Health”
by Kristen Unti

An Interview with Dr. Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH.

About This Issue’s Cover Art
by Kate Lamy

Reflections on this month’s cover design from the artist.

If you would like to check out the NPHR volume one, you can find it here.


Public Health in the News – June 21, 2014



  • Dr. Arnold S. Relman, longtime outspoken editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, passed away this week at 91 years old.
  • The CDC reports that 75 employees were exposed to live anthrax bacteria that they’d believed was deactivated.  So far, none of the employees have reported any reaction.
  • The Labor Department issued a proposed rule stating that any employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to White House officials, regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status.
  • Microsoft, after years of development, may be coming out with a health focused smart watch using it’s HealthVault health data platform, which uses light to measure the biometrics of the user.


  • After plastic particles were found in Lake Michigan, Illinois became the first state to ban microbeads, a common ingredient in facial and hand cleansers.
  • After difficulties reconciling different electronic records systems, Alexian Brothers Health Systems, out of Arlington Heights, has suspended its effort to launch a new Medicare system.


  • Professor Teresa Woodruff’s groundbreaking work on the importance of gender in medical research, is explored in a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times.
  • In a disturbing new study, Professor Linda Teplin found that delinquent children are much more likely than their nondelinquent peers to die violently later in life. Worse are girls who end up in juvenile detention, dying at nearly five times the rate of the general population.

What Will It Take to Curb Cell Phone Use While Driving?

Kate Klein, MA, MPH

Want to hear something scary? In 2011 at least one quarter of all car crashes involved cell phones [1]….one quarter! Furthermore, 78% of teens and young adults say they have read an SMS message while driving [2]. These are scary statistics for everyone. A momentary lapse of attention on the part of a driver will impact everyone around them with devastating results.

These effects can be seen portrayed dramatically in ads to raise awareness about cell phone use and driving. The Texting and Driving Prevention campaign by the Ad Council, the office of the State Attorneys General and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has produced a series of chilling videos, one showing a group of laughing teens in a car – the driver texting – while they come upon a mother and child crossing the street [3].  It’s a video one could barely watch without cringing.  Many other entities, both government and civil society, are also producing advertisements aimed at scaring drivings into putting down the cell phones.

In addition to these behavior change campaigns, most states have passed laws to ban cell phone use while driving.  Thirty-seven states and DC ban all cell phone use by teen or novice drivers, and eighteen states and DC ban any cell phone use for school bus drivers [4]. Penalties for cell phone use range from $20 in California to $10,000 in Alaska [5]. In 2012, the the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a law banning anyone with a Commercial Drivers License from using cell phones will driving. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones face a maximum penalty of $11,000 [6].

This Map Shows State Laws Against Cell Phone Use While Driving (credit: LifeHacker)
This Map Shows State Laws Against Cell Phone Use While Driving (credit: LifeHacker)

So the question is, do these laws and ad campaigns do the trick? Are people using their cell phones less?  One study, conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance industry group, looked at accident rates before and after cell phone bans took effect in New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and California. Overall, the results were discouraging. Accident claims did not change after the cell phone bans took effect compared with states that do not have a cell phone ban [7].

As for advertisements, as part of its anti-texting & driving campaign, AT&T conducted a survey and found that 97% of teenagers know texting while driving is dangerous, however it also revealed that 89% of teenagers felt pressured to respond to a text message within one minute.

So if laws aren’t working, and advertisements aren’t working, what can be done? One place to start is with Sarah Jane Quillin’s article in the recently released Northwestern Public Health Reivew. Her article “Keep your Eyes on the Road Ahead: Avenues to Curb Texting & Driving in the US” presents a fascinating look at this health issue and ways we can try to tackle the problem. Find her article, and others, in the new issue at











Public Health in the News – June 15, 2014


  • The West Africa Commission on Drugs has just released a report that recommends decriminalizing drug use, and instead treating it as a public health issue.
  • A large genetic study of Mexicans showed that there is a huge amount of genetic diversity within the population.
  • Brazil is trying to tackle the obesity epidemic by giving people free access to gyms. Catherine de Lange explains why this solution may help fight health inequalities.



  • A new report shows that the average life expectancy for Chicago citizens is rising dramatically!


  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital held a boxing class for Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers. Watch a highlight video here!
  • People who get less sleep at night take more risks and probably exercise less, shows a study led by Northwestern professor Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD.

An Interview with Bechara Choucair, a Leader in the Journey to a Healthy Chicago!

PhD/MPH student Aabha Sharma interviewed Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Dr. Choucair on November 25, 2009.

Bechara Choucair
Bechara Choucair

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Choucair earned a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Chemistry (with distinction) and a Medical Diploma from American University of Beirut. From 1997-2000 he did his Family Practice Residency at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. In 2009 he earned a Master’s Degree in Health Care Management from the University of Texas at Dallas.

From 2001-05, Dr. Choucair served as Medical Director of Crusader Community Health in Rockford, Illinois. From 2005-09, he was Executive Director of Heartland International Health Center. He has served as Vice-chair of Community Medicine, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

Awards he has earned include the Loretta Lacey Maternal and Child Health Advocacy Award, Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, 2009; Health Professions Training and Education Award, National Association of Community Health Centers, 2008; American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, Pfizer Teacher Development Award, 2007; and Forrest Riordan Humanitarian Award, 2005.

AS: Healthy Chicago has been going on strong. You were recently invited to the White House because of your tobacco prevention efforts. Congratulations! Could you please elaborate on plans that the Chicago Department of Public Health has for tobacco menthol prevention? What are some of the ongoing programs and what goes on at the backstage of these campaigns? How do you set priorities on which public health issue to address?

BC: Public Health is all about making the environmental and systems changes necessary to create a more healthy community – if we are successful more people will have more opportunities to get and stay healthier. This is the approach we take for all our priorities, including tobacco prevention.  What can we change to help make sure our kids are not enticed by tobacco and instead choose never to light up in the first place?

So to make those long-term, sustainable environmental changes we really focus on three areas: policy, programs and public education.

Policy: In Chicago, we have passed three laws this year that are extremely important – first, we raised taxes on cigarettes. Now, we have highest cigarette tax in the country because we know there’s price elasticity. If cigarettes are more expensive it is more likely that kids won’t pick up on it. Second, we restricted the sales of menthol flavored cigarettes and all flavored tobacco within 500 feet of our schools, meaning that retailers located close to our schools can’t sell these specific products that we know Big Tobacco has used to entice and hook young people. We are the first jurisdiction in the country to include menthol-flavored products in these restrictions. Third, we became the first big city in the nation to introduce an ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way we regulate traditional cigarettes, putting them behind the counter and ensuring our indoor spaces remain e-cigarette free.

The CDPH’s “BURNED” ad campaign encourages young people to avoid taking up smoking.

Programs: 70% of smokers want to quit smoking, so we have to continue making sure that people have access to free resources to help them quit. Therefore, on the programmatic side, we encourage people to call our state’s tobacco Quitline, 888-QUIT-YES. Chicago calls to the tobacco Quitline more than doubled in the last half of 2013 and we are seeing more and more people pick up the phone and call.

Public Education: Raising awareness is key. Unless there’s awareness on these issues, no policy changes can be passed or implemented that will help make behavioral changes. It is also hard to provide the push for smokers to quit, and most importantly, prevent non-smokers from picking up the habit unless you have public awareness and education. The ad campaigns that you are seeing all over the city do this – we want to make sure that smokers know there are resources available to help them initiate quitting smoking. At the same time, we are also sending messages to youth that they should think twice before starting to experiment with cigarettes.

AS: I recently saw an article that states that CVS is going to stop selling cigarettes. I definitely think that will boost the tobacco campaign not just in Chicago but also everywhere in the country. 

BC: Definitely! Mayor Emmanuel has already come forward and congratulated CVS for their decision.

AS:  Last year Chicago was one of the best in terms of obesity prevention, especially child obesity. What are the other priorities for 2014?    

BC:  Back in August 2011 Mayor Emmanuel launched the Healthy Chicago agenda and in that agenda we identified 12 public health priorities. And we said if we focus our efforts on making differences in those 12 priorities, we think we will be able to create the healthiest city in the nation and that’s what we have been doing. Tobacco and obesity are obviously two extremely important priorities but we are also focusing on adolescent health, violence prevention, cardiovascular disease, cancer disparities and healthy homes. There is a lot of work going on in those areas. One example in terms of adolescent health is the Healthy Adolescent program for Chicago that we just launched. It identifies over 65 strategies that we think will significantly improve adolescent health in Chicago. Some of these strategies include expanding the vision and dental programs at CPS schools. You might have seen our campaigns for preventing teen pregnancy – using teen pregnant boys has been an effective strategy to raise awareness that teen pregnancy is not just a girls’ problem. One of the policies regarding adolescent health was recently passed as well. This physical education policy focuses on bringing daily PE back to schools for students.

During the 2012 National Nutrition Month, the CPHD invited Chicagoans to share their healthy plates on Facebook.

AS: CDPH is progressive in terms of its public health campaigns compared to the rest of the country. How has this been possible? 

BC:  In my mind, the most important thing in improving the health of a community is the partnership. We have enough partners with us to stand with us and help us achieve our goals. It’s all about creating coalitions and developing a culture that has public health as top priority. That’s what we have in Chicago – we have great partners for all our priorities. For the tobacco prevention campaign, for example, we worked with the American Lung Association and Respiratory Health Association. For obesity, we worked closely with CLOCC – the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. We work closely with Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Parks districts and Partners of Transportation as well. We have a long list of amazing engaged partners to make a difference. It’s the coalition between the business, government, public and private sectors that has made all the difference. Another thing that is important in Chicago is having the political leadership that’s necessary to make those differences and having a mayor like Emmanuel who is a very vocal and supportive public health advocate all throughout his career and as mayor of Chicago – this really makes the difference. So, creating the right partnerships and having the right political leadership to make a difference is the core of why public health has done so well in Chicago and will continue to do so in Chicago.

AS: I hope Chicago continues to be an example for the rest of the country. I can feel how passionate you are about your work. I hope it continues to go on strong like right now. Thank you so much for your time. 

Follow Dr. Choucair on Twitter at @choucair

See our article on Dr. Choucair’s talk at Northwestern’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine Seminar Series here.

Aabha Sharma

Aabha Sharma is a PhD/MPH student at Northwestern University. 

Public Health in the News – June 8, 2014


  • The European Union has created a new set of rules to regulate its clinical trials, which will hopefully stop the decline in trials seen in recent years.
  • A new strategy to fight drug-resistant bacteria may come from an older therapy used in the Soviet era: phage therapy, in which patients are given a bacteria-fighting virus.
  • A study of children in Bangladesh shows that the microbes in our gut change as we get older, and this may have implications for helping children suffering from malnutrition.




  • A team of Northwestern faculty and staff developed a method to reduce the wait time for patients who come to the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center to receive chemotherapy treatments.
  • A blog post by The Women’s Health Research Institute at NU explains why we need sex-based research.
  • NU Professor June M. McKoy, MD, calls for more diversity in medical school leadership.