In 2014, over 240 Rhode Islanders lost their lives to overdose—more than the number of people who died in car accidents, murders, and suicides combined. In response to this crisis, the School of Public Health collaborated with the RI Department of Health to create a data dashboard. Brandon Marshall, Manning Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, led the development of the dashboard, PreventOverdoseRI.org. The website offers resources to those in need of addiction and recovery support, but it also provides a valuable service to researchers and policy makers: the latest data on addiction and overdose in Rhode Island. The data—including numbers of overdose deaths, emergency room visits, and treatment admissions—keeps the public informed of the State’s progress in the fight against the opioid crisis, while improving the ability of government, community organizations, scientists, and policy-makers to analyze and translate that data into meaningful knowledge. And people are noticing. According to Jesse Yedinak, Project Manager at the Centers for Epidemiology and Environmental Health, and lead manager of the PreventOverdoseRI.org project, the project is receiving attention from health departments and research groups across the country. “Many states are interested in replicating PreventOverdoseRI.org,” she said. “In the past six months we’ve provided data dashboard ‘best practice’ consultations to at least 10 states and were invited to present at conferences addressing the overdose crisis in different parts of the country.”
PREVENTION MESSAGING VIA HOOKUP SITES
A study by Brown University, The Miriam Hospital, and the Rhode Island Department of Health found a strong correlation between new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in Rhode Island and their use of online hookup sites. “This is a statewide study that included nearly all individuals newly diagnosed with HIV across an entire state,” said Amy Nunn, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences and of Medicine and director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute. “This is one of the first studies to document how common Internet site use is among people newly diagnosed with HIV and highlights important opportunities to partner with hookup sites to advance public health.” The study authors recommend that hookup websites and apps partner with public health groups to share public health messages about the risks of sexual encounters arranged online. For instance, sites and apps could provide affordable advertising access to help prevent infection in communities that are most impacted by HIV. “Prevention messaging is a vital tool in our work to prevent new HIV transmissions in Rhode Island,” said study co-author Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “A study like this is an urgent call to action for greater collaboration around education to address the health needs of men who have sex with men.” Dr. Philip Chan, Assistant Professor of Medicine and the study’s lead author, explained that they are currently exploring how individuals use Internet hookup sites to meet partners. “We are also working to promote pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) specifically for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who meet partners online,” he said. PrEP is a once daily medication that is effective in preventing HIV. “We are working on several initiatives to promote PrEP and HIV testing among online hookup sites,” Dr. Chan said. “We are optimistic these approaches will help address HIV transmission in our community.”
In addition to Nunn, Chan, and Alexander-Scott the study’s other authors are Caitliln Towey, Joanna Poceta, Jennifer Rose, Thomas Bertrand, Dr. Rami Kantor, Julia Harvey, and E. Karina Santamaria.
MORE TIME SPENT ON DIGITAL DEVICES MEANS LESS CHANCE OF FINISHING HOMEWORK
Researchers from the School of Public Health examined data from the 2011–2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to analyze the media use and homework habits of more than 64,000 children. Coming as no surprise to parents, they found children who spent two to four hours a day using digital devices outside of schoolwork had 23 percent lower odds of always or usually finishing their homework, compared to children who spent less than two hours consuming digital media. The more time spent on digital media, the lower the odds of finishing homework. The authors found a similar relationship between digital media exposure and four other measures of childhood flourishing, including caring about doing well in school, completing tasks that are started, showing interest in learning new things, and staying calm when faced with challenges. The trends all remained significant regardless of the child’s age, sex, or family income level. Dr. Stephanie Ruest, a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Fellow at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and MPH student in the School of Public Health, is the study’s lead author. She points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages creating “media-free” areas and times each day, setting limits, monitoring media content, and developing personalized media plans for children through the use of the HealthChildren.org website. Ruest’s findings emphasize those recommendations. “Parents should be cognizant of the additive effects of all forms of digital media exposure when developing personalized media plans for their children,” she said.
In addition to Ruest, the study’s other authors are Max Rubinstein, MD, and Annie Gjelsvik, PhD.