Press Releases

  • Vaccine Politics: State Laws and the Vaccine Safety Critics

    September 8, 2014

    Vaccines have always been controversial, but never more so than in the last 15 years. The late 1990s saw the vaccine-autism scare and the mercury-based preservative, thimerosal, scare—both of which helped vaccine critics portray vaccines as unsafe. While it was a period characterized by low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases, it was also a time of high levels of organized interest-group activity opposing vaccine mandates, much doubt about vaccine safety among parents, and greater use of exemptions to avoid or delay vaccination. Vaccine critics and activists were able to pass legislation in their favor. How are vaccine critics doing now? How has their ability to affect legislation changed over time? A study in The Milbank Quarterly has found that recent events—such as the discrediting of the vaccine-autism link and outbreaks of whooping cough—have slowed the gains made by vaccine critics at the state level.

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  • How Do Financial Conflicts of Interest Affect Voting in FDA Advisory Committees?

    September 8, 2014

    With the implementation of the Sunshine Act this fall, information about gifts and payments to physicians and hospitals from pharmaceutical and medical device companies will be available in a federal database. This spotlight on physician-industry relationships inevitably raises questions about conflicts of interest and their impact on physician decision making. A study in the September issue of The Milbank Quarterly, examining the potential for financial conflicts of interest to influence advisory committee members of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during the drug approval process, found that there seems to be a voting bias when experts have exclusive financial ties to firms but, surprisingly, not when they have multiple ties.

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  • Reframing Alcohol Abuse as a Public Health Issue

    June 4, 2014

    How do you bring about a shift in thinking about alcohol as a public health issue? You reframe the conversation, says a new study by researchers from the University of Glasgow published in the June issue of The Milbank Quarterly. Entitled “Changing Policy Framing as a Deliberate Strategy for Public Health Advocacy: A Qualitative Policy Case Study of Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol,” the study focuses on the debate over minimum unit pricing of alcohol (MUP) in Scotland, the first country in the world to pass legislation introducing MUP for alcohol in an attempt to reduce that country’s consumption of and the associated harms of alcohol.

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  • Tobacco Companies Were Waiting for the Opportune Moment – the Legalization of Marijuana

    June 3, 2014

    It turns out that the history of Big Tobacco companies and marijuana is more intertwined than was previously known, according to a new study in The Milbank Quarterly. Based on previously secret tobacco industry documents, the study reveals that, since at least the 1970s, tobacco companies have been interested in marijuana as both a rival and potential product. As a result of litigation against the tobacco industry, more than 80 million pages of internal company documents became available at the University of California San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (www.legacy.library.ucsf.edu). This study, led by Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, Director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, is the first to systematically review these documents specifically about marijuana.

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  • Can Social Media Help Public Health Officials Monitor Disease Outbreaks?

    March 6, 2014

    Recent disease outbreaks in the last decade such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARs-CoV) in Asia and the pandemic H1N1/09 influenza virus worldwide have prompted infectious disease scientists to investigate new ways to improve public health surveillance, monitoring the incidence of infectious diseases to understand and minimize their impact. The exchange of health information on the Internet and social media is an obvious opportunity to gain insight into emerging disease events. Now, more than ever, use of electronic data, including new and popular initiatives such as Google Flu Trends, ProMed-mail and HealthMap, are being used to enhance public health preparedness. But how useful are they for public health practitioners who are trying to detect emerging diseases in their own regions?

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