The Catalyst by Jocelyn Kaiser
Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has become a prominent voice in the debate over studies that create potentially dangerous new flu viruses that critics fear could escape from laboratories and cause a pandemic. This past July, Lipsitch organized 18 scientists who crafted a statement calling for governments to curtail these controversial studies until risks and benefits can be thoroughly weighed. It drew an online response a few days later from an opposing alliance of researchers who support the experiments. Still, to Lipsitch‘s surprise, they gave a little ground: They agreed that researchers needed to publicly air the issues. The turn of events highlights how Lipsitch, a one-time philosophy major turned biologist, has recently shown a knack for being in the right place at the right time, with a message and data that have helped shape the conversation.
In a poignant article written by Department of Epidemiology Chair, Michelle Williams, Dimitrios Trichopoulos, a passionate trailblazer in the field of public health epidemiology and former Department Chair, shares thoughtful insights on the future of the field along with lessons from the tremendous career and research collaborations he has been able to create over the past half-century.
“Vasectomy is associated with a small increased risk of prostate cancer, and a stronger risk for advanced or lethal prostate cancer, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The researchers found that the association remained even among men who received regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening, suggesting the increased risk of lethal cancer cannot be explained by diagnostic bias. It is the largest and most comprehensive study to date to look at the link between vasectomy and prostate cancer.” Read the full Harvard Gazette article featuring this innovative research from members of the Department of Epidemiology.
A new study led by esteemed HSPH researchers Leah Cahill and Eric Rimm found that skipping breakfast led to a 27% increase in coronary heart disease in men. Listen to the podcast provided through the Harvard School of Public Health News website to learn about this important and incredibly fascinating discovery on the importance of beginning your day with a nutritious meal.
Prostate Cancer: Surgery vs. Watchful Waiting
“The latest results from the SPCG-4 trial indicate that surgery can not only improve survival, especially in men diagnosed at a younger age or with intermediate-risk disease, but also that surgery can reduce the burden of disease in terms of development of metastases and the need for palliative treatment,” said co-author Jennifer Rider, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology
A study completed by a collaborative team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health pinpoints evidence that women who experience PTSD are more likely to battle obesity. The study was recently published in Jama Psychiatry and was lead by senior author Karestan Koenen. This study acknowledges PTSD as not only being a mental health issue by demonstrating the severe physical health effects it can have on those who suffer from it as well. “The good news from the study is that it appears that when PTSD symptoms abate, risk of becoming overweight or obese is also significantly reduced,” says first author Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at HSPH. Read the full HSPH news article for further information.
Spring and Summer 2014
- The Importance of “Big Data”; Nathan Eagle, adjunct assistant professor in Epi, works on engineering computational tools to explore how data can be used for positive social impact. Read the full article from Harvard News here.
- “Sugar, Salt, and Supplements: Sorting the Science” – Epi faculty members discuss the public health implications of food-product label changes recently announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at a HSPH Forum panel discussion.
- Several members of the department co-authored one of the American Journal of Epidemiology 2013 Articles of the Year, “Incidence of Adult-onset Asthma After Hypothetical Interventions on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity: An Application of the Parametric G-Formula”. The paper’s first author is Judith Garcia-Aymerich, who was a visiting scientist in the department when this paper was written. Co-authors include Raphaëlle Varraso, Goodarz Danaei, Carlos A. Camargo, Jr. and Miguel A. Hernan.
- Epi in Space- An exciting new study led by NASA’s Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute will fund several investigations into the molecular, physiological and psychological effects of spaceflight in an effort to better understand the health impacts of human space exploration. Identical twins Scott and Mark Kelly, both veteran astronauts, will be the focus of this study. Scott Kelly will live aboard the International Space Station for one year while his twin brother, Mark Kelly, remains on Earth as a control. PI Immaculata De Vivo and lab manager Pati Soule are collaborating with researchers at Colorado State University to analyze the effect of spaceflight on telomeres. Telomeres are stretches of DNA found at the end of chromosomes; they shorten over time as cells divide and are associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. The project, “Differential effects on telomeres and telomerase in twin astronauts associated with spaceflight” will study astronaut Scott Kelly’s telomeres during his year in space and compare them to his twin. The researchers are excited to be a part of this first-of-its-kind investigation.
- “Anger can break your heart” – People who have angry outbursts appear to be at increased risk of heart attack or stroke, especially within the first two hours of an outburst, according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital researchers including lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky as well as Epi professor, Murray Mittleman . Those with cardiovascular disease (CVD) are at particular risk.
- New school meal standards significantly improve fruit and vegetable consumption- New federal standards launched in 2012 that require schools to offer healthier meals have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. The study, the first to examine school food consumption both before and after the standards went into effect, contradicts criticisms that the new standards have increased food waste. HSPH authors included Eric Rimm, senior author and associate professor in the departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and Paul Catalano, senior lecturer on biostatistics.
- Nathan Eagle, adjunct assistant professor in Epi, works on engineering computational tools to explore how data can be used for positive social impact. Read the article “Why Big Data is a Big Deal” for the full news story.
- Battling drug-resistant “superbugs”: Watch the FORUM at HSPH from Wednesday, February 5th . The fascinating discussion included Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the CCDD, Marc Lipsitch.
- Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare professor of epidemiology and nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has been selected to receive the 2013 Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.The $50,000 Bloomberg Manulife Prize is awarded annually to a researcher from anywhere in the world whose work promises to broaden understanding of how physical activity, nutrition, or psychosocial factors influence personal health and wellbeing. Read the full HSPH article or the official award announcement.
- Forced prostitution is finally being linked to higher risk of HIV and sexually transmitted disease infection in sex trafficking victims. “Involuntary sex work is not only a human rights crisis, but also exacts a devastating toll on health,” Kathleen Wirth, ScD ’11, wrote in a recent online opinion piece in the New York Times. Wirth is a research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership in Gaborone, Botswana.