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No Therapist Required

Counseling

Children from poor nations could benefit from talk therapy even when the person performing the therapy doesn’t have a degree in psychology or social work, a new study says.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that young people benefited from relaxation techniques, talking about their feelings, and choosing how to think about their circumstances.“We found that children from very distressed backgrounds can be helped by a prescribed set of sessions with trained lay workers who otherwise have absolutely no mental health education and barely a high school education," says study leader Laura K. Murray.

The children in the study showed fewer trauma symptoms after the therapy. This is an important finding, as untreated childhood trauma is often linked to long-term skills deficits and unhealthy decision making.

Healthier Food, Higher Revenue

Economics

In many cities, food deserts—areas without accessible and affordable markets for shopping—mean that small carryout stores become one of the only easy options for meals. Recently, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health helped overhaul a few mom-and-pop shops in Baltimore with healthier options. They supported owners with better signage and simple menu swaps—like grilled chicken instead of fried. Carrying these foods increased revenue by up to 25 percent. "We can now tell carryout owners that it can be profitable to offer a wider variety of healthy foods in their stores," says the study's senior author, Joel Gittelsohn, a professor at the Bloomberg School.

illustration of healthy food in a cooler
Sam Kalda

What a Waste

Behavior
 
Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe they’re less wasteful than the average when it comes to throwing away food, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In reality, Americans waste nearly 40 percent of the food supply each year, costing the economy upward  of $161.6 billion. Fruits and vegetables top the list, owing in part to perishability and a consumer desire to eat the freshest items. More than draining wallets, it’s also straining the environment: Approximately  30 percent of the fertilizer, 35 percent of the fresh water, and 31 percent of the cropland in the U.S. was used to grow food that was eventually wasted.

Firearm Findings

Policy

In 1995, Connecticut introduced a law that  required a permit or license, contingent on  passing a background check, to purchase a handgun. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research say the state saw a 40 percent reduction in firearm-related homicide rates in the decade immediately following the law’s passage, and that reduction is likely attributable to the law. The researchers compared Connecticut’s existing homicides to the rates that would have been expected had  the law not been implemented. 

"Permit-to-purchase laws, which require prospective handgun purchasers to first obtain a license from the police after passing a comprehensive background check, appear to reduce the availability of handguns to criminals and other people who are not legally permitted to buy guns,” says study author Daniel Webster. The Connecticut law also raised the purchasing age from 18 to 21 and required firearm purchasers to complete eight hours of safety training.

Illustration of a firearm attached to a lock
Carlo Giambarresi

Time to Text

Patient Experience

Wendy Bennett, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, realized years ago that many inner-city women from lower income homes never returned for obstetric or preventive health visits after delivering their children. This prompted Bennett to question how providers might better reach these women for important follow-ups. Doctors employ numerous ways to remind patients of appointments—voice mail, letters, emails—but if it’s not the patients’ preferred method, they may overlook these reminders or may fail to register the importance of an appointment.

In a recent survey of patients, Bennett learned that regardless of race or ethnic background, 90 percent of these women relied on cellphones and smartphones as a means of communication, and most preferred texting. The goal in understanding  how women communicate and receive information is to help inform how providers design appropriate, culturally sensitive ways to reach patients, many of whom suffer from ailments like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. "Pregnancy and the year after delivery—when women must see a doctor"give us a window of opportunity to lock in lifelong preventive health behaviors for them and their families,"Bennett says.

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