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The High Cost of Gun Injuries

Public Health

Treating firearm-related injuries costs Americans $2.8 billion each year in charges related to emergency room visits and inpatient care, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers of nine years’ worth of data. More than half of the 704,000 patients in the study sample were uninsured or self-paying, which means they either bear the burden of the hospital charges, or the charges are unrecovered, says Faiz Gani, a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins Surgery Center for Outcomes Research. The study’s limitations make these findings even more grim: The research does not include pre-hospital deaths or people who didn’t go to an emergency department after a firearm-related injury, so it likely underestimates the overall clinical and economic burden of firearm-related injuries. Still, Gani believes the new data paint an updated picture of gun violence trends. “Until people are aware of the problem’s full extent, we can’t have the best-informed discussions to guide policy,” Gani says.

bullet hole in wallet
Steve Cup

Satellites vs. Malaria

Infectious Disease

Imagine if we could predict the onset of deadly diseases from outer space. Scientists are working on a method to predict malaria outbreaks months in advance by using satellites to track both the movements of people and changing environmental conditions—two major factors indicating where and when the mosquito-borne disease will emerge, according to Ben Zaitchik, a specialist in earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins. “If we know in advance, we can plan for it,” Zaitchik says.

The innovation has the potential to give public health officials a chance to protect people from a disease that poses a risk to nearly half the world’s population and kills hundreds of thousands a year. The goal is to predict where malaria outbreaks will occur 12 weeks in advance, which would allow time for lifesaving preventive action, including administering medications, spraying insecticides, and providing bed nets.

In the future, this system could potentially help avert outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, and Zika.

Fewer Blood Tests, Better Outcomes

Patient Care

Daily blood draws during a hospital stay are as ubiquitous as cups of Jell-O, but all those tests may be unnecessary. According to a team of experts, including Johns Hopkins physicians, the routine can lead to anemia and other complications.

“Excessive blood draws can deplete a patient’s hemoglobin count, which often leads to repeat testing,” says Kevin Eaton, a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital and co-author of a paper written by members of the High Value Practice Academic Alliance, a consortium of nearly 90 academic medical centers.

It’s estimated that nearly 20 percent of hospitalized patients develop moderate to severe hospital-acquired anemia. Moreover, say the authors, published studies show that decreasing repetitive daily laboratory testing did not result in missed diagnoses or increase the number of readmissions to the hospital.

Creating a Buzz for a Mosquito Emoji

Health Communications

A new byte-sized depiction of the mosquito has been designed to help alert the world to a blood-sucking insect that often carries fatal diseases. The emoji lands on smartphones this summer, giving health professionals around the world a universal symbol for alerting people to the presence of mosquitoes, says Marla Shaivitz, a digital communications manager at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs.

“The initial intention of a new emoji representing the world’s deadliest insect is an opportunity to increase awareness of and promote prevention of mosquito-borne diseases,” Shaivitz says. “Longer term, the emoji could be an element of mobile-focused public health awareness campaigns, including local spraying and eradication efforts and net distribution, for example.”

Shaivitz and a colleague at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation submitted a lengthy proposal for the emoji to the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit that helps oversee the approval of emojis. The mosquito is one of 157 new characters that will start showing up on mobile devices in August or September.

mosquito on emoji
Melanie Lambrick

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