CDC recommendations regarding selected conditions affecting women's health
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    • Alternative Title:
      Reducing falls and resulting hip fractures among older women;Exercise-related injuries among women: strategies for prevention from civilian and military studies;Implementing recommendations for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer among low-income women;Preventing congenital toxoplasmosis;
    • Journal Article:
      MMWR. Recommendations and reports : Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Recommendations and reports
    • Description:
      As the nation’s prevention agency, CDC strives to accomplish its vision of “Healthy People in a Healthy World...Through Prevention.” For women, this involves working to better understand the health issues that have an adverse impact on women, disproportionately affect women, occur only in women, or have an impact on infant outcomes as a direct result of a pregnancy-related event. Women’s health once focused primarily on puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Now, women’s health is recognized as being broad in focus and warranting additional attention and study and involves not only chronic conditions but individual lifestyle choices and environmental and organizational factors.

      This publication focuses on some of the specific issues affecting women’s health: falls and resulting hip fractures, sports injuries, breast and cervical cancer, and congenital toxoplasmosis. For each report, prevention recommendations and specific research recommendations are provided. Much still needs to be done. The publication addresses diverse and seemingly unconnected women’s health issues; however, these issues are very much connected, and several themes run throughout each of the reports.

      Reducing falls and resulting hip fractures among older women:

      SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM: Fall-related injuries are the leading cause of injury deaths and disabilities among older adults (i.e., persons aged > or = 65 years). The most serious fall injury is hip fracture; one half of all older adults hospitalized for hip fracture never regain their former level of function. In 1996, a total of 340,000 hospitalizations for hip fracture occurred among persons aged > or = 65 years, and 80% of these admissions occurred among women. From 1988 to 1996, hip fracture hospitalization rates for women aged > or = 65 years increased 23%.

      ETIOLOGIC OR RISK FACTORS: Risk factors for falls include increasing age, muscle weakness, functional limitations, environmental hazards, use of psychoactive medications, and a history of falls. Age is also a risk factor for hip fracture. Women aged > or = 85 years are nearly eight times more likely than women aged 65-74 years to be hospitalized for hip fracture. White women aged > or = 65 years are at higher risk for hip fracture than black women. Other riskfactors for hip fracture include lack of physical activity, osteoporosis, low body mass index, and a previous hip fracture.

      RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTION: Because approximately 95% of hip fractures result from falls, minimizing fall risk is a practical approach to reducing these serious injuries. Research demonstrates that effective fall prevention strategies require a multifaceted approach with both behavioral and environmental components. Important elements include education and skill building to increase knowledge about fall risk factors, exercise to improve strength and balance, home modifications to reduce fall hazards, and medication assessment to minimize side effects (e.g., dizziness and grogginess).

      PROGRAM AND RESEARCH NEEDS: Coordination needs to be improved among the diverse Federal, state, and local organizations that conduct fall prevention activities. The effectiveness of existing fall prevention programs among specific groups of women (e.g., those aged > or = 85 years or living with functional limitations) needs careful evaluation. New primary fall prevention approaches are needed (e.g., characterizing footwear that promotes stability), as well as secondary prevention strategies (e.g., protective hip pads) that can prevent injuries when falls occur. Finally, efforts are needed to increase collaboration among national experts from various disciplines, to reach consensus regarding priority research areas and program issues, and to work toward long-term strategies for reducing falls and fall-related injuries among older adults.

      CONCLUSION: Persons aged > or = 65 years constitute the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Without effective intervention strategies, the number of hip fractures will increase as the U.S. population ages. Fall prevention programs have reduced falls and fall-related injuries among high-risk populations using multifaceted approaches that include education, exercise, environmental modifications, and medication review. These programs need to be evaluated among older adults aged > or = 65 years who are living independently in the community. In addition, secondary prevention strategies are needed to prevent hip fractures when falls occur. Effective public health strategies need to be implemented to promote behavioral changes, improve current interventions, and develop new fall prevention strategies to reduce future morbidity and mortality associated with hip fractures among older adults.

      Exercise-related injuries among women: strategies for prevention from civilian and military studies:

      SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM: The numerous health benefits of physical activity have been well documented, resulting in public health support of regular physical activity and exercise. Although beneficial, exercise also has corresponding risks, including musculoskeletal injuries. The incidence and risk factors for exercise-related injury have been poorly assessed in women. Many civilian exercise activities (e.g., jogging, walking, and aerobics) have corollaries in military physical training; injury incidence and risk factors associated with military physical training have been more thoroughly studied.

      ETIOLOGIC FACTORS: Injury risks increase as the amount of training increases (increased xposure). The same exercise parameters that can be modified to enhance physical fitness (i.e., frequency, duration, and intensity) also influence the risk for injury in a dose-response manner. Higher levels of current physical fitness (aerobic fitness) protect the participant against future injury. A history of previous injury is a risk factor for future injury. Smoking cigarettes has been associated with increased risk for exercise-related injury. Studies conducted in military populations suggest that the most important risk factor for injuries among persons engaged in vigorous weight-bearing aerobic physical activity might be low aerobic fitness rather than female sex.

      RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTION: Because of the limited scientific research regarding women engaging in exercise, general recommendations are provided. Women starting exercise programs should be realistic about their goals and start slowly at frequency, duration, and intensity levels commensurate with their current physical fitness condition. Women should be informed about the early indicators of potential injury. Women who have sustained an injury should take precautions to prevent reinjury (e.g., ensuring appropriate recovery and rehabilitation).

      RESEARCH AGENDA: In general, a combination of factors affects the risk for exercise-related injury in women. How these factors act singly and in combination to influence injury risk is not well understood. Additional research regarding exercise-related injury in women is needed to answer many of the remaining epidemiologic questions and to help develop exercise programs that improve health while reducing the risk for injury.

      CONCLUSION: Exercise is an important component in improving and maintaining health; however, injury is also an accompanying risk. A review of key military and civilian research studies regarding exercise-related injuries provides some clues to reducing these injuries in women. Greater adherence to exercise guidelines can help decrease these risks.

      Implementing recommendations for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer among low-income women:

      SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM: Among U.S. women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and remains second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related mortality. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 182,800 new cases of female breast cancer and 41,200 deaths from breast cancer will occur in 2000. Since the 1950s, the incidence of invasive cervical cancer and mortality from this disease have decreased substantially; much of the decline is attributed to widespread use of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test. ACS estimates that 12,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and 4,600 deaths from this disease will occur in the United States in 2000.

      ETIOLOGIC FACTORS: The risk for breast cancer increases with advancing age; other risk factors include personal or family history of breast cancer, certain benign breast diseases, early age at menarche, late age at menopause, white race, nulliparity, and igher socioeconomic status. Risk factors for cervical cancer include certain human papilloma virus infections, early age at first intercourse, multiple male sex partners, a history of sexually transmitted diseases, and low socioeconomic status. Black, Hispanic, or American Indian racial/ethnic background is considered a risk factor because cervical cancer detection and death rates are higher among these women.

      RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTION: Because studies of the etiology of breast cancer have failed to identify feasible primary prevention strategies suitable for use in the general population, reducing mortality from breast cancer through early detection has become a high priority. The potential for reducing death rates from breast cancer is contingent on increasing mammography screening rates and subsequently detecting the disease at an early stage--when more treatment options are available and survival rates are higher. Effective control of cervical cancer depends primarily on early detection of precancerous lesions through use of the Papanicolaou test, followed by timely evaluation and treatment. Thus, the intended outcome of cervical cancer screening differs from that of breast cancer screening. In 1991, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) was implemented to increase breast and cervical cancer screening among uninsured, low-income women.

      RESEARCH AGENDA: To support recommended priority activities for NBCCEDP, CDC has developed a research agenda comprising six priorities. These six priorities are a) determining effective strategies to communicate changes in NBCCEDP policy to cancer screening providers and women enrolled in the program; b) identifying effective strategies to increase the proportion of enrolled women who complete routine breast and cervical cancer rescreening according to NBCCEDP policy; c) identifying effective strategies to increase NBCCEDP enrollment among eligible women who have never received breast or cervical cancerscreening; d) evaluating variations in clinical practice patterns among providers of NBCCEDP screening services; e) determining optimal models for providing case-management services to women in NBCCEDP who have an abnormal screening result, precancerous breast or cervical lesion, or a diagnosis of cancer; and f) conducting economic analyses to determine costs of providing screening services in NBCCEDP.

      CONCLUSION: The NBCCEDP, through federal, state, territorial, and tribal governments, in collaboration with national and community-based organizations, has increased access to breast and cervical cancer screening among low-income and uninsured women. This initiative enabled the United States to make substantial progress toward achieving the Healthy People 2000 objectives for breast and cervical cancer control among racial/ethnic minorities and persons who are medically underserved. A continuing challenge for the future is to increase national commitment to providing screening services for all eligible uninsured women to ultimately reduce morbidity and mortality from breast and cervical cancer.

      Preventing congenital toxoplasmosis:

      SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM: Toxoplasmosis is caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Acute infections in pregnant women can be transmitted to the fetus and cause severe illness (e.g., mental retardation, blindness, and epilepsy). An estimated 400-4,000 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis occur each year in the United States. Of the 750 deaths attributed to toxoplasmosis each year, 375 (50%) are believed to be caused by eating contaminated meat, making toxoplasmosis the third leading cause of foodborne deaths in this country.

      ETIOLOGIC FACTORS: Toxoplasma can be transmitted to humans by three principal routes: a) ingestion of raw or inadequately cooked infected meat; b) ingestion of oocysts, an environmentally resistant form of the organism that cats pass in their feces, with exposure of humans occurring through exposure to cat litter or soil (e.g., from gardening or unwashed fruits or vegetables); and c) a newly infected pregnant woman passing the infection to her unborn fetus. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTION: Toxoplasma infection can be prevented in large part by a) cooking meat to a safe temperature (i.e., one sufficient to kill Toxoplasma); b) peeling or thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating; c) cleaning cooking surfaces and utensils afterthey have contacted raw meat, poultry, seafood, or unwashed fruits or vegetables; d) pregnant women avoiding changing cat litter or, if no one else is available to change the cat litter, using gloves, then washing hands thoroughly; and e) not feeding raw or undercooked meat to cats and keeping cats inside to prevent acquisition of Toxoplasma by eating infected prey.

      RESEARCH AGENDA: Priorities for research were discussed at a national workshop sponsored by CDC in September 1998 and include a) improving estimates of the burden of toxoplasmosis, b) improving diagnostic tests to determine when a person becomes infected with Toxoplasma, and c) determining the applicability of national screening programs.

      CONCLUSION: Many cases of congenital toxoplasmosis can be prevented. Specific measures can be taken by women and their health-care providers to decrease the risk for infection during pregnancy and prevent severe illness in newborn infants.

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