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Studies presented at American Public Health Association meeting

Carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers (CTS) will get no relief from taking vitamin B6, contrary to some recent reports. Researchers at the U-M School of Public Health studied 125 randomly selected industrial workers for B6 deficiency and CTS but found no relationship between CTS and a deficiency of the vitamin. Each worker answered a symptoms questionnaire and underwent electrodiagnostic testing of the nerves in the wrist and blood tests for B6 measurements.

" In our opinion, prescription of vitamin B6 to workers with CTS is unwarranted and potentially hazardous," says Alfred Franzblau assistant professor of occupational medicine. Franzblau will present his study at 12:30 p.m., Oct. 30. Lead poisoning is on the rise in Africa. Recent studies show that more than 90 percent of the children in urban and rural communities of the Cape Province, South Africa, have blood lead levels higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter. According to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, more than 10 micrograms per deciliter is a health risk for children.

" In the late 1970s and early 1980s, 88 percent of U.S. children had blood lead levels above the current CDC guidelines, too, but a 1994 study found that only 8.9 percent of U.S. children had mean blood lead levels greater than the guidelines," says Jerome O. Nriagu, professor of environmental and industrial health at the School of Public Health.

" The U.S. decline is the direct result of a program to reduce lead in gasoline, house paint, drinking water and consumer products," he points out.

" But in Africa, the environment is rife with lead and childhood lead poisoning is either an 'unheard of disease' or is regarded as inconsequential compared to other health problems. Meanwhile the children's central nervous systems are being destroyed by lead." Nriagu will present at 12:30 p.m., Nov. 1. Initiation of alcohol use continues to occur at younger ages. A U-M School of Nursing study of 1,314 fourth-graders found that 2.2 percent reported having more than one or more drinks of alcohol a week.

" These students were more likely to say they tolerated deviant behavior, were susceptible to peer pressure, had peers who use alcohol, and had permissive parents," says Carol J. Loveland-Cherry, associate professor of nursing. Students who were less likely to drink said they were able to say " no" to an offer of a drink, were well-liked by their peers, and had supportive, close families.

" Our findings support the importance of intervention programs to enhance family relationships, help children develop the skills to resist peer pressure, and to create more realistic perceptions of peer use and approval of alcohol," Loveland-Cherry adds.

Thirty-eight percent of the children reported having had a drink of alcohol but for most, this meant having tried or tasted a drink, usually with parents, and were considered non-drinkers. Loveland-Cherry, whose findings are in press at Health Education Quarterly, will present at 4 p.m., Oct. 31. Elderly women are more likely to experience the disabling effects of osteoarthritis in their knees while men experience the effects more often in their hands. " Thus in terms of broad measures of musculoskeletal function, osteoarthritis greatly reduces women's endurance and range of motion compared to men," says Helaine E. Resnick, doctoral student at the U-M School of Public Health.

Resnick studied 236 elderly adults for strength, endurance, balance and range of motion while carrying out a range of tasks. Resnick will present at 12:30 p.m., Oct. 30. People younger than age 55 who are diagnosed with glaucoma are more likely to be affected emotionally than those 55 and older while African American patients are more likely than white patients to say it has a negative effect on their physical functioning, according to a U-M study.

With glaucoma, fluid builds up behind the eyes and puts pressure on the optic nerve. Glaucoma patients may lose peripheral vision and, if the disease is left untreated, it may lead to blindness. Researcher Patricia A. Wren of the School of Public Health will present her findings at 2 p.m., Nov. 1. Health educators risk sending the message that being disabled means being inherently flawed. For instance, says Caroline Wang, assistant professor in the School of Public Health, " one public service announcement shows a person in a wheelchair with the headline, 'Become a big wheel around school...Don't drink and drive.' Another advertisement states 'If you think seatbelts are confining, think about a wheelchair.'

" Disability rights activists object that such messages portray them as medically afflicted, helpless victims whose lives aren't worth living. Health educators, particularly in the field of injury prevention, need to understand the perspective of independent living activists who reject the stigmatizing portrayal of disability." Wang will present her research on injury prevention education and stigma at 2 p.m., Oct. 30. Mammograms: Cost is not the only barrier. " While costs are a concern, we found that offering free mammograms and pap smears to low-income women won't do much to increase the screening rates, especially in rural areas," says Paula M. Lantz, research fellow at the U-M School of Public Health, who surveyed 2,393 women in rural Wisconsin.

" Poor women do not get regular cancer screening for many reasons, cost being just one of them. Without an understanding of the purpose of a mammogram and a recommendation from a physician, most women will not get screened--even if the test is free." Lantz will present at 8:30 a.m., Nov. 1. Another U-M study of older women and mammograms confirms that the physician's " voice" is a key motivator. " In our intervention, doctors and peer counselors personally urged women age 65 and older to get mammograms. Their efforts resulted in 38 percent of the women obtaining a mammogram over the one-year study period." Assistant professor Nancy K. Janz of the School of Public Health will present her findings at 2 p.m., Oct. 31. Don't leave physicians out in the cold if you want to create change in hospitals. U-M researchers report that administrators seeking to reduce cesarean section rates must include physicians in the process of adopting guidelines.

Seema S. Sonnad, visiting assistant professor at the U-M School of Public Health says that the findings in her study " reinforce the belief that passive dissemination of guidelines is not sufficient to ensure their use."

Sonnad's data came from San Francisco Bay area hospitals, financial data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development in California, the American Hospital Association Report on Hospitals, and the California Department of Health and Human Services. Sonnad will present at 2 p.m., Oct. 30.

School of NursingCarol J. Loveland-CherryCaroline WangNancy K. Janz