Cancer is one of our nation’s most feared diseases, with more than 1.6 million new cases diagnosed each year. But thanks to National Institute of Health (NIH) research, this number is now falling. Between 1991 and 2014, #cancer death rates went down 25 percent.

NIH research has transformed the way we think about cancer from affecting specific parts of the #body to a much more precise understanding of the molecular cause. For example, the drug pembrolizumab is one of a new class of cancer drugs that works by engaging a patient’s immune system to attack his or her tumors. Doctors already use this drug to treat some patients with several specific cancer types, including lung cancer and head and neck cancer. And, very recently, it became the first cancer therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat any type of tumor, regardless of its location in the body, as long as the tumor has specific genetic features that make it much more likely to shrink after treatment with the drug. This is just one example of how genomics has revolutionized our understanding of cancer (see Precision Oncology, p.18).

Despite gains, there is much work to do. Many clinical trials are testing new targeted treatments, as well as combinations of different cancer therapies. With other federal agencies, NIH is participating in the Cancer MoonshotSM, a bold initiative to accelerate cancer research that aims to make more therapies available to more patients while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.

Good Health for All

Many people in America are more likely to get certain #diseases and to die from them, compared to the general population. One of NIH’s greatest challenges is to understand and eliminate profound disparities in health outcomes for these individuals. We know the causes of health disparities are many. They include biological factors that affect disease risk; but most of the causes turn out to be non-biological factors such as socioeconomics, culture, and environment. Teasing apart health outcomes that differ among racial/ethnic groups is providing clues. For example, NIH research shows that among cigarette smokers, African Americans and Native Hawaiians are more susceptible to lung cancer than Whites, Japanese Americans, and Hispanics. Scientists are also intrigued by the “Hispanic paradox,” in which U.S. Hispanics often experience similar or better health outcomes across a range of diseases compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Understanding this advantage may help us identify contributing factors and effective interventions.

5 Public Health Crises Facing America

Public Health Crises: Five Big Ones Facing America Right Now

  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Addiction/Substance Abuse
  • Dementia
  • Food Safety

Obesity, dementia, and heart disease – these are among some of the most concerning public health crises faced by the US today. Why are we facing some of these issues, and what are the known facts at this point? Follow along for the scoop on five of today’s most pressing public health crises in the US.

1. Obesity

The advantages of living in a modernized society include more luxury and more ready access to consumables of all sorts. This becomes a problem when the end result is obesity in a significant portion of the population. According to most research, the 1980s marked the beginning of the obesity epidemic in America today.

So, what does this particular health crisis look like? U.S. News shares that around 40 percent of Americans over the age of 20 are said to be obese. These numbers and the numbers of obese children are steadily on the rise. At the end of the day, what makes this such a critical issue overall is the fact that obesity is directly linked to early death and the onset and even further complication of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, cancer, and many other ailments.

2. Heart Disease

As discussed above, heart disease itself is often a derivative of obesity. In other cases, it can be brought on by unhealthy lifestyle choices, environmental factors, and sometimes, genetics. At the end of the day, this condition is a major problem plaguing Americans’ health at present.

Heart disease, often called by several other names, is essentially stress and damage taken on by the heart that can worsen and lead to heart attacks, strokes, and even fatal events, ultimately in some cases. Factors that help to remediate the various forms of heart disease include healthy dietary choices, regular exercise, and avoidance of illicit drug and alcohol use. These remediating factors are many of those very same ones that Americans struggle to healthily maintain so often in today’s times.

3. Addiction/Substance Abuse

Addiction and substance abuse represent some of the most notable public health crises happening right now in the US. The reasons for this current epidemic are many and complex, but the effects of it are crippling to the individual sufferer and entire communities alike. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an average of more than 130 people die each day in the US from opioid overdose alone. The economic burden placed on the country as a whole, just from prescription opioid abuse itself, is estimated by officials to be around $78.5 billion each year. With these kinds of figures, it’s easy to begin to see how detrimental this particular crisis has become in recent times.

4. Dementia

Dementia, the detrimental mental degradation associated with many cognitive diseases, is yet another looming and major public health crisis faced by the US right now. According to a group of top U.S. Surgeons General in a pivotal op-ed featured in the Orlando Sentinel recently, the public was made aware of the impending weight of the crisis at hand. It was therein estimated by experts that dementia numbers in the public double every five years and the numbers of those affected are unequivocally unprecedented and a potentially system-overwhelming problem.


5. Food Safety

Food safety is rated by a number of government and research organizations as another, top crisis concern for the US right now. This is because of the mass number of food producers, production associations, and even weak points in the continuum of the food markets. Food-born illness spread en-mass can quickly affect thousands of people, while cases of intentional endangerment to the food supply, such as through tampering or deceitful production practices, also can have major implications. For these many, compounding reasons, food safety in the US is a major concern today.

Public health crises can certainly be a great cause for concern. However, with the application of science and subsequent public awareness, many “worst-case scenarios” can be avoided altogether. As of now, the five above-mentioned public health crises are widely regarded as being among the most important and foreshadowing to address.

Men’s Mental Health: Warning Signs & Where to Go for Help

Men typically don’t want to discuss mental health issues, much less get treatment for one.

That’s a problem, given how many males struggle with mental health problems: Six million American men suffer from depression every year, while 3 million struggle with anxiety disorder, according to Mental Health America. Beyond that, 90% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia by age 30 are men, and 25% of those with binge eating disorder are males. Unfortunately, men are less likely to seek professional help for their problems.

When it comes to suicide, the picture is also troubling. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, it is the 7th leading cause of death among males, and white men over the age of 85 are the most likely to die by suicide.

Here, experts describe the most common mental health conditions men experience, the symptoms that may differ in men versus women, and what resources are available for those seeking help and treatment options.

Common mental health conditions in men

According to Mental Health America, the most common men’s mental health conditions are:

  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse

“It’s a sign of strength to talk about these issues with your health care provider, counselor or a supportive family member or friend,” Piedmont Healthcare family medicine physician Dr. Siraj Abdullah said in a recent article. “As men, we tend to let stress build up until it affects our mental and physical health. Talking about your mental health is a way to take care of your body.”

How men’s mental health symptoms may show up differently than in women

The reasons that mental health symptoms can be different for men and women are complex, according to McLean Hospital chief of psychology Kathryn McHugh.

She noted in a hospital article that “biology is not the only piece of the puzzle. There are also many social and cultural factors that play a role in mental health and wellness, such as social role expectations, discrimination and violence.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that the main mental health symptoms in men that may be different from those found in women are:

  • Abuse or misuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Noticeable changes in mood, appetite or energy levels
  • Violent, controlling or abusive behavior
  • Digestive issues, headaches and pain
  • Escaping into work, sports or other distracting behavior
  • Risk-taking

Men with depression are also more likely than women to report symptoms of fatigue and loss of interest in work or hobbies, according to Mental Health America.

Men are particularly susceptible to suicide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and gay and bisexual men under the age of 25 are at a higher risk for attempting suicide than the general male population, according to Mental Health America.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center notes that one of the reasons for higher male suicide rates is that men are less likely to get mental health care than women. The center suggests getting help before a mental health crisis occurs. This can include:

  • Seeking behavioral health care, such as seeing a therapist
  • Connecting to family, friends, community and social organizations
  • Learning life skills like problem-solving and strategies for adapting to change
  • Engaging with spiritual, religious or other belief practices that discourage suicide

If you’d like to begin or continue a behavioral health care plan, you can reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline for a treatment referral.

Men’s mental health resources: How to get help

APA Psychologist Locator Tool

The American Psychological Association offers a database of thousands of therapists. Just put in your ZIP code, provider name or practice area. Once the results show up, you can sort the psychologists by a variety of categories, such as gender and treatment methods.

If you’re looking for a men’s mental health hotline to discuss your issues confidentially at no charge, the Mental Health Hotline provides a toll-free number with counselors on stand-by 24/7. The organization also lists several condition-specific hotlines for health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and more — plus links to helpful resources on these conditions.

Fictional Dr. Rich Mahogany “runs” this site, which is actually administered by multiple agencies, including the Colorado Department of Public Health. It combines helpful mental health techniques and quizzes with humor and a uniquely human touch. There’s an online peer chat, 20-point head inspection and a worried-about-someone page to help loved ones of men who may be experiencing mental health issues.

Multicultural care meets mutual aid at Therapy for Black Men, where the coaches and counselors strive to offer free or discounted services to Black men with mental health issues. You can meet in person or online for a session, and there’s also a host of articles and social resources, including community organizations aimed at helping your mental health thrive.

Mental health medications

Several medications may be prescribed by your doctor to help you improve your mental health. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, these include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Antipsychotics
  • Stimulants
  • Mood stabilizers

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal ideation and need to talk to someone, call 988, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline offers free, confidential emotional support across the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

US Mayors Cite ‘Unprecedented’ Mental Health Crisis as Top Concern

Substance abuse, homelessness and access to health services are among the issues that city officials say demand more resources in a new US Conference of Mayors survey.

An “unprecedented” mental health crisis is overwhelming US cities, which lack adequate resources to address growing challenges, according to a new report released today by the US Conference of Mayors. In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health issues, particularly involving substance abuse, said a survey of mayors of 117 cities in 39 states.

“Addressing this surging mental health crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing America’s cities,” said Tom Cochran, executive director of the US Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. The report also cited “staggering increases in stress, depression, isolation, loneliness, and accompanying mental health hurdles faced by Americans of all ages.”

In a survey conducted this spring, 97% of mayors said requests for mental health services increased in their city in the past two years, but 88% lack resources to address the crisis. Participating cities spanned the US, and included Chicago; Seattle; Montgomery, Alabama; and Atlanta.

Substance abuse was the main cause for increasing mental health problems, 85% of cities reported. That was followed by Covid-19, homelessness and economic concerns.

Substance use disorders topped the list of mental and behavioral health problems in 65% of cities, followed by homelessness stemming from mental illness in 56%. Other challenges included shortages of mental and behavioral health workers, including school counselors, as well as a lack of access to behavioral health services.

Among youth, depression is the leading primary mental health problem, according to 89% of cities. More than 43% said teen suicide is a significant problem.

Nineteen cities called for more funding for services, but several noted that most funding goes to county — not city — governments.

Although the vast majority of cities reported inadequate mental health resources, 82% have developed new initiatives and/or increased funding to mental health programs. Ninety-three percent reported they have improved their emergency response to behavioral health crises. Meanwhile, 94% of cities said their police department provides mental health programs to officers.

Examples of initiatives cited in the survey include Mesa, Arizona, where its police department is coordinating with a nonprofit crisis line and system. Since 2018, the city has increased the types of emergency calls transferred, including children with behavioral issues, second-hand suicide reports, as well as dementia, psychosis, anxiety, PTSD, and basic problem-solving help. In 2022 alone, more than 3,500 911 calls were sent directly to its crisis hotline, away from Mesa’s police and fire departments, according to the city’s survey response.

In Las Vegas, an outreach team provides services to unhoused people to divert them from emergency rooms and into appropriate treatment. A crisis response team also works with the fire department to deescalate non-emergency mental health issues.

Long Beach, California, has established mobile homeless and behavioral health services, and teams of mental health clinicians to do homeless outreach. In 2022, Hartford, Connecticut, launched a non-law enforcement crisis intervention program in response to emergency 911 calls for people in mental health crises.

City leaders from Orlando, Florida, expressed their support for the “Housing First” model as a means of addressing homelessness, and said mental health challenges are easier to address when people are housed. But respondents from the city of Fontana, California commented, “Hiding someone away in an apartment or hotel room does not cure them from mental illness. Housing first without mental health support DOES NOT WORK.” [SIC]

Officials from Issaquah, Washington, observed: “Stable housing must be coupled with other intensive support services. Housing alone does not improve mental health outcomes.” They added that for chronically unhoused people, “adjusting to living indoors is often underestimated and if housing is not accompanied by extra supports to help with the transition, people are more likely to fall back into homelessness.”