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Estimating Adults Living with Intellectual Disabilities in America - Our Experts Look at the Numbers

A new study conducted by faculty researchers at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University shows the prevalence of intellectual disability (ID) in adults. But looking at childhood survey data of those with ID, conclusions can be drawn on how many adults have intellectual disability. The study was conducted by Teal Benevides, PhD, assistant professor in the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University, Biplab Datta, PhD, assistant professor in IPPH and the Department of Health Management, Economics and Policy, Jennifer Jaremski, research associate in IPPH, and Michael McKee, PhD, associate professor at the University of Michigan. The study estimates the number of adults living with ID is .95% or 9.5 per 1,000 adults between the ages of 21 and 41. “Intellectual disability is diagnosed in childhood,” said Benevides. “It needs to be diagnosed early. It’s not something that just happens in adulthood. So relying on the estimate that’s from childhood surveys is a good start. It’s just aging estimates up based off the current population of the U.S. So I do feel pretty confident that we can base future projections off in the absence of better epidemiological evaluations of prevalence.” She added it’s important to realize a lot of people with ID are now out of high school and age out of educational services to support them at the age of 21. They may fall through the cracks during the transition to adulthood and may not be receiving the services they need. “Many adults with ID are going to require services and support. They’re likely going to require housing support, employment support and many of them are food insecure,” Benevides said. “I think policymakers at both the state and federal level need to know about this because regardless of whether or not our policymakers support Medicaid expansion, many people with ID are also going to need adequate healthcare coverage because the vast majority of people with intellectual disability are not employed.” Not just that, many of those with ID are more likely to experience disparities in housing, employment, education, poverty and more. Biplab Datta and Teal Benevides In Georgia, Benevides said there is a waitlist of 7,000 people looking for Medicaid services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and there’s just not enough resources available to assist those with ID. Another concern is that people with ID have the same life span and those who may prove care, such as parents or guardians, don’t know what will happen to their older children with ID when they aren’t around or are unable to assist them. “What alarms me is we don’t have sufficient services and supports for adults. We just don’t have them,” she said. “When people ask for services, support and resources, there’s no place to point them to unless they are children.” Biplab Datta, PhD,  is an assistant professor in Institute of Public and Preventive Health and in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Augusta University. Teal Benevides, PhD, OTR/L is an associate professor and the  Director of Faculty Development, Institute of Public and Preventive Health Both experts are available to speak about this important research - simply click on either expert's icon to arrange an interview and time to talk today.

Biplab Datta, PhD Teal Benevides, PhD, OTR/L

February 14, 2024

3 min

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How does Georgia rank when looking at various health factors? An Augusta University study provides answers

The annual Healthy Georgia Report has been released by Augusta University’s Institute of Public and Preventive Health and it gives a snapshot of how Georgians stack up against not only neighboring states, but the country when it comes to a variety of health topics. This year’s report has added information on adult dental health, poor mental health, skin cancer and overdose deaths. Information on HIV risk behaviors, breast cancer screenings and colon cancer screenings have also returned. The report has been delivered to lawmakers, community leaders and researchers in Georgia to provide them with tangible figures on how Georgia is faring in numerous topics. The goal is to stimulate conversations about public health needs and, in turn, promote action, such as policy changes, greater community engagement and the appraisal of funds. Biplab Datta, PhD, assistant professor in the IPPH and the Department of Health Management, Economics and Policy, has collaborated with other IPPH faculty and staff to update the report. Datta has seen the impact this can have with state leaders. “They have a good appetite for data driven policy changes. I think this report actually helps them in that direction,” said Datta. “We tried to present data in a way that policy makers may find helpful in deciding on appropriate policy choices.” Overdose deaths is one of the new categories this year and is a hot topic nationwide. The report shows Georgia has the sixth lowest rate of overdose deaths in the country. Datta said that’s good, but the number is trending upwards and now should be the time to take steps to prevent it from getting worse. “We cannot be satisfied. We are doing a good job but need to be on our toes to prevent it from further ascending,” Datta said. Another category that Georgia is trending in a good direction is cigarette smoking. But the opposite is true for the obesity rate in the Peach State. The data shows Georgia has the 14th highest rate of obesity in all of the U.S. and the number is on the rise. The data also shows it’s related to household income and education. Adults who are below the federal poverty line and without a college degree are significantly more likely to be obese. Also, those in the 18-to-49 age group have a high rate of obesity compared to the national and regional average. “That is problematic because if someone is developing some cardiometabolic conditions in this age group, they will be at high risk for adverse cardiovascular events at an older age. So we need to focus on food habits, physical exercise, and other health promoting behaviors to prevent and control obesity,” Datta said. Another interesting topic is those in Georgia who have health insurance coverage. While coverage in adults is second lowest in the nation, there is a slight uptick in the number of people who have coverage from the past few years. The number is much better for children with health insurance. He points out that many state programs like PeachCare for Kids may account for the differences. Datta said one topic that definitely needs to be investigated more is cancer rates. He said we observe a low prevalence rate, despite the common perception and other data sources suggest a relatively higher incidence rate of cancer in Georgia. He believes we may be seeing lower survival rates that are not included in the survey. “I think we need more investigation into this particular issue,” said Datta. “Why are we seeing so low numbers of cancer prevalence when we know that cancer incidence rates are very high in Georgia?” The Healthy Georgia Report is the only report of its kind in the state Looking to know more or connect with Biplab Dhatta? Then let us help. Biplab is available to speak with media regarding this important topic. Simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

Biplab Datta, PhD

February 05, 2024

3 min

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Expert Help: Augusta University faculty offers financial advice for college students

The world of finances isn't always an easy one for students to navigate. Wendy Habegger, PhD, senior lecturer in the Hull College of Business, suggests several ways college students can improve their financial literacy, even after their collegiate career. Habegger said most don’t have a good grasp of what that is, despite being one of the most foundational building blocks to help students start off on the right foot. “They should know their credit scores just as quickly as their GPA and they should protect it just as vigorously,” Habegger said. She also suggests students have a credit card but with the caveat they use it wisely and be sure to pay their bills in a timely fashion. While they might like using cash, having a credit card will start to build a good credit history that they’ll likely need down the road. “The sooner they get started, the better they are of having good credit when they leave (college),” she added. When looking at their student loans, there are ways they can be better prepared when they start having to pay them back. During that deferral period, she suggests students really consider what a job may pay. Also, when selecting a payment plan for college loans, make sure it’s something they can make monthly payments on without any problems. She also said people need to think about public service jobs that may offer loan forgiveness or asking a potential employer about any loan forgiveness programs. “Some employers out there will offer some sort of that. The military is a good career and they are happy to be help pay off your student loans. Other businesses may offer that as well. It can be a good perk on both sides of the table, for the company and student looking for a first time job.” This is great advice and an important topic, so if you’re a reporter looking to know more, then let us help. Wendy Habegger is a respected finance expert available to offer advice on making the right money moves during volatile times. To arrange an interview, simply click on her icon now.

Wendy  Habegger, PhD

January 22, 2024

2 min

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Expert Perspective: Augusta University professor gives annual economic outlook for the region

For the 16th year, Augusta University’s Cree-Walker Chair and Professor of Economics in the Hull College of Business Simon Medcalfe, PhD, has given his analysis of the Augusta area economy. The biggest thing on the minds of many remains the possibility of a recession and the overall inflation nationwide. Medcalfe thinks it probably won’t look a lot different in 2024 as it did in 2023. If anything, there may be less of a chance of a recession. “I think the chances of recession have probably slipped a little. I think there’s less chance of a recession,” said Medcalfe. “Inflation is certainly still a concern. It’s running at 3.2%, which sounds kind of low, but because of the amount of inflation, we’ve had prices about 20% higher than two years ago, and it’s still a concern and still eating into people’s wages.” He indicated, looking at Google Trends and what people are searching, inflation is still a pretty high concern. As for the Augusta region, Medcalfe pointed out that Columbia County continues to see a population increase and will likely have the largest population in the area by the end of the decade on current trends. As you would expect, as the population grows, so too does the number of businesses. Looking at the different sectors of employment in the region, he said things haven’t really changed. The only sectors that have seen more than a 2% change in the share of total employment over the last 20 years are education and health services. Medcalfe also pointed out that the manufacturing industry has seen a sizable increase since 2014. He said it was the same time the Starbucks manufacturing facility arrived in South Augusta but didn’t say that was the exact reason for the increase, just a point of reference for the manufacturing industry increased ever since. “Manufacturing has showed a large increase over the last ten years or so, past post-COVID as well. So now manufacturing employment in the local area is at the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Medcafe said. Some research that Hull College is undertaking is the intersection of health care and business. He said it’s important to the economy in our region since Richmond, McDuffie and Burke counties all rank towards the bottom of county health rankings in Georgia. “One of the things we are looking at here in the business school and in the new School of Public Health is what are the factors that influence the population’s health but aren’t clinical? There’s a lot of things that impact people’s health. There’s socio-economic status, there’s the environment they live in, there’s education, there’s health behavior and all this kind of stuff. “About 25% of the research out of Hull College is now looking at health maps because it’s important. Not just the health of the population, but it then impacts the economy because we have a labor shortage and how much of that labor shortage is actually because some people can’t work,” said Medcalfe. Looking to know more?  We can help. Simon Medcalfe, PhD, is a highly regarded economics expert in the Hull College of Business at Augusta University. Medcalfe is an expert that can talk on the national economy, as well as Georgia. He is available to speak with media – simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

Simon Medcalfe, PhD

December 13, 2023

3 min

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Ask Our Expert: Why it’s important to get a flu vaccination

As cold and flu season approaches, it’s time to take proactive steps to ensure the health and well-being of everyone. Getting a flu vaccination is be the best defense in staying healthy this time of year. Klaus Ley, MD, founding co-director of the Immunology Center of Georgia, part of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, emphasizes the significance of getting vaccinated against the flu. “The flu can have serious consequences and by getting vaccinated, you protect yourself and those around you,” Ley said. “It’s a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of this contagious virus.” Flu vaccination is not only a responsible choice but also a crucial step in maintaining public health. The World Health Organization records about 1 billion cases of influenza each year. Severe cases often result in hospitalizations, contributing to up to 650,000 respiratory-related deaths globally. Worried about potential side effects from the vaccine? Ley said that’s a minor concern compared to the effects of the full-blown flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life-threatening allergic reactions to flu shots are very rare. While severe reactions are uncommon, it’s important to let your health care provider know if you have a history of allergy or severe reaction to vaccines before getting a flu shot. “Common side effects from a flu shot could include soreness or swelling at the site of the injection, headache, low-grade fever, nausea, muscle aches or fatigue. Those minor side effects are an indication your immune system is responding as it should to the vaccination. You will experience much more severe fever, aches and other symptoms if you catch the flu without being vaccinated against it,” said Ley. Klaus Ley, MD, is the Georgia Research Alliance Bradley Turner Eminent Scholar in Immunology, founding co-director of the Immunology Center of Georgia, and a professor in the Department of Physiology at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. He's available to speak with media regarding flu season and vaccinations - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

Klaus Ley, MD

November 07, 2023

2 min

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Think your city is ready for a cyber-attack? Think again according to our experts

There is no way around it; every day there are new cybersecurity threats to not only individuals, but governments at all levels as well. There have been some high-profile breeches that involve major cities like Atlanta and Baltimore. But those attacks are going to all levels, and recent research has shown most municipalities and cities are ill-prepared for cyberattacks. Research conducted by Donald Norris, PhD, and Laura Mateczun, JD, of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County along with William Hatcher, PhD, Wesley Meares, PhD, and John Heslen, PhD, of Augusta University, found various reasons why local governments struggle with cybersecurity. The research shows local governments recognize the need for cybersecurity but are not taking crucial next steps to ensure cybersecurity by integrating policies into daily management practices. Not just that, some local governments were unaware how often they were under cyberattack. Throw in budgetary constraints, and it leads local governments to be in a tough situation.  That, unto itself, is a major sticking point, but the burden could be lessened. “Effective cybersecurity is expensive and too much of a strain on the budgets of many cities and counties,” said Hatcher, chair of the Department of Social Sciences in Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University. “This is why we suggest regional solutions to the program, so multiple governments carry the cost.” Meares, associate professor and MPA director in Pamplin College, added it’s not just the financial aspect, but said there’s a shortage of cybersecurity talent nationwide, which compounded with limited budgets, makes it tough to compete. In the quest for talent between private and public sector, usually the private sector can offer more to entice a cybersecurity expert to come work for them. There’s also an issue of many local governments using dated technologies, which may be easier for cyber criminals to attack. “Local government is increasingly being more digitally connected, with vital infrastructure, data and services connected which creates more opportunities for cyber-attacks. Additionally, local governments tend to lag in updating critical technology due to limited resources (both human and financial resources),” added Meares. None of this comes as a surprise in the lack of cybersecurity training. “It’s an expensive service for local governments to provide. This is why we suggest more budgetary support for the training,” said Heslen, assistant professor in Pamplin College. “We’re also unsurprised because local governments often struggle to fund professional training in other areas.” But researchers say there are ways to improve upon safety of critical data most notably adopting dedicated cybersecurity budgets funded at an appropriate level in all local governments. Those resources can help address many limitations in local government cybersecurity programs, from staffing and hardware and software deficiencies to awareness training for all parties in local governments. They also recommend the adoption and implementation of cybersecurity policies to manage and regulate actions taken by all that affect the organization’s cybersecurity. By taking the recommended actions, local governments will have a better chance to provide high levels of cybersecurity and protect their information assets more effectively. This is an important topic and if you are a journalist looking to know more about the importance of being ready and able to react if and when a municipality comes under threat from a cyber-attack - then let us help/. William Hatcher and John Heslen are both available to speak with media - simply contact them now to arrange an interview today.

Jay Heslen, PhD William Hatcher, PhD, MPA

October 30, 2023

3 min

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Expert Q & A: What led to the Hamas attack on Israel and what role will the United States play?

The conflict between Israel and Palestine dates back many years, but the recent escalation can be attributed to issues centering around Palestinian rights and access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to Craig Albert, PhD, program director of the Master of Arts in Intelligence and Security Studies at Pamplin College of Arts Humanities, and Social Sciences at Augusta University. Albert, who is a leading expert on relations in the Middle East and American interests in the region, also notes that Hamas has been fighting against what it believes is unwarranted and illegal Israeli settlements being extended into Palestinian territory, while Israel has had a serious blockade on the Gaza Strip for over a decade. Hamas views this as state-oppression and thus, when combined, led to this horrific attack. Q: Now that Israel is declaring war, what should we expect to see in the upcoming days/weeks? A: We should expect more attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as Hezbollah from Lebanon. This means that there is a serious possibility of a two front war for Israel as it strikes towards the Gaza Strip near the sea, and more north into Lebanon. Concerning the State of Israel, look for a massive air bombardment over the next few days until the conditions on the ground are satisfactory, according to Israeli intelligence, to send in massive ground forces. One can expect a full infantry onslaught with all that entails within the Gaza Strip and perhaps other areas as well. We could also seem so strikes against Iran, especially cyber in nature, but perhaps, much more kinetic than we can imagine given the emotions being felt by the Israeli security council. Unfortunately, we can expect massive civilian casualties on both sides as this continues especially when Israel invades with its heavy ground forces. Q: What role does the U.S. play in all of this? A: The United States is already sending in a carrier fleet to show support for Israel; but one can imagine a scenario where Israel and Iran get into a serious confrontation, resulting in direct action by the U.S. on the side of Israel. The U.S. is also already supplying munitions and intelligence to the Israelis, and we should expect to see more in this area over the coming weeks and months. Note that the U.S. might have to take drastic actions itself as its war materials are being dramatically reduced because of arming the Ukrainians against Russia, and now, looking to arm heavily Israel. It is quite possible that the U.S. could be pulled into this in a direct way but currently, it just does not have the war material to conduct massive military operations if called to do so. This is quite a dramatic situation for the U.S., and of course for Israel. Looking to know more or connect with Dr. Albert for an interview? Dr. Albert is available to speak with media – simply click on his name to arrange an interview today.

Craig Albert, PhD

October 10, 2023

2 min

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With days to go, will politicians force a deal or face a federal shutdown?

Once again, the federal government is facing a shutdown, and it could threaten crucial federal workers and programs. If a new funding agreement is not reached by Sept. 30, numerous agencies could close and many would be forced to work without pay until the funds are appropriated. William Hatcher, PhD, chair of the Department of Social Sciences in Augusta University's Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, said a shutdown would affect all of us. This includes important reviews being done by the federal government, such as the Food and Drug Administration, down to national museums and parks being closed. It would affect a large portion of the population. With the deadline looming, the White House specifically mentioned the numerous agencies that could have services curtailed, and they did this for strategic reasons, according to Hatcher. “They are doing a public service by pointing out all that will be affected via a shutdown,” said Hatcher. “Scholars have said Americans are often theoretical conservatives about the size of government, but when it comes to practice, we support public programs, and many who may say they oppose government, when you start asking them about individual programs, they have a high level of support.” Hatcher added this is partisanship at play. “One party is actually historically the most likely to push these shutdowns, even going back to the federal shutdowns in the mid-1990s. And it has often caused political damage to the party because people really realize how much a shutdown affects them when these things happen,” said Hatcher. He added this hurts the effectiveness of the public sector, our trust in government and the overall condition of our democracy when basic work doesn’t happen. While putting temporary spending plans in place can solve some problems, having a long-term deal in place is ideal. “We should be passing budgets for at least an entire fiscal year, not stopgap measures for weeks or even days. However, there is a logic to this happening. The incentives in the Republican Party reward members of Congress, especially those in the House, from making deals and support the necessity of this government spending, which makes it difficult for agreements to come together.” It's going to be an interesting week, and if you're a journalist covering the looming shutdown, then let us help with your stories. Hatcher is a professor of political science and chair of Augusta University’s Department of Social Sciences. He is an expert in the areas of public administration and social, economic and political institutions. Hatcher is available to speak with media regarding this topic. To arrange an interview today, simply click on his icon now.

William Hatcher, PhD, MPA

September 27, 2023

2 min

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#Expert Research: Can CBD effectively impede growth of heterotopic lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the most chronic form of cancer and the leading cause of cancer mortality in the world, according to studies by the American Lung Association. Despite recent advances in medical oncology, metastatic lung cancer remains incurable; however, a new discovery by Augusta University researchers has brought new hope to tackling the illness. That discovery, which stems from a joint preclinic study conducted by scientists from the Dental College of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and Medicinal Cannabis of Georgia, LLC, was published in the May 2023 issue of Human Cell. The study was led by Babak Baban, PhD, associate dean of research, immunologist and professor at DCG and one of the founders of Medicinal Cannabis of Georgia, an Augusta-based biomedical research and developmental company. The study revealed for the first time that inhalant cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, can effectively impede growth of heterotopic lung cancer. “The central core of our research has been studying inflammatory diseases and for that we picked two different directions: one is centered around chronic inflammation in our system and the other is neurologic diseases such as dementia. Because of their impressive anti-inflammation effects, CBD, CBC and other cannabinoids have attracted our attention,” Baban said. “We have had some exciting findings before, and based on those, we built a new model of lung cancer. This is the first time the effect of the CBD has been assessed in inhalant format using an inhaler. This makes it more translatable into humans and more accurate,” he said. “Obviously, we are just as excited about our discoveries on mechanisms by which CBD worked. They help advance our understanding of the pathophysiology of lung cancer. We have seen some effects on plasticity and cancer stem cells, which appear to be crucial for tumors to regenerate and renew themselves.” Unlike most anti-angiogenesis drugs, inhalant CBD at the experimental dosage did not show any detectable side effects or toxicity. The findings support the notion that inhalant CBD has enough beneficial effects as a viable complementary modality to be included in combination with current standard treatments for lung cancer. Additionally, inhalant CBD delivered using a precisely metered dose is non-invasive, and has high translational value, warranting further research through clinical trials for lung cancer and possibly some other malignancies. “The cannabis plant has over 113 cannabinoids, two of which are very famous: THC and cannabidiol, or CBD. We have conducted extensive research on medicinal cannabis since 2014, but cannabis has been utilized for medicinal purposes for over 1,000 years,” Baban said. “It is not until recently we have started understanding a little better mechanisms how cannabidiols like CBD work.” Babak Baban is a professor, immunologist and associate dean for research at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University where he has served for 13 of his 20 years as a translational and clinical immunologist. Babak is available to speak to media about this important topic - simply click on his icon now to arrange a time to speak today.

Babak Baban, PhD

July 24, 2023

3 min

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Augusta University Staff is a collection of talented writers, photographers, students and professionals; all working together to promote and support the amazing impacts and every day wins of Augusta University and the people that make up JagNation.

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Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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