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UMN expert: More global mental health and substance abuse research needed

Photo: CC, fo.ol,

In a recent review published in Nature, Mustafa al’Absi, Ph.D., director of the Duluth Medical Research Institute at the Medical School, Duluth campus, and other authors, outlined recommendations to shape the global mental health agenda.

“Mental health and substance abuse disorders have profound effects on overall health,” al’Absi said. “They are becoming a pressing global and local burden.”

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Research Snapshot: Why are obstetric units in rural hospitals closing their doors?

New research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health shows obstetric units in rural hospitals are closing their doors, due to difficulty in staffing, low birth volume, and financial burdens. As the annual birth volume decreases, additional rural hospitals will be vulnerable to obstetric unit closure in the future.

The study findings were published in the Health Services Research. Doctoral student and lead author, Peiyin Hung M.S.P.H., and her colleagues gathered hospital discharge data as well as conducted interviews to identify factors associated with unit closures between 2010 and 2014. The analysis found 7.2 percent of rural hospitals in the study closed their obstetric units. These units were typically small in size and located in communities with fewer resources including lower family income, fewer obstetricians and fewer family physicians.

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Research snapshot: UMN study identifies mechanism in drug target that helps block HIV’s ability to spread

Photo: NIAID via Flickr CC (

University of Minnesota researchers have identified the mechanism of a potential HIV drug target, which could be more cost-effective than currently used HIV drugs.

The study expanded upon previous UMN research, which identified that the nucleoside 5-azacytidine (5-aza-C) blocked HIV’s ability to spread. 5-aza-C triggers lethal mutagenesis, a process in which HIV mutations speed up to a point that the HIV essentially wears itself out.

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Research snapshot: New tools could help prevent relapse behavior in opioid addiction

Photo: CC, David Goehring,

Opioid addiction is a crippling problem in society, with an estimated 9 percent of Americans abusing opiates at some point in their life. In Minnesota, opiate overdose deaths have more than tripled since 2000.

Overcoming addiction is extremely challenging, and the risk of relapse persists. A new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neuroscience identified a potential target for preventing morphine relapse in mice, which brings researchers closer to providing a way for recovering addicts to stay drug-free.

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Research snapshot: Indoor tanning, a driver in melanoma trends among young women and men

Photo: Flickr user, Gregg Scott, CC,

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to ban indoor tanning for minors as physicians have seen an increase in melanoma cases among young adults in recent decades.

In a study released today in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Dermatology), researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health examined age- and sex-specific associations between indoor tanning and melanoma to determine whether the tanning trend is driving the increase in cases, especially among younger women.

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UMN Experts: How to talk about dying

Dying is an uncomfortable topic of conversation. No one wants to bring it up, not even our doctors. Unfortunately, this leads to miscommunication about how a person wants to die.

In fact, about 7 in 10 Americans would prefer to die at home, but only about a quarter of them actually do.

“There is a fundamental disconnect between what happens and what we want, and that stems from a lack of communication about dying,” says Frank Bennett, MDiv., senior fellow in the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing and former hospital chaplain and minister. “Most care providers frame the conversation around therapeutic interventions, because that’s their focus, but patients think in terms of goals, hopes and fears.”

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