North America

Westin hotels resorts go smoke free

The American Lung Association has honored Westin Hotels & Resorts for going smoke-free.
On Feb. 21st the organization presented the company with a Lung Champion award recognizing the smoke-free environment that’s being created for its guests and employees.

Comprehensive state level smoke-free air laws have become more acceptable in the past few years banning smoking in public workplaces including restaurants and bars.

Other past Lung Champion awardees include “The Dr. Phil Show” for their segment on quitting smoking and “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” for working with families facing serious medical conditions to improve their home’s indoor air quality.

“Very very few guests request smoking rooms,” said one hotel manager. “Smoking rooms are harder to clean also.”

Westin Hotels & ResortsĀ®, with 121 hotels and resorts in 31 countries and territories, is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

The Association also just released its 2006 Flu & Pneumonia Trends Report stating that pneumonia and influenza are significant causes of morbidity and mortality. According to the report pneumonia consistently accounts for the overwhelming majority of deaths and the number of deaths due to pneumonia and the flu has been higher among females since the mid-1980s.

In 2002 blacks were 26 percent more likely to die from pneumonia and influenza than whites. For the 65 and over population pneumonia and influenza are the fifth leading cause of death. Very few deaths are attributed to influenza in the population under age 55.

Annual data on the incidence of pneumonia, influenza, and other acute respiratory infections had been collected by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a multi-purpose health survey on the health of the civilian, noninstitutionalized household population of the U.S. from 1982 to1996. Incidence rates for acute respiratory conditions were highest in people under age five. The overall flu incidence rate in 1996 in whites was 37.3 per 100 persons compared to 28.1 per 100 persons among blacks.

Vaccination is the primary means of preventing morbidity and mortality associated with the flu. According to the 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System, during the week ending Feb. 4th an estimated 7.4 percent of deaths in the U.S. were attributed to pneumonia and the flu which was below the epidemic threshold of 8.2 percent.

During epidemics persons with weak immune systems and/or underlying health problems are at increased risk for complications from the influenza infection and are more likely to be hospitalized. Overall, an estimated 70,000 hospital discharges were attributed to influenza in 2003. The hospital discharge rate for the flue was lowest for those 15-44 and 45-64 years old.

The flu is largely preventable with vaccines and the major form of pneumonia is controllable by vaccine as well. Vaccination with the flu shot has been associated with reductions in flu-related respiratory illness and doctor visits among all age groups, hospitalization and death among the elderly, young children, and people at high risk, and work absenteeism among adults.

There are two vaccine options available in the U.S. for the flu. Although vaccinations with the flu has increased substantially during the 1990s, further improvements in vaccine coverage levels are needed, chiefly among persons aged 65 years and older who are at higher risk of serious illness and death, compared with all other age groups.

A national objective for the year 2010 is to increase flue and pneumococcal vaccination levels less than 90 percent among persons aged 65 years and older.

Vaccination against the flu was recently added to Medicare (Part B) reimbursable services.

With clear and striking evidence of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in reducing hospitalizations and death and in producing direct cost savings, providers and patients alike should take steps to ensure that people at high risk receive the flu shot each year, states the Association.

Even with the results of the new study the percentage of people with asthma receiving the flu shot remains low.

Beginning its second century the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health.