Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Public Wants Labels for Food Nanotech – and They’re Willing to Pay for It

From the 10 October 2013 North Carolina State press release

For Immediate Release

Matt Shipman | News Services | 919.515.6386

Dr. Jennifer Kuzma | 919.515.2592

Release Date: 10.28.13
Filed under Releases

New research from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota finds that people in the United States want labels on food products that use nanotechnology – whether the nanotechnology is in the food or is used in food packaging. The research also shows that many people are willing to pay more for the labeling.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

Study participants supported labeling products in which nanotechnology had been added to food, as well as products in which nanotechnology had been incorporated into the packaging.

“We wanted to know whether people want nanotechnology in food to be labeled, and the vast majority of the participants in our study do,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of a paper on the research and Goodnight-Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at NC State. “Our study is the first research in the U.S. to take an in-depth, focus group approach to understanding the public perception of nanotechnology in foods.”

The researchers convened six focus groups – three in Minnesota and three in North Carolina – and gave study participants some basic information about nanotechnology and its use in food products. Participants were then asked a series of questions addressing whether food nanotechnology should be labeled. Participants were also sent a follow-up survey within a week of their focus group meeting.

Study participants were particularly supportive of labeling for products in which nanotechnology had been added to the food itself, though they were also in favor of labeling products in which nanotechnology had only been incorporated into the food packaging.

However, the call for labeling does not indicate that people are necessarily opposed to the use of nanotechnology in food products. For example, many study participants indicated support for the use of nanotechnology to make food more nutritious or to give it a longer shelf life – but they still wanted those products to be labeled.

“People do have nuanced perspectives on this,” Kuzma says. “They want labeling, but they also want access to reliable, research-based information about the risks associated with labeled products – such as a Food and Drug Administration website offering additional information about labeled products.”

The researchers also found that about 60 percent of the study participants who responded to the follow-up survey were willing to pay an additional 5 to 25 percent of the product price for either nanotechnology-free products or for nanotechnology labeling.

The paper, “Hungry for Information: Public Attitudes Toward Food Nanotechnology and Labeling,” was published online Oct. 7 inReview of Policy Research. Lead author of the study is Jonathan Brown, a former graduate student at the University of Minnesota. The work was supported by National Science Foundation grant SES-0709056.

 

 

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

A Scientist Debunks The ‘Magic’ Of Vitamins And Supplements : Shots – Health News : NPR

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 8.14.15 AMA Scientist Debunks The ‘Magic’ Of Vitamins And Supplements : Shots – Health News : NPR.

From the 23 July 2013 NPR item

A pediatrician who spent years defending childhood vaccines against the likes of actress/activist Jenny McCarthy has launched an assault on megavitamins and dietary supplements.

“If you take large quantities of vitamin A, vtamin E, beta carotene [or] selenium you increase your risk of cancer, risk of heart disease, and you could shorten your life,” says Dr. Paul Offit, a researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Many large studies in recent years have shown that vitamins and dietary supplements rarely help and often hurt, Offit says. Yet a huge number of people still believe that these products will improve their health. So, Offit says, he decided to challenge the false beliefs of “the church of vitamins and supplements.”

Offit made the remarks during an appearance in Washington, D.C., Monday to promote his latest bookDo You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.

Offit, an infectious disease specialist and the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine, is best known for publicly challenging groups that claim there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism. That effort often pitted him against actress Jenny McCarthy, who became a spokeswoman for anti-vaccine groups.

One big problem with dietary supplements is a 1994 law that exempts them from the tighter scrutiny the FDA applies to its regulation of medicines, Offit says. So the makers of a garlic supplement can say that it “supports cardiovascular health” even though a government study found that garlic supplements didn’t lower cholesterol. Meanwhile, Offit says, patients clearly benefit from a range of FDA-approved statin drugs that actually do what garlic supplements claim to do.

Dietary supplements are often advertised as “natural,” Offit says, even though that term can be misleading. For example, almonds are a natural source of vitamin E. But you would have to eat 17 pounds of almonds to get the amount of vitamin E in a single capsule sold by one supplement maker, Offit says. “So how is this a natural thing to do?”

Offit says doctors are partly to blame for the growing popularity of high-dose vitamins and other dietary supplements. Rather than pushing back against patients who want to take them, he says, doctors have acted like waiters at a restaurant, simply asking, “What would you like?”

Many hospitals also include unproved dietary supplements in their list of medicines available to patients, Offit says. But he says his own institution, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, plans to remove nearly all supplements from its list later this month.

Offit says his attack on dietary supplements has generated a steady stream of hate mail. But he says it’s not as harsh as the hate mail he used to get from people who believe vaccines cause autism. “This is more, I’m ‘a liar and a shill for the pharmaceutical industry,’ ” he says, “not, ‘You’re going to hell.’ “

Offit has some strong defenders, though, including former President Jimmy Carter and Carter’s wife, Rosalynn. They sat in the front row at Offit’s appearance in D.C. And during a question and answer session, the former president rose to tell Offit: “You’ve been a hero around our house for a long time.”

 

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

What Should You Know About E-Cigarettes?

Electronic Cigarette Model

Electronic Cigarette Model (Photo credit: planetc1)

On a personal note, my husband is very sensitive to e-cigarette vapors.
He finds he has to leave any room where they are being “smoked”.

 

From the 23 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular and widely available as the use of regular cigarettes drops. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that e-cigarette use by children doubled from 2011 and 2012. The health effects of e-cigarettes have not been effectively studied and the ingredients have little or no regulation. Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center experts are available to discuss what people should know before trying e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes, often called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that provide inhaled doses of a vaporized solution of either propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin along with liquid nicotine. An atomizer heats the solution into a vapor that can be inhaled. The process, referred to as “vaping,” creates a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke. Some liquids contain flavoring, making them more appealing to users.

“As of right now, there is no long-term safety data showing the impact of repeated inhalation of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin on lung tissue,” cautions Jon Ebbert, M.D., associate director at Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center. “There is some short-term data suggesting that e-cigarettes may cause airway irritation, but until we have long-term safety data, we are not recommending e-cigarettes for use among cigarette smokers to help people stop smoking.”

So, what is known about electronic cigarettes?

*Manufacturers claim that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes.

*The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has questioned the safety of these products.

*FDA analysis of two popular brands found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens).

*The FDA has issued a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes, but is not yet regulating their use or standards of manufacture.

“It’s an amazing thing to watch a new product like that just kind of appear. There’s no quality control,” says Richard Hurt, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center. “Many of them are manufactured in China under no control conditions, so the story is yet to be completely told.”

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The Environmental Factors That Influence Our Children’s Illnesses

POSTED ON OCTOBER 23, 2013 BY 

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 5.48.24 AM

© Ampyang | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

In general, we know that most illnesses and diseases are caused by an interplay of genetics and environmental factors. While there is little we can do to alter genetic susceptibility, understanding what and how environmental factors exacerbate if not trigger illnesses and diseases can help you keep your child safe and healthy.

First, note that there are disease agents – chemical and biological – that your child is exposed to through ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact with soil, food, water and the air. That’s called direct exposure. The opposite, indirect exposure, involves contact with disease agents through interactions with parents and caretakers. For instance, if the father who works in the construction industry comes home and holds his baby, the baby may inhale industrial fumes from his work clothes or chemical residue from the father’s worksite may be transferred from the father’s skin to the baby. Through both modes, children absorb disease agents that alter hormones and disrupt metabolic processes thereby triggering a number of childhood illnesses. It’s also important to recognize that exploratory behavior for children includes putting objects in the mouth, hand-to-mouth contact, which increases the risk for exposure to environmental disease agents.

The chart below lists a number of common childhood illnesses, an associated environmental agent and potential direct and indirect sources of exposures. Use this list to determine if there are any sources of disease agents that you should keep away from your child.

Presenting Problem
Environmental                  Agent Potential Exposures
Abdominal Pain Lead Batteries, smelting, painting, ceramics, enameling, welding, plumbing
Acute Psychoses Lead

Carbon disulfide mercury

Fungicide, maternal infection, wood preserving, removing paint from old houses, viscose rayon
Angina Methylene chloride

Carbon monoxide

Improperly vented indoor combustion sources, traffic exhaust, car repair, furnaces, water heaters, gas grill, foundry, wood finishing
Asthma Formaldehyde

Pet dander

Tobacco smoke

Toluene diisocyanate

Plastics, textiles, lacquer, playing with pets, polyurethane kits
Cardiac Arrhythmia Fluorocarbons

Solvents

Refrigerator repair, automobile emissions, cigarette smoke, paint thinners, propane gas
Dermatosis Solvents

Soaps

Caustic alkali

Metals

Plastics, metal cleaning, electroplating, machining, housekeeping, leather tanning
Headache Carbon monoxide

Solvents

Unvented kerosene, tobacco smoke, firefighting, dry cleaning, wood finishing, gas grill, water heaters, furnaces, automobile exhaust, improperly vented indoor combustion mechanisms
Hepatitis Halogenated hydrocarbons Healthcare workers, lacquer
Pulmonary

Edema

Cadmium

Nitrogen oxides

Phosgene

Halogen gases

Farming, welding, smelting, chemical operations

 

 

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, environmental health | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Saving Brains’ of kids in developing countries: Grand Challenges Canada funds 14 bold new ideas

Realize this is a long post.
Guess I opted to include the full press release largely because I served in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Kudos to the Canadian government and all who work to alleviate pain and foster development everywhere.
So good to see an ever growing list of health applications for cell phones. Below is an example of an application for community health workers. Also good to see one project involving fathers!

 

From the 23 October 2013 EurkAlert

10 projects nominated for grants up to $2 million; 10 projects awarded $270,000, including one to reduce harm to brains of pre-term babies caused by pain of multiple daily hospital needles, other procedures

Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, today extended a total of $10.1 million to 14 bold, creative projects aimed at improving the early brain development of kids in low-resource countries.

Projects in Jamaica, Colombia, Bangladesh and Indonesia are scale-up award nominees (board-approved grants up to CDN $2 million, pending successful contract negotiations).

Seed grants of CDN $270,000 each are given to seven organizations overseas — in Vietnam (2 grants), Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Zambia and Peru. And three seed grants are given to Canadian organizations: the Hospital for Sick Kids, Toronto (two grants), and the University Health Network, Toronto.

All 14 projects will be implemented in developing countries: five in Africa, six in Asia and three in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Impoverished brains result in impoverished countries,” says Dr. Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “For a wide range of sad, all-too-familiar and preventable reasons, an estimated 200 million children under 5 years old in the world’s 112 low- and middle-income countries will fail to reach their brain’s full development potential.”

“These projects illustrate well the success of our search for ‘bold ideas with big impact,’ pioneering new approaches worldwide to maximize the number of kids in low-resource countries who achieve and contribute to their fullest capabilities,” Dr. Singer added.

Says Mrs. Laureen Harper, honourary chairperson of the program: “The Grand Challenges Canada Saving Brains program is designed to help millions of children in developing countries who fail to reach their full development potential due to such factors as malnutrition, infection, birth complications, or a lack of nurturing and stimulation at an early age.”

Says the Honourable Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie: “Our Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, is committed to advancing the health of the world’s most vulnerable mothers, newborns and children. We are proud to partner with Grand Challenges Canada to find innovative solutions to the most pressing global health challenges. The Saving Brains program is just one example of how innovation can help improve the lives of children in their earliest days. “

Seed grant awards

Hospital procedures: mitigating harm of pain to brain development of a tiny preterm baby

The Centre for Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada)

Working in Ghana, this project will introduce ways of alleviating pain for infants born prematurely and treated in special neonatal intensive care units (NICU)s — the tiniest of kids who experience moderate to severe pain several times daily due to diagnostic and therapeutic procedures such as blood sample collections and medicine injections.

Project leader Dr. Bonnie Stevens of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children says the severity of brain defects found later among children born preterm can be linked to the number of painful procedures experienced in the NICU.

“Higher volumes of painful procedures with inadequately managed pain have also been associated with cognitive, language and motor problems, and low academic achievement,” says Dr. Stevens. “Although the consequences of pain are known, procedural pain is frequently under-managed and under-prioritized.”

Worldwide, about 13 million infants are born preterm each year — a number growing steadily thanks to modern technologies. And even in North America, Europe and Australia, surveys show “neonates” are exposed to an average of 4 to 14 painful procedures daily, with only about 1 in 3 receiving pain relief.

Less is known about neonatal pain management in low- and middle-income countries, where the incidence of neonatal sickness and death is highest. However, a survey in Kenya showed that infants in seven special care newborn nurseries experienced, on average, four painful procedures daily, half of them injections and blood sample withdrawals. No form of analgesia was documented.

The project will introduce Ghanaian caregivers and parents to an integrated “Toolkit for Minimizing the Impact of Pain in Infants,” adapted from successful practices in Canada. Videos and other educational materials will detail simple, universally affordable, proven ways to mitigate procedural pain for an infant, such as:

 

  • Sweet solutions (e.g., sucrose or glucose) administered orally prior to a painful procedure;

 

  • Kangaroo care, where infants are held in skin-to-skin contact with a parent;
  • Facilitated tucking, where infants are held in a fetal-like position to provide support and boundaries;
  • Breastfeeding.

Combined, these interventions have a demonstrated cumulative pain-relieving effect.

“Inadequate resources are cited as the major impediment to pain management in infants as well as a lack of knowledge, severe staff shortages and formal training about pain. The proposed Toolkit intervention will address these issues,” says Dr. Stevens.

The project draws on existing partnerships between the University of Ghana School of Nursing, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, together training 1,000 pediatric nurses in Ghana over the next 10-15 years, supported by a Canadian government grant. Plans calls for the toolkit’s integration into the curriculum at the School of Nursing (where there is limited pain content) and its use scaled up to reach additional countries.

Says Dr. Stevens: “Decreasing the intensity of painful procedures in hospitalized infants using simple, inexpensive, evidence-based strategies has the potential to minimize both immediate stress and suffering, and the known longer-term impact of pain on the developing neonatal brain and cognitive deficits.”

Malaria in the womb: New malaria policies to protect early brain development in Malawi

University Health Network (Canada)

Each year, about 125 million pregnant women are at risk of placental malaria (PM) and about 25% of all pregnancies in sub-Saharan Africa are complicated by PM at delivery.

PM has profound maternal and fetal health consequences, including increased risk of anemia, preterm birth, fetal growth restriction and delivery of low birth weight infants. The impact of in-utero malaria exposure on fetal neurodevelopment is unknown, however researchers with the project team recently linked malaria-exposure in animals with persistent and long-term deficits in memory and behaviour.

Dr. Kevin Kain of the Toronto-based University Health Network, leader of this project in Malawi, says malaria exposure in the womb “may derail the developmental trajectory of generations of children.” And a shift in understanding — that malaria exposure may result not just in infant mortality and low birth weight but affects also long-term neurodevelopment “represents a change in paradigm that will initiate a re-evaluation of public health policies designed to protect women and children from the deleterious consequences of PM.”

Today’s approach to this problem — intermittent preventive treatment of pregnant women with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine — is losing effectiveness due to rising drug resistance, resulting in persistent infections.

The new project involves a novel antenatal care policy that focuses resources on accurate point-of-care malaria diagnosis and effective case- management of infection to reduce the burden of malaria in pregnancy and protect early brain development.

The work is expected to provide “compelling evidence that will directly impact national and international policies on the prevention of malaria in pregnancy. If our findings support an intervention that leads to improved neurocognitive outcome for exposed infants, it will refocus public health policies towards protecting fetal brain development.”

Project collaborators include the University of Malawi, and the University of Liverpool, UK.

An Integrated Toolkit to Save Newborns’ Brains in Kenya

The Centre for Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada)

The first month of life is a critical period in brain growth and development that can be affected in many ways, including from hypothermia and infection.

Reducing the number of these impediments to young brain growth is the aim of a toolkit created by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids for use initially by mothers in Kenya.

Contents of the tool kit (which costs less than $5) include:

  • A clean delivery kit to minimize infection at time of delivery
  • A sterilizing gel that, applied to the umbilical stump, reduces certain severe infections by 75% and mortality from all causes by 25 to 40%;
  • An emollient to promote skin integrity, helping to reduce infection and prevent hypothermia (and shown to reduce mortality in hospitalized preterm infants)
  • A handheld scale to spot early warnings signaled by an infant’s weight, and a ThermoSpot to identify hypothermia and fever
  • A mylar infant sleeve and reusable heating device to treat hypothermia

Information on infant stimulation, involving play and communication strategies proven beneficial to neurodevelopment in low birth weight newborns.

If any danger signals are found, community health workers will refer cases to appropriate health care.

“We believe that improved neurodevelopment outcomes at age 1 will translate into sustainable longer term gains in academic performance, employment, productivity, and ultimately more human capital,” says project leader Dr. Shaun Morris of the Hospital for Sick Kids.

Project collaborators include the Aga Khan University, Kenya.

Iron-fortified biscuits to reduce maternal and child anemia

St John’s Research Institute, Unit ofCBCI Society for Medical Education, Bangalore, (India)

Anemia — a low level of red blood cells causing a body’s reduced capacity to carry oxygen — results from micronutrient deficiencies, most often iron.

India has one of the highest rates of anemia globally: over 79% of children aged 6 to 8 months and 58% of the 26 million pregnant women each year. Some 17 million of these women have access to iron pills yet 11 million do not take them for the recommend time (adherence rate: 35%). Why? The pill is big and tastes metallic.

Yet iron deficiency anemia dramatically affects the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby, increasing risks of death and sickness during childbirth, including hemorrhage and low-birth weight. Long-term, iron deficiency anemia delays psychomotor development and impairs cognitive development in infants, preschool and school-aged children around the world.

Moreover, researchers say, the effects of anemia are, “not likely to be corrected by subsequent iron therapy… anemic children will have impaired performance in tests of language skills, motor skills, and coordination, reportedly equivalent to a 5 to 10 point deficit in IQ.”

Part of the answer may be an iron-fortified biscuit for use by pregnant women, indistinguishable in taste from popular Indian biscuits.

Coupled with marketing, project leaders say their new biscuit is more likely to be used by previously non-adherent pregnant women, and increase iron stores in newborns, “which translates to more sustainable and protected early brain development.”

“After extensive consumer research, the nutrition team led by Dr A.V. Kurpad and the project collaborators, Violet Health Inc have developed several prototypes specifically designed with the tastes and preferences of pregnant women in India,” says project leader Dr. Pratibha Dwarkanath of St John’s Research Institute, unit of CBCI Society for Medical Education.

“We estimate our solution to be more cost-effective than the iron pill, while reaching more anemic women and their children”

“After proof of concept, we anticipate a scaled trial in Karnataka within three years and reducing anemia in women and infants.”

Project collaborators include Violet Health, Inc., NY, and the Indian Institute of Management, India Bangalore.

Early childhood development in low-resource settings: There’s an app for that.

“CommCare” project empowers community health workers with new mobile software for health workers, parents and caregivers

Ugunja Community Resource Center (Kenya)

In an unprecedented effort, Kenya’s Ugunja Community Resource Center will empower community health workers in Western Kenya with field-tested, mobile phone software to individualize early child development care in the family home and monitor progress via the Internet.

Calling it “the world’s first mobile phone-based early childhood development software platform for low-resource settings,” project leader Aggey Omondi says the software suite will include “apps” for community health workers, for parents and for caregivers, offering practical advice, tools, educational aids and forms for assessing, fostering early childhood development, including cognitive development, nutritional support, management of common illnesses, and counselling on cognitive stimulation for parents and caregivers.

Equipped with mobile phones carrying the software, 30 community health workers will serve 1500households with at least one child under age 3, and 10 parents will receive mobile phones containing the relevant application.

The online monitoring program features a “dashboard” to help users visualize key process and performance indicators, as well as outcome metrics and an analytics suite to enable program managers to analyze trends.

Project collaborators include the Harvard Business School and Dimagi Inc. of Cambridge MA, the University of Pennsylvania and the Kenya Methodist University School of Medicine and Health.

Managing maternal depression and stimulating kids to promote neurodevelopment

International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Almost 60% of kids in Bangladesh are at risk of poor development due to low body weight (22%) and undernutrition (41%), poverty, and sub-optimal stimulation due to low parenting knowledge.

The mother is usually the key childcare provider and her physical and mental health is a major predictor of child development, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

Using the service of home-based workers of community health clinics in rural Bangladesh, the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research will offer a combined intervention that includes both a “Thinking Healthy” program for mothers of children 6 to 12 months old with depressive symptoms and psycho-social stimulation for their children.

Says project leader Dr. Fahmida Tofail: “Previous projects have used only one or the other of the interventions — depression treatment or child’s psychosocial stimulation. In this approach, we address the mother and child together to produce an optimal child-friendly environment to maximize the investment.”

Project collaborators include the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh, the University of the West Indies, and the Institute for Child Health at University College, London UK.

Community-based family coaching for children with developmental risks

Partners in Health / Socios En Salud Surcursal (Peru)

In Lima, Peru, researchers will demonstrate a standardized community-based screening and treatment program delivered by community health workers to 60 children (6 to 24 months old) at risk of neurodevelopmental delay (NDD).

The community health workers will identify and treat at-risk children and assist their caregivers, addressing multi-level problems. The intervention includes 1) coaching parents on how to stimulate their child’s to promote development, and 2) providing parents with social support and encouragement.

The kids and their primary caregivers will be randomly assigned to one of three interventions:

  1. monthly nutritional support alone;
  2. nutritional support plus 3 months of the intervention in the home; or
  3. nutritional support plus 3 months of the intervention in group settings.

Among the impacts to be measured and evaluated:

  • Changes in child development and parenting
  • The child, caregiver, and household characteristics that predict who benefits most
  • How intervention should be delivered for maximum effect (one-on-one or group settings)

Says project leader Leonid Lecca: “The vicious cycle of developmental delay and limited socioeconomic opportunity (manifested in poor academic performance and child labor) have major impact at the societal level, in terms of economic productivity and social inequality.”

Project collaborators include the Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the University of California San Francisco Medical School, as well as stakeholders in Rwanda and Haiti who will help explore how to adapt this model for global dissemination.

Learning Clubs for women’s health and infant development

Research and Training Centre for Community Development (Vietnam)

Vietnamese researchers point to eight major risks to optimal early childhood brain development around the time of birth in resource-constrained settings:

  • Intrauterine growth restriction
  • Stunting
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Unresponsive caregiving
  • Insufficient cognitive stimulation
  • Maternal mental health problems, and
  • Exposure to family violence

And these risks interact: the poorest women who have experienced intimate partner violence are at the highest risk of common mental disorders. And, even when all other factors are controlled, those who experience common mental disorders during pregnancy are less likely to participate in essential preventive health care, including the use of iodized salt to prevent iodine deficiency and taking iron supplements to counter anaemia

Risks continue in early infancy, both for mom and baby: a third of mothers have common mental disorders, 22% of infants are moderately or severely anemic and 7.4% are stunted. Six-month-old infants of mothers with antenatal common mental disorders have infant cognitive development scores on average significantly lower than infants of mothers without common mental disorders in pregnancy.

To date, interventions in these settings have focused on one or at most two of these risks, and outcomes for child development have been, at best, only partially effective.

Capitalizing on 15+ years of experience in rural Vietnam, this project led by Vietnam’s Research and Training Centre for Community Development in Hanoi aims to pioneer a low-cost program addressing all eight risks through a structured, universal program combining information, learning activities and social support with groups of women at the same life stage: Learning Clubs for Women and Infants.

Content will include interventions to address all eight risks early childhood brain development, recognizing and integrating consideration of each woman’s health and social circumstances during pregnancy and in the years in which they are providing primary child care.

The benefit envisioned: enhanced fetal, newborn and early infant development through improved maternal nutrition, mental health, birth outcomes, sensitivity and responsiveness in care-giving and feeding and reduced exposure to family violence.

We estimate that this comprehensive approach will reduce preterm birth, anaemia, stunting, rates of cognitive and social emotional development at age six months, with the effects maintained at least to age three among young children in rural Vietnam.

Project collaborators include the Jean Hailes Research Unit, Australia’s Monash University and the Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne.

What about Dad?

Fathers Involvement: Saving Brains in Vietnam

Hanoi School of Public Health (Vietnam)

Recent research has shown that children of a highly-involved male parent show increased cognitive competence, greater empathy, and less sex-stereotyped beliefs. They have higher IQs, stronger verbal skills, are more academically motivated and successful, have fewer emotional and behavioural problems, show better emotional regulation, better social and problem-solving skills and greater overall life satisfaction.

This project by Hanoi’s School of Public Health aims to mobilize more fathers in parenting and involve them directly in the cognitive and emotional development of their infants, and to indirectly enhance infants’ nutritional status by having fathers encourage mother’s breastfeeding exclusivity and duration.

Fathers will be exposed to:

  • Multimedia messages about the importance of breastfeeding and father involvement
  • Small group antenatal and postpartum education via community health centers
  • Individual at-home counselling
  • Light- hearted public fathering contests, organized with the assistance of the local Farmers Association, to praise and reward teams of fathers demonstrating good fathering knowledge and behaviours, and
  • Fathers Clubs, developed in collaboration with the Labour trade union and Farmers Association to provide peer support.The project involves 400 couples (with 400 children) in Vietnam’s Hai Duong province.

“Father-infant involvement is an important emerging innovation in developing countries,” says project leader Dr. Tran Bich. “Evolving cultural norms have resulted in fathering roles that range from traditional expectations of father as primarily economic provider and head of the household to more contemporary involvement with mothers and children.”

Project collaborators include Canada’s Brock University, St. Catherines, and St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo.

A new category of community workers in Zambia dedicated to early childhood development

Zambia Centre for Applied Health Research and Development (Lusaka, Zambia)

Recent research on brain development suggests that no single risk or developmental stress causes most harm; the main problem is the accumulated impacts of multiple early childhood adversities. Single risk factor interventions are, therefore, unlikely to achieve the highest possible impact on child development.

This project of the Zambia Centre for Applied Health and Development is designed as a comprehensive, integrated, community-based child development program, rolled out in Zambia’s Choma District.

The key innovation, and a critical improvement over previous efforts: establishment of a new cadre of health workers with the sole, explicit mission to monitor and support all aspects of child development under the age of 2.

The newly-trained, community-based “child development agents” (CDA) will form a natural link between mothers and the larger health system, including community health workers.

The CDA will have three principal responsibilities:

  • Monitor children’s nutritional status on a monthly basis through home visits, and ensure immediate treatment of moderate to severe malnutrition and acute infections (malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia) through local CHWs or public health facilities as needed.
  • Ensure all children receive the full health benefits as defined in national guidelines, including exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months of age, a complete set of vaccinations, vitamin A supplementation, growth monitoring, and deworming every 6 months starting at 12 months of age.
  • Coordinate local selected volunteer mothers in running a home -based stimulation component similar in nature to the ones successfully implemented in Cambodia

CDAs will be supported with mobile health technology to ensure continuous and efficient communication, monitoring and close implementation of service protocols.

The mobile device will serve three principal functions:

  • Provide weekly visit reminders and a list of health services for mothers and children who missed services or appointments
  • Allow CDAs to communicate with local CHWs and health facility staff to ensure immediate treatment of acute health conditions
  • Support CDAs with visual materials (videos) to compliment their weekly training with volunteer mothers

Each CDA will be responsible for 250 households, which corresponds to approximately 50 to 60 children under the age of 2 in their communities. CDAs will enroll eligible mothers and their child in the study, and then will be responsible for the health and development of the respective child up to 24 months of age. Each week, the CDA will be sent a list mothers and children who missed a scheduled services or appointments through an automated electronic system; list of children that should be visited in the respective week for the monthly nutrition and health follow-up well; and reminder of content of early childhood learning sessions to support child nurturing. They will be monitored by CDA supervisors on a regular basis, and will be given verbal feedback on their performance. In each month, the best 10% of CDAs will receive a symbolic “CDA of the month” award.

The project will directly benefit 225 children in the short term, and, the hope, all Zambian children in the long run. Its main targets: reduced stunting and improved child development at age 2.

Says project leader Dr. Davidson Hamer: “The program has the potential to transform how mothers think about child development and early education, and to increase maternal understanding of age-appropriate development and cognitive stimulation.”

Project collaborators include America’s Harvard School of Public Health, and the Center for Global Health and Development at Boston University, and Zambia’s Centre for Infectious Diseases Research and Ministry of Health, Child Health Unit.

Large-scale award nominees

Putting online a proven, early cognitive stimulation program to help those helping kids in developing countries

University of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica)

A package of low-cost materials proven to help early cognitive stimulation will be made available online to support in-home interventions by community workers in developing countries, thanks to this project led by Christine Powell, PhD, Senior Lecturer at the Tropical Medicine Research Institute, University of West Indies. The materials can be used despite limited training by any qualified person (NGO, international agency, local government department) and include a curriculum, training manuals, books, play materials, and training videos, all tailored to the children’s culture.

The curriculum being placed online is the product of years of work pioneering the foundation for early childhood development in low resource settings. The web-based package is expected to provide skills and materials for 10 countries to adapt and implement the home cognitive stimulation package.

Stimulation and nutrition for pre-schoolers in rural Colombia

Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia)

While there are government-run programs in urban centers, to now rural kids in Columbia have had available only a home-based daycare system run by women with little if any formal training.

Providing an integrated, two-stage intervention for children from 6 months to 5 years old is the idea behind of a project led by Raquel Bernal of Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes.

In the first stage, facilitators of existing family (home-visiting) services for pregnant women and children up to 30 months old will be trained to promote effective mothering, including nutrition, child development, and interaction with the child.

In the second stage, local mothers running community nurseries will receive 160 hours of training in topics such as fostering child development and developmental milestones in children 24-60 months old, and activities to encourage executive functioning of the child brain. Crucially, both curricular improvements will be implemented along with regular coaching and monitoring visits by trained supervisors.

An estimated 4,800 children will have access to more supportive developmental experiences as a result of this project.

Nutrition and psychosocial stimulation to improve development of malnourished children in Bangladesh

International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Early cognitive development will be promoted through this program to treat malnourished children in rural Bangladeshi health clinics, improving the knowledge and skills of both mothers and field staff in early cognitive development. The anticipated outcome: improved language skills among children, as well as better mental and psychomotor development.

The project takes advantage of a time when kids and their parents are interacting with health clinics to provide more than just calories. challenge is how to do it in a way that is feasible to deliver by health workers with lots big workloads. The anticipated outcome: improvements in language, mental, and psychomotor development for approximately 3,000 children.

Golden Generation Program for community-based early childhood development

University of Mataram (Mataram, Indonesia)

The Golden Generation Program will integrate early development, health and nutrition programs to promote thriving children, and includes strategies to:

  • enhance staff capabilities in early childhood development centers in villages;
  • deploy of specially-trained community workers to coach and certify couples in early childhood development; and
  • engage a mobile real-time data platform to link providers and clients to track infant growth and development, and flag needed interventions.

Program impact will be assessed through a randomized trial involving 80 communities, covering approximately 30,000 couples and their infants over a 2-year period.

To foster long-term sustainability and ongoing program development, the Program will also establish community worker cooperatives and a Center for Early Childhood Development at the University of Mataram.

The program is a collaboration between the University of Mataram, the Provincial and District Governments of Nusa Tenggara Barat Province, the Summit Institute of Development and the Harvard School of Public Health.

 

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Saving Brains

The Grand Challenges Canada Saving Brains Program promotes fulfillment of human capital potential by focusing on interventions that nurture brain development in the first 1,000 days of life. The goal of the Saving Brains program is to unlock the potential of children by developing and scaling up products, services and policies that protect and nurture early brain development in an equitable and sustainable manner. Almost CDN $30 million has been committed to date. In addition to projects, the Saving Brains program is investing in an authoritative quantification of the economic impact and true costs of poverty-related risk factors for cognitive and human capital development.

Grand Challenges Canada invites global, regional and corporate partners committed to enabling innovation for early brain development to join us in Saving Brains.

Please visit grandchallenges.ca and look for us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health. We are funded by the Government of Canada through the Development Innovation Fund announced in the 2008 Federal Budget. We fund innovators in low and middle income countries and Canada. Grand Challenges Canada works with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other global health foundations and organizations to find sustainable long-term solutions through integrated innovation – bold ideas which integrate science, technology, social and business innovation. Grand Challenges Canada is hosted at the Sandra Rotman Centre.

http://www.grandchallenges.ca

About Canada’s International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.

As the Government of Canada’s lead on the Development Innovation Fund, IDRC draws on decades of experience managing publicly funded research projects to administer the Development Innovation Fund. IDRC also ensures that developing country researchers and concerns are front and centre in this exciting new initiative.

http://www.idrc.ca

About Canadian Institutes of Health Research

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. CIHR’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada. CIHR will be responsible for the administration of international peer review, according to international standards of excellence. The results of CIHR-led peer reviews will guide the awarding of grants by Grand Challenges Canada from the Development Innovation Fund.

http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

About the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The mandate of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada is to manage Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, to encourage the country’s international trade, and to lead Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.

http://www.international.gc.ca

About Sandra Rotman Centre

The Sandra Rotman Centre is based at University Health Network and University of Toronto. We develop innovative global health solutions and help bring them to scale where they are most urgently needed. The Sandra Rotman Centre hosts Grand Challenges Canada.

http://www.srcglobal.org

 

 

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care, Public Health | , , , , , | 3 Comments

[Repost] Small Changes in Agricultural Practices Could Reduce Produce-Borne Illness

English: Stages in the intracellular life-cycl...

English: Stages in the intracellular life-cycle of Listeria monocytogenes. (Center) Cartoon depicting entry, escape from a vacuole, actin nucleation, actin-based motility, and cell-to-cell spread. (Outside) Representative electron micrographs from which the cartoon was derived. LLO, PLCs, and ActA are all described in the text. The cartoon and micrographs were adapted from Tilney and Portnoy (1989). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 21 October 2013 ScienceDaily report

 

Researchers from Cornell University have identified some agricultural management practices in the field that can either boost or reduce the risk of contamination in produce from two major foodborne pathogens: salmonella, the biggest single killer among the foodborne microbes, and Listeria monocytogenes. Their findings are published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“This is going to help make produce safer,” says Laura Strawn, a researcher on the study. “We could significantly reduce risk of contamination through changes that occur a few days before the harvest.”

Many of the risk factors were influenced by when they were applied to fields which suggests that adjustments to current practices may reduce the potential for contamination with minimal cost to growers, says Strawn.

Foodborne illness sickens an estimated 9.4 million, and kills around 1,300 annually in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Produce accounts for nearly half the illnesses, and 23 percent of the deaths.

“The research is the first to use field collected data to show the association between certain management practices and an increased or decreased likelihood of salmonella and L. monocytogenes,” says Strawn.

For salmonella, manure application within the year prior to the researchers’ sampling boosted the odds of a contaminated field, while the presence of a buffer zone between the fields and potential pathogen reservoirs such as livestock operations or waterways was protective.

Irrigation within three days before sample collection raised the risk of listeria contamination six-fold. Soil cultivation within the week before sampling also increased the chances of contamination.

“These findings will assist growers in evaluating their current on-farm food safety plans (e.g. “Good Agricultural Practices”), implementing preventive controls that reduce the risk of pre-harvest contamination, and making more informed decisions related to field practices prior to harvest,” says Strawn. “Small changes in how produce is grown and managed could result in a large reduction of food safety risks.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 22, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic

From the 7 October 2013 press release at Trust for America’s Health – Preventing Epidemics. Protecting People.

Prescription Drug Abuse: More than Half of States Score 6 or Less out of 10 on New Policy Report Card, While Drug Overdose Deaths Doubled in 29 States in the Last Decade

Washington, D.C. October 7, 2013 – A new report, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, finds that 28 states and Washington, D.C. scored six or less out of 10 possible indicators of promising strategies to help curb prescription drug abuse. Two states, New Mexico and Vermont, received the highest score receiving all 10 possible indicators, while South Dakota scored the lowest with two out of 10.

According to the report by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), prescription drug abuse has quickly become a top public health concern, as the number of drug overdose deaths – a majority of which are from prescription drugs – doubled in 29 states since 1999. The rates quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more of these states.

Prescription drug related deaths now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined, and drug overdose deaths exceed motor vehicle-related deaths in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers alone costs the country an estimated $53.4 billion each year in lost productivity, medical costs and criminal justice costs. Currently only one in 10 Americans with a substance abuse disorder receives treatment.

“Prescription drugs can be a miracle for many, but misuse can have dire consequences. The rapid rise of abuse requires nothing short of a full-scale response – starting with prevention and education all the way through to expanding and modernizing treatment,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “There are many promising signs that we can turn this around – but it requires urgent action.”

In the Prescription Drug Abuse report, TFAH – in consultation with a number of public health, clinical, injury prevention, law enforcement and community organization experts – reviewed a range of national recommendations and examined a set of 10 indicators of strategies being used in states to help curb the epidemic. There are indications that some of these efforts and strategies may be having a positive impact — the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs decreased from 7 million in 2010 to 6.1 in 2011, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Appalachia and Southwest Have the Highest Overdose Death Rates: West Virginia had the highest number of drug overdose deaths, at 28.9 per every 100,000 people – a 605 percent increase from 1999, when the rate was only 4.1 per every 100,000. North Dakota had the lowest rate at 3.4 per every 100,000 people. Rates are lowest in the Midwestern states.
  • Rescue Drug Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have a law in place to expand access to, and use of naloxone – a prescription drug that can be effective in counteracting an overdose – by lay administrators.
  • Good Samaritan Laws: Just over one-third of states (17 and Washington, D.C.) have laws in place to provide a degree of immunity from criminal charges or mitigation of sentencing for individuals seeking to help themselves or others experiencing an overdose.
  • Medical Provider Education Laws: Fewer than half of states (22) have laws that require or recommend education for doctors and other healthcare providers who prescribe prescription pain medication.
  • Support for Substance Abuse Treatment: Nearly half of states (24 and Washington, D.C.) are participating in Medicaid Expansion – which helps expand coverage of substance abuse services and treatment.
  • ID Requirement: 32 states have a law requiring or permitting a pharmacist to require an ID prior to dispensing a controlled substance.
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: While nearly every state (49) has a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to help identify “doctor shoppers,” problem prescribers and individuals in need of treatment, these programs vary dramatically in funding, use and capabilities. For instance, only 16 states require medical providers to use PMDPs.

“Fifty Americans die a day from prescription drug overdoses, and more than 6 million suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders. This is a very real epidemic – and warrants a strong public health response,” said Andrea Gielen, ScD, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. “We must use the best lessons we know from other public health and injury prevention success stories to work in partnership with clinical care, law enforcement, the business community, community-based organizations, and other partners to work together to curb this crisis.”

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Educate the public to understand the risks of prescription drug use to avoid misuse in the first place;
  • Ensure responsible prescribing practices, including increasing education of healthcare providers and prescribers to better understand how medications can be misused and to identify patients in need of treatment;
  • Increase understanding about safe storage of medication and proper disposal of unused medications, such as through “take back” programs;
  • Make sure patients do receive the pain and other medications they need, and that patients have access to safe and effective drugs;
  • Improve, modernize and fully-fund Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, so they are real-time, interstate and incorporated into Electronic Health Records, to quickly identify patients in need of treatment and connect them with appropriate care and identify doctor shoppers and problem prescribers;
  • Make rescue medications more widely available by increasing access for at-risk individuals to naloxone and provide immunity for individuals and others seeking help; and
  • Expand access to and availability of effective treatment options as a key component of any strategy to combat prescription drug abuse.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), nationally, sales of prescription painkillers per capita have quadrupled since 1999 – and the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers has also quadrupled. Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult continually for a month.

“The release of the prescription drug abuse report by the Trust for America’s Health represents a significant step forward in elevating public awareness of the state of prescription drug abuse in the US”, according to Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI). “We are proud that the Trust has completed this important research as part of its CHMI Commitment to Action and congratulate the Trust on continuing to advocate for innovation and action towards addressing this public epidemic.”

The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Score Summary: A full list of all of the indicators and scores, listed below, is available along with the full report on TFAH’s web site at www.healthyamericans.org and RWJF’s web site athttp://www.rwjf.org/RxReport. For the state-by-state scoring, states received one point for achieving an indicator or zero points if they did not achieve the indicator. Zero is the lowest possible overall score, 10 is the highest. Data for the indicators were drawn from a number of sources, including the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, NCIPC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Alliance of States with Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, the National Conference of State Legislators, the Network for Public Health Law, the Kaiser Family Foundation and a review of current state legislation and regulations by TFAH. In August 2013, state health departments were provided with opportunity to review and revise their information.

10 out of 10: New Mexico and Vermont

9 out of 10: Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Washington

8 out of 10: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and West Virginia

7 out of 10: Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia

6 out of 10: Arkansas, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas and Utah

5 out of 10: Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina

4 out of 10: Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Wyoming

3 out of 10: Missouri and Nebraska

2 out of 10: South Dakota

STATE-BY-STATE DRUG OVERDOSE MORTALITY RANKINGS

Note: Rates include total drug overdose mortality rates, the majority of which are from prescription drugs. 1 = Highest rate of drug overdose fatalities, 51 = lowest rate of drug overdose fatalities. Rankings are based on data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, 2010. The numbers are based on the number of people per 100,000.

1. West Virginia**** (28.9); 2. New Mexico (23.8); 3. Kentucky**** (23.6); 4. Nevada (20.7); 5. Oklahoma*** (19.4); 6. Arizona (17.5); 7. Missouri*** (17); 8. (tie) Tennessee** and Utah (16.9); 10. Delaware** (16.6); 11. Florida** (16.4); 12. Ohio*** (16.1); 13. Rhode Island** (15.5); 14. Pennsylvania (15.3); 15. Wyoming*** (15); 16. South Carolina*** (14.6); 17. Indiana**** (14.4); 18. Michigan*** (13.9); 19. Louisiana*** (13.2); 20. Washington (13.1); 21. (tie) District of Columbia and Montana** and Oregon** (12.9); 24. Colorado (12.7); 25. Arkansas** (12.5); 26. (tie) Alabama*** and Idaho** and New Hampshire** (11.8); 29. Alaska (11.6); 30. (tie) Mississippi***and North Carolina** (11.4); 32. (tie) Maryland and Massachusetts (11); 34. (tie) Hawaii and Wisconsin** (10.9); 36. Georgia*** (10.7); 37. California (10.6); 38. Maine (10.4); 39. Connecticut (10.1); 40. Illinois (10); 41. New Jersey (9.8); 42. Vermont** (9.7); 43. (tie) Kansas** and Texas (9.6); 45. Iowa**** (8.6); 46. New York (7.8); 47. Minnesota** (7.3); 48. Virginia (6.8); 49. Nebraska** (6.7); 50. South Dakota (6.3); 51. North Dakota (3.4).

** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates doubled from 1999 to 2010

*** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates tripled from 1999 to 2010

**** Drug Overdose Mortality Rates quadrupled from 1999 to 2010

Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make diseaseprevention a national priority. For more information, visit www.healthyamericans.org.

 

 

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , | Leave a comment

Flu Virus Wipes out Immune System’s First Responders to Establish Infection

From the 20 October 2013 article at Science Daily

Revealing influenza’s truly insidious nature, Whitehead Institute scientists have discovered that the virus is able to infect its host by first killing off the cells of the immune system that are actually best equipped to neutralize the virus.

Confronted with a harmful virus, the immune system works to generate cells capable of producing antibodies perfectly suited to bind and disarm the hostile invader. These virus-specific B cells proliferate, secreting the antibodies that slow and eventually eradicate the virus. A population of these cells retains the information needed to neutralize the virus and takes up residence in the lung to ward off secondary infection from re-exposure to the virus via inhalation.

Read the entire article here

 

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Study Reveals Shocking Amount of Mercury in Many Foods we Eat

High-fructose corn syrup for sale

High-fructose corn syrup for sale (Photo credit: Steven Vance)

 

From the 20 October 2013 post at someone somewhere – from beyond the rainbow somewhere

 

According to The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency: Mercury poses a health risk to everybody but especially to young children and fetuses because they’re still developing.  Prolonged low level exposure may cause learning disabilities by hurting the ability of children to think and read.  Adults who have been exposed to high levels of mercury may experience trembling hands and numbness or tingling in their lips, tongues, fingers, and toes.  Acute mercury poisoning especially through ingestion, can damage the brain, liver, kidneys, and even cause death.

Research published in Environmental Health and conducted in part by a scientist at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has revealed that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is contaminated with the toxic heavy metal mercuryHigh-fructose corn syrup is used in almost everything, it seems. A second study conducted by David Wallinga, M.D., entitled “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury andHigh Fructose Corn Syrup” reveals that nearly one-third of all grocery items sweetened with HFCS  were contaminated with mercury

WHERE DOES ALL THE MERCURY COME FROM?

Most people don’t know how high-fructose corn syrup is really made. One of those processes is a bizarre chemical brew involving the creation of caustic soda by exposing raw materials to pools of electrified mercury in a large vat. Through this process, the caustic soda gets contaminated with mercury, and when corn kernels are exposed to this caustic soda to break them down, that contamination is passed through to the HFCS.

Another toxic chemical, glutaraldehyde, is also used in the production of HFCS. It’s so toxic that consuming even a small amount of it can burn a hole in your stomach.

…………

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Nutrition | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[Repost] Getting Real About Chemical Risks

 

From the 14 October Cover Story at Chemical and Engineering News

Many people assume that the chemicals in their detergents, floor cleaners, and other household products have undergone rigorous safety testing. But little is known about the potential risks associated with most of the estimated 80,000 chemicals in commerce today.

While industry tries to dispel links to illnesses that go beyond what science can prove, the public is skeptical because companies have a financial stake in showing their products are safe. This leads both sides to look to the federal government for help.

The agency charged with overseeing the safety of chemicals in the marketplace is the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA has the authority to require industry to provide extensive toxicity data for pesticides. But for most other chemicals, EPA must show that a substance is likely to be a risk to human health or the environment in order to require industry to provide safety data. Manufacturers don’t often give toxicity data to EPA voluntarily, nor does the agency have the resources to assess tens of thousands of chemicals using traditional in vivo rodent-based studies.

Instead, EPA has turned to computational modeling. One ambitious effort, called ToxCast, aims to screen thousands of chemicals for biological activity using about 600 high-throughput biochemical and cell-based assays. The data are then integrated with existing in vivo animal toxicity data and structure-activity information to predict toxicity.

But ToxCast has had problems. Most of the assays were developed for drug discovery, not to assess the hazards of chemicals in the environment. For example, thyroid-disrupting compounds in the environment can work through multiple pathways, but commercial tests focus on just one—a chemical binding to the thyroid receptor. If a chemical acts on a different pathway it will test negative, even though it does disrupt the thyroid.

 

 

  • Haz-Map

    Links jobs and hazardous tasks with occupational diseases and their symptoms.

  • Household Products Database

    Information on the health effects of common household products under your sink, in the garage, in the bathroom and on the laundry room shelf.

  • TOXMAP

    Maps of hazardous chemicals with links to related health resources.

  • ToxMystery

    Interactive game for 7-11 years olds with lessons about household chemical hazards.

  • Tox Town

    An interactive guide about how the environment, chemicals and toxic substances affect human health.
    Tox Town en español

 

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, environmental health | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

[Reblog] Progress: Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Diabetes ‘No Different’ Than General Public

From the 14 October post at Science Blogging – Science 2.0

A new paper suggests that lifestyle advice for people with diabetes should be no different from that for the general public – but diabetes may benefit more from that same advice.

In the study, the researchers investigated whether the associations between lifestyle factors and mortality risk differ between individuals with and without diabetes.

Within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a cohort was formed of 6,384 persons with diabetes and 258,911 EPIC participants without known diabetes. Computer modelling was used to explore the relationship (in both those with and without diabetes) of mortality with the following risk factors: body-mass index, waist/height ratio, 26 food groups, alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity, smoking.

The researchers found that overall mortality was 62% higher in people with diabetes compared with those without. Intake of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pasta, poultry and vegetable oil was related to a lower mortality risk, and intake of butter and margarine was related to an increased mortality risk.

While the strength of the association was different in those with diabetes versus those without, the associations were in the same direction in each case (see table 2 full paper). No differences between people with and without diabetes were detected for the other lifestyle factors including adiposity, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and smoking.

The authors say: “It appears that the intake of some food groups is more beneficial (fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, pasta, poultry, vegetable oil) or more detrimental (soft drinks, butter, margarine, cake, cookies) with respect to mortality risk in people with diabetes. This may indicate that individuals with diabetes may benefit more from a healthy diet than people without diabetes. However, since the directions of association were generally the same, recommendations for a healthy diet should be similar for people with or without diabetes.”

 

 

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Quality and Safety Concerns for Medical Apps

From the 18 September 2013 post by Michelle Kraft at the Krafty Librarian 

I just read a brief perspective article in the journal Evidence Based Medicine, “Medical apps for smartphones: lack evidence undermines quality and safety.”  It is a quick little read and it brings up some very real and interesting points which I will try to summarize.

  1. There is no official vetting system for medical apps – Some apps are blatantly wrong and dangerous, some are out of date therefore also dangerous.
  2. Lack of information and clinical involvement in the creation of the apps – There is a paucity of information regarding the creator of the app. Some apps have no physician involvement.
  3. Companies (authors specifically mention Pharma) creating apps could create conflicts of interest and ethical issues – Pharma apps could produce drug guides or clinical decision tools that subtlety push their own products.

The FDA will regulate some apps but not all.  The FDA will regulate apps that control a medical device or displays, stores, analyzes patient data (example: electrocardiogram).  They will also regulate apps that use formulas or algorithms to give patient specific results such as diagnosis, treatment, recommendation or differential diagnosis.  Finally they will regulate apps that transform a mobile device into a medical device (example: apps that use attachments or sensors to allow the smartphone to measure blood glucose).

That still leaves a ton of medical apps hanging out there in the app stores which are largely unregulated.  The article states, “Until now, there has been no reported harm to a patient caused by a recalled app. However, without app safety standards, it is only a matter of time before medical errors will be made and unintended harm to patient will occur.”  Basically it is the Wild West in the medical app arena.

There are two groups that are trying to evaluate medical apps.  iMedicalApps.com and the Medical App Journal review various apps directed toward medical professionals.  I take issue with the article authors who state these sites are a “good starting point for peer-reviewing apps, the current assessment criteria do not address the scientific evidence for their content, but rather matters of usability, design, and content control.”  While I don’t use the Medical App Journal as often,  I use iMedicalApps.com quite often and they do more than just assess the usability and design. I have read reviews where they question the medical correctness of apps, intended audience, and have even pushed for more information regarding authorship/responsibility.  Several of their reviews questioned an app’s update schedule and updated content.  They have also investigated, questioned, and reported instances of fraud and plagiarism with medical apps.  I think iMedicalApps does a very good job in a very flooded market, but there are areas for improvement.  As with any website that relies on a large number of reporters/reviewers, there is some variance in the quality based on the reviewer.  I haven’t found any reviews that are bad, just some are better and more thorough than others.  Perhaps a little more explanation or transparency regarding how they determine the accuracy or validity of medical app might be helpful, or a standardized checklist about the things they look at.  I realize evaluating the latest UpToDate app is different compared to an app on EKGs.  UpToDate already has an established proven product where as there is more to investigate and validate with an app that isn’t a version of an already established product.

The authors believe the medical community needs to be more involved with regulating medical apps.  They suggest:

  1. Official certification marks guaranteeing quality
  2. Peer review system implemented by physicians’ associations or patient organizations
  3. Making high quality apps more findable by adding them to hospital or library collections

1.  I like the idea of having an official certification indicating quality, but there are two things that must be addressed prior to that.

First you have to get the organizations to actually take responsibility for looking at apps that are in their area of expertise. The field is already cumbersome, I am not sure many organizations are able to handle that. Although I have found that several journals have now included app reviews.  While they can’t come close to scratching the surface of medical apps, these journals often have MDs, RNs, MPTs writing reviews and evaluating the content.  Specifically I have found some good reviews in the physical therapy and nursing journals.

Second, there is growing problem with fake certifications. If an app is created by a company or people who already don’t care about its accuracy or is a plagiarizing a product, they probably have no qualms about lifting the image of the certification and posting it on their website.  They could create their own certifications to fake (but legit sounding) orgs and post those on their app’s site too.  Official certification is a good idea and I like it but there needs to be more to it to make sure it truly represents quality.

2. I personally believe the writers at iMedicalApps.com are on their way to something of a peer review system.  Right now they only have one person review an app.  While that completely makes sense from a writing perspective, perhaps they can implement some sort of peer review process where more than just one person is reviewing the app, yet still retain the one voice post for ease of reading.  Perhaps they could  reach out to a few medical professionals who are leaders in their field to review specific apps.  Thus giving the reviewed app a little bit more weight.  This along with astandardized check list or illustrating how they review the medical accuracy of an app would make the information on their site even more important and provide an excellent way of separating the wheat from the chaff.

3. An online repository of approved apps would be great.  Some hospital IT departments that have mobile device policies have this, but they seem to be only hospital type apps like Citrix or database subscription apps like LexiComp, PubMed, UpToDate, etc.  While these apps are important, there is little worry about apps like LexiComp, UpToDate, or PubMed because they were well established medical information products before their app.  Their app is just an extension of their verified product.  I don’t see a lot of  IT departments that have investigated having a pool of apps that aren’t hospital specific or from database subscriptions.  Additionally, IT would either need to rely on an outside sources like iMedicalApps or content experts within the field in that hospital to build the app pool.  IT would have no way of verifying the authenticity and validity of an app on pediatric emergency medicine.

Finally, getting hospitals to buy bulk licenses to apps is tricky at best.  With exception of a few places like Epocrates, Unbound Medicine, Inkling, and Skyscape (many of those companies dealt with institutional subscriptions before app stores….remember PDAs?) there are very few places that sell or license apps to a group of people.  The purchasing of apps was created as an individual service.  Now academic medical centers may have a foot in the door with iTunes U, but I have heard that discussions with Apple and their app store and hospitals is an “interesting” process.  The same principle applies to library repositories.  Instead of IT aggregating the apps, the library would do that.  There are a lot of library’s that already have great lists suggesting various medical apps.   But the vast majority of medical libraries have app resources guides, suggesting apps that the individual must buy.  Also just like with an IT repository of apps, the librarian must rely on sites like iMedicalApps.com or their own physician suggestions to ensure they are listing quality apps.

Like I said it is the Wild West when it comes to medical apps.  That is because the whole app industry is a new frontier.  There are quality and accuracy problems with other apps in the app stores. A pedometer app with errors is not going to kill somebody, but an inaccurate medical app can.  Yes, the medical community needs to get involved in evaluating apps, but so does Apple and Google.   Right now Apple’s iTunes store feedback and ranking system while good for games, is not adequate for medical apps and can easily be subject to fraud.  Additionally, Apple is extremely tight lipped about its app store rules and regulations.  Some apps have extreme difficulty getting approved, while others fly through approval process only to be mysteriously removed later.  There is no transparency to the Apple App Store.  For example, there is no information about the app Critical APPraisal which was determined to be a plagiarized version of Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal.  The app was available in the App Store July 2011.  However, if you searched today for the app, you wouldn’t be able to find it in the App Store, it simply disappeared.  Unless you happen to read the article in BMJiMedicalApps.com, or a few other British publications, you would have no clue as to why the app was removed.  When it comes to dangerous apps, disappearing them from the App Store is not good enough. You must have transparency when it comes to medicine.

**Update**

According to an updated BMJ article, the doctors accused of plagiarizing The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal to use in their app Critical APPraisal, have been cleared of plagiarism by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

“A regulatory panel rejected charges by the General Medical Council (GMC) that Afroze Khan, Shahnawaz Khan, and Zishan Sheikh acted dishonestly in knowingly copying structure, contents, and material from a book, The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal, when developing their Critical APPraisal app, representing it as their own work, and seeking to make a gain from the material.”

Shahnawaz Khan and Afroze Khan were also accused of dishonestly posting positive reviews of the app on the Apple iTunes Store without disclosing that they were co-developers and had a financial interest in the app.  The GMC found that Shahnawaz Khan  no evidence that he knew that the app, which was initiallly free, would later sold for a fee. His case was concluded without any findings.  However, the GMC panel found that “Afroze Khan’s conduct in posting the review was misleading and dishonest.” Yet they considered this type of dishonesty to be “below the level that would constitute impairment of this fitness to practise.”  The GMC panel said it was an isolated incident and did not believe it would be repeated in which they “considered his good character and testimonials attesting to his general probity and honesty and decided not to issue a formal warning.”

Related Resources

Health Apps (Free and Low Cost)

 
Free and low cost Health Apps in this section include:
 
 
And these may be helpful when selecting health apps
 
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Avoid apps that promise too much
  • Research the developers
  • Choose apps that use techniques you’ve heard of
  • See what other users say
  • Test apps before committing
  •  iMedical apps has mobile medical app reviews and commentary by medical professionals. Most apps are about  apps geared toward professionals and are not free.

         The iMedical app forum now includes a medical librarian corner, with some patient/consumer apps

 

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care, Librarian Resources | , , | Leave a comment

EPA Web Tool Expands Access to Scientific, Regulatory Information on Chemicals

Environmental Protection Agency Seal

Environmental Protection Agency Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

 

From the 9 September 2013 EPA press release

 

Release Date: 09/09/2013
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn, Milbourn.cathy@epa.gov, 202-564-7849, 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a web-based tool, called ChemView, to significantly improve access to chemical specific regulatory information developed by EPA and data submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). 

“This online tool will improve access to chemical health and safety information, increase public dialogue and awareness, and help viewers choose safer ingredients used in everyday products,” said James Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The tool will make chemical information more readily available for chemical decision-makers and consumers.”

The ChemView web tool displays key health and safety data in an online format that allows comparison of chemicals by use and by health or environmental effects. The search tool combines available TSCA information and provides streamlined access to EPA assessments, hazard characterizations, and information on safer chemical ingredients. Additionally, the new web tool allows searches by chemical name or Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number, use, hazard effect, or regulatory action. It has the flexibility to create tailored views of the information on individual chemicals or compare multiple chemicals sorted by use, hazard effect or other criteria. The new portal will also link to information on manufacturing, processing, use, and release data reported under the Chemical Data Reporting Rule, and the Toxics Release Inventory. 

In the months ahead, EPA will be continuously adding additional chemicals, functionality and links. When fully updated, the web tool will contain data for thousands of chemicals. EPA has incorporated stakeholder input into the design, and welcomes feedback on the current site.

By increasing health and safety information, as well as identifying safer chemical ingredients, manufacturers and retailers will have the information to better differentiate their products by using safer ingredients. 

In 2010, EPA began a concerted effort to increase the availability of information on chemicals as part of a commitment to strengthen the existing chemicals program and improve access and usefulness of chemical data and information. This included improving access to the TSCA inventory, issuing new policies for the review of confidential business information claims for health and safety studies, and launching the Chemical Data Access Tool. Today’s launch of the ChemView provides the public with a single access point for information that has been generated on certain chemicals regulated under TSCA.

View and search ChemView: http://www.epa.gov/chemview

 

 

 

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Tutorials/Finding aids, Workplace Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Database of Disease Genes Shows Potential Drug Therapies

From the 10 October 2013 article at newswise 

            [From the  article abstract - The Drug-Gene Interaction database (DGIdb) mines existing resources that generate hypotheses about how mutated genes might be targeted therapeutically or prioritized for drug development. It provides an interface for searching lists of genes against a compendium of drug-gene interactions and potentially 'druggable' genes. DGIdb can be accessed at http://dgidb.org/.]

Newswise — Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a massive online database that matches thousands of genes linked to cancer and other diseases with drugs that target those genes. Some of the drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, while others are in clinical trials or just entering the drug development pipeline.

The database was developed by identical twin brothers, Obi Griffith, PhD, and Malachi Griffith, PhD, whose interest in pairing drugs with genes is as much personal as it is scientific. Their mother died of breast cancer 17 years ago, just weeks before their high school graduation.

“We wanted to create a comprehensive database that is user-friendly, something along the lines of a Google search engine for disease genes,” explained Malachi Griffith, a research instructor in genetics. “As we move toward personalized medicine, there’s a lot of interest in knowing whether drugs can target mutated genes in particular patients or in certain diseases, like breast or lung cancer. But there hasn’t been an easy way to find that information.”

Details of the Drug Gene Interaction database are reported online Oct. 13 in Nature Methods. The database is weighted heavily toward cancer genes but also includes genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses. The Griffiths created the database with a team of scientists at The Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.

The database is easy to search and geared toward researchers and physician-scientists who want to know whether errors in disease genes – identified through genome sequencing or other methods – potentially could be targeted with existing drug therapies. Additional genes included in the database could be the focus of future drug development efforts because they belong to classes of genes that are thought to make promising drug targets.

“Developing the database was a labor of love for the Griffiths,” said senior author Richard K. Wilson, PhD, director of The Genome Institute. “There’s an amazing depth to this resource, which will be invaluable to researchers working to design better treatment options for patients.”

Wilson and his colleagues caution that the database is intended for research purposes and that it does not recommend treatments. The primary purpose of the database is to further clinical research aimed at treating diseases more effectively.

“This database gets us one step closer to that goal,” Malachi Griffith said. “It’s a really rich resource, and we’re excited to make it available to the scientific community.”

The database, which took several years to develop, is publicly available and free to use. It includes more than 14,000 drug-gene interactions involving 2,600 genes and 6,300 drugs that target those genes. Another 6,700 genes are in the database because they potentially could be targeted with future drugs.

Before now, researchers wanting to find out whether disease genes could be targeted with drugs had to search piecemeal through scientific literature, clinical trials databases or other sources of information, some of which were not publicly available or easily searchable. Further, many of the existing databases have different ways of identifying genes and drugs, a “language” barrier that can turn a definitive search into an exhaustive exercise.

The Griffith brothers are experts in bioinformatics, a field of science that integrates biology and computing and involves analyzing large amounts of data. The brothers got the idea for the drug-gene interaction database after they repeatedly were asked whether lists of genes identified through cancer genome sequencing could be targeted with existing drugs.

“It shouldn’t take a computer wizard to answer that question,” said Obi Griffith, research assistant professor of medicine. “But in reality, we often had to write special software to find out. Now, researchers can quickly and easily search for themselves.”

The new database brings together information from 15 publicly available databases in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Users can enter the name of a single gene or lists of many genes to retrieve drugs targeting those genes. The search provides the names of drugs targeted to each gene and details whether the drug is an inhibitor, antibody, vaccine or another type. The search results also indicate the source of the information so users can dig deeper, if they choose.

The research is supported by a grant (U54 HG003079) from the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Griffith M, Griffith OL, Coffman AC, Weible JV, McMichael JF, Spies NC, Koval J, Das I, Callaway MB, Eldred JM, Miller CA, Subramanian J, Govindan R, Kumar RD, Bose R, Ding L, Walker JR, Larson DE, Dooling DJ, Smith SM, Ley TJ, Mardis ER and Wilson RK. DGIdb – Mining the druggable genome. Nature Methods. Oct. 13, 2013.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare​.

 

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] With CDC Seasonal Flu Data Unavailable, An Electronic Medical Record Offers a Glimpse of Early Activity Levels

Influenza

Influenza (Photo credit: hesenrre)

From the 13 October 2013 post at The Health Care Blog By IYUE SUNG

As Washington remains deadlocked on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the US government’s shutdown has resulted in the furlough of nearly 70% of the Centers for Disease Control‘s (CDC’s) workforce. CDC Director Tom Frieden recently shared his thoughts in a tweet. We agree whole-heartedly.  Although it’s all too easy to take the CDC staff for granted, they are the frontline sentinels (and the gold standard) for monitoring disease outbreaks.  Their ramp-down could have serious public health consequences.

We are particularly concerned about the apparent temporary discontinuation of the CDC’s flu surveillance program, which normally provides weekly reports on flu activity. Although flu season typically begins in late fall, outbreaks have occurred earlier in previous years. In 2009, flu cases started accumulating in late summer/early fall.  And given the potential for unique variants, such as the swine or avian flu, every season is unpredictable, making the need for regular CDC flu reports essential. We therefore hope to see the CDC restored to full capacity as soon as possible.

In the meantime, we would like to help by sharing data we have on communicable diseases, starting with the flu.


Because the athenahealth database is built on a single-instance, cloud-based architecture, we have the ability to report data in real time. As we have described in earlier posts, the physicians we serve are dispersed around the country with good statistical representation across practice types and sizes.

To get a read on influenza vaccination rates so far this season, we looked at more than two million patients who visited a primary care provider between August 1 and September 28, 2013 (Figure 1).  We did not include data on vaccinations provided at retail clinics, schools or workplaces.

This year’s rates are trending in parallel to rates over the last four years, and slightly below those of the 2012-2013 season. However, immunizations accelerate when the CDC, and consequently the media, announce disease outbreaks and mount public awareness campaigns.

As for the government shutdown, nearly everyone hopes for a quick end.  Should the standoff drag on, detection of the flu (or other diseases) may be delayed, in theory endangering the public. Fortunately, we currently see no evidence of an early influenza outbreak.  But recent history shows that the flu can begin spreading at any time, and once it does begin, it spreads very quickly, as shown in Figure 2.

We believe that our data provides a reliable view of seasonal flu trends. Last year, wewrote about the 2012-2013 flu season and found that patterns in our patient population (consisting of a large proportion of patients receiving immunizations in primary care settings) closely mirrored CDC trends. With that in mind, we believe that sharing our 2013-2014 data would be valuable to the health care community.

Whether our nation’s politicians can come to an agreement tomorrow or next month, we will continue to deliver reports that monitor population health and look ahead to contributing any information we can. If you have any suggestions or comments – on the flu or other diseases where up-to-date data would be valuable – please leave a comment here or e-mail me directly at isung@athenahealth.com.

Iyue Sung is the Director of Core Analytics at athenahealth. The post originally appeared on the athenahealth blog.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] ‘Yes’ to One Drug Could Become ‘Yes’ for Other Drugs

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 8 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

High school seniors who frown upon the use of drugs are most likely to be female, nonsmokers or hold strong religious beliefs, according to a study¹ by Joseph Palamar of New York University. Palamar examines how teenagers’ attitudes toward marijuana influenced their thoughts on the further use of other illicit drugs. The work appears online in the journal Prevention Science², published by Springer.

The study was conducted as marijuana use continues to be on the upswing in the United States, along with more lenient legislation and diminishing public disapproval toward its use. Although previous research has shown that people who disapprove of a particular drug will in all likelihood not use it, little is known about how the use of one drug affects people’s attitudes toward using other drugs.

Palamar therefore examined how demographics and a lifetime use of various drugs — marijuana use in particular — can predict if a person will become partial to using “harder” and more dangerous drugs, such as powder cocaine, crack, LSD, heroin, amphetamine and ecstasy, also known as “Molly.” Data was obtained from 29,054 high school seniors who took part in the Monitoring the Future annual cross-sectional survey of approximately 130 public and private schools in 48 states between 2007 and 2011.

Palamar found that youths who smoked cigarettes or used more than one “hard” drug were consistently less critical of other drug use. The lifetime use of alcohol had no impact on people’s attitudes. Those who used only marijuana tended to be less judgmental of further using such so-called “socially acceptable” drugs as LSD, amphetamine and ecstasy. They did not approve of cocaine, crack or heroin, however, most likely because of their perceived dangers and addictive qualities.

Unsurprisingly, female high school seniors consistently disapproved of using cocaine, crack, LSD and ecstasy. Compared to their male counterparts, females are generally less likely to use most drugs. Palamar was also not surprised by the finding that religiosity robustly increased attitudes against drug use, as it is a major force in societal values.

Youths from more advantaged socio-economic backgrounds with highly educated parents as well as those living in urban areas were much less disapproving of the use of the so-called “less dangerous” drugs. Palamar believes that the higher prevalence of illicit drug use in urban areas may be helping to normalize drug use in cities.

The finding that Black students are less disapproving of powder cocaine, crack and ecstasy is somewhat paradoxical as members of this group generally use such drugs less than White students do. This could, in part, be explained by their strong religious beliefs and the higher rates of arrests and incarceration among Blacks that may serve as a deterrent. The normalization of ecstasy, specifically in rap and hip-hop music, may explain why Black youths are less disapproving of it.

“Public health and policy experts need to ensure that the use of other drugs does not increase in light of the growing prevalence of marijuana use and more lenient policies surrounding it,” Palamar explains. “Although it may be difficult to prevent an adolescent or a young adult from using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, we need to prevent individuals from becoming users of multiple drugs.”

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Mobility shoes’ take a load off for knee osteoarthritis sufferers

In memory of my mother-in-law who had severe osteoarthritis…

From the 8 October 2013 EurekAlert

(CHICAGO) – The results of a new study by bone and joint experts at Rush University Medical Center suggest that patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) who wear flat, flexible footwear, which allows natural foot mobility and provide sufficient support for the foot, had significant reduction in knee loading—the force placed upon the joint during daily activities.

Findings from the study were published in an issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

The research led by Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush, shows that long term use of the such footwear, called “mobility shoes,” helped OA patients adapt their gait or how they walk, which improved knee loading, even when the mobility shoes were no longer worn.

In previous studies, Shakoor and colleagues from Rush found that walking barefoot as well as with ‘mobility shoes,’ which are designed to mimic barefoot mechanics, was linked to reduced knee loading compared to when walking with regular footwear worn by participants. However, the authors thought the long-term effects of the specialized footwear need further studying.

“There is much interest in biomechanical interventions, such as orthotic inserts, knee braces, and footwear that aim to improve pain and delay OA progression by decreasing impact on joints,” said Shakoor, the principal investigator of the study who is also an associate professor in the department of internal medicine at Rush. “In the present study, we expand understanding of our earlier research by evaluating the impact of the mobility footwear on gait after six months of use.”

More than 27 million Americans over the age of 25 have some form of OA, which causes painful swelling and stiffness in the hand, foot, knee or hip joints. According to existing research, doctor-diagnosed arthritis will swell to 67 million U.S. adults by 2030. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 16% of adults 45 years of age and older are burdened with symptomatic knee OA.

The Rush team recruited 16 participants with knee OA, obtaining a baseline gait with participants walking in their own shoes, mobility shoes and barefoot. Participants wore the mobility shoes for six hours each day for six days per week and patient gait was evaluated at 6, 12 and 24 weeks in all conditions.

Findings suggest that by 24 weeks, participants wearing mobility footwear saw an 18 percent reduction in knee adduction moment (KAM), which is the load on the inner or medial aspect of the knee when walking compared to baseline knee loading in their own footwear. This is where most people develop knee OA.

No significant difference in KAM was found between walking with mobility shoes and barefoot. Compared to baseline, analyses indicate an 11 percent and 10 percent reduction in KAM for OA patients walking in their own shoes and barefoot, respectively, suggesting the mobility shoes may have “re-trained” participant’s gait.

“Patients with OA who use flat, flexible footwear may experience a significant reduction in knee loading with continued use,” said Shakoor. “Our investigation provides evidence that footwear choice may be an important consideration in managing knee OA.

 

###

 

The Rush research team involved in the study includes Roy H. Lidtke, Markus A. Wimmer, Rachel A. Mikolaitis, Kharma C. Foucher, Laura E. Thorp, Louis F. Fogg and Joel A. Block.

Please note: Based on the study results, a patented shoe design called X-Sole Relief Technology in Flex-OA has been developed by Dr. Comfort. The shoe has been available on the market since January 2013.

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Allergics Beware: Herbal Products May Contain Surprise Ingredients Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/12/food-allergics-beware-herbal-products-may-contain-surprise-ingredients/#ixzz2hge0IfdB

From the 12 October 2013 article at Time- Health and Family

New research for the University of Guelph shows that the majority of herbal products on the market contain ingredients that are not listed on their labels.

The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, used DNA barcoding technology to assess the components of 44 herbal products from 12 companies. They found that 60% of the products contained plant species that were not listed on the label, and 20% used fillers like rice, soybeans, and wheat which were also not divulged on the bottles.

For instance, products sold as St. John’s wort supplement, which is sometimes used to treat depression, contained Senna alexandrina, which is a plant that spurs laxative symptoms. Other products contained Parthenium hysterophorus (feverfew), which is known to cause swelling and mouth numbness. One ginkgo product contained Juglans nigra (black walnut), which should not be consumed by people with nut allergies — but this warning was not noted on the label.

“It’s common practice in natural products to use fillers such as these, which are mixed with active ingredients. But a consumer has a right to see all of the plant species used in producing a natural product on the list of ingredients,” lead author Steven Newmaster, an integrative biology professor at the Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario said in a statement.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/12/food-allergics-beware-herbal-products-may-contain-surprise-ingredients/#ixzz2hgeN2Srs

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Gloves and Gowns Don’t Stop Spread of All Infections in Hospitals

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Ba...

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Bacteria (Photo credit: NIAID)

 

From the 5 October 2013 post at Time- Health & Family

 

Bacterial infections can imperil the fragile patients at hospitals‘ intensive care units. And a new study reveals an unlikely spreader: the health care workers who treat them. The standard sterile hospital garb typically thought to prevent infections isn’t helping.

 

Physical barriers are the most effective way to block invisible intruders like the bacteria responsible for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) infections, which are among the most common hospital-acquired pathogens. Such strains, which are resistant to most antibiotic treatments, contribute to more than $4 billion in health care costs for treating the skin lesions, respiratory symptoms and sepsis that the bacteria cause.

It’s hardly been clear that requiring all health care workers to put on gowns and gloves before visiting each patient, then discarding and re-robing before visiting the next patient, would help to reduce the spread of such infections in ICUs. The Centers for Disease Control currently recommends that workers suit up with gowns and gloves before caring for patients with known MRSA or VRE infections, but researchers led by Dr. Anthony Harris at the University of Maryland School of Medicine wanted to see how effective universal gowning and gloving would be in lowering the number of new cases of disease in ICUs.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/05/gloves-and-gowns-dont-stop-spread-of-all-infections-in-hospitals/#ixzz2hgctzzKb

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Partial Reblog] What Should NOT Be in Your Medicine Cabinet

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 5.57.07 AM

From the 4 October 2013 post at Straight, No Chaser by Dr. Sterling

Ever notice that people run straight to the medicine cabinet to do harm to themselves or others? I want you to know the harder the effort is to obtain items to hurt oneself, the less likely one is to follow through on the notion. On another related note, here’s a quick not-so-fun-but-interesting fact. One of the differences between America and say, certain European countries is the oversized influence of corporations in the States. Why am I talking about that on a medical blog? Read on. If you can’t tell where I’m going with this, you’ll get it pretty quickly.

Here’s my top five items I want you to take out your medicine cabinets and lock up.

1. Any jumbo sized container of any medication. Think about two of the most common over the counter (OTC) medications used for suicide attempts: acetaminophen (Tylenol) and salicylate (aspirin). One thing they have in common is you can buy what amounts to a tub-full of it at your local superstore in the United States. They should call these things ‘suicide quantities’, because often those in the midst of a suicide attempt will grab and swallow whatever is convenient. Many different medications will hurt you if you take enough; Tylenol and aspirin certainly fit that bill. Observing that (and additional considerations after the deaths due to the lacing of Tylenol with cyanide back in 1983), the Brits decided to not only pass a law limiting quantities, but certain medications that are high-frequency and high-risk for suicide use are now mandatorily dispensed in those annoying containers that you have to pop through the plastic container. Needless to say, observed suicide rates by medication rates plummeted as a result. Wonder why that hasn’t been implemented in the good ol’ USA?

2. Have teens in your house? Lock up the Robitussin and NyQuil.

Read the entire article here

October 12, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Food prices and public health

From the 10 September post at Groping Towards Bethelem - Economics and Culture in Bite-Size Pieces

The University of Otago announced the results of some research in which I’ve been involved.  The relevant blog post is here. What I really like about the post is the moderate tone:

In the first paper from the SPEND Project, we found that across 20-odd food groups, low-income people and Māori tended to change their consumption of foods more in response to price changes, using New Zealand data.  This is entirely consistent with economic theory – and data about price impacts for other consumer goods such as tobacco.

This suggests – but does not prove for reasons we outline below – that taxes on ‘unhealthy’ foods like those high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar; and subsidies on ‘good’ foods like fruit and vegetables should not only improve diets across the board, but more so among socially disadvantaged groups with worse diets and health to start with.

But the proof is in the pudding, which in this case is the health and economic modelling to see what effect taxes and subsidies will actually have on disease rates.  And due to data limitations our modelling is still only half-baked, no matter which research group’s findings you look at.

The post goes on from there and explains more about the different bits of research.

Of course, there are all the problems with implementing such tax/subsidy programmes, and the philosophical issues with ‘nudges’ and individual welfare. But importantly, we now have better estimates of prices elasticities in order to make better calculations about gains and losses.

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] All work and no play… Could too much sitting at work be affecting your health?

From the 11 October 2013 post at Cardiac Exercise Research Group  – The K.G. Jebsen Center for Exercise in Medicine’s blog about exercise and cardiac health

There remains little doubt that lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle represent key health problems in today’s modern society. A quick search on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website and you’ll find that physical inactivity ranks 4th in the global leading risk factors for mortality, with many countries around the world demonstrating a trend for women to be less active than men. While health organisations around the world are making a concerted effort to encourage the general public to incorporate exercise into their leisure and free time, this may not be the only period of our day that is dominated by sedentary behavior. Work forms one of the largest segments of sedentary time for employed individuals, and current trends have shifted parts of the working population into less active, ‘sitting’ jobs.

But what does this mean for our long-term health? One study, published last month in PLoS ONE, aimed to answer this question by assessing the impact of occupational sitting on the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality from a large number of British men and women. Stamatakis and colleagues gathered data from identical health surveys conducted in England and Scotland between 1994 and 2004. Subjects (5380 women, 5788 men) were classified based on whether the majority of time in their job was spent walking, standing or sitting. Subjects were further categorized on levels of physical activity during free time, alcohol intake, smoking, socioeconomic status, and whether they had cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of the survey. The mortality rate (number of deaths) was then monitored over a 13 year follow-up period.

Tired businessman sleeping on chair in office with his legs on tThe major findings reported by this study were that standing/walking occupations carried a lower risk of mortality from either all-causes or cancer, in women but not men. When the researchers further compared groups based on free-time physical activity levels, they found that in both men and women, high levels of free-time physical activity coupled with a standing/walking occupation was associated with a lower risk of cancer and all-cause mortality versus low free-time activity coupled with sitting occupation. At first glance, it could be easy to take the results at face value, but there are limitations to the study design which the authors themselves highlight: Much of the data is self-reported, which may introduce bias, especially when it comes to levels of physical activity during free-time. In addition, there was no information available on how long individuals had been in their current jobs, nor was there any data for people switching jobs during the 13 year follow-up, which may have eventually placed them into a different category. The findings are also surprising given that a similar study published earlier in the year, found that even moderate free-time exercise was enough to reduce the risk of both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, regardless of levels of physical activity in work.

The issue still seems unresolved, and it has also been discussed here on the blog earlier. Current exercise recommendations from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest daily physical activity levels should be at least 30 min, a total 3.5 hours per week, which has been shown in a number of studies to confer significant benefits to health and an overall decrease in mortality rates. However, a busy lifestyle, coupled with raising a family may make this target difficult to reach during our leisure time, making activity levels at work a significant factor in overall health. Everything is better than nothing, and maintaining a physically active lifestyle outside of work hours will contribute significantly to achieve the health benefits of exercise. However, if you’re still worried and have been sat at your desk for the last few hours, when you reach the end of this sentence, why not stand up and take a walk?

Allen Kelly, post doc at CERG.

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why is your waist circumference an important indicator of your health?

From the 30 September 2013 post at Nutrition and Beyone – It’s all about a healthy lifestyle!

How can one simple measurement reveal so much about your health? Let’s start by examining what is behind the waist circumference. This measurement is an easy and non-invasive tool that can estimate visceral fat, aka abdominal fat.

Excessive fat accumulated in the abdomen is characterized as visceral obesity. So, what is visceral obesity? Why is it not desired? Well, starting with the term “obesity”, it is a form of malnutrition which is characterized by an excess of body fat and “visceral” refers to the abdominal area. Increased abdominal fat is associated with increased risk for insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus type 2, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancers, sleep apnea, and the metabolic syndrome. As we can see, abdominal obesity is associated with higher risks of non-communicable diseases and other conditions. So, since abdominal obesity poses a significant number of risks on your health, why not act upon it? Why not be in charge and try to reduce your waist circumference?

Further, the waist circumference has not only been shown to be strongly correlated with risk of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, but it has also been integrated in the diagnostic criteria of the metabolic syndrome. Here is a quick definition of the metabolic syndrome; it’s a cluster of risk factors that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), for a person to have the metabolic syndrome, they must have central obesity, which is defined as a waist circumference equal or higher than 94 cm for males and 80 cm for females, coupled with any two of the following four factors: raised triglycerides, reduced HDL-cholesterol, raised blood pressure, and/or raised fasting plasma glucose.

You can measure your waist circumference after you exhale by using a measuring tape and by placing it horizontally above your hip bone.

waist circumference

In order to decrease your waist circumference to below the values mentioned above, it is recommended to lose weight, to improve the quality and watch the quantity of food you consume, and to be more physically active.

In other words, it is best to adopt a healthy lifestyle!

It is important to note that a precise measurement of visceral fat is challenging in clinical practice and that the waist circumference, which has different ethnicity specific values, is not the only measurement that should be taken into consideration. Other measurements and factors combined with the waist circumference are needed to have a complete description of your cardiometabolic risk.

Joana Abou-Rizk

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

[Repost] Tailgating Food Safety Questions and Answers

English: Tailgating

English: Tailgating (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From a fact sheet at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

 

Keeping food safe at a tailgate gathering requires the same safe food handling practices as picnicking outdoors because a refrigerator and running water are probably not available. Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving the safely cooked food. In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer to be sure the meat and poultry reach a high enough temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Q. Several of us are planning a tailgate party. How can we handle the foods safely? 

A. Keeping food at a safe temperature between home, a store or restaurant, and the tailgate location helps prevent foodborne illness. Follow these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure that your food stays safe.

  • Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.
  • Place an appliance thermometer in the cooler so you can check to be sure the food stays at 40 °F or below.
  • When packing the cooler for an outing, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.
  • Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator cold, too.
  • If bringing hot take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • To keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. If you keep the insulated container closed, the food should stay hot (140 °F or above) for several hours.
  • If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan ahead and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking food, pack a food thermometer so you can check and make sure the meat and poultry reach a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present.
  • Include lots of clean utensils for preparing and serving the safely cooked food.
  • Bring water for cleaning if none will be available at the site. Pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.

 

 

 

Read the entire fact sheet here

 

Listen to a podcast of the fact sheet here

 

 

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

E-Cigarettes May Equal Nicotine Patches for Smoking Cessation

Just one study. However, interesting….

 

From the 9 September 2013 article at Health Day

By Robert Preidt

Monday, September 9, 2013

HealthDay news imageSATURDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) — Electronic cigarettes and nicotine patches are equally effective at helping smokers quit, according to findings from what’s thought to be the first clinical trial to compare the two methods.

However, e-cigarettes were more effective in reducing cigarette use among smokers who didn’t quit.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. They turn these substances into vapor that is inhaled by the user.

The new study included 657 smokers who used either e-cigarettes, fake e-cigarettes (they didn’t contain any nicotine) or nicotine patches for 13 weeks. At the end of the six-month study, about 6 percent of the participants had successfully quit.

Rates of those who successfully quit were 7.3 percent in the e-cigarette group, 5.8 percent in the nicotine patch group and 4.1 percent in the fake e-cigarette group.

These differences were not statistically significant, according to study leader Chris Bullen, director of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues….

Read the entire article here

Related MedlinePlus Page –>Quitting Smoking

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[Journal Article] The Emergent Discipline of Health Web Science -with related links and articles

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportun...

Larger image –>http://www.flickr.com/photos/40726922@N07/4702688723

Came across this article through an online professional health community.  It describes how the Internet is changing approaches to healthcare issues.  Current evidence shows Web sites can empower professional and lay alike through informational Web pages, social media, health record annotations and linkages for exploration and analysis. However, these applications can be built on to better serve the health care related needs of all.  The Web can be better” engineered for health research, clinical research, and clinical practice. In addition, it is desirable to support consumers who utilize the Web for gathering information about health and well-being and to elucidate approaches to providing social support to both patients and caregivers. Finally, there is the motivation to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of health care.” The paper goes on to outline channelling further efforts in these areas.

  • Social networks
  • Patient Engagement Through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
  • Sensors, Smart Technology and Expert Patients
  • “Big Data”, Semantic, and Other Integration Technologies
  • Rapid, Automated, Contextualized Knowledge Discovery and Application

From the full text of the article

Abstract

The transformative power of the Internet on all aspects of daily life, including health care, has been widely recognized both in the scientific literature and in public discourse. Viewed through the various lenses of diverse academic disciplines, these transformations reveal opportunities realized, the promise of future advances, and even potential problems created by the penetration of the World Wide Web for both individuals and for society at large. Discussions about the clinical and health research implications of the widespread adoption of information technologies, including the Internet, have been subsumed under the disciplinary label of Medicine 2.0. More recently, however, multi-disciplinary research has emerged that is focused on the achievement and promise of the Web itself, as it relates to healthcare issues. In this paper, we explore and interrogate the contributions of the burgeoning field of Web Science in relation to health maintenance, health care, and health policy. From this, we introduce Health Web Science as a subdiscipline of Web Science, distinct from but overlapping with Medicine 2.0. This paper builds on the presentations and subsequent interdisciplinary dialogue that developed among Web-oriented investigators present at the 2012 Medicine 2.0 Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

Read the entire article here

Related links

The Health WebScience Lab is a multi-disciplinary research initiative between Moray College UHI, NHS Grampian, HIE OpenFinder and Sitekit Solutions Ltd based in the Highlands of Scotland committed to improving health locally, nationally and internationally.

This initiative will lead, connect and collaborate on research in the emerging discipline of WebScience and Healthcare to create communities which take responsibility for their own wellbeing and self-care. This will be achieved through the application of information and other communication technologies via the internet across a whole range of functions that affect health care thereby stimulating novel research between health care professionals, the community at large and industry.

studies ” the effects of the interaction of healthcare with the web, and of the web with healthcare” and how one can be effectively harnessed to change the other

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Consumer Health, Educational Resources (Health Professionals), Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources, Web 2.0 Assignments | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Why Are Grocery and Retail Workers Important to Public Health?

From the 29th August 2013 article at Sound Progress by 

14462025_mCold and flu season is just around the corner.  So what do grocery and retail workers have to do with public health? In a nutshell, they handle your food and if they don’t have adequate sick days from their employers, you may be more likely to get sick.

That is why, paid sick leave for grocery and retail workers is so important.

In addition to the common colds and flus that are passed along when an ill cashier touches every item that goes into a customer’s grocery bag, serious illnesses are spread as a result of people working while sick.

A lack of paid sick leave can also harm child health and school performance.

No caregiver wants to be in the position of choosing between staying home to care for a sick child and going to work so they can pay the bills. However, without adequate paid sick leave, many families must decide between caring for a sick child at home and losing needed pay or risking their jobs.

  • One in five workers in a recent survey we conducted of grocery and supercenter workers live with at least one child and do not have any other adults in their households.
  • In Washington, the majority of preschoolers and school-age children live in homes where all parents are employed.

Adequate paid sick days mean fewer children going to school sick. When parents can stay at home with their kids, recovery times are shorter and germs stay home too—ensuring healthier schools, families and communities. For more information read our policy brief on Paid Sick Days on our website.  Also see our article on the results of our examination of paid sick leave for grocery and retail workers.

So be sure to cover your cough with your elbow, AND ask your local supermarket if they offer paid sick days to their employees!

 

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] New IRS website provides health care law information for just about everyone

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 5.13.11 AM

From the 28 August 2013 post at Mountjoy Chilton Medley

Many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 have recently gone into effect, and some significant provisions will do so in 2014 and 2015. To help individuals and families, employers (both large and small), and other organizations learn more about how they’ll be affected, the IRS has launched a new website: IRS.gov/aca. The site offers information on the tax benefits and responsibilities for various groups, such as:

  • Individuals and families — new additional Medicare taxes, changes to the itemized medical expense deduction and open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Employers — determining whether you’re a large or small employer, shared responsibility payments for large employers, and the small business health care tax credit
  • Other organizations — tax provisions for insurers, certain other business types and tax-exempt and government organizations

Related Resources

August 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] 1 in 4 has alarmingly few intestinal bacteria

From the 27 August 2013 EurkAlert

All people have trillions of bacteria living in their intestines. If you place them on a scale, they weigh around 1.5 kg. Previously, a major part of these ‘blind passengers’ were unknown, as they are difficult or impossible to grow in laboratories. But over the past five years, an EU-funded research team, MetaHIT, coordinated by Professor S. Dusko Ehrlich at the INRA Research Centre of Jouy-en-Josas, France and with experts from Europe and China have used advanced DNA analysis and bioinformatics methods to map human intestinal bacteria.

-The genetic analysis of intestinal bacteria from 292 Danes shows that about a quarter of us have up to 40% less gut bacteria genes and correspondingly fewer bacteria than average. Not only has this quarter fewer intestinal bacteria, but they also have reduced bacterial diversity and they harbour more bacteria causing a low-grade inflammation of the body. This is a representative study sample, and the study results can therefore be generalised to people in the Western world, says Oluf Pedersen, Professor and Scientific Director at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Oluf Pedersen and Professor Torben Hansen have headed the Danish part of the MetaHIT project, and the findings are reported in the highly recognised scientific journal Nature.

The gut is like a rainforest

Oluf Pedersen compares the human gut and its bacteria with a tropical rainforest. He explains that we need as much diversity as possible, and – as is the case with the natural tropical rainforests – decreasing diversity is a cause for concern. It appears that the richer and more diverse the composition of our intestinal bacteria, the stronger our health. The bacteria produce vital vitamins, mature and strengthen our immune system and communicate with the many nerve cells and hormone-producing cells in the intestinal system. And, not least, the bacteria produce a wealth of bioactive substances which penetrate into the bloodstream and affect our biology in countless ways.

-Our study shows that people having few and less diverse intestinal bacteria are more obese than the rest. They have a preponderance of bacteria which exhibit the potential to cause mild inflammation in the digestive tract and in the entire body, which is reflected in blood samples that reveal a state of chronic inflammation, which we know from other studies to affect metabolism and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, says Oluf Pedersen.

-And we also see that if you belong to the group with less intestinal bacteria and have already developed obesity, you will also gain more weight over a number of years. We don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg, but one thing is certain: it is a vicious circle that poses a health threat, says the researcher.

Take care of your intestinal bacteria

The researchers thus still cannot explain why some people have fewer intestinal bacteria, but the researchers are focusing their attention at dietary components, genetic variation in the human host, exposure to antimicrobial agents during early childhood and the chemistry we encounter daily in the form of preservatives and disinfectants.

A French research team reports a study in the same issue of Nature showing that by maintaining a low-fat diet for just six weeks, a group of overweight individuals with fewer and less diverse intestinal bacteria may, to some extent, increase the growth of intestinal bacteria, both in terms of actual numbers and diversity.

-This indicates that you can repair some of the damage to your gut bacteria simply by changing your dietary habits. Our intestinal bacteria are actually to be considered an organ just like our heart and brain, and the presence of health-promoting bacteria must therefore be cared for in the best way possible. Over the next years, we will be gathering more knowledge of how best to do this,” says Oluf Pedersen, whose research team is studying, among other things, the impact of dietary gluten on gut bacteria composition and gut function.

Towards innovative early diagnostics and treatment options

Obesity and type 2 diabetes are not just a result of unfortunate combinations of intestinal bacteria or lack of health-promoting intestinal bacteria, Oluf Pedersen emphasises. There are likely many causal factors at play. But the MetaHit researchers’ contribution opens a new universe in which we begin to understand how gut bacteria in direct contact with the surrounding environment have a decisive impact on our health and risk of disease.

-At present we cannot do anything about our own DNA, individual variation in which also plays a crucial role in susceptibility for lifestyle diseases. But thanks to the new gut microbiota research, we now can start exploring interactions between host genetics and the gut bacteria- related environment which we may be able to change. That is why it is so exciting for us scientist within this research field– the possibilities are huge, says Oluf Pedersen.

-The long-term dream is to map and characterize any naturally occurring gut bacteria that produce appetite-inhibiting bioactive substances and in this way learn to exploit the body’s own medicine to prevent the obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes, says Oluf Pedersen.

 

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] A Major Cause of Age-Related Memory Loss Identified: Potentially Reversible

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer’s disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 28 August 2013 article at Science Daily

 

A team of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers, led by Nobel laureate Eric R. Kandel, MD, has found that deficiency of a protein called RbAp48 in the hippocampus is a significant contributor to age-related memory loss and that this form of memory loss is reversible. The study, conducted in postmortem human brain cells and in mice, also offers the strongest causal evidence that age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease are distinct conditions.

…….

“The fact that we were able to reverse age-related memory loss in mice is very encouraging,” said Dr. Kandel. “Of course, it’s possible that other changes in the DG contribute to this form of memory loss. But at the very least, it shows that this protein is a major factor, and it speaks to the fact that age-related memory loss is due to a functional change in neurons of some sort. Unlike with Alzheimer’s, there is no significant loss of neurons.”

Finally, the study data suggest that RbAp48 protein mediates its effects, at least in part, through the PKA-CREB1-CBP pathway, which the team had found in earlier studies to be important for age-related memory loss in the mouse. According to the researchers, RbAp48 and the PKA-CREB1-CBP pathway are valid targets for therapeutic intervention. Agents that enhance this pathway have already been shown to improve age-related hippocampal dysfunction in rodents.

“Whether these compounds will work in humans is not known,” said Dr. Small. “But the broader point is that to develop effective interventions, you first have to find the right target. Now we have a good target, and with the mouse we’ve developed, we have a way to screen therapies that might be effective, be they pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, or physical and cognitive exercises.”

“There’s been a lot of handwringing over the failures of drug trials based on findings from mouse models of Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Small said. “But this is different. Alzheimer’s does not occur naturally in the mouse. Here, we’ve caused age-related memory loss in the mouse, and we’ve shown it to be relevant to human aging.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article

 

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry | , , , | Leave a comment

Substance use by adolescents on an average day is alarming

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 3.55.53 PM

 

I am all for decriminalizing illegal drug use. However, I am very concerned about substance abuse, especially among folks whose brains are still developing (and this goes on until age 25 or so).

From the abstract of the report at Full Text Reports

On an average day, 881,684 teenagers aged 12 to 17 smoked cigarettes, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).   The report also says that on average day 646,707 adolescents smoked marijuana and 457,672 drank alcohol.
To provide some perspective, the number of adolescents using marijuana on an average day could almost fill the Indianapolis Speedway (seating capacity 250,000 seats) two and a half times.
“This data about adolescents sheds new light on how deeply substance use pervades the lives of many young people and their families,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “While other studies indicate that significant progress has been made in lowering the levels of some forms of substance use among adolescents in the past decade, this report shows that far too many young people are still at risk.”
The report, which highlights the substance abuse behavior and addiction treatment activities that occur among adolescents on an average day, draws on a variety of SAMHSA data sets.
The report also sheds light on how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 used illegal substances for the first time.  On an average day:
  • 7,639 drank alcohol for the first time;
  • 4,594 used an illicit drug for the first time;
  • 4,000 adolescents used marijuana for the first time;
  • 3,701 smoked cigarettes for the first time; and
  • 2,151 misused prescription pain relievers for the first time.

Using data from SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), the report also analyzes how many adolescents aged 12 to 17 were receiving treatment for a substance abuse problem during an average day.  These numbers included:

  • Over 71,000 in outpatient treatment,
  • More than 9,302 in non-hospital residential treatment, and
  • Over 1,258 in hospital inpatient treatment.

In terms of hospital emergency department visits involving adolescents aged 12 to 17, on an average day marijuana is involved in 165 visits, alcohol is involved in 187 visits and misuse of prescription or nonprescription pain relievers is implicated in 74 visits.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service that people – including adolescents and their family members — can contact when facing substance abuse and mental health issues. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information in print on substance abuse and mental health issues. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit the online treatment locators at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.

The complete report contains many other facts about the scope and nature of adolescent substance abuse, treatment and treatment admissions patterns and is available at: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K13/CBHSQ128/sr128-typical-day-adolescents-2013.pdf. It was drawn from analyses of SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Treatment Episode Data Set, and National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, and Drug Abuse Warning Network.

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Statistics, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We face an epidemic of excessive busyness

 

From the 11 August 2013 KevinMD.com article

 

In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or x-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. It’s one with which, as a fellow sufferer, I empathize especially.

Being excessively busy has become so much a part of our culture that we’ve developed an extended vocabulary for it, like Eskimos and snow: tapped out, laid flat, on overload, crazy busy, fried. The other day, while discussing an interesting potential project with me, a colleague asked if I “had the bandwidth” to take it on.

The pervasiveness of busyness is such that we may not even notice it anymore. A patient of mine wanted to be tested for anemia–why else could she be so tired? It didn’t occur to her that working full time, going to school, and caring for a severely disabled child might have something to do with her exhaustion.

….

For the poor, as this recent editorial by science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff points out, stress has a particularly pernicious effect on health. Velasquez-Manoff points out that it’s not busyness itself, but lack of control and resources to deal with stress that busyness engenders that makes poor people less healthy than rich people. He writes:

It’s not necessarily the strain of a chief executive facing a lengthy to-do list, or a well-to-do parent’s agonizing over a child’s prospects of acceptance to an elite school. Unlike those of lower rank, both the C.E.O. and the anxious parent have resources with which to address the problem. By definition, the poor have far fewer.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

LSD and Other Psychedelics Not Linked With Mental Health Problems, Analysis Suggests

Well, I still don’t feel inclined to try any…despite my FB profile.

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Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

From the 19th August 2013 article at ScienceDaily

The use of LSD, magic mushrooms, or peyote does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems, according to an analysis of information from more than 130,000 randomly chosen people, including 22,000 people who had used psychedelics at least once.

“After adjusting for other risk factors, lifetime use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline or peyote, or past year use of LSD was not associated with a higher rate of mental health problems or receiving mental health treatment,” says Johansen.

Could psychedelics be healthy for you?

The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress. Lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription.

The design of the study makes it impossible to determine exactly why the researchers found what they found.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that use of psychedelics might have a negative effect on mental health for some individuals or groups, perhaps counterbalanced at a population level by a positive effect on mental health in others,” they wrote.

Nevertheless, “recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics,” the researchers said, which supports the robustness of the PLOS ONE findings.

In fact, says Krebs, “many people report deeply meaningful experiences and lasting beneficial effects from using psychedelics.”

……….

Read the entire article here

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Water Exercises

IF you’re only swimming laps when you’re in the water, then you’re missing out on a fun strength-training workout.

Water offers 12 times as much resistance as air, so it’s easy to do a total body workout quickly with the help of just a kickboard.

Sara Haley, a Santa Monica, California-based celebrity trainer who has developed workouts for “Cirque du Soleil” and created the DVD Sweat Unlimited(amazon.com), has put together this water workout, which provides cardio and toning. You may repeat the entire sequence two to three times.

Lunge and swoosh

Muscles targeted: Chest, glutes and legs

Warm up with this move. Stand in shallow water with your feet together, holding a kickboard at your chest. Since this is a warm-up, keep light resistance, with only about a third of the kickboard in the water.

Step out to the right in a plie squat (hips rotated out). As you squat, swoosh the kickboard (or just your arms if you don’t have a kickboard) in a big half circle to the right. Repeat to your left.

Continue alternating right and left – four on each side.

Working out in a pool provides resistance with less stress on joints. Sara Haley demonstrates a

The ‘jog and kick’.

Jog and kick

Muscles targeted: Quads, hamstrings, back, triceps and core

With straight arms, hold the long sides of the kickboard above your head. Alternate lifting your knees to your chest eight times. Then, push the kickboard down into the water to chest level so one side is facing you.

To keep the kickboard under the water with straight arms, you’ll need to squeeze your shoulder blades together, engaging your triceps and back. As you hold the kickboard, alternate kicking your bottom, doing hamstring curls eight times.

Repeat the entire exercise eight times, trying to increase your speed. It should be difficult to breathe by the time you’re done.

Push and lift

Muscles targeted: Chest, core, legs and glutes

Begin with your feet together, holding your kickboard against your chest. Step one foot forward into a lunge position, pushing the kickboard forward so your arms are straight.

The deeper the kickboard is, the harder this exercise will be.

Hinge at the hips and lift your back leg up as if you are trying to kick your foot out of the water. Point your foot and pulse your back leg up so that your foot flutter kicks out of the water six times.

Lower your leg, step back together, bringing your kickboard back to your chest and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating right and left for a total of eight times.

Cowboy knees

Muscles targeted: Obliques

Hold the kickboard behind your head to help open your chest. Turning out from your hips, lift your right leg up. As your knee lifts, your upper body should also lift up and over toward your knee so your knee and elbow come closer together.

Repeat 10 times on the right side and then 10 times on the left. Finish by alternating right and left at a quick pace 10 times.

Bye-bye saddlebags

Muscles targeted: Outer thighs and glutes

Hold your kickboard on your left side for support. Your left forearm rests on the board and your right arm crosses in front of your body so your right hand can also rest gently on the board. The kickboard will help support your balance.

Let your left leg turn out (your knee may bend slightly – this will be your supporting leg). Lift your right heel up to the side to hip level. Lift and lower 10 times. On your last rep, keep your leg lifted and pulse it up 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

Upper-body blast

Muscles targeted: Back, biceps and triceps

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold your kickboard like a plate. Slowly push the kickboard straight down into the water, and then curl it back up toward your chest.

Repeat the sequence eight times. Count to four as you lower and lift it again.

Abs tuck and twist

Muscles targeted: Abs and obliques

You don’t need your kickboard for this one. Start with your feet together and your elbows bent so your hands are up at your chest. Soften your knees and then jump, bringing your knees to your chest.

As your knees come up, push your hands into the water. Repeat eight times.

Then, repeat the entire exercise but angle your knees to your right, keeping your torso to the front so you can work your left oblique, repeating eight times. Do the same to the left.

Finally, tuck to the front, angle to the right, tuck to the front, angle to the left and repeat four times. – Chicago Tribune/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | 1 Comment

[Reblog]Trouble Sleeping? Go Camping

800px-Camping_at_Merlin_Meadows_-_Flickr_-_Graham_Grinner_Lewis

From the 2 August 2013 article at Scientific American

Artificial light sources can negatively affect circadian rhythms, scientists say

By Joel N. Shurkin and Inside Science News Service

This story was originally published byInside Science News Service.

Throughout most of human history, humans went to bed shortly after the sun went down and woke up in the morning as it rose. There were candles and later oil lamps, but the light was not very bright so people still went to bed early.

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder found that if you live by the sun’s schedule, you are more likely to go to bed at least an hour earlier, wake up an hour earlier, and be less groggy, because your internal clock and external reality are more in sync. The sun adjusts your clock to what may be its natural state, undoing the influence of light bulbs.

The work is published in the current issue of the journal Current Biology.

The disconnect between the outside environment and sleep is one reason why even native Alaskans have problems sleeping in the almost endless days of the Arctic summers, and get depressed during the long nights of winters.

The subjects in the Colorado study lived more normal lives.

Read the entire article here

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog]The rich really are different: Their bodies contain unique chemical pollutants

Disparity of rich and poor in Rio de Janeiro

Disparity of rich and poor in Rio de Janeiro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 5 August 2013 article at Quartz by Christopher Mims

“Tell me what kinds of toxins are in your body, and I’ll tell you how much you’re worth,” could be the new motto of doctors everywhere. In a finding that surprised even the researchers conducting the study, it turns out that both rich and poor Americans are walking toxic waste dumps for chemicals like mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium and bisphenol A, which could be a cause of infertility. And while a buildup of environmental toxins in the body afflicts rich and poor alike, the type of toxin varies by wealth.

America’s rich are harboring chemicals associated with what are normally considered healthy lifestyles

People who can afford sushi and other sources of aquatic lean protein appear to be paying the price with a buildup of heavy metals in their bodies, found Jessica Tyrrell and colleagues from the University of Exeter. Using data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Tyrrell et al. found that compared to poorer people, the rich had higher levels of mercury, arsenic, caesium and thallium, all of which tend to accumulate in fish and shellfish.

The rich also had higher levels of benzophenone-3, aka oxybenzone, the active ingredient in most sunscreens, which is under investigation by the EU and, argue some experts, may actually encourage skin cancer.

America’s poor have toxins associated with exposure to plastics and cigarette smoke

Higher rates of cigarette smoking among those of lower means seem to be associated with higher levels of lead and cadmium. Poor people in America also had higher levels of Bisphenol-A, a substance used to line cans and other food containers, and which is banned in the EU, Malaysia, South Africa, China and, in the US, in baby bottles.

Previous research has established that rich Americans are more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables and less likely to eat “energy-dense” fast food and snacks, but this work establishes that in some ways, in moving up the economic ladder Americans are simply trading one set of environmental toxins for another.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

Some Libraries Resist Assisting ObamaCare – Some Librarians Express Concerns

images-2

 Reblogged from 21st Century Library Blog:

While I’ve been busy with other things, I let this issue raised at ALA slip past unnoticed. Issues in library world don’t go unnoticed for very long, especially when they deal with government intrusion. Apparently, during ALA 2013 Conference a video was played in which there was a White House appeal to public librarians to help Americans understand the new Affordable Healthcare Act insurance system that goes into effect whenever – maybe.

Read more… 1,597 more words

I am hoping that the federal government can do a bit more to provide resources for librarians about ACA.

Back in my public library days, it wasn’t easy working with patrons when the topic was against my views!

However, I always tried to address people’s information needs without bias and as completely as possible with factual information.

“ObamaCare” questions are in the same arena.  While librarians cannot advise or fill out forms, they can at least lead folks to factual information. However, this would work best if the federal government would do everything possible to lighten the load for libraries.  This would include providing readable materials for consumers, as well as “pathways” for librarians.

Also, libraries can welcome trained volunteers and organizations to give in-depth information to folks. Many already do this around tax time with IRS trained volunteers.

Here in Toledo, folks from legal aid organizations “set up shop” in public libraries to assist folks. Representatives from the Ohio Benefit Bank do likewise. These volunteers screen people for government assistance programs as SNAP and the Medicare Savings Program.

It sure would be great if government employees and/or trained volunteers could do likewise for “ObamaCare”.  Areas could include the health exchange marketplace, Medicaid expansion, free preventative care, and more.

And with articles as this, there is a real need for information professionals, including librarians!

Ohio insurance department claims Obamacare premium rates to rise 41 percent (Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 1, 2013)

Ohio insurance regulators Thursday released rates for health insurance to be sold on the new state marketplace and said premiums for individuals will rise an average of 41 percent compared with 2013 rates.
That average brought immediate condemnation from critics of the Affordable Care Act, with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a southwest Ohio Republican, calling it “irrefutable evidence” that the law known as Obamacare is driving up costs and hurting the economy……..

Related articles

“…only 11 percent of respondents presented with a traditional insurance plan incorporating all four of these elements were able to compute the cost of a four-day hospital stay when given the information that should have enabled them to do so…

“”The ACA deals with the problem of consumer misunderstanding by requiring insurance companies to publish standardized and simplified information about insurance plans, including what consumers would pay for four basic services,” noted lead author Loewenstein. “However, presenting simplified information about something that is inherently complex introduces a risk of ‘smoothing over’ real complexities. A better approach, in my view, would be to require insurance companies to offer truly simplified insurance products that consumers are capable of understanding.”

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care, Librarian Resources | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Originally posted on Medication Health News:

Are you up-to-date on your immunizations? August is National Immunization Awareness month, a public health campaign sponsored by the CDC to recognized the importance of vaccination and to bring awareness to vaccinations that are not meeting national goals. Vaccines are the best prevention for some serious often life-threatening illnesses. This campaign is targeting a different group each week during the month of August: students starting college, students k-12, adults 26+, and pregnant women and newborns. The CDC is providing educational materials to healthcare providers so that they can encourage their patients to get immunized. Accessibility to vaccines has improved now that many pharmacists can deliver adult vaccinations. Howis your pharmacy taking advantage of this campaign toimprove vaccination rates in adults?

For more information click here CDC

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August 2, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Healthcare Information For All

Janice Flahiff:

This is one noble cause!  However, I think that education should go hand in hand with this.
It is one thing to have access to healthcare information. Another thing to understand and be able to use information.

Still, I am hoping that telecoms get on board, and give back to their communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted on Soumyadeep B:

exclusive HIFA 2015 – the global NGO aiming to make a world where no one is dying due to lack of knowledge has come up with a a smart goal to achieve it.

It wants that  “By 2015, at least one telecoms provider, in at least one country, will endorse the vision of Healthcare Information For All, and will provide free access to essential healthcare knowledge in the local language, pre loaded on all new mobile phones they may sell and freely downloadable to all those who already have a mobile phone.”

The idea called as the mHIFA smart goal is specifically “concerned with the health information needs of citizens, parents and children, in recognition of the huge (and largely unrealized) potential of mobile phones to meet basic healthcare information needs of citizens, parents and children. ”

It builds up on the concept that in in low and middle income countries the top…

View original 84 more words

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Childhood economic status affects substance use among young adults

A NIDA educational pamphlet.

A NIDA educational pamphlet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 29 July 2013 EurekAlert

 

DURHAM, N.C. – Children who grow up in poverty are more likely than wealthier children to smoke cigarettes, but they are less likely to binge drink and are no more prone to use marijuana, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

The researchers also found that economic strains in early life – including family worries about paying bills or needing to sell possessions for cash – independently erode a child’s self-control, regardless of strong parenting in adolescence. Lack of self-control often leads to substance use.

The findings, appearing July 30, 2013, in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, debunk common assumptions about who abuses substances, and provide a basis for better approaches to prevent young people from falling into drug and alcohol addiction.

“Poverty during childhood not only appears to affect child development, but can have lasting effects on the types of health choices made during adolescence and early adulthood, especially as it relates to cigarette smoking,” said senior author Bernard Fuemmeler, Ph.D., MPH, MS, associate professor in Community and Family Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. “Economic strains may shape an individual’s capacity for self-control by diminishing opportunities for self-regulation, or affecting important brain structures.”

Fuemmeler and colleagues at Duke set out to examine the direct effect of childhood economic strains on smoking, binge drinking, and marijuana use in young adults. They also sought to determine how financial difficulties impact self-control, and how positive parenting might mitigate the tendency to use drugs and alcohol.

The group analyzed data from 1,285 children and caregivers included in a representative sample of U.S. families studied from 1986-2009. Economic status was measured by annual family income, plus a survey with questions about economic problems such as difficulty paying bills or postponing medical care. Additional information was gathered to gauge childhood self-control and parental interactions.

Among the study participants who were transitioning to adulthood, young people who lived in poverty as children were far more likely to become regular cigarette smokers than children who grew up in wealthier households. The impoverished children also scored low on self-control measures.

“Poor self-control may be a product of limited learning resources and opportunities for developing appropriate behaviors,” Fuemmeler said.

Binge drinking, however, was much more common among the wealthier young people. And surprisingly, those who had good self-control as children were more likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking as young adults.

Neither wealth nor poverty appeared to influence marijuana use, although positive parenting did reduce the use of this drug. Parents who were nurturing and accepting, in fact, diminished the likelihood of young people using any of the substances.

The researchers also found no correlation between economic hardship and poor parenting – a contradiction to some other studies.

“We suspected we’d find a relationship between parenting and economic problems – the idea that economic strains may cause parents to have less capacity to deal with their children, but that relationship wasn’t there,” Fuemmeler said. “That means it’s not necessarily poverty that affects the parenting strategy, but poverty that affects the children’s self-control.”

Fuemmeler said the findings are important given the increase in U.S. children living in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau reported 22 percent of children lived in poverty in 2010, compared to 18 percent in 2000.

“Continued work is needed to better understand how economic strains may influence the development of self-control, as well as to identify other potential mediators between economic strains and substance use outcomes,” Fuemmeler said.

 

###

In addition to Fuemmeler, study authors include Chien-Ti Lee, Joseph McClernon, Scott H. Kollins and Kevin Prybol.

The National Institutes of Health (RO1 DA030487), the National Cancer Institute (K07CA124905) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K24DA023464) funded the study.

 

 

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook medical advice isn’t what’s best for your child

From the 29 July 2013 KevinMD.com article

 | SOCIAL MEDIA | JULY 29, 2013

It happens about once a week. As I scroll through Facebook and peruse the latest happenings, I notice that someone (usually a mom of small children, like me) has posed a question to their Facebook friends about some type of health dilemma.

“Little Sally is cutting teeth, and she’s miserable. What can I give her to make her feel better?”

“Johnny has such a bad cough, and he can barely breathe. Anyone used Vick’s Vaporub on a baby before?”

“Took  Sam for his 4-month checkup today. Dr. says I should wait to start giving him baby food until 6 months, but I feel like he’s ready. Any moms have some advice?”

I’ve seen each of these health concerns voiced on Facebook along with many others. Various friends weigh in with their tidbits of advice or personal experience, and usually the mom will choose from those options and then report back about how that advice worked.

Here’s the problem: all health information isn’t created equal.

And crowdsourcing for medical advice isn’t likely to result in the best outcome for your child.

Although the Facebook community recommended several products for Sally’s mom to try to ease teething pain, they were likely unaware that many of these products are no longer recommended for infants because of serious health risks associated with their use.

While Johnny’s mom’s Facebook friends offered enthusiastic support for rubbing Vick’s VapoRub on his chest, feet, and even putting it under his nose, they didn’t know that this product can be harmful to children under two years of age.

Read the entire article here (which includes great Web sites for child health/medical information)

Related resources

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just under a third of us will reach 65 “healthy”

Janice Flahiff:

 

Write text here…

 

Originally posted on 2020health's Blog:

Guest blog by Matt Hawkins, Policy and Public Affairs Assistant at the International Longevity Centre-UK

Discussion at an International Longevity Centre-UK, (ILC-UK) event held on Monday, Longevity, health and public policy, revealed that only just short of a third of the UK population will reach retirement “healthy”. Gains in life expectancy have outstripped gains in healthy life expectancy, meaning that potentially over two thirds of people in the UK could find that they are living their retirement years in ill-health.

As a think-tank dedicated to addressing the impacts of our ageing society across generations and throughout the life-course, these findings are of particular concern to ILC-UK. If people are reaching older age in ill-health then this is going to significantly decrease their capacity to remain in work and significantly increase their care needs.

Monday’s event sought to identify the obstacles we face in promoting a healthier older population and…

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July 26, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Statistics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Marijuana Use in Adolescence May Cause Permanent Brain Abnormalities, Mouse Study Suggests

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

While I believe the so called War on Drugs has largely been a failure, I am concerned about young folks indulging in substances that can have permanent health effects.

 

 

 

From the 24 July 2013 article at Science News Daily

 

Regular marijuana use in adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair brain function and cognition, and may increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, according to a recent study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Researchers hope that the study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology — a publication of the journal Nature — will help to shed light on the potential long-term effects of marijuana use, particularly as lawmakers in Maryland and elsewhere contemplate legalizing the drug.

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging,” says the study’s senior author Asaf Keller, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 are at greater risk of permanent cognitive deficits, and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. There likely is a genetic susceptibility, and then you add marijuana during adolescence and it becomes the trigger.”

“Adolescence is the critical period during which marijuana use can be damaging,” says the study’s lead author, Sylvina Mullins Raver, a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We wanted to identify the biological underpinnings and determine whether there is a real, permanent health risk to marijuana use.”

……

 

 

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychiatry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Focus on Active Ingredients – Not Brands

Janice Flahiff:

Easy to do! Sometimes, tho’ it might take a magnifying glass to read the fine print. But well worth the effort.

Originally posted on 2020health's Blog:

Guest blog post by Sandy Getzky, associate editor at ProveMyMeds, a public health and education startup focused on producing helpful resources concerning the treatment of common ailments. 

I work for a startup called: ProveMyMeds. And when I tell people this they usually assume we are some “Big Pharma” subsidiary tasked with proving the effectiveness of certain drugs. Not quite. We exist for the simple purpose of exposing the science of products and looking past brands and marketing. Let me explain with an example:

Which of these four sports drinks would you choose after your workout?

  1. Dihydrogen Monoxide. A research-based beverage containing ingredients scientifically proven to help your body transfer its internal healing nutrients to muscles and systems that need rebuilding.
  2. Aqua Fria. When you’re hot after a workout, Agua Fria cools you down and helps you feel better.
  3. Eau d’Vie. Working out isn’t just about building strength and…

View original 425 more words

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life expectancy, life disparity

Originally posted on Family Inequality:

This is a serious post about life expectancy and inequality. But first a short rant.

Quick: Life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 Your parents are 85. How much longer are they expected to live? If you were worried about how much time you had left to spend with them, and you asked the helpful site seeyourfolks.com, you would get this:

seeyourfolksThis app, and the Slate piece about it, managed to combined two of my pet peeves: the understandable difficulty with understanding life expectancy, and the inexcusable use of second-person reporting on social science findings, which does more to discredit than to disseminate important research.

The error here (apart from “you”) is the common notion that “life expectancy” is the average age at which people of any current age can expect to die. If we were more rigorous about using the phrase “life expectancy at birth” it would be easier…

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July 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , | Leave a comment

Think before you drink: Erosion of tooth enamel from soda pop is permanent

This is an example of Dental Erosion

This is an example of Dental Erosion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 24 July 2013 article at Medical News Today

 

You may be saving calories by drinking diet soda, but when it comes to enamel erosion of your teeth, it’s no better than regular soda.

In the last 25 years, Kim McFarland, D.D.S., associate professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry in Lincoln, has seen an increase in the number of dental patients with erosion of the tooth enamel – the protective layer of the tooth. Once erosion occurs, it can’t be reversed and affects people their whole life.

“I’d see erosion once in a while 25 years ago but I see much more prevalence nowadays,” Dr. McFarland said. “A lot of young people drink massive quantities of soda. It’s no surprise we’re seeing more sensitivity.”

Triggers like hot and cold drinks – and even cold air – reach the tooth’s nerve and cause pain. Depending on the frequency and amount of soda consumed, the erosion process can be extreme.

Dr. McFarland said it’s best not to drink soda at all, but she offers tips for those who continue to drink it.

  • Limit consumption of soda to meal time
  • Don’t drink soda throughout the day
  • Brush your teeth afterwards — toothpaste re-mineralizes or strengthens areas where acid weakened the teeth
  • If tooth brushing is not possible, at least rinse out your mouth with water
  • Chew sugar free gum or better yet, gum containing Xylitol.

 

 

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

No Link Between Prenatal Mercury Exposure and Autism-Like Behaviors Found

Subject: Quinn, a boy with autism, and the lin...

Subject: Quinn, a boy with autism, and the line of toys he made before falling asleep See more about Quinn at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7kHSOgauhg Date: Circa 2003 Place: Walnut Creek, California Photographer: Andwhatsnext Original digital photograph (cropped and resized) Credit: Copyright (c) 2003 by Nancy J Price (aka Mom) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 23 July 2013 article at Science News Daily

 

The potential impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the developing brain — specifically by women consuming fish during pregnancy — has long been the source of concern and some have argued that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. However, a new study that draws upon more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles reports that there is no association between pre-natal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors.

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘The View’, Jenny McCarthy, and a public health nightmare

Originally posted on You Think You Know:

There’s been a lot in the news recently about the decision to hire Jenny McCarthy to replace Elizabeth Hasselback on “The View”.  I cant say that I’m particularly sad to see Hasselback go, as I was never a fan of her conservative “values” but the hiring of Jenny McCarthy – as has been pointed out by many – amounts to a public health nightmare.

For those of you who don’t know, McCarthy is a staunch believer that vaccines caused her son to have autism.  Furthermore, she is an outspoken advocate for not vaccinating children and both encourages and supports parents who choose not to do so.  McCarthy is a strong supporter of UK physician Andrew Wakefield, who published a study in 1998 showing that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes autism.  That very study has been discredited as a fraud, and follow up studies have disproved Wakefield’s claim.  Despite…

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July 22, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Handle Mold/Mycotoxin Exposure at Home or at Work – Where To Get Help

Janice Flahiff:

I usually don’t reblog articles that endorse commercial products or alternative/complementary medicine (without biomedical evidence).
Still, this post had a lot of good information on testing and one’s rights.

A few years back at a library where I worked, some of the folks at circulation were having breathing difficulties. They believed it was the HVAC system, but did not report it. Now I wish I could have worked with them to report it….
The folks at the circ desk were union, I was not. So they were more protected than I…..

Resources

Originally posted on Mom's Mold Resources:

ahelp
We are getting a lot of inquiries about where to go for testing and treatment after exposure to toxic levels of Mycotoxins from damp and moldy environments.

Unfortunately few doctors are experienced in testing or treating patients that are suffering from Biotoxin Illness and other health issues that arise after living or working for long periods of time inside of a home/office/school with poor indoor air.

My best advise is to try to find an Environmental Medicine Specialist either in the US or abroad.  Surprisingly Spain has a high incidence of people affected by chemicals that require treatment for MSC (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) so there seems to be more Environmental Medicine doctors available there.

In the US I have been able to make contact with several doctors and centers who have treated people I have met along my journey.

Dr Gray in Arizona has been mentioned countless times by people…

View original 613 more words

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, environmental health, Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2013 World Drug Report: stability in use of traditional drugs, alarming rise in new psychoactive substances

From the summary at Full Text Reports

 

2013 World Drug Report: stability in use of traditional drugs, alarming rise in new psychoactive substances
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The 2013 World Drug Report released today in Vienna shows that, while the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine seems to be declining in some parts of the world, prescription drug abuse and new psychoactive substance [NPS]

An arrangement of psychoactive drugs

An arrangement of psychoactive drugs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

abuse is growing. In a special high-level event of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov urged concerted action to prevent the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these substances.

Marketed as ‘legal highs’ and ‘designer drugs’, NPS are proliferating at an unprecedented rate and posing unforeseen public health challenges. The report shows that the number of NPS reported to UNODC rose from 166 at the end of 2009 to 251 by mid-2012, an increase of more than 50 per cent. For the first time, the number of NPS exceeded the total number of substances under international control (234). Since new harmful substances have been emerging with unfailing regularity on the drug scene, the international drug control system is now challenged by the speed and creativity of the NPS phenomenon.

This is an alarming drug problem – but the drugs are legal. Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS, which have not been tested for safety, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs. Street names, such as “spice”, “meow-meow” and “bath salts” mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun. Given the almost infinite scope to alter the chemical structure of NPS, new formulations are outpacing efforts to impose international control. While law enforcement lags behind, criminals have been quick to tap into this lucrative market. The adverse effects and addictive potential of most of these uncontrolled substances are at best poorly understood.

The global picture for the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine shows some stability. In Europe, heroin use seems to be declining. Meanwhile, the cocaine market seems to be expanding in South America and in the emerging economies in Asia. Use of opiates (heroin and opium), on the other hand, remains stable (around 16 million people, or 0.4 per cent of the population aged 15-64), although a high prevalence of opiate use has been reported from South-West and Central Asia, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and North America.

 

 

 

 

July 19, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, statistics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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