Originally posted on Johns Hopkins University Press Blog:
The Doctor Is In is an occasional series where JHU Press authors discuss the latest developments and news in health and medicine.
Guest post by Susan Noonan, M.D., M.P.H.
On August 11, 2014, the world learned that we had lost a dearly beloved, charismatic human being to the devastating illness and consequences of depression. To most of us, the actor Robin Williams was the dynamic, clever man who made us laugh in hundreds of ways. He had the uncanny ability to take us out of our doldrums and bring a moment of joy to our lives through his many creative performances, from Mork & Mindy to Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and many others. His talents extended to the dramatic as well when he won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting.
We watched, but did not know that underneath, Williams was in emotional pain, suffering so much that, despite…
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A challenging provocative post from a physician
Excerpts from the 25 August 2014 blog item at JeffreySterlingMD.com
Somewhere in the midst of reconciling the parts of me that are physician, public health professional and African-American male, I realized that I don’t have the luxury to simply review the medical aspects of gunshot wounds. As an African-American, I have lived my entire life learning and having it reinforced that I and others of my kind are a misunderstanding or inappropriate interaction away from becoming a statistic. As a physician I get to treat, and as a public health professional I get to report and fashion broad solutions to various challenges, but as an African-American, I get to live a certain reality that for me began when my father died from a gunshot wound when I was a small child.
We live in a country that is without debate the most violent country on earth, both outside of and within all parts of our borders. From the individual’s rights to bear militia levels of arms to the police’s increasing position as military units, from the contradictions of allowing both “Open Carry” and “Stand Your Ground,” we are spiraling toward an inevitable conclusion.
You want to participate in a challenge? Stop being so deficient of attention about what’s happening before our eyes, and think and ask what the inevitable conclusion of all of this is going to be. Regardless of your political persuasion, there are issues to be addressed.
Consider the following facts from the Children’s Defense fund,
- approximately 2900 children and teens died from guns in the US in both 2008 and 2009. (Does anyone think the numbers have declined since then?) That’s one child or teen every 3 hours. That’s eight children or teens every day. That’s 55 children or teens every week for two years. What is our country’s response to this? What are you specifically doing to contribute to a solution to this?
- Young Blacks are being exterminated by gunshot wounds in this country.
Read the entire post here
From the 19 August 2014 blog item
Here’s a resource for health care costs – and a creative journalistic model of crowdsourcing, data collection, mapping, reporting and blogging.
ClearHealthCosts.com was started by formerNew York Times reporter and editor Jeanne Pinder. She received start-up funding from foundations (Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY and others listed on the website) and ClearHealthCosts now has a team of reporters and data wranglers chipping away at some of the difficult questions that patients need answered: How much is this treatment going to cost me? Can I find a better price?
It’s about shedding light on a health care cost and payment system that, to use Pinder’s word, is “opaque.” Some of what they are doing is specific to a half-dozen cities; other projects are building out nationally.
The data collected by ClearHealthCosts focuses on elective or at least nonemergency procedures such as imaging, dental work, vasectomy, walk-in clinics, screening (mammograms and colonoscopy) and blood tests. Much of the data is crowdsourced, and focused on New York area, including northern New Jersey and other suburbs; the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas; and Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio in Texas.
- Hospital Compare US government website managed by Medicare and Medicaid services. Links include, Quality payment, Medicare’s Hospital value-based purchasing programs, Hospital readmission reduction programs, voluntary reporting from American College of Surgeons, American College of Cardiology readmission measure etc.
Allows one to compare the quality of care at over 4,000 Medicare-certified hospitals in the country
- Joint Commission Quality Check The Joint Commission is an accredition/certification program based on performance standards. Quality Check® includes information on US health care organizations.
5 things that are bigger threats to your health than Ebola (with images) · APHA · Storify.
Excerpt from an August 2014 post by the American Public Health Association
Ebola, the serious, often fatal disease spread by interaction with the blood or fluids of a symptomatic infected person, has been making headlines across the country. And for good reason: this is the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The public is asking questions and wondering if they’re at risk.
But the truth is, unless you live in West Africa, where the latest Ebola outbreak has been focused, or if you are a health worker whoworks with Ebola patients, you’re probably safe.
1. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria
2. Severe weather
Read the entire post here
Ebola virus and the dread factor
August 25 2014 item from Musings of an Academic Family Physician (and department chair) about this (dysfunctional) healthcare world and how to fix it
Connections between housing, health: Finding stories and getting the reporting right | Association of Health Care Journalists.
People who are homeless face many health threats and are among the heaviest users of hospital services. Safe and affordable housing, some experts assert, is a necessary first step to care effectively for people with chronic mental health and substance abuse problems who live on the streets. And there is some evidence that this approach may, in some circumstances, even save taxpayers money (but probably not as much as is often claimed).
In an influential 2009 study in Seattle, researchers analyzed medical and law enforcement costs for 91 people given supportive housing and found that costs dropped to about half the level seen among 35 comparable homeless people on a waiting list. But note that this savings estimate doesn’t include the capital costs of building and refurbishing apartments. Raising capital is likely to be a tall hurdle for many communities and this issue often gets ignored in news reports about the promise of supportive housing.
Read the rest of the core topic on this issue here
Healthstyles Today: “Observation Status”–Policy Gone Wrong? | HealthCetera – CHMP’s Blog.
Across the country, people on Medicare who become ill are being admitted to hospitals on what is called “observation status” or “admit to observation” to provide regular assessments to ensure that the patient’s condition doesn’t deteriorate and require a higher level of care. Medicare pays less for observation status since it’s assumed that the patient needs less care. It makes sense, but in reality it’s creating huge problems for some of the patients, their families and the hospitals. The issue has become a national concern and New York State has responded with legislation aimed to provide some protection for Medicare patients who are admitted to the state’s hospitals.
Today on Healthstyles on WBAI 9.5 FM (www.wbai.org), producer and host Diana Mason, RN, PhD, talks about this issue with Toby Edelman, Senior Policy Attorney in the Washington, DC, office of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. You can listen to the interview here: [link available at the blog]
Half Of Americans Believe One Of These 6 Medical Conspiracy Theories
From the 16 July 2014 article at Think Progress
Are companies dumping large quantities of dangerous chemicals into our water supply under the guise of fluoridation? Did a U.S. spy agency infect African Americans with HIV? Does the government tell parents to give vaccines to their children even though that could increase their risk of developing autism? Are U.S. health officials withholding information about natural cures for cancer so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to profit, or pretending they don’t know that cell phones can cause cancer? Are genetically modified foods a plot to shrink the global population?
About half of the American public believes at least one of those medical conspiracy theories, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago researchers. The greatest proportion of respondents, 37 percent, believes that the FDA is deliberately suppressing information about natural treatments for cancer. On top of that, less than a third of participants were willing to say they actively disagreed with this theory, leaving everyone else somewhere in the middle.
Question your medical tests? Oh yeah, it’ll make you happy!.
From the 24 July 2014 KevinMD.com post
Who knew questioning medical tests could be so much fun? Watch Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with lyrics that advocate more sensible medical testing. James McCormick, co-host of the Best Science Medicine Podcast, wrote this pitch perfect parody. The ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign educates both physicians and the public to question medical tests and treatments.
The ABIM provides links to Things Physicians and Providers Should Question.
Doctors Call Out 90 More Unnecessary Medical Tests, Procedures
Zip code better predictor of health than genetic code | HSPH News | Harvard School of Public Health.
From the 4 August 2014 Harvard School of Public Health News item
In St. Louis, Missouri, Delmar Boulevard marks a sharp dividing line between the poor, predominately African American neighborhood to the north and a more affluent, largely white neighborhood to the south. Education and health also follow the “Delmar Divide,” with residents to the north less likely to have a bachelor’s degree and more likely to have heart disease or cancer.
Pointing to Delmar as an example, Melody Goodman, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, recently spoke to a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) audience about the links between segregation and poor health. An HSPH alumna, Goodman gave the keynote address at the first annual symposium sponsored by the Department of Biostatistics Summer Program in Quantitative Sciences. She told the audience at the July 24, 2014 event, which was held at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, “Your zip code is a better predictor of your health than your genetic code.”
Posting this because I can relate. Was diagnosed with a lumbar sprain two weeks ago. It was only acute for two days. Am better now and going to physical therapy once a week for awhile.
Dr. Evans has videos on other health subjects at http://www.evanshealthlab.com
Topics include smoking, insomnia, type 2 diabetes,
Everything you need to know about back pain in 11 minutes.
From the YouTube site
Published on Jan 24, 2014
Check out our new website, http://www.evanshealthlab.com/
Follow Dr. Mike for new videos! http://twitter.com/docmikeevans
Dr. Mike Evans is founder of the Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto, and a staff physician at St. Michael’s Hospital.
Evans Health Lab fuses clinicians and creatives, filmmakers and patients, social entrepreneurs and best evidence to create “edutaining” healthcare information.
Exercise is also mentioned as a possible replacement for unnecessary medical testing/health screenings.
(Remember, discuss personal health decisions with your health care provider!)
From the YouTube link below
Who knew questioning medical tests could be so much fun? Watch Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” with lyrics that advocate more
sensible medical testing. James McCormick, co-host of the Best Science Medicine Podcast, wrote this pitch perfect parody. The
ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign educates both physicians and the public to question medical tests and
From the 17 July 2014 Association of Health Care Journalists post
Last week, I encountered yet another example of why it’s so important to always read the whole study — not just the press release. In this case, it was actually a report, not a study. A press release from Alzheimer’s International with the somewhat misleading headline, “Smoking Increases Risk Of Dementia” arrived in my inbox, citing a new World Health Organization report that put smokers at a 45% higher risk for developing the disease than non-smokers.
It’s a good reminder that regardless of the reputation of the organization or institution issuing a report, study or press release, read the source information yourself. You never know what you may find.
WHO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The unidentified cause of one man’s hypertension: Racism.
From the 20 January 2014 Kevin MD post
Meet Damien, my Facebook friend, photographer, and IT guy.
This morning, he messages me: “I would like to make an appointment.”
I reply: “For?”
“High blood pressure.”
I offer to see him, but he never comes in. Weeks later, he writes, “I got busy Pam. How are you? High blood pressure pills keep making me sick. I am doing the best I can. On bad days it is like 208/118.”
Friends don’t let Facebook friends die. And 208/118 is incompatible with life. I’m a family doc–a-sleuth. It’s my job to spy on people. On Damien’s page, I find a dozen photos of lynchings — his reaction to today’s Trayvon Martin verdict. A black boy murdered in a land where killers roam free. Trayvon died a senseless death, but Damien shouldn’t have to. I suspect today is a bad day for Damien’s arteries. So I call him up. “I’m worried about you, man. I’m coming over to check on you tonight.” An hour later, I’m in his living room.
Researchers say pro-pot messages set stage for drug use
Hundreds of thousands of American youth are following marijuana-related Twitter accounts and getting pro-pot messages several times each day, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.
The tweets are cause for concern, they said, because young people are thought to be especially responsive to social media influences. In addition, patterns of drug use tend to be established in a person’s late teens and early 20s.
In a study published online June 27 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the Washington University team analyzed messages tweeted from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, by a Twitter account called Weed Tweets@stillblazintho. Among pro-marijuana accounts, this one was selected because it has the most Twitter followers — about 1 million. During the eight-month study period, the account posted an average of 11 tweets per day.
“As people are becoming more accepting of marijuana use and two states have legalized the drug for recreational use, it is important to remember that it remains a dangerous drug of abuse,” said principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD. “I’ve been studying what is influencing attitudes to change dramatically and where people may be getting messages about marijuana that are leading them to believe the drug is not hazardous.”
Although 19 states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes, much of the evidence for its effectiveness remains anecdotal. Even as Americans are relaxing their attitudes about marijuana, in 2011 marijuana contributed to more than 455,000 emergency room visits in the United States, federal research shows. Some 13 percent of those patients were ages 12 to 17.
A majority of Americans favor legalizing recreational use of the drug, and 60 percent of high school seniors report they don’t believe regular marijuana use is harmful. A recent report from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that more Americans are using cannabis as their perception of the health risk declines. The report stated that for youth and young adults, “more permissive cannabis regulations correlate with decreases in the perceived risk of use.”
Cavazos-Rehg said Twitter also is influencing young people’s attitudes about the drug. Studying Weed Tweets, the team counted 2,285 tweets during the eight-month study. Of those, 82 percent were positive about the drug, 18 percent were either neutral or did not focus on marijuana, and 0.3 percent expressed negative attitudes about it.
Many of the tweets were meant to be humorous. Others implied that marijuana helps a person feel good or relax, and some mentioned different ways to get high.
With the help of a data analysis firm, the investigators found that of those receiving the tweets, 73 percent were under 19. Fifty-four percent were 17 to 19 years old, and almost 20 percent were 16 or younger. About 22 percent were 20 to 24 years of age. Only 5 percent of the followers were 25 or older.
“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”
Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.
“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”
The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.
“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.
The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.
“There are celebrities who tweet to hundreds of thousands of followers, and it turns out a Twitter handle that promotes substance use can be equally popular,” she said. “Because there’s not much regulation of social media platforms, that could lead to potentially harmful messages being distributed. Regulating this sort of thing is going to be challenging, but the more we can provide evidence that harmful messages are being received by vulnerable kids, the more likely it is we can have a discussion about the types of regulation that might be appropriate.”
PITTSBURGH—Mindfulness meditation has become an increasingly popular way for people to improve their mental and physical health, yet most research supporting its benefits has focused on lengthy, weeks-long training programs.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University is the first to show that brief mindfulness meditation practice – 25 minutes for three consecutive days – alleviates psychological stress. Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the study investigates how mindfulness meditation affects people’s ability to be resilient under stress.
“More and more people report using meditation practices for stress reduction, but we know very little about how much you need to do for stress reduction and health benefits,” said lead author J. David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
For the study, Creswell and his research team had 66 healthy individuals aged 18-30 years old participate in a three-day experiment. Some participants went through a brief mindfulness meditation training program; for 25 minutes for three consecutive days, the individuals were given breathing exercises to help them monitor their breath and pay attention to their present moment experiences. A second group of participants completed a matched three-day cognitive training program in which they were asked to critically analyze poetry in an effort to enhance problem-solving skills.
Following the final training activity, all participants were asked to complete stressful speech and math tasks in front of stern-faced evaluators. Each individual reported their stress levels in response to stressful speech and math performance stress tasks, and provided saliva samples for measurement of cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone.
The participants who received the brief mindfulness meditation training reported reduced stress perceptions to the speech and math tasks, indicating that the mindfulness meditation fostered psychological stress resilience. More interestingly, on the biological side, the mindfulness mediation participants showed greater cortisol reactivity.
“When you initially learn mindfulness mediation practices, you have to cognitively work at it – especially during a stressful task,” said Creswell. “And, these active cognitive efforts may result in the task feeling less stressful, but they may also have physiological costs with higher cortisol production.”
Creswell’s group is now testing the possibility that mindfulness can become more automatic and easy to use with long-term mindfulness meditation training, which may result in reduced cortisol reactivity.
In addition to Creswell, the research team consisted of Carnegie Mellon’s Laura E. Pacilio and Emily K. Lindsay and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Kirk Warren Brown.
The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Opportunity Fund supported this research.
For more information, visit http://www.psy.cmu.edu/people/creswell.html.
Olfactory receptors in the skin detected
Skin cells possess an olfactory receptor for sandalwood scent, as researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have discovered. Their data indicate that the cell proliferation increases and wound healing improves if those receptors are activated. This mechanism constitutes a possible starting point for new drugs and cosmetics. The team headed by Dr Daniela Busse and Prof Dr Dr Dr med habil Hanns Hatt from the Department for Cellphysiology published their report in the “Journal of Investigative Dermatology“.
The nose is not the only place where olfactory receptors occur
Humans have approximately 350 different types of olfactory receptors in the nose. The function of those receptors has also been shown to exist in, for example spermatozoa, the prostate, the intestine and the kidneys. The team from Bochum has now discovered them in keratinocytes – cells that form the outermost layer of the skin.
Experiments with cultures of human skin cells
The RUB researchers studied the olfactory receptor that occurs in the skin, namely OR2AT4, and discovered that it is activated by a synthetic sandalwood scent, so-called Sandalore. Sandalwood aroma is frequently used in incense sticks and is a popular component in perfumes. The activated OR2AT4 receptor triggers a calcium-dependent signal pathway. That pathway ensures an increased proliferation and a quicker migration of skin cells – processes which typically facilitate wound healing. In collaboration with the Dermatology Department at the University of Münster, the cell physiologists from Bochum demonstrated that effect in skin cell cultures and skin explants.
Additional olfactory receptors in skin detected
In addition to OR2AT4, the RUB scientists have also found a variety of other olfactory receptors in the skin, the function of which they are planning to characterise more precisely. “The results so far show that they possess therapeutic and cosmetic potential,” says Prof Hanns Hatt. “Still, we mustn’t forget that concentrated fragrances should be handled with care, until we have ascertained which functions the different types of olfactory receptors in skin cells have.”
Daniela Busse et al. (2014): A synthetic sandalwood odorant induces wound healing processes in human keratinocytes via the olfactory receptor OR2AT4, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, DOI: 10.1038/JID.2014.273
Prof Dr Dr Dr Hanns Hatt, Department for Cellphysiology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, phone: +49/234/32-24586, email:Hanns.Hatt@rub.de
From the 9-Jul-2014 EurkAlert
DALLAS – July 9, 2014 – There has been a sharp increase in the number of cancer patients at UT Southwestern Medical Center using MyChart, the online, interactive service that allows patients to view laboratory and radiology results, communicate with their healthcare providers, schedule appointments, and renew prescriptions.
Over a six-year period, the number of patients actively using MyChart each year increased five-fold, while the number of total logins each year increased more than 10-fold, according to a study by Dr. David Gerber, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and Dr. Simon J. Craddock Lee, Assistant Professor of Clinical Sciences.
“This pattern suggests that not only are far more patients using this technology, but also that they are using it more intensively,” Dr. Gerber said.
These findings, published in the Journal of Oncology Practice, are noteworthy because no prior study has systematically examined the use of electronic patient portals by patients with cancer, even though use of this technology is surging nationwide, creating new terrain in clinical care and doctor-patient relationships.
In 2009, Congress allotted $27 billion to support the adoption of Electronic Medical Records. The Department of Health and Human Services began allocating the funding in 2011. UT Southwestern started offering these services years earlier.
“I was struck by the immediacy of the uptake and the volume of use,” Dr. Gerber said. “I suspected that the volume would be high. I did not think that it was going to be multi-fold higher than other patient populations.”
Use of MyChart was greater among cancer patients than among another other patient groups except for children with life threatening medical conditions, according to the study.
“We undertook this study because we suspected that the volume of electronic portal use might be greater among patients with cancer than in other populations,” Dr. Gerber said.
While the study did not directly compare use patterns with non-cancer groups, the average use in the current study was four to eight times greater than has been reported previously in primary care, pediatric, surgical subspecialty, and other populations.
Dr. Gerber explained that patient use of electronic portals to receive and convey information may have particular implications in cancer care. Laboratory and radiology results may be more likely to represent significant clinical findings, such as disease progression.
“I think we are still learning how patients understand and use the complex medical data, such as scan reports, that they increasingly receive first-hand electronically,” Dr. Gerber said.
Furthermore, symptoms reported by patients with cancer may be more likely to represent medical urgencies. Notably, the study found that 30 percent of medical advice requests from patients were sent after clinic hours.
The time-course of an immune response begins with the initial pathogen encounter, (or initial vaccination) and leads to the formation and maintenance of active immunological memory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that many diseases are triggered or maintained by changes in bacterial communities in the gut. However, the general view up into now has been rather simple: bacteria stimulate the immune system, leading to inflammation or autoimmune disorders in a single direction.
Now, in work published in Immunity, scientists led by Sidonia Fagarasan from the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Science in Japan have painted a more complex picture: the gut immune system does not simply prevent the influx of pathogens, but is actively involved in the maintenance of a rich and healthy community of gut bacteria. They propose that faults in the immune regulation lead to changes in the bacterial community that in turn feed back into the immune system.
In the study, the group demonstrated that the regulation by immune T cells of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that plays a key role in immunity in the gut, is critical for the maintenance of rich bacterial communities in mammal guts.
They began by studying mice with various immune deficiencies and attempted to restore the mice by providing the missing components. They monitored the bacterial communities in the mice’s guts with or without the reconstitutions and evaluated the flow of information between the immune system and bacteria. They discovered that the precise control of IgA production by regulatory T cells is critical for keeping a rich and balanced bacterial community.
To investigate how bacteria feed back to the host, they looked at germ-free mice (mice born and maintained sterile in special incubators) and young pups that had been transplanted with different bacterial communities (either by injection of bacteria or by painting the fur with fecal bacteria extracts from normal or immune-deficient mice). They discovered that the immune system “sees” and responds differently to different bacterial communities. Rich and balanced bacterial communities seem to be perceived as “self” and induce a quick maturation of the immune system and gut responses (induction of regulatory T cells and IgA), while a poor and unbalanced bacterial community is apparently perceived as “non-self” and induces responses aimed at eliminating it (T cells with inflammatory properties and IgG or IgE responses).
According to Sidonia Fagarasan, who led the work, “This study should have an impact on the way we understand immune-related disorders associated with bacteria dysbiosis in the gut. In order to reestablish a healthy state we need to interfere not only with the bacteria, by providing probiotics or through fecal transplantation, but also with the immune system, by correcting the faults caused either by inherited deficiencies or by aging.”
“It was surprising,” she continues, “to see how the reconstitution of T cell-deficient mice with a special regulatory T cell type leads to dramatic changes in gut bacterial communities. It was spectacular to see how the immune system perceives and reacts to different bacteria communities. It gives us hopes that with a better knowledge of the symbiotic relationships between the immune system and bacteria in the gut, we could intervene and induce modifications aiming to reestablish balance and restore health.”
From the 14 May 2014 post at Venture Beat News
Millions of people around the world immediately go to the Web for information after feeling a mysterious ache, pain, rash, or bump. This often results in either a panic attack or a false sense of calm. Doctors have warned against this practice since the days of Netscape, and now a new report puts some science behind their fears.
Researchers at Campbell University in North Carolina compared Wikipedia entries on 10 of the costliest health problems with peer-reviewed medical research on the same illnesses. Those illnesses included heart disease, lung cancer, depression, and hypertension, among others.
The researchers found that nine out of the 10 Wikipedia entries studied contained inaccurate and sometimes dangerously misleading information. “Wikipedia articles … contain many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources,” the report states. “Caution should be used when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care.”
At Wikipedia anybody can contribute to entries on health problems — no medical training (or even common sense) is required.
“While Wikipedia is a convenient tool for conducting research, from a public health standpoint patients should not use it as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. Robert Hasty in a statement.
And there’s a lot of health information on Wikipedia. The site contains more than 31 million entries, and at least 20,000 of them are health-related, the report says.
The study findings were published in this month’s Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. You can see the full text of the study here.
Via: Daily Mail
Wikipedia is a project operated by a non-profit organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, and created and maintained by a strong community of 80,000 international active volunteer editors. Founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia has be… read more »
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How to evaluate health information (flahiff.google.com)
Evaluating health information (MedlinePlus)
How to evaluate health information (NIH)
Great ideas on a variety of exercises. Not for seniors only!
Pharmacists say collaboration bill will improve care | CJOnline.com.
From the 7 July 2014 article
Kansas pharmacists say a bill that went into effect this past week will improve patient care by allowing them to enter into agreements with physicians to do things like monitor and change medication levels without new orders.
Greg Burger, a pharmacist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who helped push for the bill, said studies have shown reductions in cost and improvements in care when pharmacists have the authority to adjust medication levels, provide the right antibiotics for certain infections and adjust for drug allergies without waiting for a doctor’s say-so.
“There’s all kinds of things we do in hospitals now that we’re hoping to expand out to where pharmacists might be in clinics,” Burger said.
English: Well Street Late Night Pharmacy This pharmacy is tucked in behind 1594903 making it very handy for getting prescriptions filled after visiting the Doctor’s surgery. The flat-roofed building to the left and behind is a Co-operative pharmacists, one would have thought that the competition would be quite high, but they seem to manage alright. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Technology and the doctor-patient relationship.
From the 1 July 2014 KevinMD article
I often hear people talking about their doctors. I overhear it restaurants, nail salons, while walking down the street. I hear what people think of their doctors, what their doctors said or what they didn’t say, why people were disappointed by or validated by their doctors. I hear people analyzing, criticizing, and surmising about this relationship quite a bit, and I don’t blame them. The relationship you have with your doctor is a critical one, and yet it is fraught with misunderstanding, disappointment, and distrust. People didn’t used to doubt their doctors the way they do today, and I believe the essence of the doctor-patient relationship has degraded in our culture.
In large part, I believe this is due to technology.
The Mayo Clinic recently announced they have partnered with Apple to create what they call the Health Kit. Although the details are still unknown, the product is supposedly one that will allow patients to become more involved in their health care, from diagnosis to treatment delivery. This has always been the doctor’s job, but with the technology booming, it is no surprise that the next step would be computerized health care.
So is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I have mixed feelings, and I think the results will be mixed as well. Statistics show that positive relationships and supportive interactions with others are crucial parts of living a healthy life. Can a computer ever truly replace that je ne se quoi that occurs between a doctor and a patient? In my own practice, I would like to believe that the interaction between my patients and myself is part of what leads to healing. I don’t believe a computer could do that as well as I can.
Here’s the problem, though. Doctors are inundated with demands from insurance companies, paperwork, accountability measures, and check lists upon checklists required for medical records, billing, and measurable use. This situation worsened several years ago, with the mandatory implementation of Electronic Medical Records, and then even worse since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
These changes have also affected patients, many of whom have had to drop doctors they have had for many years because those doctors didn’t take the new insurance. The message, whether stated outright or not by advocates or detractors of the new systems, is that this doctor-patient relationship is not really all that important.
Thinking this would be great fodder for an global warming/climate change exploitation movie. Something along the lines of the giant virus that killed human civilization…..
BBC News – 30,000-year-old giant virus ‘comes back to life’.
From the July 2014 article
An ancient virus has “come back to life” after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say.
It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again.
The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen a virus that’s still infectious after this length of time.”
The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground.
Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago.
The virus infects amoebas but does not attack human or animal cells
These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found.
The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again.
Originally posted on Tony Seed's Weblog:
The fact that Cuba has already developed four cancer vaccines undoubtedly is big news for humanity if you bear in mind that according to the World Health Organization nearly 8 million people die from that disease every year. However, the monopoly media have completely ignored this reality.
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Large New Study Confirms That Childhood Vaccines Are Perfectly Safe | ThinkProgress.
From the 1 July 2014 Think Progress article
The vaccines that children receive when they’re young are quite safe, and the vast majority of them don’t lead to serious side effects, according to asweeping new review of 67 recent scientific studies on childhood vaccinations. The analysis, published on Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, also found no link between vaccines and autism — effectively debunking a common myth that dissuades some parents from inoculating their children.
The new report is specifically intended to ease parents’ concerns about vaccines, as persistent misconceptions about vaccination have recently spurred a rise in infectious diseases. In order to reassure people who may be worried that their kids’ shots aren’t safe, the federal governmentcommissioned the RAND Corporation to review everything that scientists know about the 11 vaccines recommended for children under the age of six.
Like any medical intervention, vaccines are not without their potential risks. In some rare cases, certain shots can increase kids’ risk of fevers, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems. But the RAND researchers found that those adverse reactions are incredibly unlikely.
Proof Birth Control Access Is A Very, Very Big Deal To Women.
Image of vaginal birth control device NuvaRing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the 7 July 2014 Huffington Post article
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations cannot be required to provide their employees with coverage for contraception, a decision that medical groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — this country’s leading group of professionals providing health care to women — have called “profoundly” disappointing.
“This decision inappropriately allows employers to interfere in women’s health care decisions,” the group said in a statement.
“Contraceptives are essential health care for women and should not be treated differently than other, equally important parts of comprehensive care for women, including well-woman visits, preconception care visits, cervical and breast cancer screenings and other needed health care services,” ACOG added.
Because that’s the thing about birth control. For many women across the United States, of all different religious, political and socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s an absolutely essential part of how they stay healthy. From pain management and menstrual cycle regulation to straight-up family planning, here are just some of the ways that birth control has been a very, very good thing in the lives of real women.
Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance | Roundup Chemical Doubles Your Risk of Lymphoma.
From a recent blog item
There’s been a striking increase in the number of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases over the past three decades, and a major new scientific review suggests chemical pesticides—particularly glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup—are playing an important role in fueling the cancer.
The Roundup-Lymphoma Connection
The review [Free full text at above link], recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, examined 44 papers to see how 80 active ingredients in 21 different chemical classes impacted farmers’ risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer researchers found that exposure to glyphosate doubled a person’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That’s problematic, since the chemical is now so heavily used it’s winding up in the rain! The reason for the surge in glyphosate use can be attributed to the rise of genetically engineered crops. Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, developed genetically engineered seeds that were designed to withstand heavy Roundup sprayings. In the last 20 years, the use of these seeds has skyrocketed.
Hospitals Are Mining Patients’ Credit Card Data to Predict Who Will Get Sick – Businessweek.
From the 3 July article
Imagine getting a call from your doctor if you let your gym membership lapse, make a habit of buying candy bars at the checkout counter, or begin shopping at plus-size clothing stores. For patients of Carolinas HealthCare System, which operates the largest group of medical centers in North and South Carolina, such a day could be sooner than they think. Carolinas HealthCare, which runs more than 900 care centers, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and surgical centers, has begun plugging consumer data on 2 million people into algorithms designed to identify high-risk patients so that doctors can intervene before they get sick. The company purchases the data from brokers who cull public records, store loyalty program transactions, and credit card purchases.
Information on consumer spending can provide a more complete picture than the glimpse doctors get during an office visit or through lab results, says Michael Dulin, chief clinical officer for analytics and outcomes research at Carolinas HealthCare. The Charlotte-based hospital chain is placing its data into predictive models that give risk scores to patients. Within two years, Dulin plans to regularly distribute those scores to doctors and nurses who can then reach out to high-risk patients and suggest changes before they fall ill. “What we are looking to find are people before they end up in trouble,” says Dulin, who is a practicing physician.
BBC News – Do doctors understand test results?.
From the 6 July 2014 article
In 1992, shortly after Gerd Gigerenzer moved to Chicago, he took his six-year-old daughter to the dentist. She didn’t have toothache, but he thought it was about time she got acquainted with the routine of sitting in the big reclining chair and being prodded with pointy objects.
The clinic had other ideas. “The dentist wanted to X-ray her,” Gigerenzer recalls. “I told first the nurse, and then him, that she had no pains and I wanted him to do a clinical examination, not an X-ray.”
These words went down as well as a gulp of dental mouthwash. The dentist argued that he might miss something if he didn’t perform an X-ray, and Gigerenzer would be responsible.
But the advice of the US Food and Drug Administration is not to use X-rays to screen for problems before a regular examination. Gigerenzer asked him: “Could you please tell me what’s known about the potential harms of dental X-rays for children? For instance, thyroid and brain cancer? Or give me a reference so I can check the evidence?”
The dentist stared at him blankly……
Originally posted on The Most Revolutionary Act:
One side of the vaccine controversy Americans are extremely unlikely to hear about concerns the safest, cheapest and most widely used vaccine in the world – against tuberculosis (TB). Every country in the world, except the US and the Netherlands (where TB is extremely rare), uses or has used the TB vaccine (known as Bacillus Calmette Guerin or BCG) in public vaccination programs. The BCG controversy was my first introduction (in 1971) to the US government propensity to engage in conspiracies and cover-ups. This happened during my second year of medical school, in the TB module taught by University of Wisconsin infectious disease researcher Dr Donald Smith. Smith had grave concerns about disadvantaged US communities with high rates of tuberculosis infection, as well as the nurses and doctors who looked after them.
Prior to World War II, TB epidemics infected industrialized countries at levels comparable to the current…
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Neuroreductionism about sex and love | Brian D. Earp – Academia.edu.
Excerpt from the 2014 paper **
“Neuroreductionism” is the tendency to reduce complex mental phenomena to brainstates, confusing correlation for physical causation. In this paper, we illustrate thedangers of this popular neuro-fallacy, by looking at an example drawn from the media: astory about “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” in women. We discuss the role of folkdualism in perpetuating such a confusion, and draw some conclusions about the role of“brain scans” in our understanding of romantic love.
* * *There has been a surge of interest in recent years in “the neuroscience of love.” Bylooking at images of people’s brains when they are gazing pictures of their romantic partner, forexample, and comparing those against images of the same people looking at pictures of aplatonic friend, scientists have begun to construct a picture of “what is going on in our brains”when we we’re in love. They’re also starting to identify a number of brain chemicals—such asoxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin—that seem to play in role in whether and how we formromantic and other social attachments.
For some people, this research is exciting—opening upnew frontiers for how we understand some of our most basic human experiences. For others, it’sa little bit unsettling. Doesn’t it suggest that “love”—our most prized and mysterious emotion—is really just a bunch of stupid brain chemicals swirling around in our skulls?The answer is yes and no.
At one level of description,everything that we experience,from, yes, falling in love, to, say, getting a stomach ache after eating a burrito, is (at least in principle) explainable in terms of microscopic events playing out between our neurons. But there are many different levels of description—including psychological, social, cultural, and even philosophical—that are just as important if we want to have a more complete understanding ofthe sorts of things that matter to us in our daily existence.
“Brain chemicals” only get us so far…….
From the article at the US National Institutes of Health, last reviewed on October 27, 2011
Chapter 3: Drugs From Nature, Then and Now – Medicines By Design – Science Education – National Institute of General Medical Sciences
Long before the first towns were built, before written language was invented, and even before plants were cultivated for food, the basic human desires to relieve pain and prolong life fueled the search for medicines. No one knows for sure what the earliest humans did to treat their ailments, but they probably sought cures in the plants, animals, and minerals around them.
[The table of contents]
He found that the ingredient, called parthenolide, appears to disable a key process that gets inflammation going. In the case of feverfew, a handful of controlled scientific studies in people have hinted that the herb, also known by its plant name “bachelor’s button,” is effective in combating migraine headaches, but further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary findings….
BBC – Future – Does wearing glasses weaken your eyesight?.
From the May 2014 article
…A study from Nigeria published last year found 64% of students believed that wearing glasses can damage eyes. Research in the Indian state of Karnataka put the figure at 30%, and in Pakistan 69% of people feel the same way. In Brazil, even medical staff believed that your eyes would gradually get weaker as a consequence of wearing glasses. Is there any evidence to suggest they are right?
There are, of course, two very different reasons why people wear glasses – short-sightedness, or myopia, where things in the distance are blurry; and long-sightedness, or hyperopia, where you can’t focus on things close up. Long-sightedness is often age-related: many people begin noticing in their 40-50s that it’s difficult to read in low lighting. As we age the lenses in our eyes gradually stiffen, making it harder to adjust to different distances. When people get to the stage where their arms aren’t long enough to hold a book or menu far enough away to focus on the text, they opt for reading glasses.
What’s surprising is how few trials have been conducted on the prolonged effect of wearing glasses. And from what we know there’s no persuasive evidence that wearing reading glasses affects your eyesight….
snopes.com: Reuse of Plastic Bottles.
From the 13 April 2004 article
….such claims are inaccurate on two counts: DEHA is not used in the manufacture of PET bottles (nor is it created through the breakdown of such bottles), and DEHA is not classified as a human carcinogen:
DEHA is neither regulated nor classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the National Toxicology Program or the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the leading authorities on carcinogenic substances.
In 1991, on the basis of very limited data, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classified DEHA as a “possible human carcinogen.” However, in 1995, EPA again evaluated the science and concluded that ” … overall, the evidence is too limited to establish that DEHA is likely to cause cancer.”
Further, DEHA is not inherent in PET as a raw material, byproduct or decomposition product.
Moreover, DEHA has been cleared by FDA for food-contact applications and would not pose a health risk even if it were present.
Finally, in June 2003, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research conducted a scientific study of migration in new and reused plastic water bottles from three countries. The Swiss study did not find DEHA at concentrations significantly above the background levels detected in distilled water, indicating DEHA was unlikely to have migrated from the bottles. The study concluded that the levels of DEHA were distinctly below the World Health Organization guidelines for safe drinking water.
The American Cancer Society also debunked such claims, stating:
In fact, DEHA is not inherent in the plastic used to make these bottles, and even if it was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says DEHA “cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer, teratogenic effects, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, gene mutations, liver, kidney, reproductive, or developmental toxicity or other serious or irreversible chronic health effects.” Meanwhile, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), says diethylhexyl adipate “is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.”
As for the notion that freezing water in plastic bottles releases dioxin, the American Chemical Council asserted:
There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles will release dioxin when frozen. Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no reasonable scientific basis for expecting dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.
Johns Hopkins researcher Dr. Rolf Halden also said of such claims that:
Q: What do you make of this recent email warning that claims dioxins can be released by freezing water in plastic bottles?
A: This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics. In addition, freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don’t think there are.
Dr. Halden did note that drinking water from plastic bottles that had been exposed to high temperatures could be problematic, though:
There is another group of chemicals, called phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle. Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food.
Another common type of plastic bottle is made with bisphenol A, also known as BPA. These products are typically rigid plastic bottles intended for multiple re-use, such as baby bottles or water bottles carried by cyclists. Concerns about tests that may link BPA ingestion with cancer and reproductive damage in some animals and the possibility that BPA could leach out of plastic bottles and into the liquids they contain has led to bans on the use of BPA in plastic products intended for children (such as baby bottles), and has prompted some consumers to seek out non-BPA alternatives.
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/plasticbottles.asp#uD3X2UPBl0L8LhsG.99
This Newspaper Repels Mosquitoes, Makes Us Want To Give Print Another Chance.
From the 30 June Huffington Post article
The paper combined citronella essence — a highly effective and all-natural repellent — with the newspaper’s ink, enabling readers to coat their skin with a repellent that could keep mosquitoes away.
From the 1 Ju;ly 2014 blog post
…While infectious diseases remain a significant problem in the developing world, cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases are now among the fastest growing causes of death and disability around the globe. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the 38 million people who died of chronic diseases in 2012 lived in low- or middle-income countries .
The good news is that many NCDs can be prevented by making lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake for hypertension, stopping smoking for cancer and heart disease, or venting cookstove fumes for lung disease. Other NCDs can be averted or controlled by taking medications, such as statins for high cholesterol or metformin for diabetes.
DocuBase Article: World Health Statistics 2014.
From the 19 May 2014 summary at DocuTicker
From Health-related Millennium Development Goals – Summary of Status and Trends:
With one year to go until the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs, substantial progress can be reported on many health-related goals. The global target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of drinking water was met in 2010, with remarkable progress also having been made in reducing child mortality, improving nutrition, and combating HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Between 1990 and 2012, mortality in children under 5 years of age declined by 47%, from an estimated rate of 90 deaths per 1000 live births to 48 deaths per 1000 live births. This translates into 17 000 fewer children dying every day in 2012 than in 1990. The risk of a child dying before their fifth birthday is still highest in the WHO African Region (95 per 1000 live births) – eight times higher than that in the WHO European Region (12 per 1000 live births). There are, however, signs of progress in the region as the pace of decline in the under-five mortality rate has accelerated over time; increasing from 0.6% per year between 1990 and 1995 to 4.2% per year between 2005 and 2012. The global rate of decline during the same two periods was 1.2% per year and 3.8% per year, respectively.
Nevertheless, nearly 18 000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, and the global speed of decline in mortality rate remains insufficient to reach the target of a two-thirds reduction in the 1990 levels of mortality by the year 2015.
+ Direct link to document (PDF; 2.4 MB)
Two tables from the report
How Sweet It Is: All About Sugar Substitutes.
From the 19 May 2014 FDA article
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Whether it’s to cut down on the number of calories they consume or any of a variety of other reasons, some people use sugar substitutes – also called high-intensity sweeteners – to sweeten and add flavor to their foods. They can be used alone to sweeten foods and beverages such as iced tea or coffee, or as an ingredient in other products. There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market from which to choose.
“Sugar substitutes are called ‘high-intensity’ because small amounts pack a large punch when it comes to sweetness,” says Captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), director of the Division of Petition Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
According to Zajac, unlike sweeteners such as sugar, honey, or molasses, high-intensity sweeteners add few or no calories to the foods they flavor. Also, high-intensity sweeteners generally do not raise blood sugar levels.
The FDA has approved a new high-intensity sweetener called advantame.
Advantame—which does not yet have a brand name (such as Sweet’N Low, a brand name for saccharin, or Equal, a brand name for aspartame)—has been approved as a new food additive for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry.
Examples of uses for which advantame has been approved include baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.
How Do You Know It’s Safe?
FDA is required by law to review all new food additives for safety before they can go on the market. The process begins when a company submits a food additive petition to FDA seeking approval. One exception is for substances “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, because those substances are generally recognized by qualified experts as safe under the conditions of intended use and are exempt from the food additive approval process.
Zajac explains that the agency’s scientists thoroughly review all the scientific evidence submitted by a company to ensure the product is safe for the intended use.
“In determining the safety of advantame, FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic (harmful) effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” Zajac says.
Advantame is chemically related to aspartame, and certain individuals should avoid or restrict the use of aspartame. To that end, FDA evaluated whether the same individuals should avoid or restrict advantame, as well.
People who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have a difficult time metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. Newborns are tested for PKU using a common “heel-prick” test before they leave the hospital.
Foods containing aspartame must bear an information statement for people with PKU alerting them about the presence of phenylalanine. But advantame is much sweeter than aspartame, so only a very small amount needs to be used to reach the same level of sweetness. As a result, foods containing advantame do not need to bear that statement.
Five Already on the Market
The last high-intensity sweetener approved by FDA was Neotame (brand name Newtame) in 2002. The other four on the market, and are:
- Saccharin, was first discovered and used in 1879, before the current food additive approval process came into effect in 1958. Brand names include Sweet‘N Low
- Aspartame, first approved for use in 1981. Brand names include Equal
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), first approved for use in 1988. Brand names include Sweet One
- Sucralose, first approved for use in 1998. Brand name is Splenda
In addition to the six high-intensity sweeteners that are FDA-approved as food additives, the agency has received and has not questioned GRAS notices for two types of plant/fruit based high-intensity sweeteners: certain steviol glycosides obtained from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni) and extracts obtained from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.
While these high-intensity sweeteners are considered safe for their intended uses, certain individuals may have a particular sensitivity or adverse reaction to any food substance. Consumers should share with their health care provider any concerns they have about a negative food reaction.
In addition, FDA encourages consumers to report any adverse events through MedWatch: FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program.
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
From the Web site
OpenFDA offers easy access to FDA public data and highlight projects using these data in both the public and private sector to further regulatory or scientific missions, educate the public, and save lives.
What does it do?
OpenFDA provides API and raw download access to a number of high-value structured datasets. The platform is currently in public beta with one featured dataset, FDA’s publically available drug adverse event reports.
In the future, openFDA will provide a platform for public challenges issued by the FDA and a place for the community to interact with each other and FDA domain experts with the goal of spurring innovation around FDA data.
We’re currently focused on working on datasets in the following areas:
- Adverse Events: FDA’s publically available drug adverse event reports, a database that contains millions of adverse event and medication error reports submitted to FDA covering all regulated drugs.
- Recalls (coming soon): Enforcement Report and Product Recalls Data, containing information gathered from public notices about certain recalls of FDA-regulated products
- Documentation (coming soon): Structured Product Labeling Data, containing detailed product label information on many FDA-regulated product
We’ll be releasing a number of updates and additional datasets throughout the upcoming months.
States’ Apps Target Health and Safety.
Excerpts from the 26 June 2014 article at Pew Chartitable Trust
Among the state apps focused exclusively on health or public safety:
- The Minnesota Air app provides real-time information about air quality conditions in 10 reporting areas across the state, as well as pollution forecasts for the Twin Cities and Rochester.
- The Every Woman Counts app in California lets women know when it’s time to make an appointment for mammograms and Pap tests. Users enter information about their screening history and select a schedule for their exams, and the app sends them reminders.
- The MyVaxIndiana app enables parents to keep track of their children’s vaccination records. The information comes from a state immunization system and is updated by health care workers, schools and doctors.
- The NMWatch app in New Mexico uses GPS mapping to allow residents, emergency managers and responders to monitor up-to-date wildfire activity. It not only helps people who need to know whether to evacuate, but it alerts those with respiratory problems who might be affected by thick smoke in their neighborhood.
More state agencies that oversee health or emergency management have recognized that they need to embrace mobile technology to stay connected with citizens.
“It’s a natural progression,” said Theresa Pardo, director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, a research center that focuses on innovation in government technology. “I think these new apps are really powerful. What underlies them is a massive effort to identify and integrate in sophisticated ways data that is relevant to an individual, particularly in the event of a crisis.”
Communicating critical, life-saving information during emergencies and directing the public to services after disasters is an enormous challenge for states, said Karen Cobuluis, spokeswoman for the National Emergency Management Association, the professional association for state emergency management directors.
A Long Way to Go
While states are moving rapidly to make advances in digital technology, they still have a long way to go when it comes to overseeing their apps and mobile device projects.
In an October 2013 survey of state chief information officers, 58 percent called their state’s efforts to manage apps and mobile device projects “mostly” or “totally” fragmented and uncoordinated.
The association’s Robinson said that most states today don’t have an “enterprise-wide, well-coordinated roadmap” for investing in and deploying mobile technology. “It’s serious for the states because of the implications. There’s no shared strategic direction,” he said. “We need to address how we’re managing mobile devices.”
Robinson of NASCIO said that in many states, apps are being launched agency by agency, which creates more complexity. Plus, states often lack the in-house technical expertise to develop their own apps, so they’re forced to use outside contractors.
Global Health and Human Rights Database.
- A free online database of law from around the world relating to health and human rights.Offers an interactive, searchable, and fully indexed website of case law, national constitutions and international instruments
- Features case law and other legal documents from more than 80 countries and in 25 languages.
- Provides 500 plain-language summaries and 200 original translations of case law previously unavailable in English.
- Developed by Lawyers Collective and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, in collaboration with over 100 partners from civil society, academic, and legal practice worldwide.
- Links to Additional Resources
State of the Air 2014 | American Lung Association.
From the Web site
The State of the Air 2014 shows that the nation’s air quality worsened in 2010-2012, but remains overall much cleaner than just a decade ago.
More than 147.6 million people—47 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe, an increase from last year’s report.
Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.
Web site includes the following
- Options to
- Search air quality by zip code (for “grades”)
and state (for “report cards”)
- Compare your air
- Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution
- Key Findings
- Ozone Pollution — More than 4 in 10 people lived in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone in 2010-2012. See which cities with the worst ozone had even more unhealthy air days.
- Year-round Particle Pollution — More than 46.2 million people live in an area burdened year-round by unhealthful levels of deadly particle pollution. See which cities saw continued progress in cleaning up sources and which suffered even more pollution.
- Short-term Particle Pollution — Many cities endured more days where particle pollution spiked during this period. Fourteen percent (14%) of people in the United States live where they suffered too many days with unhealthful levels of particle pollution.
- Cleanest Cities — Only four cities made the cleanest list in all three categories, but several were among the cleanest in two.
- People at Risk — Nearly half of the people in the U.S. live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Learn more about people who face the greatest risk—probably someone you know is one of them.
- What Needs to be Done to Get Healthy Air— What do we need to do as a nation? How can you help clean up the air?
Originally posted on Research Institute for Independent Living :
The Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 should be revisited to provide Americans greater protection from toxic chemicals that diminish health and result in disability.
The House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Trade and Consumer Protections held an oversight hearing on the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). Presenters at the forum were representatives from the chemical industries, members from the General Accountability Office, researchers, policy experts and consumer advocates for effective public health policies.
There are 80,000 chemicals for which the toxic content is unknown. Thus, there are unidentified toxic chemicals in products and the environment that have not been identified and appropriately regulated, and these chemicals can adversely affect the health of Americans. In addition, there are 700 new chemicals introduced each year. Classified information masks risks to the public. If there are no data there is no risk. One of the problems that…
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English: Discount Medical Marijuana cannabis shop at 970 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the 15 May 2014 Science Daily article
The proportion of marijuana-positive drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in Colorado has increased dramatically since the commercialization of medical marijuana in the middle of 2009, according to a study. The study raises important concerns about the increase in the proportion of drivers in a fatal motor vehicle crash who were marijuana-positive since the commercialization of medical marijuana in Colorado, particularly in comparison to the 34 non-medical marijuana states.
Read the entire article here
Originally posted on Full Text Reports...:
States Opting Out of Medicaid Leave 1.1 Million Community Health Center Patients without Health Insurance
Source: George Washington University, School of Public Health
In estimated 1.1 million community health center patients are left without the benefits of health coverage simply because they live in one of 24 states that have opted out of the Medicaid expansion, a key part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new report.
The research, by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University also shows that the vast majority (71 percent) of the 1.1 million patients left behind live in just 11 southern states (AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA).
From the press release
National Prevention Week is a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. National Prevention Week 2014 is about Our Lives. Our Health. Our Future. We’ll be highlighting the important role each of us has in maintaining a healthy life and ensuring a productive future.
There are many ways to make a difference. Explore the National Prevention Week website to learn more about how you can get involved, from planning a community event to participating in the “I Choose” Project.
Learn more about National Prevention Week.
From the 15 May 2014 CDC press release
Children often the ones hurt by pool chemicals
Injuries from pool chemicals led to nearly 5,000 emergency room visits in 2012, according to a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly half of these preventable injuries were in children and teenagers and more than a third occurred at a home. Pool chemical injuries were most common during the summer swim season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and almost half occurred on weekends.
“Chemicals are added to the water in pools to stop germs from spreading. But they need to be handled and stored safely to avoid serious injuries,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program.
Residential pool owners and public pool operators can follow these simple and effective steps to prevent pool chemical injuries:
- Read and follow directions on product labels.
- Wear appropriate safety equipment, such as goggles and masks, as directed, when handling pool chemicals.
- Secure pool chemicals to protect people and animals.
- Keep young children away when handling chemicals.
- NEVER mix different pool chemicals with each other, especially chlorine products with acid.
- Pre-dissolve pool chemicals ONLY when directed by product label.
- Add pool chemical to water, NEVER water to pool chemicals.
The study analyzed data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). NEISS captures data on injuries related to consumer products from about 100 hospital emergency departments nationwide. The NEISS data can then be used to calculate national estimates.
May 19–25, 2014 is Recreational Water Illness and Injury (RWII) Prevention Week. The theme for RWII Prevention Week 2014 is Healthy and Safe Swimming: We’re in it Together. It focuses on the role of swimmers, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials in preventing drowning, pool chemical injuries, and outbreaks of illnesses.
Chlorine and bromine do not kill germs instantly; most are killed within minutes. So it is important that everyone help keep germs out of the water in the first place by not swimming when ill with diarrhea and taking kids on bathroom breaks. Protect yourself by not swallowing pool water.
For more information about healthy swimming, visit www.cdc.gov/healthyswimming.
From the 14 May 2014 press release
Most common prescription drugs among adults are those for cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol
About half of all Americans reported taking one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days during 2007-2010, and 1 in 10 took five or more, according to Health, United States, 2013, the government’s annual, comprehensive report on the nation’s health.
This is the 37th annual report prepared for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The report includes a compilation of health data from state and federal health agencies and the private sector.
This year’s report includes a special section on prescription drugs. Key findings include:
- About half of all Americans in 2007-2010 reported taking one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days. Use increased with age; 1 in 4 children took one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days compared to 9 in 10 adults aged 65 and over.
- Cardiovascular agents (used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease) and cholesterol-lowering drugs were two of the most commonly used classes of prescription drugs among adults aged 18-64 years and 65 and over in 2007-2010. Nearly 18 percent (17.7) of adults aged 18-64 took at least one cardiovascular agent in the past 30 days.
- The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among those aged 18-64 has increased more than six-fold since 1988-1994, due in part to the introduction and acceptance of statin drugs to lower cholesterol.
- Other commonly used prescription drugs among adults aged 18-64 years were analgesics to relieve pain and antidepressants.
- The prescribing of antibiotics during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39 percent between 1995-1996 and 2009-2010.
- Among adults aged 65 and over, 70.2 percent took at least one cardiovascular agent and 46.7 percent took a cholesterol-lowering drug in the past 30 days in 2007-2010. The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs in this age group has increased more than seven-fold since 1988-1994.
- Other commonly used prescription drugs among those aged 65 and older included analgesics, blood thinners and diabetes medications.
- In 2012, adults aged 18-64 years who were uninsured for all or part of the past year were more than four times as likely to report not getting needed prescription drugs due to cost as adults who were insured for the whole year (22.4 percent compared to 5.0 percent).
- The use of antidepressants among adults aged 18 and over increased more than four-fold, from 2.4 percent to 10.8 percent between 1988-1994 and 2007-2010.
- Drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics among those aged 15 and over more than tripled in the past decade, from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 1999-2000 to 6.6 in 2009-2010.
- The annual growth in spending on retail prescription drugs slowed from 14.7 percent in 2001 to 2.9 percent in 2011.
Health, United States, 2013 features 135 tables on key health measures through 2012 from a number of sources within the federal government and in the private sector. The tables cover a range of topics, including birth rates and reproductive health, life expectancy and leading causes of death, health risk behaviors, health care utilization, and insurance coverage and health expenditures.
The full report is available at www.cdc.gov/nchs