Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Friends May Be Key to Churchgoers’ Happiness

From the December 7 Health Day news item

Spiritual aspects less significant for life satisfaction, survey finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) — Regular churchgoers may lead more satisfying lives than stay-at-home folks because they create a network of close friends who provide important support, a new study suggests.

Conducted at the University of Wisconsin, the researchers found that 28 percent of people who attend church weekly say they are “extremely satisfied” with life as opposed to only 20 percent who never attend services. But the satisfaction comes from participating in a religious congregation along with close friends, rather than a spiritual experience, the study found.

Regular churchgoers who have no close friends in their congregations are no more likely to be very satisfied with their lives than those who never attend church, according to the research.

Study co-author Chaeyoon Lim said it’s long been recognized that churchgoers report more satisfaction with their lives. But, “scholars have been debating the reason,” he said.

“Do happier people go to church? Or does going to church make people happier?” asked Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

This study, published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, appears to show that going to church makes people more satisfied with life because of the close friendships established there.

Feeling close to God, prayer, reading scripture and other religious rituals were not associated with a prediction of greater satisfaction with life. Instead, in combination with a strong religious identity, the more friends at church that participants reported, the greater the likelihood they felt strong satisfaction with life……


In addition to church attendance, respondents were asked how many close friends they had in and outside of their congregations, and questions about their health, education, income, work and whether their religious identity was very important to their “sense of self.”

Respondents who said they experienced “God’s presence” were no more likely to report feeling greater satisfaction with their lives than those who did not. Only the number of close friends in their congregations and having a strong religious identity predicted feeling extremely satisfied with life.

One reason may be that “friends who attend religious services together give religious identity a sense of reality,” the authors said.

The study drew a skeptical response from one expert.

“Some of their conclusions are a little shaky,” said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The study showed that religious identity is just as important as how many friends a person has in their congregation, said Koenig, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the university.

The way the data was analyzed ensured that the spiritual factors (prayer, feeling God’s love, etc.) would not be significant because people with a strong religious identity were controlled for, or not included in the analysis, according to Koenig.

“Religious identity is what is driving all these other factors,” said Koenig. Social involvement is important, “but so is faith.”

Lim said the data show that only the number of close friends at church correlates with higher satisfaction with life. The study acknowledged the importance of religious identity, as well as number of friends, suggesting that the two factors reinforce each other.

“Social networks forged in congregations and strong religious identities are the key variables that mediate the positive connection between religion and life satisfaction,” the study concluded.

Lim said he wanted to examine whether social networks in organizations such as Rotary Clubs, the Masons or other civic volunteer groups could have a similar impact, but it might be difficult.

“It’s hard to imagine any other organization that engages as many people as religion, and that has similar shared identity and social activities,” said Lim. “It’s not easy to think of anything that’s equivalent to that.”


December 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spider Bites

From the Mayo Clinic patient handout
Spider bites are uncommon. Often, people mistake a skin infection or a bite by another insect as a spider bite.

Only a few spiders have fangs strong enough to pierce your skin and enough venom to cause a reaction. In the U.S., these include the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Even these types of spiders tend to bite only when threatened.

Spider bites are rarely lethal. Treating the site of the spider bite is generally all that’s necessary. In a few cases, symptoms may be severe and widespread enough to require antivenom treatment and hospitalization.

Typically, a spider bite looks like any other bug bite — a red, inflamed, sometimes itchy or painful bump on your skin — and may even go unnoticed. Harmless spider bites usually don’t produce other symptoms.

Symptoms of a black widow spider bite
Symptoms of a black widow spider bite depend on the area of the body bitten, how much venom was introduced and how sensitive you are to the venom. The venom can travel through your bloodstream and affect your nervous system, causing varying degrees of pain. Typical signs and symptoms include:

Mild stinging sensation when bitten (or no pain at all)
Slight swelling around one or two small bite marks
Dull, numbing pain progressing from the bite site to your abdomen and back (usually within an hour of being bitten)
Severe cramping or rigidity in your abdominal muscles
Other systemic signs and symptoms — ones that affect the whole body — that sometimes occur include:

Generalized, severe pain in your muscles and joints, abdomen or back
Nausea and vomiting
Profuse sweating
Restlessness and anxiety
Increased blood pressure
Difficulty breathing
Facial swelling
Pain usually persists for the first eight to 12 hours. Signs and symptoms diminish and go away after several days, although you may still feel weak and experience residual spasms and restlessness for next few weeks or months.

Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite
Usual signs and symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include:

Mild burning or stinging sensation when bitten (or no pain at all)
Redness and slight swelling around two small bite marks
Increasing pain over the next two to eight hours, which may become severe
Over the course of several days, other less common signs and symptoms may appear:

Formation of a dusky red or blue (blood-filled) blister at the bite site, which then ruptures and sloughs off to leave a deep, enlarging ulcer (necrosis).
General feeling of illness
Nausea and vomiting
Body aches
When to see a doctor
A bug bite isn’t usually a reason to see your doctor, especially since it’s often hard to determine if the bite was from a spider and what kind of spider. But if you believe you’ve been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider, or you start to experience severe pain or cramping in your abdomen or back after a spider bite, see your doctor promptly…….

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Health and Well Being: Video Now Available

From the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

This 12 minute video is an educational tool that features tai chi and qi gong as activities to enhance wellness. You can also download this video to your computer or portable media player.

Segments include introduction, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and cool down

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

The NCCAM Web site includes research-based information on treatments and conditions for both health care professionals and the rest of us.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study suggests cranberry juice not effective against urinary tract infections

From a December 8 2010 Eureka news alert

Drinking cranberry juice has been recommended to decrease the incidence of urinary tract infections, based on observational studies and a few small clinical trials. However, a new study published in the Jan. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases suggests otherwise.

College-aged women who tested positive for having a urinary tract infection were assigned to drink eight ounces of cranberry juice or a placebo twice a day for either six months or until a recurrence of a urinary tract infection, whichever happened first. Of the participants who suffered a second urinary tract infection, the cranberry juice drinkers had a recurrence rate of almost 20 percent, while those who drank the placebo suffered only a 14 percent recurrence.

“We assumed that we would observe a 30 percent recurrence rate among the placebo group. It is possible that the placebo juice inadvertently contained the active ingredients that reduce urinary tract infection risk, since both juices contained Vitamin C,” explained study author Betsy Foxman, PhD, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. She added, “Another possibility is that the study protocol kept participants better hydrated, leading them to urinate more frequently, therefore decreasing bacterial growth and reducing urinary tract infection symptoms.”



Founded in 1979, Clinical Infectious Diseases publishes clinical articles twice monthly in a variety of areas of infectious disease, and is one of the most highly regarded journals in this specialty. It is published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Arlington, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing more than 9,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit


December 11, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

Connecting Youth to Quality Health Information

From a December 10th US Public Health Partners listserv item

Connecting Youth to Quality Health Information is an interactive lesson plan for school health personnel, educators, and librarians that aims to increase high school students’ capabilities to access and evaluate quality health information on the Internet.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hospital admissions due to dog bites increases by 86%

From a US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Statistical Brief, Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008

The number of people admitted to the hospital because of dog bites increased by 86 percent – from 5,100 to 9,500 hospital stays – between 1993 and 2008.  Treating patients admitted for dog bites cost hospitals an average of $18,200 per patient and $54 million overall.

This report include tables and color charts with variables as insurance coverage, age of dog bite victims, principle diagnoses, and related procedures.

An overview of the  US Health Care Cost and Utilization Project(H-CUP) (from their Fact Sheet)

BackgroundThe Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) is a family of health care databases and related software tools developed through a Federal-State-Industry partnership to build a multi-State health data system for health care research and decisionmaking.

HCUP is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) as part of its mission to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of the Nation’s health care system. This fact sheet summarizes current HCUP resources.

DatabasesHCUP databases contain a core set of clinical and nonclinical information found in a typical discharge abstract including all-listed diagnoses and procedures, discharge status, patient demographics, and charges for all patients, regardless of payer (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, uninsured). The information is translated into a uniform format to facilitate both multi-State and national-State comparisons and analyses.

Further details, future updates, and links to all HCUP databases are available at:

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment


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