Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Department of Health and Human Services Updates Insurance Finder

Take health care into your own hands


From the press release Insurance Finder Gets Better for Consumers

On Monday, November 15, 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services updated the Insurance Finder with more information on private insurance plans.

Created under the Affordable Care Act, was launched July 1, 2010, and is the first website of its kind to bring information about private and public health coverage options into one place to make it easy for consumers to learn about and compare their insurance choices. and its Insurance Finder are critical new tools for consumers, making the health insurance market more transparent than it has ever been.

On October 1, the Insurance Finder added price estimates for private insurance policies for individuals and families, allowing consumers to easily compare health insurance plans – putting consumers, not their insurance companies, in charge and taking much of the guesswork and confusion out of buying insurance.

Insurance companies are also required to include two notable metrics never before made public:

  • The percentage of people who applied for insurance and were denied coverage.
  • The percentage of applicants who were charged higher premiums because of their health status.

Significant Increase in Options for Consumers to Compare & in Number of Health Insurance Companies in Finder

Today’s update represents a significant increase in the number of private insurance plans and the number of issuers represented:

  • On October 1, there were 4,400 plans for individuals and families listed in the Finder, and today’s update brings that number to over 8,500.
  • On October 1, there were 230 health insurance companies the individual and family market represented in the Insurance Finder, and today’s update brings the number of health insurance companies in the Finder to 299.

This update to further enhances the ability of Americans to find health care coverage that meets their needs and get the best value for their money.  And it represents a significant expansion in the transparency that is bringing to the insurance marketplace – transparency that leads to more competition between insurers and better value for consumers.

Posted: November 15, 2010

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

DNA barcoding reveals fraud and secrets

The Barcoding Pipeline

Quack medicines, insect immigrants, and what eats what among secrets revealed by DNA barcodes

Global ‘barcode blitz’ accelerates; 450 experts converge on Adelaide Nov. 28-Dec. 3
Agenda in Adelaide:

This is the cover of the report: “Barcoding Life Highlights 2011.”


From the Eureka News Alert, Sun Nov 27, 2011 00:00 

(Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL)) The newfound scientific power to quickly “fingerprint” species via DNA is being deployed to unmask quack herbal medicines, reveal types of ancient Arctic life frozen in permafrost, expose what eats what in nature, and halt agricultural and forestry pests at borders, among other applications across a wide array of public interests….
DNA barcode technology has already sparked US Congressional hearings by exposing widespread “fish fraud” — mislabelling cheap fish as more desirable and expensive species like tuna or snapper. Other studies this year revealed unlisted ingredients in herbal tea bags…..

Hot new applications include:

Substitute ingredients in herbal medicines

High demand is causing regular “adulteration or substitution of herbal drugs,” barcoding experts have discovered.

Indeed, notes Malaysian researcher Muhammad Sharir Abdul Rahman, one fraudster in his country treated rubber tree wood with quinine to give it a bitter taste similar to Eurycoma longifolia — a traditional medicine for malaria, diabetes and other ailments.

A library of DNA barcodes for Malaysia’s 1,200 plant species with potential medicinal value is in development, eventually offering “a quick one step detection kit” to reduce fraud in the lucrative herbal medicine industry, says Mr. Sharir….

Invasive pests

Until now, border inspection to keep agricultural pests, disease-carrying insects and invasive species from entering a country has been a hit-and-miss effort. Barcoding offers a tool to get same-day answers for accepting or rejecting imports, an issue of acute economic importance to Australia and New Zealand….

Assessing water quality

Scientists in Southern California and elsewhere are pioneering barcodes to assess freshwater marine water quality and its impact on marine life in, sand, sediment, and rocks or in mud in rivers and offshore.

Traditionally after collecting a bulk water sample, taxonomists must identify by sight several thousand invertebrates, a process requiring months and thousands of dollars. DNA barcodes enable them to analyze bulk samples in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the cost.

Similar projects underway in Korea, Iraq, Belgium and the Baltic region will be presented in Adelaide.

DNA barcoding is emerging as the tool of choice for monitoring water quality, DNA barcode libraries of aquatic insects under construction. New technologies are being developed and tested that will allow faster and more complete analyses of entire biological communities in streamwater on ‘DNA microchips’ and through next-generation sequencing.

Says Dr. Schindel: “It used to take weeks or months to analyze the organisms in streams to determine water quality. Now it takes hours at a fraction the cost.”…

Click here to see the entire medium long news release

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

States could see substantial savings with tobacco control programs

States could see substantial savings with tobacco control programs

From the Eureka News Alert, Mon Nov 28, 2011 00:00

(San Francisco State University) States that have shifted funds away from tobacco control programs may be missing out on millions of dollars of savings in the form of medical costs, Medicaid payments and lost productivity by workers. Results of a cost-benefit analysis, published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, show that if tobacco control programs are funded at the levels recommended by the CDC, states could save 14-20 times more than the cost of implementing the programs.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bacteria Present In Abundance In Public Restrooms


Figure 4. Results of SourceTracker analysis showing the average contributions of different sources to the surface-associated bacterial communities in twelve public restrooms.

The “unknown” source is not shown but would bring the total of each sample up to 100%.

From the 27 November 2011 Medical News Today article

Everyone wonders what bugs might be lurking in public bathrooms. Now researchers are using novel genetic sequencing methods to answer this question, revealing a plethora of bacteria all around, from the doors and the floors to the faucet handles and toilet seats, with potential public health implications, as reported in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Led by Gilberto Flores and Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado, Boulder, the researchers investigated 12 public restrooms, 6 male and 6 female, in Colorado. Using a high-throughput genetic sequencing technique, they identified various bacteria on all the surfaces they tested. The floor had the most diverse bacterial community, and human skin was the primary source of bacteria on all surfaces. Interestingly, there were a few differences between the bacteria found in the male versus female bathrooms.

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dangers Of Snow Shoveling


myocardial infarction - Myokardinfarkt - scheme

Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

From the 28 November 2011 Medical News Today article

Urban legend warns shoveling snow causesheart attacks, and the legend seems all too accurate, especially for male wintery excavators with a family history of premature cardiovascular disease. However, until recently this warning was based on anecdotal reports. …

Dr. Baranchuk and his team retrospectively reviewed KGH patient records from the two previous winter seasons and discovered that of the 500 patients who came to the hospital with heart problems during this period, 7 per cent (35 patients) had started experiencing symptoms while shoveling snow.

“That is a huge number,” says Dr. Baranchuk. “7 per cent of anything in medicine is a significant proportion. Also, if we take into account that we may have missed some patients who did not mention that they were shoveling snow around the time that the episode occurred, that number could easily double.”

The team also identified three main factors that put individuals at a high risk when shoveling snow. The number one factor was gender (31 of the 35 patients were male), the second was a family history of premature coronary artery disease (20 of the 35 patients), and the third was smoking (16 out of 35 patients). The second two factors may carry much more weight than the first, however, since the team could not correct for high rate of snow shoveling among men in their sample.

A history of regularly taking four or more cardiac medications was found to be preventative. 


November 28, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mobile Health Slideshow and Infographics (with related resources)

From the November 28th 2011 Science Roll blog item by Dr. Bertalan Mesko

Since around 2009, it has been quite clear that mobile phones would not only change the way we check healthcare information online, but the way we do anything online so relevant statistics and analyses are crucial in order to be able to analyze the situation and draw useful conclusions. I’ve recently come across a great presentation focusing on mobile health by Daniel Hooker, health librarian.

And Andrew Spong shared an infographics by Manhattan Research that presents the state of mobile health. 85% of people use social media for health-related reasons on mobiles. Click on the image for larger version.

Related Resources 
  • Health Apps (free and low cost) at

November 28, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Librarian Resources | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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