Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Overmedicating Foster Kids: The Cost of Skimping on Care

Overmedicating Foster Kids: The Cost of Skimping on Care

Overdrugged foster kids is the price we pay for taking care of at-risk children on the cheap

Excerpt from the Time Ideas article of December 2, 2011

The statistics that came out of this week’s GAO report on psychotropic drug use among American foster children were bone-chilling: In 2008, children in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas who’d been removed from their parents and placed in the care of state child welfare agencies were being prescribed psychiatric drugs at rates 2.7 to 4.5 times as high as non-foster care children on Medicaid. Thousands of children were taking medications at doses that exceeded FDA-approved maximum levels. Hundreds of foster children were taking more than five medications at once and some were taking up to ten drugs simultaneously. Even some infants were being prescribed psychiatric medications.

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December 2, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Could Social Media Be Used to Detect Disease Outbreaks?

From the 1 November 2011 Science Daily article

New research has looked at whether social media could be used to track an event or phenomenon, such as flu outbreaks and rainfall rates. The study by academics at the University of Bristol‘s Intelligent Systems Laboratory is published online in ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology.

Social networks, such as Facebook and microblogging services like Twitter, have only been around for a short time but in that time they have provided shapshots of real life by forming, electronically, public expression and interaction.

The research by Professor Nello Cristianini and Vasileios Lampos in the University’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory, geo-tagged user posts on the microblogging service of Twitter as their input data to investigate two case studies.

The first case study looked at levels of rainfall in a given location and time using the content of tweets. The second case study collected regional flu-like illness rates from tweets to find out if an epidemic was emerging.

The study builds on previous research that reported a methodology that used tweets to track flu-like illness rates in several UK regions. The research also demonstrated a tool, the Flu Detector, which uses the content of Twitter to map current flu rates in several UK regions.

Professor Nello Cristianini, speaking about the research, said: “Twitter, in particular, encouraged their 200 million users worldwide to make their posts, commonly known as tweets, publicly available as well as tagged with the user’s location. This has led to a new wave of experimentation and research using an independent stream of information.

“Our research has demonstrated a method, by using the content of Twitter, to track an event, when it occurs and the scale of it. We were able to turn geo-tagged user posts on the microblogging service of Twitter to topic-specific geolocated signals by selecting textual features that showed the content and understanding of the text.”…

Read the entire article

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Global Peace Index 2011 « Vision of Humanity

Global Peace Index 2011 

From the Main Web Page


  • The world is less peaceful for the third straight year
  • Due to an increased threat of terrorist attacks in 29 nations
  • A greater likelihood of violent demonstrations in 33 countries
  • Arab Spring unrest heralds biggest ever change in rankings, Libya tumbles 83 spots
  • Iceland bounces back from economic woes to top ranking
  • Somalia displaces Iraq as world’s least peaceful nation
  • Violence cost the global economy more than $8.12 trillion in 2010
  • US peacefulness shows minimal change

See the results and interactive map

About the Global Peace Index (GPI)
The GPI, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. It gauges ongoing domestic and international conflict, safety and security in society, and militarisation in 153 countries by taking into account 23 separate indicators.
See the Downloads section to the right to download the full GPI Report, Fact Sheet, Discussion paper and other materials.


Impact of Arab Spring Unrest
The 2011 Index dramatically reflects the impact on national rankings of the Arab Spring.Libya (143) saw the most significant drop – falling 83 places; Bahrain (123) dropped by 51 places – the second largest margin; while Egypt (73) dropped 24 places.

Index influenced by internal conflict & not warfare between countries
The fall in peacefulness in this year’s Index is strongly tied to conflict between citizens and their governments rather than conflicts with other nations.

Threat of Terrorism Climbs
Despite the decade long War on Terror, the likelihood of terrorist attacks has increased in the past year in 29 countries.

Spend on Weapons falls
While the overall level of peacefulness was down, this year’s data did show increased peacefulness in some areas – most notably levels of military expenditure as a % of GDP and relations between neighbouring states.

See the results and interactive map

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The Nightmare before Vaccines by Kim Rendfeld

The Nightmare before Vaccines « Kim Rendfeld.

Excerpt from the 30 December blog – Kim Rendfeld~ Outtakes from a Historical Novelist

 am baffled whenever I hear news stories about parents refusing to get their kids vaccinated. With no scientific proof that vaccines cause autism, such a practice can only be called insanity.

Perhaps more people should write a novel set in the Middle Ages or at least do the research of an era before vaccines made smallpox, polio, and diphtheria relics of the past in the West and fodder for a historical novelist to set time and place.

Studies of a couple of medieval cemeteries cited by Julia M.H. Smith inEurope After Rome provide chilling statistics, even to a writer who has accepted the fact that most medieval people died young.

A sixth-century cemetery in Cannington in southwest Britain reveals that 15 percent of babies did not survive their first year, and 64 percent of the population died before the age of 18. Yes. That’s two-thirds.///

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

The State of Quality Improvement Science in Health

The State of Quality Improvement Science in Health

What Do We Know About How to Provide Better Care?

By: Devers KJ

In: Quick Strike Series

Publisher: Urban Institute

Published: November 2011

“The well-documented problem of quality, the Affordable Care Act’s numerous quality provisions, and economic realities for public and private payers have increased pressure on providers to improve health care quality. This paper reviews the evolution of QI initiatives, the current evidence about whether QI interventions work, QI’s promise for the future, and how to help it find success in health care.

The paper makes recommendations for enhancing QI efforts in health care, including providing stronger incentives for health care providers and organizations to prioritize quality; improving education, training, and technical assistance for providers; leveraging electronic health records or other health information technology that can support QI efforts; and increasing collaboration between federal agencies, foundations, private purchasers, professional associations, and industry groups.”

December 2, 2011 Posted by | health care, Public Health | , | Leave a comment

Public Health Investments Pay Off

Public Health Investments Pay Off 

From the December 1, 2011 Health Care for All blog item

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released a policy brief summarizing four groundbreaking research studies that confirm what we already know: sustained, dedicated, adequate funding for community-based prevention will pay off right away, and even more for the long run.

Key findings from the brief highlight the successes of proven, community-based prevention programs:

  • A July 2011 study published in Health Affairs found that increased spending by local public health departments can save lives currently lost to preventable illnesses.
  • A 2011 Urban Institute study concluded that it is in the nation’s best interest from both a health and economic standpoint to maintain funding for evidence-based, public health programs that save lives and bring down costs.
  • A May 2011 study published in Health Affairs showed that a combination of three strategies – expanding health insurance coverage, delivering better preventive and chronic care, and focusing on a prevention strategy to enable healthier behavior and safer environments – is more effective at saving lives and money than implementing any one of these strategies alone.
  • In 2008, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report showing that an investment of $10 per person annually in proven, community-based public health programs could save the United States more than $16 billion within five years – a $5.60 return for every $1 invested.

The recommendations stemming from these studies all say essentially the same thing: sustained investments in public health are imperative to improving health outcomes and reducing medical costs.

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two out of Three Medical Students Do Not Know When to Wash Their Hands

From an article in ScienceDaily (Dec. 1, 2011) —

Only 21 percent of surveyed medical students could identify five true and two false indications of when and when not to wash their hands in the clinical setting, according to a study published in the December issue of theAmerican Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of APIC — the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Three researchers from the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hospital Epidemiology at Hannover Medical School in Hannover, Germany collected surveys from 85 medical students in their third year of study during a lecture class that all students must pass before bedside training and contact with patients commences. Students were given seven scenarios, of which five (“before contact to a patient,” “before preparation of intravenous fluids,” “after removal of gloves,” “after contact to the patient’s bed,” and “after contact to vomit”) were correct hand hygiene (HH) indications. Only 33 percent of the students correctly identified all five true indications, and only 21 percent correctly identified all true and false indications.

Additionally, the students expected that their own HH compliance would be “good” while that of nurses would be lower, despite other published data that show a significantly higher rate of HH compliance among nursing students than among medical students. The surveyed students further believed that HH compliance rates would be inversely proportional to the level of training and career attainment of the physician, which confirms a previously discovered bias among medical students that is of particular concern, as these higher-level physicians are often the ones training the medical students at the bedside…..

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

Age-old remedies using white tea, witch hazel and rose may be beneficial

Researcher Tamsyn Thring at work in the laboratories at Kingston University London. (Credit: Image courtesy of Kingston University)

From the Science Daily article of Thu Dec 1, 2011 

Age-old remedies could hold the key to treating a wide range of serious medical problems, as well as keeping skin firmer and less wrinkled, according to scientists. Experts have discovered that white tea, witch hazel and the simple rose hold potential health and beauty properties which could be simply too good to ignore.

The research suggests a number of naturally-occurring substances may offer the hope of new treatments to block the progression of inflammation. It is credited with a major role in both the initiation and development of diseases ranging from cancer, diabetes and arthritis through to neuro-degenerative conditions and cardiovascular and pulmonary problems.

“For thousands of years people used natural remedies to try — and sometimes succeed — in curing their ailments and preserving their youth,” Professor Declan Naughton, from the University’s School of Life Sciences, said. “Now the latest research we have carried out suggests a number of naturally-occurring substances may offer the hope of new treatments to block the progression of inflammation.”….

….The new study builds on work undertaken by Professor Naughton and Kingston University PhD student Tamsyn Thring, along with the technical team from Neal’s Yard. They tested 21 plant extracts for evidence of their efficiency in fighting cancer and also in the battle against aging. Of the 21 extracts, three — white tea, witch hazel and rose — showed considerable potential, with white tea displaying the most marked results. “Indeed it appeared that drinking a simple cup of white tea might well help reduce an individual’s risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or even just age-associated wrinkles,” Professor Naughton said.

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Probiotics reduce infections for patients in intensive care, study finds

 Probiotics reduce infections for patients in intensive care, study finds

From the Science Daily article of Thu Dec 1, 2011

Traumatic brain injury is associated with a profound suppression of the patient’s ability to fight infection. At the same time the patient also often suffers hyper-inflammation, due to the brain releasing glucocorticoids. New research shows that including probiotics with nutrients, supplied via the patient’s feeding tube, increased interferon levels, reduced the number of infections, and even reduced the amount of time patients spent in intensive care.

December 2, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment


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