Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Grasping and even celebrating uncertainty ( How Journalists Can Aid Critical Thinking in Healthcare Decisions) With Resources By Yours Truly

As you regular followers of this blog realize, I champion critical thinking and hope at least some of these blog posts have fostered this approach to selecting what is best for one’s health.
Many of my posts caution against quick fixes, be it fad diets, supplement dependence, or use of potentially harmful complementary medicine substances. To be fair, I have also posted items questioning “Western medicine” practices as when robotic surgery is appropriate.

Gary Schwitzer at has posted yet another item on how journalists can help us all in healthcare decisions..

Marya Zilberberg posted, “Fast science: No time for uncertainty.”  Excerpt:

“…my anxiety about how we do clinical science overall is not new; this blog is overrun with it. However, the new branch of that anxiety relates to something I have termed “fast science.” Like fast food it fills us up, but the calories are at best empty and at worst detrimental. What I mean is that science is a process more than it is a result, and this process cannot and should not be microwaved….

So, let’s celebrate uncertainty. Let’s take time to question, answer and question again. Slow down, take a deep breath, cook a slow meal and think.”

That’s similar to how I ended my talk at the University of Wisconsin’s event, “Science Writing in the Age of Denial” this week.  I said that:

“Journalists could help people grasp uncertainty and help them apply critical thinking to health care decision-making issues…rather than promote false certainty, shibboleths and non-evidence-based, cheerleading advocacy.”

Related Resources (from my Health/Medical  News & Resources Web site)
  • The Penn State Medical Center Library has a great guide to evaluate health information on the Internet.

    The tips include

    • Remember, anyone can publish information on the internet!
    • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
      If the Web site is primarily about selling a product, the information may be worth checking from another source.
    • Look for who is publishing the information and their education, credentials, and if they are connected with a trusted coporation, university or agency.
    • Check to see how current the information is.
    • Check for accuracy. Does the Web site refer to specific studies or organizations?
  • The Family Caregiver Alliance has a Web page entitled Evaluating Medical Research Findings and Clinical Trials

Topics include

    • General Guidelines for Evaluating Medical Research
    • Getting Information from the Web
    • Talking with your Health Care Provider

And a Rumor Control site of Note (in addition to Quackwatch)

National Council Against Health Fraud

National Council Against Health Fraud is a nonprofit health agency fousing on health misinformation, fruad, and quackery as public health problems. Links to publications, position papers and more.

May 1, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health Education (General Public) | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why are Fewer Moms Applying for Safety Net Program? (and what may be labelled as a rant)

The best measure of a country carries out its responsibilities  is how it uplifts its most vulnerable.
On a related note..I am currently volunteering at the Area Office on Aging, making call backs to folks who indicated an interest in Medicare’s “Extra Help” Prescription Drug Program. Not only is this program not well publicized, but it is a bit on the burdensome side to apply. Yes, it can be argued that we Americans are overmedicated. However, why must it be so burdensome to apply?
And (in my limited exposure to Job and Family Services & a government sponsored employment center)…why are the poor and marginalized so often told they are not trying hard enough and that they are deficient? and that if they only had enough will power and focus they will be successful?
On another note, a 60 minute segment this past Sunday focused on a research scientist who believes addiction is basically chemically based . Brain receptors over time deteriorate so much that one no longer can exercise free will to a degree to overcome their addiction. They cannot will their way out. So, do we give them less or no service because it is their own fault?
What is the humane, compassionate response to those who are not getting basic needs met?  Is it fault based? If we assist, are we enabling? If a person cannot be rehabilitated, do we just give up? How do we live out our beliefs, be it Torah based, Bible based, Quor’an based,  any religion based, secular human based, or other.

I am wondering, just where are we headed.  US government entities justify torture, drone attacks based on possibilities, and also ever increasing surveillance. All in the name of peace and security! In my humble opinion, true peace and security will only come about when we, as people of the earth decide to serve instead of dominate. Share  instead of amass. Learn and collaborate instead of dictate.
Ah, I can dream, can I not? Yet, I still have hope, and hopefully love….as the song goes… Without Love, Where Would We All Be Now?

(If any of you, dear readers agree, disagree, or question any of this, please comment, I will post all comments that are civil!


Oh, here’s an excerpt from the article

…Some advocates worry that needy mothers aren’t bothering to enroll in WIC or are dropping out of it because food stamps are easier to get and easier to use. Food stamps are now provided on an unobtrusive debit-like card, whereas states have until 2020 to provide WIC benefits that way. In many states, WIC benefits are still given as vouchers.

WIC applicants also have different hurdles to clear before they can get their benefits. For example, they must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist who determines whether the individual is at nutrition risk.  Sometimes the applicant must go to a WIC clinic for a free examination; in other cases the information is obtained from the family’s own doctor.

When the recession hit, there was a coordinated government effort to sign people up for food stamps, but that didn’t happen with WIC. “In some cases, outreach wasn’t a priority,” says Geri Henchy of the Food Research and Action Center, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps more important, food stamp benefits can be more generous, especially lately thanks to the federal stimulus package of 2009. In that law, Congress raised the maximum food stamp benefit for households with three members, for example, to $526 a month, from $463, and it will stay at that level until 2014. The average American on food stamps today gets $134 per person a month. The average monthly WIC is $47. Benefits for infants under WIC are better: typically $100 for the infant and $50 for the mother.

“A mother has to make a decision whether it’s worth it,” says Henchy. “In some places, it’s a hassle to sign up,” particularly in some offices that have cut hours because of state budget cuts and furloughs.

 Idaho an example

Idaho is among the states with the biggest drop in WIC participation, nearly a 5 percent decline in the last year. Tom Shanahan, a spokesman for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, attributes the drop to both the declining birth rate and a declining schedule of benefits as children get older. In Idaho, the WIC food package for a formula-fed infant averages $140 per month, while a package for an older child is much lower, averaging $52.50 per month. Similar numbers apply in other states as well.

Additional paperwork also may play a role in mothers dropping out of WIC. Benefits for infants are good until the child turns 1 year old, but children over the age of 1 must be certified every six months.

   moral outrage need not be accompanied by legal punishment. “Maybe human beings have not evolved enough to hold the complex idea that many things can be true at the same time…” 

May 1, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , | 2 Comments

[Infographic] Staying Healthy on Campus

From the Web page at BestColleges Online

(Disclaimer: posting here is not an endorsement of the company Best Colleges Online.
This infographic is overall well done  and deserves to be passed along.
Just one quibble, sources could have been linked to the specific Web pages with the derived information
I contacted the authors directly with my concern
However, I am hoping the information contained is useful!)

Staying Healthy On Campus
Presented By:

May 1, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , , , | Leave a comment


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