Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

UN Publishes Atlas Of Health And Climate

From the 28 October 2012 WHO news release

 As the world’s climate continues to change, hazards to human health are increasing. The Atlas of health and climate, published today jointly by WHO and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), illustrates some of the most pressing current and emerging challenges.

Droughts, floods and cyclones affect the health of millions of people each year. Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can also trigger epidemics of diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria, dengue and meningitis, which cause death and suffering for many millions more. The Atlas gives practical examples of how the use of weather and climate information can protect public health.

Climate risk management

“Prevention and preparedness are the heart of public health. Risk management is our daily bread and butter. Information on climate variability and climate change is a powerful scientific tool that assists us in these tasks,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Climate has a profound impact on the lives, and survival, of people. Climate services can have a profound impact on improving these lives, also through better health outcomes.”

Until now, climate services have been an underutilized resource for public health.

“Stronger cooperation between the meteorological and health communities is essential to ensure that up-to-date, accurate and relevant information on weather and climate is integrated into public health management at international, national and local levels. This Atlas is an innovative and practical example of how we can work together to serve society,” said WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud.

Links between health and climate

Numerous maps, tables and graphs assembled in the Atlas make the links between health and climate more explicit:

  • In some locations the incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, meningitis and cholera can vary by factors of more than 100 between seasons, and significantly between years, depending on weather and climate conditions. Stronger climate services in endemic countries can help predict the onset, intensity and duration of epidemics.
  • Case studies illustrate how collaboration between meteorological, emergency and health services is already saving lives. For example, the death toll from cyclones of similar intensity in Bangladesh reduced from around 500 000 in 1970, to 140 000 in 1991, to 3 000 in 2007 – largely thanks to improved early warning systems and preparedness.
  • Heat extremes that would currently be expected to occur only once in 20 years, may occur on average every 2-5 years by the middle of this century. At the same time, the number of older people living in cities (one of the most vulnerable groups to heat stress), will almost quadruple globally, from 380 million in 2010, to 1.4 billion in 2050. Cooperation between health and climate services can trigger measures to better protect people during periods of extreme weather.
  • Shifting to clean household energy sources would both reduce climate change, and save the lives of approximately 680 000 children a year from reduced air pollution. The Atlas also shows how meteorological and health services can collaborate to monitor air pollution and its health impacts.
  • In addition, the unique tool shows how the relationship between health and climate is shaped by other vulnerabilities, such as those created by poverty, environmental degradation, and poor infrastructure, especially for water and sanitation.

 

 

October 30, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s help patients with the tradeoffs in medicine

Hillary Clinton Health care elderly

Hillary Clinton Health care elderly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

mHealth and mobile heath technologies are all the rage these days. (See my previous post,The Future of Healthcare is Already at Your Fingertips [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

While mobile devices are useful in diagnosing and gathering information (as tracking devices), it is probably best to use them wisely and not let them distract you from all life has to offer.

 

 

 

From the 27 October 2012 article at Kevin MD.com

 

…we need to consider our own tradeoffs as researchers and practitioners when talking about health communication and engaging everyone in their own health. The tradeoff for aiming to engage people more and more is that we run the risk of overwhelming people.

Some of us are like e-Patient Dave: we want full access to all of our data, and, indeed, we should have it. But as someone living with chronic autoimmune illnesses and immersed in a never-ending data stream of self-tracking, monitoring, and constant, moment-to-moment tradeoffs, I acknowledge that I don’t always want to be engaged. I already spend plenty of time dealing with my health data, and sometimes, I would rather find a new hike to do with my kids this weekend than upload more data or peruse more graphs.

In short, let’s help people choose between the butter and the butter money in smart ways, and on their terms.

[Read the entire article here, “butter and butter money” is more or less the translation of a French saying…akin to having cake and eating it too]

Found this comment to be succinct and on target

 

carolynthomas • 20 hours ago

 

Merci bien, Prof Witteman. Despite BuzzKillerSmith’s odd comment here, it seems to me that you have hit upon a critically important link between reality and wishful thinking, between homeowners and your father-in-law contractor, between both patient and physician. (And if these tradeoffs were being as effectively addressed in day-to-day health care as BKS seems to believe, we wouldn’t have stent-happy cardiologists implanting all those unnecessary stents, would we now?)

Your quote “designing for the way people are, not the way we wish they were” seems especially appropriate in the discussion of health care and emerging technology. When I attended Stanford University’s ‘Medicine X’ conference last month, I was astounded by the number of young, tech-savvy “Quantified Self” proponents gushing over The Next Big Thing in health care technology – particularly all those self-tracking smartphone apps. (I shouldn’t have been astounded – we were in the epicentre of Silicon Valley, after all!) Completely missing was any insight from the health tech startups onstage that the demographic most likely to “need” this kind of technology (especially older users living with multiple chronic diseases) is clearly the group least likely to actually use it.[My emphasis] More on this at: “When The Elephant In The Room Has No Smartphone” – http://myheartsisters.org/2012…

So the tradeoffs in emerging health technology are, just as you are doing in both your career and in your diagnosis, to respect the fine line between what’s out there and what we need to do.

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future of Healthcare is Already at Your Fingertips [INFOGRAPHIC]

From the 8 August 2012 post at Mashable Lifestyle

The mobile healthcare industry has made significant strides within the healthcare provider community. Rock Health found 75% of small and medium size medical and dental offices will purchase tablets within the next year. And almost 40% of physicians use medical apps on a daily basis.

The digital healthcare field is also alleviating the costs of patientcare and increasing the scale at which doctors and nurses can help people. The healthcare industry is already strained, Ziegler says, and a shortage of primary care physicians in years to come will only exacerbate the problem. She says mobile apps can bridge that gap.

But patients have been slower to realize the impact apps could have, Ziegler says, potentially because the apps force people to take notice of their health.

“No one wants to actively track what they are always doing, so we really want to make the experience passive,” she told us, adding, they are working to make tech and apps that “provide incentives for people to manage health more efficiently.”

Consumers are also generally unaware of how quickly the space of mobile health is growing, David Tao, Chief Research Officer at Greatist, tells Mashable. He says once consumers realize the vast industry already accessible, more consumers will begin utilizing the products.

“Mobile health isn’t a replacement for healthcare, it’s a supplement,” Tao says. “These companies aren’t replacing doctors’ keen eye or experience, but the apps are just bettering communication between doctor and patient.”

Related Resources

  • Health and Wellness Information and Tracking Apps (Flahiff’s Health/Medical Resources site)
  • Health and Fitness Tracking Apps (Flahiff’s Health/Medical Resource site)
  • And these may be helpful when selecting health apps
    • How to Choose A Better Health App (by LEXANDER V. PROKHOROV, MD, PHD  at KevinMD.com on August 8, 2011) contains advice in the following areas
    • Set realistic expectations
    • Avoid apps that promise too much
    • Research the developers
    • Choose apps that use techniques you’ve heard of
    • See what other users say
    • Test apps before committing
  • iMedical apps has mobile medical app reviews and commentary by medical professionals. Most apps are about  apps geared toward professionals and are not free.
  • The iMedical app forum now includes a medical librarian corner, with some patient/consumer apps
  • Evaluating Health/Medical Information
    • 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
    • Additional Resources
    • 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.

October 30, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Key Trends in the Future of Medicine: E-Patients, Communication and Technology

English: Watson demoed by IBM employees.

English: Watson demoed by IBM employees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 25 October 2012 post at Blogroll

 

Robots replacing doctors?

I’ve given hundreds of presentations and I teach at several universities about the use of social media in everyday medicine and I always highlight the importance of 1) doctor-patient relationship in person, and 2) good communication skills for doctors, but if I try to think ahead, I have to agree with Vinod Khosla that technology can replace 80% percent of the work of doctors.

Khosla believed that patients would be better off getting diagnosed by a machine than by doctors. Creating such a system was a simple problem to solve. Google’s development of a driverless smart car was “two orders of magnitude more complex” than providing the right diagnosis.

IBM’s Watson is just the perfect example here. They have been working closelywith oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York in order to see whether Watson could be used in the decision making processes of doctors regarding cancer treatments. Watson doesn’t answer medical questions, but based on the input data, it comes up with the most relevant and potential answers and the doctor has the final call. This is an important point as it can only facilitate the work of doctors, not replacing them…

..So what should we expect to see in the next decades? I think we will see amazing developments in many areas, except medicine in which small and slow steps will mark the way towards a more transparent healthcare system in which decision trees are available for everyone, online content and social media are both curated, patients are empowered, doctors are web-savvy, and collaborative barriers are gone forever. A new world in which medical students are trained to be able to deal with the rapidly evolving technologies and e-patients.

 

A great related graphic at http://envisioningtech.com/envisioning-the-future-of-health.pdf

(WordPress was not responding when an upload was attempted)

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2012 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: