Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Press release] Carnegie Mellon Researchers Reveal How Mindfulness Training Affects Healt

meditation_350x234From the 14 February 2015 press release

Over the past decade, there have been many encouraging findings suggesting that mindfulness training can improve a broad range of mental and physical health problems. Yet, exactly how mindfulness positively impacts health is not clear.

Carnegie Mellon University’s J. David Creswell — whose cutting-edge work has shown how mindfulness meditation reduces loneliness in older adults and alleviates stress — and his graduate student Emily K. Lindsay have developed a model suggesting that mindfulness influences health via stress reduction pathways. Their work, published in “Current Directions in Psychological Science,” describes the biological pathways linking mindfulness training with reduced stress and stress-related disease outcomes.

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Could mHealth Apps Be a Reprise of the EHR? The Need For Clinician Input

From the 14 February 2014 item at The Health Care Blog

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“…. many app developers have little or no formal medical training and do not involve clinicians in the development process and may therefore be unaware of patient safety issues raised by inappropriate app content or functioning.”

Without the insights of seasoned real-world doctors and nurses, apps could end up with the same safety issues that are plaguing electronic health records, many of which were also developed with little regard to physician or nurse input.

In other words, just because it’s a “health” app doesn’t mean its necessarily so.

February 15, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Report] Incarceration’s Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America

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Among other issues, this is definitely a mental health concern. As quoted above, Serious mental illness affects men and women in jail at rates four to six times higher in the general population.

Excerpts….

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | health care, Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The high cost of free check-ups

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Bill Branson (Photographer)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Doctor_consults_with_patient_(7).jpg

From the 14 February 2014 post at The Health Care Blog

 

flying cadeuciiA predictable irony of the never-ending Affordable Care Act (ACA) debate is that the one provision that the Republicans should be attacking — free “checkups” for everyone — is one of the few provisions they aren’t attacking. Why should they attack them? Simple — checkups, on balance, are worthless. Why provide a 100 percent subsidy for a worthless good? Where is the GOP when you need it?

How worthless are checkups? Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel — one of the architects of the ACA and its “free” checkup centerpiece — recently recommended not getting them. As if “free” is not cheap enough, the ACA also pushes ubiquitous corporate wellness programs, which often pay employees to get checkups — or fine them if they don’t. This policy establishes a de facto negative price for millions of workers, making checkups the only worthless service on earth that one could get paid to utilize.

Those economics of a “negative price” trump Dr. Emanuel’s advice, and have made preventive care the fastest-growing component of employer health spending. Though hard statistics on checkups themselves are elusive, Dr. Emanuel estimates about 45-millon adult checkups are conducted each year, the equivalent of roughly 8 percent of America’s PCPs doing nothing but checkups, a curious use of their time when experts say the country could soon face a shortage of PCPs.

Shortage or not, subsidies and incentives might make economic sense if checkups improved health. However, when generally healthy adults go to the doctor for no reason, just the opposite is true: the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) supports Dr. Emanuel assertion that annual checkups for asymptomatic adults are at best worthless, saying that additional checkups are “not associated with lower rates of mortality” but “may be associated with more diagnoses and more drug treatment.”

The solution to this orgy of overscreening and overdoctoring is remarkably simple: remove the ACA provision that makes annual checkups automatically immune from deductibles and copays; if they are going to be free at all, it should only be every few years. The proposal could still allow employers to override this provision — and even to attach money (incentives and penalties) to checkups — if they are willing to summarize the above-cited clinical findings for their employees.

If the only way they can continue the subsidy is by summarizing the literature, corporate human resources departments would predictably and immediately curtail this expensive corporate medical campaign. That would free up PCP time to work with patients who actually need medical care, while reducing counterproductive and costly healthcare utilization by those who do not.

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Twitter the right prescription for sharing health research: UBC study

 

 

From the 14 February 2014 University of British Columbia press release

Using Twitter can help physicians be better prepared to answer questions from their patients, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

The study, presented today at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), finds more and more health care professionals are embracing social media. This challenges common opinion that physicians are reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon.

“Many people go online for health information, but little research has been done on who is participating in these discussions or what is being shared,” says Julie Robillard, lead author and neurology professor at UBC’s National Core for Neuroethics and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Prof. Julie Robillard

Robillard and fourth-year psychology student Emanuel Cabral spent six months monitoring conversations surrounding stem cell research related to spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease on Twitter. They found roughly 25 per cent of the tweets about spinal cord injury and 15 per cent of the tweets about Parkinson’s disease were from health care professionals.

The study found the majority of tweets were about research findings, particularly the ones perceived as medical breakthroughs. The most shared content were links to research reports……

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Smartphone apps just as accurate as wearable devices for tracking physical activity

English: Image of an HTC Touch2 smartphone, al...

English: Image of an HTC Touch2 smartphone, also known as the HTC MEGA or HTC T3333. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smartphone apps just as accurate as wearable devices for tracking physical activity 

From the 11 February 2015 Penn State press release

JAMA Paper Among the First to Compare Smartphone App vs. Wearable Device Accuracy

PHILADELPHIA — Although wearable devices have received significant attention for their ability to track an individual’s physical activity, most smartphone applications are just as accurate, according to a new research letter in JAMA. The study tested 10 of the top-selling smartphone apps and devices in the United States by having 14 participants walk on a treadmill for 500 and 1,500 steps, each twice (for a total of 56 trials), and then recording their step counts. Led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, this study is a follow-up to a recent JAMA viewpoint suggesting that there’s little evidence that wearable devices alone can change behavior and improve health for those that need it mos

“Since step counts are such an important part of how these devices and apps measure physical activity, including calculating distance or calories burned, their accuracy is key,” said senior author Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS, assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at Penn and an attending physician at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. “Compared to the one to two percent of adults in the U.S. that own a wearable device, more than 65 percent of adults carry a smartphone. Our findings suggest that smartphone apps could prove to be a more widely accessible and affordable way of tracking health behaviors.”

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known

Antibiotics significantly kill intestinal epithelium, the site of nutrient absorption,  a part of our immune system and a place where other biological functions maintain human health.

Unwanted impact of antibiotics broader, more complex than previously known 

From the 10 February 2015 Oregon State University press release

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that antibiotics have an impact on the microorganisms that live in an animal’s gut that’s more broad and complex than previously known.

The findings help to better explain some of the damage these medications can do, and set the stage for new ways to study and offset those impacts.

The work was published online in the journal Gut, in research supported by Oregon State University, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon and the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers have known for some time that antibiotics can have unwanted side effects, especially in disrupting the natural and beneficial microbiota of the gastrointestinal system. But the new study helps explain in much more detail why that is happening, and also suggests that powerful, long-term antibiotic use can have even more far-reaching effects.

Scientists now suspect that antibiotic use, and especially overuse, can have unwanted effects on everything from the immune system to glucose metabolism, food absorption, obesity, stress and behavior.

The issues are rising in importance, since 40 percent of all adults and 70 percent of all children take one or more antibiotics every year, not to mention their use in billions of food animals. Although when used properly antibiotics can help treat life-threatening bacterial infections, more than 10 percent of people who receive the medications can suffer from adverse side effects.

“Prior to this most people thought antibiotics only depleted microbiota and diminished several important immune functions that take place in the gut,” Morgun said. “Actually that’s only about one-third of the picture. They also kill intestinal epithelium. Destruction of the intestinal epithelium is important because this is the site of nutrient absorption, part of our immune system and it has other biological functions that play a role in human health.”

The research also found that antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant microbes caused significant changes in mitochondrial function, which in turn can lead to more epithelial cell death. That antibiotics have special impacts on the mitochondria of cells is both important and interesting, said Morgun, who was a co-leader of this study with Dr. Natalia Shulzhenko, a researcher in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine who has an M.D. from Kharkiv Medical University.

Mitochondria plays a major role in cell signaling, growth and energy production, and for good health they need to function properly.

But the relationship of antibiotics to mitochondria may go back a long way. In evolution, mitochondria descended from bacteria, which were some of the earliest life forms, and different bacteria competed with each other for survival. That an antibiotic would still selectively attack the portion of a cell that most closely resembles bacteria may be a throwback to that ingrained sense of competition and the very evolution of life.

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Digestive dysfunction is near the top of the list, with antibiotic use linked to such issues as diarrhea and ulcerative colitis. But new research is also finding links to obesity, food absorption, depression, immune function, sepsis, allergies and asthma.

This research also developed a new bioinformatics approach named “transkingdom network interrogation” to studying microbiota, which could help further speed the study of any alterations of host microbiota interactions and antibiotic impact. This could aid the search for new probiotics to help offset antibiotic effects, and conceivably lead to systems that would diagnose a person’s microbiome, identify deficiencies and then address them in a precise and individual way.

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Large numbers of teenage girls experience sexual coercion in relationships | EurekAlert! Science News

Large numbers of teenage girls experience sexual coercion in relationships 

Generic image of a teenage girl

From the 11 February 2015 from Bristol University

More than four in ten teenage schoolgirls in England* have experienced sexual coercion, new research by University of Bristol academics launched today [11 February] reveals. Most were pressured to have sex or other sexual activity, and in some cases, this included rape. And many of the 13-17-year-olds had also suffered physical attacks, intimidation or emotional abuse from their boyfriends.

The study also found that a high proportion of teenage boys regularly viewed pornography and one in five harboured extremely negative attitudes towards women.

The research in England was undertaken between 2013-2015 by a team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire. The study, was also carried out in Norway, Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus as well as England.  It is one of the biggest of its kind ever undertaken in Europe, involving a school-based survey of 4,500 children and 100 interviews with young people

 

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[BBC News article] Row over sugar firms’ links to scientists

From the 12 February 2015 article

Sugar
Are scientists in the palms of the sugar industry?

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A row has erupted about links between the sugar industry and scientists who advise government on obesity.

Campaigners argue the scientists are so heavily influenced by companies that Dracula is now “in charge of the blood bank”.

The scientists concerned say it is wrong to assume they are biased and critics should “learn proper science”.

Public Health England said it welcomed industry “listening to our best scientists”.

The argument was sparked by a report on the issue in the British Medical Journal.

It claims Prof Susan Jebb – the government’s obesity tsar, a University of Oxford academic and an expert in a recent three-part BBC documentary series on obesity – has attracted more than £1.3m of industry funding.

This includes money from Coca-Cola, Unilever and Cereal Partners.

The article says members of a government advisory panel – the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) – are supported by companies such as PepsiCo, Mars and Nestle.

It also claims that of the 40 scientists affiliated with SACN between 2001 and 2012, just 13 had no connections to the sugar industry.

BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee said the investigation showed there was a “network of relationships between key public health experts and the sugar industry”.

She said “these sorts of links create bias” and “weaken public health efforts to tackle the harmful effects of sugar on the diet”

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[ Press release] Gator blood contains naturally strong germ fighters, new GMU research finds

Gator blood contains naturally strong germ fighters, new GMU research finds 

From the 11 February 2015 article at George Mason University

Sophisticated germ fighters found in alligator blood may help future soldiers in the field fend off infection, according to new research by George Mason University.

The study, published Feb. 11 in the scientific journal PLOS One, is the result of a fundamental research projectsupported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to find bacterial infection-defeating compounds in the blood of the crocodilian family of reptiles, which includes American alligators.

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Mason professor Barney Bishop with Fluffy, an American alligator. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

The project is about to start its fourth year and has received $6 million in funding to date from DTRA. If fully funded over five years, the project will be worth $7.57 million.

Alligators live in bacteria-filled environments and dine on carrion. Yet this ancient reptile rarely falls ill.

“If you look at nature, sometimes we can find pre-selected molecules to study,” says study co-author Monique van Hoek. “I was surprised to find peptides that were as effective as they are in fighting bacteria. I was really impressed.”


February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[ Press release] Does illness make people lonely?

Does illness make people lonely? 

From the 11 February 2015 Concordia University press release

Concordia University study has discovered a new link between chronic disease and social isolation

Montreal, February 11, 2015 — Difficult circumstances often bring people closer together. But a new Concordia study published in Health Psychology has found that the onset of chronic illness often results in sufferers feeling lonelier — even for those who have had a steady partner for 50 years or more.

Researchers at the Personality, Aging, and Health Lab at Concordia took on the study because they found that, while plenty of research examined the effect of loneliness on illness, there was a lack of empirical evidence about whether or not illness contributes to loneliness.

“We were surprised by the amount of literature that examined whether people who are lonely are more likely to get sick,” says Meaghan Barlow, the study’s first author. “Yet none of them asked the opposite question: ‘Do sick people get lonely?’”

The new study reveals that they often do when they advance in age, and that it happens regardless of being in a long-term relationship when faced with a bleak diagnosis. “The quality of our social ties plays a role when it comes to coping with the effects of serious disease in later life. And just having a partner around may not be enough,” Barlow says.

“Putting a halt to socializing only contributes to a downward spiral,” Barlow says. “Dealing with a chronic illness shouldn’t prevent you from still trying to get out there if you can.”

Naturally, the challenge for society is to help an aging population find motivation to stay engaged, which means recognizing that the psychological side effects of disease can be offset with an increase in inspiring activity.

“The fact that loneliness can lead to further complications means that measures can be taken to prevent the effects from looping back around,” Barlow says. “Finding different ways to connect with other people also means you are less likely to blame yourself for being sick, and you can’t count on a partner to fill that gap.”

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February 15, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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