Guest post by Vinayak K. Prasad, MD, MPH, and Adam S. Cifu, MD
For doctors, it is common to have some doubt about a new medical test, procedure or drug—even one which is widely hailed as remarkable or a game changer. It is not cynicism but a healthy skepticism towards marketing over substance. Doctors want to see the evidence that a drug actually works rather than just a good story about why it should work.
Often, however, this skepticism does not last. After a few months, still without any evidence, the doctor finds herself buying in, just a little, to the hype. OK, let me just see what everyone is talking about, she thinks. She begins recommending the drug herself. She still thinks of herself as cautious and conservative—while her colleagues use the treatment widely, she thinks it has a more narrow and defined role. Probably the pill does not work for everyone, but in a select group of people.
A few more years go by, and she gets comfortable with the once-hyped treatment. She now knows how to manage its complications; she thinks she has a good sense of who it benefits; and she considers it a part of her practice.
Then, one day, she opens one of the nation’s top medical journals and discovers that the treatment she was once skeptical of, but slowly grew to accept, simply does not work. A well-done clinical trial, probably the one which should have been done before the treatment even came to market, compared the treatment to the prior therapy, and found no benefit.”
Smartphones changed the way we connect with the world: most U.S. smartphone owners check their phone at least hourly.
Essentially we are staying in constant touch with each other through our handheld devices. According to recent Gallup report, 72 percent of the respondents claim to check their smartphone at least once an hour, most of them several times. Young Americans are the most frequent smartphone checkers. 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds peek at their phone every few minutes and another 51 percent check it a few times an hour.1 Could it be due to socializing on Twitter, a powerful networking service with more than 500 million active users who generate more than 58 million tweets and 2.1 billion search queries every day?2
I think that Twitter’s concept: access to information in real time on a global scale is an important way for public health professionals to improve…
Conventional wisdom has it that the more people stay within their own social groups and avoid others, the less likely it is small disease outbreaks turn into full-blown epidemics. But the conventional wisdom is wrong, according to two SFI researchers, and the consequences could reach far beyond epidemiology.
In a paper published in the July 20 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Laurent Hébert-Dufresne and Benjamin Althouse show that when two separate diseases interact with each other, a population clustered into relatively isolated groups can lead to epidemics that spread like wildfire.
“We thought we understood how clustering works,” Hébert-Dufresne says,”but it behaves exactly opposite to what we thought once interactions are added in. Our intuition was totally wrong.”
At the heart of the new study are two effects that have had a lot of attention in recent years—social clustering and coinfection, in which one disease can change the infection dynamics of another—but haven’t been studied together. That, Hébert-Dufresne and Althouse say, turns out to be a major omission
Ordinarily, the pair say, clustering limits outbreaks. Maybe kids in one preschool get sick, for example, but since those kids don’t see kids from other preschools as often, they’re not likely to spread the disease very far. Coinfection often works the other way. Once someone is sick with, say, pneumococcal pneumonia, they’re more likely than others to come down with the flu, lowering the bar for an epidemic of both diseases.
But put the effects together, Hébert-Dufresne and Althouse discovered, and you get something that is more—and different—than the sum of its parts. While clustering works to prevent single-disease epidemics, interactions between diseases like pneumonia and the flu help keep each other going within a social group long enough that one of them can break out into other clusters, becoming a foothold for the other—or perhaps a spark in a dry forest. Both diseases, Althouse says, “can catch fire.” The end result is a larger, more rapidly developing, epidemic than would otherwise be possible.
That conclusion has immediate consequences for public health officials, whose worst-case scenarios might be different or even tame compared with the outbreaks Hébert-Dufresne and Althouse hypothesize. But there are equally important consequences for network scientists and complex systems researchers, who often think in epidemiological terms. Two ideas, for example, might interact with each other so that both spread more rapidly than they would on their own, just as diseases do.
Now that they’ve realized the importance of such interactions, “we hope to take this work in new and different directions in epidemiology, social science, and the study of dynamic networks,” Althouse says. “There’s great potential.”
More information: “Complex dynamics of synergistic coinfections on realistically clustered networks.”PNAS 2015 ; published ahead of print July 20, 2015, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1507820112
Considering that I’m not much of a social media user, I have not been paying particular attention to all the changes going on around me with the level of activity that has increased using these types of platforms. A little bit of searching on the web has changed my perspective quite a bit. Not that I didn’t believe that social media was taking flight and soaring at heights that have never been seen before, but my perspective on believing that this type of communication tool could be used to make a positive change! I first consulted Statista, a credible source of statistical data across many different disciplines, and learned that the results of a 2013 U.S. survey demonstrated that almost 85% of grocery retailers with a registered dietician on staff promote health and nutrition by using social media. Times have changed!
A little closer look at the social media platforms being used and I soon came to realize…
You have been colonized by bacteria since the day you were born. Yes, you are the breeding ground for a multitude of tiny organisms. In fact, bacteria outnumber your own cells by 10 to 1!
But before you drench yourself in hand sanitizer to get rid of these little beings, it’s important to note that not all bacteria are bad.
Some good bacteria that live in your gut actually help you digest food. Other good bacteria also live in food like yogurt and milk.
But in a world of good and evil, we do have bacteria that rather complicate our lives and cause us more harm than good.
Meet Staphylococcus aureus, a seemingly innocent-looking bacterium. S aureuslikes to live on your salty skin and in mucosal membranes like your nostrils. This bacterium isn’t always pathogenic, which means it doesn’t always cause disease; however, it can secrete a toxin called that could be the true culprit for causing illness.
These enterotoxins can be found in undercooked or mishandled food, which can cause food poisoning. Beyond causing explosive bowel movement due to a bad burrito, enterotoxins can actually be inhaled, especially if a colony of S aureus lives in your nose.
Herein lies the newest medical mystery – can S aureus enterotoxins cause some kind of respiratory damage like asthma?
Dairy is included in the picture to look like a glass of milk. Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics,” “Eat, Drink, Vote,” and other leading books on the intersection of policy and agriculture, explains that the recommendations shifted from focusing on …
MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression.
The findings, described in the June 18 issue of Nature, offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences. They also suggest new ways to treat depression by manipulating the brain cells where memories are stored. The researchers believe this kind of targeted approach could have fewer side effects than most existing antidepressant drugs, which bathe the entire brain.
“Once you identify specific sites in the memory circuit which are not functioning well, or whose boosting will bring a beneficial consequence, there is a possibility of inventing new medical technology where the improvement will be targeted to the specific part of the circuit, rather than administering a drug and letting that drug function everywhere in the brain,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and senior author of the paper.
In their new study, the researchers sought to discover if their ability to reactivate existing memories could be exploited to treat depression.
To do this, the researchers first exposed mice to a pleasurable experience. In this case, all of the mice were male and the pleasurable experience consisted of spending time with female mice. During this time, cells in the hippocampus that encode the memory engram were labeled with a light-sensitive protein that activates the neuron in response to blue light.
After the positive memory was formed, the researchers induced depression-like symptoms in the mice by exposing them to chronic stress. These mice show symptoms that mimic those of human sufferers of depression, such as giving up easily when faced with a difficult situation and failing to take pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.
However, when the mice were placed in situations designed to test for those symptoms, the researchers found that they could dramatically improve the symptoms by reactivating the neurons that stored the memory of a past enjoyable experience. Those mice began to behave just like mice that had never been depressed — but only for as long as the pleasant memory stayed activated.
From the 6 July 2015 article at San Diego Newscape
“Culture teaches us which emotional states to value, which can in turn shape the emotions we experience,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jeanne Tsai, director of the Culture and Emotion Lab on campus. Stanford psychology postdoctoral fellow Tamara Sims was the lead author on the research paper, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Sims noted that a number of studies by other researchers have shown that people from Chinese and other East Asian cultures are more likely to feel both negative and positive – or “mixed emotions” – during good events, such as doing well on an exam.
On the other hand, Americans of European descent are more likely to just feel positive during good events. Tsai said this is explained by cultural differences in models of the “self.” Americans tend to be more individualistic and focus on standing out, whereas Chinese tend to be more collectivistic, focusing on fitting in.
“In multicultural societies like ours, this can lead to deep misunderstandings,” Tsai said.
For instance, Americans might view Chinese who feel bad during good events as being depressed, when in fact they are feeling how their culture expects them to feel.
In an interview, Sims said, “Although Americans know what it’s like to look for the good in the bad – the silver lining – they are less likely to see the bad in the good, compared to Chinese.”
Still believe physicians and other health care professionals should legally be able to ask if there are guns in the household. The presence of guns in a household does factor into increased accidents and injuries. Also, patients can refuse to answer the question if they so desire.
Down in Brazos, Texas, two ER doctors made local headlines by donating a pair of Mossberg shotguns to the local County Constable office. The guns were donated in memory of Constable Brian Bachmann, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, who was killed while attempting to serve an eviction notice onan enraged individual, the latter after shooting Bachmann then shot and killed a civilian, and wounded two other police officers before being killed himself.
What caught my eye about this story was the fact that it highlighted the relationship between law enforcement and medicine when we think about violence perpetrated with guns. After all, if we use a phrase like ‘gun violence’ to cover every incident in which someone suffers an injury from a gun, then three-quarters of all violence involving guns also happen to be crimes. In 2013, hospitals treated roughly 60,000 people who were victims of shootings and treated 135,000…
Along with other functions, mainly in the formation of mother-infant bonding, the rosy glow of the “love hormone” seems to know no bounds – and its potential application for helping to cement and maintain loving relationships is clear. Its effects on facilitating social interaction have made it an appealing possible therapeutic tool in patients who struggle with social situations and communication, including in autism, schizophrenia and mood or anxiety disorders.
Even better, it is very easy to use. All the human studies on it use intranasal sprays to boost oxytocin levels. These sprays are readily available, including through the internet, and appear safe to use, at least in the short term – no one yet knows whether there is any long-term harm.
In the past few years, however, concerns expressed by some researchers have begun to rein in the enthusiasm about the potential applications of oxytocin as a therapeutic tool.
Recent studies are showing that the positive effects can be much weaker – or even detrimental – in those that need it the most. In contrast to socially competent or secure individuals, exposure can reduce cooperativeness and trust in those prone to social anxiety. It also increases inclination for violencetowards intimate partners. Although this is seen only in people who tend to be more aggressive in general, these would be the same people who might have most to gain from such a treatment, were it available.
These apparently paradoxical effects are hard to explain, particularly since the brain mechanisms responsible are still poorly understood. But a new study may help to provide the answer. A team from the University of Birmingham decided to tackle the issue by comparing studies on the effects of oxytocin with those of alcohol and were struck by the incredible similarities between the two compounds.
Alcohol and Oxytocin
Like oxytocin, alcohol can have helpful effects in social situations. It increases generosity, fosters bonding within groups and suppresses the action of neural inhibitions on social behavior, including fear, anxiety and stress.
But, of course, acute alcohol consumption also comes with significant downsides. Aside from the health implications of chronic use, it interferes with recognition of emotional facial expression, influences moral judgementsand increases risk-taking and aggression. And as with oxytocin, the increase in aggression is limited to those who have an existing disposition to it.
The researchers argue that the striking similarities in behavioral outcome tell us something about the biological mechanisms involved. Although oxytocin and alcohol target different brain receptors, activation of these receptors appear to produce analogous physiological effects. Indeed, they also note similarities with how other compounds work, including benzodiazepines, which are commonly used to treat anxiety. Our understanding of how one chemical elicits its effects might thus help us to understand the action of the others.
But, if this new interpretation is correct, it may presage further bad press for the love hormone. It may be that the darkening clouds that threaten to tarnish its reputation are only just beginning to gather. At the very least, it should give us cause for careful evaluation before we rush into using it as a remedy.
Exploring a new frontier of cyber-physical systems: The human body
[Series of videos follows, unfortunately unable to insert videos]
Simulation of electrical impulse propagation through the heart during ventricular fibrillation. Colour represents the transmembrane potential–i.e. the voltage across the cell membrane–on the surface of the heart. Yellow indicates largest potential values while dark red represents resting level. This simulation was performed by Pras Pathmanathan and Richard A. Gray at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), using the software package Chaste, together with a high-resolution anatomically-detailed computational mesh of the rabbit ventricles, and was run on FDA’s high performance computing resources in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).
Credit: Pras Pathmanathan and Richard A. Gray, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
I have followed this narrative for quite some time albeit inside the industry contained debate of whether so-called ‘non-profit’ [501(c)3] hospitals or their parent systems (really more aptly characterized as “tax exempt”) actually earn this financial advantage via material ‘returns’ to the communities they serve.
As can be expected you have the party line of the American Hospital Association (AHA) a trade group of predominantly non-profit members vs. that of it’s for-profit brethren The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH). You can guess which side of the argument each of them favor.
Now thanks to a recently published landmark study ‘Integrated Delivery Networks: In Search of Benefits and Market Effects’ by Healthcare Futurist Jeff Goldsmith, PhD et al, of the 501(c)3 cast of characters in the related but more often than not distinctly different ‘IDN culture’ we extend that line of inquiry into what has been a somewhat conversational ‘safe…
The US government has finally admitted they’ve overdosed Americans on fluoride and, for the first time since 1962, is lowering their recommended level of fluoride in drinking water.
The CDC reports that around 40% percent of Americans have dental fluorosis, a condition referring to changes in the appearance of tooth enamel — from chalky-looking lines and splotches to dark staining and pitting — caused by long-term ingestion of fluoride during the time teeth are forming.
The optimal fluoride level in drinking water to prevent tooth decay should be 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water (mg/L), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday, down from a accepted previous fluoride level of 0.7 to 1.2 of water mg/L.
The HHS has stated that the newly recommended change is because “Americans now have access to more sources of fluoride, including toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did…
How to Choose A Better Health App [http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/08/choose-health-app.html}(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
Chosing the right mHealth app can be confusing. Today, we see an array of health & mHealth mobile apps designed for consumers. But are you using them correctly, or are you wasting your precious time and money?
Whether it be for monitoring of exercise, fitness, or weight loss, or for more serious conditions like diabetes, sleep disorders, or shunt malfunction in hydrocephalus, consumers and developers would be wise to better understand how health and mHealth apps can benefit one’s health. The biggest problem I see is how health and mHealth apps are categorized, which then determines how they will be used. So I have written up a few suggestions to better help consumers and developers in selecting their mHealth apps. I have grouped health and mHealth apps into three (3) categories.
mHealth Technology, are we there yet?
First, a little info about me. I am an early designer and pioneer of a 1997 neuromonitoring app, the DiaCeph Test, intended to run as a dedicated PDA…
One possibility is that when I write about chronic illness, I am largely focusing on those conditions that are silent in nature (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity). We made a decision some years ago to build the case for connected health around the management of these illnesses because:
They are costly. By some estimates these chronic diseases account for 70% of U.S. health care costs.
They have a significant lifestyle component. This backdrop seems an ideal canvas for connected health interventions because they involve motivational psychology, self-tracking and engagement with health messages. These chronic illnesses pose a unique challenge in that the lifestyle choices that accelerate them are for the most part pleasurable (another piece of cheese cake? spending Sunday afternoon on the couch watching football, smoking more cigarettes and drinking more beer.) In contrast, the reward for healthy behavior is abstract and distant (a few more minutes of…
Inderscience news: Unhealthy information remedy.
Liu has developed a simple metric that can be used to analyse a document or website and ascertain just how reliable the medical information in it might be. The metric counts the number of different health or medical terms in the longest passage of a given document
From the 2 April 2015 post
A little health knowledge can be a very dangerous thing, especially if the information comes from the Internet. Now, research published in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems, describes a new quality indicator to remedy that situation.
Rey-Long Liu of the Department of Medical Informatics, at Tzu Chi University, in Hualien, Taiwan, explains how the internet has in many cases replaced one’s physician as the primary source of health information, particularly when someone is faced with new symptoms. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation readily available on the internet via myriad websites and networking groups that might, at first sight, offer a cure, but may lead to a putative patient following a hazardous route to health.
Liu has developed a simple metric that can be used to analyse a document or website and ascertain just how reliable the medical information in it might be. The metric counts the number of different health or medical terms in the longest passage of a given document. In experiments on thousands of real web pages evaluated manually and with this “health information concentration” metric, Liu has been able to validate with precision those pages that have genuine medical information and revealed the quackery and ill-advised health pages. The approach is much more accurate than conventional web-ranking by search engines and precludes the need for natural-language comprehension by the system.
“High-quality health information should be focused on specific health topics and hence composed of those text areas that are large enough and dedicated to health topics,” explains Liu. “The empirical evaluation reported in the paper justifies the hypothesis. The result also shows that a web page that happens to have many health terms does not necessarily contain quality health information, especially when the health terms are scattered in separate areas with a lot of non-health-related information appearing among them,” he adds. “Quality health information should be written by healthcare professionals who tend to provide both detailed and focused passages to present the information.”
The metric could readily be incorporated into search engine ranking algorithms to help healthcare consumers find high-quality information working alongside more conventional, general quality ranking parameters devised by the search engine companies for detecting relevance, importance, source and author of each webpage.
Breast milk seems like a simple nutritious cocktail for feeding babies, but it is so much more than that. It also contains nutrients that feed the beneficial bacteria in a baby’s gut, and it contains substances that can change a baby’s behaviour. So, when a mother breastfeeds her child, she isn’t just feeding it. She is also building a world inside it and simultaneously manipulating it.
To Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who specialises in milk, these acts are all connected. She suspects that substances in milk, by shaping the community of microbes in a baby’s gut, can affect its behaviour in ways that ultimately benefit the mother.
It’s a thought-provoking and thus far untested hypothesis, but it’s not far-fetched. Together with graduate student Cary Allen-Blevins and David Sela, a food scientist at the University of Massachussetts, Hinde has laid out her ideas in a paper that fuses neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and microbiology.
It begins by talking about the many ingredients in breast milk, including complex sugars called oligosaccharides. All mammals make them but humans have an exceptional variety. More than 200 HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides) have been identified, and they are the third most common part of human milk after lactose and fat.
Babies can’t digest them. Instead, the HMOs are food for bacteria, particularly the Bifidobacteria and Bacteroides groups. One strain in particular—Bifidobacterium longum infantis—can outcompete the others because it wields a unique genetic cutlery set that allows it to digest HMOs with incredible efficiency.
Why would mothers bother producing these sugars? Making milk is a costly process—mums quite literally liquefy their own bodies to churn out this fluid. Obviously, it feeds a growing infant, but why not spend all of one’s energy on filling milk with baby-friendly nutrients? Why feed the microbes too? “To me, it seems incredibly evident that when mums are feeding the microbes, they are investing on a greater return on their energetic investment,” says Hinde. By that, she means that setting up the right communities of microbes provides benefits for the baby above and beyond simple nutrition.
FRIDAY, May 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Misconceptions about miscarriages are common, and those mistaken beliefs can make the experience even more painful for those who suffer through it, a new survey reveals.
More than half of the 1,000 adults who responded to the survey incorrectly believed miscarriages are rare, and many thought they could occur for reasons that actually don’t affect miscarriage risk at all.
In reality, miscarriages are not that uncommon, yet almost half of those women who have suffered a miscarriage have felt guilt and a sense of isolation about what happened, the researchers said.
“A striking finding from the study is the discrepancy between what medicine and science teach us about miscarriage and what people believe,” said study co-author Dr. Zev Williams, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
“Miscarriage seems to be unique in medicine in being very common yet rarely discussed, so that you have many women and couples feeling very isolated and alone,” Williams said.
Another expert was also disturbed by the findings.
“I was surprised to learn how much false information our patients have, and how this information led the patients in the study to feelings of guilt and remorse,” said Dr. Iris Dori, medical director at the Center for Women’s Health at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.
Among the respondents — roughly half women and half men — 15 percent reported that they or their partner had experienced at least one miscarriage.
But over half of the respondents believed miscarriages occur in less than 6 percent of all pregnancies. Men were more than twice as likely as women to think miscarriages were rare, the survey found.
Most of the adults (74 percent) correctly believed that genetic or medical problems most often caused miscarriages, but they also incorrectly believed in other causes, the investigators found.
For readers fascinated by the intricacies and ins and outs of domestic life in 21st century America, the Atlantic has gathered together its articles on family in a handy, easily accessible – and free – webpage. The articles run from serious investigations of How Nurses Can Help Low-Income Mothers and Kids to entertaining ones exploring The Psychological Reason ‘Billie Jean’ Kills at Weddings. Along the way, readers may explore the pros and cons of apps that help parents track their baby’s napping cycles, why it is that pretending to understand what a baby says can help it learn, and the research-confirmed importance of making deliberate choices in love relationships.[CNH]
That, at least, is the conclusion reached by Yale researchers in “Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge,” a paper published last week in American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology. Lead by doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher, the research team administered a series of experiments to over a thousand students in order to test the degree to which internet connectivity affects a person’s sense of their own intelligence. According to The Telegraph:
In one test, the internet group were given a website link which gave the answer to the question ‘how does a zip work’ while a control group were given a print-out of the same information.
When they two groups were quizzed later on an unrelated question – ‘why are cloudy nights warmer?’ the group who had searched online believed they were more knowledgeable even though they were not allowed to look up the correct answer.
…By taking the first detailed look at how one such parasite periodically assumes a new protein disguise during a long-term infection, new research at Rockefeller University challenges many assumptions about one of the best-known examples of this strategy, called antigenic variation, in the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness.
Here’s how it works. Many animals, including humans, have immune systems capable of learning to recognize pathogens based on those pathogens’ antigens, usually proteins on their surface. After encountering an antigen, the immune system generates its own proteins called antibodies to target that antigen. By continually changing antigens, a pathogen evades those antibodies.
“The researchers found that many of the youngest teen mothers didn’t want to have sex with the fathers, but did anyway because they did not know how or didn’t feel they could say “no.” ”
The above sentence really gave me pause. I always felt I could say no, and did. And was respected for it.
Granted I was raised in a stable home and was told I was going to college at age 5 (OK, exaggerating a bit!). Although the boys in grade school had roles we girls didn’t at Catholic school in the 60’s (altar servers, crossing guards), I never felt inferior to them, deep down. If circumstances were different…wondering how I would have faced challenges in many areas…
If Diane could reverse time, she never would have slammed the door–an act of teen frustration and ongoing family conflict that finally got her kicked out of her mother’s house.
Thus began a cascade of events that, a few years later, led to her pregnancy at age 19.
Diane is one of 108 teenage moms interviewed about their lives and pregnancies in On Becoming a Teen Mom: Life Before Pregnancy (University of California Press, 2015), a new book by Case Western Reserve University sociologists Mary Patrice Erdmans and Timothy Black that focuses on life events resulting in teen motherhood, revealing some realities behind the statistics.
The general perception is that teen pregnancy is a social problem, like drug addiction and crime, and that it is on the rise, said Erdmans, associate professor of sociology.
In fact, the number of births to teen moms has dropped 44 percent between 1991 and 2010, and down another 10 percent in 2012-13 from the previous year (the most recent reporting years) for moms age 15 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Erdmans and Black, also an associate professor of sociology, along with a team of interviewers, traveled throughout Connecticut over two years, collecting the life stories of first-time mothers, 108 of whom were teen moms. The mothers discussed what it was like in their families, neighborhoods and school while they were growing up. They talked about their relationships, the pregnancy and the decision to have a child.
“We now have a picture of what’s happened in these mothers’ lives before they became pregnant,” Erdmans said, “portrait that differs from general perceptions about teen pregnancy that tend to focus on the consequences of early childbearing.”
The authors address several myths about teen births:
Teen births are a cause of poverty. They found most teen mothers were living in poverty before they became pregnant.
Teen mothers will drop out of school. They found many teen mothers had dropped out or disengaged from school long before they became pregnant, while those doing well in school tended to stay and graduate.
One-fourth of the teen mothers from all socio-economic levels told stories of sexual abuse when they were young.
Others spoke of wanting to be accepted by peers, rebelling from extremely strict parents and a lack of knowledge about conception and contraceptives.
The researchers found that many of the youngest teen mothers didn’t want to have sex with the fathers, but did anyway because they did not know how or didn’t feel they could say “no.” They kept and raised their babies, even in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape.
Their stories call attention to preventing pregnancies by improving unsafe neighborhoods, lowering high rates of urban poverty and overcoming systematic gender inequalities that rob women of their ability to say “no” at any point in a relationship, the researchers conclude.
Erdmans points out that many teen pregnancies could be prevented, beyond using birth control and abortions, by having better schools from first grade on.
Many teen moms, especially from inner cities, were unprepared for the academic and social challenges of high school. They reported getting pregnant within two years after quitting high school.
Most physicians are aware of the importance of lifestyle factors in preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) — and believe diet is as important as statin therapy and exercise, according to a new survey from NYU Langone Medical Center.
Researchers found that a majority of doctors would welcome additional training in diet and nutrition so that they can effectively inform patients on the subject. The study will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session as a poster presentation.
The 28-question online survey, created by a team from the NYU Langone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, was designed to identify gaps in nutritional knowledge and to evaluate physician attitudes and practices concerning diet in the prevention of CVD. The survey was completed by 236 cardiologists and internal medicine physicians and trainees.
Most of the survey respondents (78 percent) were open to additional training and thought it would result in better patient care. Just over half of the physicians said they currently spend three minutes or less educating patients on diet and lifestyle.
Overall the survey respondents did comparatively well, answering about two thirds of the knowledge-based questions correctly. Surprisingly, cardiologists scored no better than internal medicine physicians.
“We found physicians had a decent knowledge of general nutritional principles, but their practical knowledge was somewhat suboptimal,
urveys show that around 70% of US Internet users consult the Internet when they require medical information. People seek this information using both traditional search engines and via social media. The information created using the search process offers an unprecedented opportunity for applications to monitor and improve the quality of life of people with a variety of medical conditions. In recent years, research in this area has addressed public-health questions such as the effect of media on development of anorexia, developed tools for measuring influenza rates and assessing drug safety, and examined the effects of health information on individual wellbeing. This tutorial will show how Internet data can facilitate medical research, providing an overview of the state-of-the-art in this area. During the tutorial we will discuss the information which can be gleaned from a variety of Internet data sources, including social media, search engines, and specialized medical websites. We will provide an overview of analysis methods used in recent literature, and show how results can be evaluated using publicly-available health information and online experimentation. Finally, we will discuss ethical and privacy issues and possible technological solutions. This tutorial is intended for researchers of user generated content who are interested in applying their knowledge to improve health and medicine.
A transparent and evidence-based priority-setting process promotes the optimal use of resources to improve health outcomes. Decision-makers and funders have begun to increasingly engage representatives of patients and healthcare consumers to ensure that research becomes more relevant. However, disadvantaged groups and their needs may not be integrated into the priority-setting process since they do not have a “political voice” or are unable to organise into interest groups. Equitable priority-setting methods need to balance patient needs, values, experiences with population-level issues and issues related to the health system.
Read the full paper published by Dr. Soumyadeep B et al at Indian Journal of Medical Ethics here (Click: Open Access)
Those of you who are dietitians in the U.S. are undoubtedly aware of the entity that is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). They both dictate the practicing of dietetics and provide the recommendations for healthy eating in America. What you may not be aware of is the myriad special interest groups hanging out in the pockets of the AND. A press release has just been made announcing the new partnership between the AND and Kraft Foods. Kraft will be added to the list of AND’s corporate sponsors, and “foods” like Kraft American Cheese and boxed Macaroni and Cheese will now be promoted as healthy food options for your children. It should also be mentioned that AND’s sponsor list already includes Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ConAgra, and McDonald’s. Meanwhile, the Academy maintains that this move is not an endorsement of Kraft foods. Doesn’t make sense, does it?
In downtrodden East Cleveland, a three-story family health center has replaced the city’s full-service hospital. Seven thousand miles away in Abu Dhabi, a gleaming 24-story hospital is preparing to admit patients this year.
Back in Ohio, shoppers at Marc’s, a local discount grocer and pharmacy in Garfield Heights, can enter a kiosk equipped with a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and a two-way video screen that lets a patient talk directly to a doctor.
These disparate ventures bear the imprimatur of the renowned Cleveland Clinic, one of the most respected nonprofit health systems in the nation, as it tries to manage the extraordinary changes now transforming health care.
While it has traditionally relied on its ability to provide high-priced specialty care, the system, along with every stand-alone community hospital and large academic medical center, is being forced to remake itself. Patients are increasingly seeking care outside…
Loneliness kills. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Brigham Young University researchers who say they are sounding the alarm on what could be the next big public-health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse.
The subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26%, according to the new study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.
“This is something that we need to take seriously for our health,” says Brigham Young University researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad, an author of the study. “This should become a public-health issue.”
The researchers emphasized the difference between the subjective, self-reported feeling of loneliness and the objective state of being socially isolated. Both are potentially damaging, the study…
BioNews is an online British magazine that covers genetics, assisted conception, and stem cell research. Founded in 1999 with a grant from the Baroness Mary Warnock, the site offers a mix of news and commentary on both scientific advancements and the political, legal, ethical, and social issues that arise with these advancements. Recent articles have unpacked Europe’s approval of stem cell marketing, highlighted some bad journalism on egg donors, and explored the possible medical applications of graphene. In addition to the excellent news coverage, the site offers a large glossary of terms related to genetics, assisted conception, and stem cell research. Few free, web-based magazines can compete with BioNews when it comes to coverage of biotech and related topics. [CNH]
Current perspectives on unconventional shale gas extraction in the Appalachian Basin
David J. Lampe & John F. Stolz
Long-term impacts of unconventional drilling operations on human and animal health
Michelle Bamberger & Robert E. Oswald
Human exposure to unconventional natural gas development: A public health demonstration of periodic high exposure to chemical mixtures in ambient air
David R. Brown, Celia Lewis & Beth I. Weinberger
Reported health conditions in animals residing near natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania
I. B. Slizovskiy, L. A. Conti, S. J. Trufan, J. S. Reif, V. T. Lamers, M. H. Stowe, J. Dziura & P. M. Rabinowitz
Marcellus and mercury: Assessing potential impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction on aquatic ecosystems in northwestern Pennsylvania
Christopher J. Grant, Alexander B. Weimer, Nicole K. Marks, Elliott S. Perow, Jacob M. Oster, Kristen M. Brubaker, Ryan V. Trexler, Caroline M. Solomon & Regina Lamendella
Data inconsistencies from states with unconventional oil and gas activity
Samantha Malone, Matthew Kelso, Ted Auch, Karen Edelstein, Kyle Ferrar & Kirk Jalbert
Scintillation gamma spectrometer for analysis of hydraulic fracturing waste products
Leong Ying, Frank O’Connor & John F. Stolz
Well water contamination in a rural community in southwestern Pennsylvania near unconventional shale gas extraction
Shyama K. Alawattegama, Tetiana Kondratyuk, Renee Krynock, Matthew Bricker, Jennifer K. Rutter, Daniel J. Bain & John F. Stolz
If you have cancer, HIV, diabetes, lupus, depression, heart disease—or you simply look up health-related information online—advertisers are watching you. A new paper on what happens when users search for health information online shows that some of our most sensitive internet searches aren’t as anonymous as we might think.
Marketers care very much about what diseases and conditions people are searching for online. Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the Annenberg School For Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the paper says that over 90% of the 80,000 health-related pages he looked at on the Internet exposed user information to third parties. These pages included health information from commercial, nonprofit, educational, and government websites. According to Pew, 72 percent of internet users in the US look up health-related information.
PRIVACY LACKING AT WEBMD AND CDC.GOV
Site visit data by third parties isn’t just collected on for-profit sites like WebMD.com; even the Centers for Disease Control warns visitors that third-party content on their own pages includes marketing/analytics products like MotionPoint and Omniture that are used to generate targeted advertising. (Libert’s findings are published in this month’s Communications of the ACM.)
ONE COMPANY, MEDBASE 200, REPORTEDLY USED “PROPRIETARY MODELS” TO GENERATE AND SELL MARKETING LISTS OF RAPE VICTIMS, DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS, AND PATIENTS WITH HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT ILLNESSES.
STOLEN MEDICAL INFORMATION IS ROUTINELY TRAFFICKED ON CRIMINAL WEBSITES.
WITH LITTLE REGULATION, TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
While studies conducted by Annenberg indicate that slightly more than one in every three Americans knows that private third-parties can track their visits to health-related websites, regulation and oversight is lacking, says Libert. Health privacy is protected by the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), but the law is not meant to oversee business practices by third party commercial entities or data brokers. “Clearly there is a need for discussion with respect to legislation, policies, and oversight to address health privacy in the age of the internet,” says Libert.
To avoid the watchful eye of marketers, Libert recommends users make use of two different tools, Ghostery and Adblock Plus, which can at least partly prevent marketers from obtaining patient health information based on Internet browsing habits.
…”The whole goal is to take this problematic mixture of stuff — acid whey — and isolate all of the various components and find commercial uses for them,” says Dean Sommer, a food technologist with Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR) in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
That’s no easy task.
Food companies have been separating the components of sweet whey — the byproduct of cheese production — for more than a decade now, extracting high-value whey protein powders that are featured in muscle-building products and other high-protein foods and beverages.
Compared to sweet whey, however, acid whey from Greek yogurt is hard to work with. Similar to sweet whey, it’s mostly water — 95 percent — but it contains a lot less protein, which is considered the valuable part. Some of the other “solids” in acid whey, which include lactose, lactic acid, calcium, phosphorus and galactose, make it more difficult to process. For instance, thanks to galactose and lactic acid, it turns into a sticky mess when it’s dried down.
Instead of drying it, CDR scientists are developing technologies that utilize high-tech filters, or membranes, to separate out the various components.
“We’re taking the membranes that are available to us and stringing them together and developing a process that allows us to get some value-added ingredients out at the other end,” says dairy processing technologist Karen Smith, who is working on the project.
At this point, the CDR has set its sights on lactose, an ingredient that food companies will pay good money for in food-grade form.
“It’s the lowest-hanging fruit, the most valuable thing in there in terms of volume and potential worth,” says Sommer.
On a related note, a tasty recipe! Sweet Potato chips with Greek yogurt blue cheese dip.
Spiciness of chips (chili powder) balances well with sweetness of dip( the honey)
Made them with a Japanese sweet potato (from our local co-op). Took them to the card party group, they did not go over that well. Put chips in our toaster oven, got braver and made them crispier. Thinking these chips taste better hot (temperature hot).
OK, it was hard to get past the blog title…housewife in training. that’s all I’ll say!
Again, great recipe.
Interim Update on 2013 Annual Hospital-Acquired Condition Rate and Estimates of Cost Savings and Deaths Averted From 2010 to 2013
This document provides preliminary estimates for 2013 on hospital-acquired conditions (HACs), indicating a 17 percent decline, from 145 to 121 HACs per 1,000 discharges, from 2010 to 2013. A cumulative total of 1.3 million fewer HACs were experienced by hospital patients in 2011, 2012, and 2013 relative to the number of HACs that would have occurred if rates had remained steady at the 2010 level. Approximately 50,000 fewer patients died in the hospital as a result of the reduction in HACs, and approximately $12 billion in health care costs were saved from 2010 to 2013.
Exhibit 6. Estimated Deaths Averted, by Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC), 2011-2013
Preliminary 2013 estimates show that the decline in HACs resulted in a preliminary estimate of cost savings of approximately $8 billion in 2013. Estimated cumulative savings for 2011, 2012, and 2013 are approximately $12 billion (Exhibit 7). As was the case for the deaths averted estimates, the majority of cost savings are estimated to result from declines in pressure ulcers and ADEs (Exhibit 8).
Interim Update on 2013 Annual Hospital-Acquired Condition Rate and Estimates of Cost Savings and Deaths Averted From 2010 to 2013 ( PDF version – 546.53 KB )
Bacteria that talk to one another and organize themselves into biofilms are more resistant to antibiotics. Researchers are now working to develop drugs that prevent bacteria from communicating.
Tracing bacteria: The researchers are testing the new group of drugs in transparent worms called C. elegans, in which they can trace the bacteria while infection develops. They do this by feeding the worms with fluorescent bacteria.
The aim is to find alternatives to antibiotics and reduce the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
– Understanding how bacteria communicate could provide a new means of controlling them and preventing and treating infectious diseases, says Professor Anne Aamdal Scheie at the Department of Oral Biology at the University of Oslo.
Together with Professor Fernanda Cristina Petersen, Aamdal Scheie is shedding light on one of the most important health challenges facing the world today, namely antibiotic resistance. The researchers believe that understanding bacterial communication has a key role to play in the fight against resistant bacteria.
Research groups at the Faculty of Dentistry therefore want to understand how bacteria talk to one another – precisely to prevent them from communicating and becoming hazardous.
The New Medicine: Hacking Our Biology is part of the series “Engineers of the New Millennium” from IEEE Spectrum magazine and the Directorate for Engineering of the National Science Foundation. These stories explore technological advances in medical inventions to enhance and extend life.
To be presented at the 2015 APS March Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, March 5
From the press release
A team of Cornell University researchers focusing on a fictional zombie outbreak as an approach to disease modeling suggests heading for the hills, in the Rockies, to save your brains from the undead.
Reading World War Z, an oral history of the first zombie war, and a graduate statistical mechanics class inspired a group of Cornell University researchers to explore how an “actual” zombie outbreak might play out in the U.S.
During the 2015 American Physical Society March Meeting, on Thursday, March 5 in San Antonio, Texas, the group will describe their work modeling the statistical mechanics of zombies–those thankfully fictional “undead” creatures with an appetite for human flesh. (See the abstract: http://meeting.aps.org/Meeting/MAR15/Session/S48.8)
Why model the mechanics of zombies? “Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” says Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University.
t’s easy for those with health problems to complain about what we don’t want to hear others say to us, but I thought it might be helpful to let others know what we wish they would say to us.
“You look so good, but how are you really feeling?”
It’s hard for us to respond to comments like, “You look so good” (or the always dreaded, “But you don’t look sick”) because we know that you’re just trying to be nice. If we respond truthfully with, “Thanks, but I feel awful,” you might be embarrassed or think we’re being ungrateful. It would be such a relief to be asked a question that goes to the heart of the matter: “How are you really feeling?”
“I’m going to the grocery store, can I pick anything up for you?”
“Alu” sequences are small repetitive elements representing about 10% of our genome. Because of their ability to move around the genome, these “jumping genes” are considered as real motors of evolution. However, they were considered for a long time as “junk” DNA, because, although they are transcribed into RNA, they encode no proteins and do not seem to participate actively in the cell’s functions. Now, the group of Katharina Strub, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, has uncovered two key functions of Alu RNAs in human cells, which are the subject of two different articles published in Nucleic Acids Research. Alu RNA can bind to specific proteins forming a complex called Alu RNP. On the one hand, this complex allows the cells to adapt to stress caused for example by chemical poisoning or viral infection. On the other hand, the same complex plays a role in protein synthesis by regulating the number of active ribosomes, suggesting that it could be part of the innate system of cellular defense against certain viruses.
Toronto scientists uncovered how viral remnants helped shape control of our genes.
If genes were lights on a string of DNA, the genome would appear as an endless flicker, as thousands of genes come on and off at any given time. Tim Hughes, a Professor at the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre, is set on figuring out the rules behind this tightly orchestrated light-show, because when it fails, disease can occur.
Genes are switched on or off by proteins called transcription factors. These proteins bind to precise sites on the DNA that serve as guideposts, telling transcription factors that their target genes are nearby.
In their latest paper, published in Nature Biotechnology, Hughes and his team did the first systematic study of the largest group of human transcription factors, called C2H2-ZF.
Despite their important roles in development and disease, these proteins have been largely unexplored because they posed a formidable challenge for researchers.
C2H2-ZF transcription factors count over 700 proteins — around three per cent of all human genes! To make matters more complicated, most human C2H2-ZF proteins are very different from those in other organisms, like those in mice. This means that scientists could not apply insights gained from animal studies to human C2H2-ZFs.
Hughes’ team found something remarkable: the reason C2H2-ZFs are so abundant and diverse — which makes them difficult to study — is that many of them evolved to defend our ancestral genome from damage caused by the notorious “selfish DNA.”
So true “To actually address why parents opt out of vaccinations, Science must ask itself difficult and uncomfortable questions about why such a large and fundamental trust-gap exists, and what we plan to do about it.”
Recently, a millennial came to my office and asked me if she should get vaccinated, even though her mom had never wanted her to. I didn’t tell her what to do. Instead, I told her why I vaccinate my own son. Here’s what I said.
How I Learned to Trust The Needle
When my son was a couple of months old, I took him to the third of his many well-baby appointments. On that day, our pediatrician approached me tentatively. “This is the appropriate time for his vaccinations,” she informed me in a cautious, even tone.
“Load him up!” I screamed, “Give him a double!” My baby son looked up at us and blinked, unperturbed by the hysterics to which he had become accustomed in utero. I signed some papers, and the doctor vaccinated him against an assortment of maladies. More than a decade has passed since then, and today I…
Thinking what a boon this will be for underserved areas, both here in the US and low GNP countries. Thinking of how countries went from virtually no telephone service to cell phones for most, bypassing costly infrastructure. 3D printing will foster another leap for humankind.
Kaiba Gionfriddo was born prematurely in 2011. After 8 months his lung development caused concerns, although he was sent home with his parents as his breathing was normal. Six weeks later, Kaiba stopped breathing and turned blue. He was diagnosed with tracheobronchomalacia, a long Latin word that means his windpipe was so weak that it collapsed. He had a tracheostomy and was put on a ventilator––the conventional treatment. Still, Kaiba would stop breathing almost daily. His heart would stop, too. His caregivers 3D printed a bioresorbable device that instantly helped Kaiba breathe. This case is considered a prime example of how customized 3D printing is transforming healthcare as we know it.
Since then this area has been skyrocketing. The list of objects that have been successfully printed demonstrates the potential this technology holds for the near future.
Tissues with blood vessels: Researchers at Harvard University were the first to…
This blog presents a sampling of health and medical news and resources for all. Selected articles and resources will hopefully be of general interest but will also encourage further reading through posted references and other links. Currently I am focusing on public health, basic and applied research and very broadly on disease and healthy lifestyle topics.
Several times a month I will post items on international and global health issues. My Peace Corps Liberia experience (1980-81) has formed me as a global citizen in many ways and has challenged me to think of health and other topics in a more holistic manner. (For those wishing to see pictures of a 2009 Friends of Liberia service trip to this West African country, please visit www.fol.org. My photo album is included).
Do you have an informational question in the health/medical area?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will reply within 48 hours.
My professional work experience and education includes over 10 years experience as a medical librarian and a Master’s in Library Science. In my most recent position I enjoyed contributing to our library’s blog, performing in depth literature searches, and collaborating with faculty, staff, students, and the general public.
While I will never be be able to keep up with the universe of current health/medical news,
I subscribe to the following to glean entries for this blog
Krafty (Medical)Librarian,” a collection of writings from Michelle Kraft on items of interest to medical librarians. She tends to write on technology and medical libraries but she also writes about things in general on librarianship, medicine and health”
Research Buzz, “news about search engines, digital archives, online museums, databases, and other Internet information collections since 1998”
Free Government Information, a “place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information”
Scout Report, a “weekly publication offering a selection of new and newly discovered Internet resources of interest to researchers and educators”