Is America Really Sick?0

A study by Peter A. Muennig and Sherry A. Glied appearing in the November 2010 issue of Health Affairs explores how the changes in survival rates over the past 15 years reflect upon the overall state of health care in the United States. Comparing survival rates and risk profiles in the US with 12 other countries, the study suggests that America’s health care system is in need of major repair.

The article also considers how rates of smoking and obesity, among other variables, contribute to a declining state of overall domestic health.  Here are some examples:

  • According to recent studies, in 2006 the smoking rate in the US was 15 percent for women and 19 percent for men.
  • While fewer women in the US smoke than in Europe, those women who do smoke in the US individually consume on average more cigarettes than their European counterparts.
  • An estimated one-third of adults in the US are obese, compared to an estimated 3.4 percent of adult Japanese men.

Visit the Health Affairs Website to read the entire article.

What If You Really Don’t Want The Flu Shot?0

There is ample literature readily available recommending the influenza vaccine, but what happens when you brave the flu season without it? A study in the October issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing describes some indigenous health practices used to prevent and treat the most talked-about seasonal virus.

The study from 2007 involved a total of 208 older people from China, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea, Greece, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.  These individuals were divided into 14 vaccinated and 12 unvaccinated focus groups where they shared their experiences of influenza and influenza vaccination. The researchers concluded that behavioral beliefs generally determined vaccine preferences. Likelihood of susceptibility to influenza and severity of symptoms also weighed heavily on decision making, as did vaccine effectiveness and health care costs. … Read more →

Vaccinating the Vaccinators0

While the general public seems to be somewhat indecisive when it comes to the influenza vaccination, experts in the medical community have a much stronger opinion, especially for health care workers. So far this year the National Patient Safety Foundation, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society of Healthcare Epidemiologists of America, the Loyola University Health System (this includes all of its 7,825 employees, of which 99.3 percent were vaccinated against the seasonal flu last year) all require mandatory flu vaccinations for health care workers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), vaccination within the health care work force is the best way to prevent the spread of influenza amongst patients. … Read more →

California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Law0

The bond between child and mother is primordial. Typically this connection begins at birth when mother and child finally “meet,” exchange affection and smells, and then peer into each other’s eyes for the very first time. In a normal birth, the baby is still physically connected to its mother by the umbilical cord (and as nature always tries to plan ahead, the cord should be the right size for the newborn to reach its mother’s breasts without cutting).

After physical separation from the mother, the newborn is helpless and totally dependent. Unfortunately, some parents are unable or unwilling to care for this newborn child, and they sever this bond by abandoning the child in an unsafe location.  In California, over the past decade 151 infants have been found alive following an unsafe, and illegal, abandonment.

Due to a special law started in California almost ten years ago, approximately 362 newborns have been “safely” surrendered.  This law, called the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, is intended to spare the life of an infant by encouraging parents or persons with lawful custody to safely surrender an infant at a “safe surrender site” within 72 hours of the child’s birth rather than abandoning the child in an unsafe location. … Read more →

Medicine By the Numbers Part II: The Hospital Bill0

“Everything unknown is magnified.” -Publius Cornelius Tacitus, senator and a historian of the Roman Empire  [audio:|titles=03 Numbers Don’t Lie 1]

This article first appeared on the PBS Website This Emotional Life.

Hospital stays can be incredibly stressful. From that open blue gown you and your new roommate must wear to understanding your diagnosis and accompanying treatment, most patients feel overwhelmed and disoriented. When you finally get to go home, weeks may pass, the discharge and rehabilitation process hopefully become manageable, and life returns to normal.  But just as soon as the anxiety from that hospital stay begins to subside, one day there it sits, waiting in your mailbox – an enigma of lines, abbreviations, and numbers that can only mean one thing: your hospital bill.

Perhaps even more than the actual hospital stay, the hospital bill can be difficult to understand. The bill will likely contain an abundance of codes and abbreviations, and it may look more like a cryptographic algorithm than a bill. Depending on the length of a hospital stay, for some the hospital bill can create a psychosomatic reaction strong enough to land you right back in the emergency department—the place where this whole thing probably started.  Before irreversible frustration and despair set in, however, here are some tips to help you understand the sum total of your hospital stay. … Read more →

A Five Minute Break from Health Care0

Health care, health care, health care.  Like it or not, it’s everywhere.  While the nation’s focus on health care may be long overdue, nothing is wrong with taking a five minute break from the action.  And just to be sure we don’t stray too far off the health care path, a message from the President is appropriate.  After all, today, October 8, 2010, is Leif Erikson Day: … Read more →

Your Food Stamps Are No Good Here — At Least for Soda0

In the war against obesity and diabetes, New York City has launched a new attack — this time on food stamps. City officials have asked the federal government to bar local food-stamp recipients from using the benefit to buy sodas and other sugary drinks.

In spite of the great gains we’ve made over the past eight years in making our communities healthier, there are still two areas where we’re losing ground—obesity and diabetes,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. There are an estimated 1.7 million residents who receive food stamps in New York City.  According to Mayor Bloomberg’s office, approximately $135 million in federal nutrition benefits goes toward the purchase of sugar-sweetened drinks.

The public health community responded to New York City’s request with caution. George Hacker, senior policy adviser for the Center for Science in the Public Interest argued for a more equitable approach, such as educational campaigns, rather than an outright ban. “The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages,” Mr. Hacker said. “However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not want to stigmatize people on food stamps.

The proposed ban would not include regular milk, soy milk, rice milk or powdered milk, nor would it include fruit juices without added sugar.

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Sources:  New York Times; Wall Street Journal.

Researchers Seek Alternative to Novocaine for the Soul0

“Life is hard, and so am I / You’d better give me something, so I don’t die.” 
[audio:|titles=01 Novocaine for the Soul]

Published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, a new study is trying to develop a way to assess a body’s vulnerability to stress. Headed by Professor Giovanni Fava at the University of Bologna, the research relies upon the idea that allostatic load reflects the cumulative effects of ordinary stress in everyday life. Allostatic load is generally connected to the physiological impact of exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural stimulation caused by repeated or chronic stress. When a person’s exposure to this stimulation exceeds his or her ordinary coping resources, allostatic overload ensues. … Read more →

Laptops May Lead to Toasted Skin Syndrome0

If you happen to work with a laptop for extended periods of time, placing the computer exactly where the name suggests (on your lap) may put you at risk for “Toasted Skin Syndrome.” Also caused by overuse of heating pads and other heat sources, Toasted Skin Syndrome can cause permanent skin darkening, and in rare instances, according to Drs. Andreas Arnold and Peter Itin from University Hospital Basel, it can lead to skin cancer. As a precautionary measure, these doctors suggest placing a heat shield under the laptop so it does not rest directly against you.

According to the experts, mild-to-moderate heat between 109.4 and 116.6 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to cause burns, but 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to Toasted Skin Syndrome.

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