Community members will get an opportunity to learn about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment options during an upcoming symposium.
The Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN) is hosting a symposium on October 20 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Hub Cira Centre, 2929 Arch Street. The forum will focus on new prevention interventions and the state of HIV/AIDS treatment; BTAN is an initiative of the Black AIDS Institute that helps raise HIV science and literacy in Black communities.
The event is being held in partnership with local organizations.
Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, says it’s important for people to become properly educated about HIV.
“A lot of people don’t know what options are available and how important it is to know your status and to get into treatment,” says Wilson.
“We know that in Black communities we have low HIV science literacy so we need to raise the bar. People know the surface things about HIV but if you start to ask two or three questions most people immediately go into the deep end on myths and misinformation, so we need to get our folks educated on the real deal. When people understand the real deal, they understand how to protect themselves.”
The symposium comes at a time when Black Americans represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“We’re really at a deciding moment in the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic,” Wilson said.
“We now have the tools to really think about ending the AIDS epidemic and that’s remarkable. We’ve never been in this place before. Over the last 18 months there have been a number of scientific breakthroughs.”
These breakthroughs include the development of the efficacy of vaginal microbiocides, which is instrumental in protecting women against HIV infection and impact of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) on stopping transmission of the virus. PrEP refers to the usage of antiretroviral drugs to help prevent the transmission of HIV.
“We also know that if we get people on to treatment early, we can drive down their viral loads so they are undetectable and prevent their ability to transmit the virus up to 96 percent,” says Wilson.
After the BTAN symposium, attendees will head to a meeting hosted by the White House Office on National AIDS Policy on October 20 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at University of Pennsylvania, Jon M. Huntsman Hall, Dhirubhai Ambani Auditorium, 3730 Walnut Street.
The meeting will address implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Developed under the direction of President Barack Obama, the national strategy has three primary goals including reducing the number of people infected by HIV; increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for people with HIV; and increasing HIV-related health disparities. The national strategy calls for the annual number of new infections to be reduced by 25 percent by 2015.
The meeting will bring together federal, state and local representatives, researchers, clinicians, the HIV community and leaders from the business, foundation, faith and media sectors.
“What’s important is for Black folks to come out. If we’re not in the room, then they’re not going to talk about our issues. This is an opportunity where the White House is going cities and talking to communities and we want to make sure that the needs of Black folks in Philadelphia are addressed,” Wilson stressed.
For information about the BTAN symposium, call (877) 757-AIDS.
A detailed report indicates that cuts to Medicaid could leave millions of Black and Latino Americans with life-threatening illnesses at risk.
The report “Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs” was released jointly by the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza, the National Medical Association (NMA), the National Urban League Policy Institute and Families USA.
The report highlights the importance of Medicaid to the Black and Latino communities and the heavy burden of chronic disease borne by these groups.
The Medicaid study comes at a time when the joint federal-state program is under assault by cash-strapped states seeking to close budget gaps.
“This seminal report clearly demonstrates the absolute, disproportionate and crucial need for Medicaid among racial and ethnic minority Americans,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director, NAACP Washington bureau and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy.
“The NAACP continues to advocate that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to serve as a safety net to help citizens who may need assistance at critical times in their lives. Individuals suffering from cancer, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease or who have had a stroke clearly fall into this category and as this report demonstrates Medicare and Medicaid are currently necessary programs when it comes to providing these Americans with life saving medical care and treatments.”
The report seeks to make clear that Medicaid provides life or death health coverage for millions of Americans.
The report found that nearly 778,000 African Americans with diabetes rely on Medicaid coverage, while more than 1.4 million African Americans with chronic lung disease are covered by the program.
According to the report, one in five African Americans with cancer, an estimated 141,000, rely on Medicaid for their treatment.
“There are critical disparities in the delivery of health care to Black and Latino communities, which contributes to a higher incidence and greater severity of chronic and serious health conditions in these communities,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA said in a release.
“That medical reality combined with the fact that these communities tend to have lower incomes, means that Medicaid is a vital lifeline in protecting the health and well-being of these Americans.”
The report notes that because Blacks and Latinos tend to have lower incomes than whites, they are more than twice as likely to rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. Medicaid helps roughly half of all Black and Latino children get a healthy start in life, and its helps Black and Latinos and people with disabilities who need long-term care.
“The findings from this study confirms the position that the NMA has repeatedly held, namely that Medicaid provides coverage for the most vulnerable and that we should do all we can to protect their access and preserve the quality of care received,” said Dr. Cedric Bright, president of the NMA.
The study provides state-specific data for Blacks and Latinos who rely on Medicaid and suffer from conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease and stroke.
“During the economic downturn, we are also seeing that Medicaid funding is not only critical for low-income families, it is also becoming a lifeline for middle class families who have lost jobs and been dropped from employer-sponsored insurance,” said Chanelle Hardy, executive director of the NUL Policy Institute.
“Too many families rely on Medicaid as their critical access point to health care and arbitrary cuts to the program will do nothing to reduce the cost of health care.”
Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates in the report.
By now, we’ve all gotten used to fluorine and chlorine in your drinking water. No big deal for many of us.
But how do you feel about antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones in your drinking water? Associated Press conducted a five-month inquiry detected pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies of 24 of 28 major U.S. metropolitan areas. It found that a vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.
While most of the 25 cities investigated had between 1 and 15 detected pharmaceutical drugs in their tap water, Philadelphia water had 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems! 63 pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.
The concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is raises worries among many scientists of the long-term consequences to human health. Drinking water treatment plants are not designed to remove these pharmaceutical residues.
Guess what else? This is also the water used to make sodas and other beverages at local bottling plants. So every time you pick up a can of soda and drink it, not only are you getting the dangerous chemicals intentionally added to those sodas — like aspartame and phosphoric acid — you’re also getting trace amounts of medication chemicals.
So why, and how, is this happening?
Drugs and their derivatives get into the drinking water supply because when people on medication go to the toilet they excrete whatever the body does not absorb and any metabolized byproducts. Water companies treat the waste before discharging it into rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and then treat it again before it enters the drinking water system. However, the various treatments don’t remove all traces of drugs. And as we all know, everyone uses the toilet- including the people who take many different types of prescribed medications. And as you also know, what goes in, must come out. People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case. Estimates are that only about 20 percent of a prescribed medication is actually absorbed by the body. The rest is eliminated.
Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion; while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion.
Many drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.
Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring up allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.
Theirs is some evidence that shows that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.
Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the steroid circulating in a cow is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.
Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of most home filtration systems.
Bottled water is not the total answer. Nearly 40 percent of bottled water is simply repackaged tap water. What’s more, there’s no government agency testing bottled water contamination from known hazards such as bacteria, synthetic contaminants, or heavy metals. While the Associated Press did not test bottled water, earlier testers have found dangerous substances such as arsenic and bromate, both known carcinogens.
No scientist can say for certain whether long-term exposure to micro doses of multiple pharmaceuticals is safe because such an experiment has never before been conducted on any population.
If trace amounts of multiple pharmaceuticals are now in the tap water supplies, it also means that any use of tap water involves the further spread of those pharmaceutical chemicals. Watering your lawn, for example, means spraying small amounts of pharmaceuticals on your lawn.
The solution? My personal opinion … you’ll need to avoid drinking tap water, period. Or, at the very least, filter it really well. Distillation is very energy intensive (which makes it bad for global warming), but it does get the water very, very clean. Other consumer-level water filters may remove some amount of pharmaceuticals, but I don’t have all the facts on that yet, so I’m not going to make any recommendations until I learn more. Stay tuned.
Remember, I’m not a doctor just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Glenn Ellis is a health advocacy communications specialist. He is the author of “Which Doctor?” and is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, and is an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics. His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine,” was released in January 2012. For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.
ATLANTA — Back in the 1990s, the federal government tried an unusual social experiment: It offered thousands of poor women in big-city public housing a chance to live in more affluent neighborhoods.
A decade later, the women who relocated had lower rates of diabetes and extreme obesity — differences that are being hailed as compelling evidence that where you live can determine your health.
The experiment was initially aimed at researching whether moving impoverished families to more prosperous areas could improve employment or schooling. But according to a study released Wednesday, the most interesting effect may have been on the women's physical condition.
About 16 percent of the women who moved had diabetes, compared with about 20 percent of women who stayed in public housing. And about 14 percent of those who left the projects were extremely obese, compared with nearly 18 percent of the other women.
The small-but-significant differences offered some of the strongest support yet for the idea that where you live can significantly affect your overall health, especially if your home is in a low-income area with few safe places to exercise, limited food options and meager medical services.
"This study proves that concentrated poverty is not only bad policy, it's bad for your health," Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But no one believes the deficit-plagued federal government is going to expand the program and start moving low-income women to better neighborhoods en masse.
"It's not enough to simply move families into different neighborhoods," Donovan said. Instead, new ways must be found to help families "break the cycle of poverty that can quite literally make them sick." He did not mention specific proposals.
Public health experts have long thought that living in poor neighborhoods could ruin a person's health, but this study put the idea to a rigorous test.
Here's how it worked: Women believed to be about the same in most respects were randomly assigned to one group or another and then followed through time, in a model customarily seen in pharmaceutical studies. That makes it more scientifically rigorous than most research linking health problems to a social environment.
The study's good design "provides a basis to infer cause and effect" between poverty and bad health, said Dr. Robert Califf, a noted Duke University cardiologist who is leading a massive study on poverty and health outcomes.
The research was led by Jens Ludwig, a University of Chicago professor of public policy. It was published in Wednesday's New England Journal of Medicine.
The experiment started as a $70 million HUD project in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. It morphed into a health study after a variety of other government agencies and private foundations pitched in with an additional $17 million more.
"In terms of scale, it's not soon or ever to be repeated," said Dr. Robert Whitaker, a Temple University pediatrician who was a study co-author.
The study involved women living in public housing in neighborhoods where 40 percent or more of residents were poor — areas like many of those on the South Side of Chicago or in the Bronx in New York City. The women all had children and were considered heads of households.
From 1994 to 1998, nearly 1,800 of them were offered vouchers to subsidize private housing, but the vouchers were only good in higher-income neighborhoods where fewer than 10 percent of the people were considered poor. They were required to live there at least a year.
The rest of the women were divided into two groups. One group got vouchers they could use in any neighborhood. The other women did not receive vouchers, with the expectation that they would stay put.
Ten years later, women in the study were weighed and gave a blood sample to check for diabetes.
The women who moved to richer areas had the lowest rates of extreme obesity and diabetes. The difference suggests that moving to a better neighborhood could help at least 1 in 25 women. Or, in other terms, a person's risk of diabetes or extreme obesity dropped by about 20 percent by moving to a higher-income neighborhood.
(However, even the women who moved were not exactly models of health. About 14 percent of them were extremely obese, which is twice the national average for women.)
The study has some notable flaws.
Because it did not start out looking at health, the women's medical condition and weight were not checked at the outset. The researchers believe the women in the different groups were about the same, because they matched up on more than 50 other indicators, such as age, race, employment and education. But that is an assumption.
Also, only about half the women offered a chance to move to a more prosperous zip code did so. And many who did move left after a year.
What's more, the study was not designed to answer what it is about more affluent neighborhoods that would cause someone to be healthier. But the authors listed four theories:
— The availability of healthier food is worse in lower-income neighborhoods.
— Opportunities for physical exercise are scarcer, and fear of crime can make people afraid to jog or play in parks.
— There may be fewer doctors' offices and other medical services.
— The long-term stress of living in such an environment may alter the hormones that control weight.
Some of those theories were supported by some women who live in the kind of situation targeted in the study.
Vickie Webb lived in the projects in Durham, N.C., for several years before a housing agency helped relocate her and her husband to a better neighborhood.
"There was too much violence, too much going on in the 'hood. It wasn't safe," said Webb, who was not part of the study.
Annie Ricks, who lives with her 14-year-old son and two grandchildren in a public housing unit on Chicago's South Side, was not involved in the study either. But she said efforts like the HUD experiment should be expanded.
Local housing authorities paid for her to relocate to the South Side last year as part of its demolition plans for high-rise tenements. But Ricks lost her child-care job after the move, and says her new neighborhood is worse.
At her old building, Ricks could walk across the street to a supermarket. In her new neighborhood, without a car, she has to take public transportation to get groceries or go to the doctor, and Ricks says there's more crime.
"I feel like it would be a blessing" to be able to move to a wealthier area, she said. -- (AP)
The seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Both viral and bacterial infections will make you feel sick and they share many of the same symptoms. Every year in the United States, on average:
· 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu;
· more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications
· about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.
While seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time influenza activity actually peaks in January or later. During the past 26 flu seasons, months with the heaviest flu activity (peak months) occurred in November, one season; December, four seasons; January, five seasons; February, 12 seasons, and March, four seasons.
Older people, young children and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease) are at higher risk for serious flu complications.
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
The term “stomach flu” is sometimes used to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. While vomiting, diarrhea and being nauseous or “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be related to the flu — more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
Nobody wants to get the flu this year. But many people are wary about getting a “flu shot” that might be unnecessary or ineffective. Many experts worry about a 1918-like flu pandemic, and warn of the risks of getting the virus, from being sneezed on at work or from living with a toddler. In spite of this, only a third of us actually get a flu shot. Nevertheless, health officials encourage the flu vaccine.
So, just how effective is the “flu shot?”
The flu shot is only as good as the educated guesses of a group of vaccine researchers across the globe. Every February, they try to predict which flu viruses will work their evil during the next fall and winter. Their three top choices are put into the vaccine. How well the flu vaccine works depends on how well the match is between the influenza (flu) vaccine and the types of flu viruses that are circulating that year. Scientists try to predict what strains (types) of flu viruses are most likely to spread and cause illness each year to put into the vaccine. In years when the vaccine strains and the virus strains are well-matched, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 percent–90 percent in healthy adults. The vaccine may be somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications from the flu.
Some people might get flu-like symptoms even after they have been vaccinated against the flu.
There are several reasons why:
1. People may be exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated. This exposure may result in a person becoming ill with flu before the vaccine begins to protect them.
2. People may become ill from other (non-flu) viruses that circulate during the flu season, which can also cause flu-like symptoms (such as rhinovirus).
3. A person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is not included in the vaccine. There are many different influenza viruses.
4. Unfortunately, some people can remain unprotected from flu despite getting the vaccine. This is more likely to occur among people that have weakened immune systems. However, even among people with weakened immune systems, the flu vaccine can still help prevent influenza complications.
Whether or not you decide to get a flu vaccine, remember, Antibiotics only work against infections caused by bacteria. They do not work against any infections caused by viruses. If you have a viral infection, antibiotics will not cure it, help you feel better, or prevent someone else from getting your virus.
Here are some of the more common symptoms of the flu. I hope this helps:
· You will have a sudden headache and dry cough.
· You might have a runny nose and a sore throat.
· Your muscles will ache.
· You will be extremely tired.
· You can have a fever of up to 104 degrees F.
· You most likely will feel better in a couple of days, but the tiredness and cough can last for two weeks or longer.
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible.
Note: This information is relevant to the seasonal flu that hits each year. It is not intended to replace advice or treatment from your doctor. The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Glenn Ellis is a health advocacy communications specialist. He is the author of “Which Doctor?,” and is a lecturing health columnist and radio commentator and an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics. His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine,” is due out this fall. For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.
WASHINGTON — It's the one major health expense for which nearly all Americans are uninsured. The dilemma of paying for long-term care is likely to worsen now that the Obama administration pulled the plug on a program seen as a first step.
The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program, or CLASS, was included in the health overhaul law to provide basic long-term care insurance at an affordable cost. But financial problems dogged it from the outset.
Those concerns prompted the administration to announce that CLASS would not go forward. Yet it could take a decade or longer for lawmakers to tackle the issue again, and by then the retirement of the Baby Boomers will be in full swing.
Most families don't plan for long-term care. Often the need comes unexpectedly: an elder takes a bad fall, a teen is calamitously injured in a car crash or a middle-aged worker suffers a debilitating stroke.
Nursing home charges can run more than $200 a day and a home health aide averages $450 a week, usually part-time. Yet Medicare doesn't cover long-term care, and only about 3 percent of adults have a private policy.
"Long-term care is a critical issue, and people are in total denial about it," said Bill Novelli, former CEO of AARP. "I am very sorry the administration did what they finally did, although I understand it. It is going to take a long time to get this back — and fixed."
The irony, experts say, is that paying for long-term care is the kind of problem insurance should be able to solve. It has to do with the mathematics of risk.
Most drivers will have some kind of accident during their years behind the wheel, but few will be involved in a catastrophic wreck. And some very careful drivers will not experience any accidents. The risks of long-term care are not all that different, says economist Harriet Komisar of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.
"A small percentage of people are going to need a year, two years, five years or more in a nursing home, but for those who do, it's huge," Komisar said. "Insurance makes sense when the odds are small but the financial risk is potentially high and unaffordable."
Komisar and her colleagues estimate that nearly 7 in 10 people will need some level of long-term care after turning 65. That's defined as help with personal tasks such as getting dressed, going to the toilet, eating, or taking a bath.
Many of those who need help will get it from a family member. Only 5 percent will need five years or more in a nursing home. And 3 in 10 will not need any long-term care assistance at all.
For those who do need extended nursing home care, Medicaid has become the default provider, since Medicare only covers short-term stays for rehab. But Medicaid is for low-income people, so the disabled literally have to impoverish themselves to qualify, a wrenching experience for families.
Liberals say the answer is government-sponsored insurance, like the CLASS plan the Obama administration included in the health overhaul law, only to find it wouldn't work financially.
The administration was unable to reconcile twin goals of CLASS: financial solvency and affordable coverage easily accessible to all working adults, regardless of health.
Conservatives have called for private coverage, perhaps with tax credits to make it more affordable.
Some experts say it will take a combination of both approaches.
"It almost has to be," said Robert Yee, a financial actuary hired by the Obama administration to try to make CLASS work.
Lower-income workers probably would never be able to afford private insurance, Yee explained. And a lavish public plan is out of the question.
"Anytime people talk about a social program, you are talking about a basic layer," he said.
Indeed, Yee had proposed to keep CLASS afloat by using some of the techniques of private insurers to attract the healthy and discourage the frail. The administration rejected that hybrid approach as incompatible with the law's intent to cover all regardless of health.
"Despite our best analytical efforts, I do not see a viable path forward for CLASS implementation at this time," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told congressional leaders.
Although CLASS would have come too late to help his disabled mother, Jacob Bockser of Walnut Creek, Calif., says he is disappointed.
Bockser, 29, is a former emergency medical technician studying to become a respiratory therapist. His mother Elizabeth, 58, is struggling with an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.
She had moved to lower-cost Washington state to save money, but as her condition worsens her son is trying to find a way to bring her back to California. She can still live in her own home, with help to keep safe.
"She did a lot of good saving. But because she did good, it disqualifies her from some kinds of public assistance," said the son. "When you are only 58 and looking at hopefully living another 20 or 25 years, it's scary to think the money just won't last."
Bockser says he doesn't expect the government to solve everything, but "even if there is the opportunity to try to piece together a couple of different programs that would be a start." -- (AP)
It’s known as the sneak thief of sight.
Glaucoma, which is a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve, affects more than 2.3 million Americans aged 40 and older. The disease is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans.
In observance of Glaucoma Awareness Month, the National Eye Institute encourages African Americans ages 40 or older, or people who have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma to undergo an eye exam.
“Glaucoma has no early warning signs or symptoms, and most people don’t know this,” said Dr. James Tsai, chair of the Glaucoma Subcommittee for the National Eye Institute (NEI) National Eye Health Education Program.
“It’s very important that people don’t wait until they notice a problem with their vision to have an eye exam.”
The disease damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that transmits the images we see to the brain. In the more common form, open-angle glaucoma, usually first the peripheral vision gradually decreases and then additional blind spots develop in the visual field. Symptoms of the less-common narrow-angle glaucoma include blurred vision, severe eye pain and headache, rainbow-colored halos around lights and nausea and vomiting.
Glaucoma can be detected by a dilated eye exam. During this exam, drops are placed into the eyes to widen the pupils. This allows an eye care professional to see inside the eye and examine the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma and other vision problems.
“We need to catch and treat glaucoma as early as possible, because there’s no way to restore vision once this disease steals it,” said Dr. Roger Zelt, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology (PAO).
“With ongoing care, we can significantly slow glaucoma’s progression and minimize people’s vision loss.”
In the U.S., higher-risk groups include people with African or Latino heritage and others with a family history of the illness. Older African Americans are five times more likely to develop glaucoma and 14 to 17 times more likely to become blind from the disease than those with European ancestry.
Other glaucoma risk factors include aging, nearsightedness or farsightedness, previous eye injuries, steroid use and health conditions that affect blood flow such a migraines, diabetes and low blood pressure.
A national survey commissioned by the PAO’s EyeSmart campaign found that only 24 percent of people in high-risk ethnic groups were aware that they were more likely to develop glaucoma. Only 16 percent of those with a family history of glaucoma or other eye diseases knew the risk factors for those diseases.
If you have Medicare, are African American age 50 or older, have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, you may be eligible for a low-cost comprehensive dilated eye exam through the glaucoma benefit. For information call 1 (800) MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov.
For information about assessing other financial assistance for eye care, visit www.nei.nih.gov/health/financialaid.asp.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is directing the Food and Drug Administration to take steps to reduce drug shortages, action he says will help stop a "slow-rolling problem" that puts patients at risk and raises the potential for price gouging.
Obama signed an executive order in the Oval Office on Monday instructing the FDA to take action in three areas: broadening its reporting of potential drug shortages; accelerating reviews of applications to change production of drugs facing potential shortages; and giving the Justice Department more information about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.
Patient deaths have been blamed on the shortages, which tend to affect cancer drugs, anesthetics, drugs used in emergency medicine, and electrolytes needed for intravenous feeding. Hospitals have been forced to buy from secondary suppliers at huge markups. Surgeries and cancer treatments have been delayed.
"Even though the FDA has successfully prevented an actual crisis, this is one of those slow-rolling problems that could end up resulting in disaster for patients and health care facilities all over the country," Obama said.
The president ordered the new steps without congressional approval, saying his administration refused to wait for lawmakers to act on similar legislation pending on Capitol Hill. The measure is part of a White House effort to use executive action to get around congressional Republicans.
Obama said the White House would continue to push lawmakers to pass bipartisan legislation to prevent drug shortages, but said "we can't wait for action on the Hill, we've got to go ahead and move forward."
The president was joined in the Oval Office by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, pharmacy manager Bonnie Frawley, and Jay Cuetara, a 49-year-old San Francisco cancer patient who told an FDA workshop last month how he grappled with a shortage in his chemotherapy drug.
The FDA reported 178 drug shortages last year, and the agency says it continues to see an increase in shortages this year. Major causes of drug shortages are said to be quality or manufacturing problems, or delays in receiving components from suppliers. Drug makers also discontinue certain drugs in favor of newer medications that are more profitable. The FDA does not have authority to force drug makers to continue production of a drug.
In the worst known case linked to the shortages, Alabama's public health department this spring reported nine deaths and 10 patients harmed due to bacterial contamination of a hand-mixed batch of liquid nutrition given via feeding tubes because the sterile pre-mixed liquid wasn't available.
The administration acknowledged the steps Obama approved won't solve a growing problem. Shortages have tripled in recent years and show no signs of slowing.
But Hamburg said, "We can make a very real and meaningful difference by expanding our network of early warnings."
Indeed, officials said the FDA has managed to prevent 137 drug shortages over the past 21 months when companies told regulators they were having trouble. Options include getting other manufacturers to ramp up their own production, helping to find alternative suppliers of key ingredients, even sometimes allowing temporary importation of competitors usually only sold abroad.
The executive action is part of a larger push by the White House to portray Obama, who is facing re-election, as an effective counterpoint to congressional Republicans blocking his jobs legislation. Last week, he issued an executive order to help homeowners refinance at lower mortgage rates and to allow college graduates to simplify and lower their student loan payments. On Friday he directed government agencies to shorten the time it takes for federal research to turn into commercial products in the marketplace. -- (AP)
CHICAGO — The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds.
The problems were seen in a study of 60 children randomly assigned to either watch "SpongeBob," or the slower-paced PBS cartoon "Caillou" or assigned to draw pictures. Immediately after these nine-minute assignments, the kids took mental function tests; those who had watched "SpongeBob" did measurably worse than the others.
Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure — results that parents of young kids should be alert to, the study authors said.
Kids' cartoon shows typically feature about 22 minutes of action, so watching a full program "could be more detrimental," the researchers speculated, But they said more evidence is needed to confirm that.
The results should be interpreted cautiously because of the study's small size, but the data seem robust and bolster the idea that media exposure is a public health issue, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He is a child development specialist at Seattle Children's Hospital who wrote an editorial accompanying the study published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Christakis said parents need to realize that fast-paced programming may not be appropriate for very young children. "What kids watch matters, it's not just how much they watch," he said.
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob" shouldn't be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.
She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. "I wouldn't advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they're expected to pay attention and learn," she said.
Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler disputed the findings and said "SpongeBob SquarePants" is aimed at kids aged 6-11, not 4-year-olds.
"Having 60 non-diverse kids, who are not part of the show's targeted (audience), watch nine minutes of programming is questionable methodology and could not possibly provide the basis for any valid findings that parents could trust," he said.
Lillard said 4-year-olds were chosen because that age "is the heart of the period during which you see the most development" in certain self-control abilities. Whether children of other ages would be similarly affected can't be determined from this study
Most kids were white and from middle-class or wealthy families. They were given common mental function tests after watching cartoons or drawing. The SpongeBob kids scored on average 12 points lower than the other two groups, whose scores were nearly identical.
In another test, measuring self-control and impulsiveness, kids were rated on how long they could wait before eating snacks presented when the researcher left the room. "SpongeBob" kids waited about 2 1/2 minutes on average, versus at least four minutes for the other two groups.
The study has several limitations. For one thing, the kids weren't tested before they watched TV. But Lillard said none of the children had diagnosed attention problems and all got similar scores on parent evaluations of their behavior. -- (AP)
More than seventy percent of Americans struggle with weight that they find impossible to take off. It is the biggest medical epidemic that we face today.
A 2005 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study estimated that approximately 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the United States, making obesity the second leading contributor to premature death. (That’s the equivalent of a jetliner full of 300 people crashing every day.)
The CDC reports that 90–95 percent of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to diet and weight. Between 50 percent and 80 percent of diabetes cases are associated with unhealthy eating patterns and sedentary lifestyles. The average health-care costs for a person with diabetes are more than $13,000 per year compared to $2,500 for a person without diabetes.
Obesity is simply fatness in a degree higher than being overweight. The energy intake coming from food is stored as fat because the body does not use it.
There was a time, not so long ago, that obesity was considered a sign of health, wealth and beauty. It is widely known today that this is not the case. Obesity has many dangerous side effects such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. At no other time in history has obesity been as widespread as it is right now.
Why? What is the reason for this spike in obesity? Is it lifestyle? Is it laziness? Do we just not care about ourselves anymore? What is the problem?
Obesity occurs when a person intakes higher amount of food, which do not burn and is stored as fat in the body. Obesity can greatly have an adverse impact on a person’s health. It may even have a worse affect on a person’s mental health.
There are many more people in Philadelphia who are overweight or obese (900,000) than who are at a healthy weight (600,000).
In 2008, 64 percent of adults and 47 percent of children were overweight or obese. In North Philadelphia, nearly 70 percent of children were overweight or obese.
Nationwide, the rate of obesity has tripled in the past 20 years.
Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide, with increasing prevalence in adults and children, and authorities view it as one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.
The crisis is obesity. It’s the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America. And it’s completely preventable.
Think of it this way: Statistics tell us that for every 20 people reading this column, at least two will die because of a completely preventable illness related to overweight or obesity. Because of overweight or obesity, you could very well spend less time pursuing your dreams, serving in your communities and enjoying your children and grandchildren.
An unprecedented number of children are carrying excess body weight. That excess weight significantly increases our kids’ risk factors for a range of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and emotional and mental health problems.
Looking back 40 years to the 1960s, when many of us were children, just over four percent of 6- to 17-year-olds were overweight. Since then, that rate has more than tripled to over 15 percent. And the problem doesn’t go away when children grow up. Nearly three out of every four overweight teenagers may become overweight adults.
Our children did not create this problem. Adults did. Adults increased the portion size of children’s meals, developed the games and television that children find spellbinding, and chose the sedentary lifestyles that our children emulate. So adults must take the lead in solving this problem.
Benjamin Franklin was absolutely right back in the 1700s: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But more than 200 years later, prevention is still a radical concept to most Americans.
For the meals we eat, both at home, and the meals we eat out, it’s ultimately, our decision what we eat, where we eat and how much we eat. This is part of what I talk and advocate about with Americans of all ages, races, creeds and colors: increasing our health literacy.
Health literacy is the ability of an individual to access, understand and use health-related information and services to make appropriate health decisions.
Every morning people wake up and, while they’re sitting at the kitchen table, they read the newspaper and the cereal box. Throughout the day they read the nutritional information on their meals and on their snacks. But do they really understand the information they’re reading?
The labels list grams of fat. But do you know how many grams of fat you should eat in a meal? Or in a day? Or how many is too many? Or too few? These are seemingly simple questions, but we’re not being given simple answers.
The number of obese people in the world is currently estimated at being approximately one billion, which is a phenomenal statistic, so where did it all go wrong and how have we become this way, over the years.
We now use computers more than ever before the Internet starts taking over television as the most popular sitting down activity ever. We now have an abundance of machines that we can use at home that don’t involve much moving about, PlayStations, X-Boxes, etc. People use e-mail in organizations rather than talking to their colleagues or getting up to speak to them, we can now use phones anywhere we want to and see and talk to people for hours and hours, wherever we are, and will be mostly doing this while we are sitting down.
The big problem is with all of this is that due to all of the industrialization, that we have around us we tend to think that we should just go everywhere in our cars. Rather than walking or buying fresh produce, we have let ourselves become a bit too comfortable with our lives and relying on technology to do everything for us so in the long run we tend to do less rather than more.
Walking briskly for just an hour a day is enough to cut the effect of tendencies toward obesity, according to new research.
As we attempt to get our kids to make healthy choices, we should not forget that we need to make them for ourselves.
James Baldwin captured the essence of this when he said: “Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one. Take good care of yourself, and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.
Glenn Ellis is a health advocacy communications specialist. He is the author of “Which Doctor?”, a lecturing health columnist and radio commentator and an active media contributor nationally and internationally on health related topics.
His second book, “Information is the Best Medicine,” was released in 2012. For more good health information, visit: www.glennellis.com.