Articles Posted in Communication

treadmill-300x222Millions of Americans may be hitting the gym as part of their new year resolve to get fitter. They also need to exercise caution and common sense to avoid injuries that could leave them in worse shape.

As the Washington Post reported, the 2018 health club crush will result in “hundreds of thousands of [exercisers] stumbling on treadmills, falling off exercise balls, getting snapped in the face by resistance bands, dropping weights on their toes and wrenching their backs by lifting too much weight.”

Further, the newspaper added:

precise-223x300Although billions of dollars and lots of positive public attention have been lavished on the promise of genetic-based “precision medicine,” this therapeutic approach to treating cancer and other serious diseases may need more scrutiny for basics of quality control.

National Public Radio deserves credit for airing some less-heard experts’ worries about the roles of at least two groups of little-seen and often-ignored medical specialists — pathologists and med techs — and how their common practices may undercut the potential of efforts to target disease treatments to individual patients based on maps of their genes.

Despite its powerful and progress-promising name, precision medicine relies on some old-fashioned, unchanged, and possibly problematic medical techniques, experts told NPR. Blood and tissue samples, which later will be analyzed with costly and supposedly state-of-the-art equipment, still get taken by med techs with limited training. Little attention typically gets paid to how they collect samples and how carefully they get handled before arriving in labs. They may sit on carts for hours, and they may be dragged through different parts of hospitals where temperatures vary widely and can hit extremes.

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The new year is bubbling with numerous reports about  “raw water.” Enthusiasts are flocking to outlets — in Oregon, Maine, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley — for unfiltered, untreated, and unsterilized H2O from springs. They’re paying dearly, for example $36.99 for a 2.5-gallon glass orb of “off the grid” Live Water from a West Coast vendor.

Devotees insist “raw water” tastes better. They contend it’s healthier when free of chemicals, like purifying chlorine and tooth- and bone-protecting fluoride, and replete with “probiotics,” bacteria and microscopic life such as algae that they claim are beneficial.

Such claims fly in the face of at least a century of public health experience and progress, a period in which science-based hygiene has helped to rid the nation of epidemics due to water-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis A no longer flourish in water supplies, killing thousands annually as these banes once did. It goes without a thought for most Americans that they can turn the spigot at home or the office, drink freely and deeply and not end up getting deathly ill — risks that may be posed by “raw” water.

blkmom-300x222The bad news for expectant black moms isn’t confined to those living in the nation’s capital: A new investigation has found higher risks of harm for women in New York, Florida, and Illinois when they deliver at hospitals that disproportionately serve black mothers.

ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site, analyzed two years of hospital inpatient discharge data from the three states to “look in-depth at how well different facilities treat women who experience one particular problem — hemorrhages — while giving birth.” Reporters found negative patterns that underscored big woes identified by other research before:

[B]lack women … fare worse in pregnancy and childbirth, dying at a rate more than triple that of white mothers. And while part of the disparity can be attributed to factors like poverty and inadequate access to health care, there is growing evidence that points to the quality of care at hospitals where a disproportionate number of black women deliver, which are often in neighborhoods disadvantaged by segregation. Researchers have found that women who deliver at these so-called ‘black-serving’ hospitals are more likely to have serious complications — from infections to birth-related embolisms to emergency hysterectomies — than mothers who deliver at institutions that serve fewer black women.

fdanulogo-300x126Watchdogs have caught the Federal Food and Drug Administration dogging one of its most basic and important tasks — getting contaminated and potentially dangerous foods off the shelves quickly.

Federal inspectors spot-checked several dozen recalls among 1,557 the agency conducted between 2012 and 2015, partly to see how the FDA used wider powers given to it under the Obama Administration to protect American consumers from food-borne illness.

The agency dawdled for weeks and even months, adding to delays that might increase the risks of harms to the public, said investigators under the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. As the New York Times reported:

bullets-300x245When illness, accidents, and natural- or man-made calamities strike, victims discover in their long slog to recovery that our health insurance system only aggravates their pain and anxiety.  That’s a painful lesson that hundreds of Americans will keep struggling with in 2018, months after a madman rained gunfire from high-powered rifles down into a Las Vegas music festival crowd.

Modern Healthcare deserves credit for its follow-up of the October mayhem Nevada. It was part of what the industry publication calls an “epidemic of mass shootings,” tragedies stretching from San Bernardino, Calif., to Newton, Mass. They’re taxing hospitals’ capacities not only to provide large-scale emergency medicine but also to provide follow-up care — especially assisting survivors and their families and friends in dealing with their staggering medical expenses.

Victims in mass shootings, Modern Healthcare reported, confront a “proliferation of health plans with high deductibles and coinsurance requirements, leaving [them] exposed to many thousands of dollars in cost-sharing. Severely injured patients needing repeat surgeries may hit their out-of-pocket spending limits multiple years in a row, forcing them into bankruptcy. On top of that, even insured patients may face big balance bills if they are treated by out-of-network providers.”

overdosedeaths1-300x1812017 ends with yet more grim news about the nation’s opioid drug epidemic — not only that its toll keeps rising, it now is afflicting African Americans as never before. They had been less harmed by this crisis but the scourge is spreading to them, notably in spots like the District of Columbia and Baltimore.

Reporters for the New York Times’ “Upshot” feature dove into new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid drug-related deaths. They found the official numbers not only reaffirmed a sharp increase in drug fatalities in 2016 but also showed that “the drug death rate is rising most steeply among blacks, with those between the ages of 45 and 64 among the hardest hit.” As the newspaper reported:

Drug deaths among blacks in urban counties rose by 41 percent in 2016, far outpacing any other racial or ethnic group. In those same counties, the drug death rate among whites rose by 19 percent. The [new CDC] data … suggests that the common perception of the epidemic as an almost entirely white problem rooted in over-prescription of painkillers is no longer accurate, as fentanyl, often stealthily, invades broader swaths of the country and its population.

horsesafety-227x300Get out of the crowds and traffic of the nation’s capital, and into the rolling green of Virginia and Maryland, where thrives the stately and multibillion-dollar business of breeding, raising, showing, and riding horses. That bucolic equestrian life also has a less-known health worry:  Horseback riding, not a contact sport, turns out to be the top adult athletic endeavor that causes traumatic brain injuries.

Researchers in San Francisco scrutinized just under 5,000 cases, recorded between 2003 and 2012 in a federal nationwide data bank of adult sports-related trauma incidents, finding that “equestrian sports were the greatest contributors to sports-related” traumatic brain injuries, they reported in their recent article in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

As ABC-TV News noted of the researchers’ study, they found that “45.2 percent of [traumatic brain injuries] among adults were related to horseback riding, dwarfing the other causes. The second-leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injury was falls or hits from contact sports like football and soccer, but that accounted for just 20.2 percent.”

obamacare1-300x154Millions of ordinary Americans closed out 2017 with a powerful message to the Trump Administration and GOP lawmakers about the nation’s health care. Despite efforts to make it harder to re-enlist for insurance plans, consumers signed up in strong fashion for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Their actions spoke loudly against the claim that Obamacare is dead. Nope, it’s popular and in high demand.

That 8.8. million Americans had sought Obamacare by the Dec. 15 general program sign-up deadline came as a pleasant surprise to ACA supporters. They were glum because the administration had halved the application time and slashed the money for advertising and other outreach — programs that proponents had considered necessary so those covered on ACA exchanges wouldn’t only be the sickest and oldest Americans but also the healthy and young. Administration officials also said little or nothing to support or promote Obamacare sign-ups, while the President and GOP lawmakers spent the first year of a new Congress and administration assailing the ACA, including a failed effort to repeal and replace it.

Partisans in Congress, as part of a more than $1.5 trillion bill to change the nation’s tax system, killed the ACA’s individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans show, as part of the annual tax returns, that they had health insurance or face penalties. That move, independent and nonpartisan analysts have said, will mean 13 million Americans will lack health coverage by 2027, and average health insurance premiums will go up by 10 percent each year for the next decade. With the prospect that the tax bill and the GOP budget plan will force billions of dollars in cuts, too, to Medicare and Medicaid, and with the unpopular individual mandate gone, President Trump has claimed that he and the Republican Congress have killed Obamacare.

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