Articles Posted in Preventive Care

jcgoldseal-300x300The nation’s leading watchdog of hospital safety and quality  is quick to hand out its “Gold Seal of Approval” and rarely penalizes care-giving institutions, even when state and federal officials find serious problems.

The Wall Street Journal deserves credit for its investigation of the Joint Commission, the nonprofit and industry-supported organization that is supposed to inspect and accredit hospitals nationwide. It does so for 80 percent of them, as well as for institutions serving military veterans, federal prisoners, and Native American patients in the Indian Health System.

Hospitals can either join the commission and undergo its accreditation process—including regular inspections that typically are announced in advance, conducted with flourish, and which can cost institutions tens of thousands of dollars depending on their size and membership levels—or they can be inspected by state and federal officials. Most choose the Joint Commission.

hookworms-300x201It can be too easy to forget the unfortunate, inequitable legacy of the Old South, especially how racist Dixie created stark racial health disparities. But sometimes a foreigner’s jab in the ribs can remind us how making America great again could mean tending much better to our collective p’s and q’s in public health, especially so poor, rural people of color don’t get tropical parasite infections and they do get reasonable access to critical maternal care.

The Guardian, a British news outlet, has pointed out that new, published research shows a disgusting resurgence in Americans, notably in Alabama, testing positive for hookworms, a debilitating “gastrointestinal parasite that was thought to have been eradicated from the U.S. decades ago.”

As the Guardian reports:

Heroin-Fentanyl-vials-NHSPFL-1600x900-300x169A Missouri  Senator has accused Insys Therapeutics, a major drug maker, of conducting a sneaky campaign to get more pain-wracked cancer patients to use its synthetic and super powerful opioid drug, thus helping to fuel the wildfire spread of increasingly lethal and debilitating prescription pain killers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill and investigators from a Senate committee, as well as federal prosecutors, have painted a harsh picture of how Insys created a special unit to boost sales and use of Subsys, its spray form of the potent painkiller fentanyl.

Through an elaborate ruse—which included carefully crafted scripts and bogus phone numbers—Insys workers contacted prescription benefit management (PBM) firms, making them believe they were patients seeking a required pre-approval for their doctors to prescribe them Subsys.

vision1-300x200With youngsters now back to school, it’s worth noting how attention to seemingly small matters can make big differences in children’s health, well-being and academic achievement.

Kudos to Politico, the much-followed national political news web site, for following up on an excellent Baltimore initiative to test and improve school kids’ vision, including providing them with glasses if they need them. The idea here is simple and worth support: How can kids read, study, and excel if they don’t see well? Don’t they need help with glasses, which aren’t cheap and as accessible as they could be, especially for poorer youngsters?

That’s what led to the establishment of Vision for Baltimore—a public-private coalition that includes the city health department and public schools, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Education, eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, and a national nonprofit called Vision To Learn. As Politico has reported, the group has set up a program with:

aarpAmerican workers have gotten back a little breathing room from corporations’ intrusive push to try to get them to surrender more of their personal, private health information as part of workplace wellness programs linked to company-provided health insurance plans.

This is due to a federal judge’s rejecting a rule by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that allows companies to describe the wellness programs as “voluntary,” even though workers may pay thousands of dollars if they decline to participate in them.

Such “coercive” company conduct is discriminatory, runs roughshod over workers’ health privacy rights, and is unfair, the AARP had asserted when it sued the EEOC to overturn its workplace wellness rule.

eclipsepm-300x270e2-150x150e1-150x150Did you find the full solar eclipse to be thrilling and energizing? Hope so. And even if not,  you can start planning to see the next one in 2019 in South America and parts of Asia, or in 2024 in eastern Canada, the central U.S., and part of Mexico.

If you got your hands on good, protective optical gear for the Great American Eclipse, such as the special glasses that complied with the ISO 12312-2 safety standards, store it well, and it should be good to go, even a few years from now.

Or you might want to donate them—the global nonprofit Astronomers Without Borders group is putting on a big online push to collect the give-away glasses for youngsters in the developing world for so they safely can watch the next total eclipse in their areas. Smithsonian Magazine says the group in 2013 rounded up, then donated thousands of such specs so youngsters in west and central Africa could watch a celestial event that year.

records-300x200Although patients can protect their own health by getting copies of their medical records, few consumers get them, and fewer still take advantage of the federal government’s push to make records easily  available electronically, one of Uncle Sam’s big public protection agencies reports.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also warns that tumult in the nation’s health care system, notably in Congress’ roller-coaster deliberations to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may disrupt patients’ relationships with caregivers. That makes it even more vital for consumers to have their health records.

The Association of Health Care Journalists deserves a tip of the cap for pointing to the GAO blog, where experts note that the ACA had supported a national push to get doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records with the aim of providing patients and caregivers more access and transparency about these crucial materials.

Chronic_Traumatic_Encephalopathy-300x153Football players and fans, if they had doubts before, have taken yet another hit to their favorite sport, with a retrospective study of hundreds of pro players’ brains finding a damaging disorder in a startling percentage of the donated organs.

Experts reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 110 of 111 brains of onetime players in the National Football League, examined by neuropathologists and other experts, showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It’s a degenerative disease that experts think is caused by repeated head blows. It has been linked with multiple symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can crop up long after the head trauma stops.

Caution needs to be exercised with this research because the athlete-brain donors and their families were extremely self-selecting. They participated in the post-mortem study, some with guarantees of confidentiality about identities, because they had experienced or started to show likely CTE-related debilitation before their deaths.

cig-300x225The nation’s long war on one of its leading preventable killers has taken a surprising tactical turn, as the head of the federal Food and Drug Administration has declared that tobacco companies will face new regulations aimed at slashing nicotine in cigarettes.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb argues that cutting the noxious and addictive nicotine will help Americans unhook themselves from tobacco use, prompting less cigarette smoking, and, potentially increasing the use of possibly less harmful health vices, like nonburning “e-cigarettes” for vaping.

Gottlieb, at the same time, put further off a planned FDA crackdown on e-cigarette makers, delaying for several years requirements that they disclose ingredients in their colorful, flavored vaping liquids and demonstrate that they and other e-cigarette products do not cause health harms.

spinning-300x200Although many sports enthusiasts relish the summer as a peak time to train hard to get especially fit, wise athletes for safety’s sake may wish to build their way up to exhausting workouts, and to ensure they’re staying hydrated in healthful ways, while also recognizing that endurance competitions may alter their bodies in ways that they should at least be aware of.

The New York Times has posted an eyebrow-raising story on the perils to hard-driving jocks, male and female, of “rhabdo,” aka rhabdomyolysis, a “rare but life-threatening condition often caused by extreme exercise. It occurs when overworked muscles begin to die and leak their contents into the bloodstream, straining the kidneys and causing severe pain.”

Two doctors say they treated three recent, severe rhabdo cases brought on when novices in not great shape leaped into intense spinning classes, demanding exercise regimens lasting around an hour and involving specialized stationery bicycles. They found in medical literature 46 other, documented rhabdo cases, with 42 tied to novices’ spinning.

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