Articles Posted in Preventive Care

probe-300x195With more than 10,000 boomers retiring each day and more seniors ending up at some point in their lives in nursing homes, regulators need to step up their oversight of elder care facilities. But there’s disturbing information they’re failing at this crucial task, allowing terrible abuses of older Americans who also may be evicted unfairly from facilities and who may be insufficiently protected when natural calamities occur.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune deserves credit for its multipart investigation of abuses in nursing homes. As the news organization has reported of its findings:

Every year, hundreds of residents at senior care centers around the state are assaulted, raped or robbed in crimes that leave lasting trauma and pain for the victims and their families. Yet the vast majority of these crimes are never resolved, and the perpetrators never punished, because state regulators lack the staff and expertise to investigate them. And thousands of complaints are simply ignored. … Last year alone, the Minnesota Department of Health received 25,226 allegations of neglect, physical abuse, unexplained serious injuries, and thefts in state-licensed homes for the elderly. Ninety-seven percent were never investigated. That includes 2,025 allegations of physical or emotional abuse by staff, 4,100 reports of altercations between residents and 300 reported drug thefts. When the Health Department did investigate, records show that it often neglected key steps in a criminal probe. In dozens of those cases, for instance, no one interviewed the victims, and no one called the police. Health Department documents contain dire tales of residents being choked, punched, smothered with pillows, fondled and forcibly restrained.

azar-235x300Members of Congress have scattered back to their districts for Thanksgiving, giving the nation a bit of a break from the health policy turkey shoot that has besieged the nation’s capital. The health- and medical-related actions have piled up so fast and furious that it can be daunting.

But let’s not overlook:

  • The hot mess that’s supposed to be a GOP wish list of tax changes has, instead, turned into yet another attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, this time by eliminating the “individual mandate” that requires Americans to show through their tax returns that they have health insurance coverage. Tax policies invariably are complicated. Let’s simplify this one: Partisans want to slash the ACA, so they can take money from it — $300 billion or so — to help “pay for” $1 trillion or more in tax cuts for giant corporations and the wealthy. This legislative legerdemain will mean 13 milllion Americans will lose health coverage and insurance premiums for millions will rise 10 percent, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office.

bp-300x169Did you feel yourself just get less well? U.S. heart experts have just issued new guidelines on what Americans’ optimal blood pressure should be—effectively and suddenly shifting just under half of the adults in the nation younger than 45 into an unhealthful status as hypertensive.

Doctors say there’s no doubting data that shows that blood pressure readings exceeding 130 over 80 can be detrimental to patients’ health. That’s down from the previous warning level of 140 over 90.

But what exactly has the medical establishment wrought with this sweeping metric? Have they deemed so many of us unwell in this way that we’re about to see public doubt and confusion—even profiteering—as has surrounded the description of tens of millions of Americans as “prediabetic?”

soccerknee-300x97Here’s another painful reminder to grownups about youngsters and sports: Moderation matters, and youthful games are supposed to fun, diverting, and character building—and most definitely should not leave today’s aspiring athletes as tomorrow’s hobbled adults.

The New York Times has reported on what a pediatric sports medicine expert has described as a “dirty little secret” of orthopedics, which is “the chance of getting arthritis within a decade of tearing a tendon or a ligament in the knee is greater than 50 percent.” And more and more youths, as they participate aggressively and frequently in sports programs, are undergoing surgeries on damaged or torn anterior cruciate ligaments, a procedure well-known as the ACL repair.

The sports medicine doc says he is gathering data for a study that will show that patients at 26 children’s hospitals he has focused on underwent 500 ACL repairs in 2005, but by 2014, more than 2,500 youths had these surgeries.

alcohol-248x300When topics like booze and health flow together, common sense seems to disappear. So let’s give credit to the context-restoring efforts of Aaron Carroll— a pediatrics faculty member at Indiana University medical school, a health policy researcher, and a writer for the New York Times’ “Upshot” column—and healthnewsreview.org, a health information watch dog site.

Both addressed a “panic” in certain quarters generated by a new caution issued by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists. The respected organization of cancer medical specialists said that even light alcohol consumption can add to drinkers’ cancer risks.

As Carroll summarized the cancer experts warning:

urine-sample-cup-263x300With opioid drugs now the leading cause of death for Americans 50 and younger and killing more than 64,000 people last year, was it inevitable that some shady characters are profiteering off the miseries of those struggling to get off potent painkillers?

And is it predictable that key politicians keep talking big but still haven’t backed up their boasts with the money and means to attack a public health crisis that is claiming more lives than cars or guns and at a faster pace than HIV-AIDS did at the peak of that epidemic?

Americans have plenty cause to be — forgive the vulgar word play — pissed off at the doctors and labs that are raking in profits on urine testing for drugs. This business has exploded but with little or no oversight. As reporters Fred Schulte and Elizabeth Lucas have written:

traumatower2-300x205In the torrent of the relentless 24/7 news cycle, let’s not allow a new normal to prevail. We can’t forget that just days ago, a madman opened fire on a church in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas, killing at least 26 and wounding 20 or so. It was the worst mass shooting in the Lone Star State’s history, and it added to a horrific and growing toll for recent such gun-related outbreaks.

These incidents not only devastate the communities in which they occur. They also put giant strains of doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, and hospitals. All respond in ways that deserve a major salute, as well as empathy, compassion, and shared grief for the victims, their families, and those who seek to save and protect lives in chaotic situations.

The killing in Sutherland, Texas, posed its own unique stresses, with medical experts heaping praise on EMTs and first-responders for their heroic work at the scene, and then speeding those in need to care at hospitals at least 35 miles away.

northam-300x228Millions of Americans may qualify for federal help in paying for the health insurance, but they must sign up for coverages on exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, by Dec. 15. Doing so, starting with a visit to healthcare.gov, has become a surprisingly popular and perhaps a strongly political act.

That’s at least one way to look at it after voters, led by Virginians, sent a big electoral rebuke to President Trump and congressional Republicans over their failed congressional assault and continuing efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, especially its increasingly popular expansion of Medicaid. Its programs benefit the poor, young, old, chronically and mentally ill—and growing numbers of working poor and middle-class Americans, too.

The punditry has flowed since Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, and elsewhere. Virginia voters not only trashed Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate who was supported by Trump, and elected Ralph Northam, a Democrat, a pediatrician, and a veteran who was the state’s lieutenant governor (see photo), they also churned the membership of the state legislature. Control of the House is up to recounts in a few tight races.

epipen-300x119Big Pharma’s rapacious profit-seeking can seem to hit no bounds, even if it afflicts millions: Just consider what federal and state regulators are mulling about the makers of a popular anti-allergy therapy and those who supply a critical diabetes medication.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has replied to Bloomberg News Service that, so far, in 2017, it has recorded 228 reports of EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. failures, and the failure of EpiPens to deploy correctly has been cited in seven deaths through mid-September.

The agency said it is monitoring closely these “adverse event complaints.” These are unconfirmed reports that do not necessarily tie a product to a harm. But they might constitute sufficient grounds to investigate further and to potentially order product recalls, though, so far, the FDA says it believes patients can keep using EpiPens on the market without worry.

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