Articles Posted in Preventive Care

hospicenyer-300x123What happens when the highly vulnerable — older, sick, injured, and debilitated people — get left in the hands of profit-obsessed private enterprises operating under woefully lax regulatory oversight? Big messes abound, as news organizations have reported after taking deep dives into the workings of the “hustle” of for-profit hospice programs, or the chronic  staffing shortages that prevail at far too many private nursing homes.

Sure, this is a hectic time of the year, and it can be a challenge to carve out the time to pore over the painstaking reporting of fine journalists who race to make public their major investigations before the year’s end (including to qualify for major professional prizes).

Still, for anyone concerned about destructive failures in the U.S. health care system, how they blow up over time, and how they get ignored until they become crises, the reports by ProPublica, the New Yorker, and USA Today are important reading.

philipslogo-150x150While critics long have ripped the Food and Drug Administration for its weak oversight of medical devices and its too cozy relationships with their makers, the federal agency and a Dutch global conglomerate have given millions of U.S. consumers a big, infuriating, prolonged exposure to just how bungled the oversight of this industry can be.

As 2022 races to its close, the Wall Street Journal has reported on this costly, inconvenient, and unacceptable mess, as has the New York Times. And now, so has Stat, the science and medical news site, which wrote this about the “flaws in device oversight” as so many regular folks have experienced with the FDA, manufacturer Philips, and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and BPAP or BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) devices:

“The ongoing recall of millions of breathing devices made by Philips has been botched and belabored at nearly every turn: It took more than a decade after users first reported the soundproofing foam in their CPAP and BPAP machines breaking down for Philips to issue a recall. Even after the recall notice was issued, it failed to reach many patients, and many are still waiting on their promised replacement devices or refunds, some of which had to be recalled themselves. More than a year after the recall, the FDA has received more than 90,000 reports about problems with the devices, including 260 … deaths reportedly associated with the products. The [FDA] has pulled out all the stops — including regulatory orders not deployed in decades — to force Philips to contact users about the recall and replace the devices in a timely manner.

fluill-150x150The coronavirus pandemic may not hold the iron grip it once held on newspaper front pages and lead stories on broadcast and online news outlets.

The infection, however, keeps inflicting major harms — taking a disproportionate and lethal toll now on older Americans, wreaking sustained havoc on the credibility of public health information and medical expertise, and debilitating as many as 15 million people with the perplexing problems of long Covid.

Hospitals across the country are warning the public that they are teetering on the brink of getting overwhelmed yet again as they battle a “tripledemic” — an unusually early wave of RSV cases, an early and virulent seasonal flu, and a rising and still challenging number of coronavirus illnesses.

fdnybatteryfire-150x150For consumers who were too stuffed from their Thanksgiving feasting or too weary of stressful bargain hunting to jam the malls or to flock to the internet for Black Friday deals, the words to the wise have started flowing on how the savvy will ensure their holiday gifts also keep loved ones safe from unintended harms.

Kids toys, of course, are always cause for caution at this time of year, federal regulators say. But grownups also can glean safety reminders from disconcerting reports about an increasingly popular and practical potential seasonal acquisition — the so-called “e-bikes.”

With toys, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a timely and distressing study. The federal watchdog agency reported that in 2021:

condoms1-150x150In some not-so-great news for the nation’s sexual well-being, the rubber has hit the road for too many guys.

The familiar and oft-ridiculed prophylactic could play a significant role in battling an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that has engulfed the nation, the Washington Post reported. But condom use has declined significantly, for example, as a leading means for family planning, falling in opinion surveys from 75% in 2011 to 42% among men polled.

Public health experts confront multiple challenges in trying to slash the soaring tide of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, partly because medical advances with HIV-AIDS mistakenly have the sexually active, especially young men, believing that they can forgo condoms and be safe, the newspaper reported:

heart3-150x150As cardiologists and other medical specialists grow increasingly aware of big differences in the heart and circulatory health of men and women, researchers also are prodding doctors who take medical histories of female patients to be sure to ask simple but important questions about their experiences with problem pregnancies.

That’s because vital preventive information can be surfaced, if clinicians learn, for example, that their patients had preeclampsia, “a complication that occurs in about 5% of pregnancies and in which dangerously high blood pressure can lead to seizures, organ failure, and death,” according to Stat, a science and medical news site. As Stat reported:

“Women who have preeclampsia have more than twice the chance of developing cardiovascular disease later in life compared to women who had pregnancies without it …Today, a growing subset of care providers is advocating for closer follow-up of the millions of people who have had preeclampsia and other complications during pregnancy that signal an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Given that about one in three women in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease, better screening of people with pregnancy complications could help protect them before they develop the disease in the first place.

NCAAlogo2-150x150Armchair quarterbacks of the legal kind have raced onto the field, arguing that a Los Angeles jury verdict will help shield the National Collegiate Athletic Association from a potential avalanche of claims asserting the group did too little to protect young players from debilitation and death due to head trauma.

Maybe, maybe not.

Jurors rejected the case seeking $55 million from the NCAA, accusing the body that oversees collegiate athletics of failing to safeguard Matthew Gee, a University of Southern California linebacker on the 1990 Rose Bowl-winning squad.

burningdope-150x150Marijuana, as the kids say, isn’t as dope as users would like it to be.

Instead, a new study finds that marijuana can do greater damage to humans’ respiratory system than cigarette smoking — a nasty habit that research also has proven to be a major cause of cancer, heart and circulatory damage, and other health harms.

To be sure, the researchers’ observations about pot’s harms were based on a relatively small sample size of 56 Canadian patients who smoked both cigarettes and marijuana and had their chest scans scrutinized by at least two radiologists who were blinded to information about the patients whose images they were reviewing. As the Wall Street Journal reported of the study, published in the medical journal Radiology:

tksgiving-300x177Millions of us will have much to give thanks for during the annual holiday, which, like several of its recent versions, again will be a time of health wariness and uncertainty, too.

The seasonal feast — which brings so many the joy of not only a grand meal but also the pleasure of gathering with friends, family, and other loved ones — will be more costly than any in recent memory due to economic inflation and supply chain problems, the Associated Press reported:

“Americans are bracing for a costly Thanksgiving this year, with double-digit percent increases in the price of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, canned pumpkin, and other staples. The U.S. government estimates food prices will be up 9.5% to 10.5% this year; historically, they’ve risen only 2% annually. Lower production and higher costs for labor, transportation and items are part of the reason; disease, rough weather and the war in Ukraine are also contributors.”

agedhands-150x150The Biden Administration is encountering stiff industry opposition but is forging ahead with plans to announce in coming months major regulatory reforms that advocates hope finally will force nursing homes to meet minimum staffing guidelines to care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable.

The tragic devastation of long-term care facilities and their residents by the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated the dire need for federal regulators to set baseline standards for nursing and other front-line resident care, critics say.

Their arguments have been bolstered by lawsuits against nursing homes and their subsequent disclosure of harms done to seniors, the sick, and injured — those who are so debilitated that they require substantial living assistance but too often do not get it due to substandard staffing and profit-driven decision-making by facilities’ owners and operators.

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