WBEZ | health http://www.wbez.org/tags/health Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emergency room visits for mental health skyrocket in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ambulance_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s no secret that both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois have major budget problems. Both governments have made cuts to services in recent years. But there is evidence that shrinking mental health services could actually cost money.</p><p>Heather Linehan is a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department. She is tall, with strong arms and gray hair. She has the kind of presence that is gentle, but also seems to say, you probably shouldn&rsquo;t mess with me.</p><p>Linehan said she has developed that demeanor from working over 30 years in emergency medical services. She said that kind of work gives her a particular view of the city. When you deal with emergencies you see what is not working. You are with people in their worst moments, the times when all the other safety nets have failed.<br /><br />&ldquo;On the street we say, you know what rolls down hill and who it lands on,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Linehan said when policy decisions get made, she sees a difference in who shows up in her ambulance. Years ago, she noticed when state hospitals started to close and not enough community based services filled the gap. More recently she noticed when the state cut funding and later when the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>If Gov. Bruce Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget passes she will be bracing herself again.<br /><br />Linehan is not alone. People who work on mental health say the cuts to Medicaid and mental health services would mean more people with mental illness visiting emergency rooms.</p><p>It is a trend that is already underway. Data WBEZ obtained from the the state show startling increases in Chicago. From 2009 to 2013, 37 percent more patients were discharged from emergency rooms for psychiatric treatment. The biggest jump came in 2012, the same year the city closed half of its mental health clinics.</p><p>The city did not agree to an interview for this story. But in a statement it said the mental health infrastructure in Chicago is stronger than it was four years ago.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Inside an Emergency Department</span></p><p>The emergency room spike has already forced some emergency departments to make big, costly changes, just so they can keep these patients safe. Including literally rebuilding parts of their hospitals.</p><p>Sheri Richardt is the manager of Crisis and Behavioral Health at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where construction is underway on a new behavioral health unit.</p><p>Richardt said when a psychiatric patients come in to the emergency department they need special examination rooms. She pointed out how the pipes under the sink and toilet are covered.</p><p>&ldquo;There is nothing on the walls you could hang yourself with or hurt yourself with,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />As visits climbed the hospital needed more spaces like this. The new rooms will be designed for safety, but also to give the patients a more quiet and private space, away from the hustle of the rest of the emergency department.</p><p>Richardt said she witnessed one reason why psychiatric ER visits rose by 37 percent.<br />She said hospitals often recommend Medicaid patients that follow up with a therapist or maybe psychiatrist after they are discharged from the emergency room.<br /><br />But &nbsp;Richardt&nbsp;said some patients live in areas where there just are not enough places to get care. She said these patients could wait as long as nine months for an appointment, &ldquo;and if you come to the emergency room because you are in crisis and then you can not get follow up care for nine months you are probably going to go back to the emergency room for care.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The $2.5 million patient</span></p><p>Richardt&nbsp;saw the same patients rotate in again and again. So she pulled one patient&rsquo;s files and found that woman had visited the Illinois Masonic Emergency Room 750 times over the course of about 10 years.</p><p>Richardt&nbsp;said the patient was picked up by an ambulance or police officer almost daily. Sometimes the emergency department would discharge her, only to have her appear back a few hours later.</p><p>&ldquo;The cost of that for us was two and a half million dollars. Medicaid dollars,&rdquo; said Richardt. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s only at our hospital. This an individual who went between multiple hospitals and so we don&rsquo;t have the true cost.&rdquo;</p><p>Like many patients, she had different, interconnected problems. She had mental health needs, drank too much, fell down a lot. She didn&rsquo;t have stable housing and started having seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;And it wasn&rsquo;t only about the money; this is an individual we believed was going to...die on the street,&rdquo; said Richardt.</p><p>Richardt and her team decided to take full responsibility for this patient. They coordinated all aspects of her care, helped her get an apartment and worked with nurses and a chaplain. It worked. She&rsquo;s only visited the emergency room a handful of times in the last year.</p><p>About a year ago they launched a team with social workers, chaplains and nurses to provide the same type of care to more patients. They work with the hardest cases, including people with mental illness who often visit the emergency room frequently.</p><p>The hospital said their visits have begun to plateau.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Shifting Cost</span></p><p>The kind of wrap-around care performed at Illinois Masonic relies on a range of services. Those services are threatened under Rauner&rsquo;s proposed budget, which cuts millions from community services and housing.</p><p>We contacted his office and asked to speak to anyone from the administration about his budget. In a statement his office said cuts are needed because of reckless spending from the past. They refused to do an interview.</p><p>So we called other state Republican leaders and were referred to Rep. David Leitch. Leitch is a conservative who hates government bureaucracy and believes in fiscal responsibility. And that&rsquo;s exactly why he says he opposes these mental health cuts.</p><p>The cuts mean &ldquo;the emergency rooms pick up more and the jails pick up more. Any cuts the state makes, simply means somebody else has to pick up the cost,&rdquo; said Leitch.</p><p>But don&rsquo;t take Leitch&rsquo;s word that cuts one place may show up as costs somewhere else. Take it from someone who lives it.</p><p>Kathy Powers went to the city&rsquo;s Northtown Rogers Park Clinic for bipolar disorder. Even before the city closed her clinic, she was having trouble getting an appointment with a psychiatrist there, or anywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;So I went to the emergency room, because I was a girl with a purpose,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Workers at the emergency room said they had a reference for a psychiatrist at Northtown Rogers Park Clinic &mdash; the exact place she had not been able to get care.</p><p>&ldquo;And I said, I just came from Northtown Rogers Park clinic&hellip; don&rsquo;t recommend it anymore, they don&rsquo;t have any psychiatrists,&rdquo; said Powers.<br /><br />Eventually the emergency doctors renewed her prescription for lithium. Medicaid picked up the tab. It really gets to Powers how much that simple prescription costs taxpayers. She said we could be giving her much better care for less money.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 11:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emergency-room-visits-mental-health-skyrocket-chicago-111890 Flamin' Hot Cheetos top some Chicago Public School vending machines http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cheetos.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last week Michigan became the latest state to opt out of the federal Smart Snack standards. The rules regulate what can be sold in school fundraisers and vending machines that help schools pay the bill. More than 22 states have pushed for some kind of exemption from these rules since they went into effect last July.</p><p>So just how stringent are they?</p><p>The snacks must be:</p><ul><li>&ldquo;whole grain rich&rdquo; if they are grain-based, meaning 50 percent whole grain</li><li>no more than 200 calories</li><li>no more than 230 mgs of sodium</li><li>no more than 35 percent sugar, by weight</li><li>lower in fat, meaning no more than a third of their calories can come from fat</li></ul><p>So all that&rsquo;s left is kale, right?</p><p>Well, not really. In fact, under these new rules, two of the top sellers in some Chicago Public Schools are reformulated Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos and Kellogg&rsquo;s Pop Tarts. This is not exactly what Dr. Virginia Stallings envisioned when she chaired the Institute of Medicine committee whose recommendations would form the backbone of the Smart Snack rules.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I thought the top sellers might be things that had more nutrients in them than Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos,&rdquo; said Stallings, who is a professor of pediatrics at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. &ldquo;But let me say that one of the things we were absolutely expecting and appreciate is that the food companies would look at these recommendations and they would, in fact, reformulate their products.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>To Stallings, the reformulated Cheetos, in smaller portions, with more whole grain, less sodium and less fat, represent an evidence-based improvement over the old formula.</p><p>But to folks like Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, a health analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the snacks represent&nbsp;&nbsp; mixed messages to kids.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think it says to them that, of course, I can eat these. And when they are outside the school, if they see the same item at a grocery store, they don&rsquo;t recognize the difference,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Even more concerning, is that their parents don&rsquo;t either, according to a Rudd Center study showing that many parents are misguided into thinking that these [reformulated] items are good for their kids.&rdquo;</p><p>To see this in action, all you have to do is drop by a Chicago Public high school vending machine where reformulated Pop Tarts and Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs occupy several slots. In an interview with WBEZ Wednesday, CPS&rsquo;s head of Nutrition Services Leslie Fowler said she had no idea schools were selling the snacks.</p><p>The district, she said, has prohibited reformulated snacks for about a year. Still, a list of approved snacks that CPS provided to WBEZ on Wednesday includes Baked Cheetos and Reduced Fat Nilla Wafers. Another list the district sent to WBEZ earlier Wednesday included reduced fat Cool Ranch Doritos as an approved snack. But when WBEZ noted that snack was also &ldquo;reformulated,&rdquo; the CPS official claimed she&rsquo;d given us the wrong list.</p><p>To add to the confusion, Fowler told WBEZ Wednesday that the &ldquo;only Cheeto that is approved is the whole grain puff,&rdquo; which are not included on the latest list but are featured in several district machines.</p><p>Regardless of what CPS rules actually are, it&rsquo;s clear that the much maligned Smart Snack rules still leave plenty of room for things like reformulated Flamin Hot Cheetos. And while it&rsquo;s true the reformulation reduces fat and salt, the snacks still feature six artificial colors and nearly 30 ingredients.</p><p>New York University Nutrition professor Marion Nestle thinks part of the problem is that the rules encourage companies to hit certain nutrient numbers rather than providing real food.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;This is a classic case of nutritionism,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;If you set up nutrition standards, the food industry can do anything to meet those standards and this is a perfect example of that...So this is a better-for-you junk food. And, of course, the question is: is that a good choice? And no, of course, it&rsquo;s not.&rdquo;&nbsp;<br /><br />When asked to discuss the issue, Cheeto maker Frito Lay would not grant WBEZ an interview. Instead, the company wrote &ldquo;We offer a variety of Smart Snack compliant products in schools in portion-controlled sizes to suit a variety of tastes, including the Reduced Fat, Whole Grain Rich Flamin&#39; Hot Cheetos.&rdquo;</p><p>Lane Tech Senior Tyra Bosnic said she&rsquo;s disappointed in the vending machines at her school. She wished they better mirrored the machines she&rsquo;s seen in Europe.<br /><br />&ldquo;They have better drinks there and there&rsquo;s more water accessible,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There they have things like pumpkin seeds in the machines. Here we just have gross, whole grain Pop Tarts and Cheeto Puffs.&rdquo;<br /><br />The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it couldn&rsquo;t comment on the wisdom of selling Cheetos at school, but that its latest rules have already helped kids eat &ldquo;healthier.&rdquo;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s not just kids who are drawn to the&nbsp; orange curly snacks. For cash strapped school administrators, Cheetos can&nbsp; deliver plenty of green. Under the current CPS deal with Avcoa Vending, schools&nbsp; get a 20 percent commission on all sales; and that can add up to more than $10,000 in discretionary spending a year. So, why not stock this teenage favorite?</p><p>&ldquo;Because schools have an obligation to teach children how to be successful adults,&rdquo; says Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign. &ldquo;And learning about how to be healthy is a critical part of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, one vending machine rep noted that kids are going to buy Cheetos at the corner store and that few entities need money more than schools. Stallings, who wrote the original recommendations, questions whether schools should be selling any snacks at all.</p><p>&ldquo;Selling food to children outside of the school lunch and breakfast should not be a source of revenue for the school,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s exploiting the children&rsquo;s health.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, advocates like Rochelle Davis of Chicago&rsquo;s Healthy Schools Campaign suggest raising the revenue through things like plant sales and dance-a-thons.</p><p>&ldquo;I just got an email about a school trying a dance-a-thon,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So the kids are going to be up and moving and the community is going to be supporting that instead of a traditional fundraiser.&rdquo;</p><p>But can a dance-a-thon rake in the cash like Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheetos? With all the resistance against even these initial rules, it may be some time before we get to find out.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Clarification, 3/26/2015: After this story was published Chicago Public Schools officials claimed CPS uses vendors other than Avcoa. They have not yet responded who those vendors are.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/flamin-hot-cheetos-top-some-chicago-public-school-vending-machines-111773 Doctors grapple with how to talk to vaccine-hesitant parents http://www.wbez.org/news/science/doctors-grapple-how-talk-vaccine-hesitant-parents-111558 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Measles-parent_150213_oy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Anna Jakubek&rsquo;s cozy apartment in Chicago&rsquo;s Rogers Park neighborhood can be chaotic in the mornings as she readies her six-year-old daughter, Nina, for school.</p><p>On weekdays, Jakubek makes sure Nina eats her organic berries, bacon and eggs, dresses her and brushes her hair. Then they rush out the door, hoping not to miss the bus.</p><p>Nina, who attends Chicago Public Schools, only received her MMR shot, against measles, mumps and rubella, a few months ago. Worried that her daughter would not be allowed to participate fully in school activities, Jakubek had her inoculated just before she started kindergarten.</p><p>But Jakubek still has not had her younger daughter, three-year-old Mila, vaccinated. With the exception of the MMR vaccine, Mila has received all the shots she should have, including Hepatitis A, Dtap, and more.</p><p>&ldquo;So what I really refuse right now is this MMR,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Doctors recommend that children get the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age. But Jakubek, like many other vaccine-hesitant parents, believes it could cause autism, behavioral disorders, or problems with her child&rsquo;s nervous system. The original study that suggested a link between vaccines and autism <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/01/06/132703314/study-linking-childhood-vaccine-and-autism-was-fraudulent">has long been discredited</a>, and further studies have conclusively shown no link between vaccines and those conditions. Still, Jakubek is unconvinced.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like getting the vaccination is a greater risk than getting (the) actual disease,&rdquo; said Jakubek, who herself had the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a child growing up in Poland. &ldquo;If I had a choice not to vaccinate her at all, yeah, I wouldn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>So far, Jakubek said she hasn&rsquo;t experienced much push-back on her beliefs. Other parents have not challenged her, and her children&rsquo;s pediatrician has respected her wishes.</p><p>&ldquo;She&rsquo;s not pushing, which I really appreciate that, she&rsquo;s not pushing,&rdquo; Jakubek said of the pediatrician. &ldquo;She wants (an) explanation why, and I deliver that explanation and she will tell me that this could be a deadly disease, and I have my opinion about this, too. So we exchange three or four sentences and this is it.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There are physicians who have just given up,&rdquo; said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Jacobson says he looks at the recent resurgence of measles, as well as dismally low vaccination rates for other diseases, such as the flu, and he blames his fellow medical community.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s our fault,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re being challenged and we should rise up to the challenge and make sure our patients hear our recommendations.&rdquo;</p><p>For the last several years, Jacobson has been training other doctors on how to talk to parents like Jakubek. His methodology, which he calls the C.A.S.E. Approach, urges doctors to establish personal connections with vaccine-hesitant parents.</p><p>&ldquo;They want to hear your expertise, they want to hear your recommendation,&rdquo; Jacobson said of parents. &ldquo;They want to hear what you&rsquo;re doing with your own children, and what you would do if you were in their shoes.&rdquo;</p><p>Jacobson said he is dismayed when he sometimes hears about doctors who ban unvaccinated children from their practices, or who stuff parents&rsquo; arms with brochures on vaccines, rather than discuss the issue with them. In his trainings, Jacobson said he urges doctors to have those conversations in their offices when they come up</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got real work to do, and we can&rsquo;t just rely on being the high priests of medicine,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>For Jakubek, those discussions might push her away from her doctor. But she may end up vaccinating her younger daughter soon, anyhow.</p><p>In the wake of Illinois&rsquo;s measles resurgence, her younger daughter&rsquo;s daycare informed parents that they should get their children vaccinated. Jakubek said she&rsquo;d still rather wait, but she&rsquo;ll do it if she has to.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 08:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/doctors-grapple-how-talk-vaccine-hesitant-parents-111558 Illinois officials not enforcing rules on school vaccinations http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP233664971953.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>According to state records, at least 130 Illinois schools report measles vaccination levels of under 90 percent. That is the minimum percentage <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512">health officials believe communities must achieve for &ldquo;herd immunity&rdquo;&mdash;</a>an environment that can prevent a disease from spreading. &nbsp;</p><p>Schools are supposed to lose 10 percent of their state funding when they fall below the 90 percent level of vaccinations. But no school has ever been sanctioned for this violation, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.</p><p><a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09300SB0805&amp;GA=93&amp;SessionId=3&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=3675&amp;DocNum=805&amp;GAID=3&amp;Session=">Illinois code</a> states that funding &ldquo;shall be withheld by the regional superintendent until the number of students in compliance&rdquo;... reaches the &ldquo;specified percentage or higher.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/officials-predict-more-illinois-measles-cases-111509">But even as measles cases arrive in Illinois</a>, the state&rsquo;s Board of Education says it has no plans to start enforcing the rules through funding sanctions any time soon.</p><p>&quot;We are not looking to penalize a district or remove money from a district,&quot; said ISBE spokesman Matt Vanover. &quot;What we&#39;re looking for is compliance. It&#39;s difficult for educators to remove or exclude a child from education, especially when the child is from a poor or struggling family. Local districts will follow through with initaitves and reminders of their own.&quot;</p><p>Still, some doctors believe the state&#39;s purported 90 percent vaccination standard is too low.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for a community to have herd immunity you really need to maintain vaccination rates around 95 percent,&rdquo; said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago. &ldquo;Otherwise, what happens is that when the rates below drop below 95 percent, you can have the reemergence or reappearance of these preventable diseases occurring in individuals that are either not vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s what happened this week in Illinois when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/five-children-palatine-day-care-diagnosed-measles-111503">infants at a day care center</a> in northwest suburban Illinois were diagnosed with measles.</p><p>All those children were too young to be eligible for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR), which is traditionally administered after a child turns 1-year-old. But Cook County health officials say they expect the disease to spread.</p><p>&ldquo;The cat is out of the bag,&rdquo; Dr. Terry Mason, chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health said yesterday at a press conference in Oak Forest.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> one in 20 children who contract measles will also get pneumonia; one in 1,000 may develop encephalitis that could lead to deafness and mental retardation; and for one or two in 1,000, the disease could be fatal.</p><p>Thursday, WBEZ contacted schools who, according to the ISBE vaccination site, self-reported measles vaccination rates as low as 27 percent. The schools claimed that the site was showing inaccurate information.</p><p>Vanover acknowledges that the self-reported data may be flawed, but says it can&#39;t be fixed.&nbsp; After the yearly November 17 deadline, &quot;the data becomes locked in for reporting purposes and we don&rsquo;t have any opportunity to go back and correct it,&quot; he said.</p><p>For more updated information, Vanover suggests calling individual districts.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org.</em></p><p><em>WBEZ web producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-officials-not-enforcing-rules-school-vaccinations-111513 City of Chicago falls below safe levels for measles vaccination http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP903599864933.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the City of Chicago, only 88.8 percent of adolescents are covered by the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, according to data from <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6329a4.htm" target="_blank">Center for Disease Control and Prevention.</a> That level could threaten herd immunity<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/about/terms/glossary.htm" target="_blank">, the point at which &ldquo;a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease&hellip; to make its spread from person to person unlikely.&rdquo;</a></p><p>Dr. Tina Tan, an infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago, says to be safe, vaccination rates should be at 95 percent. That sentiment is echoed by the <a href="http://www.who.int/immunization/newsroom/Measles_Rubella_StrategicPlan_2012_2020.pdf">World Health Organization</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;Here in Illinois unfortunately we still have medical as well as philosophical exemptions from vaccines,&rdquo; Tan said. &ldquo;So there are some parents who decide they don&#39;t want to vaccinate their children and take advantage of these exemptions.&quot;</p><p>The state&rsquo;s overall adolescent measles vaccination rate is at 93.5 percent.</p><p>State law requires children in school to be vaccinated, but allows for two categories of exemption: medical and religious. Illinois law has a fairly low bar for showing the need for religious exemption.</p><p>The state requires &ldquo;a written and signed statement from the parent or legal guardian detailing the objection&rdquo; and the law states <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/077/077006950000300R.html">&ldquo;the religious objection may be personal and need not be directed by the tenets of an established religious organization.&rdquo;</a></p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has yet to comment.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h.</a></em><em> WBEZ digital producer Chris Hagan contributed to this story. </em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-chicago-falls-below-safe-levels-measles-vaccination-111512 E-Cigarettes can churn out high levels of formaldehyde http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/vaping_slide-259922e9c838be3bf53a7f24472dd9a2796845e2-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde &mdash; a known carcinogen &mdash; researchers reported Wednesday.</p><p>The findings, described in a letter <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1413069">published</a> in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em>, intensify <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/16/371253640/teens-now-reach-for-e-cigarettes-over-regular-ones">concern</a> about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.</p><p>&quot;I think this is just one more piece of evidence amid a number of pieces of evidence that e-cigarettes are not absolutely safe,&quot; says <a href="http://www.pdx.edu/profile/david-peyton">David Peyton</a>, a chemistry professor at Portland State University who helped conduct the research.</p><p>The e-cigarette industry immediately dismissed the findings, saying the measurements were made under unrealistic conditions.</p><p>&quot;They clearly did not talk to [people who use e-cigarettes] to understand this,&quot; says <a href="http://vaping.com/news/greg-conley-to-lead-american-vaping-association">Gregory Conley</a> of the American Vaping Association. &quot;They think, &#39;Oh well. If we hit the button for so many seconds and that produces formaldehyde, then we have a new public health crisis to report.&#39; &quot; But that&#39;s not the right way to think about it, Conley suggests.</p><p>E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains nicotine to create a vapor that users inhale. They&#39;re generally considered safer than regular cigarettes, because some research has suggested that the level of most toxicants in the vapor is much lower than the levels in smoke.</p><p>Some public health experts think vaping could prevent some people from starting to smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes, and could help some longtime smokers kick the habit.</p><p>But many health experts are also worried that so little is known about e-cigarettes that they may pose unknown risks. So Peyton and his colleagues decided to take a closer look at what&#39;s in that vapor.</p><p>&quot;We simulated vaping by drawing the vapor &mdash; the aerosol &mdash; into a syringe, sort of simulating the lungs,&quot; Peyton says. That enabled the researchers to conduct a detailed chemical analysis of the vapor. They found something unexpected when the devices were dialed up to their highest settings.</p><p>&quot;To our surprise, we found masked formaldehyde in the liquid droplet particles in the aerosol,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>He calls it &quot;masked&quot; formaldehyde because it&#39;s in a slightly different form than regular formaldehyde &ndash; a form that could increase the likelihood it would get deposited in the lung. And the researchers didn&#39;t just find a little of the toxicant.</p><p>&quot;We found this form of formaldehyde at significantly higher concentrations than even regular cigarettes [contain] &mdash; between five[fold] and fifteenfold higher concentration of formaldehyde than in cigarettes,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>And formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.</p><p>&quot;Long-term exposure is recognized as contributing to lung cancer,&quot; say Peyton. &quot;And so we would like to minimize contact (to the extent one can) especially to delicate tissues like the lungs.&quot;</p><p>Conley says the researchers only found formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were cranked up to their highest voltage levels.</p><p>&quot;If you hold the button on an e-cigarette for 100 seconds, you could potentially produce 100 times more formaldehyde than you would ever get from a cigarette,&quot; Conley says. &quot;But no human vaper would ever vape at that condition, because within one second their lungs would be incredibly uncomfortable.&quot;</p><p>That&#39;s because the vapor would be so hot. Conley compares it to overcooking a steak.</p><p>&quot;I can take a steak and I can cook it on the grill for the next 18 hours, and that steak will be absolutely chock-full of carcinogens,&quot; he says. &quot;But the steak will also be charcoal, so no one will eat it.&quot;</p><p>Peyton acknowledges that he found no formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were set at low levels. But he says he thinks plenty of people use the high settings.</p><p>&quot;As I walk around town and look at people using these electronic cigarette devices it&#39;s not difficult to tell what sort of setting they&#39;re using,&quot; Peyton says. &quot;You can see how much of the aerosol they&#39;re blowing out. It&#39;s not small amounts.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s pretty clear to me,&quot; he says, &quot;that at least some of the users are using the high levels.&quot;</p><p>So Peyton hopes the government will tightly regulate the electronic devices. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of deciding just how strict it should be.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/21/378663944/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-of-formaldehyde" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 Hangover helper: Tips to prevent a horrible headache http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hangover-helper-tips-prevent-horrible-headache-111317 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/cn_hangover_sci_wide-eb5664df1582feefa7f6dcfbf6ea2fdbff7586c0-s600-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The first time I&nbsp;ever&nbsp;got tipsy was during a champagne toast at a cousin&#39;s wedding reception.</p><p>All was good, until the room started spinning &mdash; and the sight of my cousin&#39;s bride dancing in her wedding dress was just a whirl of lace.</p><p>Of course, if you&#39;re an uninitiated teenager, any amount of alcohol can go straight to your head. But, decades later, bubbly wine still seems to hit me faster than, say, beer. It turns out there&#39;s a reason.</p><p>&quot;Some of the dizziness you can feel after champagne is due to both the brain getting [a little] less oxygen and also the [effects] of the alcohol at the same time,&quot; explains researcher&nbsp;<a href="http://www.colorado.edu/ibg/people/279">Boris Tabakoff</a>&nbsp;at the University of Colorado, Boulder.</p><p>All the bubbles in sparkling wine are carbon dioxide. The C02&nbsp;competes with oxygen in our bloodstream, says Tabakoff, who studies the effects of alcohol on the body.</p><p>And according to a Princeton University<a href="http://www.princeton.edu/uhs/healthy-living/hot-topics/alcohol/">explainer</a>&nbsp;on alcohol absorption, carbon dioxide &quot;increases the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream.&quot; That can speed up the rate of alcohol absorption &mdash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/31/258588280/does-champagne-actually-get-you-drunker">albeit temporarily</a>.</p><p>So if you want to stay steady on your feet, sip that bubbly slowly. And if you want to prevent a hangover, swap your next glass of bubbly for water. Alternating between alcoholic beverages and H20 can help prevent the dehydration that accompanies a night of drinking.</p><p>&quot;What happens when you first start drinking,&quot; Tabakoff explains, &quot;is that a hormone that controls your water balance, an anti-diuretic hormone, is suppressed.&quot; And this leaves us heading for the ladies&#39; or men&#39;s room &mdash; which can precipitate a pounding headache in the morning.</p><p>But Tabakoff says dehydration is not the only reason we get a headache.</p><p>&quot;High levels of alcohol in the brain have fairly recently been shown to cause neuro-inflammation, basically, inflammation in the brain,&quot; he says.</p><p>This is why taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, can help us feel better.</p><p>Now, alcohol isn&#39;t the only headache-producing culprit in our drink glasses. Many alcoholic beverages, such as wines and beers, contain toxic byproducts of fermentation, such as aldehydes. And Tabakoff says if you drink too much, you can feel the effects.</p><p>&quot;If these compounds accumulate in the body, &quot; explains Tabakoff, &quot;they can release your stress hormones, like epinephrine and norepinephrine, and as such can alter function in a stresslike way&quot; &mdash; paving the way for a hangover.</p><p>Tabakoff says distilled spirits contain fewer of these toxic compounds than other types of booze, which explains why some people report feeling fewer hangover effects if they stick with vodka or gin.</p><p>Obviously, the only sure way to avoid a hangover is to not drink alcohol. But if you are going to indulge, Tabakoff says the tried-and-true advice &mdash; eat something before you drink, and while you drink, makes good sense.</p><p>&quot;Food is very good for the purpose of slowing the absorption of alcohol,&quot; he says.</p><p>Adding liquid calories to your cocktails &mdash; say, Coke, ginger ale or sugary punch as a mixer &mdash; is a good way to slow absorption, too. In fact, a study we&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/01/31/170748045/why-mixing-alcohol-with-diet-soda-may-make-you-drunker">reported</a>&nbsp;on back in 2013 determined that a diet soda and rum will make you drunker than rum mixed with sugary Coke.</p><p><a href="http://artscience.nku.edu/departments/psychology/facstaff/ft-faculty/marczinski.html">Cecile Marczinski</a>, a cognitive psychologist who authored that study, found that the average breath alcohol concentration was .091 (at its peak) when subjects drank alcohol mixed with a diet drink. By comparison, BrAC was .077 when the same subjects consumed the same amount of alcohol but with a sugary soda.</p><p>&quot;I was a little surprised by the findings, since the 18 percent increase in [BrAC] was a fairly large difference,&quot; Marczinski told us at the time. She says the difference would not likely have been as large if the subjects &mdash; who were all college age &mdash; had not been drinking on empty stomachs.</p><p>And here&#39;s another self-evident tip when it comes to drinking: Pace yourself.</p><p>&quot;We can get rid of most of the alcohol we drink if we [limit] drinking to one drink per hour,&quot; Tabakofff says. This way, &quot;our blood alcohol levels don&#39;t start accumulating.&quot;</p><p>One drink per hour is a rule of thumb, but that can vary depending on height or body size. Bigger people tend to be able to handle a little more alcohol, and smaller people a little less.</p><p>And remember, Tabakoff says, a single drink is less than you might think. It&#39;s 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or a shot of liquor.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/30/371950986/hangover-helper-tips-to-prevent-a-horrible-headache" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hangover-helper-tips-prevent-horrible-headache-111317 What's the key to better school food? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BETTER SCHOOL FOOD.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the last decade, school districts around the nation have tried different formulas to reform student lunches. Some think the answer lies in salad bars. Others have tried all organic programs. Still others have put their bets on school gardens.</p><p>But one little known program out of Minnesota starts by simply removing seven unwanted ingredients.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, no antibiotics or hormones in meats and no bleached flour,&rdquo; Jason Thunstrom said as he stood in the Jeans Elementary School lunchroom in West Suburban Willowbrook.</p><p>Thunstrom is President of the Life Time Fitness Foundation, which has provided 90 schools in four states with money to buy foods without the seven ingredients. The lunches end up looking a lot like what you&rsquo;d see in any other low income schools, just sourced from manufacturers who don&rsquo;t use artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives or trans fats and meat raised with antibiotics.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those food manufacturers is Bill Kurtis. Yes, the legendary anchorman. He has been selling grass-fed beef under his Tallgrass brand for years, but just recently got into the hot dog game. He was also at Jeans Elementary on a recent afternoon watching the debut of his hot dogs in a school cafeteria.</p><p>&ldquo;We put grassfed beef in and we took out nitrates ... and preservatives that you&rsquo;ll find in regular hot dogs,&quot; Kurtis said. &rdquo;And it&rsquo;s why your mother is a little afraid for you to have a regular diet of hot dogs.&quot;</p><p>Kurtis was speaking to a room of low-income third graders, who seemed unfamiliar with his work as a newscaster but highly appreciative of hot dog-making skills.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They taste really good,&rdquo; third-grader Renaya said.</p><p>Some of her classmates even appreciated the meal on its nutritional merits.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really good because I put ketchup on the hot dog and a bun is [whole] grain,&rdquo; third-grader Malcolm said.</p><p>Thunstrom says one of the students eating this hot dog, corn, carrot, apple and milk lunch was eating the millionth meal served in the Life Time funded program.&nbsp;</p><p>The whole idea was spawned, he says, by concern the company&rsquo;s CEO had over his own child entering school. When he heard about what was served in most American lunchrooms, he initially considered buying up the lunch program.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;But then reality set in, and he realized it would be an expensive proposition,&rdquo; Thunstrom remembered.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So instead of buying the whole program, Life Time decided to do an experiment&mdash;to see what it would take to get those seven ingredients out of school food.</p><p>&ldquo;We started with one school in Minnesota just as a test to see if we could go in and look at their lunch and remove those seven items what might that cost,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were surprised to find it was about 35 cents [per student meal] on average.&rdquo;</p><p>This first phase of the program involves serving better versions of lunchrooms standards like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. But Thunstrom says the longer term goal is to upgrade kitchens and support more cooking from scratch.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, Life Time presented the school with a $10,000 check to upgrade its kitchen for more scratch cooking.</p><p>Still, the endgame isn&rsquo;t to keep writing unlimited checks. Thunstrom says that the ultimate goal is to get other funders, administrators, and eventually, the federal government to recognize the value of such a program and make it the norm.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d like this model to become known to government officials and school administrators,&rdquo; Thunstrom said. &ldquo;You know, to say &lsquo;it&rsquo;s America, enough&rsquo;s enough.&rsquo; We think it&rsquo;s worth investing in our kids an incremental 35 cents to at least get them on a healthy way of life journey at school. Then can we also [create] lesson planning and take-home material to help that bleed over into the home.&rdquo;</p><p>And he doesn&rsquo;t just mean the homes of corporate CEOs.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 Whom do you trust when it comes to nutrition advice? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/FOOD SCORES_picmonkeyed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Whom do you trust when it comes to food and health advice?</p><p>This is the fundamental question underlying the latest food skirmish between health activists The Environmental Working Group and &ldquo;big food&rdquo; represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, the EWG released its<a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores" target="_blank"> Food Scores</a> database rating 80,000 foods on a variety of criteria that encompass nutrition, ingredients and processing. Foods like <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=organic+kale" target="_blank">organic kale</a> score 1 (the best) while <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=flamin+hot+cheetos" target="_blank">Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs</a> get a 10 (the worst).</p><p>But today, the <a href="http://www.gmaonline.org/news-events/newsroom/grocery-manufacturers-association-statement-on-environmental-working-group/" target="_blank">GMA responded</a> by calling the Food Score database &ldquo;severely flawed&rdquo; and predicting it will &ldquo;only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.&rdquo;</p><p>The GMA, which represents some of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, accused EWG of using &ldquo;isolated studies&rdquo; to penalize foods containing artificial sweeteners and added sugar. It further questioned the group&rsquo;s algorithm for weighing certain factors too heavily in its final scores.</p><p>The Association said that the best advice for health and nutrition comes from the Nutrition Facts Panel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture&#39;s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Critics, however, argue that it is those very guidelines--which, for decades, have emphasized fat reduction over sugar and carbohydrate restrictions--that have led to a in tripling in American obesity over the past 40 years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Additionally, EWG says information on packaging is limited.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think about healthy food, you have to think beyond the Nutrition Facts panel,&rdquo; said Renee Sharp, EWG&rsquo;s director of research. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t always tell the whole story. EWG&rsquo;s Food Scores shows that certain foods that we think are good for us may actually be much less so because they contain questionable food additives or toxic contaminants.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Tuesday, the Alliance for Food and Farming, a produce industry group, <a href="http://safefruitsandveggies.com/blog/ewg-gives-top-scores-produce" target="_blank">trumpeted the high ratings</a> the EWG gave to produce. It also noted that the EWG encourages consumers to eat plenty of fresh produce.</p><p>But the AFF, which represents both conventional and organic produce growers, once again called on EWG to stop its &ldquo;Dirty Dozen&rdquo; and &ldquo;Clean Fifteen&rdquo; lists. These popular lists rate produce based on pesticide residues as measured by the USDA, but the AFF finds them misleading.</p><p>&ldquo;If EWG doesn&rsquo;t stop, the AFF will happily remind consumers about the &lsquo;1&rsquo; scores and EWG&rsquo;s new consumption message every single time the &lsquo;dirty dozen&rsquo; list receives attention. Every single time.&rdquo;</p><p>So which organizations or agencies do you trust to provide balanced nutrition information? Tell us in the comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977