WBEZ | Shots - Health Blog http://www.wbez.org/tags/shots-health-blog Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Worries About Autism Link Still Hang Over Vaccines http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-29/worries-about-autism-link-still-hang-over-vaccines-92665 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-30/hpvvax_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Even before Rep. Michele Bachmann <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/09/13/140445104/pediatricians-fact-check-bachmanns-bashing-of-hpv-vaccine">made waves</a> by questioning the safety of vaccines against cervical cancer, there was plenty of resistance to routine immunization.</p><p>As parents fret, vaccination rates for kids have dipped. Childhood vaccination rates against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), for instance, fell almost 3 percentage points to 90.6 percent in 2009 from the year before, according to <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/10/13/130542873/fewer-kids-get-vaccinated-as-fears-mount">data from private insurers</a>.</p><p>During the first half of August, we asked people across the country for their views on vaccines in the latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll.</p><p>Autism remains a top worry, with 21 percent of respondents saying they believe autism is linked to vaccines. About 7 percent believe in a link between vaccines and diabetes.</p><p></p><p>The evidence doesn't support either of those views. The chair of an independent panel that reviewed vaccine safety and issued a clean bill of health in late August said at the time:</p><p><blockquote></p><p>"The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. The MMR and the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/dtap/dtapindex.html">DTaP</a> do not cause Type 1 diabetes. And the killed flu vaccine does not cause <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bellspalsy.html">Bell's palsy</a>, and it does not trigger episodes of asthma."</p><p></blockquote></p><p>Overall, a little more than a quarter of households had concerns about the safety or value of vaccines. Among households with kids younger than 18, 30 percent had one of those concerns. People 65 and up had the fewest worries, with 19 percent expressing concern.</p><p>Most people believe vaccines work. Among those who expressed a concern about vaccines, only 4 percent said it was over a lack of effectiveness. The more common issues for those with concerns were a fear of side effects (46 percent of the group) or uncertainty about long-term health effects (47 percent).</p><p>We wondered if people's opinions about vaccines had changed in the last five years. Nearly a quarter said they had. In that group, 59 percent said their opinions had become less favorable. A little more than a third said their opinions had gotten better.</p><p>How do the results square with the scientific evidence supporting vaccine safety and effectiveness and a steady campaign by doctors and public health officials to boost confidence? "The human mind has a hard time accepting things that didn't happen versus things that could happen," <a href="http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/thought-leadership/experts/fullbio/index.html?bioId=1">Dr. Raymond Fabius</a>, chief medical officer at Thomson Reuters, tells Shots. "Vaccines get devalued because of their great effectiveness."</p><p>Older people still remember when polio was a much bigger worry than cancer, he says. Now, in this country, many people have never seen the toll polio and other infectious diseases took before widespread vaccination.</p><p>The latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll drew responses from telephone interviews with more than 3,000 adults across the country. The margin for error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.</p><p>You can find the full text of the questions and the responses <a href="http://healthcare.thomsonreuters.com/npr/assets/NPR_report_vaccines.pdf">here</a>. Find the results of past polls by clicking on the NPR-Thomson Reuters Poll tag below. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1317394455?&gn=Worries+About+Autism+Link+Still+Hang+Over+Vaccines&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=NPR-Thomson+Reuters+Health+Poll,Vaccines,Your+Health,Children%27s+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Medical+Treatments,Health,Health+Care,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140928470&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110929&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=137038712,126567541,126567525,126567378,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Thu, 29 Sep 2011 15:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-29/worries-about-autism-link-still-hang-over-vaccines-92665 USDA to ban six more strains of E. coli in ground beef http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-13/usda-ban-6-more-strains-e-coli-ground-beef-91919 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-13/ground-beef.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>E. coli</em> 0157:H7 isn't a lonely foodborne villain any more.</p><p>The U.S. Department of Agriculture said today that six uncommon strains of <em>E. coli</em> will be banned from ground beef due to risks of illness. Consumer groups are hailing the move as the biggest advance in meat safety in years.</p><p>But meat processors warn it will cost consumers more money, and say the scientific evidence doesn't justify the new expense.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The new rule will require USDA meat inspectors to conduct new <em>E.coli</em> testing that the agency says will make it easier to prevent infected meat from reaching the market, and will make it easier for the agency to pull products from the market if they are found to be tainted.</p><p>"It's an effort to protect consumers from the threats as we define them in 2011," USDA food safety chief <a href="http://www.fsis.usda.gov/about/Under_Secretary/index.asp">Elisabeth Hagen</a> tells Shots.</p><p>Regulators already require testing for the most common and deadly strain of <em>E. coli</em> — <a href="http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm071284.htm">0157:H7</a>. The new rule requires testing ground beef for six other, less common strains of <em>E. coli </em>thought responsible for thousands of foodborne illnesses. The strains are 026, 0111, 045, 0145, 0121 and 0103, Hagen says.</p><p>The strain that recently <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/10/137100829/german-officials-conclude-sprouts-are-the-e-coli-culprit">caused</a> thousands of illnesses in Germany, <em>E. coli </em>0104:H4, is notably absent from the list, but USDA is considering adding it in the future, Hagen says. The German outbreak was tied to sprouts.</p><p>"This is a big win for consumers. In the wake of many recent food recalls caused by <em>E. coli</em> contamination, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to protect the health and well being of all consumers," says Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union.</p><p>But the American Meat Institute says the new program is likely to cost millions of dollars and has only been tied to beef in a single outbreak responsible for three illnesses. AMI Executive Vice President James H. Hodges <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/13/business/federal-officials-extend-e-coli-ban.html?_r=1&amp;scp=1&amp;sq=E.%20coli&amp;st=cse">told</a> the <em>New York Times</em>: "It's just not supported by the science."</p><p>The government argues that it is. Since 1994, the government's required meat processors to test for <em>E. coli</em> 0157:H7. And the number of illnesses from that strain have gone down, according to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6022a5.htm?s_cid=mm6022a5_w">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a>. The six new strains are very virulent, Hagen says.</p><p>The new rule is "a really significant incentive for companies to take a number of steps to keep those [tainted] products out of commerce," Hagen says.</p><p>But some large meat purveyors like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/16/business/food-companies-act-to-protect-consumers-from-e-coli-illness.html">Costco</a> didn't even wait for the government action. They are already requiring suppliers to test for these strains.</p><p>The USDA effort has been in the works for at least four years, and has been in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/16/business/food-companies-act-to-protect-consumers-from-e-coli-illness.html">regulatory limbo</a> at the president's budget office since at least January.</p><p>They made some tweaks, Hagen says, but in the end, the USDA's basic policy to declare these six strains as "adulterants" prevailed. The rule is expected to be posted later today.</p><p>The new testing program will take effect in March for beef trim — the meat product used to make ground beef. The six-month delay will give the industry and <em>E. coli</em> test kit makers time to prepare, Hagen says.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315931840?&amp;gn=USDA+To+Ban+6+More+Strains+Of+E.+Coli+In+Ground+Beef&amp;ev=event2&amp;ch=103537970&amp;h1=foodborne+illness,E.+coli,food+safety,Public+Health,USDA,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Your+Health,Food,Children%27s+Health,U.S.,News&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=140429297&amp;c7=1128&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1128&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20110913&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c31=137178937,136926984,133490675,133188449,128651863,103537970&amp;v31=D%3Dc31&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 13 Sep 2011 11:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-13/usda-ban-6-more-strains-e-coli-ground-beef-91919 Same Plant, new month: Cargill ground turkey recall, take 2 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-12/same-plant-new-month-cargill-ground-turkey-recall-take-2-91884 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/groundturkey2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Food giant Cargill initiated another <a href="http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&amp;_Events/Recall_071_2011_Release/index.asp">ground turkey recall</a> over the weekend.</p><p>It's pretty small — just 185,000 pounds of meat compared with the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/04/138978064/salmonella-leads-cargill-to-recalls-36-million-pounds-of-ground-turkey">August 3 recall</a> involving 36 million pounds. But the recall involves the same plant, the same drug-resistant strain of <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg/index.html">salmonella</a>, and some of the same products. Is this just a coincidence?</p><p>"The problem may not be smaller, but the recall may be smaller," former Food and Drug Administration food safety chief <a href="http://leavittpartners.com/our-team/david-william-kennedy-acheson/">David Acheson</a> tells Shots. While the investigation is ongoing, and no one's gotten sick from this new recall, Acheson says there are a few possible explanations for the repeat.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>He says the initial source of the turkeys could be the problem. "There could be a batch of turkeys with the same batch of salmonella coming in from the same farm," Acheson says.</p><p>Cargill spokesman Mike Martin tells Shots that the source isn't the same as last time, and the company hasn't yet traced the source of the contamination.</p><p>Another possible explanation, Acheson says, could be that the cleanup in between recalls was inadequate. "Salmonella can be living in a drain or on a mop or on the walls or in an air vent, so it can recolonize," he says.</p><p>Last month, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey thought to be contaminated with <em>Salmonella</em> Heidelberg. The products were distributed nationwide, and blamed for sickening more than 100 people and for the death of at least one.</p><p>Martin says that after that recall, the Springdale, Ark. plant found responsible was shut down for a week and reopened August 10 only after extensive cleaning and U.S. Department of Agriculture review. The company also set up an <a href="http://www.cargill.com/news/releases/2011/NA3048692.jsp">independent panel</a> of experts to review Cargill's food safety program and make recommendations for improvements.</p><p>The latest recall is a separate incident, Martin says, and was based on a single positive sample taken by USDA. Martin says the incident "underscores the challenges and frustrations associated with managing naturally and randomly occurring bacteria which exist throughout our environment." The company is exploring further measures to reduce salmonella.</p><p>The new recall involves turkey processed on August 23, 24, 30 and 31, and contains the code number "P-963" inside the USDA mark of inspection on the package. For a complete list of products being recalled, see Cargill's statement <a href="http://www.cargill.com/news/releases/2011/NA3049298.jsp">here</a>.</p><p>In the wake of this recall and others lately, consumer groups are <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/12/139575236/regulators-grapple-with-outbreaks-as-salmonella-e-coli-illnesses-grow">asking</a> the USDA to just <a href="http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/SFCletterABRsalmonellapetition.pdf">declare salmonella strains</a> "adulterants" to meat, which would make it easier to get the stuff out of commerce — even before someone gets sick.</p><p>Separately, Shots has learned that the USDA is expected to announce tomorrow that it will start requiring additional testing for six more e. coli strains in raw beef, starting in March.</p><p>So what's a consumer to do meanwhile? Acheson says we should basically treat every package of meat as if it might be contaminated. "This isn't blaming the consumer, this is the reality, the reality today," he says.</p><p>And, he says, do what Grandma's been saying: Wash your hands before cooking. Separate meat from other foods. Keep your cutting boards clean.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315858935?&amp;gn=Same+Plant%2C+New+Month%3A+Cargill+Ground+Turkey+Recall%2C+Take+2&amp;ev=event2&amp;ch=103537970&amp;h1=foodborne+illness,food+safety,salmonella,USDA,Your+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Food,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&amp;c3=D%3Dgn&amp;v3=D%3Dgn&amp;c4=140398110&amp;c7=1128&amp;v7=D%3Dc7&amp;c18=1128&amp;v18=D%3Dc18&amp;c19=20110912&amp;v19=D%3Dc19&amp;c20=1&amp;v20=D%3Dc20&amp;c31=137178937,133490675,129287928,128651863,126567525,103537970&amp;v31=D%3Dc31&amp;c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 15:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-12/same-plant-new-month-cargill-ground-turkey-recall-take-2-91884 Medicare Chief Turns 65 And Qualifies For Coverage He Oversees http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-09/medicare-chief-turns-65-and-qualifies-coverage-he-oversees-91845 <p><p>Today is a big day for Medicare Chief Donald Berwick. He turns 65. And now he is the first head of the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled to also be a beneficiary.</p><p>"I'm excited," he told Shots in a pre-birthday interview Thursday. "I feel like I'm in my 20s still. I don't feel 65. It's going to be a great day to celebrate."</p><p></p><p>A pediatrician by training, <a href="http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2010/june/30/donald-berwick-resource-guide.aspx">Berwick</a> was <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/07/07/128354945/berwick-s-in-more-battles-for-healthcare-hearts-and-minds-ahead">appointed administrator</a> of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in July 2010, despite<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127563502"> heavy Republican opposition</a>. He began the process of signing up for Medicare earlier this week. He hopes to have his Medicare card within a few weeks, although he said he's getting no special treatment in the application process.</p><p>Will it change his perspective on running a program that covers 47 million people? "Mostly no, I have had the beneficiaries in my mind from the day I started and now I am one of them," he said. Berwick started signing up for Medicare by going on the <a href="http://www.medicare.gov/default.aspx">Medicare website</a> and getting his birth certificate to send to the Social Security Administration.</p><p>For people like Berwick, who still have a job with health benefits, <a href="https://questions.medicare.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/14/~/should-i-sign-up-for-medicare-part-a-and-b-if-i-am-still-working%3F">Medicare recommends</a> Medicare Part A (the hospital coverage) when turning 65. There's no monthly premium, and the coverage can help pick up some of the costs of hospital care not covered by an employer-sponsored health plan.</p><p>Because he has health coverage through his job, Berwick doesn't have to worry about signing up for Medicare Part B, which covers physician and other services and charges a premium.</p><p>He also can defer deciding between traditional Medicare fee for service and a privately run Medicare managed care plan. Berwick is one of 2.8 million people expected to enroll in Medicare this year. On a business trip last month to visit hospitals and health centers in rural Oregon, Berwick spent an hour at a senior center watching a CMS employee teach 200 beneficiaries about the program, including how to enroll.</p><p>He watched and took notes as much more than a casual observer. "I learned about how much choice there was and the many options in the kinds of coverage and the many online resources," Berwick said. "I really felt like a consumer with power."</p><p>While some people may dread turning 65 as another milepost of getting older, the white-haired Berwick is only looking ahead. He plans a birthday dinner at a restaurant in Washington with his wife, who works in Massachusetts. They are getting ready for the birth of their second grandchild in October. "I look forward to it," he said of joining Medicare. "I am lucky, I am employed and love my work and have no plans to retire. I see myself working for a long time, but it's good to know Medicare is there. It's security and it feels safe." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/">http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315837513?&gn=Medicare+Chief+Turns+65+And+Qualifies+For+Coverage+He+Oversees&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Policy-ish,Donald+Berwick,Medicare,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,On+Aging,Health+Care,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140330920&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110909&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=105043435&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133188445,131394544,127940536,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Fri, 09 Sep 2011 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-09/medicare-chief-turns-65-and-qualifies-coverage-he-oversees-91845 Maine Senator Postpones Potato Nutrition Battle, For Now http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/maine-senator-postpones-potato-nutrition-battle-now-91626 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-07/fries_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It's hard not to think of french fries as a key part of school lunch, glistening like a beacon from the battered plastic tray. But if the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have their way, we could see a lot fewer of them.</p><p>And that's not right, says Sen. Susan Collins. "The problem is that the potato has been unfairly singled out," she <a href="http://www.pressherald.com/blogs/maine_washington_politics/129366573.html">tells</a> the <em>Portland Press Herald</em>. Collins, a Republican, is from Maine, the sixth largest potato-growing state in the country.</p><p>Collins has decided against offering an amendment to the Senate's agriculture spending bill today to force USDA to back off. But, the battle that's been raging for months over potatoes' proper place in the lunch line is far from over.</p><p></p><p>All year, a fight has been raging behind the scenes over USDA's proposed school <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/regulations/2011-01-13.pdf">nutrition guidelines</a> — the agency's first update to the standards since 1994. The loudest complaints are against the agency's proposal to limit white potatoes and other starchy vegetables in school lunch to one cup a week.</p><p>Health experts say potatoes in the lunch line can crowd out other vegetables. Margo Wootan, a nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/06/07/137031053/lobbyists-want-fries-and-pizza-to-stay-in-school">told</a> NPR's Peter Overby in June: "When the kids are offered french fries versus carrots or green beans, too often the kids choose french fries."</p><p>CSPI dropped french fry boxes off at Senate offices last week to counter the potato lobbying. They were printed with the words: "Do kids really need french fries <em><strong>every day</strong></em>? Give other vegetables a chance!"</p><p>Meanwhile, the potato lobby is <a href="http://nationalpotatocouncil.org/NPC/p_documents/document_061105104431.pdf">crying foul</a> and touting the health benefits of potatoes. It's a tough job since a <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/23/137362885/to-keep-off-pounds-pass-the-nuts-hold-the-chips">Harvard study</a> came out this summer, fingering white potato products as one culprit for obesity. Even McDonald's is putting <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/07/26/138702964/bowing-to-pressure-mcdonalds-makes-happy-meals-more-healthful">a limit</a> on fries.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.nationalpotatocouncil.org/NPC/default.cfm?cache=071109060026">National Potato Council</a> CEO John Keeling argues that most schools bake their fries these days, reducing the number of calories by about half. "These are not your Daddy's french fries," he says.</p><p>Sen. Collins points out that potatoes have more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, another staple of school lunch, not to mention potatoes are cheap. "We remain concerned that unnecessary limitations on healthy and affordable vegetables can lead to a needless escalation in costs of the school meal programs," she said in a letter sent to appropriators in August.</p><p>Because of the potato issue, the House included a provision in its <a href="http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=247105">agriculture spending bill</a> earlier this year to require the USDA to start over on its school food nutrition guidelines. But the Senate bill will remain silent on this point, aides say.</p><p>Collins won't offer a similar amendment in committee, but will wait until a later Senate floor debate, where there will likely be more supporters, a spokesman tells Shots.</p><p>The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to finalize a $19.78 billion agriculture spending bill later today, <em>sans</em> potato language, clearing the way for it to move to the Senate floor.</p><p>The Senate committee bill is expected to cut spending over last year's levels by $138 million — $192 million if you count domestic food aid and foreign food education aid — aides say.</p><p>In light of recent highly-publicized food safety outbreaks <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/07/137030673/e-coli-outbreak-may-boost-argument-for-more-u-s-food-safety-funds">overseas</a> and <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/12/139575236/regulators-grapple-with-outbreaks-as-salmonella-e-coli-illnesses-grow">domestically</a>, only one agency is expected to get a boost, and that's the Food and Drug Administration. FDA oversees most of the U.S. food supply except for meat.</p><p>There will be cuts to the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program, but not as deep as in the House version, aides say. If the Senate approves the bill, it has to be reconciled with the House version before going to the President for signature into law.</p><p>But it's a big if. Single spending bills are rarely seen on the floor these day. They are much more often rolled up into massive omnibus spending bills.</p><p>And then there's the potential for the new budget "<a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20090895-503544.html">supercommittee</a>" to override whatever the spending committees do.</p><p>Keeling is hopeful that USDA has received the message that the potato issue is complex, but as to what's ultimately going to happen, "it's anybody's guess," he says.<strong><br /></strong> <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315415229?&gn=Maine+Senator+Postpones+Potato+Nutrition+Battle%2C+For+Now&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=potatoes,school+lunch,Policy-ish,Fitness+%26+Nutrition,Children%27s+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Your+Health,Food,Politics,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140244671&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110907&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=140250537,135838264,133188445,126567887,126567378,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/maine-senator-postpones-potato-nutrition-battle-now-91626 Med Schools Fall Short On LGBT Education http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/med-schools-fall-short-lgbt-education-91677 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/med_school.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>How well are medical schools preparing the next generation of doctors to care for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender patients? Not too well, it seems.</p><p>In a survey of medical school deans in the U.S. and Canada, a group of researchers found that the median number of teaching hours dedicated to LGBT content during an a four-year medical education was just five hours. While the researchers said there was a lot of variation between schools, they noted that five hours as a median was "small."</p><p>Their <a href="http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/9/971.short">results</a> were published this week in the <em>Journal of the American Medical Association </em>in a special issue on medical education.</p><p>This gap in medical education reflects a larger problem medical care for LGBT people, the researchers say. While LGBT people face the same general health risks as the rest of the population, they also may have specific health care needs relating to mental health, gender identity, sexually transmitted diseases, and other issues. Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine noted in a <a href="http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/The-Health-of-Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-and-Transgender-People.aspx">report</a> on the health of LGBT Americans that they "face a profound and poorly understood set of additional health risks due largely to social stigma."</p><p></p><p>"Our understanding of LGBT health issues is poor," Juno Obedin-Maliver, lead author of the <em>JAMA</em> study and a resident physician in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Shots. "We don't ask patients about it and we don't perform research on it. We know little bits about some populations in certain settings, but it remains a hidden population and therefore a <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137057974/-institute-of-medicine-finds-lgbt-health-research-gaps-in-us">hidden health demographic</a>."</p><p>And while 32 percent of the 132 deans who responded to Obedin-Maliver's questionnaire said they thought the quality of their LGBT content was very good, about 44 percent said it was fair and 34 percent said it was very poor.</p><p>"That speaks to their recognition that they're not doing as well as they could be," Obedin-Maliver says.</p><p>But one thing nearly all med students are learning is to ask patients about sexual activity. Some 97 percent of the deans surveyed reported that their institution teaches medical students to ask patients if they have sex with men, women, or both when doing a sexual history. Obedin-Maliver says she was surprised to learn it was so high.</p><p>But she notes they also need to differentiate between behavior and identity; for example, men who have sex with men but identify as straight. "It's actually behavior — not identity — which describes health risks," she says. "Both are important to know in terms of taking care of patients." <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315496951?&gn=Med+Schools+Fall+Short+On+LGBT+Education&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=medical+school,Public+Health,LGBT+community,Doctors,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Health+Care,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140246309&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110907&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=136856136,133188449,132406739,126948545,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 11:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/med-schools-fall-short-lgbt-education-91677 Despite Deficit, Enzi Supports Federal Spending On Autism http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/despite-deficit-enzi-supports-federal-spending-autism-91678 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/senmikeenzi.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) has been among the more outspoken members of Congress calling for major reductions in federal spending to reduce <a href="http://enzi.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/floor-statements?ContentRecord_id=00c306f3-43f1-4061-a5c5-00cf9f673742" target="_blank">the budget deficit</a>.</p><p>But today, at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee meeting, he is expected to vote for nearly $700 million in funding for autism research and treatment. In fact, he is one of three co-sponsors <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1094is/pdf/BILLS-112s1094is.pdf?__utma=37760702.650896146.1314579276.1315149265.1315336287.7&__utmb=37760702.6.9.1315336501744&__utmc=37760702&__utmx=-&__utmz=37760702.1315336287.7.3.utmcsr=googlenullnull" target="_blank">of the bill</a> that will reauthorize a 2006 autism law that expires at the end of the month. The others are Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).</p><p>Enzi spokesman Joe Brenckle explains the senator's position this way:</p><p><blockquote></p><p><em>It is important to understand the legislation cosponsored by Senator Enzi does not represent new spending. Instead it reauthorizes an existing program at the prior year's funding level. This bill is still subject to the annual appropriations process, but Senator Enzi believes that worthy, non-duplicative federal programs will continue to be authorized.</em></p><p></blockquote></p><p>The original law, which Enzi <a href="http://www.nationalautismassociation.org/pdf/CAAColloquy.pdf">co-sponsored,</a> called for $1 billion to expand federal research as well as increase services, diagnosis and treatment and enhance awareness efforts. The money increased autism research spending by almost 50 percent. The reauthorization bill will continue the funding for an additional three years.</p><p>Stuart Spielman, a lobbyist for <a href="http://www.autismspeaks.org/" target="_blank">Autism Speaks</a>, said he's confident the bill will pass, though the group is aware of pressures caused by the deficit. "We are not blind to the general fiscal environment ... but this is a continuation of a successful progam," he said.</p><p><strong>Update 2 p.m.: </strong>The committee passed the bill with no discussion. It now moves to full Senate. The House has yet to move on a reauthorization bill. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/">http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315496952?&gn=Despite+Deficit%2C+Enzi+Supports+Federal+Spending+On+Autism&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=autism,Policy-ish,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Children%27s+Health,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140245023&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110907&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=105043435&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=136582388,133188445,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 08:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-07/despite-deficit-enzi-supports-federal-spending-autism-91678 Conservatives Step Up Attacks On Public Funding For Birth Control http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/conservatives-step-attacks-public-funding-birth-control-91679 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/birth_control_pink.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It used to be that opposition to publicly funded birth control was linked to abortion.</p><p>Either the birth control in question allegedly caused abortion, or the organization providing the birth control (read: <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/13/135354952/planned-parenthood-makes-abortion-foes-see-red">Planned Parenthood</a>) also performed abortions. But that's changing.</p><p>These days, more and more voices are opposing the provision of birth control for its own sake.</p><p>"They've called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on the House floor last month, shortly after the Obama administration adopted the recommendations of an expert panel and agreed to <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/08/01/138893475/feds-order-insurers-to-cover-birth-control-free-of-charge-to-women">add contraceptives</a> to a list of services insurance plans will be required to provide without a deductible or copayment. "Well, if you apply that preventative medicine universally, what you end up with is you've prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine."</p><p></p><p>Some opponents, like conservative commentator Sandy Rios, say subsidizing birth control is simply too expensive in an era of tight budgets. "We have $14 trillion in debt, and now we're going to cover birth control?" she said on Fox News, adding, "Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well? I think that would be a good idea."</p><p>Others, such as Jeffrey Kuhner, president of the conservative <a href="http://www.edmundburkeinstitute.org/">Edmund Burke Institute</a>, say birth control is no less than an affront to God. "In short, liberals want to create a world without God and sexual permissiveness is their battering ram. Promoting widespread contraception is essential to forging a pagan society based on consequence-free sex," he wrote in an opinion piece for the <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/21/obamas-culture-of-death/">Washington Times</a>.</p><p>Still others, like Marjorie Dannenfelser, of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, insist that providing birth control doesn't even work at preventing abortions.</p><p>"As the money (for family planning) goes up, so do the number of abortions," she said. "We have not seen a reduction in abortions since the full funding of family planning. We have seen an escalation."</p><p>But that's simply not the case, says Emily Stewart, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood.</p><p>"Without a doubt, when women have access to birth control, it reduces unintended pregnancies," Stewart said. "The truth is we need to do more. And Americans agree that we need to do more to improve access to birth control."</p><p>Abortion opponents are correct that widespread access to birth control hasn't eliminated abortions in the U.S. — although the number has <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/11/AR2011011107331.html">declined considerably</a> over the last two decades.</p><p>But supporters of birth control like Stewart say the reason is that there hasn't been enough access to contraception. Funding for Title X, the <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/04/01/135018313/at-risk-federal-funds-cover-far-more-than-the-pill">federal government's main family planning program</a>, has largely remained flat — mostly due to abortion-related fights. So it hasn't kept up with inflation or population growth. As a result, Stewart says, "millions and millions of Americans in need of publicly funded family planning services today are not getting access to family planning services."</p><p>But Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University, says she thinks there may be yet another reason why widespread use of birth control hasn't brought down the rate of unintended pregnancy more dramatically – something economists call <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation">risk compensation.</a></p><p>"If you lower the cost of things, people will buy more of it," she says. So "if you lower the cost of uncommitted sexual encounters, you completely dissociate sex from pregnancy and birth and a lifetime of child care. People will engage in more uncommitted sexual encounters."</p><p>And because birth control is not perfect, and people don't use it perfectly or consistently, she says, that will result in more unintended pregnancies.</p><p>Still, the question remains, why is it only now that objections to birth control are being raised in public? John Green, a political science professor who studies religion and politics at the <a href="http://www.uakron.edu/bliss/faculty-staff/detail.dot?identity=1614298">University of Akron</a>, says he thinks it has a lot to do with the recent battles over federal spending in general, and the new health law in particular.</p><p>"I think for a lot of conservative activists, it's almost as if a bit of a threshold has been crossed in the debate," he said. "Because they believe that at least in this area, the public sector has become a little larger than it should be and is threatening some of the basic values that they hold."</p><p>But while calls to end federal funding for contraception may be on the rise, the public remains strongly on the other side, at least for now. A <a href="http://www.kff.org/kaiserpolls/8217.cfm">survey</a> released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found two-thirds of respondents in favor of the new requirement for insurance plans to offer prescription birth control without a copay or deductible. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315496954?&gn=Conservatives+Step+Up+Attacks+On+Public+Funding+For+Birth+Control&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Birth+Control,Planned+Parenthood,Policy-ish,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Health+Care,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140156682&c7=1027&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1027&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110907&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=3&v21=D%3Dc2&c31=137087066,133882586,133188445,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/conservatives-step-attacks-public-funding-birth-control-91679 Paintball Injury? Your Hospital Has A Code For That http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/paintball-injury-your-hospital-has-code-91680 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/shootthefreak_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Maybe, like me, you're one of the few who missed the recent report on injuries caused by BB and paintball guns that showed how often mishaps lead to emergency room visits. I'm surprised my mom didn't call me personally just to say she told me so.</p><p>Anyway, there are about 56 visits a day to emergency rooms around the country due to injuries from the guns, <a href="http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/sb119.pdf">according to estimates compiled</a> by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. BB and pellet guns are the biggest problem, accounting for 97 percent of the more than 20,000 injuries in 2008. But paintball, too, can hurt, with bruises their No. 1 problem.</p><p>Kids sustain most of the injuries — 57 percent. Injury rates for air guns, but not paintball weapons, are higher in the South and rural areas. Overall, though, the ER visits declined about 20 percent between 2006 and 2008.</p><p>Now how in the world would people be able to figure this out? There are standardized diagnostic codes specific to these injuries. Really.</p><p></p><p>The AHRQ researchers used some <a href="http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/toolssoftware/ccs/ccsfactsheet.jsp">nifty software</a> to sift through medical data looking for case patterns. And that's possible because of an international system of diagnostic codes. In the U.S.,the <em>International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification</em>, is the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/icd/icd9cm.htm">official rule book</a>. The codes are used for research and billing, and, less often, blog posts.</p><p>So, with the right database, you could look for codes like these:</p><p><h4>E922.4: Accident caused by firearm and air gun missile — air gun (BB gun, pellet gun)</h4></p><p><h4>E922.5: Accident caused by firearm and air gun missile — paintball gun</h4></p><p><h4>E968.6: Assault by air gun</h4></p><p><h4>E985.6: Injury by air gun, undetermined whether accident or on purpose</h4></p><p><h4>E985.7: Injury by paintball gun, undetermined whether accident or on purpose</h4></p><p>But why stop there? There are even some wilder codes among the more than 13,000 in the ICD-9-CM. Scorpion bite? Yep. Centipede bite? Sure. Hurt by a spacecraft? Yep, it's in there, too: <a href="http://www.icd9data.com/2009/Volume1/E800-E999/E840-E845/E845/E845.0.htm">E845.0</a>.</p><p>Now just because there's a code, doesn't mean it's ever been used, as the Wall Street Journal Health Blog <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/07/15/injured-by-a-spacecraft-theres-a-diagnostic-code-for-that/">reported</a> a few years back. "Whether someone was injured [by a spacecraft] or not was immaterial because somebody thought, 'What If?' " Sheri Poe Bernard from the <a href="http://www.aapc.com/" target="blank">American Academy of Professional Coders</a> told the blog. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315496955?&gn=Paintball+Injury%3F+Your+Hospital+Has+A+Code+For+That&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=paintball,Public+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Research+News,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140225678&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110906&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=140226522,133188449,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 16:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/paintball-injury-your-hospital-has-code-91680 Haggle, Don't Settle, When It Comes To Health Costs http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/haggle-dont-settle-when-it-comes-health-costs-91681 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/piggybank.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seems like forever that <em>Consumer Reports</em> has been telling people to haggle over the price of a microwave or a car. Now the folks behind the magazine want you to haggle with your doctor — or at least let her know that you can't afford that bypass.</p><p>The cost of health care is expected to almost double in the next decade, and insurers and employers are increasingly shoving that cost onto individuals. As a result, even people with good insurance are finding it harder to pay medical bills.</p><p>Shots talked with John Santa, an internal medicine doctor who directs the magazine's Health Ratings Center and wrote this <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/health/doctors-hospitals/how-to-haggle-with-your-doctor/overview/index.htm">call</a> to medical bargain shopping. He says it's the first time the organization has advised people to dicker with their doctors, he says. And he understands why some people would rather have a colonoscopy than tell their doctor they're having money trouble. Still, he says, "Your doctor needs to know about the stresses in your life."</p><p>Doctors' No. 1 frustration with patients is that they don't do what the doctor tells them to do — take the medicine or follow through on treatment. Very often that's because patients can't afford the medicine or treatment. Santa says a doctor really wants to know if money is tight, because there are many treatment options that are just as good if not better, and also less costly.</p><p></p><p>He cites the diabetes drug Avandia, which got <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/07/133565587/avandia-gets-tougher-label-as-glaxo-reportedly-settles-lawsuits">slammed</a> by the Food and Drug Administration for posing heart-attack risks. Patients would have been much better off taking metformin, a cheaper drug without the risky side effects. He suggests starting the conversation with something general, like: "Let me know where I might be able to save on this treatment. That would really help me."</p><p>Doctors and other health-care providers also have an ethical obligation to put patients' financial situation ahead of their own, he notes</p><p>Talking with the doctor about costs before treatment is the best bet. But it's still OK to negotiate after getting slammed with a big bill for a high-ticket item like coronary angioplasty, Santa says. Hospitals and doctors usually offer discounted rates to insurance companies, and there's no reason that an individual couldn't get a discount, too.</p><p><em>Consumer Reports</em>' advice includes disputing any charges you think the insurance company should pay, and holding off on payment until you've exhausted all options. The nonprofit also suggests offering a discounted price with a payment plan that you know you can manage.</p><p>One of the biggest hang-ups in shopping for health care is that it's hard to find out the real price. There's no Google Shopper for hip replacements. But the Healthcare Blue Book is a good start. This <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2009/06/stop_paying_too_much_for_that.html">free service</a> provides at least an inkling of what the going rate might be for that hip replacement ($20,566) or dental crown ($959). <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1315496956?&gn=Haggle%2C+Don%27t+Settle%2C+When+It+Comes+To+Health+Costs&ev=event2&ch=103537970&h1=Health+Inc.,Health+Care,Your+Health,Shots+-+Health+Blog,Health,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=140228383&c7=1128&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1128&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110906&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c31=133188447,132027047,126567525,103537970&v31=D%3Dc31&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-06/haggle-dont-settle-when-it-comes-health-costs-91681