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Keep front line health care workers safe

They save lives, prevent suffering, and help save money on health care. They make us feel protected, secure and safe. But surprisingly, more than 80 percent of nurses don’t feel safe or secure when they’re at work.

Why? Because in the course of a day, they are regularly exposed to dangerous bacteria and viruses, like hepatitis and HIV. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1,000 needle-stick and other “sharps” injuries are suffered every day by nurses and health care workers.

At greatest risk for serious illness are volunteer health care workers who serve the poor and uninsured, who are more likely to carry infectious diseases. That’s where AmeriCares comes in; the non-profit delivers necessary medical supplies, like needles and hand sanitizer, to free and low-cost health clinics nationwide in an effort to protect America’s nurses and health care workers. “They’re a nation’s greatest resource,” explains Frank Bia, MD, medical director of AmeriCares. “Protecting them from injury and disease is critical to ensuring the overall health of the population.”

Bia has firsthand experience with this issue — when he was an intern, he contracted hepatitis B, a serious liver infection, from a needle stick. “Anything you can do

A source of lead poisoning

Foreign-made jewelry is a potential source of lead exposure, according to public health officials.

A 1-year-old boy living in New York City had a rapid increase in blood lead levels, and the likely source of the exposure was traced to a Cambodian amulet made from knotted string and metallic beads, according to researchers from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the CDC.

Testing revealed that the beads contained 45 percent lead, the researchers reported in Jan. 28 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The boy had worn the amulet — “something to protect him,” his father said — since he was 3 months old, and had been seen putting it in his mouth.

“Healthcare providers and public health workers should consider traditional customs when seeking sources of lead exposure in Southeast Asian populations,” the authors wrote.

Healthcare professionals should ask parents — particularly from Southeast Asian families — about the use of amulets, they added, noting that educational efforts about the risk of lead poisoning from jewelry are needed for immigrant families.

An accompanying editorial note pointed out that the CDC recommends blood lead testing for internationally adopted and refugee children and that the New York City health department recommends testing

Medical Identity Theft

What is medical identity theft? In this serious and growing problem, someone else uses your personal information to obtain medical goods or services. Medical identity theft affects consumers, health care providers, and insurance organization. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), medical identity theft accounts for about 3 percent of all identity theft, and the World Privacy Forum claims it’s the most difficult form of identity theft to correct.

When you are the victim of medical identity theft, incorrect information about diagnoses and treatments may appear on your medical records, potentially affecting your health care providers’ decisions about your care and treatment. Also, in addition to paying for treatment you didn’t receive, in some cases you might be denied treatment or coverage because of fraudulent medical or insurance information.

But there is some good news: HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations and the Identity Theft Protection Act, already in place, give you many of the tools you need to get errors corrected at your doctor’s office and with your insurance provider. Of course, like any crime, you’re better off preventing it from happening in the first place.

Spotting Medical Identity Theft

Among other signs, the FTC states that you may

Smart tips can make using your cell phone safer

Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancer have you thinking twice about making that phone call?

Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.

Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue, hour-long catch-up with your sister. Keep calls as short as possible

Promises to Cut Funds for Healthcare Reform and Birth Control

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a bill to continue funding government programs in 2011, but cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The debate over HR 1, a bill that would continue appropriating 2011 funds, lasted five grueling days, ending with final passage early Saturday morning by a vote of 235 to 189. No Democrats voted in favor of the appropriations bill, but three Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against it.

Health Insurance Resource Center

Last week was filled with emotional debate on the House floor over what the government should fund, and what programs should have funding cut or eliminated.

One of the most contentious items wrapped up in the budget bill was an amendment by Mike Pence (R-Ind.) to cut off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which passed by a vote of 240-185.

During debate over that measure, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calf.) took to the floor and delivered an angry and impassioned speech that revealed she’d had an abortion, and to denounce amendment that would take away funding for family planning, sexual health services, and abortions.

Other amendments offered ranged from space exploration to NASCAR, to studying Asian carp, and served to highlight the

Get the most out of your medications

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) judges a drug to be safe enough to approve when the benefits of the medicine outweigh the known risks for the labeled use.

Doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, and YOU make up your health care team. To reduce the risks from using medicines and to get the most benefit, you need to be an active member of the team.

To make medicine use SAFER:

  • Speak up
  • Ask questions
  • Find the facts
  • Evaluate your choices
  • Read the label and follow directions

Speak Up

The more information your health care team knows about you, the better the team can plan the care that’s right for you.

The members of your team need to know your medical history, such as illnesses, medical conditions (like high blood pressure or diabetes), and operations you have had.

They also need to know all the medicines and treatments you use, whether all the time or only some of the time. Before you add something new, talk it over with your team. Your team can help you with

Help the People of Haiti

Since the earthquake struck on Jan. 12, many non-profit organizations have been providing search and rescue aid, medical care, shelter, food, and other essential services in Haiti. All need additional funds to continue their work in the coming weeks and months.

Health and Medical Care

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)

An international humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists that provides medical and health services, often in emergency situations.

Direct Relief International

Provides medical care to people harmed by poverty, natural disasters, and civil unrest.

Partners in Health

An organization that provides medical care and advocacy in Haiti and nine other countries.

Emergency Services and Logistical Support

American Red Cross

The U.S. branch of the International Red Cross, which assists people whose lives have been disrupted by natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and health emergencies.

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

A fundraising group started by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush at the request of President Barack Obama to support immediate relief efforts such as the provision of food,

Chemicals May Affect Thyroid Function

Chemicals called phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) that are found in solvents, plastics and numerous household products may alter levels of thyroid hormones in the body, according to a new study.

Thyroid hormones play a role in many critical bodily functions, including reproduction and metabolism.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare thyroid levels and traces of phthalates and BPA in urine samples of 1,346 adults and 329 teenagers. Their findings confirmed previous research linking BPA — used in certain plastic water bottles and the linings of canned foods — with disruptions in thyroid hormone levels, they said.

Overall, higher concentrations of the chemicals had an inverse impact on thyroid levels, said study lead author John Meeker, an assistant professor, in a university news release. The greater the exposure to phthalates and BPA, the lower the thyroid hormone levels.

The strongest link occurred with exposure to DEHP, a phthalate commonly used as a plasticizer, which people come into contact with through diet.

In the cases of DEHP ingestion, urine samples showed that the greatest exposure was associated with as much as a 10 percent drop in thyroid hormones.

“This seems

Health Boost or Health Risk

A large number of studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and one to two for men, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “The difference in amounts is because of how men and women metabolize alcohol,” Dr. Novey explains.

“When you say one drink, the size of that drink matters,” Novey adds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture one drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of beer or
  • 5 ounces of wine or
  • 1½ ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof)

The Dangers of Drinking Too Much

Unfortunately, some people can’t stop at just one or two drinks. Too much alcohol can result in serious health consequences. Heavy alcohol intake can damage the liver, causing cirrhosis, a fatal disease. Excessive drinking also can raise blood pressure and damage the heart, and is linked to many different cancers, including mouth, esophagus, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. The health risks are even greater for those who not only drink but smoke as well.

The consequences of excessive drinking can be serious not

Find out exactly what you should be eating on a regular basis

If you are what you eat, it follows that you want to stick to a healthy diet that’s well balanced. “You want to eat a variety of foods,” says Stephen Bickston, MD, AGAF, professor of internal medicine and director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond. “You don’t want to be overly restrictive of any one food group or eat too much of another.”

Healthy Diet: The Building Blocks

The best source of meal planning for most Americans is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Pyramid. The pyramid, updated in 2005, suggests that for a healthy diet each day you should eat:

  • 6 to 8 servings of grains. These include bread, cereal, rice, and pasta, and at least 3 servings should be from whole grains. A serving of bread is one slice while a serving of cereal is 1/2 (cooked) to 1 cup (ready-to-eat). A serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup cooked (1 ounce dry). Save fat-laden baked goods such as croissants, muffins, and donuts for an occasional treat.
  • 2 to 4 servings of fruits and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables. Most fruits and