A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

After Newtown massacre, many states made changes

(Stateline.org) One year ago [yesterday], a 20-year-old gunman shot his way through the front office and into two first-grade classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing six adults and 20 children. Then he killed himself.
In the stunned aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders designed to limit gun violence. In Congress, multiple gun control measures fizzled out in the Senate without even making it to the House.
Where federal lawmakers failed to act, states debated more than 1,500 gun bills and passed 109 of them. In all of the states that made major changes to their gun laws, one party controls both the statehouse and the governor's mansion.
Several Democratic-controlled states, for example, mandated more background checks for gun purchases. Meanwhile, Republican states loosened some gun restrictions and cleared the way for armed volunteers to guard schools. Special interests, pro and con, spent millions to sway the debate.
States also turned their attention to mental health: Thirty-seven states increased their mental health spending, restoring most of the $4.35 billion cut from state mental health funds in the last four years, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
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For Many Urban Schools, Gun Violence Remains A Daily Reality

(Denise Tejada, NPR) With its colorful box-style buildings with big windows, Castlemont High in Oakland, Calif., looks like any other school. But inside, teacher Demetria Huntsman and Joseph Hopkins, 16, are deconstructing a shooting that happened out front just 30 minutes before. 
"We just, like, heard gunshots," Joseph explains. "We just ... turned around and started running. That's the closest I've ever came to almost, like, actually getting shot."…
In spite of the violence, kids this reporter talked to say Castlemont High is one of the few places they feel safe, in part because of programs designed to help students cope with regular shootings — maybe even prevent them.
"It's up to adults and professionals to help [kids] understand and process it and respond to it appropriately, so it can be a tool for learning and growth," says Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency.
The life expectancy for residents in this area, he explains, is 10 years shorter than that of people living in upscale Oakland Hills just over a mile away. "We can tell you how long you're going to live by what zip code you live in," Briscoe says.
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Obama's unlocking of federal funding ban on gun research yields little upshot in first year

(NBC News) Nearly a year after President Barack Obama ended a 17-year-long virtual freeze on the federal funding of gun-violence research, that thaw has not yet produced scientific breakthroughs because America still lacks the money and minds to churn out pivotal studies on the topic, medical experts contend.
Obama — propelled by the Newtown school shootings — urged Congress in January to provide $10 million to finance fresh academic investigations into the impacts of firearms on the collective health of Americans. While that money may be allocated in 2014, U.S. lawmakers have not yet invested adequate dollars to study the issue and, so far, that lack of funding has failed to entice researchers to answer the president’s call, say two physicians who specialize in gunfire injuries.
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Promises To Fix Mental Health System Still Unfulfilled

(Shots, NPR) After the Sandy Hook shootings, Virginia officials talked about the state's mental health system, and ended up boosting funding by about 5 percent. A similar conversation took place in state legislatures across the country.
In 2013, a total of 36 states increased funding for mental health. But Sita Diehl, director of state policy and advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says that was a drop in the bucket after four years of steep cuts during a recession that brought the system to the brink of collapse.
"After these sorts of shootings, there's a lot of talk, and a lot of policymakers saying we need to do something about the mental health system," Diehl says. "But then, when push comes to shove and the budget debates occur, mental health seems to lose out."
Most of the additional funding in 2013 came through state bills that were already being considered before the Newtown shootings, Diehl adds. The events there just gave legislators the push they needed to pass the bills. Still, she says, that's a lot more than was done by federal legislators.
"I give the states a B-plus," says Diehl. "I give the feds a C-minus; maybe a D. [There's been] lots of talk, no action."
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Gun Violence Not Predictable by Personality, Study Finds

(Bloomberg) Mass shootings can’t be reliably predicted by any single personality profile, according to the largest group of U.S. psychologists.
There are no consistent warning signs that can identify a person who may go on to gun-related crimes, according to a report from the American Psychological Association… A more-promising way to prevent gun violence may be to focus on the problems that underlie threatening behavior.
Though individual prediction is difficult, there are ways to lower gun violence in the population, including making sure that people who are at risk of committing assaults get mental health care, the group said. Exclusive focus on mental health, however, won’t solve the problem, the report’s authors said. Instead, community programs that focus on conflict resolution, as well as background checks among private individuals and at gun shows, may help prevent more shootings, the report found.
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Following Tragic Media Coverage Could Harm Your Mental Health

(Huffington Post) When a tragedy occurs, such as last year's Newtown shooting or the bombing at the Boston Marathon, it's easy to get lost for hours on end in the 24-7 news coverage. But according to a new study, immersing yourself for a prolonged period of time in media coverage of distressing and tragic events could be bad for your mental health.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, found an association between acute stress symptoms and watching six or more hours a day of news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing the week after it occurred.
The association seems to hold true especially for people who have previously experienced a traumatic event, people with a lifetime history of being exposed to traumatic events, and people with a pre-existing mental health condition.
"We suspect that there's something about repeated exposure to violent images or sounds that keeps traumatic events alive and can prolong the stress response in vulnerable people," study researcher E. Alison Holman, an associate professor of nursing at the university, said in a statement. "There is mounting evidence that live and video images of traumatic events can trigger flashbacks and encourage fear conditioning. If repeatedly viewing traumatic images reactivates fear or threat responses in the brain and promotes rumination, there could be serious health consequences."
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Sweet and Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles
This dish has the starch built in, and because the recipe includes lots of fresh veggies, it qualifies as a one-dish meal.
Broccoli, Ham & Cheese Quiche
This quiche recipe is full of broccoli, Cheddar cheese and smoky ham surrounded by a crispy hash brown crust. Look for precooked shredded potatoes in the dairy section or in the produce section—or use frozen hash brown potatoes in this easy quiche recipe.
Turkey Chili
With leftover white-meat turkey and a few pantry items, you can whip up this one-pot favorite with little effort. Make the chili within a couple of days so the leftover turkey doesn’t dry out. Salt-free pinto beans are available in supermarkets or health-food stores. Spice lovers can add a few dashes of hot pepper sauce to turn up the heat.
Grab 'n go egg breakfast muffins
Make it out the door in record time by making these breakfast-savers on Sunday night. They'll keep you full until lunch no problem!
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Feast of the Seven Fishes

(Mediterranean Foods Alliance) Every family has its own Christmas traditions, many of which are culturally based and often involve a lot of eating. But one of the most spectacular culinary traditions comes from Italian roots. The Feast of the Seven Fishes, as it is known in the Italian-American community, is often a multi-coursed family affair.
Although the name of the celebration seems to be unique to American festivities, the tradition traces back to the Italian custom of observing a vigil on Christmas Eve in anticipation of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. The observance meant fasting, or abstaining from eating meat and dairy, so the dinner before midnight mass consisted largely of seafood dishes…
The Feast of the Seven Fishes beautifully illustrates many of the principles of the Mediterranean Diet: enjoying the pleasures of the table with family and friends; making meals from fresh, minimally processed ingredients; and including heart- and brain-healthy seafood in your regular meal rotation. In the spirit of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and to inspire your own holiday (or any day) cooking, we offer seven seafood dishes this week.
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How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood

(NPR) We've long known that the fish we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. The substance that's gotten the most attention — because it has shown up at disturbingly high levels in some fish — is mercury.
But mercury is just one of a slew of synthetic and organic pollutants that fish can ingest and absorb into their tissue. Sometimes it's because we're dumping chemicals right into the ocean. But as a study published recently … helps illuminate, sometimes fish get chemicals from the plastic debris they ingest.
"The ocean is basically a toilet bowl for all of our chemical pollutants and waste in general," says Chelsea Rochman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, who authored the study. "Eventually, we start to see those contaminants high up in the food chain, in seafood and wildlife."
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The Perils of Refined Foods

(SouthBeachDiet.com) Here’s an important rule to remember when following the South Beach Diet: The more a food is refined, the more you should stay away from it. What are refined foods? They are highly processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrient content and fiber. Refined white flour, white pasta, and white sugar are just some examples.
Consider a loaf of sliced white bread. First, the wheat is stripped of bran and fiber, and then it’s pulverized into the finest-textured white flour. The baking process puffs it up into light, airy slices of bread. No wonder your stomach makes such quick work of it. A slice of white bread hits your bloodstream with the same jolt you’d get by eating a tablespoon of sugar right from the bowl!
On the other hand, 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread — the coarse, chewy kind with a thick crust and visible pieces of grain — puts your stomach to work. It, too, is made of wheat, but the grains haven’t been processed to death. And while these types of bread contain starches, which are just chains of sugars, they are bound up with the fiber, so digestion takes longer. As a result, the sugars are released gradually into the bloodstream. If there’s no sudden surge in blood sugar, your pancreas won’t produce as much insulin, and you won't get the exaggerated hunger and cravings for more sugary and starchy carbs.
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Stomach acid drugs may increase vitamin deficiency risk

(Reuters Health) Popular drugs that are used to control stomach acid may increase the risk of a serious vitamin deficiency, suggests a new study.
Researchers found people who were diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to be taking proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) and histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), compared to those not diagnosed with the condition.
The drugs are commonly used to treat conditions like acid reflux - also known as GERD - and peptic ulcers.
"This doesn't mean people should stop their medications," Dr. Douglas Corley, the study's senior author, said. "People take these for good reasons. They improve quality of life and prevent disease."
"It does raise the question that people who are taking these medications should have their B12 levels checked," he added.
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Regular Pelvic Floor Exercises Help a Very Common Problem

(LiveScience) Women who have had children are often advised to do exercises to tighten their pelvic floor muscles. The muscles run from the pubic bone at the front of your body towards the back and help support your bladder and control when you urinate…
[T]he problem is common – but there are things that can be done to help. Pelvic floor exercises have been recommended but evidence of their effectiveness has been limited. But a study we carried out with 447 women suggested that women reported fewer symptoms at six and 12 months if they had been involved in a personalised programme of pelvic floor muscle training than if they had been in the control group.
You can pull in your pelvic floor muscles by pretending to hold in your wee or stop yourself passing wind. Once located, the muscles can be trained by regularly doing a series of long and short holds. For example, you might squeeze these muscles slowly ten times in a row, then do ten fast squeezes.
The exercises can be built up over time, and in our study we aimed for women to achieve ten long muscle holds for ten seconds, and up to 50 fast contractions three times per day.
Community: You don’t have to have had children to need to do these exercises, and even men can benefit.
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Most Treated for C Diff Don’t Have the Infection

(MedPage Today) Fewer than one in six patients treated with powerful antibiotics for a Clostridium Difficile (C. Diff) infection actually had lab-confirmed infections despite high costs and negative outcomes of unnecessary treatments, researchers reported…
At a 240-bed hospital, over the course of 22 months, 1,971 patients were treated with vancomycin and/or metronidazole for a C. Diff infection, but only 292 of those patients had positive test results for C. Diff, Daniel Barone, PharmD, … and colleagues reported.
Barone and colleagues noted that a pharmacist-led quality improvement project, including an educational program, is currently being developed to address the use of appropriate diagnostic tests, medications, doses, frequency, duration, and forms for C. Diff infections.
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Computer/camera system to monitor bus drivers for dangerous fatigue

(UPI) A system using computers to track bus drivers' eye movements and blinks to prevent accidents on long-distance trips is being tested, European researchers say.
The Dutch coach operator Royal Beuk has installed the system from Australian company Seeing Machines on two of its vehicles and has recruited four more bus companies to do the same, the BBC reported Tuesday.
The system uses special cameras installed inside a vehicle to monitor the driver's gaze, and if it detects they are distracted or taking "microsleeps" because of fatigue -- naps that can last just seconds and take place without a person's knowledge -- it activates a vibration motor built into the driver's seat.
It can also trigger an alarm to alert a co-driver to take over control of the vehicle.
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Misunderstanding of Palliative Care Leads to Preventable Suffering

(Science Daily) A new review says palliative care's association with end of life has created an "identity problem" that means the majority of patients facing a serious illness do not benefit from treatment of the physical and psychological symptoms that occur throughout their disease… The authors say palliative care should be initiated at the same time as standard medical care for patients with serious illnesses, and not brought up only after treatment has failed.
[F]or palliative care to be used appropriately, [they say,] clinicians, patients, and the general public must learn the fundamental differences between palliative care and hospice care, a distinction that is not well-known…
Adding to that is the fact that debates over "death panels," physician-assisted suicide, and other factors have made policymakers reluctant to devote resources to initiatives perceived to be associated with death and dying. The authors point to lower levels of government funding for palliative care research compared to funding for other specialties.
"The practice and policy behind palliative care must be considered independently from end-of-life care," write the authors. "Palliative care should no longer be reserved exclusively for those who have exhausted options for life-prolonging therapies."
Community: Right wingers should not be allowed to hijack serious discussion on these issues, including end of life issues.
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FDA Panelist Had Serious Conflict, Group Charges

(MedPage Today) An FDA watchdog is once again calling for the agency to create more clearly defined conflict-of-interest boundaries for advisory committee members following disclosure that one member's daughter participated in a clinical trial of a drug the panel was reviewing.
Deanna Cisneros, RN, of Webster, Texas, was serving as the patient representative on the FDA's Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee as it made a recommendation on approving BioMarin Pharmaceutical's elosulfase alfa (Vimizim)…
Cisneros openly admitted during the Nov. 19 meeting -- and to the FDA beforehand -- that her child was on the investigational drug during development and showed improvement. She later voted to recommend approval for all patients. There is no approved drug for Morquio A syndrome.
Allowing Cisneros to participate was an "absurd idea," Sidney Wolfe, MD, founder of and now senior adviser to Public Citizen's Health Research Group, told MedPage Today. It crossed the line and created too much of a conflict for her to be able to make a rational yet unbiased recommendation, he argued.
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Evidence of Savings in Accountable Care Organizations, Cancer Care

(Science Daily) Researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice report that savings may be found in accountable care organizations (ACO) through reductions in hospitalizations…
The researchers report that a significant reduction could be found in Medicare spending of $721 annually per patient, a 3.9 percent decrease, with no adverse consequence for survival. The savings were associated with fewer admissions for inpatient care among beneficiaries with prevalent cancer due to better management of acute care, especially in beneficiaries eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. However, there were no reductions in cancer-specific treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgical procedures.
There was no significant change of proportions of deaths occurring in the hospital, reductions in hospice use, hospital discharges or ICU days. But there was an improvement in mortality.
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Chronic Illness, Disability Mean Medicare Access Problems

(MedPage Today) The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries have few difficulties getting routine care from a physician, but certain subsets have higher rates of problems, according to two reports issued this week.
Those with higher rates of problems accessing routine care "include beneficiaries with no supplemental insurance or Medicaid, beneficiaries under age 65 living with a permanent disability, beneficiaries in fair and poor health, beneficiaries with four or more chronic conditions, and beneficiaries with lower incomes," according a Kaiser Family Foundation brief on Medicare patients' access to physicians.
However, they don't report significant problems gaining access to their physician when care is needed, according to the report, which examined previous studies from various sources on the topic.
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Healthiest State Rankings: Hawaii Tops 2013 List

(Huffington Post) Where you live could say a lot about your health habits -- and a new ranking reveals which states have it the best and worst.
On a whole, Americans are adopting healthier behaviors, such as stopping smoking and increasing physical activity, according to the report, published by the United Health Foundation, American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.
The report also shows that the percentage of smokers has dropped to 19.6 percent in the U.S. from 21.2 percent in the last year. And physical inactivity has dropped on a whole to 22.9 percent in the last year, down from 26.2 percent…
Take a look at the list below to see the top 10 states and the bottom 10 states in the 2013 ranking:
Top 10:
1. Hawaii…
2. Vermont…
3. Minnesota…
4. Massachusetts…
5. New Hampshire…
6. Utah…
7. Connecticut…
8. Colorado…
9. North Dakota…
10. New Jersey…
Bottom 10:
41. Indiana…
42. Tennessee…
43. South Carolina…
44. Oklahoma…
45. Kentucky…
46. West Virginia…
47. Alabama…
48. Louisiana…
49. Arkansas…
50. Mississippi
Community: See a pattern here? The healthiest states tend to be blue states. The least healthy tend to be red states. The same goes for other measures of well being, including median income. And, in fact, the red states tend to be net takers from the federal trough, while we blue states tend to be net donors. We help them out, and they spit in our faces.
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Red state blues? Data show health disparities among states

(AP) The slow rollout of a new federal health insurance marketplace may be deepening differences in health coverage among Americans, with residents in some states gaining insurance at a far greater rate than others.
The demarcation may be as simple as Democrat and Republican.
Newly released federal figures show more people are picking private insurance plans or being routed to Medicaid programs in states with Democratic leaders who have fully embraced the federal health care law than in states where Republican elected officials have derisively rejected what they call "Obamacare."…
Even though many conservative states have higher levels of poverty and more people without health coverage, fewer of them may receive new insurance, said Dylan Roby, an assistant public health professor at the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.
With the patchwork implementation of the federal health care law, "the gap will exacerbate," Roby said.
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What Hawaii Can Teach The Rest of America About Living Better

(Huffington Post) Hawaii’s tropical island paradise isn’t the fountain of youth, but it’s close. Hawaii locals not only live longer -- they’re less stressed and happier than residents of any other state…
So what are the Aloha State’s secrets to happiness and longevity?
Hawaiian Time
The slowed-down, low-stress island lifestyle gives Hawaiians a major health advantage…
Sunshine and Fresh Air
Hawaii has pristine beaches, lush tropical greenery, and average temperatures in the 70s in Honolulu, so locals soak up plenty of sun -– and health benefits –- by spending so much of their lives outside…
Fresh Food and Exercise
"People tend to eat better here and exercise more,” says [Dr. Bradley Willcox, a longevity expert]. More than 60 percent of Hawaiians exercise – second only to Alaska. And the Hawaiian diet, which is heavy on fresh fish, legumes, vegetables and fruits, also helps protect the body against diseases…
Looking on the Bright Side
The optimism that is central to the Aloha spirit has proven health benefits. Hawaii residents are optimistic that their cities are getting better, according to Gallup data…
Exemplary Health Care
Not all states are created equal when it comes to health and happiness, and Hawaii sets a high bar for the rest of the country. Hawaii's exemplary health care system mandates that employers provide care for any employees who work more than 20 hours a week. As a result, says Willcox, “people get good health care here.”
Strong Communities
Hawaii residents are particularly good at prioritizing spending time with family and friends –- activities that affect stress levels, well-being and longevity. The community spirit has a way of rubbing off on individuals, creating a uniquely Hawaiian perspective on life. “You see more stress-resistant personalities,” says Willcox. "Every weekend, everyone's out on the beach for a cookout with family members all around.”
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Growing Appalachia, and a Better Food System for America

(John Paul DeJoria, co-founder, Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems) More than 50 million Americans live in food insecure households. When I founded Grow Appalachia in 2009, in partnership with Berea College, I was hoping to address the problem of hunger in America, but realized that the issue wasn't simply a lack of food. The way people relate to food — the way they purchase it, prepare it and consume it — is the real problem…
Grow Appalachia is changing the way people throughout rural Appalachia relate to food. In the past three years, thousands of program participants through 25 partner sites in five states have grown more than 574,000 pounds of food. We work with existing social structures — 100 year-old missions, a domestic violence shelter, schools, a veteran's organization — and provide the basic tools to help people grow their own food and become their own solution to food insecurity.
These trusted partners provide canning classes, gardening workshops and help build high tunnels for more efficient production. The main goal is to get people as close to their food source, and in charge of their own food systems, for as long as possible. Introducing more food to the area solves the basic problem of a supply of high-quality, fresh food, but it's not enough to just have more food. People have to be invested in growing their own food, saving seeds and growing organic to keep soil healthy.
Individual households have saved about $1,000 in grocery bills in a growing season. A one-acre garden at Jackson County Detention center saved $5,000 in food costs in one season, and introduced better food and work experiences to inmates. In the Coffey family garden in Jackson, Ky., five generations plant and harvest together, growing together, sharing old techniques as well as new ones. Money is being saved, families are sharing and teaching with other families and people are feeding themselves…
If you have resources, shop at a farmer's market and be a patron to a local family farm, or say no to eating endangered seafood. If you can, start a small garden in your backyard. Help your neighbor start a garden. We can help protect our ecology and waterways and help people to have access to fresh food.
It's all connected. We are all connected.
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Spanish Spaghetti with Olives
Update spaghetti night with a Spanish twist by adding a fresh new ingredient: pimiento-stuffed olives.
Quick Pasta Bolognese
This crowd-pleasing healthy spaghetti Bolognese recipe is a boon for busy cooks—it’s ready and on the table in just 40 minutes.
Cooking Light:
Slow-Cooker Recipes to Feed a Crowd
Plug in and let Old Faithful help out with feeding a crowd. These recipes are delightfully savory and yield 8 servings or more.
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All about Winter Squash

(SouthBeachDiet.com) Winter squash come in a variety of sizes, flavors, and colors and are a superhealthy vegetable choice… An outstanding source of carotenoids (including beta-carotene), as well as vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and fiber, winter squash, like all bright-orange vegetables, can help reduce LDL cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, and even boost your resistance to colds and infection…
Because winter squash have a hard, thick skin (which is not typically eaten), you need to be extremely careful cutting them up…
The most common way to cook acorn squash is to halve them, remove the seeds, lightly season with your choice of spices, and bake…
Because butternut squash provides a lot of flesh for its size, it is often used to make soup or puréed to add to a sauce for pasta…
As with all winter squash, roasting delicata intensifies its flavors.
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Raw Milk: 1 in 6 Who Drink It Gets Sick

(LiveScience) About 17 percent of people who drink raw milk become ill with bacterial or parasite infections from Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter, researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health estimated.
On average, one in six people who drink raw milk becomes ill with bacterial or parasite infections, according to researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health…
"The risk for illness associated with raw milk is far greater than what was determined based on recognized outbreaks," said study researcher Trisha Robinson, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Infections with the pathogens that can contaminate raw milk often cause diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting, which last for about a week.
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Antibiotic Use on Farm Animals to Be Phased Out in U.S

(Bloomberg) Use of antibiotics to fatten cattle, hogs and chickens for human consumption will be phased out by 2017, as U.S. regulators seek to curb a rise in more deadly forms of foodborne pathogens.
Farmers would no longer be able to purchase the medicines without a veterinarian’s approval under a plan announced yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration. Drugmakers will be asked to agree to increased controls over three months, then will have three years to change labels to remove production uses of antibiotics, including for weight gain and accelerated growth.
Antibiotics, often the last line of defense for humans against life-threatening germs spread commonly in hospitals, are starting to lose power because of overexposure. The FDA deliberately sidestepped rescinding approval of the drugs’ for livestock completely, saying a voluntary approach would lead to a faster reduction in the use of the medicines.
Community, However, according to Scientific American, “The FDA s Action on Agricultural Antibiotics is Overdue and Utterly Insufficient.”
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Should We Blame Colon Cancer on the Intestinal Bacteria?

(The People’s Pharmacy) The bacteria that inhabit our intestines have a huge impact on our health. The most recent revelation is that people with colon cancer have a different mix of bacteria than healthy volunteers, with more nasty strains and fewer beneficial ones. Some of the deleterious microbes, such as Fusobacteria, are associated with inflammation.
The only difficulty with this fascinating information is how to change the ecological pattern of gut bacteria from an unfavorable one to a more favorable profile. Our microbial inhabitants do change depending upon what we feed them, so that might be the first place to start. Feeding them plenty of vegetables and relatively little red meat or highly processed food seems logical, though we have not seen this tested in a clinical trial.
Another possibility that has gotten some attention lately, and even has studies to back it up, might be fecal transplantation. This sounds fairly yucky, but it has saved lives.
Community: Fecal transplants may not be necessary, considering new research showing “Diet Changes Gut Bacteria Within a Day, Harvard Study Finds.” Also, scientists are working on a pill that will confer the same benefits as the transplants.
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Expert busts flu myths such as the vaccine can give the flu

(UPI) A U.S. infectious disease expert says one of the most persistent flu myths is that the influenza vaccine can give a person the flu -- it cannot…
"It is not true to say that the flu shot can give someone the flu," [Dr. Jorge] Parada said in a statement. "Remember, it takes two weeks from vaccine injection for a person's protective immunity to become effective. Thus, if a person gets exposed to the virus right around the time he or she gets the vaccine, they may experience the flu during that window before the vaccine has time to kick in. In these cases, it is not the flu shot that gave the person the flu, but rather that they did not get the flu shot early enough to be protected when they were exposed and infected by the flu virus."…
 Many also think last year's flu shot will protect for another year.
"The vaccine is effective for one flu season, so everyone needs to get the vaccine every year," Parada advised.
Community: Maybe it’s those myths that are behind this statistic: “Despite flu vaccine benefits, only 40% of U.S. gets flu shot.”
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Tobacco Settlement Money Being Burned on Unintended Uses

(MedPage Today) When the major U.S. tobacco companies settled litigation with the states in 1998 in what is known as the Master Settlement Agreement, expectations ran high that the cash windfall would fund tobacco control and cancer research programs.
Now, half way through the 25-year payout period, states have increasingly shifted that money out of anti-tobacco activities, using it to pay for things like roads and college scholarships and to cover budget shortfalls, as Stanton Glantz, PhD, director of the University of California San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, explains in this exclusive video report.
The settlement requires the tobacco companies to pay out $206 billion dollars to the states over 25 years but, as Glantz told MedPage Today senior staff writer Crystal Phend, the agreement had no power to compel the states to spend the money in any particular way.
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Rampant Prescription Drug Abuse Demands New Controls

(Scott Krakower, D.O., LiveScience) Patients approaching physicians for controlled medications may be in for a surprise. Many states have started prescription-monitoring programs, indicating details such as when and where patients have controlled medications filled. The goals of those programs are to help prevent patients from getting controlled medications from multiple providers. Rates of prescription drug abuse are quite alarming, and such abuse may now lead the country in causes of accidental death.
In addition, patients suffering with pain may be more likely to use opioid agents, which can be highly addictive and can lead to high lethality rates. With unintentional prescription overdose from opioid agents nearly quadrupling over the last decade, it is now an epidemic, outnumbering deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.
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Justices consider restoring EPA's 'Good Neighbor' rule to reduce air pollution

(McClatchy) In a regional air-pollution battle with partisan overtones, the Obama administration appeared to make headway Tuesday in persuading the Supreme Court to allow tougher federal environmental standards to prevent ozone and other emissions from coal-producing Midwestern and Southern states from wafting over Northeastern states.
The politically charged dispute pits the Obama administration and environmentalists against mostly Republican-led states with less stringent industrial pollution controls, as well as the electric power industry.
In something of surprise, most justices sounded as if they were leaning toward restoring the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called "Good Neighbor" rule to reduce cross-border air pollution. Called for under the Clean Air Act to prevent one state's pollution from harming another, the proposed EPA rule seeks to impose federal pollution limits on states.
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Mobile Apps Can Save Billions in Health Costs

(MedPage Today) If Omri Bob Shor's father doesn't take his diabetes medication or accidentally takes too much insulin, Shor gets an alert to his phone telling him so.
MediSafe, the system Shor uses and the company he helped found, is like most other medication management applications that have sprung up in recent years with the proliferation of smartphones in that it sends alerts reminding patients to take their medication…
Mobile solutions such as MediSafe's virtual pillbox can help save the U.S. more than $23 billion a year by controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, according to research from the consulting firm Accenture. That's a savings of between $2,000 and $3,000 per year per member with the condition.
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Doctors crowdsourcing primary care

(Ishani Ganguli, MD, Boston Globe) How do you create a venue for real-time collaboration … beyond the walls of an academic medical center? One answer is telemedicine, the decades-old concept that is enjoying growing relevance as we realize that our biggest hurdle to better health care is not ignorance but uneven execution. Arguably one of the brightest examples of this may be a project started ten years ago that is starting to see some neat results.
Dr. Sanjeev Arora developed Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) as a means of sharing specialist knowledge with primary care doctors practicing in rural New Mexico. As he and colleagues recently described…, the program allows primary care physicians (PCPs) in underserved areas to discuss complex patient cases with other PCPs, as well as with specialist teams, via weekly videoconference. The specialists, trained to treat hepatitis C or addiction, for example, share their knowledge and offer guidance on how to diagnose and treat these patients.
Project ECHO's real-time, collaborative learning opportunities seem a welcome change from more traditional continuing education for doctors. Although there is the potential to sink into groupthink, this is a small risk compared to the enormous benefit of bringing more providers in on evidence-proven practices. 
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Scientists Turn To The Crowd In Quest For New Antibiotics

(Shots, NPR) Josiah Zayner, who's about to take a job doing synthetic biology research at NASA, and Mark Opal, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, want to make the drug discovery process easier.
They recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to send out simple test kits, so people can check plants, chemicals and other substances around them for substances that kill bacteria…
Although this project may not uncover the next antibiotic, there may be another benefit, says Gregory Daniel, a fellow at the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution. It's likely to get more people interested in antibiotic resistance…
Advocacy can lead to real changes, he says, citing HIV/AIDs as an example. Starting in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS patient advocates pushed for regulatory changes that sped up access to drugs and included activists and patients on advisory boards.
Campaign creators Zayner and Opal say even if they can't meet their fundraising goal, they have already heard from schools interested in using the kits as classroom tools.
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Here’s Why That Kentucky Doctor Is Closing His Practice "Due To The Policies Of Obamacare"

(BuzzFeed) A Kentucky doctor who took out a local newspaper ad saying he was closing his practice “due to the policies of Obamacare” is shutting down his practice because of federal requirements to transfer from paper to electronic records.
Dr. Stephen Kiteck of Somerset, Ky., said the financial burden of electronic records is “too much of a burden to overcome” and that he didn’t want to “make a long-term investment” in his small medical practice.
Though Kiteck’s ad blames Obamacare, the electronic health care incentive programs were part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 — the federal stimulus act — and not part of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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More Affordable Care Act News

(Consumer Reports) More than a month into the first open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, chances are you are as confused as ever about how the Affordable Care Act works and how it affects you. That’s the conclusion the Consumer Reports National Research Center drew from a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults taken Nov. 8 throiugh 10. Consumers can’t figure out which media reports, ads, or politicians are providing accurate information—which may explain why they don’t know much about the law even now.
That's especially unfortunate considering that anyone who needs new health insurance to start on Jan. 1, 2014, only has until Dec. 23 to get it.
Obamacare: What's in It for Me? is the authoritative source for Americans needing to know how the law will affect them and their families: How will it affect the millions of Americans who already have coverage through their employers… As a former insurance industry insider and now a recognized expert on ObamaCare, Wendell Potter is perfectly positioned to explain to a wide audience, hungry for the real story (without the spin), of just what this health care overhaul means for all of us.
(Shots, NPR) The Obama administration says the HealthCare.gov experience is getting better, but what's it really like? We asked Doug Normington of Madison, Wis., to let us peek over his shoulder as he tries to buy health insurance through the federal exchange. After many tries, success.
(Consumer Reports) The federal government on Thursday said it’s cutting some slack for the many Americans who have been sweating getting new health coverage in place by Jan. 1. Among the several measures announced by the Department of Health and Human Services are deadline extensions for enrolling or paying for new coverage and steps to make sure people with serious ongoing health conditions have enough time to transition to new plans.
(Reuters) As a deadline approaches for people to sign up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law, some insurers and state-run online marketplaces are giving shoppers an extra week to pay their first premiums. The shift to early January from the end of December provides a short grace period for insurers and shoppers to work through any errors in the new policies caused by technology problems dogging enrollment since it opened on October 1.
(All Tech Considered, NPR) With just a few weeks left before a deadline to get health coverage, lingering bugs lurk in the part of HealthCare.gov that you can't see. And since time is running out to get things right, health officials on Thursday urged insurance companies to cover some enrollees even if their premium checks haven't come in.
(New York Times) For nearly 20 years, Keith Perkins offered health insurance to employees of his small electrical contracting company in Greencastle, Pa., and footed most of the bill. This year, with the arrival of the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplace, he decided to stop. Mr. Perkins, who is 54, did the math and calculated that most of his employees, who are spread across Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, would come out ahead if he dropped his group policy and let them buy insurance individually through the new federal and state exchanges.
Community: Good news. We need to take employers out of this equation altogether. In no other country in the world do employers pay directly for employees’ health insurance.
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