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You are here : 3-RX.com > Home > Emergencies / First AidPublic Health


Four in 10 Emergency Department Visits Billed to Public Insurance

Emergencies / First Aid • • Public HealthJul 31 09

More than 40 percent of the 120 million visits that Americans made to hospital emergency departments in 2006 were billed to public insurance, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

According to the analysis by the federal agency, about 50 million emergency department visits were billed to Medicaid and Medicare. The uninsured accounted for another 18 percent of visits for emergency care, while 34 percent of the visits were billed to private insurance companies and the rest were billed to workers compensation, military health plan administrator Tricare and other payers.

The agency’s study of hospital emergency department use in 2006 also found that:

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Healthcare reform looms large in Texas

Public HealthJul 31 09

At Ben Taub General Hospital in the rich U.S. oil hub of Houston, 52 people wait in a holding room designed for 26, in beds crammed so close together that patients can touch one another.

“They can’t even go to a doctor, most of these people,” because they lack health insurance, said Angela Siler Fisher, an associate medical director there. “We are their doctor.”

The Texas Medical Center—which is the size of Chicago’s downtown Loop and has its own distinct skyline—draws patients from around the world to its private rooms and specialized, cutting-edge treatments.

Houston, the fourth-largest American city, is a case study in the extremes of the U.S. healthcare system.

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Breastfeeding could save 1.3 million child lives: WHO

Childbirth • • Public HealthJul 31 09

Teaching new mothers how to breastfeed could save 1.3 million children’s lives every year, but many women get no help and give up trying, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Less than 40 percent of mothers worldwide breastfeed their infants exclusively in the first six months, as recommended by the WHO. Many abandon it because they don’t know how to get their baby to latch on properly or suffer pain and discomfort.

“When it comes to doing it practically, they don’t have the practical support,” WHO expert Constanza Vallenas told a news briefing in Geneva, where the United Nations agency is based.

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Summer camp flu outbreaks presage fall surge: CDC

Flu • • Public HealthJul 31 09

Outbreaks of the H1N1 flu among children attending U.S. summer camps presage a surge in cases this fall as students return to school, an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday.

“This is just a harbinger of what we will see in the fall,” Dr. Richard Besser, who led the U.S. response to the virus outbreak last spring, told a meeting of public health officials.

Besser, who was the CDC’s acting director for the first half of this year, later told Reuters that the number of outbreaks in summer camps was in the hundreds.

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Democrats aim for new vote on U.S. food safety law

Food & Nutrition • • Public HealthJul 31 09

House Democratic leaders may try for the second time in two days on Thursday to pass a sweeping reform of the U.S. food safety system that would step up federal inspection of food makers.

The bill, drafted in response to recent outbreaks of illnesses linked to peanut butter, spinach and peppers, would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order food recalls, require facilities to have a food safety plan in place and give FDA more access to company records.

Representatives defeated the bill on Wednesday, when it was debated under special rules that limited debate to 40 minutes but required a two-thirds majority for passage. The vote of 280-150 fell short of the 288 needed to pass.

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Diabetes Gene Raises Odds of Lower Birth Weight

Diabetes • • GeneticsJul 29 09

Pediatric researchers have found that a gene previously shown to be involved in the development of type 2 diabetes also predisposes children to having a lower birth weight. The finding sheds light on a possible genetic influence on how prenatal events may set the stage for developing diabetes in later childhood or adulthood.

Researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published the study July 10 in the online version of the journal Diabetes.

“It’s a bit unusual to find a gene linked to both prenatal events and to a disease that occurs later in life,” said study leader Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., a researcher at the Center for Applied Genomics of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “This gene variant carries a double whammy, in raising the risk of both lower birth weight and the development of type 2 diabetes in later life.”

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Many heart disease patients not referred for rehab

Heart • • Public HealthJul 29 09

Despite evidence that cardiac rehabilitation helps patients following discharge from the hospital, almost half of heart disease patients eligible for such rehabilitation are not referred for it, according to a new study.

Cardiac rehabilitation involves exercise and counseling on diet and other risk factors. It has been shown to decrease the likelihood of future heart problems.

Dr. Todd M. Brown, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, analyzed data from the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines program. Included were 72,817 patients who were discharged from 156 hospitals in the US after a heart attack or procedure such as placement of a stent or bypass surgery to clear blocked arteries feeding the heart, between January 2000 and September 2007.

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Tiny ovarian tumors lurk for years, study finds

Cancer • • Ovarian cancerJul 29 09

Tiny ovarian tumors lurk in the Fallopian tubes for an average of four years before they grow large enough to be detected, researchers reported on Monday in a study that explains why diagnosis usually comes too late to save a woman’s life.

They said they were trying to find ways to improve testing for the cancer, one of the deadliest because it is so hard to detect before it has spread.

“Reliable early detection would save so many more lives than many new blockbuster anticancer drugs,” Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher Dr. Patrick Brown of Stanford University in California, who led the study, said in a statement.

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U.S. facing severe shortage of heart surgeons

Heart • • SurgeryJul 28 09

The U.S. is likely to face a severe shortage of heart surgeons in the next 10 years, say representatives from medical schools and thoracic surgeons’ groups.

Writing in the journal Circulation, Dr. Atul Grover of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, DC and colleagues point out that the number of active cardiothoracic surgeons in the U.S. “has fallen for the first time in 20 years.”

More than half of today’s cardiothoracic surgeons are older than 50 years, and more than 15 percent are between the ages of 65 and 74 years, the researchers note.

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Lasting marriage linked to better health

Public HealthJul 28 09

People who get married and stay married may enjoy better health than the perpetually single, but losing a spouse could take a significant health toll, a new study suggests.

Historically, studies have found that married people as a group tend to be in better health than singles—though recent research suggests the health advantage of marriage may be fading.

In the new study, researchers found that middle-aged and older Americans who were currently married tended to give higher ratings to their health than their never-married counterparts. They also reported fewer depression symptoms and limits on their mobility.

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Molecule Plays Early Role In Nonsmoking Lung Cancer

Cancer • • Lung CancerJul 27 09

The cause of lung cancer in never-smokers is poorly understood, but a study led by investigators at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and at the National Cancer Institute has identified a molecule believed to play an early and important role in its development.

The findings, published online recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may lead to improved therapy for lung cancer in both never-smokers and smokers, including those with tumors resistant to targeted drugs such as gefitinib.

The study examined lung tumors from people who had never smoked and found high levels of a molecule called miR-21. The levels were even higher in tumors that had mutations in a gene called EGFR, a common feature of lung cancer in never-smokers.

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Agent Orange linked to heart disease, Parkinson’s

Brain • • Heart • • NeurologyJul 27 09

Agent Orange, used by U.S. forces to strip Vietnamese and Cambodian jungles during the Vietnam War, may raise the risk of heart disease and Parkinson’s disease, U.S. health advisers said on Friday.

But the evidence is only limited and far from definitive, the Institute of Medicine panel said.

“The report strongly recommends that studies examining the relationship between Parkinson’s incidence and exposures in the veteran population be performed,” the institute, an independent academy that guides federal policy, said in a statement.

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NJ Hospital Network Pilots New National Cancer Data System

Cancer • • Public HealthJul 27 09

What if the quality of cancer care could be assessed and improved in “real clinical time” instead of waiting the typical two years it takes for clinical data to be analyzed and changes implemented? That is an opportunity The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) Network of hospitals is exploring this summer, as it takes the lead in a national initiative to improve data collection on cancer treatment and create a new quality assessment system that can be utilized by health providers across the country. The CINJ Network of hospitals represents nearly a quarter of the 60 beta test sites from across the country that have been invited to help steer the effort. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

According to the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC), which is overseeing the project, “treatment information in current data collection systems is insufficient to assess the quality of (cancer) care.” That reality is among the reasons why the CoC developed the Rapid Quality Reporting System (RQRS), which the CINJ Network and others will be pilot testing for the remainder of this year.

The first phase, which tested the mechanics of the web-based data collection system, took place during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009. Modifications based on that testing will be put into practice for this next phase, utilizing existing national 2006 and 2007 data on breast and colorectal cancers. This information will be used as a baseline against which the CoC and participating hospitals can monitor future performance rates. The CINJ Network will be responsible for entering 2008 and 2009 breast and colorectal data from patients at its respective hospitals.

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U.S. drug agents raid Jackson doctor’s office

Public HealthJul 23 09

U.S. drug enforcement agents and Los Angeles police on Wednesday raided a Houston clinic owned by Conrad Murray, the doctor who was with pop icon Michael Jackson when he died, searching for information on the singer’s use of the anesthetic, propofol.

Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration entered the Armstrong Medical Clinic in north Houston to serve a search warrant in an effort to help Los Angeles police probing the death of the “Thriller” singer, said Rusty Payne, a Washington-based spokesperson for the agency.

Payne declined to give details because the Texas search warrant remained sealed.

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The Pill may be less effective in obese women

Gender: Female • • ObesityJul 23 09

Oral contraceptives behave differently in the bodies of obese women than in normal-weight women, new research shows, suggesting that they may not work as well in preventing pregnancy.

But more research is needed before any recommendations can be made on contraceptive use based on a woman’s body mass index (BMI), a standard measure of the ratio between height and weight, Dr. Alison B. Edelman of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and her colleagues say.

There’s been some evidence to suggest that the birth control pill may be less effective in obese women, but findings have not been consistent, Edelman and her team note in the journal Contraception. Very little is known about how drug metabolism in the body is affected by obesity, they add, while obese women have been excluded from most studies of oral contraceptives.

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