Category: Health

Uninsured rate for Americans below 12%


Connecticut opened the first health insurance storefront in the nation

The uninsured rate among U.S. adults declined to 11.9% for the first quarter of 2015 — down one percentage point from the previous quarter and 5.2 points since the end of 2013, just before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The uninsured rate is the lowest since Gallup and Healthways began tracking it in 2008.

…The uninsured rate has dropped sharply since the most significant change to the U.S. healthcare system in the Affordable Care Act — the provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance — took effect at the beginning of 2014. An improving economy and a falling unemployment rate may also have accelerated the steep drop in the percentage of uninsured over the past year. However, the uninsured rate is significantly lower than it was in early 2008, before the depths of the economic recession, suggesting that the recent decline is due to more than just an improving economy.

While the uninsured rate has declined across all key demographic groups since the healthcare law fully took effect in January 2014, it has dropped most among lower-income Americans and Hispanics — the groups most likely to lack insurance. The uninsured rate among Americans earning less than $36,000 in annual household income dropped 8.7 points since the end of 2013, while the rate among Hispanics fell 8.3 points. The significant drop in uninsured Hispanics is a key accomplishment for the Obama administration, which led targeted efforts to insure this group as they had the highest uninsured population of all key subgroups. However, despite the gains in insurance coverage among Hispanics and lower-income Americans, these groups still have higher uninsured rates than other key subgroups.

Americans aged 26 to 34 have also seen gains in coverage since the healthcare law went into effect — the uninsured rate among this group is down 7.4 points since the end of 2013, the largest drop among any age group. Blacks have also seen a substantial drop in their uninsured rate since the fourth quarter of 2013 — 7.3 points.

RTFA for lots of stats, predictably conservative analysis.

The most important thing we will all be forced to recognize about this successful start-up is that Republicans hate it. Today’s conservatives, their bigot allies, economics failures whose knowledge made it only a half century beyond Henry Clay – will dissect every step of growth in coverage, savings for working people and the working poor, Americans in general – to try to find the socialist plot behind the whole endeavor. Socialist ethics really frustrates folks who consider protecting greed the 11th Commandment.

I’ll tell you the socialist plot, right now. Folks who care – want a true single-payer system with the right to negotiate fixed prices on procedures and meds. Just like the the freaking military. Just like every other sensible, frugal, industrial democracy. It works and has been working for over a half-century in some cases.

I realize that’s still too modern for some folks; but, try an honest debate grounded in real numbers and real needs sometime. Walk away from the sleaze and deceit today’s Republicans have to rely upon to justify their existence on this planet – and their opposition to true socialized healthcare.

Marijuana extract a promising treatment for severe childhood epilepsy

An extract of marijuana shows promise as a treatment for children with severe epilepsy who have been unresponsive to other treatments, after an early-phase safety study is presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual conference.

The study is an analysis of early clinical trialing, so mainly designed to be the first test of the potential medicine’s safety and tolerability for patients as well as its possible effectiveness. The extract under investigation is cannabidiol (CBD), and was taken in a liquid form once daily…

All the children had severe forms of epilepsy – including Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, which can mean lifelong disabling seizures – and their conditions had not responded to other treatments. They received the experimental treatment under the FDA’s expanded access program, which makes investigational drugs available for testing to people with serious or life-limiting conditions.

The results provided so far – and to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting, which starts at the end of this week in Washington, DC – give only the relative reductions in numbers of seizures suffered by the participants – there was a decrease in these during the study of around half.

Only future phases of clinical trialing could test effectiveness properly – using greater numbers of patients in randomized controlled trials, which will also help to reduce the effects of bias…

Dr. Orrin Devinsky said: “While cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy for centuries, data from double-blind randomized, controlled trials of CBD or THC in epilepsy is lacking. Randomized controlled studies of CBD in targeted epilepsy groups, such as patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, are in the planning stages.”

Overdue. Why? Because we are a nation of powerless electors – limited to TweedleDee and TweedleDumb, two wings of the same useless, bought-and-sold, political hacks.

The history of laws and regulations governing cannabis in the United States have absolutely nothing to do with science or reality 101. Religion, myth, superstition, opportunist fumbling under the money-tables of our legal temples have all played a role in codifying stupidity. With the collaboration of cowards as often self-defined as Liberal as Conservative.

For a little more background to the efforts of folks willing to challenge idjit law, wander over to this post from last June.

Anti-vaccine mom no more — all seven of her kids get whooping cough


The Hills family – in healthier days

Writing on The ScientificParent blog, a chagrined Canadian mom announced that she is leaving the anti-vaxx movement after all of her seven children — four of them completely unvaccinated — have come down with whooping cough.

Writing from quarantine, and surrounded by sick kids, Tara Hills wrote she is “emotionally, a bit raw. Mentally a bit taxed. Physically I’m fine,” before admitting that not only are her own kids sick, but they may have exposed her five-month-old niece who is too young to be fully vaccinated.

What began with a cold brought into her home by her brother-in-law, turned into coughing by her kids leading to full-blown whooping cough in all seven children…

“We had vaccinated our first three children on an alternative schedule and our youngest four weren’t vaccinated at all. We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust,” she explained. ” Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.”

Hills explained that she had a hard time overcoming her biases and mistrust of “Big Pharma,” asking herself, “Could all the in-house, independent, peer-reviewed clinical trials, research papers and studies across the globe ALL be flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy?”

Now Hills says that years spent “frozen” out of fear of vaccinating her kids has the whole family frozen: confined to their home by a quarantine.

She said she hopes her mea culpa will make other families who have held back from getting their children vaccinated rethink what they are doing.

I appreciate her fear and cynicism. I can match cynicism with most anyone; but, I also have a lifetime of experience reading science from academia, research – public, private and corporate. The peer review procedures we have are the best chance we have so far for verification and validation at present. Honest researchers include funding sources for the reader to judge.

The biggest mistake skeptics make about vaccination, GMO, climate change, any science-based products/systems which may be profitable/or not – is relying on a sampling of non-science sources. That’s laziness in my mind. I spent two years of casual spare time at the millennium reading and searching before I settled on agreement with the dangers human beings had brought to the climate of this planet. I didn’t have to wait for broad political statements from bodies like the IPCC because I combed through many reports from folks doing the research. Then made up my mind based on the science.

Questions about vaccines are easier for me to decide because – being a cranky old geek – I lived through the era before most modern vaccines were available. As I’ve mentioned other times, I stood with my classmates in elementary school every spring while we counted up who didn’t make it through the winter. Whooping cough, mumps, scarlet fever, diphtheria, measles, influenza – all took their toll. And then we had summer and polio to look forward to.

Junk Science is the latest set of lies used to justify Anti-Abortion politics

Vanessa Cullins
Vanessa Cullins, MD, is vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood

As a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist and medical administrator for more than 2 decades, I have seen or provided oversight for thousands of patients during my career, providing them with quality, safe, compassionate reproductive healthcare. I have dedicated my life to taking care of women and ensuring they have medically accurate information, support, and counseling to make personal medical decisions that are best for their health and well-being.

This dedication to patient health and safety is why I find the new junk science measure signed into law this week in Arkansas so deeply disturbing. The new law mandates that physicians inform patients seeking an abortion about medically untested and unproven claims that medication abortions can somehow be “reversed” — despite widespread opposition from medical experts across the country and a complete lack of medical evidence to back this up.

As a physician with an MD and an MPH from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as well as an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, it continues to amaze me that politicians — most of whom are not even doctors — believe they are qualified to make medical decisions for patients and decide what qualified medical professionals can and can’t tell their patients…

This session alone the Arkansas legislature has passed six new abortion restrictions in just 1 month on top of the numerous restrictions the state already has on the books. Arkansas is tied for last place in women’s health indicators, and there are only three health centers in Arkansas that provide safe, legal abortion. These new laws — layering restriction upon restriction upon restriction — can make it nearly impossible for some women to obtain a safe, legal abortion.

The national groups behind this measure are the same people who make false claims that rape can’t lead to pregnancy — and whose real agenda is to ban abortion outright. Data routinely show that abortion has a 99% safety record and it is largely safe because it is legal. Access to abortion makes women safer. In places where abortion is highly restricted, women will choose desperate, dangerous, and potentially life-threatening means to end an unwanted pregnancy.

This legislation is reckless, dangerous, and presents medically inaccurate information that could harm women. True patient safety is making sure women have safe, compassionate, respectful care as well as accurate information, support, and counseling.

Reactionaries who write and pass laws like this latest crap round in Arkansas really get my anger on the boil. They not only rely on superstition, paternalism, denial of individual rights to women – they drag in anti-science silliness to justify what is 14th Century ideology.

Usually, I focus on their failure to comprehend anything about scientific methods and standards. As if I was addressing an audience that concerns itself with logic and progress. But, these creeps care nothing for such values – and their anti-science, while contemptible, is not their most important characteristic. They are liars. Lying isn’t just a means to en end – it is their only answer to facts.

They don’t care whether or not a zygote goes through a dozens stages or none. They don’t care about the economics of women with no access to birth control or an education in family planning. They only care that the rules they believe immutable are obeyed. And if lies are useful to that political process – that’s OK.

Low Vitamin D a correlation at all stages of psychosis

British researchers have found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and poorer function and mood in first-onset psychosis patients after 1 year.

Among 166 patients at first onset of psychosis (64% male), about 19% had sufficient vitamin D levels, 40% had insufficient levels and 42% were deficient, according to Fiona Gaughran, MD, at the Institute of Psychiatry in London…

Vitamin D levels are extremely low at all stages of psychosis” the authors wrote. “Low vitamin D is linked to quality of life, mood, and cardiometabolic risk in established psychosis and highlights the need for holistic management of psychosis.”

Previous research has linked low vitamin D levels with psychosis, the authors explained, but it’s not clear how the two factors interact with each other. “Importantly, given the high rates of early death in psychosis, low vitamin D is also a cardiovascular risk factor”, they noted…

Gaughran and colleagues also noted that vitamin D levels were similar in smokers and nonsmokers, but levels were lower for those who engaged in low-intensity exercise versus those who did moderate or high-intensity exercise…

Correlation is not causation; but, hey – want to get healthy or stay healthy, physiologically, neurologically, a healthy lifestyle is all-inclusive.

NM kids are eating healthier, less obese

Child obesity rates in New Mexico continued a multiyear decline in 2014, but have remained stubbornly high among Native Americans and Hispanics, the state Department of Health reported.

Health officials cheered the report, which shows that the obesity rate for New Mexico third-grade students declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

Patty Morris, project director, and others credit the decrease to a growing awareness of the serious consequences of childhood obesity and measures by school districts and government agencies to provide healthier meals and more physical activity for young children…

In just the past few years, salad bars have become commonplace in elementary schools, she said.

“They have mini salad bars for little kids,” said Rita Condon, program manager for Healthy Kids New Mexico. “They’re just the right size. They use them and they love them…”

Kindergartners showed a four-year decline in obesity, from 15 percent in 2011 to 11.6 percent in 2014…

Obesity rates among Native American third graders in New Mexico remain a challenge, but have shown some improvement.

About one in three Native American third-grade students is overweight or obese, the Department of Health report said.

The obesity rate for third-grade Native Americans edged down from 36.6 percent in 2010 to 32.6 percent in 2014.

Among Hispanics, just more than one in five third graders is obese – a figure that has varied only slightly since 2010.

For Anglo third-graders, the obesity rate has declined from 17.8 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014…

Obesity is common, serious and costly, affecting more than a third of U.S. adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…

And obese children were likely to remain that way as adults…

Officials say they are addressing the problem by offering training programs to school and preschool personnel throughout the state to encourage healthier meals that comply with new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

School districts around the state have proven eager to adopt the new standards…

All of which is good news.

We know for a fact that children across the country adapt to healthier school food programs. As much as purveyors of mediocre food campaigned for no positive changes, enlisting backwards parents and groups to support their profit structure – those campaigns have failed in states with the sense to move forward.

Kids respond – and they respond by developing new positive habits they bring home to their extended families.

Cultural differences remain and those reflect more complexity than this article offers. We had a breakfast discussion about this article, this morning, and while each of us had anecdotal experiences that both confirmed and denied cultural averages, nothing easy presented itself as a more complete solution.

What state education authorities have begun is a great step forward and should be applauded. It’s taken enough time to get this far.

1,000-year-old prescription for onion and garlic eye salve kills MRSA


An eye salve from Anglo-Saxon manuscript Bald’s Leechbook was found to kill MRSA

A 1,000-year-old treatment for eye infections could hold the key to killing antibiotic-resistant superbugs, experts have said.

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow’s stomach…They were “astonished” to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.

Their findings will be presented at a national microbiology conference.

The remedy was found in Bald’s Leechbook – an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments held in the British Library.

Anglo-Saxon expert Dr Christina Lee, from the University of Nottingham, translated the recipe for an “eye salve”, which includes garlic, onion or leeks, wine and cow bile.

Experts from the university’s microbiology team recreated the remedy and then tested it on large cultures of MRSA…

In each case, they tested the individual ingredients against the bacteria, as well as the remedy and a control solution.

They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.

Dr Freya Harrison said the team thought the eye salve might show a “small amount of antibiotic activity”.

“But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” she said.

Nice to see modern researchers declare the scientific method predated many discoveries they thought might have been necessary to bring about the transition from superstition to methodical testing and verification.

That the effect of the whole compound is greater than the sum of its parts is just another portion of that realization.

Sneeze catcher – Patent issued 12/16/2014

sneeze catcher

It’s a given that all manner of unwelcome microbial and viral particles can be exhaled by a person during a sneeze or a cough. Prompting inventor Joseph Apisa of Colts Neck, NJ, US, to create a ‘Sneeze catching method and apparatus’ It’s just received a US patent (Dec. 16, 2014). It can be, and indeed is, described in one sentence :Sneeze-catcher

“An apparatus for catching bodily fluids ejected during a sneeze or cough, said apparatus comprising: a sleeve having a first open end, a second open end and a perimeter wall being attached to and extending between said first and second open ends; a frame being pivotally coupled to said perimeter wall, said frame having an exterior edge, an interior edge, an upper surface and a lower surface, said frame having an attached edge and a free edge positioned opposite of each other, said attached edge being attached to said perimeter wall, said frame being positioned in an open position having said free edge spaced from said sleeve or in a closed position having said free edge secured to said sleeve, said frame bounding a receiving space when said frame is in said closed position; a covering being attached to and being coextensive with said interior edge, said covering extending over said receiving space, said covering being comprised of an air and fluid permeable material; a closure being mounted on said sleeve and releasably retaining said frame in said closed position; a pad being removably positioned in said receiving space, said pad having anti-bacterial properties; and wherein said sleeve is configured to be worn on an arm of a person such that the person may sneeze or cough into said pad and that said pad captures and destroys bacteria exhaled by the person.“

Thanks to the annals of Improbable Research