Fetal tissue attack is latest tactic in long GOP fight against Planned Parenthood

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Logo_plannedparenthoodBy Julie Rovner
KHN

Republican calls to defund Planned Parenthood over its alleged handling of fetal tissue for research are louder than ever. But they are just the latest in a decades-long drive to halt federal support for the group.

This round of attacks aims squarely at the collection of fetal tissue, an issue that had been mostly settled — with broad bipartisan support —  in the early 1990s. Among those who voted to allow federal funding for fetal tissue research was now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

McConnell made no mention of his previous position when he announced that the Senate would take up a bill to cut off Planned Parenthood’s access to federal funds before leaving for its summer break. The first vote on the bill is expected as soon as Monday. Continue reading

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Kraft recalls ‘Kraft Singles’ over choking hazard concern

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The Kraft Heinz Company Voluntarily Recalls Select Varieties of Kraft Singles Products Due to Potential Choking Hazard

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Only 3-Lb. and 4-Lb. Packages of Kraft Singles Included in Recall

From Kraft Heinz

The Kraft Heinz Company is voluntarily recalling select code dates and manufacturing codes of Kraft Singles individually-wrapped slices due to the possibility that a thin strip of the individual packaging film may remain adhered to the slice after the wrapper has been removed.

If the film sticks to the slice and is not removed, it could potentially cause a choking hazard.

The recall applies to 3-lb. and 4-lb. sizes of Kraft Singles American and White American pasteurized prepared cheese product with a Best When Used By Date of 29 DEC 15 through 04 JAN 16, followed by the Manufacturing Code S54 or S55. Continue reading

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A skeptics guide to health news and diet fads – On the Media

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Brooke Gladstone takes a deep dive into media misdirection on health and diet news, and puts together two Breaking News Consumer’s Handbooks to help you navigate the din.

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First, an object lesson on bogus studies that make headlines with John Bohannon; how to read health news with Gary Schwitzer of HealthNewsReview.org; and Timothy Caulfield, author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything?explains the science behind celebrity-endorsed diet trends and beauty treatments.

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SONGS: Roary’s Waltz – John Zorn; Accentuate The Positive – Syd Dale

 

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California survey: Newly insured satisfied with coverage, more financially secure

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Flag_of_CaliforniaBy Sarah Varney
KHN

SAN FRANCISCO — Americans have long stood out among residents of developed nations for how much they fret over, and are bankrupted by, health care costs.

But well into the second year of expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act, those worries have eased significantly in the nation’s most populous state.

Californians no longer rank health care costs as their top financial concern.

statewide survey has found that newly insured Californians no longer rank health care costs as their top financial concern. It has dropped below other essentials such as housing, utilities and gasoline.

“This was exactly the goal,” said Dr. Bob Kocher, a senior Obama White House official in 2009 and 2010 who helped draft the federal health care law. “Financial security was an enormous factor in our design.”

California has made swift gains in extending health coverage to its residents. It was one of just 15 states and the District of Columbia that opted for a state-based marketplace and expanded the publicly funded Medicaid program for low-income Americans.  kff-ca-tracking-600

Those moves have paid off: About two-thirds of Californians who were uninsured in 2013 now have health insurance, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which was released Thursday. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.) Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week – August 2nd

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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All Vashon-Maury Island beaches closed for shellfish harvesting

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Paralytic shellfish poison found at unsafe levels

From Public Health – Seattle & King County

vashon island mapParalytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) has been detected at unsafe levels in shellfish on Vashon-Maury Island. As a result, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has closed Vashon-Maury Island beaches, including Quartermaster Harbor, to recreational shellfish harvest. This closure is an expansion on a July 23 alert for Quartermaster Harbor alone.

The closure includes all species of shellfish including clams, geoduck, scallops, mussels, oysters, snails and other invertebrates; the closure does not include crab or shrimp. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but the guts can contain unsafe levels.

To be safe, clean crab thoroughly and discard the guts (“butter”). Working with partners, Public Health – Seattle & King County is posting advisory signs at beaches warning people to not collect shellfish.

Commercial beaches are sampled separately and commercial products should be safe to eat.

Anyone who eats PSP contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness. PSP poisoning can be life-threatening and is caused by eating shellfish containing this potent neurotoxin. A naturally occurring marine organism produces the toxin. The toxin is not destroyed by cooking or freezing. Continue reading

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Washington Salmonella outbreak expands to 90 cases

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CDC investigators to join state and local health officials next week

From the Washington State Department of Health

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

The Salmonella outbreak that may be linked to pork products has grown to 90 cases in several counties around the state. The ongoing outbreak is under investigation by state, local, and federal public health agencies.

With the increase in cases, state health officials have asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to send a special team to help with the investigation. This team of “disease detectives” will arrive in Washington next week.

The likely source of exposure for some of the ill people appears to have been whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events.

Disease investigators are searching for possible exposure sources from farm to table. An apparent link to pork consumption or contamination from raw pork is the strongest lead, though no specific source has yet been found.

The likely source of exposure for some of the ill people appears to have been whole roasted pigs, cooked and served at private events. Continue reading

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Screen pregnant women, new moms for depression – panel

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Blue Pregnant BellyBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

One in seven women experience depression during pregnancy or the first year after giving birth, yet many may not realize it or report their concerns to clinicians.

new proposal by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force could help change that. It recommends that all women who are pregnant or within a year of giving birth be screened for perinatal depression, as it’s called.

The screening proposal is included as part of a broader recommendation to screen all adults for depression that the task force released this week for public comment.

One in seven women experience depression during pregnancy or the first year after giving birth.

The task force proposal would update the current guidelines, adopted in 2009, which recommend depression screening in all adults if clinicians are available to address depression care.

In the 2009 document, the task force didn’t review depression in pregnant and postpartum women and made no screening recommendation for them. Continue reading

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What an itch!: Swimmer’s edition

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From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Close your eyes. You’re floating on your back (wearing a life preserver, most likely) at your favorite lake, with ducks and geese gently quacking as they feed nearby. Puffy clouds overhead, willows on the bank, and lily pads forming a soothing backdrop for your relaxing float.

And then a microscopic parasite burrows into your skin. You just got swimmer’s itch!

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What is swimmer’s itch?
Swimmer’s itch (cercarial dermatitis) is an itchy rash caused by a parasite in lake water. If you come into contact with water contaminated with parasites the microscopic parasites can burrow into the skin. Continue reading

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Lessons for the Puget Sound from Chicago’s deadly Heat Wave

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heat-wave1-e1438208691939By Ashley Kelmore
Public Health – Seattle & King County

Our hotter-than-usual summer in the Pacific Northwest likely won’t reach the extremes of the 1995 Chicago summer heat wave, which killed 733 people.

But some of the issues from that catastrophe are relevant to us here and now, and Dr. Eric Klinenberg describes them in his fascinating book Heat Wave.

Klinenberg proposes that the temperature and humidity are not solely to blame for illness and death from heat.

Instead, it is the heat combined with the systems society has set up (or not set up) that failed people in a complicated way.

Similar neighborhoods, deadly differences

Klinenberg focuses on comparing two neighborhoods that are similar in basic demographics, and even have the same microclimate, but had VERY different death rates.

To explain this disparity, he looks at how the different neighborhoods function. Are people too scared to leave their buildings to seek cooler locations (such as libraries or movie theaters)?

Are they too worried about their finances to turn on the life-saving window AC unit to cool themselves down?

Are they isolated from support systems that could have intervened to make sure they were doing okay? In many cases, the answers are “yes,” “yes,” and “yes.”

Chicago’s government and how they responded (or failed to respond) was also a factor, according to Klinenberg.

Front-line police officers were tasked with community policing but didn’t check in on the community.

Fire chiefs ignored warnings from their staff that they should have more ambulances available.

And sadly, the health commissioner didn’t really ‘get’ that something was amiss. Klinenberg also explores the role the media played in not treating the story with the gravity it deserved until late into the heat wave. Continue reading

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Happy 50th birthday, Medicare. Your patients are getting healthier

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Photo: Courtesy of Ed g2s under Creative Commons license

The past 15 years have seen a marked drop in deaths and hospitalizations among Medicare patients — people 65 and older. Teasing out why is tricky, but it seems a good trend for the 50-year-old program.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ed_g2s

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Pre-hab: Rehabilitation before cancer treatment

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prehab-570By Michelle Andrews
KHN

Cancer patients who do rehabilitation before they begin treatment may recover more quickly from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, some cancer specialists say.

But insurance coverage for cancer “prehabilitation,” as it’s called, can be spotty, especially if the aim is to prevent problems rather than treat existing ones.

It seems intuitive that people’s health during and after invasive surgery or a toxic course of chemo or radiation can be improved by being as physically and psychologically fit as possible going into it. But research to examine the impact of prehab is in the beginning stages.

Early research suggests prehab may improve people’s ability to tolerate cancer treatment and return to normal physical functioning more quickly. 

Prehabilitation is commonly associated with orthopedic operations such as knee and hip replacements or cardiac procedures.

Now there’s growing interest in using prehab in cancer care as well to prepare for treatment and minimize some of the long-term physical impairments that often result from treatment, such as heart and balance problems.

“It’s really the philosophy of rehab, rebranded,” says Dr. Samman Shahpar, a physiatrist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Continue reading

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Big push: Hospitals turn to ‘laborists’ for safer deliveries

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By Phil Galewitz
KHN

MILFORD, Del. – When the only hospital in this southern Delaware town saw two of its four obstetricians move away, it knew it had to do something to ensure women in labor could always get immediate medical help. But recruiting doctors to the land of chicken farms and corn fields proved difficult.

Kelsey Katro, patient, at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital  in Charleston, S.C. and Dr. Caroline Keller, a laborist at the hospital. Katro, who was 9 months pregnant, came in after thinking her labor had started. (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

Kelsey Katro, patient, at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, S.C. and Dr. Caroline Keller, a laborist at the hospital. Katro, who was 9 months pregnant, came in after thinking her labor had started. (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

So in late 2013, Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital shifted from using on-call doctors who came in as needed to a new model of maternity care that’s catching on nationally: It hired OB hospitalists, also called laborists, who are always at the hospital to handle births and obstetrical and gynecological emergencies.

As a result, the two remaining obstetricians here no longer have to worry about being on call every other day because an obstetrician is always at the hospital.  “This gives my patients a safe passage for delivery,” said Dr. Albert French, 64, who has been delivering babies in Milford for 16 years.

Dr. Albert French is an Ob-GYN at Milford Memorial Hospital in Milford Delaware. (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

Dr. Albert French is an Ob-GYN at Milford Memorial Hospital in Milford Delaware. (Photo by Phil Galewitz/KHN)

But the change has also meant his patients sometimes may be delivered by a doctor they’ve never met before. “It’s a trade-off of familiarity for availability,” he said.

Milford is one of about 250 hospitalsnationally that use OB hospitalists, up from 10 a decade ago, and several are adding the service each month, according to the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists, a trade group. With the new model of care, private practice obstetricians typically still see their patients in the hospital, but they can also defer to, or work alongside, the laborist.

Despite concerns about turning the obstetrical specialty into “shift” work similar to emergency physicians, the laborist trend is growing as hospitals seek to improve patient safety and physicians increasingly recognize they need help responding to emergencies.

Some hospitals use laborists 24 hours a day, while others use them just nights and weekends. Some use community doctors to take 12- or 24-hour shifts as laborists. Other hospitals hire doctors as laborists who only work in the hospital and don’t have an office practice. Some, like Milford, use a hybrid approach.

Regardless of the laborist model, pregnant women like knowing a doctor – even one they don’t know — is there when they show up at the hospital rather than waiting 30 minutes or more for an on-call physician. Continue reading

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Consumer Reports: Seattle-area hospitals get low marks for stopping infections | The Seattle Times

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Many of the Seattle area’s largest and best-known hospitals may fall short when it comes to preventing patients from acquiring potentially deadly infections during their stays, a new analysis shows.

Of the region’s five biggest hospitals — including the University of Washington (UWMC) and Harborview medical centers — none achieved top ratings in Consumer Reports’ latest rankings, released Wednesday.

All received low or middling scores both overall and for halting two newly added infections: C. diff and MRSA.

One high-profile hospital — Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill campus — received the magazine’s lowest rating for avoiding infections overall, and the second-worst rating for stopping Clostridium difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections.

Source: Consumer Reports: Seattle-area hospitals get low marks for stopping infections | The Seattle Times

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