Author Archives: LocalHealthGuide

Doctor’s office research – What is it? What’s it to you?




Facilitated by Benjamin Wilfond MD, Seattle Children’s Research Institute

speech-bubbleJoin us for an engaging and intimate discussion about research that happens in your doctor’s office.

What? You thought research only happened at universities or hospitals, right?

It turns out that plenty of decisions, like which hand gel to use or which blood pressure medicine to prescribe, vary by a lot without much rhyme or reason.

Doctors want better evidence for these decisions.  But how much should patients know and be able to agree to?

Learn more at

Each Conversation in the series explores a topic in biomedical science and its role in society, connecting people to the biomedical research community



Tuesday June 9
5:45 – 7:30 PM


Kakao Chocolate + Coffee
415 Westlake Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109


$5 NWABR members| $10 General admission, Includes discussion, appetizers, espresso and first glass of beer or wine if 21+

Everyone is welcome.  No science background necessary.


Description of research in your doctor’s office

Influence of doctors’ demographic on their medical practice

Making evidence-based medicine doable in everyday practice


Do you know what preventive services are now free?


From the Office of the Insurance Commissioner

Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleHealth care reform – otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act – gives you the right to access certain preventive medical services with no cost-sharing, including co-pays or coinsurance even if you haven’t met your deductible.

The list of free services includes immunizations, cancer screenings, depression screening and much, much more. See the full list at There’s also specific services covered for women and even for children.

If you’ve been charged for a preventive service that you believe should’ve been free, give our health insurance experts a call at 1-800-562-6900 or email us at

We’ve heard from some consumers who have had their free colonoscopy, but were later charged for the removal and testing of a polyp.

Recent guidelines from the federal government should protect you from these charges, but if you have concerns, please contact us. We’ll help you understand your rights to these services and others.


Tattoos May Pose Health Risks, Researchers Report – WebMD


Tattoo      -Tsukioka_Yoshitoshi_-_Looking_in_Pain_-_a_Prostitute_of_the_Kansei_EraFor the study, researchers surveyed about 300 New York City adults, aged 18 to 69, with tattoos.

Most of them had no more than five tattoos, and the arm was the most popular tattoo site (67 percent).

Up to 6 percent of the study participants experienced some form of tattoo-related rash, infection, severe itching or swelling that sometimes lasted longer than four months.

In some cases, the problems persisted for years, according to the investigators.

The chemicals used in tattoo ink are not standardized or properly regulated.

Source: Tattoos May Pose Health Risks, Researchers Report – WebMD


Big Bets on Proton Therapy Face Uncertain Future – WSJ

Microscopic view of prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer

Six new proton-beam centers are set to start delivering state-of-the-art radiation to cancer patients around the country by year’s end. Ten more are expected by 2018, bringing the U.S. total to 30—many the size of a football field and costing between $100 million and $200 million to build.

The projects, long in the works, will enter an uncertain market. Proton-beam therapy, a highly precise form of radiation, has been dogged by a lack of evidence that it is better than traditional radiation despite costing significantly more.

Many insurers including UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc. have stopped covering it for prostate cancer, once seen as a main source of patients.

One center closed last year and several others have racked up millions of dollars in losses.

Source: Big Bets on Proton Therapy Face Uncertain Future – WSJ


Women, Poor, Uninsured Face Higher Risk of Psychological Distress: CDC: MedlinePlus


Illustration of the skull and brainWomen, people with chronic medical conditions, the poor and those without health insurance are more likely to struggle with “serious psychological distress,” U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

Serious psychological distress is a term that identifies people who are likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder that limits their lives, according to the researchers.

Overall, they found that about 3 percent of Americans surveyed have serious psychological distress.

Source: Women, Poor, Uninsured Face Higher Risk of Psychological Distress: CDC: MedlinePlus


Elder abuse a ‘huge, expensive and lethal’ problem for states


Clinic elderly doctor nurse office couchBy Rita Beamish

We know that victims of elder abuse tend to be socially isolated, physically weakened and struggling to maintain their independence. They are reliant on family, friends or caregivers who violate their trust.

What we don’t know, because elder abuse is underreported, is how big the problem really is.

Some researchers estimate that as many as one in 10 people over 60 is abused.

There are no official national statistics on how many older people are mistreated physically, emotionally or financially. Definitions and methods of addressing the issue differ state to state, and even county to county.

Nor is there a dedicated stream of federal dollars for Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies, which most states rely on to combat elder abuse. Each state has cobbled together its own funding and bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, advocates and officials say there is little doubt the problem is growing, driven in large part by the tremendous growth in the elderly population.

To address it, some states are training police and financial professionals to recognize and report elder abuse, and creating special teams of police, social workers and geriatric experts to investigate it.

Cities, states and nonprofits are creating shelter housing for abuse victims, and some states are trying to quantify the cost to taxpayers when elders are fleeced out of their money and forced to turn to Medicaid.

To learn about senior services in King County go here. To report abuse of elderly go here.

“People need to understand what a huge, expensive and lethal problem elder abuse is,” said Kathleen Quinn, executive director of the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA).

Some researchers estimate that as many as one in 10 people over 60 is abused. That figure does not include financial exploitation, which costs victims at least $2.9 billion a year, according to MetLife.

“If we had a disease that affected 10 percent of the population, I think we’d look closely at it,” Quinn said. Continue reading


Travel smart: get vaccinated – CDC


Before you travel internationally, ensure that you are up to date on all your routine vaccines, as well as travel vaccines.

airplane thumbMore and more Americans are travelling internationally each year. Today more than a third of Americans have a passport.  It is important to remember that some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks.

These risks depend on a number of things including:

  • Where you are traveling
  • Your activities while traveling
  • Your current health status
  • Your vaccination history

Measles and International Travel

Each year, unvaccinated people get measles while in other countries and bring it to the United States. This has sometimes led to outbreaks.  The majority of measles cases brought into the U.S. come from U.S. residents. When we can identify vaccine status, almost all are unvaccinated.

Vaccination is the best protection against measles. Before leaving for trips abroad, make sure you and your family are protected against measles. Plan ahead and check with your doctor to see if you and your family need MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

Continue reading


Valley Fever fungus poses new health risk to Washington 


“Valley Fever” (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by a pathogenic fungus that grows in soil. (Photo: CDC)

From the Washington State Department of Health

Public health officials are teaming up to fight a new public health threat in Washington – Valley Fever.

Since discovering the fungus that causes Valley Fever in South Central Washington last year, health officials have been monitoring for disease and conducting environmental testing to determine how widespread the fungus may be.

“This recent discovery is puzzling because there’s a large distance between Washington and other areas of the country where the fungus is found,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “It’s important to let our health care community know about the presence of the fungus in Washington, because early diagnosis and treatment of the disease results in better outcomes for patients.”

Health officials have tracked down eight cases of ‘Valley Fever” in Walla Walla, Benton, Franklin, and Yakima counties during the past five years.

“Valley Fever” (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by a pathogenic fungus that grows in soils with specific environmental conditions.

The fungus is typically found in the Southwestern United States, as well as parts of Central and South America. Washington public health officials have tracked down eight local cases from Walla Walla, Benton, Franklin, and Yakima counties during the past five years.

Soil samples collected from areas where the people might have been exposed were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for analysis.

The results came back positive for the fungus. Follow-up soil collection also turned up positive results in the same area.

About 60 percent of people who are infected with Valley Fever never develop symptoms. The people who do have symptoms may experience mild flu-like symptoms with fatigue fever, and a cough that may be accompanied by a rash, headache, body aches, night sweats, or shortness of breath.

A very small percent of people who become symptomatic may develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs. In even fewer people – about 1 out of 100 – the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, or bones and joints. Continue reading


Is getting a second opinion worth it?


Second opinions often sought but value is not yet proven

By Michelle Andrews

Dye with Yes, No and Maybe of the three visible sidesActress Rita Wilson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy recently, told People magazine last month that she expects to make a full recovery “because I caught this early, have excellent doctors and because I got a second opinion.”

When confronted with the diagnosis of a serious illness or confusing treatment options, everyone agrees it can be useful to seek out another perspective. Even if the second physician agrees with the first one, knowing that can provide clarity and peace of mind.

A second set of eyes, however, may identify information that was missed or misinterpreted the first time. A study that reviewed existing published research found that 10 to 62 percent of second opinions resulted in major changes to diagnoses or recommended treatments.

Another study that examined nearly 6,800 second opinions provided by Best Doctors, a second-opinion service available as an employee benefit at some companies, found that more than 40 percent of second opinions resulted in diagnostic or treatment changes.

But here’s the rub: While it’s clear that second opinions can help individual patients make better medical decisions, there’s little hard data showing that second opinions lead to better health results overall. Continue reading


Nudging students to make healthier choices


applesBy Tara Bostock
Public Health – Seattle and King County

It turns out that encouraging students to make healthier choices in the lunchroom can be accomplished affordably and without a major overhaul of the cafeteria.

Research shows that small changes like making the salad bar the highlight of the lunchroom, displaying fruit in attractive baskets, or placing healthy foods by the cash register can influence what students select to eat.

In Washington State, the Kent School District is leading the way by changing their cafeterias to

How the Kent School District is bringing behavioral economics principles to their lunchrooms.

encourage students to pick healthier foods. With the help of funding from the Community Transformation Grant, the District partnered with the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs to run a pilot program reaching over 6,000 students in six secondary school cafeterias.

The goal: to increase the number of students choosing healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, white milk, or healthy entrées. And the District saw positive changes.

How does behavioral economics work in the lunchroom?

Continue reading


At-home walking program group support helps people with poor leg circulation | Reuters


Running shoes full shotGroup sessions that teach and encourage people with poor circulation in their legs to walk regularly on their own improves mobility and prevents its loss, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that supervised activity is not essential for peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients, and doctors and other healthcare providers should not rule out at-home programs, said the study’s lead author.

Source: At-home walking program group support helps people with poor leg circulation | Reuters