By Phil Galewitz
When Bruce Hodgins went to the doctor for a checkup in Sioux City, Iowa, he was asked to complete a lengthy survey to gauge his health risks.
In return for filling it out, he saved a $10 monthly premium for his Medicaid coverage.
In Las Cruces, N.M., Isabel Juarez had her eyes tested, her teeth cleaned and recorded how many steps she walked with a pedometer.
In exchange, she received a $100 gift card from Medicaid to help her buy health care products including mouthwash, vitamins, soap and toothpaste.
Taking a cue from workplace wellness programs, Iowa and New Mexico are among more than a dozen states offering incentives to Medicaid beneficiaries to get them to make healthier decisions — and potentially save money for the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.
The stakes are huge because Medicaid enrollees are more likely to engage in unhealthy practices, such as smoking, and are less likely to get preventive care, studies show. Continue reading
Between 2003 and 2010, the number of U.S. kids eating fast food on any given day went down, and the calories from some types of fast foods have declined as well, according to a new study.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, in 2003, almost 39 percent of U.S. kids ate fast food on a given day, which dropped to less than 33 percent by the 2009-2010 survey.
In response to concerns, the agency in 2012 took samples of raw milk from the farms and tested them for 31 drugs, almost all of them antibiotics.
Results released by the agency Thursday show that less than 1 percent of the total samples showed illegal drug residue.
Photo by Maciej Lewandowski
“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of (added) sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,” Francesco Branca, director of WHO’s nutrition department, said in a statement.
For people who are obese and sedentary, any exercise can help trim abdominal fat, but it may take a bit more effort to get other health benefits, a new study suggests. The findings were published in the March 3 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The reality is that there’s a growing body of research that supports the idea that coffee, in reasonable amounts, may not be as bad for you as people once thought. Brewed coffee, for instance, has been found to contain a tremendous amount of good-for-you antioxidants. In fact, the nation’s top nutrition panel earlier this year weighed in on coffee for the first time in its history, saying that “strong evidence” shows it is “not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals.”
The key words here are “healthy individuals.” Due to its high caffeine content, brewed coffee may always be a source of insomnia, irritability, acid reflux and other negative side effects for others, especially those with underlying conditions, such as anxiety disorder or heart disease. More importantly, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to make the leap between coffee not being bad for you and coffee being the cause of better health. [Photo by Jean Scheijen]
By Sarah Varney
VISALIA, Calif. — In the farming town of Exeter, deep in California’s Central Valley, Anne Roberson walks a quarter mile down the road each day to her mailbox. Her walk and housekeeping chores are the 68-year-old’s only exercise, and her weight has remained stubbornly over 200 pounds for some time now.
“You get to a certain point in your life and you say, ‘What’s the use?’”
For older adults, being mildly overweight causes little harm, physicians say. But too much weight is especially hazardous for an aging body: Obesity increases inflammation, exacerbates bone and muscle loss and significantly raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
To help the 13 million obese seniors in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act included a new Medicare benefit offering face-to-face weight-loss counseling in primary care doctors’ offices.
Doctors are paid to provide the service, which is free to obese patients , with no co-pay. But only 50,000 seniors participated in 2013, the latest year for which data is available.
“We think it’s the perfect storm of several factors,” says Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity medicine specialist at George Washington University.
Kahan says obese patients and doctors aren’t aware of the benefit, and doctors who want to intervene are often reluctant to do so. It’s a touchy subject to bring up, and some hold outmoded beliefs about weight problems and the elderly. Continue reading
By: Janet Wright, MD, Executive Director, Million Hearts
Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States. Heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country.
For some groups, such as African Americans, the burden is even greater.
As a nation, we can—and must—change these numbers.
The good news is that heart disease and stroke can be prevented, and February—American Heart Month—is a great time to refresh your memory on the small but important actions you can take.
The national Million Hearts® initiative is working to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. How can you reduce your risk? One way is to know your ABCS:
A: Ask your health care provider about taking Aspirin. Continue reading
By Michelle Andrews
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription drug the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012.
But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese — and many may need help sticking to New Year’s weight-loss resolutions — there’s a good chance their insurer won’t cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.
The health benefits of using anti-obesity drugs to lose weight—improvements in blood sugar and risk factors for heart disease, among other things—may not be immediately apparent.
“For things that are preventive in the long term, it makes plan sponsors think about their strategy,” says Dr. Steve Miller, the chief medical officer at Express Scripts, which manages the prescription drug benefits for thousands of companies. Companies with high turnover, for example, are less likely to cover the drugs, he says.
“Most health plans will cover things that have an immediate impact in that plan year,” Miller says.
Miller estimates that about a third of companies don’t cover anti-obesity drugs at all, a third cover all FDA-approved weight-loss drugs, and a third cover approved drugs, but with restrictions to limit their use. The Medicare prescription drug program specifically excludes coverage of anti-obesity drugs.
Part of the reluctance by Medicare and private insurers to cover weight-loss drugs stems from serious safety problems with diet drugs in the past, including the withdrawal in 1997 of fenfluramine, part of the fen-phen diet drug combination that was found to damage heart valves. Continue reading
A Consumer Update from the US Food and Drug Administration
“This year, I’m going to lose some weight.”
If you find yourself making this common New Year’s resolution, know this: many so-called “miracle” weight loss supplements and foods (including teas and coffees) don’t live up to their claims.
Worse, they can cause serious harm, say FDA regulators.
The agency has found hundreds of products that are marketed as dietary supplements but actually contain hidden active ingredients (components that make a medicine effective against a specific illness) contained in prescription drugs, unsafe ingredients that were in drugs that have been removed from the market, or compounds that have not been adequately studied in humans.
“When the product contains a drug or other ingredient which is not listed as an ingredient we become especially concerned about the safety of the product,” says James P. Smith, M.D., an acting deputy director in FDA’s Office of Drug Evaluation.
Nearly 14 percent of Washington state’s Medicaid and nearly 8 percent of its Medicare spending goes to treat conditions caused by obesity.
At the state-level, a substantial share —between 6 percent and 20 percent—of Medicaid spending goes to adult obesity-related expenditures. In 2006, Oregon (18.8 percent), Arizona (17.0 percent) and Colorado (16.2 percent) saw the highest shares, while Kansas (6.5 percent), Virginia (6.8 percent) and North Dakota (7.5 percent) devoted the smallest shares of Medicaid spending to obesity-related expenditures.
On a state-by-state basis, Medicare spending due to obesity was substantial, too, with shares varying from 5.2 percent to 10.2 percent in 2004.
The highest percent of obesity-attributable spending was found in Ohio (10.2 percent), Michigan (10.0 percent) and West Virginia (9.9 percent), while the lowest was in Hawaii (5.2 percent), Arizona (6.2 percent), and New Mexico (6.6 percent).
From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Raw milk can carry harmful germs that can make you very sick or kill you. If you’re thinking about drinking raw milk because you believe it has health benefits, consider other options.
Developing a healthy lifestyle requires you to make many decisions. One step you might be thinking about is adding raw milk to your diet. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heating to a specific temperature for a set amount of time to kill harmful germs). Germs include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Making milk safe
Milk and products made from milk need minimal processing, called pasteurization. This process includes:
- Heating the milk briefly (for example, heating it to 161°F for about 15 seconds)
- Rapidly cooling the milk
- Practicing sanitary handling
- Storing milk in clean, closed containers at 40°F or below
While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.
Remember, you cannot look at, smell, or taste a bottle of raw milk and tell if it’s safe to drink.
Risks of drinking raw milk
Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or even kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting. Less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, and even death.
From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk have more than quadrupled – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012.
As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all food-borne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.
As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks.
By Julie Rovner
If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too.
But so far there’s no real evidence as to whether these plans work.
One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs all the way to requiring comprehensive health screenings.
The 2014 survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 98 percent of large employers and 73 percent of smaller employers offer at least one wellness program. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of KFF.)
What makes wellness plans so popular?
It really is part of their strategy to help employees be healthy, productive, and engaged,” says Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, whose members are CEOs of large firms. “And it’s really part of their strategy to be successful companies.”
And there’s another reason wellness has gotten so pervasive, said health consultant Al Lewis. It’s a big industry. Continue reading