Category Archives: Prevention

Health law’s free contraceptive coverage saved US women $483 million in 2013

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Twenty-dollar bill in a pill bottleThe Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurers to cover contraceptives with zero co-pay saved US women $483 million last year — $269 on average, according to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Overall, 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled in 2013, the first full year the health law’s contraceptive provision was in force, compared to 2012.

“The share of women with no out-of-pocket cost for these forms of birth control increased to 56% from 14% one year ago,” the report says.

To learn more read: 

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Medicine use and the shifting costs of healthcare: A review of the use of medicines in the United States in 2013. April 2014. LINK:

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Another person with measles visited Seattle and Sea-Tac

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Alert Icon with Exclamation Point!From Public Health – Seattle & King County

Local public health officials have confirmed a measles infection in a traveler who was at Sea-Tac airport and two locations in Seattle during his contagious period.

The traveler is a resident of California and was likely exposed to the measles while on a flight with an earlier confirmed measles case on March 21, 2014.

Locations of potential exposure to measles

Before receiving the measles diagnosis, the traveler was in West Seattle and at Sea-Tac Airport.

Anyone who was at Sea-Tac Airport or the locations listed during the following times was possibly exposed to measles:

Seattle

  • Safeway, 9620 28th Ave SW, Sunday, March 30th, 4:00p.m.-8:00 p.m.
  • Marshalls, 2600 SW Barton Street, Sunday March 30th, 4:00p.m.-8:00 p.m.

Sea-Tac

  • Sea-Tac Airport, Monday, March 31st, 4:30p.m.-8:30p.m.: terminal B

If you were at one of the locations at the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick is between April 7th and April 21st.

What to do if you were in a location of potential measles exposure  Continue reading

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FDA explains proposed changes to food labels

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Nutrition Facts Label: Proposed Changes Aim to Better Inform Food Choices
An FDA Consumer Update
Feb 27, 2014

new food label

The proposed Nutrition Facts label (above) will emphasize the number of calories and servings per container; update % Daily Values for nutrients such as fiber and calcium; update serving sizes; list the amount of added sugars; require listing of potassium and vitamin D if present, and no longer require the labeling of Vitamins A and C.

A lot has changed in the American diet since the Nutrition Facts label was introduced in 1993 to provide important nutritional information on food packages.

People are eating larger serving sizes. Rates of obesity, heart disease and stroke remain high.

More is known about the relationship between nutrients and the risk of chronic diseases.

So the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposes bringing this familiar rectangular box—which has become one of the most recognized graphics in the world—up to date with changes to its design and content.

“Obesity, heart disease and other chronic diseases are leading public health problems,” says Michael Landa, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“The proposed new label is intended to bring attention to calories and serving sizes, which are important in addressing these problems. Further, we are now proposing to require the listing of added sugars. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends reducing calories from added sugars and solid fats,” Landa said.

Continue reading

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It’s still not too late to get your flu shot

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A Consumer Update from the FDA

February 4, 2014

Flu shot todayMeant to get vaccinated in the fall to ward off the flu, but somehow didn’t get around to it?

Think it’s too late to get vaccinated now?

Not so. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), vaccinations can be protective as long as flu viruses are circulating.

And while seasonal flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity usually peaks in January or February, and can last well into May.  Continue reading

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5 fast facts about this year’s flu season — CDC

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Digitally-colorized image of a collection of influenza A virions. The predominant influenza A virus this year is H1N1 - CDC photo

Digitally-colorized image of a collection of influenza A virions. The predominant influenza A virus this year is H1N1.

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Here are some things to know about the 2013-2014 flu season so far and steps you can take to protect yourself from flu.  Continue reading

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Flu widespread across state, nine confirmed deaths

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H1N1 viruses

H1N1 viruses

Flu is now widespread across the state and has caused at least nine flu deaths in Washington state since December, the Washington State Department of Health reported Wednesday.

It is likely the number flu deaths is higher because only laboratory confirmed cases must be reported to the state and in many cases laboratory testing is not done, health officials said.  Continue reading

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App lets you determine your neighborhood’s radon risk

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Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 11.28.29From the Washington State Department of Health

Olympia, January 21, 2014 – Washington residents now have a new online map to check and see if their neighborhood has a geological risk for the cancer-causing gas, radon, using a new state app. The new app is offered by the state Department of Health’s Washington Tracking Network.

Some areas of the state, such as Spokane and Clark counties, are well-known for having higher levels of radon, but the new online map shows that there are some areas around the Puget Sound such as Pierce and King counties that might come as a surprise.  Continue reading

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Patients going for free preventive care surprised by charges

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Exclamation PointBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

The new health-care law encourages people to get the preventive services they need by requiring that most health plans cover cancer screenings, contraceptives and vaccines, among other things, without charging patients anything out of pocket.

Some patients, however, are running up against coverage exceptions and extra costs when they try to get those services.  Continue reading

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Don’t use grills or gas generators in enclosed areas – Department of Health warns

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From the Washington State Department of Health

Power outages may raise risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Charcoal grillDon’t use grills or gas generators in enclosed areas

January 10, 2014 – Barbecue grills and gas generators may seem like they could double as an indoor furnace during a power outage, but that can be downright dangerous.

Neither should be used inside to heat homes, as families could get sick and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas that can’t be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. It can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas.  Continue reading

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Use certain laxatives with caution, FDA warns

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Alert IconThe US Food and Drug Administration warns that laxatives containing sodium phosphate are potentially hazardous if not taken as directed. People with certain health conditions or taking certain medications are at particularly high risk. The FDA has issued the warning after there have been dozens of reports of serious side effects, including 13 deaths, associated with the use of sodium phosphate laxatives. Continue reading

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Tips for staying safe in cold weather for older adults

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Thermometer ThumbHypothermia and older adults

Tips for staying safe in cold weather from the National Institute on Aging

Frigid weather can pose special risks to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid hypothermia — when the body gets too cold — during cold weather.

Continue reading

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lesson one

Oregon schools use ‘behavioral vaccine’ to reduce smoking

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Blackboard with "Lesson one" written on it.

Photo: Krzysztof “Kriss” Szkurlatowski

By Kristian Foden-Vencil
Oregon Public Broadcasting

Behaving well in elementary school could reduce smoking in later life. At least, that’s what Trillium Community Health Plan hopes, and it’s putting money behind the idea.

Danebo Elementary in Eugene, Ore., is one of 50 schools receiving money to teach classes while integrating something called the “Good Behavior Game.”

Teacher Cami Railey sits at a small table, surrounded by four kids. She’s about to teach them the “s” sound and the “a” sound. But first, as she does every day, she goes over the rules.

“You’re going to earn your stars today by sitting in the learning position,” she says. “That means your bottom is on your seat, backs on the back of your seat. Excellent job, just like that.”

For good learning behavior, like sitting quietly, keeping their eyes on the teacher and working hard, kids get a star and some stickers.

Railey says the game keeps the kids plugged in and therefore learning more. That in turn makes them better educated teens and adults who’re less likely to pick up a dangerous habit, like smoking.

The Washington, D.C., nonprofit Coalition for Evidence Based Policy says it works. It did a study that found that by age 13, the game had reduced the number of kids who had started to smoke by 26 percent — and reduced the number of kids who had started to take hard drugs by more than half.

The fact that a teacher is playing the Good Behavior Game isn’t unusual. What is unusual is that Trillium is paying for it. Part of the Affordable Care Act involves the federal government giving money to states to figure out new ways to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

So Trillium is setting aside nearly $900,000 a year for disease prevention strategies, like this one. Jennifer Webster is the disease prevention coordinator for Trillium Community Health, and she thinks it’s a good investment.

“The Good Behavior Game is more than just a game that you play in the classroom. It’s actually been called a behavioral vaccine,” she says. “This is really what needs to be done. What we really need to focus on is prevention.”

Trillium is paying the poorer schools of Eugene’s Bethel School District to adopt the strategy in 50 classrooms.

Trillium CEO Terry Coplin says changes to Oregon and federal law mean that instead of paying for each Medicaid recipient to get treatment, Trillium gets a fixed amount of money for each of its 56,000 Medicaid recipients. That way Trillium can pay for disease prevention efforts that benefit the whole Medicaid population, not just person by person as they need it.

“I think the return on investment for the Good Behavior Game is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to one,” Coplin says.

So, for each dollar spent on playing the game, the health agency expects to save $10 by not having to pay to treat these kids later in life for lung cancer because they took up smoking.

Coplin concedes that some of Trillium’s Medicaid recipients will leave the system each year. But he says prevention still makes medical and financial sense.

“All the incentives are really aligned in the right direction. The healthier that we can make the population, the bigger the financial reward,” he says.

The Oregon Health Authority estimates that each pack of cigarettes smoked costs Oregonians about $13 in medical expenses and productivity losses.

Not all the money Trillium is spending goes for the Good Behavior Game. Some of it is earmarked to pay pregnant smokers cold, hard cash to give up the habit. There’s also a plan to have kids try to buy cigarettes at local stores, then give money to store owners who refuse to sell.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes NPROregon Public Broadcasting and Kaiser Health News

Photo courtesy of Krzysztof “Kriss” Szkurlatowski

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Flu spreading rapidly in Snohomish County, health officials warn

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Influenza viruses

Influenza viruses

From the Snohomish Health District:

Influenza is spreading rapidly in Snohomish County.  Local health providers report a significant uptick in positive flu tests in the past two weeks, and many of the sick are people younger than 65. Seven local people died of the flu during last year’s flu season.

The predominant strain nationally so far is H1N1, the same kind of virus that sickened much of the nation in 2009. During the 2009 pandemic, younger adults and children, particularly people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women, were harder hit by H1N1 compared with adults age 65 and older. The same pattern could emerge this year if H1N1 circulates widely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report some severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths from H1N1 to date in the 2013-2014 flu season.

Three Washington state residents have died from flu so far this season (not in Snohomish County), and three have been hospitalized.

These severe flu outcomes are a reminder that flu can be a very serious disease for anyone, including young, healthy adults.

Visit www.flu.gov for more information about flu, and www.doh.wa.gov for statewide updates.

Flu activity in Snohomish County historically peaks in February or later. Last flu season, the deaths of seven people in Snohomish County were attributed to flu-related illness.

In the United States, over a recent 30-year period, the CDC reports that the flu was linked to thousands of deaths each year — ranging from 3,000 to 49,000.

The vaccine for this current flu season is available at medical providers and pharmacies throughout the county and will protect against three or four kinds of influenza virus — including H1N1 — that make people sick.

Washing hands, covering your coughs, and staying home when you are sick are effective ways to reduce spreading and getting diseases. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a shot every year, since the flu vaccine changes to match the most common illnesses. Flu shots do not contain live virus — getting the flu from this vaccine is not possible. 

The flu vaccine is strongly recommended for people who are

  • 6 months old — up to their 19th birthday
  • 50 years and older
  • age 6 months and older with certain chronic health conditions
  • pregnant and in any trimester
  • living in long-term care facilities
  • living with or caring for those at high risk for complications from the flu
  • health care personnel
  • household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of infants age 0-6 months (who are too young to receive vaccine)

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Extreme fatigue

Flu viruses spread when people with flu expel droplets from their mouths or noses while coughing, sneezing or talking. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby.

People can also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. A person can spread flu before they know they’re sick and up to seven days after. Children can spread it for even longer.

Again, the best way to avoid getting or spreading the flu is to get a flu shot, and also washing hands, covering coughs and staying home if sick.

If an individual is already sick with the flu, antiviral medications can lessen symptoms and help prevent serious complications. They work best when started quickly. It’s also important to stay away from others for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

The Snohomish Health District’s clinics in Everett and Lynnwood are stocked full of vaccine to protect you against the flu. The cost for an adult flu shot at the Snohomish Health District is $30. A flu shot for a child costs $15.

The Health District accepts payment by cash, check, VISA, MasterCard, Provider One (coupons), and Medicare for clients whose primary insurance is not with an HMO. Clients may apply for a reduced fee, based on income and household size.

Snohomish Health District clinic hours – shots by appointment only:

SHD Everett Immunization Clinic, 3020 Rucker Ave, Suite 108, Everett, WA 98201

  • Call 425.339.5220 for an appointment: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., Mon-Wed-Fri; closed on weekends & holidays

SHD Lynnwood Immunization Clinic, 6101 200th Ave SW, Lynnwood, WA 98036

  • Call 425.775.3522 for an appointment: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m., Tue & Thu; closed on weekends & holidays
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