Medicare & Medicaid at 50 – Video

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With Medicare and Medicaid turning 50 this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation produced an updated video that provides a brief history of both programs, including an examination of the health care, social and political landscapes that gave rise to them, the significant ways each program has evolved over five decades and the important roles they play in the U.S. health care system today.

The video includes archival footage, as well as commentary and perspective from policymakers, government officials and experts.

To learn more about Medicare go to the Kaiser Family Foundation Medicare webpage.

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Swallowing Pills? Children Can Learn How – HealthDay

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Blue and white capsules spilling out of a pill bottle

Children who have trouble swallowing needed pills aren’t out of luck, according to a new study.

At least five different strategies may help them swallow pills and capsules more easily, researchers found.

The successful strategies included using flavored throat spray first, giving children verbal instructions, behavioral therapies, using a specialized pill cup and training children to use five different head postures.

Photo courtesy of Pawel Kryj

Swallowing Pills? Children Can Learn How.

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Video explains panel’s new mammography recommendations

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FACTS AND MYTHS –

By the US Preventive Services Task Force

MYTH: The Task Force recommends against screening for breast cancer in women younger than 50.

FACT: Evidence shows that mammography screening can be effective for women in their 40s. Based on the science, the Task Force’s draft recommendation states that the decision to start regular mammography screening before age 50 is an individual one and should be made by a woman in partnership with her doctor. Continue reading

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If this vaccine fights cancer, why aren’t more people embracing it?

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Human Papilloma Virus

By Meredith Li-Vollmer 
Public Health – Seattle & King County

If you knew there was a vaccine that could prevent several types of cancer—including a form of cancer that kills over 250,000 women each year—would you make sure your child gets it?

Consider this:

  • An estimated 79 million Americans are infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes a range of cancers, as well as genital warts.
  • HPV is so common that most females and males will become infected with at least one type of HPV in their lifetime.

But there is some incredibly good news: the HPV vaccine prevents infections from HPV, and an updated HPV vaccine protects against more than twice the number of strains of HPV than the previous version.

Yes, this vaccine prevents cancer. Continue reading

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Bloomberg Politics Poll: Majority of Americans Say Obamacare Should Get Time to Work

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-1x-1Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults say that while the Affordable Care Act may still require small changes, “we should see how it works,” according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

Twelve percent said President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment should be left alone, 35 percent said it should be repealed, and two percent said they weren’t sure.

via Bloomberg Politics Poll: Majority of Americans Say Obamacare Should Get Time to Work – Bloomberg Politics.

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Rising speed limits spur safety concerns

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By Jenni Bergal
Stateline

Wisconsin state Rep. Paul Tittl drives his Toyota Prius 140 miles from his home district to the state capitol in Madison every week. Usually, he keeps up with the fast-moving traffic on the highway.

But one day, he decided to lower the pace and drive at the maximum speed allowed – 65 mph.

“Little old ladies scowled at me and gave me dirty looks when they passed me because I was doing the speed limit, and I was in the right lane,” the Republican legislator said. “I was amazed.”

SLN_SpeedLimitsMapping

That’s why Tittl decided to introduce a bill that would allow Wisconsin’s speed limit to be raised to 70 on highways. The measure passed the state Assembly earlier this month on a 76-22 voteIt’s now in the Senate.

Wisconsin is one of at least 10 states that took up legislation this year to increase maximum speed limits, according to Richard Romer, state relations manager for AAA. As of Friday, two measures have died, one has been enacted, two are waiting for governors’ signatures and the rest are pending.

Tittl said that Wisconsin is like “an island” because it and Oregon are the only states west of Pennsylvania that still maintain a 65 mph maximum speed limit. And Oregon is considering a bill that would boost its limit to 75 mph on interstate highways. “The roads are safer. The cars are safer. There’s no reason why we can’t be raising the speed limit,” Tittl said. “People are not going to drive excessive speeds and if they do, we have the highway patrol and they’ll take care of them.”

Drivers’ rights advocates argue that if higher speed limits are being set at appropriate levels based on valid engineering standards, roads will actually be safer. They say traffic flow will be smoother and more uniform, and there’ll be fewer accidents.

But many safety experts disagree. Continue reading

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Google Glass in the ER? Health care moves one step closer to Star Trek

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Photo by Antonio Zugaldia CC.

Photo by Antonio Zugaldia CC.

By Lisa Gillespie
KHN

Imagine walking into an emergency room with an awful rash and waiting hours to see a doctor until, finally, a physician who doesn’t have specific knowledge of your condition gives you an ointment and a referral to a dermatologist.

That could change if a technological device like Google Glass, which is a wearable computer that is smaller than an ink pen and includes a camera function, could be strapped to an emergency room doctor’s head or to his or her eyeglasses and used to beam a specialist in to see patients at the bedside.

Not only would a patient get a more specific initial diagnosis and treatment, but a second visit to a dermatologist might not be necessary.

Researchers did just this for a small sample of people at the emergency room of the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

They found during the course of the study that 93.5 percent of patients who were seen with a skin problem liked the experience, and 96.8 percent were confident in the accuracy of the video equipment and that their privacy was protected. Continue reading

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Global pandemic of fake medicines poses urgent risk, say experts

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pills-spill-out-of-bottleFrom the National Institutes of Health

Poor quality medicines are a real and urgent threat that could undermine decades of successful efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, according to the editors of a collection of journal articles published today.

Scientists report up to 41 percent of specimens failed to meet quality standards in global studies of about 17,000 drug samples.

Among the collection is an article describing the discovery of falsified and substandard malaria drugs that caused an estimated 122,350 deaths in African children in 2013. Other studies identified poor quality antibiotics, which may harm health and increase antimicrobial resistance.

However, new methodologies are being developed to detect problem drugs at the point of purchase and show some promise, scientists say. Continue reading

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Pregnant women urged to get pertussis vaccine

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From the Snohomish Health District

Cases of whooping cough in Snohomish County on the rise

Alert IconIn a trend consistent with information released by the Washington State Department of Health, the number of whooping cough (pertussis) cases in Snohomish County is increasing.

Since January, there have been 40 confirmed cases and most of which have been in the last few weeks. This compares to just 57 and 23 cases in all of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Pregnancy changes the immune system in mothers, and waiting until delivery to administer the vaccine still puts the newborn at risk.

Whooping cough is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and is spread by coughing and sneezing.

Of the 40 cases in our county, nearly three-quarters have been students between the ages of 6 and 18. This is not surprising given the close quarters students keep during the school day.

“We are seeing an explosion of pertussis cases statewide and locally,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director at the Snohomish Health District. “Thankfully we are not at the epidemic levels last seen in 2012, and I am hopeful that by all of us doing our part, we can spare Snohomish County from a repeat.”  Continue reading

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Top five stories of the week

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Credit: Dan Shirly

Credit: Dan Shirly

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Light rail station planning brings cities and communities together for more walkable, connected neighborhoods

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By Tara Bostock
Public Health – Seattle & King County

The way streets and sidewalks in your community are built can affect your health. How? If a neighborhood is spread out and disconnected, it requires residents to be more dependent on their cars, which discourages walking and other forms of active transportation.

Studies have shown neighborhoods that are more walkable are associated with active transportation, lower body-mass index for adults, and less air pollution.

Studies have shown neighborhoods that are more walkable are associated with active transportation, lower body-mass index for adults, and less air pollution.

The Angle Lake District in the City of SeaTac is an area that was built for cars. International Boulevard (SR99) is a main thoroughfare with very long city blocks.

With large distances between businesses and not many opportunities to cross the street, it’s difficult to get from place to place without a car.

With the construction of the City’s Angle Lake Link Station, however, comes the opportunity to build a more walkable, bicycle-friendly district.

The City of SeaTac clearly values health and has a long-term vision of the type of city it wants to be.

Through the planning process for the Angle Lake District, the City wanted to explore ways land development around the station could meet the needs of the community and support health and community well-being.

The planning project included two main parts: The Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study and community engagement.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Connectivity Study included a combination of policy and literature analysis, assessment of existing conditions and community outreach.

Recommendations included:

  • Intersection improvements—such as updating crosswalk markings and curb ramps
  • Increased sidewalk widths recommended for busy streetsSidewalks on both sides of the street
  • Shared streets (low-volume, low-speed streets that accommodate cars, bikes, and pedestrians)
  • Separated bike paths
  • A new signal on International Boulevard

Continue reading

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So you have dense breasts. Now what?

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catharine-becker-2

Catharine Becker at her home in Fullerton, California on April 14, 2014. Becker started to get mammograms at age 35 because she had a family history of breast cancer (Photo by Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Barbara Feder Ostrov
KHN

Earlier this year, Caryn Hoadley received an unexpected letter after a routine mammogram.

The letter said her mammogram was clean but that she has dense breast tissue, which has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer and could make her mammogram harder to read.

“I honestly don’t know what to think about the letter,” said Hoadley, 45, who lives in Alameda, Calif. “What do I do with that information?”

Millions of women like Hoadley may be wondering the same thing. Twenty-one states, including California, have passed laws requiring health facilities to notify women when they have dense breasts. Eleven other states are considering similar laws and a nationwide version has been introduced in Congress.

The laws have been hailed by advocates as empowering women to take charge of their own health. About 40 percent of women have dense or extremely dense breast tissue, which can obscure cancer that might otherwise be detected on a mammogram.

But critics say the laws cause women unnecessary anxiety and can lead to higher costs and treatment that doesn’t save lives or otherwise benefit patients. Continue reading

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Administration proposal for workplace wellness programs earns business praise, consumer concerns

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431px-Lewis_Hine_Power_house_mechanic_working_on_steam_pumpBy Michelle AndrewS
KHN

Business groups praised a proposed new rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarifying how employers can construct wellness programs, but consumers advocates said the new policy could harm workers.

The EEOC published the long-awaited rule Thursday.

“This is a big step forward, primarily because the EEOC has defined what it means for a wellness program to be voluntary,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their health. But they can ask workers for details about their health and conduct medical exams as part of a voluntary wellness program.

Before this proposal was unveiled, employers and consumer advocates alike had been uncertain how the commission defined voluntary. Continue reading

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