Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Obama doesn’t worry about threats against him

November 27, 2008

Soon-to-be president Barack Obama said he is not worried about his own security, despite a higher level of threats against him than any other president-elect in history.

Since Obama’s election, law enforcement officials have seen potential threatening writings, racist Internet postings and other troubling activity popping up. But Obama said in an interview with Barbara Walters that he never thinks about his safety.

By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press Writer

President-elect Barack Obama greets school children after making ... 
President-elect Barack Obama greets school children after making a surprise visit to St. Columbanus Catholic School on the South Side of Chicago, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“Part of it because I’ve got this pretty terrific crew of Secret Service guys that follow me everywhere I go, but also because I have a deep religious faith and faith in people that carries me through the day,” he said. “And my job is just to make sure I’m doing my job, and if I do, I can’t worry about that kind of stuff.”

In all the stress of the transition, Obama said he’s trying to eat healthy food, work out regularly and refrain from smoking now that the campaign is over, but he did not say he has quit cigarettes entirely.

Obama, a smoker who has quit but admitted occasional relapses, said in the interview that he fell “off the wagon during the campaign” a few times.

He did not directly answer her question about whether he is sneaking an occasional cigarette now amid the intense pressure of building his administration and the countdown to his swearing-in on Jan. 20.

“Part of what I think comes with this role as president is that you’re not perfect but hopefully you’re trying to set a good example for people, and that starts with my two kids,” Obama said in the interview that aired Wednesday on ABC-TV.

He said he’s been trying to stay healthy since the days of burgers on the campaign trail. The president-elect works out nearly every day, and says he’s watching his diet too.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081127/ap_on_go_pr_wh/oba
ma_security_health;_ylt=Ao4.HJIS3djygTtNWF5VBH.s0NUE

Gulf War vet health research lacking

November 14, 2008

Even as possibly hundreds of thousands of veterans suffer from a collection of symptoms commonly called Gulf War illness, the government has done too little to find treatments for their health problems nearly two decades after the war ended, a panel commissioned by Congress said.

The advisory panel of medical experts and veterans wants at least $60 million spent annually for research, calling it a “national obligation,” according to its report, obtained by The Associated Press.

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

The report, which goes to the Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake on Monday, said the Defense Department cut research money from $30 million in 2001 to less than $5 million in 2006. Both departments have identified some of their research as “Gulf War research” even when it did not entirely focus on the issue.

“Substantial federal Gulf War research funding has been used for studies that have little or no relevance to the health of Gulf War veterans,” the panel concluded.

Independent scientists have declared that the symptoms of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War do not constitute a single syndrome. They have pointed to pesticide, used to control insects, and pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect troops from nerve agents, as probable culprits for some of the varied symptoms.

Based on earlier studies, the panel estimates that between 175,000 and 210,000 veterans from the war suffer from a pattern of symptoms related to their service. It notes that about one-quarter to one-third of those who served are affected by complex symptoms at rates higher than those in the military who did not deploy. Symptoms include fatigue, memory loss, pain, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.

“Studies indicate that few veterans with Gulf War illness have recovered over time and only a small minority have substantially improved. … Few treatments have been studied and none have been shown to provide significant benefit for a substantial number of ill veterans,” the panel concluded.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081114/ap_on_go_ca_
st_pe/gulf_war_illness;_ylt=AqAfuTZjVxPi2cxYvFvew7as0NUE

WarGulf photobox.jpg
Above: Images from the “Gulf War” Clockwise from top: USAF aircraft flying over burning Kuwaiti oil wells; British troops in Operation Granby; Camera view of a Lockheed AC-130; Highway of Death; M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle 

U.S. trails other nations in chronic illness care

November 13, 2008

Chronically ill Americans are more likely to forgo medical care because of high costs or experience medical errors than patients in other affluent countries, according to a study released on Thursday.

By Will Dunham, Reuters
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The study comparing the experiences of patients in eight nations reflected poorly on the U.S. health care system as President-elect Barack Obama and his allies work on plans to rein in health costs and extend insurance to more people.

The researchers questioned 7,500 adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States. Each had at least one of seven chronic conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression.

Dutch patients had the fewest complaints, while the Americans had plenty, according to the study by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based health policy research group.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081113/us_nm/us_healthcare_
comparison;_ylt=Ah_gVcf5fUA4FH5wqRF3Ew2s0NUE

Obama health plan to cost $75 billion

November 12, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama‘s plans to overhaul the U.S. health care system would cost the federal government $75 billion but would provide health insurance for 95 percent of Americans, consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers said on Wednesday.

This works out to about $2,500 per newly insured person, the firm said in a report.

“The plan would increase to $1 trillion cumulatively by 2018 or approximately $130 billion per year,” the report said.

While the plan would extend health insurance to two-thirds of the 47 million people who currently lack it, the overhaul may worsen some problems, such as a shortage of primary care doctors, the analysis found.

“Unless costs are cut, growing health care costs will increase the costs of Obama’s plan dramatically over time and reduce the effectiveness of mandates. This could make the federal costs unsustainably high,” the report read.

From Reuters

Carmela Cantore, 78, receives a flu shot, offered free by the ... 
Carmela Cantore, 78, receives a flu shot, offered free by the city of Chicago. According to an October 2008 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in three Americans had difficulty paying medical bills this year. Almost half of those surveyed said they had a family member who did without their medicine or postponed or reduced their recommended medical care because of the cost.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Tim Boyle)

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081112/pl_nm/us_usa_obama_
healthcare;_ylt=AvaKYFQC.ozmmcz8OUhWlBys0NUE

Veteran’s Day: Remember Their Health Care

November 11, 2008

While fixing the economy will certainly be a dominant issue for both President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress, we hope, on this Veterans Day, that health care for our wounded warriors will also be a top priority. Regrettably, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to continue to add to the numbers of veterans in need of mental and physical treatment and rehabilitation.

To meet this need, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must have sufficient resources provided in a timely and predictable manner next year, and for years to come.

About 18 percent of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have already returned home at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, according to a recent study by the Rand Corp.

By Raymond Dempsey
The Washington Times

Another 19 percent are estimated of having experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by improvised explosive devices that “rattle” the brain. In total more than 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may already be suffering from these often invisible wounds of war.

In too many cases, the VA is unable to properly treat the physical and mental scars of war, in part because its budget has been late for most of the past two decades, and the amount of funding – which has thankfully grown in the last two years – is wildly unpredictable from year to year.

The result is that the VA is severely constrained in trying to plan or manage its budget. Robert Perreault, a former Veterans Health Administration chief business officer, has rightly noted in congressional testimony that “VA funding and the appropriations process is a process no effective business would tolerate.”

Such haphazard financing can directly affect the quality of care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country. Insufficient or late funding can mean an increase in waiting times for appointments. Purchasing new and replacement medical equipment may be put on hold, further delaying the delivery of needed medical treatment. And life-altering conditions such as PTSD and TBI may go undertreated or are not treated at all if specialized mental health care personnel cannot be hired when needed.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
nov/11/remember-health-care-for-veterans/

Number of kids on medication jumps alarmingly; obesity key

November 3, 2008

The number of children who take medication for chronic diseases has jumped dramatically, another troubling sign that many of the youngest Americans are struggling with obesity, doctors say.

The number of children who take pills for type 2 diabetes — the kind that’s closely linked to obesity — more than doubled from 2002 to 2005, to a rate of six out of 10,000 children. That suggests that at least 23,000 privately insured children in the USA are now taking diabetes medications, according to authors of the new study in today’s Pediatrics.

By Liz Szabo
USA TODAY 
Doctors also saw big increases in prescriptions for high cholesterol, asthma and attention deficit and hyperactivity. There was smaller growth for drugs for depression and high blood pressure.

“We’ve got a lot of sick children,” says author Emily Cox, senior director of research with Express Scripts, which administers drug benefit programs for private insurance plans. “What we’ve been seeing in adults, we’re also now seeing in kids.”

Type 2 diabetes was once known as adult-onset. But Cox says her records show kids as young as 5 being treated with prescription diabetes drugs.

Cox based her study on prescription records of nearly 4 million children a year, ages 5 to 19, covered by Express Scripts. She says her findings may not apply to the 40% of children who are uninsured or covered by government health plans.

Unless these children make major changes — such as eating healthier and exercising more — they could be facing a lifetime of illness, Cox says.

Read the  rest:
http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20081103/1a_
bottomstrip03_dom.art.htm

Health, Fitness of Top Candidates: Too Many Unknowns

October 20, 2008

Senator Barack Obama, 47, the Democratic presidential nominee, released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May stating that he was in “excellent” health. Senator John McCain, 72, is a cancer survivor, and Senator Joe Biden has had emergency surgery on a brain aneurysm.

By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D.
The New York Times

Fifteen days before the election, serious gaps remain in the public’s knowledge about the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The limited information provided by the candidates is a striking departure from recent campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were more forthcoming.

The scars on John McCain’s puffy left cheek are reminders of the extensive surgery he underwent in 2000 to remove a malignant melanoma.

Barack Obama, who started smoking at least two decades ago, has had trouble quitting. Mr. Obama says he quit last year but has “bummed” cigarettes.

In past elections….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/20/us/
politics/20health.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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Healthy Chief Executive? What Do We Know?

By Robert Dallek
The Washington Post
Sunday, October 19, 2008; Page B03

The American public seems pretty sure that it knows everything it needs to know about whether John McCain and Barack Obama are healthy enough to be president. I’m not. And whenever I think about whether both men are fit to serve, physically speaking, I think about the sinking feeling I had one lovely spring afternoon in 2002 when an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library wheeled out the cartload of files showing how badly we had all been deceived about JFK’s health.

The secret details of Kennedy’s medical history were buried in 10 beat-up old cartons of records the library had held for 40 years. Past requests for access to these materials had all been refused by a committee of loyalists that included one of JFK’s closest advisers, speechwriter Ted Sorensen. To my surprise, the committee had given me the chance to read the files; I had to agree not to photocopy them but was free to take notes or read passages into a tape recorder. Now I — along with a physician friend, Jeffrey Kelman — felt as if I were breaching a wall of secrecy. Here were not the usual neat boxes of presidential records, preserved in red-blue-and-silver-trimmed containers, but musty cardboard cartons that seemed to have sat untouched in some corner of the library since Janet Travell, one of Kennedy’s physicians, had given them to the library after JFK’s assassination in November 1963.

Back pain forced President Kennedy to use an Air Force lift to board his plane.  Voters never knew the extent of his ailments.

The picture of health: Back pain forced President Kennedy to use an Air Force lift to board his plane. Voters never knew the extent of his ailments. (AP Photo/Harold Valentine)

Between May 1955 and October 1957, Kennedy had been hospitalized nine times for a total of 44 days, including one 19-day period and two week-long stretches. Despite his public image of “vigah,” as his accent rendered it, he suffered from bouts of colitis, accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea and dehydration; agony in his back triggered by osteoporosis of the lumbar spine; prostatitis, marked by severe pain and urinary infections; and Addison’s disease, a form of adrenal insufficiency. Some of his difficulties, such as his back pain and Addison’s, were open secrets among the press corps during his 1960 run for the White House, but the extent and severity of his problems — to say nothing of the promiscuous variety of medications and doctors he relied upon to maintain his health — had remained undisclosed. That’s largely because the Kennedy campaign made every effort to hide his health problems — obviously convinced that these disclosures, combined with his youth and Catholicism, would sink him.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/10/1
7/AR2008101702058.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Does drinking alcohol shrink your brain? Yup!

October 15, 2008

By Theresa Tamkins
CNN

What’s good for the heart may hurt the brain, according to a new study of the effects of alcohol.
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People who drink alcohol — even the moderate amounts that help prevent heart disease — have a smaller brain volume than those who do not, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology.

While a certain amount of brain shrinkage is normal with age, greater amounts in some parts of the brain have been linked to dementia.

“Decline in brain volume — estimated at 2 percent per decade — is a natural part of aging,” says Carol Ann Paul, who conducted the study when she was at the Boston University School of Public Health. She had hoped to find that alcohol might protect against such brain shrinkage.
Some typical alcoholic beverages. 

“However, we did not find the protective effect,” says Paul, who is now an instructor in the neuroscience program at Wellesley College. “In fact, any level of alcohol consumption resulted in a decline in brain volume.”

In the study, Paul and colleagues looked at 1,839 healthy people with an average age of about 61. The patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and reported how much they tippled.

Overall, the more alcohol consumed, the smaller the brain volume, with abstainers having a higher brain volume than former drinkers, light drinkers (one to seven drinks per week), moderate drinkers (eight to 14 drinks per week), and heavy drinkers (14 or more drinks per week).

Men were more likely to be heavy drinkers than women. But the link between brain volume and alcohol wasn’t as strong in men. For men, only those who were heavy drinkers had a smaller brain volume than those who consumed little or no alcohol.

In women, even moderate drinkers had a smaller brain volume than abstainers or former drinkers.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/10/14/
healthmag.alcohol.brain.shrinkage/index.html

China: 70% of waterways and 90% of underground water polluted

October 15, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) – Illegal factories pumping arsenic and other chemicals into rivers have left farmers in a heavily populated area of central China with skin problems and failing crops, state press reported on Wednesday.

A farmer tends to his crop at his farm near the town of Jianli ... 
A farmer tends to his crop at his farm near the town of Jianli in central China’s Hubei province. Illegal factories pumping arsenic and other chemicals into rivers have left farmers in Jianli and other areas of central China with skin problems and failing crops, state press reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File)

Thirteen illegal alloy smelting plants in Hubei that defied government efforts to close them down two years ago were finally shut this week, the China Daily reported.

“We removed the plants in 2006, but they came back strong this year,” the China Daily quoted Wen Qingsong, deputy head of the Hubei environmental protection bureau, as saying.

“We will investigate how many farmers were affected, who is responsible and whether there was misconduct by local officials.”

The China Daily reported that farmers in Hubei’s Jianli county, which has a population of 1.5 million people, suffered severe rashes and other skin ailments due to the waste being emitted by the factories.

The factories were illegally discharging arsenic as well as another highly toxic chemical, cadmium, into rivers, with the water then being used on cotton farms and other agricultural land.

“We can only leave the cotton to rot now,” farmer Shi Qiang said, according to the China Daily.

“Once we get in the field, we become itchy all over the body. Our skin even swells up and becomes rotten.”

Arsenic and cadmium can both cause cancer in humans, as well as other deadly conditions.

Pollution incidents such as the one in Hubei have become a disastrously frequent occurrence in China over the past three decades as the nation’s environment has been often sacrificed in the quest for economic growth.

More than 70 percent of China’s waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are polluted, according to previously released government figures.

Related:
Tainted China water sickens 450

Crisis: Soldiers, Marines Returning from War with Mental Health Issues

April 18, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Soldiers and Marines are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health issues at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 1 in 5 U.S. Soldiers and Marines returning from the war are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Unfortunately, we at Peace and Freedom believe that the numbers will eventually exceed the GAO estimate.

We got interested in PTSD in the winter of 2006-2007 when visiting the mental health ward of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington DC with a friend. Every man in the waiting area had a story. Most served in Vietnam but my friend served in Korea.  All had PTSD.

After researching, we ended up with so much information collected from doctors, nurses and sufferers that I wrote a five article series on PTSD.

In February I wrote, “The VA vastly underestimated the number of PTSD cases it expected to see in 2006, predicting it would see 2,900 cases. As of June 2006, the VA had seen more than 34,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for PTSD.”

In other words, the VA put a target on the barn then missed the barn and the state it was in.

Now the GAO says there may be 300,000 PTSD cases among the Soldiers and Marines returning from the war.

That may still be underestimated.

Why?

First: many soldiers have a “macho man” self estimate and refuse to admit that they need treatment.  We have hundreds of email from military families asking how they should deal with a “macho man” who is showing signs of PTSD, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and other mental health disorders that are probably war related.

Second: the costs of treatment could be staggering and long term.

And third: Many PTSD sufferers don’t appear in the medical system until years or even decades later after masking their symptoms with alcohol and drugs.

We have great respect for the GAO and the U.S. military.  Yet we believe the PTSD problem in the U.S. military to be catastrophic and still under estimated. 

We hope the issue of PTSD and all its variations including depression, alcoholism and drug abuse is tackled honestly and well by the United States.

Related:

War Wounds of the Mind Part VI: Half of Soldiers, Marines Returning With PTSD — Red Alert
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/05/05/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-vi-soldiers-returning-with-ptsd-red-alert/

Read Part I at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/15/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-i-historical-perspective-on-ptsd/

Read Part II at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-ii-discussions-with-ptsd-sufferers/

War Wounds of the Mind Part III: The Commanders

War Wounds of The Mind Part IV: A Warning About Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

In God’s Hands Now: The Passing of a Stateless Soldier and a Good Man