Monthly Archives: October 2012

Quick Read: Meditation Appears to Ease PTSD in Combat Vets

Meditation as a potential therapy for PTSD was abandoned after the development of drugs like Prozac and others came along in the 1980s. But those drugs ultimately proved to be limited in PTSD. Now VA doctors are again incorporating meditation into PTSD treatment.

Among veterans, mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder are epidemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one in every four Iraq or Afghanistan vets is suffering from PTSD. It’s one reason suicide is now the leading cause of death among active-duty soldiers.

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Quick Read: Taxpayers Spend Millions on Valley Fever in Prisons

This story is the latest in the ongoing valley fever series from ReportingonHealth. California is spending $23 million a year to ship inmates afflicted with valley fever to outside hospitals — then there’s the cost of treating inmates within prison walls.

Californians are locked into contributing to the cost of treating state inmates sickened by valley fever.
Since 2006, the state prison system has tried but failed to reduce the disease’s impact and price tag.

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Can Soda Taxes Lead to Weight Loss?

(Tessek: Flickr)

(Tessek: Flickr)

My KQED colleague Mina Kim produced a great piece examining whether higher soda prices leads to weight loss — and the health benefits that come with it. She profiled a 17-year-old football player from Tracy — Jorge Cota, who at 5’11” weighed 321 pounds. He had high blood pressure and may have had heart and kidney problems. That was a year ago.

While Cota since has made many diet changes, the first thing he did was cut out his drink of choice, Dr. Pepper. He had been drinking two or three cans or bottles a day.

He’s since lost 70 pounds, Kim reports.

Still, Cota told Kim that he doubts a penny-per-ounce soda tax would make a difference in soda consumption. After all, a 20-ounce soda would go up only 20 cents.

Kim turned to Kelly Brownell, head of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale. As she reports:

His group has studied how pricing changes affect consumer behavior.

“The penny-per-ounce, which is the level of tax being discussed the most around the country, is enough to affect consumption, somewhere between 10 or 20 percent or so,” Brownell says. “[That] would be enough to not make it a terrible burden on consumers, but would affect consumption of the product enough to reduce health care costs.”

More importantly, Brownell says, passage of the tax would give a big boost to the national trend away from sugary drinks that’s already begun in school districts and communities where demand for fresh local food is growing. Continue reading

Quick Read: Soda Industry Says Vending Machines Will Show Calories

The Affordable Care Act includes a provision which requires many restaurants and vending machines to display calories. The soda industry has been under fire for its role in increasing obesity rates. Voters in Richmond are considering a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and last month’s New York City banned sales of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in many public venues.

As criticism over sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.

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Closing in on 65? Critical Medicare Decisions Waiting for You

By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

Bruce Osterweil is a lucky man to live just a short walk from where San Francisco’s Golden Gate meets the cold, rough waters of the Pacific Ocean. He is also a lucky man to have married his wife, Patricia Furlong, who has long provided the family’s health insurance through her job at a small financial consulting firm.

But last month, Osterweil’s wife turned 65 and decided to retire, and although she may walk away with a crystal bowl or a golden watch for all those years of service, she will also walk away from her company’s generous health insurance benefits. That means Osterweil, who is 59 and a self-employed benefits consultant, is shopping for his own health insurance.

“I’m really surprised at how hard it could be for just the average person who isn’t an actuary or benefits consultant to figure any of this out. It’s astonishing,” he says.

When a spouse or parent signs up for Medicare, it is often perplexing – and unnerving – for the rest of the family who may have grown used to cushy employer-sponsored coverage. For example, young adults up to age 26, who were covered under their parent’s insurance, are no longer covered when their parent moves to Medicare. Continue reading

Flurry of Debate Fact-Checking on Health Care

Fact checkers wasted no time today in pointing out flaws in both candidates’ statements during the presidential debate.

Politico –Analyzing Health Care Statements

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had at it out over health care Wednesday night — providing some of the toughest, and wonkiest, moments of the night.

Both candidates also showed they had done their research, citing studies to back their claims about Obama’s health care law and how the other would cut Medicare spending — but they both managed to stretch the truth.

Los Angeles Times —  Romney Repeats Erroneous Claims on Health Care

Mitt Romney repeated a number of erroneous claims during Wednesday’s debate about President Obama’s healthcare law, including that it relies on a board that will decide “what kind of treatment” patients can get.

This is a myth advanced repeatedly by critics of the Affordable Care Act and debunked consistently by independent fact-checkers.

 Washington Post — The $700 Billion Medicare Cut

Romney accused Obama of taking $716 billion from Medicare. This $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs.



Portable Solar Panels Bring Light, Save Lives in Developing World

By Andrew Stelzer

Dr. Juliette Alyek, a pediatrician from Uganda, learns to install a solar panel with We Care Solar, a Berkeley nonprofit. (Photo: Andrew Stelzer)

Dr. Juliette Alyek, a pediatrician from Uganda, learns to install a solar panel with We Care Solar, a Berkeley nonprofit. (Photo: Andrew Stelzer)

Juliette Alyek came here all the way from Uganda to learn how to drill holes in a corrugated tin roof.

Over the sound of drilling, I hear laughter, mixed with frustration. “Let’s try it again,” Alyek says, then “Got it, bingo. Just right!”

Alyek is a pediatrician, who — along with 13 other women from around the world — has travelled to Berkeley for a week-long training to become a special kind of ambassador. Back in Uganda, her home city is big enough to have consistent electricity. But she says only about five percent of Ugandans are connected to the grid. That’s a big problem if a woman is giving birth at night.

“These facilities are using kerosene lamps, or they’re using torches, or they don’t have anything at all,” she says.

Berkeley obstetrician Laura Stachel saw the same problem when she traveled to Nigeria four years ago to study ways to reduce maternal mortality in state hospitals. At the time, Nigeria had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Tens of thousands of women died during childbirth every year. Continue reading