Monthly Archives: February 2013

Quick Read: Psychological Effects of Bullying Can Last Years

Researchers followed more than 1,400 young people who had been bullied or were bullied, and assessed them four to six times between the ages of 9 and 16. The researchers then assessed the participants for psychiatric problems up to age 26.


Researchers have known that bullying can take a psychological toll on both bullies and victims, but it’s been unclear just how long those effects would last.

Read more at: www.reuters.com

Seniors Help Kids CATCH Healthy Habits in San Diego

By Marnette Federis

During the physical activity component of CATCH Healthy Habits, kids play active games for 30 minutes. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

During the physical activity component of CATCH Healthy Habits, kids play active games for 30 minutes. (Photo: Marnette Federis)

A novel after-school program in the San Diego area is bringing together older and younger generations and helping encourage healthy lifestyles.

The program, called Coordinated Approach To Child Health, or CATCH Healthy Habits, trains and places senior volunteers in after-school programs and youth clubs where they teach kids about health.

CATCH is run by San Diego OASIS, an older adult educational center that encourages productive living for adults 50 years of age or older.

Many volunteers are retired teachers and nurses who said they were looking to give back to the community and be active even though they are no longer in the workforce.

Lala Bence, 69, worked as a pre-school teacher for 25 years. “I love children, I retired [from teaching] for a year and I couldn’t do without it,” said Bence, who now works with CATCH in San Diego’s Logan Heights neighborhood. Continue reading

Self-Screening Stations Coming to Walmart — 2,500 of Them

(Illustration by Kaiser Health News from photo by Walmart via Flickr)

(Illustration by Kaiser Health News from photo by Walmart via Flickr)

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

Perched by a computer monitor wedged between shelves of cough drops and the pharmacy in a bustling Walmart in Sterling, Va., Mohamed Khader taps out answers to questions such as how often he eats vegetables, whether anyone in his family has diabetes and his age. He tests his eyesight, weighs himself and checks his blood pressure as a middle-aged couple watches at the blue-and-white SoloHealth station advertising “free health screenings.”

Such programs raise a red flag for some consumer advocates who worry the “advice” might be an advertisement.

“You may not go to the doctor every year, but you come to Walmart often,” says the fit-looking 43-year-old Khader who lives in nearby Ashburn, Va. “I get bored while my wife is shopping. This is a time killer. I’ll come back in two months or so, and track my results.”

A burgeoning consumer health industry is betting that millions of consumers will do just that. Continue reading

Rethinking Unprotected Sex for HIV-Positive Men

By Mina Kim

Deon Brimmer, 32, is HIV positive and expecting a daughter.  He’s being treated by a new San Francisco program that helps men with HIV safely realize their dreams of being dads. (Photo: Ryan Anson)

Deon, 32, is HIV positive and expecting a daughter. He’s being treated at a new San Francisco program that helps men with HIV safely realize their dreams of being dads. (Photo: Ryan Anson)

The public health message around unprotected sex for those with HIV has always been the same: Don’t do it. Even with huge strides in medical science that’s changed HIV from a death sentence to a chronic but manageable disease, that directive has not changed.

Now, a new program based in San Francisco is challenging this long-held campaign, and helping HIV-positive men have babies — the conventional way. The program run by San Francisco General Hospital, called PRO Men, teaches men about a range of reproductive options, from adoption to in vitro fertilization — where an egg is fertilized in a lab dish — to carefully timed intercourse.

“I would say as an HIV provider community, we have really failed these men,” says UCSF professor Deborah Cohan, who runs the hospital’s Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center or BAPAC. “We really have not created programs to help them realize those goals and do so safely.”

“It is one of the last big remaining hurdles that I think many heterosexual men and women have to what they would consider living a normal, ordinary life.”

With the discovery of drugs to treat the virus, Cohan said people with HIV are living long, healthy lives. And for those who want to start families, having “safe” sex, Cohan said, can mean foregoing condoms when a female partner is ovulating. Women can also take HIV drugs, which some studies show can protect against the virus. (BAPAC has helped HIV-positive women who adhere to their medications have healthy babies for years.)

“We know that if the person who is positive takes antiretrovirals and their viral load is suppressed, meaning the medication is working at killing all the HIV in the blood, that the likelihood of them passing HIV to a sexual partner is essentially zero,” Cohan said.

Continue reading

Most Californians Support Soda Tax If It Benefits Children’s Health

 (La Piazza Pizzeria/Flickr)

(La Piazza Pizzeria/Flickr)

Just over three months since voters in two California cities — Richmond and El Monte — flatly turned down soda taxes, a new Field Poll released Thursday found a majority of California voters say they would support a soda tax if the funds raised were devoted to children’s health.

While only 40 percent of voters said they favor a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, that number jumped to 68 percent if the proceeds will benefit school nutrition and physical activity programs.

“Voters in general don’t trust taxes that aren’t earmarked. They prefer to see taxes linked to something beneficial,” said Dr. Tony Iton, senior vice president of The California Endowment, which sponsored the poll. “People that are engaged in constructing policy … should take heart in this poll and be able to look to it to construct subsequent measures for trying to engage the public support behind obesity prevention.”

Fully 75 percent of voters said they see a link between regular soda consumption and a person’s risk of being overweight or obese.
The Field Poll reported that support for such an earmarked tax was especially strong among Latinos (79 percent), Asian Americans (73 percent) and African Americans (70 percent).

“I think this poll shows that a campaign either statewide or locally in cities has an excellent chance,” Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa County’s director of public health, told the San Jose Mercury News.

But in the poll voters had the highest support — more than 80 percent — for increasing opportunities for being physically active, such as improved school sports fields and playgrounds — and keeping those facilities open after school and on weekends. Continue reading

Systems Can Work: Rooting Out Variation and Saving Millions in San Diego

By Russ Mitchell, Kaiser Health News

Among other changes, Scripps Health streamlined its ER admission process, slashing wait times and saving $29 million. (Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr)

Among other changes, Scripps Health streamlined its ER admission process, slashing wait times and saving $29 million. (Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr)

A hundred managers at Scripps Health jam shoulder-to-shoulder into a break room in San Diego. CEO Chris Van Gorder goes at them like a football coach down by 3 at halftime.

“What are we trying to do in our health care system?”

“Reduce costs!”

“Why?”

“Health care is too expensive.”

“The solution is going to come from Washington D.C., right?”

There was a cost difference of $6,000 between two Scripps hospitals performing the same cardiac procedures.
“Ha ha ha ha.”

“Sacramento then, right?”

“Ha.”

“The solution,” says Van Gorder, pumping an index figure toward his team, “is going to come from right here.”

Van Gorder, an ex-cop turned hospital executive, rescued troubled Scripps from near insolvency a dozen years ago as its new CEO. Now, he’s put Scripps in the middle of a cultural transformation aimed at saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year by – get this – coaxing physicians and managers at Scripps to work together, and standardizing care across every hospital in the system.

Just this week, we’ve seen how lack of standardization leads to a nearly-inexplicable price range of $11,000 to $125,000 for a standard hip replacement across the country. Continue reading

ACA Updates: Covered California Benefit Plans and Calculate Your Premium Online

California is first state to announce benefit plans including co-pays, deductibles

California's insurance marketplace, Covered California, will open in October, 2013. People will be able to buy insurance, which will take effect January 1, 2014.

California’s insurance marketplace, Covered California, will open in October, 2013. People will be able to buy insurance, which will take effect January 1, 2014.

Calling today a “game changer for California and a game changer for the nation,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s marketplace for health insurance, announced benefit plans that will be featured in the exchange.

He also unveiled its updated website (in English and Spanish) where consumers can access what is sure to be a very popular premium calculator. People with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty are eligible for subsidies from the federal government to help purchase insurance. The calculator gives an estimate of what you will pay after the subsidy.

[Update September, 2013: Covered California has new Shop and Compare Tool]

An estimated 2.6 million Californians are expected to qualify for the subsidy. People who receive Medi-Cal or employer-based health insurance are not eligible and will continue to receive health insurance through their current plans.

California is the first state in the nation to release benefit packages for the public to review. “The most important aspect of these plans is that they’re standardized. … Consumers will be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons that they haven’t been able to make in the past,” Lee said in a press conference. Continue reading

Quick Read: Consumer Group Wants Limits on Added Sugars in Beverages

The FDA categorizes high-fructose corn syrup and other kinds of sugars as “generally regarded as safe,” but the Center for Science in the Public Interest says at the levels they are used, “these ingredients are not safe. They are harmful.”

Food industry representatives say we cannot blame one part of the diet for a problem as complex as obesity.


The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to identify a safe level for added sugars in beverages. Sodas have unsafe levels of added sugars, the Center for Science in the Public Interest says.

Read more at: www.usatoday.com

The 5 Health Figures on the Guest List at Tonight’s State of the Union

The 2012 State of the Union address. (Photo: The White House)Five of the 24 people invited to sit near First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of the Union have strong health care connections. They include a governor, a business owner and a beneficiary of the health law provision that prevents health plans from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Typically, the invited guests at the joint session of Congress help the president highlight a new initiative or show how administration policy is working.

Here are the biographies furnished by The White House:

  1. Peter Hudson of Evergreen, CO:  Co-Founder and CEO, iTriage Hudson is a physician and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience founding and growing healthcare-related businesses. Using open government data, he launched iTriage in 2009 to help consumers engage in their own healthcare. Through an app, smartphone users can locate nearby providers based on their symptoms, make appointments, store their personal health records, save medication refill reminders, and learn about thousands of medications, diseases and procedures. Continue reading

Quick Read: Straining to Hear and Fend Off Dementia

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found a strong association between hearing loss and dementia. There are several possible explanations, none definitive. Hearing aids do not appear to significantly lower risk, although more study is needed to see if people are using hearing aids properly.


At a party the other night, a fund-raiser for a literary magazine, I found myself in conversation with a well-known author whose work I greatly admire. I use the term “conversation” loosely. I couldn’t hear a word he said.

Read more at: well.blogs.nytimes.com