Prevention

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‘Insufficient Evidence’ That Vitamins Prevent Heart Disease, Cancer

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Brittany Patterson

Toss those vitamin bottles and instead opt for a well-balanced diet if you’re looking to prevent heart disease or cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new recommendations Monday regarding both multivitamins and certain supplements — and their potential to help prevent heart disease and cancer. The task force “concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms” of the use of multivitamins, vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements to prevent heart disease or cancer.

The task force is, however, recommending against use of beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements. Continue reading

In Midst of Physician Shortage, Inland Empire Gets New Medical School

Michelle Tom receives her white coat from UC Riverside Medical School Dean Richard Olds. (Photo: Carrie Rosema)

Michelle Tom receives her white coat from UC Riverside Medical School Dean Richard Olds. (Photo: Carrie Rosema)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

Classes began this week at California’s newest medical school. UC Riverside is the first publicly-funded medical school to open in the state in more than 40 years. Fifty students make up the school’s inaugural class.

Last Friday night, the audience gave the medical students a warm reception as they filed into the school’s main gymnasium. After some introductory remarks, the crowd fell silent as the young men and women lined up at the foot of the stage.

“I would like to welcome our first student across the stage, Omar Aldas,” the speaker announced.

Riverside County had 99 doctors per 100,000 people, versus a statewide average of 174.
One by one, students came up and were ceremoniously awarded their physician’s white coat.

While some students were visibly nervous as they walked onto the stage. 23-year-old Michelle Tom sported an enormous smile. She was still beaming when the ceremony was over.

“This is just like, unreal, because my whole life, … I wanted to be a doctor,” Tom said. “And finally, finally, I get to put this white coat on.” Continue reading

Money for Prevention Is First to Go in “Doc Fix”

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

Building bike & pedestrian paths saves almost $3 in medical costs for every dollar spent in building the trails. (Moyan Brenn: Flickr)

The debate over the extension of the payroll tax break has dominated headlines. But as part of the same package deal was an agreement on the so-called “Doc Fix.” That’s the Washington shorthand for finding a way to avoid a 27.4 percent cut in fees to doctors who see Medicare patients. Naturally, doctors were not enthusiastic about having their fees cut so drastically.

Lawmakers figured out a “Doc Fix” but at the cost of the Prevention and Public Health Fund–part of the health care reform law. The deal is not yet final, but it looks like lawmakers will slice $5 billion–or about one-third of its total funding. Public health advocates had fought hard against these cuts, but to no avail.

“I know we’re at a place where difficult decisions have to be made,” said Mary Pittman, President of the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, “but it just doesn’t make sense that all of the difficult decisions end up focused on prevention. If we’re to change the way we think about health and we’re trying to find a way to reduce cost, all directions point to prevention.”

The goal of the Prevention Fund is to provide communities around the country with billions of dollars over the next ten years to invest in effective prevention efforts against heart attacks, cancer and strokes and to reduce tobacco use as well as prevent obesity.

Continue reading

In Violent Neighborhood, 15 Minutes of Meditation Calms Students

Students at Visitacion Valley School in South San Francisco observe 15 minutes of quiet time every morning.

Students at Visitacion Valley School in South San Francisco observe 15 minutes of quiet time every morning.

By Kyle Palmer

On a recent morning at Visitacion Valley Middle School in South San Francisco, Principal James Dierke looked out over the school’s auditorium at more than 100 eighth graders. A restless din filled the large room. Bursts of laughter and errant shouts punctuated the buzz. Most of the students seemed disinterested in Dierke’s announcements about the spring’s impending graduation, upcoming field trips, and recent birthdays.

Then, Dierke struck a bell and said, “Okay, it’s quiet time.”

And just like that, a hush fell over the auditorium. Students straightened their backs and closed their eyes. Some bowed their heads. Others rested them on the backs of their chairs. The once-boisterous hall became silent and remained so for the next 15 minutes.

“Visitors are always amazed,” Dierke said afterwards, “but it works. It really is quiet time.”

“These kids hear gunshots on their way to and from school. That kind of stuff makes it hard to focus on algebra.”

“Quiet Time” isn’t just a slogan but a daily regimen at Visitacion Valley. The entire school—faculty, staff, and students—spend the first and last 15 minutes of every day in silence. Students are encouraged to use the time to meditate, but Dierke says students can simply clear their mind, think about schoolwork, or even sleep. Just as long as they are quiet.

“I’ve found that it makes people—students and teachers—more joyful,” Dierke said, “To have that time to reflect and be still is important.” Continue reading