Philip Seymour Hoffman arrives for the Los Angeles premiere of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ last November. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
As I think pretty much everyone must know by now, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday, apparently of a heroin overdose. I was stunned when I found out, then deeply saddened when I read reports that he had told “60 Minutes” in 2006 that he had given up drugs and alcohol when he was 22 — “I got panicked for my life,” he told Steve Kroft. Hoffman relapsed last year.
But my sadness turned to a kind of cold fury when I saw too many comments on social media clucking disapproval for Hoffman’s “selfishness” and “poor choices.” (I’m not linking to them here; you can find them easily enough if you want to.) One friend on Facebook noted that another friend’s thread about Hoffman was the only one he’d seen acknowledging “the tragedy of his drug addiction.”
And, indeed, addiction is a disease. Dr. David Smith has treated thousands of addicts since he founded the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in 1967. He talked to me about “battling an uninformed public.” Continue reading
KQED News interactive producer Olivia Hubert-Allen gets her flu shot. (Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED)
State health officials reported Friday that deaths from influenza have reached 147, including four children under age 18. Another 44 deaths are under investigation, but not confirmed.
The total deaths so far this flu season, which started last September, eclipses the number from all of last year — 106.
As health officials have noted all month, the H1N1 strain is circulating — that’s the same strain that led to the pandemic in 2009-2010. Younger adults are at increased risk from H1N1. The theory is that adults over 65 were exposed to H1N1 decades ago and have retained some immunity. Younger adults were (presumably) never exposed so have no natural protection.
Health officials urged all Californians over age 6 months to get a flu shot. This year’s vaccine is well-matched to the circulating strains, health officials say. They urge people who believe they have the flu to contact their doctors immediately and ask about anti-viral medications.
KQED radio’s Stephanie Martin talked to health editor Lisa Aliferis about the flu. Learn more:
(Go Interactive Wellness/Flickr)
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
Exercise helps recovery after cancer treatment, but fatigue can make working out hard. Yoga can help reduce fatigue for breast cancer survivors, a study finds. It’s one of a growing number of efforts using randomized controlled trials to see if the ancient practice offers medical benefits.
Women who took a yoga class three hours a week for three months said they experienced 40 percent less fatigue compared to a group of breast cancer survivors who did not do yoga.
“Fatigue is a major and serious problem in survivors,” even years after treatments have ended, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a psychology professor at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, said.
The participants who did yoga also had lower levels of cytokines, which are markers of inflammation, in their blood, Kiecolt-Glaser says. Cytokine levels were reduced up to 20 percent six months after starting yoga. It’s not clear how this may affect their health, she says. Continue reading
There’s caramel, and then there’s caramel color. It turns out the two don’t have much to do with each other. This matters to you if you drink soda.
Caramel color is the additive in many soft drinks and some foods that turns them brown. Some types of caramel color contain a chemical called 4-methylimidazole or 4-Mel, and 4-Mel is potentially carcinogenic. In 2011, the state of California added 4-mel to the so-called Prop. 65 list — a list of chemicals known by the state to cause cancer.
Consumer Reports published an analysis of various brands of soda on Thursday. They found that two brands exceeded a level of 29 micrograms per can or bottle: Pepsi One and Malta Goya. Consumer Reports cites state data showing daily consumption above that amount would cause one excess case of cancer in every 100,000 people. Continue reading
Children should always use a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. (Joshua & Amber/Flickr)
By Brian Lau, MD
Many studies have shown that parents don’t always use carseats and booster seats, and their kids could be at increased risk in a crash. A new study published this week shows that non-white children have particularly low use.
Researchers from The University of Michigan surveyed 601 parents about their car seat usage for 1 to 12-year-old children that received treatment at the emergency room. They found that non-white parents were nearly four times less likely to use appropriate child car restraints than white parents.
Doctors and policy makers have known of this disparity and attributed it to socioeconomic variables. But the new study shows that differences remained even after accounting for education and income. Continue reading
Did this baby’s hospital charge $3,300 or $33,000 for delivery — or somewhere in between? (Shingo/Flickr)
The most common reason for hospitalization in the United States is childbirth. A new study published Thursday adds to the depth of research on cost variation in the American medical system.
In the study, researchers at U.C. San Francisco looked at 110,000 uncomplicated births across California and found that hospital charges for a vaginal delivery ranged from $3,296 to $37,227 and for a caesarian section the range was $8,312 to $70,908.
For health policy researchers, this is not a big surprise, said lead author Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF, but “most people that aren’t familiar with health care variation would be surprised and distressed.” Continue reading
By Patti Neighmond and Richard Knox, NPR
More than 1 in 4 adult Americans say they’ve recently suffered a bout of low-back pain. It’s one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. And more and more people are being treated for it.
America spends more than $80 billion a year on back pain treatments. But many specialists say less treatment is usually more effective.
In fact, there’s evidence that many standard treatments for back pain — surgery, spinal injections and painkillers — are often ineffective and can even worsen and prolong the problem.
Dr. Jerome Groopman agrees with that premise. He suffered back pain for almost 20 years. He was a young marathon runner 32 years ago when back pain struck out of the blue.
“I couldn’t run. It was difficult to sleep,” he says. “I wasn’t confined to bed, but I was hobbling around.” Continue reading
Nursing student administers flu shot. (queensu/Flickr)
State health officials are urging Californians to get vaccinated against the flu. At least nine people have died in the Bay Area in recent weeks.
The main culprit is the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu. This is the same subtype of influenza that caused a pandemic in 2009-2010.
The vaccine is widely available and well suited to protect against the circulating H1N1 strain, officials say. Doctors’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores carry the vaccine. In addition, local health departments generally provide the vaccine at low or no cost. Continue reading
By Allison Aubrey, NPR
People are increasingly turning to mindfulness mediation to manage health issues, and meditation classes are being offered through schools and hospitals.
But doctors have questioned whether this ancient Eastern practice really offers measurable health benefits. A fresh review of the evidence should help sort that out.
Think of it as Buddhist meditation “but without the Buddhism.” It’s completely secular.
Meditation does help manage anxiety, depression and pain, according to the 47 studies analyzed in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, but does not appear to help with other problems, including substance abuse, sleep and weight.
“We have moderate confidence that mindfulness practices have a beneficial effect,” wrote the author of the paper, Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in an email to Shots. He says the positive effects on anxiety, depression and pain can be modest, but are seen across multiple studies. Continue reading
It’s been more than three weeks since 13-year-old Jahi McMath was declared brain dead after what appeared to be a tonsillectomy at Children’s Hospital Oakland. In the interim, the family has battled the hospital to keep McMath’s body hooked up to a ventilator while they have searched for a facility willing to accept her. Friday morning, at a hearing in Alameda Superior Court, the two sides seem to have come to an agreement that the family can possibly remove her, as long as they accept full responsibility for her.
“This isn’t a patient with a bad prognosis. This is about someone who died. And what the family is hoping for … is resurrection.”
But none of this changes the sad fact that Jahi McMath is dead, as experts patiently explained on KQED’s Forum earlier this week.
David Magnus, director of Stanford’s Center for Biomedical Ethics, pointed to six separate independent evaluations that have all come to the same conclusion, that McMath is “medically dead, she is legally dead.” Continue reading