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63 posts from January 2011

01/31/2011

Affordable Care Act unconstitutional....?

"Key parts" of the Affordable Care Act have been found unconstitutional by a federal judge, CNN is reporting.

Expect this decision to work its way toward appeal. 

The Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center at Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota has consistently supported access to health care for all. 

But it's never taken a stand on provisions of the act, such as the requirement that all Americans get health insurance coverage.

"Officials in Florida and 25 other states are challenging sections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the 'individual mandate' requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance in four years or face stiff penalties," CNN writes.

According to its website, the Mayo Health Policy Center says it "advocates for policies that support high-value, affordable, accessible health care for all Americans."

Advocates for the Affordable Care Act suggested everyone needed to get health insurance in order for the "pool" of participants to be large enough to make it feasible. 

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

New screening test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease...?

Nature News is reporting the development of a new screening test for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. That's an illness that occurs rarely in humans (1 in 1 million).

"In its most common form, known as sporadic CJD, the disease affects roughly one in a million people. Beginning in the 1990s, several cases of a variation of CJD known as vCJD were reported among people who had consumed beef from cows infected with another disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)," Nature News reports.

The illness is caused by prions, mishappen proteins -- similar to the ones that cause chonic wasting disease among elk, moose and deer (a wild deer hunted in the Pine Island area, as recently announced, tested positive for chronic wasting disease).

The discovery could lead some to wonder about the chronic wasting disease contaminated soil at the site of the planned Elk Run biobusiness park in Pine Island. But Elk Run's developer, Tower Investments, said the discovery will not affect the park.

Now, Japanese researchers, including microbiologist Ryuichiro Atarashi of Nagasaki University, have developed a screening test that does not appear to produce false-positive test results, Nature News reports.

The research results appear in the journal Nature Medicine.

One of the difficulties of prion diseases is that there's so little known about them that there are few scientists who have enough expertise in the field to even provide an educated opinion about research studies.

Increased knowledge through an accurate screening test, if this turns out to be one, will certainly help.

At Elk Run, elk from the former elk farm were shot to death after chronic wasting disease was found. Planners said they'd shave a layer of soil away to protect the local wild deer herd. But, so far, no construction work has been done in the area of the contaminated soil, the company said last week.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

01/30/2011

Minnesota flu deaths...

Seasonal influenza is on the rise nationally and Minnesota has not escaped it.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported this week that four schools reported flu-like outbreaks, and one long-term-care facility reported a flu outbreak.

There were also 19 flu-related hospitalizations and two deaths reported from this week from Minnesotans who died from flu in previous weeks.

So far this flu season, 13 children have died nationwide, says the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota. 

Nationwide, "the dominant flu strain is still H3N2, with about 20% of illnesses caused by influenza B. Of the influenza A viruses subtyped, 36% were the 2009 H1N1 virus, about twice as high as the week before. The CDC said the circulating strains are still a good match with the viruses included in the seasonal flu vaccine," CIDRAP reported Friday. 

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

01/29/2011

Jumbotron

Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Twins have announced a contest to get fans excited about the upcoming season.

Part of Mayo's goal, of course, is to improve the health of Twins fans and of Minnesotans in general.

What:
Submit family videos to a contest.
Make a "cool" video:
Create a 20-second video what you do to stay healthy.
Upload the video to the Mayo Clinic Facebook Page.
Entry deadline:
March 1, 2011
Number of finalists:
25 will be whittled down from all entries by March 7. 
Get your friends to vote for your video on Facebook:
If your video gets chosen as a finalist, your friends will get to vote to support it.
How do you win? 13 of the 25 finalists with the most Facebook votes by March 31 will each get four tickets to a Twins game at Target Field "to see their winning entry on the Jumbotron.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Austin Medical Center = "Baby Friendly"....

Austin Medical Center has been awarded as the first hospital in Minnesota — and one of only 104 in the United States — the designation of "baby-friendly."

"Well, all hospitals are baby-friendly, aren't they?" one might ask.

"More than one million infants worldwide die every year because they are not breastfed or are given other foods too early.  Although the majority of these deaths happen in underdeveloped nations, thousands of infants in the U.S. suffer the ill effects of poor nutrition, such as increased risk of respiratory and ear infections, and allergic skin disorders," Austin Medical Center says in an announcement. 

The "Women’s Special Care Unit" in particular was singled out for the recognition. 

"The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative [Parental supervision warning. Photos that support infant-initiated "breastfeeding on demand" are included.] (BFHI) is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infants.  The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely," the Austin Medical Center—Mayo Health System announcement says. 

Here's a shout out to the Women's Special Care Unit staff at AMC. Congratulations!

Read more in the print Weekend Edition of the Post-Bulletin.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

01/28/2011

WEATHER WARNING - freezing rain...

The city of Rochester, Minnesota has sent a weather advisory for this evening.

It says, "...snow...feezing drizzle this evening...precipitation will spread across the region this evening...tapering off overnight...freezing drizzle is more probable. Some light icing will be possible in these areas...especially on untreated roadways and sidewalks. The most favorable time for precipitation will be between 6 and 10 p.m....althought rush hour traffic could be impacted if the precipitation moves in earlier."

The elipses are from the weather service, not me.

So please be careful on your way home this Friday evening. Maybe head home a little early. Or walk to the nearest restaurant for dinner before you head home.

ROAD CONDITIONS:

•    Southeast Minnesota road conditions

•    Minnesota statewide road conditions

•    Twin Cities area in Minnesota road conditions

•    Iowa road conditions

•    North Dakota road conditions

•    Wisconsin road conditions

•    National radar

•    Regional Minnesota radar

•    National Weather Service, La Crosse, Wisconsin

•    Minnesota Department of Transportation on road conditions

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Drinking party? Here's what happens when you drive....

A person dies every 45 minutes — every day — in an alcohol-related crash.

That information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says 32 people in the United States die every day from alcohol-related crashes. Often, the ones who die aren't the driver, but an innocent bystander or occupant of another car, perhaps a child, young person or grandparent. You don't want that to happen.

CDC blue sign at entryway  4323
[The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Jeff Hansel. Copyright.]

Alcoholism, it seems to me, is like a demon. Those who get behind the wheel bring anger and frustration. But there's also a sadness about the many who live with an addiction over which they have little control, while at the same time the effects of that addiction on their behavior destroys lives. 

My friend, a recovering alcoholic, says her actions are her responsibility and I shouldn't blame myself for others' actions. Still, I worry.

One evening I ran into a person I once worked with. He'd recently come from drinking — alone — at a bar and struggled to stand without stumbling. After I talked with a colleague about how to approach him, he was told we were concerned and asked if maybe he needed to seek help.

Soon after, though, he was charged with driving while intoxicated. Thankfully no one was hurt.

The effects of alcohol used in damaging ways are widespread and devastating. I remember a man, red-nosed from chronic alcohol abuse, who purposefully allowed his swim trunks to slip by jumping up and down in the water, thinking that was funny.

It wasn't.

His behavior traumatized several very young children (and adults), including me, who were at the beach — and he brought shame to his wife in a very public way. 

"If you have alcoholism, you continue to drink even though you know it's causing problems with your relationships, health, work or finances," says MayoClinic.com.

There are many Rochester-area treatment options to help alcoholics fight addiction, including Mayo.

"Mayo maintains a ratio of one staff counselor for every four patients to ensure that patients receive the attention needed to accomplish their goals," the clinic says.

Read more in the print edition of the Post-Bulletin.

Want help?

For referral call United Way:
• Landline telephones in Minnesota dial 211 and tell the representative you need to be referred to alcohol treatment.
• Cell phones dial 800-543-7709.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Mayo Clinic goes international...

Mayo Clinic now has offices in four countries outside the United States designed to provide information to prospective patients and others (three brick-and-mortar offices and one virtual).

The most-recent opening occurred in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, where a few hundred people showed up to celebrate.

The offices generally provide information, assistance with arranging appointments and help with travel and lodging arrangements.

People who arrange an appointment at Mayo in the U.S. through the Guatemala office usually go to the Mayo campus in Florida, whereas those from Canada generally come to the Mayo campus here in Rochester, Minnesota.

Read the emotional impact opening the office has had upon Mayo patients from Ecuador in the print edition of the Post-Bulletin. Those patients include Bryan Betancourt, a young Ecuadorian who was treated for complications of Marfan syndrome at Mayo in Rochester and spent time recovering at Ronald McDonald House here. Betancourt's trip to Rochester was arranged through Rochester-based non-profit Hands for Humanity, which serves the social and medical needs of Ecuadorian children.

Mayo focuses on serving patients with crucial needs. But its international efforts also mean a boost to its patient census. 

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

01/27/2011

Hospice volunteers needed...

Seasons Hospice in Rochester is looking for volunteers. You'll want to put this on your calendar because you'll need to plan ahead of time a little for this free training:

Dates: April 4, 6 and 8 (all three days)

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Location: Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 1212 12th Av. N.W., Rochester, Minnesota

"Hospice volunteers provide a special kind of caring for those experiencing end-of-life transitions," says an announcement from Seasons.

Volunteers who attend training will learn about the philosophy of hospice, disease conditions, comfort measures, spirituality, visiting skills, bereavement and other topics, according to Seasons.

Details and registration: Contact the director of volunteer services at 285-1930, Ext. 201 or [email protected]

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel

Event today for shelter, food, free haircuts...

Rochester, Minnesota service providers plan their "Community Connect" event today at Christ United Methodist Church, 400 5th Av. S.W.

If you're walking head right to the church (event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

If you're driving, go to Kmart, 201 9th Street S.E. across from the Olmsted Medical Center clinic. A shuttle will start picking people up at 11 a.m. and continue to make stops there every few minutes throughout the event, shuttling people back and forth to the church so you don't have to worry about finding a parking spot.

Free haircuts are being offered, there will be people to help you get a picture ID, job assistance, foreclosure resources, finance education, food resources and, for today, a free sack lunch.

If you've never been, stop down and check it out. It's open to the public. If you're on the streets or staying on someone's couch with no permanent place to live, stop down to see what they have to offer.

If you can't go that day, or just need referral to a specific resource, call United Way's 211 service:

Dial 211 from any landline telephone in Minnesota or 800-543-7709 from cell phones. United Way 211 can refer you to housing resources, child care, health services, senior living, food assistance and a variety of other services. 

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the Post-Bulletin newspaper, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel