Archive for January, 2010

If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Researchers once thought the use of electronic devices could not go up. They were wrong.

One in five US teens may have abnormal lipid levels.

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

The Washington Post (1/22, Stein) reports that “one out of every five US teenagers has a cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease,” according to a new study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For “the study…researchers analyzed data collected from 3,125 youths through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” The data indicated that “20.3 percent had abnormal ‘blood lipid’ levels.”

Bloomberg News (1/22, Randall) reports that “obese children were at the highest danger of abnormal levels, with 43 percent testing outside the recommended ranges.” Ashleigh May, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s division of heart disease and stroke prevention, said, “Parents should inquire about whether their child is eligible for this lipid screening, especially if their child is overweight or obese.”

MedPage Today (1/21, Gever) reported that “an unsigned commentary by MMWR’s editors noted that ‘untreated abnormal lipid levels in childhood and adolescence are linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood,’ but they stopped short of endorsing routine lipid testing for adolescents.” MedPage pointed out that “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening youths with specific risk factors such as overweight and family history.” WebMD (1/21, Warner) and HealthDay (1/21, Reinberg) also covered the story.

Raised nutritional awareness may help curb obesity epidemic. The Economist (1/21) writes on the obesity epidemic in the US, noting that at 33% obesity rate, “Americans are more likely to be overweight than to pay federal income tax. But the good news is that the nation may have stopped getting fatter,” a study published in the Journal of the American Medical association this month found. Still, the obesity rate “places a burden on the healthcare system,” wrote Eric Finkelstein and Justin Trogdon in Health Affairs. “Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary, says that ‘fighting obesity is at the heart’ of health reform.” But Trogdon notes that “Americans are suspicious of the nanny state,” and the “raised awareness of the need for a balanced diet” may better reverse the rise in obesity.

Shift to low-calorie menus said to have been driven by customer demand. The Wall Street Journal (1/22, B6, Jargon) reports that numerous restaurant chains are shifting towards low-calorie menus in a bid to attract customers who want to eat healthier. Other companies, such as McDonald’s, will offer low-calorie alternatives instead of adjusting their existing products. According to the restaurant chains, the shift to low-calorie items has largely been the result of customer demand as opposed to the threat of legal action.

Before You Quit Antidepressants …

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

This piece from the 1/11/09 edition of the New York Times by Cornell psychiatrist Richard Friedman sheds important light on the recent paper about antidepressant efficacy.

Teens Who Don’t Get Enough Sleep Risk Depression and Suicide

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Get Vaccinated Against Swine Flu

Sunday, January 10th, 2010
From American Medical Assocation Member Communications 1/8/2010

CNN (1/8, Young) reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to stress the importance of seeking H1N1 vaccinations on Thursday, noting that the virus “is still circulating and causing illness, hospitalization and death.” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said there was a “very good” vaccine supply around the country, but that complacency regarding the virus is “probably our top enemy right now.” Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “visited Carlin Springs Elementary School in Arlington County, Virginia, Thursday,” where “more than 200 students lined up to receive a second round of the vaccine.”

The New York Times (1/8, McNeil Jr.) reports, “The disease centers’ ‘best guess’ is that 60 million people have been vaccinated. There are now 136 million doses available from many sources, including city clinics, schools, private doctors and pharmacy chains.”Reuters (1/8) reports that Dr. Anne Schuchat said the CDC remained undecided about whether the lack of demand would spur the country to cancel any remaining orders. CQ HealthBeat (1/8, Kim) reports Dr. Schuchat said “that there has been a recent increase in flu-like illnesses reported in doctors offices and emergency rooms,” although she said the increase could be “due to fewer people seeking medical attention during the holidays.” She also noted that the seasonal strain of the flu “has not yet emerged.”

Shortage fears give way to overabundance of vaccine. The Albany Times Union (1/8, Karlin) reports that in Albany, “just months after the state launched an all-out effort to vaccinate people against the H1N1 virus amid initial fears of a shortage of shots, county health departments and doctors are awash in unused doses — with some sending them back to the state for cold storage.” Health Department spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said the state “sent out two trucks” of unused vaccine, including “7,000 doses of the FluMist nasal inhaled vaccine from Nassau County.” However, “others wondered if the returns are the result of an overreaction by the state as well as local healthcare providers to initial fears of a shortage.”

The Los Angeles Times (1/8, Lin, Hennessy-fiske) reports that California has received “about two-thirds” of the H1N1 vaccine supply that they expect, with over 15 million doses already reaching the state. State health officer Dr. Mark Horton confirmed on Thursday that “virtually all communities in California now have an abundance of H1N1 vaccine,” even though “fewer than half of California’s local public health departments are reporting active H1N1 flu outbreaks.”

Minorities found to be particularly vulnerable to swine flu. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1/8, Johnson) reports, “Minorities in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin were two to three times as likely as whites to be hospitalized for swine flu.” Health officials were unsure of the reasons behind the disparity, but pointed out that “minority populations have higher rates for some of the underlying medical conditions that can make swine flu more severe: diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.” Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan K. Baker called the difference “troubling,” while state and local health leaders indicated that they would be making “extra efforts” to reach minority populations with vaccine clinics.

The Wrong Story About Depression By JUDITH WARNER

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

This is the big picture of mental health care in America: people with real illnesses lack access to care; face barriers like ignorance, stigma and high prices; or find care that is ineffective.

This Op-Ed piece from the New York Times 1/9/2010 sheds light on how the recent study in JAMA showing how the reduced response of milder depression to 2 antidepressants has been misinterpreted.