Colonias. If you’re from a border state, you may be quite familiar with this word, as it is generally used to describe unsanitary or unsafe housing located along the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
In Texas, colonias date back to at least the 1950s; developed as unincorporated subdivisions because the land was agriculturally worthless, they were sold at very low prices to low-income individuals. According to the Texas Secretary of State, colonias are defined as a residential area along the Mexico-Texas border which lacks basic necessities, like potable water, sewer systems, electricity, paved roads and simply safe and sanitary housing.
As one may assume by this definition, the health of many of the nearly 500,000 colonia residents is poor.
According to a New York Times article, in the highest health risk colonias water- and mosquito-borne illnesses are rampant due to no sewer system or wastewater disposal. There are high rates of asthma, rashes and lice infestations because of the burning garbage, mold and large amount of cockroaches and rodents. But still, there are more health ailments.
Because they have poor diets, as many people in poverty do, they have poor dental hygiene, diabetes, and other diseases. But what’s worse is most of these residents have no means to help themselves. There is no easy solution of going to the doctor. With many without health insurance and little access to healthcare clinics, they have no way to receive treatment.
Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. More rural healthcare clinics are opening to fulfill this need that is so desperately needed for colonias. Like the University of Texas recently opened a new campus—University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which currently has its inaugural class. This new medical school will not only bring in medical students from around the country but will also allow students to serve the population they grew up in.
To read more about Texas colonias, please visit the following resources:
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve, the part of the eye that connects it’s to the brain. When damaged, it can cause vision loss, and in fact, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, according to MedlinePlus.
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, but there are certain groups of people who should be more aware of potentially contracting the disease—mainly seniors. Those over age 60 should get an eye exam every two years. Additionally, African Americans over age 40 and those with a family history of glaucoma should also get checked regularly, as they are more at risk.
Glaucoma symptoms vary, and those with the disease may experience none. But over time they may notice a loss of peripheral vision, tunnel vision, eye pain, nausea, blurred vision, halos around lights and/or reddening of eyes.
There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can usually be controlled, especially when caught early on. Current treatments include prescription eye drops and surgery.
This January, recognize National Glaucoma Awareness Month by considering getting an annual eye exam.
To read more about glaucoma, please visit “Glaucoma Resources for Special Populations from National Library of Medicine,” and/or MedlinePlus.
According to a 2013 Pew report, 60% of U.S. adults ages 18 and over nationally track their weight, diet, or exercise routine, and 21% of all adults surveyed use technology to do so. Fitness and activity trackers such as Fitbit or Nike+ can certainly help with setting goals or finding extra motivation.
But how effective are these technologies? Recent studies reported by The Guardian show promising results in terms of retention. But lasting change takes more than a device.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institute of Health, published a guide to help consumers think about how to move through stages of change:
- Contemplation – thinking about making a change
- Preparation – planning and goal setting
- Action – making actual adjustments or changes
- Maintenance – finding a routine and overcoming setbacks
Want more information on how to execute each stage and overcome common barriers? Check out the guide here: Changing Your Habits for Better Health. You can also find additional resources for tracking progress and developing health habits on the MedlinePlus topical page on Exercise and Physical Fitness.
And then here are are some considerations if you’re in the market for a fitness tracker: Consumer Reports Fitness Tracker Buying Guide. But whether you use a high-tech gadget or a paper journal, consider what makes for lasting change!
While you may not think tuberculosis (TB) is a concern for yourself and your family, many people in the U.S. suffer with it, and for the first time in 23 years, the U.S. saw an increase in diagnosed cases in 2015. There were 9,557 cases total and it affected 27 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
This increase calls for a more comprehensive public health approach to curbing TB, according to the CDC’s report. Suggested strategies according to the report are:
- “Increased testing and treatment of latent (showing no symptoms) TB,
- Greater efforts to reach populations most affected by TB, and
- Reducing TB transmission through effective diagnostic and treatment strategies.”
TB is a bacterium that usually affects the lungs but can affect any part of the body. It is usually spread through the air when a person throat coughs, speaks or sings and another person breaths it in. But not everyone who becomes infected will become sick, which is called latent TB infection. This occurs when your body is able to fight off the bacteria.
Primary TB symptoms include a cough that last as for three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood. Others may also include weight loss, fatigue, no appetite, chills, fever and sweating at night.
To read more from the recent CDC report, please visit “Burden of TB in the United States.”
To read more general information about TB, please visit the CDC’s website.
Last year, the opioid epidemic was brought to the forefront of health issues facing Americans. It was announced that in 2014, more people died of drug overdoses than in any other year on record. In 2016, the Surgeon General also released a landmark report regarding addiction in America—it is the first of its kind.
In 2014, New Mexico was ranked 49th worst in the nation for drug overdose death rates. The New Mexico Department of Health recently announced that based on 2015 data released by the Centers for Disease Control, the state has improved to 42nd worst in the nation. New Mexico saw a 7 percent decrease in drug overdoses, while the country as a whole saw an increase of 11 percent.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has made curbing drug overdoses a major priority for the state. In 2016, she signed two important pieces of legislation to combat drug misuse and abuse. According to the NMDOH’s news release, they were as follows:
- “SB 263 requires practitioners to check the Prescription Monitoring Program database when prescribing opioids. The database allows prescribers and pharmacists to check the controlled substance prescription history of their patients.
- The Governor also signed legislation that increases the availability of naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Medicaid claims for naloxone among outpatient pharmacies in New Mexico increased 83 percent between the first three months (January-March) and the second three months (April-June) of 2016.”
To read more about how New Mexico is combating drug overdoses, please visit “Substantial Improvement in National Ranking for Overdose Deaths.”
For more information regarding the opioid epidemic, please visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.
Extensive radiologic tools exist to aid clinicians in the diagnostic process. The AHRQ National Guideline Clearinghouse allows clinicians to search the American College of Radiology ACR Appropriateness Criteria® to locate suggested criteria for ordering radiologic exams.
Guidelines provide the suggested radiologic procedure that may be ordered for each presenting condition with a rating scale to denote the applicability for each exam. For each procedure the rating scale indicates the level of appropriateness of the exam. The guidelines also contain the relative radiation level for each type of exam.
Additionally, a summary of the literature is provided for the clinical condition in question. Examples of conditions described in the database include: osteonecrosis of the hip, assessment of fetal well-being, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. Nearly 200 American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria are indexed by the AHRQ website to provide guidance in the ordering of radiologic exams.
–Written by Lisa Smith, Executive Director, NN/LM SCR
It’s not too late! While fall and 2016 have ended, winter has just begun, as of Dec. 21. There’s still nearly three months of cold weather ahead, which we generally associate with flu season.
The flu can be a serious threat to any person and persons who contract the virus can be hospitalized—nearly 970,000 Americans had to be in 2014. The flu shot seriously reduces this risk. Keep in mind that more than 40 million are affected by flu-related illnesses each year.
Getting the flu shot is especially important to seniors, young children, women who are planning to get pregnant and women who have been pregnant and those with chronic diseases. Because these people have weakened immune systems, the flu can become much more serious for these individuals.
The flu shot may not prevent you from getting the flu, but it will reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and help protect you from future viruses.
This year’s flu shot protects against certain strains of influenza A and influenza B viruses.
To read more about getting the flu vaccine, please visit healthfinder.gov.
To read more general information about the flu vaccine, please visit the CDC’s website.
Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions every year are losing weight and staying fit and healthy. Key to keeping both of these resolutions is following a healthy eating plan, like the one outlined in Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The Guidelines are released every 5 years with the goal of providing recommendations for components of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet that promotes health and prevents chronic disease for current and future generations.
Highlights of the latest Guidelines describe a health eating plan that:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Stays within your daily calorie needs
Need more help creating a healthy diet plan? Check out the Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight. The site includes resources for meal planning and cutting calories, as well as links to healthy recipes, and gives suggestions for creative ways to design a diet after the Guidelines.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your favorite comfort food to be healthy; just remember to use moderation and create balance with healthier foods and more physical activity!
–Written by Sarah Miles, Health Professions Coordinator, NN/LM SCR
Over the last year, MIT has had a task force working on defining the future of their libraries. The past couple of months have seen conversation swirling around the preliminary report that came out of that task force.
One of their recommendations is a focus on four pillars: community and relationships, discovery and use, stewardship and sustainability, and research and development. This report calls for open collaboration both between and within institutions. For those in libraries, this re-visioning and goal process is familiar. In fact, the four pillars mentioned in this report can be found threaded throughout the NN/LM SCR’s Program Objectives of assessment, education, increased access, and advocacy.
Currently the NLM is accepting input for its own strategic planning to create the NLM of the future. If you are interested in providing input to NLM, please see the full request for information. Responses must be submitted by January 9, 2017.
–Written by Bethany Livingston, Research Administrator, NN/LM SCR
Texas recently saw its first case of locally transmitted Zika, meaning it was spread through infected mosquitos. Texas was generally always considered a location to watch for the spread of locally transmitted Zika because in the past, the state has seen mosquitos carrying dengue fever and chikungunya virus.
The Texas Department of State Health Services first started recommended testing for Zika in the Rio Grande Valley back in October, and the area saw its first local case at the end of November. Since this first confirmation, the state has seen several more locally transmitted cases in Cameron County—currently state and local health departments are investigating five cases.
Texas DSHS recommends that pregnant women who have traveled to Brownsville, the town which has seen the Zika cases, since Oct. 29 be tested for Zika. Those pregnant women who visit Brownsville on a regular basis should be tested for Zika in both their first and second trimesters.
To read more about Zika in Texas, please visit the Texas DSHS’ press page.
On December 13, 2016, President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill passed both the US Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan support.
This law will provide $4.8 billion in funding for the NIH to fund research projects dealing with transforming cancer treatments, brain disorders, and precision medicine. Additionally, there are provisions that should help increase access to mental health care in a variety of ways.
The law also funds $1 billion for state grants to help the growing problem of opioid addiction. However, this law doesn’t just affect funding. It has provisions that create a new U.S. Research Policy Board that will hopefully help ease the regulatory burden of academic research, ease medical device regulation, and create faster paths to drug approval. In a law that spans almost 1,000 pages, it will be several years, possibly decades, before all the effects can be seen.
For more information, please see 21st Century Cures Act — A View from the NIH in The New England Journal of Medicine.
–Written by Bethany Livingston, Research Administrator, NN/LM SCR
UT Southwestern Medical Center announced recently the results of research they had been undertaking in regards to the effects fasting had on cancer. Interestingly enough, fasting helped prevent the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Research was conducted on mice who underwent six cycles of one day of fasting and one day of eating. These mice were compared to other mice who ate normally. The research showed that after seven weeks of this the cancer was completely inhibited—there was a dramatic reduction in the number of cancerous cells in blood marrow and the spleen and a reduced number of white blood cells.
Since the study was conducted without any sort of drug, researchers are investigating if they could quickly begin conducting human clinical trials.
This fasting method did not see the same results for acute myeloid leukemia, the cancer that is most often found in adults.
To read more about the research, please visit “Fasting kills cancer cells of most common type of childhood leukemia.”
New Mexico’s McKinley County recently announced it has confirmed two more cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. They are the seventh and eight cases of hantavirus confirmed in New Mexico this year. The 59-year-old man and 29-year-old woman diagnosed have been hospitalized.
Hantavirus is a disease carried by rodents and can be transmitted to humans through saliva, urine or droppings. People will often inhale the virus when cleaning up rodent droppings and nesting materials. In New Mexico, the primary culprit of hantavirus is the deer mouse, which carries the Sin Nombe virus, the hantavirus strain found in New Mexico.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, severe muscle aches and fatigue. Several days after contracting the virus, symptoms will also include headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.
To prevent contracting the virus, keep mice and rats out of your home. Deer mice in particular can get through a hole that is the size of a dime, so check to make sure your home is secure. If you notice mouse or rat droppings, clean them up properly—don’t just sweep them up and risk inhaling them. Please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Facts About Hantavirus” for specific instructions regarding this.
While it is possible for people with hantavirus to recover, four of the previous six people who contracted hantavirus this year in New Mexico died—it is a serious disease.
For more information about hantavirus in New Mexico, please visit the New Mexico Department of Health.
For more general information regarding hantavirus, please visit the CDC’s website.
Looking for a healthy pastime to get through the winter months? Why not try… curling up with a good book!
A recent study published in the September issue of the journal of Social Science and Medicine found a correlation between book reading and longevity. The research team behind the study, based at the Yale University School of Public Health, looked at the reading habits of a group of 3,635 adults over the age of 50 and tracked their survival rate over a 12 year period.
The team observed a 20% reduction in mortality for those who read books compared to those who didn’t, as well as an advantage for reading books of any level over other types of reading material such as newspapers and magazines. The authors suggest that reading just 30 minutes per day, or about a chapter a day, can have a positive impact on your lifespan regardless of your gender, health, education or economic status.
As to why reading helps extend readers’ lives, the study points to two cognitive processes involved in reading books. The first is cognitive engagement as the reader makes connections within the book and to the outside world and formulates questions about the content. Books also promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. Both of these processes can lead to better health behaviors and reduced stress.
For more information, see the study abstract available from ScienceDirect.
–Written by Sarah Miles, Health Professions Coordinator, NN/LM SCR
Stay Healthy This Holiday Season by Remaining Active at Holiday Outings!
With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us may be dreaming of family gatherings with big family dinners to follow. And while it’s always nice to indulge every once in a while, you should also remember to remain physically active—even during the holidays!
Remaining active doesn’t have to mean leaving your loved ones to head to the gym though, there are many festive activities that will keep you in the holiday spirit, surrounded by family while still being active.
One event is the River of Lights—Holiday Light Show at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden in Albuquerque, the largest walk-through holiday production in New Mexico! It is open from 6 to 9:30 p.m. through Dec. 23, and then again from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. This year is the 20th Annual River of Lights and features new sculptures, and a new light show set to a variety of classic and contemporary holiday music favorites.
Walking daily has many benefits. Just like any aerobic activity, it reduces your risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and depression. Additionally, walking an hour per day can lower your risk of some types of cancer! Perhaps even after the holidays you’ll consider a daily walk as part of your exercise routine!
For more tips on how to stay active and healthy during the holiday season, please see 12 Ways to Have a Health Holiday Season from the CDC.
To learn more about the River of Lights, please visit the City of Albuquerque’s website.
–Written by Sara Goodwin, NN/LM SCR
Colder temperatures are on the way if they’re not already upon you! With that in mind, the Oklahoma State Department of Health would like to remind everyone to be safe and keep warm this winter. Additionally, take proper precautions and ensure your family is prepared in the event of a major winter weather event.
For adults 65 and older and for babies, it’s very important to monitor the temperature of a house. Infants lose body heat more easily than adults and can’t produce body heat, and older adults produce less body heat.
Also, use caution when heating your home with a woodstove, fireplace or space heater—install a carbon monoxide detector to know if your house has reached dangerous carbon monoxide levels.
OSDH has also created a “Dressing for Cold Weather” infographic to help individuals know what to wear outside at what temperatures.
To read more tips for preparing for the cold weather, please visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website.
Research on smoking is finding that it’s never too late for a person to quit. Even if it’s at 60 years old, you can gain years back on your life.
It’s a long-known fact that cigarettes and smoking are harmful to a person’s health—it causes more than 480,000 deaths in Americans per year, nearly 1 in 5 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Besides just adding years to your life, quitting smoking also reduces a person’s heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
The research studied data collected on 160,000 men and women, in which they completed a survey about their smoking habit between 2004 and 2005 and the deaths of the participants were tracked until the end of 2011. While the study did find that participants were more likely to die earlier if they quit later in life, the data also pointed out those who quit smoking at any time fared better than those who were still current smokers when they died.
“…The study also makes the point that I try to tell my patients, some of whom believe it and some of whom don’t, that smoking cessation is good for you even late in life. If you stop, you will live longer than if you don’t stop,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, senior medical consultant to the American Lung Association in a MedlinePlus article.
To read more about the study, please visit “It’s Never Too Late to Stop Smoking.”
To read more about the dangers of smoking, please visit the CDC’s website.
Brandy Klug is the Web Services Librarian at Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, TX. She currently manages the library’s web and social media presence and is very passionate about web development and design, usability testing, and social media strategy. Since May 1st, Brandy has also had the opportunity to provide interim web and social media support for the NN/LM South Central Region.
In addition to web services, Brandy has worked in a variety of other areas over the last 15 years including acquisitions, serials, cataloging, reference, and electronic resources. She received her MLS from Texas Woman’s University and her M.S.Ed. from University of Nebraska – Kearney.
Contact Brandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than a year ago, Texas lawmakers ordered the state to cut the amount of money for therapists who work with children with disabilities. After the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit against the cuts, they are finally taking effect.
The cuts are significant—taking away $350 million in Medicaid reimbursement—and they impact some of the most vulnerable. These Texas children often are born premature, or with down syndrome, or with some other genetic disorder that delays them developmentally. And even as these providers lost money, they still served the children. Now many of these providers are closing their doors.
A story on NPR shares some of the real stories of kids in Texas who have disabilities, how the service providers have helped them, and what will happen if they don’t have access to services.
To read the NPR article and learn more about the Texas Medicaid cuts, please visit “Cuts in Texas Medicaid Hit Rural Kids With Disabilities Especially Hard.”
The Joint Commission has released its 2016 annual report on America’s hospitals. The report contains data contributed by more than 3,300 hospitals nationwide. Extensive changes were made to the metrics collected in past years. Several measures previously included were dropped from the data collection process because hospital performance was consistently high and considered to no longer represent a useful quality metric. The new process now gives organizations a choice in determining which measures to report. Additionally, eCQM (electronic clinical quality measures) are now reported.
Examples of the national performance summary data presented include measures of rates of tobacco screening, influenza immunization, stroke education, percent of stroke patients discharged on statin medications and more.
While the annual report synthesizes data collected from hospitals nationwide, granular data reflecting the quality and safety results for individual hospitals may be found on The Joint Commission Quality Check website.
See Annual Report – Improving America’s Hospitals to learn more about the data collection process and view the results of the report.
Citation: America’s Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety – The Joint Commission’s Annual Report 2016
–Written by Lisa Smith, NN/LM SCR