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SCR Regional Highlight: Texas Colonias See Increased Health Problems

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:

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January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Untitled by Liam Welch is licensed under CC0.

close up of eyeDid you know more than 3 million people in the U.S. are affected by glaucoma? Do you know what glaucoma is?

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.

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Tracking Fitness and Change

“Heart Rate Monitoring Device” by pearlsband is licensed under CC0.

fitnessbandsAccording 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:

  1. Contemplation – thinking about making a change
  2. Preparation – planning and goal setting
  3. Action – making actual adjustments or changes
  4. 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!

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Tuberculosis Diagnoses Increase for First Time in 23 Years

“Photo” by WikiImages is licensed under CC0.

syringe

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.

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Curbing Overdose Deaths is a Priority for New Mexico

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Pills

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.

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Locating the preferred imaging modality

National Guideline Clearinghouse Logo

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.

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–Written by Lisa Smith, Executive Director, NN/LM SCR

 

Have You Gotten Your Flu Shot Yet?

“Photo” by frolicsomepl is licensed under CC0.

Needle

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.

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Start the New Year Right with Healthy Eating

“Photo” by Kaboompics is licensed under CC0.

Salad

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!

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Written by Sarah Miles, Health Professions Coordinator, NN/LM SCR

The Libraries of the Future – Strategic Planning

Books

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.

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–Written by Bethany Livingston, Research Administrator, NN/LM SCR

 

Combatting Zika in Texas

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Hospital Bed

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.

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