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Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

SCR Regional Highlight: Texas Colonias See Increased Health Problems

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

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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Tuberculosis Diagnoses Increase for First Time in 23 Years

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

“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

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

“Photo” by JeongGuHyeok is licensed under CC0.

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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Have You Gotten Your Flu Shot Yet?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

“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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Combatting Zika in Texas

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

“Photo” by SilasCamargo is licensed under CC0.

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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21st Century Cures Act

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

“Stethoscope” by
Rohvannyn is licensed under CC0.

Stethoscope

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

New Mexico Sees Two More Cases of Hantavirus

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

“Photo” by My Name is licensed under CC0.

Mouse

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.

 

 

Read Books to Live Longer

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

“hurry up, we’re dreaming!” by
Dennis’ Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
No changes were made to this work.

Girl Reading in Snow

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.

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

Texas Medicaid Cuts Hurts Rural Kids With Disabilities

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Photo by Gabby Orcutt is licensed under CC0.

Child Playing in Field

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.”

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Surgeon General Releases Landmark Report Regarding Addiction in America

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

“Photo” by WebreFabrik is licensed under CC0.

Alcohol Bottles

In a landmark report, the United States Surgeon General issued a report on alcohol, drugs and health. The report comes at a time when many organizations are calling for action in the U.S.’s opioid epidemic.

“With this report, I’m calling our country to action around one of the most underrecognized and underaddressed public health issues of our time,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, MD, told Medscape reporters in a conference call.

The report, more than 400 pages long, shares key findings broken into five categories:

·       The Neurobiology of Substance Use, Misuse and Addiction
·       Prevention Programs and Policies
·       Early Intervention, Treatment, and Management of Substance Use Disorders
·       Recovery: The Many Paths to Wellness
·       Health Care Systems and Substance Use Disorders

Some of these key findings are that addiction is a chronic brain disease that has potential for recurrence and recovery, communities and populations have different risk levels for addiction, and laws targeting the alcohol-impaired have significantly decreased alcohol-related traffic deaths.

For more information, see Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health..

To read the report’s key findings, please visit the Surgeon General’s website.

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