Teens and Prescription Drug Use: Do You Know When to Intervene?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412Natalie W.* was a beautiful, vivacious 12 year old. Yes, this is a true story and yes, she was 12 – not as uncommon as you might think.  Her energy and kindness were contagious. In spite of her parents’ divorce 3 years earlier, she seemed happy during her weekend visits to her father’s house. She nurtured a kitten she found in the street and enjoyed playing with her baby brother, her half-brother from her mother’s remarriage. There were no signs that Natalie would be difficult for her parents, until the day that she didn’t come home after school and was brought to the door late that night by a police officer, intoxicated and aggressive. The first time it was pot, the second time alcohol, and when she was finally arrested, it was hydrocodone.

Natalie’s father didn’t know how to handle her. He tried to stop her from sneaking out by putting bars on her windows. Although he considered it, he couldn’t bring himself to send her to a detoxification boot camp. Unfortunately, the state took over and Natalie ended up in prison with DWI and illegal drug possession convictions. Now 22, Natalie lives with her boyfriend and her baby daughter in a trailer. She suffers from bipolar disorder and can’t hold a job. Medications that she takes to control her anxiety and depression have caused her to gain 100 pounds which doesn’t sit well on her petite 5’1” frame. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Meet Disruptive Woman to Watch: Carolyn Clancy, MD

clancyWhen the Obama Administration sought top-quality healthcare leaders to assume prominent roles of responsibility in the beleaguered Veterans Administration, it came as no surprise to anyone that Carolyn Clancy, M.D. was one of those tapped to move to the VA.

After a decade as head of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (and we’ll get back to how profoundly she reshaped that organization), this Disruptive Woman to Watch was named VA Interim Undersecretary for Health and then Assistant Deputy Undersecretary for Health before moving into her current role as the Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

It didn’t take long for her to make an impact on the healthcare our nation provides to its military veterans.  Here’s one example.  Under the previous VA administration, it was reported that certain medical facilities got the nickname “Candy Land” because of their propensity for handing out painkilling medications.  In fact, a report noted that opiate prescriptions had more than quintupled over an eight-year period even as the number of patients declined. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

How Many More Annas Must Die?

anna gunnIt’s been over a year since my older sister Anna died, so I choke up less readily while speaking about it.  The raw anger is less, but the frustration of losing someone to a preventable medical mistake will always remain with me.   Anna was five years older than me, my only sister, and the one I often turned to for advice. We were close despite living 600+ miles apart.  She was smart and insightful; she was at ease in most social situations. I, on the other hand, was the nerdy kid sister who loved science, who became a physician in my early 40’s.

In 2012, Anna’s world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with bone marrow failure (myelodysplastic syndrome) at 58.  This disease stemmed from her previous treatment for breast cancer. At the time of diagnosis, everything else in her life seemed to be going well.  She loved being a (single) mom; she had a wonderful job; and they had just adopted an adorable Lab. She actually felt great. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

The Flu Shot: It’s Not Just for Kids

swhr_icon-2-solidThe following post first ran on Huffington Post Healthy Living on September 23 and can be accessed here. The author is Liliana Losada Brown, PhD, Associate Director, Scientific Programs at the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Think back to the last time you got a shot. Did the doctor cover the wound with a cartoon character-printed bandage and treat you to a lollipop? If so, you are way overdue for a flu shot — but that’s OK, we all are! Adults, children, pregnant women — everyone! –older than six months should get a flu shot every year.

We all know the flu: the serious, contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects nearly 20 percent of Americans every year. Do you want to be among those that don’t get the flu? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that every person over the age of six months, especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, get the influenza vaccine (“flu shot”) every year. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

American Hospitals Need to Stop Offering Fast Food, Quick!

heather farthingBan on Hospital Smoking: A Model

In the 1950′s the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published what was, at the time, an incredibly surprising finding: smoking is detrimental to health1. By 1964, the Surgeon General had publically acknowledged the linkage between smoking and cancer and, by the seventies, the smoking-cancer relationship was standard curricula in U.S. medical schools 2. Despite both medical and public awareness, however, hospital policy lagged behind the science; most healthcare centers had little to no official regulation regarding smoking in their facilities2. Reducing Smoking in Hospitals. A time for Action, published in a 1985 issue of the JAMA, declared a forceful criticism of this oversight:

Six years later, the Joint Commission: Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) ordered that all American hospitals be smoke free by the end of 19934. Today, American hospitals are plagued by a bad case of déjà vu. This time the paradox is not the presence of the cigarette at the bedside, but rather the burgers, the fries, and the soft drinks.

What’s Wrong With Fast Food? (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Take Your Healthy Lifestyle with You on Vacation

The following post originally ran on the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s blog on June 2nd. It can be seen here.

June kicks off the summer vacation season and who isn’t ready for a little rest and relaxation? While enjoying your getaway, don’t forget to keep your health in mind. Making healthy lifestyle part of your everyday routine is necessary in cancer prevention. Sun safety, healthy eating and exercise are important steps we sometimes forget while vacationing. Start your summer off right with these simple tips to continue to stay on track during your time off.

1. Active Activities
Keep your family active while on vacation and get moving for at least 30 minutes a day. Explore your new surroundings by walking or renting bikes to see all the sights. Research popular activities at your destination like hiking, surfing or paddleboarding. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

When Size Affects Your Odds

durkin_helenOncologists are on board in the fight against obesity. And they’ve made it official by issuing their first-ever Position Statement on Obesity and Cancer through the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

That’s especially great news for women—who are twice as likely as men to be affected by the nearly half a million new cases of obesity-related cancers worldwide each year. Not surprisingly, the greatest proportion of them are in North America. (http://ow.ly/FacZg http://ow.ly/Fadcm)

Despite the fact that more American men than women are overweight or obese, U.S. women are disproportionately affected by the obesity-cancer link. Obesity not only puts a woman at greater risk of cancer—especially post-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and colon cancer—but it worsens her odds for surviving it as well. (http://ow.ly/FacZg http://ow.ly/Fadcm http://ow.ly/H8C3C) (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Trend-weaving the 2015 health care trends

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

‘Tis the season for annual health trendcasting, which is part of my own business model. Here’s a curated list of some of my favorite trend reports for health care in the new year, with my Hot Points in the conclusion, below, summarizing the most salient trends among them.

TechCrunch’s Top 5 Healthcare Predictions for 2015: In this succinct forecast, Walmart grows its presence as a health plan, startups get more pharm-funding, hospitals channel peer-to-peer lending, Latinos emerge as a “most-desired” health care segment, and Amazon disrupts the medical supply chain.

Experian 2015 Data Breach Forecast: Healthcare security breaches will be a persistent and growing threat in 2015, with “the expanding number of access points to Protected Health Information (PHI) and other sensitive data via electronic medical records and the growing popularity of wearable technology,” based on this credit/risk management company’s assessment. The value of medical identity threat is very high. As a result, the FBI warned the health care industry that their security systems were insufficient compared with other industry sectors, according to Reuters. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

It’s Holiday Party Time: Are You and Your Guests Safe?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412This month many of us will enjoy festive holiday parties.  Maybe you will be the one hosting the party.   You’ve probably got an image in your head about what the party looks like, who is there and what you will serve.  Perhaps champagne toasts or eggnog will be involved.  Maybe you know that some of your guests will even share a couple of joints. Have you thought about how people will get home safely after your party?  In addition to all of the holiday events in December, there will also be nearly 30 deaths due to alcohol or drug related car crashes every day.

While you may not be the one driving home from your party impaired by alcohol or drugs, your gathering could become one of the statistics and, unintentionally, part of the problem.  News and coverage about alcohol related or drug related accidents focus, rightly, on the victims whose lives are irrevocably changed and the loss their family members suffer.  But how would you feel if you were in any way responsible for a death or severe injury?  What if you were the one driving the car home from someone else’s party?  Would you be able to forgive yourself?  I don’t think I would.  Unfortunately, the victims probably wouldn’t be able to forgive you either. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Addiction and the Different Types of the Treatment Programs

ECalhounHeadshot 2October may have officially been named Substance Abuse Prevention month, but addiction treatment is an ongoing battle that lasts throughout the entire year. Recognizing the signs of addiction and knowing where and when to get help are vital tools that everyone should keep in their arsenal. Unfortunately, few people recognize the signs of addiction or know where to get help, which in turn can prolong the amount of time an addict may go without addressing such a serious problem.

So how does one define addiction? Addiction is the inability to resist something that makes an individual feel positively or helps an individual forget stressors and depression. People can be addicted to a multitude of things; some of it is alcohol or drug related, some addictions are action based (such as gambling or controlling body image), and others have addictions to food. Addiction is a very personal problem, and no two individuals have the same story. (more…)

Subscribe to our newsletter

  • December 1st, 2014 Shining a Light on the Social Nature of Health Behavior
    By Glenna Crooks
  • November 3rd, 2014 Change for CDC? Change for CDC!
    By Glenna Crooks
  • Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse: Are You Doing Your Part?

    Terri Prof Headshot 0412Do you know what your teen is up to when you’re not looking?  What about your spouse, your parents and your friends?  Hopefully they aren’t rummaging through your medicine cabinet to find something they can take to get high. Many of us would never think to use a prescription drug for something other than its intended purpose, or to take something that wasn’t prescribed for us and absolutely necessary.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people who not only consider this, but act on the impulse to misuse and abuse prescription drugs.  Sometimes they work the system and see a doctor, or multiple doctors, and get the prescription for themselves, but often, they are looking through your medicine cabinet when you’re in the other room, getting them for free from friends or buying them online or from dealers.

    Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem; according to the Centers for Disease Control it is an epidemic.  Just like any addiction, it can ultimately ruin or even end someone’s life.  (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Vaccine Injury Stories: the Sacred Cows of the Internet?

    When I first started looking into vaccines, I had no idea that an anti-vaccine movement even existed. I came across claims that the vaccines were toxic and dangerous; the diseases, it was claimed, were not. I have some background in science, so I was able to dismiss those claims as inaccurate, but I couldn’t help but be drawn in by tragic, angry and deeply personal stories from parents who claimed their children were harmed by vaccines.

    I dared not question them, but I still couldn’t understand…

    If vaccine injuries were occurring on a scale like this, why wasn’t anybody doing anything about  it?  And why wasn’t the media reporting on them?

    I wanted to know more about these vaccine injury stories but worried it would be insensitive to probe or question their accuracy. I could hurt their feelings or worse, insult their child’s memory. After all, while I (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter

    Iowa Accountability Program’s Judicial Training Institute Aims at Improving the Handling of Domestic Violence Cases

    iapDomestic violence is an epidemic that impacts an estimated 6,000 Iowans each year. While many view domestic violence as a private issue, Kimberly Baxter, Director of the Iowa Accountability Program, identifies how domestic violence is truly a community concern: “Domestic violence affects everyone from service providers to families and the community at large. We need to address domestic violence as a community. Brutality behind closed doors is not only real, but also taboo. It is not something we want to discuss, but if we cannot discuss it, how can we address it? How can we mitigate it?” For nearly ten years the Iowa Accountability Program (IAP) has worked to assist victims of domestic violence and the communities in Iowa that support them. This year, the IAP aims to strengthen its impact through its new Judicial Training Institute. (more…)

    Subscribe to our newsletter