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August 31, 2011

Danica Patrick raises awareness of COPD ahead of Baltimore Grand Prix race

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, or COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, are the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to government data. It’s caused by smoking, secondhand smoke, chemicals and air pollutants. But many people don’t know they have it, according to Danica Patrick, the race car driver who has become a spokeswoman for DRIVE4COPD, a campaign aiming to raise awareness of the diseases. Ahead of her trip to Baltimore for the IndyCar Grand Prix races this weekend, she talked about her public health work.

Question: Why did you get involved with DRIVE4COPD?

Answer: My grandma had emphysema and she really suffered and died far too young at 61 years old. When the awareness campaign came along, it was a chance to turn a negative into a positive.

Q: Can you talk about COPD, how widespread it is and what people need to know?

A: Awareness is the goal. COPD kills more people than breast cancer and diabetes combined. Twenty four million people have it and only half know. There’s a definite need for awareness of the diseases and symptoms. At the DRIVE4COPD website,, they make it pretty easy with five questions that give you an idea if you’re at risk.

Q: Air quality is important for people with these breathing problems, do you think about what we can do as a society to improve the situation?

A: Coming from a race car driver that’s tough. There are simple things, like not exercising or going out on busy streets, staying inside when there is smog. But many people don’t have this luxury. They can’t avoid going outside or moving from cities to less polluted areas.

Q: IndyCar has switched to 100 ethanol in its cars and taken other steps to be more green, right?

A: It’s what the world is doing — going green. We’re not only becoming more aware of our health, but we’re taking care of the world, trying to make it a little bit better too. Putting ethanol in the cars is one step.

Q: You’re switching from IndyCar to NASCAR. What’s NASCAR doing?

A: They’re taking steps too. They run on 85 percent ethanol now.

Q: What do we in Baltimore have to look forward to with the Grand Prix and urban car racing?

A: It’s something I’m very used to. We race on a lot of streets of a lot of cities. You don’t have to travel, you’re right there. It’s a great atmosphere. There’s a lot of energy. Any time IndyCar goes into a new venue, there tends to be a great turnout. There’s lots of entertainment. We do apologize for the road closings.

Q: Will you be racing in the special green race, where they try and save fuel?

A: I won’t be in that race. I might try and maximize my miles per gallon, but that will just be part of my strategy.

Q: Do you think racing and COPD aren’t so complimentary because of the air quality issues?

A: The important thing is health. My parents emphasized good health from a young age. Without health we have nothing.

Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images

Posted by Kim Walker at 4:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: General Health

Irene serves as a reminder about carbon monoxide poisoning

Health officials say they are seeing an uptick in people being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning after Hurricane Irene.

Massive power outages have caused people to use generators to provide electricity to their homes. But these generators aren't alway being used properly.

There were 13 reported cases of possible carbon monoxide poisoning from August 28 through 30, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. An Ellicott City man died this week from carbon monoxide poisoning after the use of a generator.

Health officials are reminding people to place generators outside and away from open windows, carports, garages, and other enclosed spaces. It is also important to have a working carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide gas is made when fuels burn improperly or the exhaust is not vented outdoors, according to state health officials.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu and include:

• Headache

• Fatigue

• Shortness of breath

• Nausea

• Dizziness

Here are tips for using a generator:

• Never use a generator in garages, basements, crawl spaces and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas.

• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your generator.

• Install battery-operated or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup in your home.

• For maximum effectiveness during sleeping hours, CO alarms should be placed close to sleeping areas. Additional alarms on every level and in every bedroom of a home can provide extra protection.

• If your CO alarm goes off or you begin to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator immediately get outside and call 911.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: General Health

Panel calls for system to compensate human subjects

Am international panel of ethicists and scientists has recommended the government set up a system to compensate people who suffer research-related harm.

The recommendation by the International Research Panel to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is one of five aimed at improving current federal rules and standards for human subjects. It’s only advisory, but could find it’s way into a report to President Obama later this year, according to, the commission’s blog.

That could have significant implications in this region, where there are plenty of human trials going on.

Unlike other countries, there’s not now such a U.S. system for compensation, and people are generally left to sue. The panel cited the U.S. National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is the alternative system to the regular courts for those injured by vaccines.

Other recommendations include ramping up community engagement as a means of demonstrating respect for human subjects in all stages of trials; supporting ethics training for investigators and other involved; enhancing transparency and monitoring ongoing research to hold researchers and institutions responsible and accountable; and ensuring rules are clear, sound and efficient to promote quality.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Medical studies

August 30, 2011

UM cancer center gets federal recognition

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center has won renewal of its National Cancer Institute designation for five years, along with $7.6 million in new federal funding for cancer research.

The NCI bestows this special designation on the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of their scientific excellence and outstanding patient care.

The Greenebaum Cancer Center was first named an NCI-designated center in 2008. The NCI renewed the designation following a review process, which included a 1,100-page grant proposal and site visit earlier this year by a team of two dozen NCI-appointed scientists.

“We’re enormously pleased that the National Cancer Institute has renewed our designation...that will help us significantly expand our clinical and basic science research programs,” Kevin J. Cullen, the cancer center’s director and professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Achieving this designation for a second time not only reflects the hard work of our scientists, physicians and staff, but also underscores our cancer center’s reputation as a national leader in cancer research.”

Since the cancer center first received NCI designation, its total research funding has increased 55 percent, to a current level of $74.2 million. The staff has expanded as well, employing 215 scientists and physicians, all of whom are on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and three University of Maryland professional schools in Baltimore as well as two other campuses in Catonsville and College Park.

Key areas of research at the cancer center include cancer health disparities; cancer vaccines and tumor immunology; resistance of certain cancers to chemotherapy; HIV-related cancers; development of new cancer drugs and treatments; and the genetics of cancer – the role that certain genes play in how the disease develops.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:48 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cancer

August 29, 2011

Cooling centers open today for those who lost power

For those who lost power during the hurricane, Baltimore City has opened 10 emergency cooling centers. They'll have cool air and free water.

The Community Action Program will operate four centers around the city, open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.:

+Northern Community Action Center at 5225 York Road

+Southern Community Action Center at 606 Cherry Hill Road (inside the shopping center 2nd floor)

+Southeastern Community Action Center at 3411 Bank St.

+Eastern Community Action Center at 1400 E. Federal St.

The Health Department’s Office of Aging and CARE Services will operate six additional cooling centers, open from 9 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.:

+Waxter Center at 1000 Cathedral St.

+Oliver Center at 1700 Gay St. +Sandtown-Winchester Center at 1601 Baker St.

+Hatton Center at 2825 Fait Ave.

+John Booth at 229 1/2 S. Eaton St.

+Zeta Center at 4501 Reisterstown Road

“We encourage those without power, especially our seniors and those with underlying chronic conditions, to seek relief from the mildly warm temperatures we expect in Baltimore today,” said Deputy Commissioner of Health Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, in a statement.

In general, the Baltimore City Health Department recommends people drink extra water or juice, avoid alcohol and caffeine, wipe skin with cool water as needed, minimize outside activities, wear light-weight and light-colored clothing, stay inside from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., stay in air-conditioning, check on older, sick, or frail neighbors, don't leave children or pets in closed vehicles at all and watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke such as confusion and nausea.

Call 311 for help with neighbors or for information about cooling centers, and call 911 for emergencies. Go to  for more information.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Safety

Post hurricane blues? It's normal but ask for help


State and local health officials are offering some tips to people who may feel stressed or anxious because of the impending hurricane.

They say surviving a disaster can make people feel dazed or numb or sad or helpful or anxious. Some people have bad dreams or have trouble sleeping or focusing. Tempers can flare. All of this is normal.

The officials say the feelings may come right away or not come until the crisis is over, and it will take time to feel better.

Here are some steps:

+Follow a normal routine to the extent you can. Don’t skip meals or overeat. Exercise and stay busy, even volunteer in the community. Also, accept help from family and friends.

+Talk about your feeling with family, friends or clergy. Don’t dwell on the tragedy by listening or reading about it too much.

+Ask for help if you can’t take care of your children or are not able to work, are using alcohol or drugs to escape or feel sad or depressed more than two weeks or think about suicide.

+Refer people having trouble coping to a counselor, doctor or community organization. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Jed Kirschbaum

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Mental health

August 26, 2011

More on food safety, kits and CO during Irene


Here is some more information from officials at the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for before and after the hurricane.

--On carbon monoxide: This is generated by gas-powered appliances such as generators and charcoal and gas grills. It’s invisible, odorless, tasteless and highly poisonous.

Signs of trouble include fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, impaired vision and loss of consciousness.
Officials recommend not using the appliances inside the home or close to windows outside. Sparks may also cause fires.

--On emergency kits: When you get a kit together make sure to include all regularly taken prescription medications and first aid items. Officials point to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for advice on packing the rest of the kit:

+one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
+at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
+battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
+flashlight and extra batteries
+first aid kit
+whistle to signal for help
+dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
+moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
+wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
+can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
+local maps
+cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

--For after the storm: If the electricity goes out, remember food is likely to spoil, according to the state Office of Food Protection and Consumer Services.

Perishable foods from the refrigerator and freezer that climb above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours should be discarded. That’s all meat, milk, yogurt, eggs, mayonnaise and dressings, pastas and deserts.

Food that keeps for a limited time without refrigeration includes hard process cheeses (cheddar, Swiss, provolone, Romano and Parmesan), butter and margarine, opened canned fruits and fruit juices, peanut butter, jellies, jams, mustard and vinegar based dressings, rolls, muffins, bagels, waffles, and herbs, spices and raw vegetables.

It is okay to refreeze food that still contain ice crystals and feels cold and hard to the touch.
Toss anything that comes in contact with floodwaters including canned goods. Give a good washing to utensils, pots, plates and other items with hot soapy water and sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water for 15 minutes.

Spoiled good should be double bagged in plastic, tied and put in animal proof cans.

A well functioning freezer half full will usually stay cold enough for food for 24 hours. Fully stocked and unopened, the freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours. If in doubt, throw it out.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Safety

August 25, 2011

UPDATE: Hurricane Irene is coming, so be prepared

The city's Office of Emergency Management is monitoring Hurricane Irene, which could bring heavy rains, flooding and possible power outages across Maryland over the weekend. And city officials are asking residents to be prepared.

They suggest getting a three-day supply of water, a battery operated AM/FM radio and a flashlight. Some non-perishable food and some non-electric entertainment might not be a bad idea to have on hand too.

“As we have learned from previous hurricanes, just because we are not in the eye of the storm does not mean we are free from danger,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in a statement. “High winds, rain, and a storm surge can cause flooding and downed power lines. It is absolutely vital that we prepare for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.”

For the latest updates, go to Frank Roylance's weather blog.

UPDATE: More tips on getting ready are at It suggests gathering prescriptions, glasses, cell phones and chargers, pet food, baby supplies, a first aid kit and other items that could last a week.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Safety

August 24, 2011

Black women's dilemma with their hair and the gym

How many of you black women avoid the gym like the plague because you don't want to mess up your hair?

Or find yourself scheduling your workouts around your hair appointments.

It may be hard for some people of other races to understand, but hair can be a major deterrent to black women and fitness. Most of us just don't have the wash and go hair of other races. We're not going to dare sweat our do out and and have to walk around with our hair looking a mess for the next few days.

Many of my girlfriends have traded their long tresses for short natural looks or Afros rather than deal with the hair drama that comes with working out.

But Surgeon General Regina Benjamin says black women don't have to sacrifice nice looking hair for fitness. She told a crowd at a hair show last weekend that hair shouldn't be an excuse for working out.

And she pointed out that she can speak from experience. Michelle Obama and her diesel arms also doesn't let her hair stop her from staying fit.

Check out this CNN interview where Benjamin gives tips to black women about working out.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:59 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Diet and exercise

Healthy Recipes: Mango Black Bean Salsa

This week's healthy recipe comes from my colleague Liz Kay.

Liz says: "This is my favorite recipe for potlucks, because it can sit out during the party without serious food-safety issues (no meat or mayo that will go bad) and it's also pretty and tasty, so people gobble it up. And it keeps for days in the fridge."

Mango and Black Bean Salsa Salad

Adapted from "Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook" by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge


1 ripe mango, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced (or orange)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can yellow corn, drained


1/3 cup pineapple juice

juice of two limes

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 minced green chile pepper (optional) salt and pepper to taste


Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Chill and serve with tortilla or fried plantain chips. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to five days. Serves about 4-5.

Send your favorite recipes to or and we will post it on the blog.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Healthy Recipes

August 23, 2011

St. Joseph gets funds for breast cancer outreach

The Cancer Institute at St. Joseph Medical Center was awarded a $50,000 matching grant by the American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division to support an outreach program for breast health literacy.

The funds, matched by the medical center, will target uninsured and underinsured African American and Latina women in Baltimore County and Baltimore City. The 18-month program, called One Voice, aims to educate the women about breast health and routine screening. These women have a 38 percent higher rate of death nationally than white women.

“We are very excited about this project and this opportunity to have a positive impact on earlier detection and survival for underserved women at risk for breast cancer,” said Dr. Michael Schultz, medical director of St. Joseph‘s Breast Center, in a statement. “One Voice continues and expands our tradition at the St. Joseph Breast Center, which has always included outreach to underserved and at-risk minority populations in our community.”

Specifically, the program will implement 12 culturally appropriate programs to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of routine screening, provide free mammograms for up to 135 women and provide patient navigation services to women with breast cancer who are treated at St. Joseph.

St. Joseph will work with Sisters Network Inc., an African American breast cancer survivorship organization, and Nueva Vida, a support group of Latinas with cancer and their families.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Cancer

Here are some safety tips for those backpacks


It’s back to school time, and Chris Wood, a physical therapist at Good Samaritan Hospital, has some tips for backpack safety.

“Backpacks – when used correctly – are better than shoulder bags or purses because the back and stomach muscles support the weight which allows for even distribution across the child’s body,” he said in a statement. “If used incorrectly, however, backpacks can cause students to have numbness, tingling and pain.”

Here are the tips, which he says also come recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

+Make sure the backpack is no more than 15 percent of the student’s body weight. If the students has to lean forward to carry the load, it’s too heavy.

+The backpack should be place evenly over the shoulder blades, and not slung over one shoulder.

+Ensure the pack has loose straps because those that are too tight can interfere with circulation and nerves.

+Look for a pack that is made of lightweight fabric such as canvas, and not leather.

+Other good features to look for include multiple compartments and a waist belt for even distribution and a padded back.

Perhaps the nurses at Franklin Square Hospital will pass this information along with the backpacks and school supplies it plans to pass onto 565 students at Hawthorne Elementary School this Thursday. It’s an annual event to provide the packs. The nurses have provided packs to other schools in past years.

Are there others passing out packs for kids?

Patuxent Publishing photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Healthy Living

August 22, 2011

Health officials warn of case of measles on Amtrak

State health officials are warning passengers who rode Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train #171 on Aug. 17 that they may have been exposed to a person with measles.

The passenger boarded the train in Philadelphia and went onto Aberdeen, Baltimore, BWI Airport and new Carrollton, ending in Lynchburg, Va., at 8:36 p.m.

Passengers should look for signs of the viral infection, which is spread through coughing, sneezing and contact with secretions from the nose and mouth of an infected person. The first stage brings fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough. Then, on the third to seventh day, a rash will appear on the face and spread.

If you were exposed and show symptoms, call your doctor for instructions. Measles is contagious.

There have been no cases among Maryland residents since 2009, though a non-Maryland residents who had traveled to the state was diagnosed in June 2011.

For more information, go to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's website.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: News roundup

August 21, 2011

Doctors look for best ways to treat chronic wounds

The Johns Hopkins Evidence-based Practice Center won a $475,000 grant to conduct a study to determine the best care for chronic wounds.

The wounds are a growing problem as the population ages and obesity and diabetes become more prevelant. An estimated $25 billion is spent annually on care in the United States and more than six million pople have such wounds, that can be painful and debilitating. The most common types of wounds and skin ulcers are related to veins that become diseased or abnormal and are often a sign of a greater health problem.

The funds come from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which wanted to know which treatment options were best and should be the standard of care. The study will be conducted by the Johns Hopkins Wound Center and the Hopkins Evidence-based Practice Center.

“The information we gather and present will help countless clinicians and patients to make better, more educated decisions about the best course of treatment to heal wounds,” said Dr. Gerald Lazarus, founder of the Wound Center and professor of dermatology and medicine at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, who will co-lead study.

The researchers will analyze data from existing trials, studies and other research about wound care and determine the value of such treatments as medications, antibiotics, dressings and surgery for healing the wounds.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Medical studies

August 19, 2011

Married people live longer than those who are single

married people live longerLooks like marriage may be good for your lifespan.

Single people die a decade earlier than their married friends, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Yet another reason for singles to feel the pressure to tie the knot. Check out this story about the issue on

Here are excerpts from the article:

The researchers found the risk of death was 32 percent higher across a lifetime for single men compared to married men. Single women face a 23 percent higher mortality risk, compared to married women.

In real numbers, “under the worse-case scenario,” single men could die about eight to 17 years earlier than their married male friends, said the study's lead researcher David Roelfs, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Louisville, Ky., citing that nearly all of the data was gleaned from studies conducted in the last 60 years.

Women don't fare much better. They could die seven to 15 years earlier than their married female counterparts. The researchers speculate their longevity findings could be tied to poorer health benefits, meager public assistance and less income for singles. And some singles may not have the same social support that married couples have “by default,” Roelfs said.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:59 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: General Health

CDC says there are four steps to living longer

Doctors always say that if you don’t smoke, eat well, exercise regularly and limit alcohol you’ll live longer. Now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put an actual statistic behind that advice.

A new study shows that those who engage in all four healthy behaviours were 63 percent less likely to die early, compared to those who did none of those things. Not smoking was the most protective, the CDC said.

“If you want to lead a longer life and feel better, you should adopt healthy behaviors– not smoking, getting regular physical activity, eating healthy, and avoiding excessive alcohol use,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director, said in a statement. The alcohol limited was two drinks a day for men and one for women.

Specifically, those who did all four healthy things were:

+66 percent less likely to die early from cancer,
+65 percent less likely to die early from cardiovascular disease and
+57 percent less likely to die early from other causes.

Researchers looked at data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who were recruited from 1988 to 1994 and followed until 2006. The study, called Low Risk Lifestyle Behaviors and All-Cause Mortality: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III Mortality Study, was published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study showed only a small percentage of U.S. adults has adopted such a healthy lifestyle. But the CDC pointed out that significant progress has been made on smoking.

Baltimore Sun file photo/Amy Davis

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Cardiovascular Health, Consumer health, Healthy Living, geriatrics

August 18, 2011

Rabies found in bats, officials say avoid wild animals

Baltimore City is reporting that there is a increase in rabid bats this summer – through August 12, animal control has captured 183 bats and 12 of them have tested positive for rabies.

In all of 2010, 222 bats were seized and 11 had rabies, according to the Baltimore City Health Department.

Rabies is most commonly found in wild animals including raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats, and the virus is transmitted in the saliva, usually through bites. Those who are bitten, scratched or have contact with animals that may be rabid need to immediately wash the wound and seek medical attention.

“Rabies is preventable when medical care is obtained shortly after exposure. Once clinical symptoms develop, however, rabies is nearly always fatal,” Dr. Oxiris Barbot, commissioner of health, said in a statement.

The last human case of rabies in Maryland was in 1976, though a few people die of rabies every year in the United States. In July, a city resident was treated for exposure after the person sought help for a wounded, feral cat that tested positive for rabies.

Each year around the state a few hundred animals test positive for rabies and up to 900 are vaccinated as a precaution. Earlier this month, for example, some Harford residents were vaccinated after their apartment complex became infested with bats.

City officials recommend wearing gloves when handling an animal that has been in a fight or is bleeding, securing garbage cans with lids to keep wild animals out, sealing openings through which bats or other animals could enter a home or using screens, confining wild animals that do get inside and calling for help, avoiding unfamiliar animals, vaccinating pets and recognizing the signs of rabies including aggressiveness or lethargy and frothing at the mouth.

Associated Press photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 2:32 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Consumer health

State's first case of West Nile virus identified

State health officials said Thursday they have identified the first case of West Nile virus this year.

west nile virusIt was contracted by an adult in the Baltimore metropolitan area, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Most people who come in contact with the disease show no symptoms, but in rare instances it can cause death.

The number of humans with the disease in Maryland has varied widely over the past several years. Seventy-three human cases were reported in the peak year of 2003. Only one confirmed case was identified in 2009 and last year 23 people contracted the disease.

The disease has also recently been detected in mosquitoes and birds in Maryland. Three pools of mosquitoes collected in Montgomery County by the U.S. Department of Defense tested positive for West Nile. A mosquito pool is a group of mosquitoes collected at sites across the state.

Three sick birds from a Montgomery County wildlife center also recently tested positive for the disease.

Symptoms of West Nile include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms generally appear three to 15 days after a mosquito bite.

Less than one percent of persons exposed to the virus will develop more severe infections with symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

People over age 50 and those who are immunocompromised have the highest risk of developing more severe disease.

State officials said people can take precautions to prevent the disease including, avoiding areas of high mosquito infestation and limiting outdoor activities at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Also, wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats when concerned about mosquito exposure and use mosquito repellants according to directions.

Residents should also monitor their own yards and gardens for standing water that can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. As little as one-half inch of water in a discarded can or container will support dozens of mosquitoes.

Sick or injured birds can be reported to local wildlife rehabilitators.


Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:08 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: General Health

Sickle cell disease poses challenges for patients

The Abell Foundation has released a report that chronicles the difficulties of those with sickle cell disease, from history to pain to mistreatment, and concludes that much more needs to be done to improve access to care and to improve the relationship between patients and doctors.

Sickle cell disease is a lethal genetic blood disorder that afflicts mostly poor city black people, making it a big problem in Baltimore. It’s chronic and sometimes so excruciatingly painful that it prevents sufferer from working and going to school, leaving them in constant crisis.

Doctors can prevent and mitigate the symptoms but discrimination and fear often leave sufferers feeling blamed for their disease, the report says. Treatment often involves constant use of opioids, generating negative stereotypes.

“This disease is a prototype example of how social, health, and economic issues combine to create an environment where poor quality of care yields poor health outcomes and death, as well as poor outcomes in other spheres of life,” says Cynda Hylton Rushton, a nurse, expert on compassionate care, and bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, in the report.

The report concludes that doctors, patients, as well as educational and business groups and the general public need to be educated about the disease and existing treatments to overcome discrimination and negative judgment. Better efforts need to be made to keep sufferers in treatment, as well as trials for new treatments.

Government also needs to step up its efforts to support disease resources and research, the report concludes. That includes better and age appropriate care, support programs and outreach.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Health care professionals

Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital gets grant for rehab clinic

Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has received a $12,500 grant to use to buy equipment for its rehabilitation program.

The hospital will use the grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for machines that will help patients with neuro-motor disorders to increase their range of movement.

The award was one of 77 grants worth more than $508,000 awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations which work with people with paralysis, as well as their families and caregivers.

The foundation was founded by the late Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve, known for his role as Superman. Christopher Reeve was paralyzed after a spinal injury from a horse riding accident. He died in 2004.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 17, 2011

Healthy Recipes: Meatballs and Zucchini


We all hate them for so many reasons.

One of the primary reasons is that the food can often be limiting and tasteless.

But we don't have to starve to be healthy. Or act like our taste buds don't exist. Believe it or not there are plenty of dishes that taste good and are good for you too.

Picture of Health is starting a feature where we will post healthy recipes periodically. We'll gather them from cookbooks, magazines, trainers and nutritionists. If you have any you'd like to send in you can email or

The first recipe is one for meatballs and zucchini from Becky Conti, a trainer at Canton Merritt in Baltimore. (For full disclosure Becky was my trainer at one point of time.)

Zucchini and Meatballs

2 lbs. lean ground meat
2 eggs
2/3 cup oatmeal
Italian seasoning
Mix well and shape into meatballs; bake on greased sheet for 30 mins. at 350 degrees.
28 oz. can Tuttoroso (or other brand) crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
Lots of cut-up zucchini
Saute onions, garlic and about a tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil.
 Stir 2 tbsp. of cornstarch (or flour) into beef broth and add to pot. Add tomatoes
and wine and stir to combine. Place cooked meatballs in sauce for at least a half hour.
Add zucchini to sauce and cook till crisp tender.  
 Serve over brown rice.
Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Healthy Recipes

Live chat at noon and pregnancy and pain

Join us noon EST Aug. 17 for a live chat at with Dr. Paul Christo of Johns Hopkins on pregnancy and pain treatment. If you're suffering from a chronic pain condition, the pain doesn't stop while you're pregnant. Should you alter your treatment? If so, how else can you cope with the pain? Dr. Christo will answer your questions and concerns about these issues.

Christo is director of the Multidisciplinary Pain Fellowship Training Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He also has a radio talk show Saturday nights on WBAL.

Can't make the chat? Send questions in advance to and return here to read the transcript.

Posted by Kim Walker at 7:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Women's health

August 16, 2011

Executive director chosen to lead creation of health exchanges

The board responsible for setting up Maryland's open insurance market under health care reform has hired an executive director.

The Board of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange said it has appointed Rebecca Pearce to the job.

Pearce has worked for Kaiser Permanente as a national product director and director of benefit exception administration since 2008. Before that she worked for six years as a product manager and a director of product management at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

The Health Benefit Exchange will operate a competitive marketplace to help consumers and small businesses find affordable insurance options. The marketplace is expected to open in 2014.

The state of Maryland won a $27.7 million grant last week from the Obama administration to set up its health exchange.

Ms. Pearce will start in her new position in mid-September.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 3:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Health care reform

Marbles The Brain Store: exercise for the mind

brainWe do crunches to exercise our abs and lunges to tighten our thighs.

But what about working out our brain?

Studies have shown that exercising the brain can help with memory, analytical skills and other cognitive abilities that decline with age. A new store that opened at The Mall in Columbia last week sets out to help us do just that.

Marbles the Brain Store is located on the first level near Nordstrom. The retailer specializes in games that challenge the brain's visual perception, memory and concentration among other functions, said CEO and founder Lindsay Gaskins.

"By learning new things and challenging your brain in different ways you can create new neurons and new neurological connections," Gaskins said.

One game sold at the store is Quatro. It is much like tic-tac-toe, but you have to get four in a row instead of three. Gaskins said it makes the brain think about the game in a different way.

Marbles also has six stores in Chicago and three in Minnesota. The retailer will open another location at Montgomery Mall next month.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 11:58 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Mental health

Moms try and cope with nagging for unhealthy food

When children see cartoons and other targeted advertising for unhealthy foods they tend to nag their parents for it.

Given the growing obesity epidemic, some researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health decided to examine this “nag factor” and how mothers were coping.

The results, published in the August issue of the Journal of Children and Media, found 64 mothers of children ages 3 to 5 listed three categories of nagging: juvenile nagging, nagging to test boundaries and manipulative nagging.

The mothers cited 10 strategies for dealing with the nagging: giving in, yelling, ignoring, distracting, staying calm and consistent, avoiding the commercial environment, negotiating and setting rules, allowing alternative items, explaining the reasoning behind choices, and limiting commercial exposure.

A little over a third of the mothers suggested the best method was limiting commercial exposure and another third suggested explaining the reasons for making or not making certain purchases. Giving in was not considered a good strategy.

The researchers said the study could lead to more research and new policies aimed at nagging.

Do you have a problem with junk food nagging? What are your strategies? 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Consumer health, Diet and exercise

August 15, 2011

Autism runs deeper in families than previously thought

A new study has found that if you have an autistic child, there is a 19 percent chance your next child with also be diagnosed with autism.

This is higher than the 3 to 10 percent originally thought. (See a full Los Angeles Times story here.)

In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, boys have a 26 percent chance of having autism if they have an older sibling with the neurobiological condition. Girls have a 9 percent chance.

The gender of the older sibling didn’t matter. But having more than one older sibling with autism further increased the chance to 32 percent.

With cases being reported more often, other researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are also studying causes. For now, scientists don’t know what causes the disorder that affects social interactions and communications.

That study is looking at siblings to explore genetic and environmental factors that may contribute. It’s called the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation, and it began last fall.

For now, the study released today may help parents who are deciding on having more children.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Autism

August 14, 2011

Overcoming cancer: great news for Mark Jeter

mark jeter cancer journeyMark Jeter has been chroncling his experience overcoming cancer on this blog.

It has been a time of ups and downs.

He lost his eyebrows and goatee and then saw both grow back. Sometimes chemo was a breeze. Other times it put him out for a week.

But all the while Jeter has kept an upbeat, positive and hopeful attitude.

Now, he has good news for all of his readers. Here is his latest post:

Wow, I have completed six rounds of chemo and by no means was it easy.

There were a times when I wanted to give up but I knew that I had to keep up the fight to get better.

After the chemo I had to get a CAT scan to see how far I had come since the first round of chemo. The CAT scan found that one of the tumors was gone and the other one had shrunk. The doctor also told me that I had to do surgery to make sure there was nothing else there.

I completed the 6th round of chemo in June and surgery was in July. During that time my hair had grown back and I started to feel like myself 100 percent.

 But then it was time for the surgery and I was not looking forward to that. I started to get kind of down.

Once the surgery was completed the healing process began. With all the people praying for me and all the love I was getting from the wife and family, my recovery was made that much easier.

Then it was time again for me to go and see the doctor - to see what he found or didn't find. I was pretty nervous, but hopeful at the same time.

I arrive at the doctor's office and I am hoping and praying that he tells me nothing but good news.

We wait and we wait and the doctor finally comes in. When he came in I had a good feeling. I just knew what he was going to say. He had my folder in his hand, a spring in his step and the biggest smile on his face.

"The surgery went well," he said.

One of the tumors that they saw on the cat scan was actually scar tissue from the prior surgery. After looking throughout the rest of my body they found five pea-size tumors that they removed. Four of the tumors were found to be non-cancerous. The fifth had some cancer. Thank goodness they removed it.


I still have to get some additional chemo treatments and unfortunately will have to endure some more sickness from it. But things are looking up. They can only get better from here.

This to will pass.

Read more about Jeter's journey here.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 6:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Mark Jeter's Cancer Journey

August 12, 2011

Maryland gets $27 million to build insurance exhange

The state of Maryland won a $27.7 million grant Friday from the Obama administration to set up its health exchange, the marketplace where the uninsured will go to buy coverage in 2014.

The funds are part of a $185 million award from the Department of Health and Human Services to 13 states and Washington for the exchanges.

The agency also laid out three proposed rules on enrolling consumers and small businesses in plans, a tax credit for individuals and families and Medicaid eligibility.

In Maryland, which has been moving aggressively to set up its exchange through legislation and policy development, officials said the money will be used to hire personnel or continue planning for the new marketplace.

“This grant is further recognition of Maryland’s national leadership in implementing health care reform in order to reduce costs, expand access, and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders,” said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, co-chair of the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, tasked with overseeing the federal health care reform effort in Maryland.  “The Exchange will provide individuals and small businesses with a competitive marketplace offering affordable health insurance options that meet their needs.”

Brown said the federal money means state dollars will not be needed for the exchange. In all, Maryland has received $34.4 million in federal funds.

Analysts expect health care reform to save the state $850 million and halve the number of uninsured by 2020, though the federal law is being challenged in court as unconstitutional for requiring individuals to buy insurance. The matter is expected to be settled by the Supreme Court, though states including Maryland are moving ahead with implementation.

“One step at a time, we are making progress towards a healthier Maryland,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and chair of the Exchange Board. “Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange will continue to engage with many partners to provide new access, affordability, and better health outcomes for Marylanders.”

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:10 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Health care reform

St. Joseph Medical Center names new chief executive

St. Joseph Medical Center tapped a veteran health care manager to replace its president and chief executive, who resigned last month without explanation.

Charles W. Neumann was a senior operations executive in the Boston-based FTI Healthcare Group. Previously he’d served as senior vice president of operations for Bon Secours Health System Inc. in Marriottsville for five years. He will start Aug. 23.

He replaces Jeffrey K. Norman, who had been brought in as a crisis manager in the fall of 2009 after a doctor was accused of placing unnecessary stents in hundreds of patients. Towson cardiologist Dr. Mark G. Medei stopped practicing at the hospital two month previously and has since lost his license to practice medicine.

“The board immediately recognized Chuck’s passion for quality and his commitment to work with the medical community,” said Edward J. Gilliss, chairman of St. Joseph’s board of directors, in a statement. “The transition in leadership will be seamless. The board thanks Jeff Norman for his good work and service to St. Joseph Medical Center. Over the past two years, we’ve built a strong base for Chuck to lead our medical staff, employees and board forward with a keen focus on delivering quality services to our patients.”

In a statement, Neumann said: “I know St. Joseph Medical Center and I admire its mission, its outstanding physicians and its commitment to the community for quality care and outstanding clinical programs. Healthcare in the United States is in transition and I look forward to developing and implementing strategies and operational improvements that assist St. Joseph Medical Center in achieving its full potential.”

Update: Read the full story here

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Health care professionals

August 11, 2011

Baltimore HIV population is becoming increasingly older

People with HIV in Baltimore  are aging.

A recent survey by the Greater Baltimore HIV Health Services Planning Council found that two-thirds of the HIV population were aged 45 to 64. The majority of the respondents were aged 25 to 44 the last time the survey was conducted in 2004.

There are about 18,000 people in the area with HIV or AIDS. The survey questioned 800 of them.

Researchers said the numbers show that drugs to treat the disease are allowing those infected to live longer lives.

The report also found that heterosexual sex is the main way the disease is being spread. For years, it was being spread mostly through intravenous drug use.

About 52.7 percent of those who responded were infected with HIV through heterosexual sex. About 22.8 percent were infected through drug use.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: HIV/AIDS

August 10, 2011

Young African Americans do worse on dialysis

Young African-Americans do much worse on kidney dialysis than their white counterparts, and many more should be referred for transplants rather than staying on the blood-filtering process indefinitely, according to a new study.

The study by Johns Hopkins researchers, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is a reversal of past belief.

Those studies, however, weren’t accounting for age. Blacks over 50 do still have a slightly better outcome on dialysis when they have end-stage kidney disease, the researchers said.

“As a medical community, we have been advising young black patients of treatment options for kidney failure based on the notion that they do better on dialysis than their white counterparts,” said the study leader Dorry L. Segev, an associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins, in a statement. “This new study shows that, actually, young blacks have a substantially higher risk of dying on dialysis, and we should instead be counseling them based on this surprising new evidence.”

Researchers looked at 1.3 million patients and found black patients that were aged 18 to 30 were twice as likely to die on dialysis than white patients. Those aged 31 to 40 were 1.5 times as likely to die.

Yet, of the 18-30-year-old black patients, 32 were referred for transplants from 1995-2009 while 55 percent of white patients were referred for transplants.

Segev, a transplant surgeon, wasn’t sure why the disparity exists, though he speculated that blacks may be less likely to have good insurance that would have provided adequate care in earlier stages of their disease or, perhaps, they may have higher rates of hypertension.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Medical studies

Organic farms harbor less antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Poultry farms that use organic methods that don’t involve antibiotics have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria that can potentially spread to human, according to a new study lead by the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become a problem for health care providers whose choices become limited in treating infection in humans, but there hasn’t been enough data on the sources. So, researchers say the findings, published Wednesday online in Environmental Health Perspectives, are important.

Antibiotic use has been commonplace for decades on large farms in aiding production of meat. But that has drawn the ire of environmentalists and some health advocates. 

The study may provide fuel to the argument. It suggests restricting antibiotic use from large-scare poultry farms can reduce resistance for some bacteria quickly.

“We initially hypothesized that we would see some differences in on-farm levels of antibiotic-resistant enterococci when poultry farms transitioned to organic practices,” said Dr. Amy R. Sapkota, an assistant professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health in the School of Public Health. “But we were surprised to see that the differences were so significant across several different classes of antibiotics even in the very first flock that was produced after the transition to organic standards. It is very encouraging.”

The researchers from Maryland, Pennsylvania State University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health tested for the common chicken enterococci bacteria in poultry litter feed and water in 10 conventional and 10 newly organic poultry houses in the mid-Atlantic region. Then they tested resistance to 17 common antimicrobials. 

All farms tested positive for the bacteria, the organic farms had less of the antibiotic-resistant enterococci. With more organic farms over time, the researcher say they would expect drug-resistance to drop much more dramatically.

Photo of organic farm courtesy of the University of Maryland

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Drugs

August 9, 2011

Hopkins leaders support health insurance mandate

Patients and their physicians stand to benefit from the health care reform law’s mandate that individuals buy health insurance, says Dr. Edward Miller, dean and chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Scott A. Berkowitz, assistant professor of medicine and medical director for Accountable Care for Hopkins.

The pair made the comments in a commentary in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

The mandate has proved to be the most controversial aspect of the reform law, and has been challenged as unconstitutional. The outcome is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.

But Miller and Berkowitz say the impact on quality and cost of care and impacts on patients and physicians has been ignored in the debate. But they say it would strengthen the patient-physician relationship, increase access to health insurance coverage, stabilize insurance premiums and eliminate “free riding,” when people who can afford coverage do no purchase it but still receive health care. 

“It should be clear to objective observers that the manner in which our nation has historically dealt with health care insurance coverage is unfair, inequitable and unsustainable,” said Miller in the commentary. “Ensuring that the maximum number of people possible have health insurance is crucial in improving access to, and the quality of, care.”

Berkowitz added, “The potential positive impact of the individual mandate on the patient-physician relationship is underappreciated. We know from research that patients with insurance are more likely to have physicians routinely involved in coordinating their care, are more apt to receive regular screening and preventative services and have an increased life expectancy.”

By adding many healthy people to the system, the mandate should also reduce the cost of routine services and provide some financial security.

The two note that in 2008, $73 billion in uncompensated health care was provided around the country, which meant an approximately $1,000 increase in annual family health insurance premiums. With the mandate, the costs will be spread around to more people, since just about everyone uses the health care system in their lifetimes.

So, do you think to continue providing some care for everyone, everyone should have to buy insurance they can afford? Should you be able to opt out of care of all kinds if you don’t want to pay?

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 4:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Health care reform

August 8, 2011

State initiative aims to cut down on wasted blood


Blood is often in short supply across Maryland, so state officials created an initiative with 44 acute care hospitals with blood banks and the American Red Cross to cut down on waste.

Lt. Governor Anthony Brown plans to head to Johns Hopkins University Tuesday to discuss the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council’s Reduction of Blood Wastage Collaborative. He’ll also talk about the importance of giving blood and a blood drive will be held.

According to the Red Cross, someone across the country needs blood every two seconds, so more than 38,000 donations are needed daily. About 5 million patients receive blood in the United States each year, and the average transfusion is approximately 3 pints.

Type O, the universal donor, is requested most often. All kinds of people need blood, from sickle cell disease sufferers who need transfusions throughout their lives, to those with cancer who often need blood during chemotherapy to car accident victims who may use as much as 100 pints of blood.

Donors, about 9.5 million who give 16 million donations annually, typically say they want to help. But just over a third of the population is eligible to give blood. The Red Cross says that a person who begins donating at age 17 and donates every 56 days until age 76 will have donated 48 gallons and potentially saved more than 1,000 lives.

To schedule an appointment or get more information, call 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to

Patuxent Publishing file photo

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 1:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: News roundup

Farmers' markets on the rise across the country


The latest Farmers’ Market Directory is out from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and there are 1,000 new ones in the mix. That brings the total to 7,175 markets in operation throughout the United States, 17 percent more than last year.

“The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, in a statement. “These outlets provide economic benefits for producers to grow their businesses and also to communities by providing increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods. In short, they are a critical ingredient in our nation's food system.”

The reporting is voluntary between April 18 and June 24, so not all markets may be represented. The director was released to mark National Farmers’ Market Week on Aug. 7-13.

Officials say the interest in markets has spread since 2010 beyond the far West and Northeast states, where popularity is established. Alaska and Texas had the most growth at 46 and 38 percent respectively.

The top 10 states for markets include: California (729 markets), New York (520), Michigan (349), Illinois (305) and Ohio (278).

The directory is available at

Maryland has 134 markets, according to the state Farmers’ Market Directory.

Baltimore Sun file photo/David Hobby

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Diet and exercise

August 5, 2011

Don't be a victim of turkey tainted with salmonella


Turkey from a Cargill plant in Arkansas that was tainted with salmonella has already been linked to 20 hospitalizations and one death. So, it seems like a good time to review meat safety.

This list of important practices comes from Cornell:

+First, check your refrigerator and freezer for ground turkey that may be labeled with the establishment code “Est. P-963.” Throw it away. Do not attempt to cook and eat it.

+Wash your hands and surfaces often when handling raw meat, poultry and eggs. Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.

+Wash cutting boards and dishes with hot, soapy water after they’ve touched the food.

+Separate raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Never place cooked food on a plate that had previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood. Don’t use the same utensils without washing them in between.

+Cook foods thoroughly and check to insure the internal temperature is sufficient. For ground turkey that temperature is 165 degrees.

For more information on the turkey story and salmonella, click here.

Los Angeles Time photo of salmonella

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Diet and exercise

New HIV cases steady, except among gay men


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new HIV data this week, and it appears as though the number of new infections is holding steady at about 50,000 new cases annually.

The data is for 2006-2009 and shows only an increase in new cases in young gay and bisexual men, particularly in young, black gay and bisexual men – which is a problem for Baltimore, which has already has been working to stem the new infections in this group.

There was a 48 percent jump in new cases in this group, from 4,400 in 2006 to 6,500 in 2009.
The CDC says men who have sex with men represent just 2 percent of the total population but accounted for 61 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009. Blacks comprise 14 percent of the population but accounted for 44 percent of new HIV cases; and Latinos make up 16 percent of the population but accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections.

“We are deeply concerned by the alarming rise in new HIV infections in young, black gay and bisexual men and the continued impact of HIV among young gay and bisexual men of all races, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, in a statement.

“We cannot allow the health of a new generation of gay men to be lost to a preventable disease. It’s time to renew the focus on HIV among gay men and confront the homophobia and stigma that all too often accompany this disease.”

CDC graphic: MSM are men who have sex with men and IDU are drug users

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: HIV/AIDS

August 4, 2011

Antidepressant use up among those who aren't depressed

Are people taking antidepressants when they don't need the drugs?

Are we becoming a nation who needs drugs to wipe away our sorrows?

A new study by Johns Hopkins researchers suggests we could at least be headed that way. 

Antidepressants have become one of the most commonly prescribed drugs, but not everyone who takes them has been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, according to the research by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Much of the growth in the use of the drugs was driven by prescriptions written by doctors who weren't psychiatrists.

The results are featured in the August 2011 issue of Health Affairs.

Antidepressants are the third most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 8.9 percent of the population had at at least one prescription in this drug class during any given month in the time period from 2005-2008.

Nearly four out of every five antidepressant prescriptions are written by non-psychiatrist providers, according to Ramin Mojtabai, lead author of the study.

The number of times patients were prescribed antidepressants with no psychiatric diagnosis increased from 59.5 percent to 72.7 percent between 1996 and 2007, according to the study. The share of providers who prescribed antidepressants without a psychiatric diagnosis increased from 30 percent of all non-psychiatrist physicians in 1996 to 55.4 percent in 2007.

Posted by Andrea Walker at 7:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Drugs

August 3, 2011

Air cleaners can help kids who live with smokers

A Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study shows that air cleaners can significantly reduce household air pollution and lower rates of asthma symptoms among kids living in homes with smokers.

The improvements are similar to those achieved by using anti-inflammatory asthma drugs.
However, the level of air nicotine levels remained, leaving kids at risk of some effects of second-hand smoke.

So, the study researchers concluded in the Aug. 1 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that air cleaners should only be used as a temporary measure as smokers seeks to quit.
“Air cleaners appear to be a an excellent partial solution to improving air quality in homes of children living with a smoker but should not be viewed as a substitute for a smoke-free environment,” lead investigator Arlene Butz, an asthma specialist at the Children's Center and professor of pediatrics at the Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The researchers followed 115 kids for six months. They lived in 41 homes, each with a smoker. A third got air cleaners, another third got air cleaners and heath education and the last third got neither but were given air cleaners at the end of the study.

There was a 50-percent drop in particulate matter in the homes with cleaners, though the homes never reached the air quality of smoke-free homes. The cleaners did meant 33 more days without coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing – the same as with the drugs.

Asthma is the most common chronic illness among children, with some 6.5 million affected in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About a third of U.S. kids live with a smoker.

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Asthma

Most hospitals not promoting breastfeeding for infants

The majority of U.S. hospitals do not fully support breastfeeding, which can have a significant impact on children’s health and their risk of obesity, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals provide the range of support mothers need to be able to breastfeed, the report says.

“Hospitals play a vital role in supporting a mother to be able to breastfeed,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director, in a statement. “Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breastfeed are critical. Hospitals need to better support breastfeeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn. Breastfeeding helps babies grow up healthy and reduces health care costs.”

The report looked at data from the CDC’s national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care. It showed that only 14 percent of hospitals had a written policy about breastfeeding and nearly 80 percent gave infants formula when it wasn’t medically necessary. That made it harder for the babies to breastfeed at home.

The report also found 75 percent of hospitals didn’t provide support for mothers after they left the hospital. That support included a visit or call from staff or referrals to lactation consultants or other agencies in their communities.

The CDC says low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs because babies that don’t breastfeed have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalization and prescriptions.

Nationally, the CDC says 74.6 percent of babies have ever been breastfed and 44.3 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months. In Maryland, the numbers are slightly higher: 78.5 percent have ever breastfed and 45.2 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months, according to the CDC's breastfeeding report card.

See more information at


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Pediatrics

August 2, 2011

Study looks at improving access for some in city

Many people living in West Baltimore don’t have health insurance, but some health care providers want to change that and plan a study that will guide development of a primary care delivery system.

Among those participating are Bon Secours Hospital and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Community Health Centers, as well as state Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, who represents the city, and John Snow Inc., a health care research and consulting firm.

The study kick off will be Thursday and will be funded in part by a grant from Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States.

The study emerged from a West Baltimore Health Care Summit, which brought hospitals, community health center, charity and community groups together in early 2010 to talk about the challenges in providing care and the role of everyone in improving health.

We'll provide details on the outcome when we get them.

Does the city need more summits? More efforts to hook disadvantaged neighborhoods with primary care? 

Posted by Meredith Cohn at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Health care reform

August 1, 2011

Birth control will be free of copays by 2013

Health insurers will have to provide birth control to women for free under policies that start next fall, according to new rules from the Obama administration.

The rules were developed by the Health and Human Services Department as part of heath care reform and include other preventive measures (here are all the guidelines). The well-respected Institute of Medicine had recommended the change recently.

Health Secretary Kalthleen Sebelius said all of the items included were preventive:

“The Affordable Care Act helps stop health problems before they start,” she said in a statement.  “These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.”

Here's a full story by Reuters.

Groups like Planned Parenthood support the change, citing estimates that half of all pregnancies are unplanned. But religious organizations oppose the move.

Where do you stand?


Posted by Meredith Cohn at 3:56 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Health care reform
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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.

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