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Lifeworks Community Foundation: Helping Children From Addicted Families

Did you know that there are 1,000,000 children who live in a family where at least one of their parents or caregivers is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol? That is as much as 10% of our youth population. The Lifeworks Children’s Foundation is a registered charity whose purpose is to help the children who are growing up around addiction.

How the Programme Helps Children

The children’s recovery programme is designed to be:

  • educational
  • recreational
  • therapeutic

It is designed to target children between the ages of seven and 12 years old where they are the most impressionable and vulnerable. By reaching out to children in this age group, the foundation hopes to reach them before they reach a stage where they too, become an addict.

The programme is available across the country and will be available to anyone who needs it regardless of financial situation. It is designed to show children that addiction is not their fault, to show them that there is a way to break the cycle.

The UK programme is modeled after the success of a similar programme running in the United States. So as not to interfere with school work or other social interactions, the programme lasts two and a half days, and can be done over the weekend or during a holiday break from school.

Lifeworks

What the Programme Does

By getting children together who face similar situations at home, they learn that they are not alone. They can share experiences and coping skills while also learning other mechanisms to help them deal with the stress is at home. They will learn to recognize drugs and alcohol as the root of the main problems they experience at home. Through the programme and everything they learn they will also become less angry with their parents and caregivers who are battling addiction. This is a necessary step for adult recovery and for the child’s healthy progression into adulthood.

All parents and caregivers with a child who attends the programme will be given support and information to help them support their child through the programme.  This helps to ensure the programme’s messages are delivered and supported long after the child has completed it.

Though the programme is only in the development phase where 40 to 60 children will have access to it, the programme will continue to expand as it has support from Life Works, Kid’s Company, and the Betty Ford Center.

LifeWorks is a leading provider of addiction and alcohol treatment along with treatment for depression, eating disorders, and other behavioral disorders affecting adults. Kid’s Company is a well recognized and respected charity focused on working with vulnerable children in London. The Betty Ford Centre is a world-renowned addiction treatment center that has one of the longest running and most successful children’s programmes in the world. With the help of these organizations the Lifeworks Children’s Foundation will be able to help thousands of children who struggle with an addict in the home.

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Are Skincare and Beauty Practices Creating Low Self Esteem in Teenaged and Young Women?

There is no denying the fact that many young women are faced with low self esteem. For one reason or the next, they don’t believe they are beautiful on the outside. This is a major concern for women throughout the world, as well as their loved ones.

If you or a loved one finds yourself in this position, you need to do your best to realize that there is no reason to have low self esteem. Once you get in touch with your true beauty, it is much easier to increase your self-confidence and feel better about the future.

Here are just a few of the many reasons why so many young women have low self esteem:

  • They don’t believe they are as pretty as their peers
  • Somebody has told them, for no good reason, that they are not pretty
  • They attempt to live up to the skincare and beauty practices that have become so popular in today’s day and age

While all three of these reasons are worth considering in greater depth, we recently took a closer look at skincare industry marketing practices (link). In our overview, we focused on the marketing practices of companies attempting to appeal to females in the 13 to 18 year old range.

Beauty Products

The Problem with Skincare and Beauty Practices

As noted above, the main issue with skincare and beauty practices is this: the companies selling these products will do whatever it takes to make them appealing to the masses. Along the way, as they are trying to increase profits, they lose touch with how their message is impacting their audience.

Females in the 13 to 18 year old age group are impressionable. If they see a girl on a television commercial using a particular beauty product, many will begin to wonder why they don’t look the same way. Subsequently, their self esteem can begin to take a major hit.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the industry is ready to make a change at any point in the near future. Instead, they are going to continue doing what works as a means of pushing as many products as possible to the public.

Is there a Solution?

The best thing for young women to understand is that no two people are exactly the same. Just because skincare and beauty practices put a strong emphasis on outward appearance doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

If you are a parent of a young woman in this age group, it is essential to let her know that there is no reason to have low self esteem. You want her to be self confident, regardless of what is going on around her.

There is no denying the fact that skincare and beauty practices, with special attention to marketing strategies, can have a negative impact on the self esteem of young women.

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Obamacare Slated To Increase Your Premiums But Enhance Your Services

 As of November 2013, Obamacare is a mess. Unfortunately, it appears that the mess will only be getting worse as the months pass. Why? On Friday, November 8, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius put into place new regulations that now make it necessary for insurers to cover mental/behavioral health concerns the same way they cover physical concerns.

The problem is that identifying a broken bone tends to be a lot easier than identifying a broken mind . . .

What Does This Mean For Me?

It’s pretty much an established fact that Obamacare is raising premiums for many Americans. Unfortunately, these new regulations will only cause health insurance premiums to go up even more. The reason is because they permit people with mental health issues (be it depression, addiction or whatnot) to take advantage of subsidies. And it just so happens that the cost of such subsidies wind up getting passed on to taxpayers like yourself.

Surely, everybody wants the mentally ill to get the health they need. However, these new regulations come with very few limits, meaning the chance for fraud is extraordinarily high. Consider for instance what would happen if food stamp requirements were lowered:

“Hunger is also a social problem, and the government provides food stamps to help.  But what would happen if the government removed limits, both in the amount of funds and duration of benefits, and allowed recipients to have all the food stamps they wanted for as long as they wanted them?  Would such a program be ripe for abuse?  That’s what the president is doing with mental health.” ~~ Forbes

So basically, unless you yourself are eligible for subsidies, your premiums are likely to go up even more. And it doesn’t help that the Obamacare website is so screwed up right now that you can’t even check if you are eligible or not!

Obamacare

Is There Any Good News At All?

The only good news is that these increased costs will for the most part come with enhanced services like the following:

    • Absolutely free preventative services like cholesterol checks, colonoscopies, mammograms, flu shots, etc.
  • The ability to keep kids under the age of 26 on your insurance policy.
  • No referrals required to see a gynecologist.
  • Free maternity care and birth control.

Like we said, though, this all comes at increased prices. For instance, research conducted by Aon Hewitt determined that the average employee will spend a tad under $5,000 on premiums and out-of-pocket expenses next year. That unfortunately amounts to a 9.5% increase from last year. These stats refer to just one corporation, but they are a microcosm of what’s occurring with companies throughout the nation.

However, if you suffer from pre-existing conditions, then you will likely actually end up paying less. This is because Obamacare goes out of its way to protect people with such conditions from being charged higher premiums. Unfortunately, though, these benefits get offset onto health taxpayers.

Will Things Get Better In Time?

The thing to keep in mind is that Obamacare was built for long-term sustainability. As an example, it implements a slew of efficiency-based regulations that streamline overly burdensome, complex and pricey procedures so that they’re more effective and cost-effective.

Obamacare also limits “how much money insurers can siphon off for premiums and overhead.” Some insurance providers like the very ethical Kanetix don’t engage in such shady behavior, but sadly many do. And it just so happens that Obamacare protects you from such practices.

The bottom line is that your premiums are likely to go up and down in a roller coaster for a few years. Right now, though, they’re most likely to just go up. How long will it take for the premiums to go down? Will they ever go down? And will you end up better off? For these questions, all we can unfortunately do right now is simply wait.

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School Lunches Are Not Always the Best

Whether it is school lunch programs considering pizza to be a vegetable or meat made of “pink slime,” school lunches may not be the best alternative for children’s health. Government subsidized school lunches are great for low income families. It is also an easy alternative for a lot of time-strapped parents, who may still have to pay. But, are school lunches the healthier alternative?

With the passage of the National School Lunch Act in 1946, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was created. Originally it was looked upon as a foundation for children’s health in the U.S. It was also a way to utilize local farmers’ surplus crops.

According to the School Nutrition Association, the NSLP was established as a “measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children and to encourage domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities.” But, a lot has changed since it was first established.

Food Security for Underprivileged Youth

The NSLP provides free or reduced cost meals for 31 million children who qualify in 101,000 public schools in the United States. In addition, there is the School Breakfast Program, which was introduced in 1966 as a pilot and became permanent in 1975. Together, they guarantee those students in low-income families will get at least two full meals on school days.

This is important because food insecurity is a major problem in the United States. Children need enough quality food for proper growth and development. Children’s food security can also affect a child’s success with regards to family life, overall health, and educational outcomes. For those who are living in poverty, food insecurity is a huge risk to children’s cognitive, growth, behavioral, and health potentials.

Food insecurity has been on the rise as food prices rise and incomes stagnate. More than 21 percent of households with children have food insecurity problems. NSLP helps with these issues by freeing up food at home for other family members, reducing uncertainty about availability of food at home, and giving meals to children who might otherwise not have a meal.

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NSLP Nutrition Guidelines

School lunches must meet applicable recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The DGA recommends that no more than 30 percent of a child’s calories come from fat and no more than ten percent from saturated fat. School lunches are also expected to provide at least one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium, Vitamin C, calories, iron, and Vitamin A.

Despite these guidelines, school lunches are not as nutritious as they may seem. School lunches can contribute to malnutrition by providing excessive consumption of unhealthy foods. Unhealthy adult eating patterns have been linked directly to unhealthy habits learned as a child at school. A 2010 study of Michigan junior high student found students who ate school lunches were more likely to be obese.

There are also controversies surrounding sugar content in school lunches. Currently, there are no limits to how much refined sugar can be packed into school lunches. In fact, the majority of school lunches are made up of over-processed foods. Studies have also found that children will just throw away fruits and vegetables. It is clear that education needs to be part of the nutrition guidelines.

Tips for Packing Lunches

The NSLP is a great program for helping children from low income families who may otherwise not get breakfast or lunch. But, for those who do not qualify, a sack lunch may be a better alternative. Lunch money may end up in the unhealthy school vending machines or may go to non-food items. Also, without a price reduction, school lunches are often overpriced.

Packing lunches for children can be done with little planning and only a few resources. It is best to purchase a lunch box (to keep sandwiches and other items from getting squished) and a thermos (to keep hot things hot). It is important that children drink enough milk, so fill a small, reseal-able bottle half way with milk the night before. Put it in the freezer. The next morning, fill the bottle the rest of the way with milk. The frozen milk will melt by lunch time, and the child will have cold milk.

Another tip is to make all the sandwiches for the week on Sunday night and toss them in the freezer. They thaw by the time lunch rolls around. Bananas, apples, and oranges work well in a lunch. It is also important to listen closely to what kids like and do not like in their lunches. They will likely want the school lunch, but it is important to be firm and let them know school lunch is not an option.

(http://environment.about.com/od/healthandchildren/a/cafeteria_food.htm)

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The Emerging Field of Patient Safety

Patient safety is a new health care discipline that focuses on analysis, prevention, and reporting of medical errors. The extent of medical errors leading to adverse outcomes was not well known until the 1990s when countries began reporting on such errors. The World Health Organization called patient safety a major concern after discovering it affected ten percent of patients worldwide.

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The field of patient safety is still relatively new and is slowly developing a scientific framework for better understanding of how to improve care. There is significant research and literature across many disciplines that are informing the scientific work on patient safety. As such, there are continually new improvements including:

  • Enhancing systems for reporting errors
  • Adopting innovative technologies
  • Developing economic incentives
  • Educating consumers and providers
  • Applying lessons learned from industry and business

How Prevalent Are Medical Errors?

In 1982, the ABC show 20/20 came out with an exposé called The Deep Sleep, which revealed shocking practices within the anesthesia profession. The producers stated that every year 6,000 Americans die from accidents associated with anesthesia. The show also provided specific case studies. In response, the American Society of Anesthesiologists created the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) in 1984. The formation of the APSF marked the first time a professional organization used the term “patient safety” in their name.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report called To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. In the book, IOM claimed there were 44,000 to 98,000 deaths per year attribute to medical errors in hospital. Of those, 7,000 could be attributed to errors in medication. Within two weeks of the release of the report, President Clinton called for changes.

Many Sources of Error

Human factors often play a part in medical errors. Some of these errors can be due to fatigue, depression, or variability in health care experience or training. Time pressures, diverse patients, and unfamiliar settings may also serve as sources of error. Providers may also recognize that an error was made but not understand the significance of the error.

Within the hospital system, there are a variety of possible failures that could lead to errors. Reliance on automated systems to prevent error can cause errors by taking control out of the hands of humans. Poor communication among healthcare providers is also a common problem. Issues as simple as drug names looking or sounding alike or cost-cutting measures can threaten patient safety.

Efforts to Improve Patient Safety

In order to improve patient safety, health care organizations are looking to diverse sources for programs that may be adapted to fit medical needs. One of those programs is the National Transportation Safety Board’s Aviation Safety Reporting System. This is a confidential system for report deficiencies and ways to provide data for planning improvements. In response to this, NASA and the VA have developed the Patient Safety Reporting System, which monitors patient safety through confidential, voluntary reports.

Electronic health records (EHR) are also able to reduce many types of errors related to emergent and preventive care, tests and procedures, and prescription drugs. EHR can also help with providing standard drug dosages, patient education information, allergy checks, and checks for the interactions drugs have with various other drugs and foods.

Another technology-based way to improve patient safety is Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE). CPOE has been shown to reduce errors in medications by 80 percent and harm to patients by 55 percent. As the name suggests, the doctor would directly input what medications the patient needs, and this would be automatically sent to someone who can fill the prescription.

Patient safety continues to be a concern for health care providers around the world. It is likely that everyone will be a victim of medical error at some point in their life. That is why it is important to bring up concerns one may have to a provider to make sure one is receiving the proper treatment.

(http://cqpi.engr.wisc.edu/seips_home)

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When to Visit the Emergency Room

Emergency rooms in the United States are incredibly busy. Last year, there were over 130 million emergency room visits. That means, on average, one out of every two American went to the emergency room. One-fifth of those ER visits were patients under the age of 18. As more people use ERs as their first choice in health care, ERs around the country are operating above capacity.

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Emergency rooms are an essential part of the United States health system. They can handle just about any health issue at any time of day. ERs are designed to provide life- and limb-saving care quickly. ERs also have a policy of never turning people away regardless of whether they have life insurance or are in the country illegally.

Unfortunately, this leads to abuse. For people who have nowhere else to turn, the ER is their only choice for even minor health issues. Or, they may wait until the minor health issue becomes serious. Either way, this is leading to clogged emergency rooms, which can lead to longer wait times for those who need treatment quickly.

Conditions that May Require Emergency Care

There are no clear cut guidelines for determining when one should visit an emergency room. When in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and visit an emergency room. Below are some conditions that may require a trip to the emergency room:

  • Serious burns
  • Bleeding of the vagina during pregnancy
  • Fevers with high temperatures or a rash
  • Injuries to the head or eyes
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Vision loss
  • Bleeding of the intestines
  • Swelling and pain of the testicles
  • Sever heart palpitations
  • Altered mental states, confusion, or difficulty speaking
  • Severe pain starting halfway down the back or in the abdomen
  • Continuous chest pain radiating from the jaw or arm or accompanied by vomiting, shortness of breath, or sweating
  • Seizures
  • Continuous wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Fainting or loss of balance
  • Paralysis
  • Fever in a newborn baby
  • Deep cuts
  • Severe cold or flu symptoms
  • Hemorrhaging

One may also want to visit the emergency room if there is a condition not mentioned above but that requires immediate attention when there are no other health care providers available. Also, for some of these emergencies, 911 may need to be called.

Urgent Care Is Different from Emergency Care

In a recent study, of the people who visited an emergency room and were not admitted to the hospital, 48 percent went to the ER because their doctor’s office was not open. It is often hard to get same-day appointments with one’s doctor’s office. For those who need same-day help but cannot get an appointment, there are urgent care facilities.

Urgent care facilities are walk-in clinics that provide ambulatory care. They do not have the same wide scope of treatment abilities an ER would have, but they do provide a good alternative for minor immediate care needs. Also, there are even some 24-hour urgent care facilities.

Some of the more common ailments treated at urgent care facilities are sore throat, painful urination, sprains, vomiting, diarrhea, and minor fevers.

For anyone who has received a bill from the emergency room, it is clear which of the two health care providers are preferable financially. Urgent care facilities are much less expensive than ERs. Health insurance plans also tend to have a much higher (hundreds of dollars) copay for ER visits as well.

Conclusion

When accidents happen, it is important to have a plan ready for how to deal with them. By understanding the purposes for emergency rooms and urgent care centers, one can be prepared to take the appropriate actions when disasters strike. Knowing the hours of the closest urgent care center and what services it can handle may save time and money.

(http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/bsolc/olc-cel/olc-cel?catno=82-003-X20040017039&lang=eng)

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To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise?

One of the more controversial topics in children’s healthcare is the issue of male circumcision. Steeped in tradition, circumcision is now a hot button debate topic with some referring to it as “genital mutilation.” Its proponents point to mild advantages, such as slowing the spread of AIDS, as far outweighing any rare downfalls. These debates make it hard for new parents to know what action to take with their newborn boy.

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Circumcision is a minor medical procedure most often performed within a few days of a child’s birth. A special circumcision device is used to remove the foreskin of the penis after it is separated from the glans and clamped. For adults, the procedure is typically performed without the use of clamps and can even be performed without surgery. Minor complications from circumcision occur in about 3% of procedures. The mortality rate is about 1 in 500,000 in the United States.

Circumcision: Steeped in Tradition

About one-third of the world’s males are circumcised. This can be attributed to traditions rooted in religion. Circumcision is almost universally performed on males in the Middle East where Islam (and Judaism in Israel) is practiced. It is also prevalent in the United States and parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. It is rare in most of Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Southern Asia.

Though the procedure predates biblical times, the widespread practice of circumcision among Jews, Christians, and Muslims can be attributed to the story of Abraham. In chapter 17 of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, Abraham, his relatives, and his slaves all undergo the procedure. In the myth, God then tells Abraham that all of his descendants must also be circumcised on the eighth day of life.

In modern times, for those who do not adhere to the Abrahamic religions, circumcision is less common due to most health insurance companies considering it an elective procedure and therefore not covering it. In Europe, it is rare for the national health systems to cover the procedure, so most citizens of those countries do not have it done.

Potential Costs and Benefits of Circumcision

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS have stated that circumcision is effective in slowing the transmission of HIV. They also caution that the procedure should be carried out by qualified medical professional and recipients must first provide informed consent.

WHO considers circumcision to be a cost effective public health intervention in Africa, where there are significant HIV-infected populations. Additionally, in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees that newborn circumcision is a cost-effective way to combat the spread of HIV in the U.S.

Circumcision has also been shown to reduce the risk of penile cancer, a very rare form of cancer affecting only one out of every 100,000 men. It also reduces the risk of cervical cancer in female sexual partners of circumcised men.

When carried out by a trained professional, it is rare for there to be any adverse effects from circumcision. It is rumored that circumcision leads to decreased sensitivity in the penis, reduced sexual satisfaction, and stunted sexual function. But, there is no research backing this up.

The Controversy

There is vigorous, ongoing debate in the United States over the ethics of circumcision. Since newborns are not able to decide for themselves if they would like the procedure done, some argue the procedure should not be performed. This is because they believe the procedure only has marginal health benefits while it has the (extremely rare) potential of killing the child. They believe the child should decide whether he wants the procedure once he is old enough to provide informed consent.

Many argue that circumcision is based on a barbaric biblical tradition and does not produce health benefits to it recipients. This ignores the studies done by WHO and the CDC.

It all comes down to the parents making an informed decision based on the facts. Parents may want to talk to their health care provider to get the most up-to-date information on circumcision and the ethics surrounding the procedure.

(http://www.parents.com/baby/care/bath/facts-and-feelings-about-circumcision/)

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Understanding the Health Care Jargon

When reading health insurance materials or listening to all the talk about “Obamacare,” it is easy to get confused very quickly. Yet, in order to receive the best healthcare possible and to know what one will be paying, one must understand what all the terminology means. Unfortunately, this is not typically something they teach in school.

This entry will deal with words often thrown around the health care world. Below, there will be concise and easy-to-understand explanations for what the various terms mean. If one is in need of further explanations, consulting with one’s health insurance carrier or talking to a health care provider can often enlighten one.

This entry is broken down into health insurance terms, Affordable Care Act terms, and general medical terms that relate to your health care. The following terms will be covered:

  • Copay
  • Coinsurance
  • Deductible
  • Out of pocket
  • COBRA
  • Premium
  • HIPAA
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Pre-existing condition
  • Insurance exchange
  • Dependent coverage
  • Cancellation
  • Lifetime limit
  • History
  • Etiology

Health Insurance Terms

One of the first health insurance terms one hears when entering a doctor’s office is copay. Copay is short for copayment. This term refers to a typically flat rate that is due at the time of an office or emergency room visit.

A related term is coinsurance. Though it is sometimes used interchangeably with copay, it is different. Coinsurance is a percentage of the medical bill that a policy holder pays once the policy’s deductible has been reached.

The term deductible is used often in health insurance and can be one of the main factors in determining insurance costs. This refers to the amount of money that must be paid out of pocket before the insurer will start paying any expenses.

As it may suggest, the phrase “out of pocket” refers to the amount of money an insured person must pay directly to the health care provider. These are expenses not covered by the insured’s insurance policy.

COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. COBRA most often refers to the program that guarantees the extension of health insurance coverage for up to 18 months if under a broad range of qualifying events (such as losing a job) one loses his coverage.

A premium is the amount of money one pays to receive insurance coverage. If a person works for a company that provides health insurance for its employees, then the amount the company pays the insurer is the premium.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was an act created to protect the privacy of patients seeking out treatment. It was also created to make the exchange of health coverage data more efficient and secure.

Medicare is a government assistance program for people over the age of 65. Medicare guarantees that those people will disabilities will still have access to health insurance.

Medicaid is a government assistance program geared toward helping those with low incomes and resources gain access to health insurance.

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Affordable Care Act Terms

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare,” is the most significant regulatory overhaul of the United State health care system since the 1965 passage of Medicare and Medicaid. Many of its provisions go into effect in 2014.

As the name might suggest, a pre-existing condition is a health issue one may have before receiving insurance coverage, and thus it is not covered by the insurance plan. Under the ACA, insurance companies cannot discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

The ACA establishes state-based health insurance exchanges. This is an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can purchase private insurance plans for themselves or their employees.

Dependent coverage is more of a general health insurance term. It is included here because the ACA requires all insurance plans that provide coverage for the dependents of its policyholders must make the coverage available until the adult child reaches 26.

Before the ACA, one could experience a cancellation of his policy if a health insurance company determined he made a mistake on his application. With the ACA, this is no longer allowed, though a plan can be cancelled if information is falsified.

Lifetime limit is another term that is going extinct with the ACA. It refers to a limit on how much a health insurance company will pay out on an individual’s plan in his lifetime. Yearly limits are also going to the wayside.

General Medical Terms

History, as it relates to one’s medical care, is an over-arching term referring to one’s personal medical history, his family’s health history, and the history for current symptoms. All of this information is used by a doctor to make diagnoses.

Etiology is just a fancy way of saying the cause of a disease or condition. For example, the etiology of that rash is the poison ivy one was rubbing.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act)

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WIC Is a Worthwhile Program for Families

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offers federal assistance to children less than five years of age, low-income pregnant women, and breastfeeding women. WIC is a healthcare and nutrition program of the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.

A group of physicians told the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1968 about the ailments affecting young pregnant women because the women lacked sufficient food. The doctors would provide the women with food vouchers. This planted a seed that led to the 1972 amendment of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. This amendment created WIC as a two-year pilot program. It was so successful that in 1975 it became a permanent program.

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WIC is Available to a Broad Range of Families

From its beginnings in 1972, WIC has continued to broaden its eligibility requirements. Currently, in order to qualify for WIC, one must be one of the following:

  • A pregnant woman
  • Postpartum for up to six months
  • Breastfeeding for up to one year
  • Have young infants or children

If one falls into any of the above categories, then they automatically qualify if they or a family member are participating in one of the following programs: Medicaid, Temporary Assistant for Needy Families, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

If one is not eligible based on participation in any of the above programs, then they are eligible if their annual household income is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. That is, they would currently be eligible if they are making less than $43,000 per year.

WIC currently serves 53 percent of all infants born in the United States. They want to help families. Even if one makes more than 185 percent of the poverty level, it is still worthwhile to apply. They often accept people who make more. Also, though the name may suggest it, WIC is not exclusively for single mothers and pregnant women. Married couples are very much eligible for assistance.

WIC Offers a Variety of Services

WIC is probably best known for its supplemental food services, but they also provide a lot of other educational services. WIC is a strong proponent of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is healthier for a baby and is economical. To encourage breastfeeding, WIC offers free classes on breastfeeding that include support materials and guidance from Certified Lactation Educators.

Program participants also receive assistance and guidance in accessing health care services such as child clinics, prenatal programs, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and immunizations. There are also free nutrition and health classes that educate mothers on how to meet the nutritional needs of their newborns and children.

How WIC Meets Nutrition Needs

To help program participants meet the nutritional needs of their families, WIC offers financial assistance in paying for food. Though Electronic Benefit Transfer cards are sometimes used, WIC generally gives food vouchers to those who meet eligibility requirements. The vouchers are typically issued every two weeks or so and are for specific food items.

Some of the food items provided by WIC include legumes, whole grain rice, fruits and vegetables, cheese, milk, peanut butter, juice, cereal, eggs, whole wheat bread, whole grain tortillas, and fish. WIC also offers products like tofu and soy milk to families that have dietary restrictions. These foods were chosen because they most closely fit the needs of breastfeeding and pregnant mothers and their young children.

Many grocery stores that accept WIC vouchers have little signs indicating which products are eligible with the WIC vouchers. Purchasing the correct product during the specified date range and being courteous to store personnel are a few of the responsibilities of the voucher recipient.

Overall, WIC is a great resource for any expecting or newly-expanded family. It is a program seeking to improve the experience of women, infants, and children, and it provides a viable nutrition assistance option for most families. Visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/ for more information.

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Childhood Obesity Has Reached Epidemic Proportions in the United States

Since the 1980s, the rates of childhood obesity in the United States have more than tripled. A 2008 study found that the rate of obese and overweight children was at 32 percent. This rate even holds for infants nine months old to two years old. This infant weight status is strongly associated with preschool weight status and so on.

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Childhood obesity, often just referred to as “overweight” to avoid stigma, is when a child’s excess fat is detrimental to the youth’s health and wellbeing. With rates skyrocketing, the epidemic is considered a serious public health concern. In the United States, public health campaigns are underway to address children’s caloric needs and to reduce sedentary lifestyles.

Obesity in children is associated with many long-term health problems. Some of these include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep problems
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Effects on puberty and growth
  • Liver disease
  • Anxiety
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Depression

Children who are obese are likely to continue to be obese on into adulthood. Obese children are likely to live five years less than their healthier peers. This may make them the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

What Causes Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity can be caused by a variety of factors often working in conjunction. This is called an “obesogenic environment.” Obese parents are the greatest risk factor for childhood obesity. Though this may suggest a genetic cause, the trend also has to do with the environment obese parents create that caters to obesity.

Psychological factors and the child’s body type may also contribute to obesity. It has also been suggested that obesity may be selected for, evolutionarily favoring those who have a slower metabolism and therefore need less food. This in combination with ready availability of cheap, calorie-dense foods and sedentary lifestyles create the perfect obesity cocktail.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Childhood Obesity?

Studies exploring the effect of dietary interventions to curb childhood obesity have produced mixed results. One such study divided 5,106 school children into a test group and a control group. The test group was served two lower-calorie meals per day for over one year. The intervention showed no significant difference in body mass index (BMI) between the two groups.

Still, children who drink soft drinks are much more likely to be obese. A nineteen-month study of 548 children found that youth are 1.6 times more likely to be obese for every serving of soda they consumed per day. This suggests reduced access to sugar-filled beverages may help reduce childhood obesity. Some jurisdictions have even gone so far as to ban the sale of soft drinks in school vending machines.

Studies also show that obese children are 35% less physically active during school days and 65% less active during weekends than non-obese children. Physical inactivity leaves energy in the body unused. Unused energy is eventually stored as fat. This suggests another way to prevent childhood obesity is to make sure children are physically active.

Many children fail to exercise because they are doing immobile activities such as playing video games, watching television, or surfing the internet. Many of these activities have other side effects that can harm a child, such as poor cognitive engagement.

Letsmove.Gov

There are many government programs and initiatives aimed at aggressively attacking childhood obesity. One of those programs is Letsmove.gov started by first lady Michelle Obama. Letsmove.gov encourages children to be more physically active and to put down the video games. It also offers tips on portion control.

Another initiative the government is pushing is for mothers to breastfeed their children. This has been associated with decreased risks for childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is a very real problem in the United States. There are a number of steps parents can take to make sure their child does not wander down the path of lifelong weight troubles. For comprehensive advice on how to help fight childhood obesity, consult with one’s pediatrician.

(http://www.letsmove.gov/kids)

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Medical Homes: The Wave of the Future

It is difficult to provide children with quality and comprehensive care. Adding to the difficulties is the fact that health care providers do not typically share information about patients they have in common. This lack of coordination can lead to wasted resources, diminished quality of care, and duplicated efforts.

Primary care providers are becoming increasingly scarce as more doctors opt for the better-paying specialist jobs. Those patients who are able to find a primary care provider who fits their needs may have problems making appointments, since the need for these providers are usually pretty high.

The medical home seeks to fix problems with the health care system in the United States by bringing care back to a centralized system.

What Are Medical Homes?

Medical homes, also known as patient-centered medical homes, are community-based, family-centered care centers that provide continued care from birth through adolescence and subsequently help youth transition into adult services. The medical home model was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help deliver primary care that is compassionate, culturally competent, and accessible to all children.

Medical homes are an approach created to facilitate collaborative and comprehensive working relationships with patients, their families, and clinicians. It is especially helpful in caring for children and youth with special health care needs.

How Do Medical Homes Work?

Medical homes are organizational settings that integrate management of acute illnesses and chronic conditions as well as provide preventive services. To be effective, medical homes must include the following:

  • Care that is patient-centered: Medical homes seek to anticipate care needs for children and families at any given point in time.
  • Patient education: To best achieve positive results, medical homes seek to nurture competence in families and patients.
  • Coordination of care: Medical homes seek to coordinate with organizations and agencies in the child’s community and within the health care system to address the patient’s health needs.
  • Continuity of care: Medical homes provide continued care to children throughout their childhood and help with the transition to adult services.

Evidence of Medical Homes’ Effectiveness

A number of peer-reviewed studies examining the effectiveness of medical homes have been published. They almost universally show that medical homes are indeed effective in improving health care to children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a study in 2007. They interviewed 5400 parents. Based on their research, the authors of the study found medical homes were responsible for higher rates of vaccinations.

A 2010 study by Reid et al. in Seattle found medical homes were responsible for six percent fewer hospitalizations and 29 percent fewer emergency room visits. The study also found medical homes contributed to a total savings of $10.30 per patient per month over the course of the study.

In 2007, Schoen et al. associated medical homes with a laundry list of health gains. Some of these include fewer duplicate tests, improvements in the flow of information between providers, ease of accessing after hours care, fewer medical errors, and improved opinions of health care in general.

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Any discussion of medical homes should address the little yet still present controversy associated with the system. Some critics argue the medical homes system is similar to the “gatekeeper” model used by health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The gatekeeper model essentially only allows patients to go to specific providers. If they want to see other providers, they must get a referral.

Medical homes differ from HMOs in that they allow patients to access any providers without a referral. The patient has a primary provider who facilitates the spread of information to subspecialists.

Medical homes are a growing trend in providing comprehensive care to children. They provide a great “one-stop shopping” resource to families and ensure that all of a child’s health care providers are on the same page.

(http://cfm.mc.duke.edu/modules/cfm_medhomes/index.php?id=1)

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Infant Mortality Is Still a Problem in the United States

The United States ranks 34th in the world in infant mortality rates among United Nations countries. It is estimated that 5.9 infants out of every 1,000 live births will die. While that is a vast improvement over fifty years ago, when the rates were five times higher, infant mortality is still a problem. The United States ranks last among industrialized nations despite spending the most on health care.

Infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant younger than one year of age. Often grouped in with infant mortality rates are childhood mortality rates, which include children five years of age and younger. Infant mortality affects a society’s potential social, human, and physical capital.

In the United States, premature birth is a major contributor to infant mortality. Of the approximately 518,000 premature babies born in the United States, those who live will have higher rates of visual, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, hearing, neurological, and metabolic disorders. The annual medical and social cost of premature babies in the U.S. is $26.2 billion.

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Major Contributors to Infant Mortality

Low birth weight is a major contributor to infant mortality. This is a problem that seems to disproportionately affect African Americans. In the United States, births to African American mothers are twice as likely to produce low birth weight children as those to white mothers. The rate of low birth weight children in the U.S. rivals that of developing countries.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is another major cause of infant mortality in the U.S. SIDS is the sudden death of a seemingly healthy baby while the child is sleeping. The specific cause of SIDS is unknown. Factors linked to SIDS include:

  • Being born to a teen mother
  • Premature birth
  • Cigarette smoke exposure in the womb or after birth
  • Babies sleeping on their stomach
  • Living in poverty settings
  • Sleeping in bed with parents
  • Being a twin or triplet

SIDS is most likely to occur when the child is between two and three months old, and it is most likely to occur during the winter time. The Mayo Clinic suggests the most important way to avoid SIDS is to place the baby on its back to sleep on a firm crib mattress with a fitted sheet. Nothing else should be in the crib with the baby.

70 percent of childhood deaths worldwide are caused by infectious diseases. These include measles, malaria, diarrhea, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. Many of these are avoided in the United States where vaccinations are readily available. Unfortunately, though, there is still a strong anti-vaccination contingent in the U.S.

Preventing Infant Mortality

Since its creation in 1962, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has helped reduce infant mortality by over 70 percent in the United States. One of the NICHD’s most successful programs is the “Safe to Sleep” (formerly “Back to Sleep”) campaign, which launched in 1994.

The Safe to Sleep campaign specifically targets putting an end to SIDS. The goal of the campaign is to reach parents of infants and educate them on having their newborns sleep on their backs. This was based on research in Hong Kong where babies slept face-up and SIDS was rare. Since the start of the campaign, the number of deaths attributed to SIDS has been cut in half in the United States.

The NICHD has also helped reduce the transmission of HIV from infected mothers to the fetus from happening 25 percent of the time to two percent.

Though infant mortality is still a major problem in the United States, there are organizations such as NICHD working to tackle the issue. The main ways to improve infant outcomes in the U.S. appear to be through education and improved resources for at-risk populations.

(http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/infantmortality.htm)

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Epilepsy’s Lasting Effects on Children

Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder characterized by unpredictable seizures that disrupt communication between brain cells. Though it is treatable through surgery, diet, and medications; epilepsy can have a lasting, life-altering impact on those who suffer from it. 25 million Americans will have at least one seizure over the course of their life. That works out to one out of every ten people.

Though epilepsy occurs in men, women, and children across cultures; research shows it is much more prevalent among minority members who are living in poverty. Of the two-and-a-half million people in the United States diagnosed with epilepsy, 300,000 of those are children. And, every year, there are 50,000 more children diagnosed with epilepsy.

For over two-thirds of epilepsy cases in children, the cause is unknown. About one in five cases can be attributed to congenital causes. 4.7 percent of cases show symptoms after some sort of trauma. Other less common causes of epilepsy are due to injections, stroke, or a tumor.

Epilepsy Hits Children Especially Hard

Epilepsy has an especially serious effect on youth 18 years of age and younger. Epilepsy can have an immense impact on brain development if it strikes in early childhood. Also, epileptic attacks can hurt a child’s chances at educational achievement. Children with epilepsy on average are one year behind in their reading level. It is common for children suffering from epilepsy to have stunted adaptive behaviors, visual-spatial function, language, and problem solving.

The teenage years are hard enough without adding epilepsy to the mix. Teenagers are faced with challenges when it comes to dating, working, driving, and attending school when they have epilepsy. In addition, the following contribute to hampering quality of life in children with epilepsy:

  • Stigma
  • Injuries
  • Depression
  • Restrictions on lifestyle
  • Medication side effects
  • Pain
  • Severe seizures

There Is a Way to Treat Epilepsy

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For children, there is the potential for treating epilepsy while minimizing side effects. Unfortunately, there currently is not a system for treating children who suffer from epilepsy in a timely manner. Children you live in rural or underserved areas and ethnic and racial minority groups often lack easy access to specialists who can diagnose epilepsy.

Pediatric neurologists generally treat epilepsy, but there is a shortage of these specialists and even fewer are experts on epilepsy. There are often delays in diagnosis of epilepsy, and it takes even longer to figure out the exact type of epilepsy a child has. It takes additional time to craft a treatment plan and determine how to carry out the plan.

The Children’s Health Act of 2000

In 2000, the Children’s Health Act (CHA) authorized the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to pursue a variety of initiatives to improve epilepsy care. Through the enactment of the CHA, DHS is authorized to expand epilepsy surveillance activities and implement professional and public education activities. DHS can also enhance research initiatives. This research can hopefully shed light on the two-thirds of epilepsy cases that do not have a known cause.

There are a number of government organizations and agencies that have experience helping people with disabilities. The CHA allows DHS to strengthen relationships with these organizations and agencies to better serve the health needs of epileptics.

In addition, the CHA allows DHS to launch demonstration projects in underserved area. This helps those who are members of the most vulnerable populations to gain access to early epilepsy detection and treatment for children. This improves these children’s chances of living a normal life.

So, though epilepsy is a frightening and common problem among youth, it is a problem that is being attacked. Improved research, cross-department collaboration, and a focus on helping the undeserved are providing the perfect formula to help children with epilepsy.

(http://www.epilepsy.com/info/family_kids_treatment)

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Cultural Competency Can Be More Important Than the Doctor’s Skill

Cultural competency is a set of beliefs, policies, systems, and practices that come together to make a health care organization effective in treating patients from any culture or background. On any given day, a health care facility may see patients who only speak Russian, Mandarin, Spanish, French, etc. These differences in language may reflect a background that is unfamiliar with how health systems work in the United States.

The inability of health care organizations to handle patients from various backgrounds has led to disparities in health outcomes in the melting pot that is the United States. With the population growth of racial and ethnic minorities throughout the United States, cultural competency is also becoming increasingly important for treatment.

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How Does Culture Influence Health Care?

How one is raised and where they are raised, the systems they are used to, can have a major impact on their health care expectations. Culture can influence:

  • The behaviors of those seeking health care and their attitudes toward providers.
  • Healing, wellness, and health belief systems.
  • The limited scope through which health care practitioner sees the world, which can compromise the treatment of people from other cultures.
  • How disease, illness, and their causes are perceived.

CLAS Standards

The Office of Minority Health, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, recognizes these problems. That is why they have developed National CLAS Standards to “to inform, guide, and facilitate required and recommended practices related to culturally and linguistically appropriate health services (CLAS).”

There are fifteen standards entrenched within the National CLAS Standards. The Principal Standard states, “Provide effective, equitable, understandable, and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy, and other communication needs.”

The other fourteen CLAS standards deal with Governance, Leadership, and Workforce (Standards 2-4); Communication and Language Assistance (Standards 5-8); and Engagement, Continuous Improvement, and Accountability (Standards 9-15). The Office of Minority Health provides a blueprint for any health care organization to institute these standards.

What Can Individuals Do?

It is clear that health care organizations that take the initiative to learn about how better to serve other cultures have better health care outcomes. But, how does an individual convince health care organizations to adopt the National CLAS standards and therefore provide better service to minorities and other groups?

There are a number of ways families, communities, and youth can help build cultural competency in health care organizations and elsewhere. By advocating for themselves, other families, or communities of diverse backgrounds; individuals and groups can raise awareness of different cultures and their needs.

As it is commonly claimed, money makes the world go round. So, building and sustaining a demand for culturally competent services will force the marketplace to adapt. Individuals can also offer to be sources of knowledge and support for various cultures and languages as different organizations change to meet the demands for cultural competency.

Individuals can also help out by taking the initiative to learn about language access rights, ethnic and racial health disparities, participatory action research, health literacy, cross-cultural communication, and a culture’s impact on health. By creating partnerships with policymakers, providers, and other families, one can build trust and spread cultural knowledge and thus creating advocates.

Another method for spreading cultural influence is by participating in governing boards or advisory groups. One can jump right in on the ground floor and work as a consultant or staff for programs promoting cultural competency.

As one can see, there are a variety of ways to help improve cultural competency in health care organizations. With the government providing a framework, it is only a matter of time before there is equitable health care access for all cultures and races. The importance of this can be measured in the number of lives saved.

(http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/browse.aspx?lvl=1&lvlID=3)