Deep vein thrombosis: A pain that cannot be ignored

 Bernie McKay just months after a procedure to remove his blood clot.

Bernie McKay just months after a procedure to remove his blood clot.

Fifty-three-year-old Bernie McKay would never have guessed that the pain he thought was a simple muscle cramp was actually a serious medical condition that could have stopped him in his tracks forever. 

Bernie, who leads an active lifestyle and works in a hospital, experienced severe cramping in the back of his left thigh one morning while walking into work. The pain became so severe that he rushed himself to the emergency department, knowing that something wasn’t right. After a series of consultations and tests, he was diagnosed as having deep vein thrombosis, or DVT.

DVT affects approximately 900,000 people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and while a clot can form anywhere, it usually occurs in the legs or pelvis. Sometimes part of the blood clot can break off and travel to your lungs, which can cause a pulmonary embolism, a serious and potentially deadly condition.

Doctors typically diagnose DVT through tests such as an ultrasound or blood tests. The first line of treatment can consist of medications and compression stockings, but these options don’t actually remove or dissolve the clot. Many DVT blood clots can be absorbed by the body over time with the help of blood thinners; however, as long as the clot is present, it can cause permanent damage to the valves in the vein, leading to chronic pain and swelling called post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS).

Another treatment option that physicians may consider for their patients is a medical procedure called a mechanical thrombectomy. This procedure can help quickly restore blood flow by removing the clot altogether, thus reducing the amount and duration of medications a patient needs to take and may help prevent future complications.

“Recent medical advances are allowing more and more patients to have blood clots removed using minimally invasive procedures,” said Dr. Kush Desai, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Some patients, like Bernie, may be candidates for a mechanical thrombectomy, which uses a special catheter designed to help break up and physically remove all or portions of the clot.”

Only half of the people who develop DVT experience any symptoms, such as swelling, pain or tenderness in a leg with skin that’s warm and red or discolored. However, there are risk factors that you should be aware of as they can increase your chances of developing DVT:

• Treatment for cancer;

• Prolonged lack of movement such as long distance travel or long periods of bed rest;

• A personal or family history of blood clots;

• Older age;

• Pregnancy.

Understanding the risk factors and being aware of various treatment options can help reduce your chance of developing a dangerous blood clot and the serious health complications that may be associated with it.

“With such a short recovery time, the procedure allowed me to spend time with my family and friends -- without having to take medications for the rest of my life,” said Bernie. “I’m more active than I was before, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

There are risks associated with all medical procedures. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits associated with mechanical thrombectomy. For more information visit ClearingtheClot.com or the Clearing the Clot Facebook community, patient resources developed by Boston Scientific. For more information, visit bostonscientific.com.

Take control of your health to help decrease your chances of developing DVT by understanding the risks and treatment options available. -StatePoint

Posted on January 27, 2018 .

New ways to improve the way you feel

Nearly 25 million Americans experience daily physical discomfort, according to the National Institutes of Health, which can affect mood, mobility, and quality of life.

While the reasons for discomfort vary, the way it is experienced doesn’t -- peripheral nerves are responsible for delivering sensory information, such as itch, temperature change and physical pressure to the brain.

With this in mind, experts are identifying new ways to promote nerve health and comfort by inhibiting inflammatory compounds in nerve cells, and at the same time, encouraging healthy neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

They have discovered that a fatty acid called palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), produced naturally by the body as part of a healthy inflammatory and immune response, inhibits the secretion of inflammatory compounds from mast cells, a type of white blood cell. As we age, our number of mast cells decreases, causing our remaining mast cells to work harder. That can make them overly sensitive, activating inflammatory processes linked to nerve discomfort.

“By inhibiting inflammatory compounds released by mast cells, PEA promotes the body’s natural response to uncomfortable nerve stimuli at the cellular level,” says Michael A. Smith, M.D., senior health scientist and spokesperson for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Life Extension.

Smith points out that it is now possible to take PEA in supplement form. One option is Life Extension’s ComfortMAX, a dual-action nerve support supplement which contains both PEA as well as Honokiol, a naturally occurring lignan compound derived from magnolia that is shown to support “calming” receptors in the brain, known as GABA receptors, which affect the way the brain perceives discomfort.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, however, many experts believe they can be effective in pain management. More information can be found at www.lecomfortmax.com.

“It’s only natural to think topically or locally when we wish to inhibit discomfort. However, taking in the bigger picture could mean more effective relief,” says Dr. Smith. -StatePoint

Posted on January 27, 2018 .

Finding Help With Expensive Medications

by Jeffrey Lewis

If you or someone you love is one of the millions of Americans with a chronic disease or a life-threatening condition, pharmaceutical manufacturers and their partners offer you a gift of hope this holiday season.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are criticized as Scrooge or the Grinch in our country’s health care system. Elected officials and advocacy organizations want to blame somebody for rising Rx costs, and the most obvious target is the Big Pharma.

But in this blame game, very little attention is given to the help the pharmaceutical industry and its partners quietly provide to patients in need through a variety of programs.

Such programs are often based on the patient’s household income, but not always. Patients with no health insurance coverage are often the first group considered eligible. Likewise, those with one or more chronic or life-threatening conditions are a high priority.

If you fall into one of these categories, check out the Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) found on individual pharmaceutical company websites or through Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org), the website created by PhRMA, the trade association representing pharmaceutical manufacturers, linking patients to more than 475 different assistance programs.

On most of these websites, you can be connected with a customer support team member who can help determine if you are eligible and get you enrolled. You will be asked to verify that you are insured or uninsured and, in some cases, provide proof of income. You may need your physician to validate your condition. But once approved, access to medication is almost immediate.

(Note: Patients enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid may not be eligible.)

Pharmaceutical manufacturers also offer co-pay assistance, in which the patient is offered help with the cost of medication co-payments. Some co-pay assistance programs do not limit who is eligible. And, it is important to know that some co-pay assistance programs will not help people on Medicare. Each program sets its own rules.

People searching for an online provider should check out www.RxAssist.org. This site was developed by AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, with the sole purpose of helping people access needed medications. It is one of the best sites available.

The California Chronic Care Coalition (CCCC) launched the website www.mypatientrights.com in California and is taking it nationwide to help people who have been denied treatment or medicines, experienced delays or are dissatisfied with the decisions made by their health plan. Today, this program is operating in 17 states. It helps patients get the care or treatment they need if denied, or if their plans don’t cover their meds and force them to pay full price. The program is available in 17 states—check the website to see if your state has a program.

This holiday season, if you need help with your medications, you are not alone. Go to the websites cited throughout this article. They can help connect you with low-cost and free alternatives. It is worth your time to explore these options. Feel free to e-mail me with your questions.

Jeffrey Lewis, CEO of Legacy Health Endowment in Turlock, can be reached at jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org. The views expressed are his own. -NAPSI

Posted on January 3, 2018 .

Flu activity increasing in Ohio; still time to get flu shot

CDC says flu vaccination among pregnant women low, putting them, babies at risk

Flu activity in Ohio is increasing. During the week that ended Dec. 2 which is the most recent data available, there were 92 flu-associated hospitalizations in Ohio and 257 hospitalizations since the start of the season. That is above the five-year average for this time of year and significantly higher than the 19 flu-associated hospitalizations during the same week last year and 83 hospitalizations for the season.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone six months and older get one as soon as possible as it is the best protection against seasonable flu viruses. It takes about two weeks for a flu shot to take full effect. Flu activity traditionally begins to increase in October and can last as late as May, with cases typically peaking between December and February.

CDC says that despite the benefits of flu vaccination, roughly three out of five people in the U.S. have not been vaccinated this flu season and roughly two out of three pregnant women have not received a flu vaccine yet this year.

“Pregnant women and their young infants are at high risk for serious complications from the flu,” said Dr. Clint Koenig, Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Health. “CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend flu shots for all women who are or expect to be pregnant during the flu season.”

Flu surveillance data in Australia where flu season is winding down suggests that this year’s vaccine has been significantly less effective against one circulating flu virus strain, influenza A(H3N2). However, CDC notes that vaccine effectiveness measured in Australia may not be predictive of what will happen in the U.S.

“No vaccine is 100 percent effective but there are many reasons to get a flu vaccination,” Koenig said. “Flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of flu-related hospitalizations each year in the U.S. A study published earlier this year in a pediatric journal shows that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza.”

Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Although most people fully recover from the flu, some experience severe illness like pneumonia and respiratory failure, and the flu can sometimes be fatal. People who think that they may have the flu and are pregnant, have an underlying medical condition, or who are extremely ill should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers and some schools.

While vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading it include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

More information about influenza and flu activity in Ohio is available at www.flu.ohio.gov. 

Posted on December 8, 2017 .

Tick-borne lyme disease cases in Ohio rise

Protect yourself, your family, and your pets from tick bites during hunting season

The weather is turning colder, and it’s hunting season in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are reminding Ohioans that ticks are still active. People need to take precautions to prevent tick bites which can carry diseases such as Lyme disease.

The Ohio Department of Health is reporting 241 cases of Lyme disease in 60 counties so far in 2017. Cases of Lyme disease have steadily increased in Ohio during the past 5 years with 93 cases in 2013, 119 cases in 2014, 154 cases in 2015 and 160 cases in 2016. The increase in cases coincides with the increase of the blacklegged tick in Ohio.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected deer tick. Symptoms can include a flu-like illness, muscle pain, and headache; a bull’s-eye shaped rash is often also seen at the site of the bite as well.

“Lyme disease is still very important to think about, even in cold weather,” said Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Clint Koenig. “You still need to take precautions like wearing bug repellent to make sure you are protected while outside enjoying the fall season.”

Fall hunting season has begun and deer gun season begins on Nov. 27. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is reminding sportsmen and sportswomen that hunting brings you in close contact with ticks and their habitats, so it is important to take the proper precautions to reduce your chances of being bitten.

Here are some tips on how to avoid tick bites before and after you hunt:

  • When possible, walk in the center of trails and paths to avoid brushing up against ticks.

  • Apply bug repellent to everyone in your party, including pets.

  • Tuck your pants into your boots or socks and tuck your shirt into your pants to prevent ticks

    from crawling inside clothing.

  • Shower immediately after returning from the outdoors to remove unattached ticks.

  • Check dogs for ticks after returning from tick habitats.

  • Remove any attached tick immediately by grasping it with tweezers, as close to the skin as

    possible, and pulling it straight out. Do not twist or jerk.

    There are currently no vaccines to prevent tickborne diseases. If detected at an early stage, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with appropriate antibiotic therapy.

    For more information about Ohio hunting season, go to www.ohiodnr.gov. For more information about ticks and Lyme disease, go to www.odh.ohio.gov. 

Posted on November 9, 2017 .

Influenza season begins in Ohio; ideal time to get flu shot

Flu vaccination best protection against illness and missed work or school

With the arrival of flu season, the Ohio Department of Health is recommending that all Ohioans six months and older get a flu shot now. Flu activity traditionally begins to increase in October and can last as late as May, with cases typically peaking between December and February.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the best protection against seasonal flu viruses. Flu vaccines have been updated this year to better match circulating flu viruses.

“Flu vaccination can help keep you from getting sick, missing work or school, and prevent flu-related hospitalization and death,” said Sietske de Fijter, state epidemiologist and ODH bureau chief of infectious diseases. “The more people who get vaccinated help protect others, including older adults, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”

Symptoms of influenza can include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.

“If you are sick with the flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others,” said de Fijter

Although most people fully recover from the flu, some experience severe illness like pneumonia and respiratory failure, and the flu can sometimes be fatal. People who think that they may have the flu and are pregnant, have an underlying medical condition, or who are extremely ill should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers and some schools. While vaccination provides the greatest protection against the flu, other effective ways to avoid getting or spreading it include: washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, or coughing or sneezing into elbows; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; and staying home when sick and until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication.

CDC recommends that healthcare providers administer prescription antiviral medication as a second line of defense as soon as possible to patients with confirmed or suspected flu who are hospitalized, have severe illness, or may be at higher risk for flu complications.

More information about influenza and flu activity in Ohio is available at www.flu.ohio.gov. 

Posted on October 18, 2017 .

Total Ohio infant deaths rise in 2016 while sleep-related deaths decline

New state budget dedicates nearly $50 million to help save babies’ lives

COLUMBUS – The number of Ohio infants who died before their first birthday increased from 1,005 in 2015 to 1,024 in 2016, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The report also contains some promising news with fewer sleep-related infant deaths than in 2015. Sleep-related infant deaths have been trending downward over time, corresponding with intensive state and local initiatives to promote safe sleep practices.

“While we have seen some progress in preventing sleep-related infant deaths, we still have a lot of work to do, particularly in the areas of premature births and racial disparities. That is why the state is investing millions of dollars in local initiatives that will help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays, particularly in high-risk communities and populations,” said ODH Director Lance Himes.

Ohio’s focus on preventing sleep-related infant deaths through public awareness campaigns and programs to provide free cribs to eligible parents is making some headway. In 2016, there were 22 percent fewer sleep-related infant deaths than in 2015.

Prematurity-related conditions, such as preterm birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are the leading cause of infant deaths in Ohio. Although the number of prematurity-related infant deaths increased from 2015 to 2016, Ohio’s prematurity infant mortality rate – the number of preterm infant deaths per 1,000 live births – has not changed significantly in the past decade.

Ohio is addressing many of the contributing factors related to premature births such as smoking, and identifying and treating women at risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy, conditions which increase the risk of having a preterm or low-birth-weight baby. One of the more successful interventions is the use of a hormone medication, progesterone, in at-risk women to help reduce the likelihood of preterm birth.

The current state budget dedicates nearly $50 million to improving birth outcomes and reducing racial and ethnic disparities and builds on almost $87 million in investments made during the past six years.

The majority of state funding is dedicated to supporting local community-driven proposals to combat infant mortality in high-risk areas.

Nine metropolitan areas accounted for 59 percent of all infant deaths, and 86 percent of African- American infant deaths, in Ohio in 2016: Butler Co., Cleveland/Cuyahoga Co., Columbus/Franklin Co., Cincinnati/Hamilton Co., Toledo/Lucas Co., Youngstown/Mahoning Co., Dayton/Montgomery Co., Canton/Stark Co., and Akron/Summit Co. In these communities, local infant mortality coalitions are pursuing promising practices to reduce infant mortality supported by state and federal funding.

During the next two years, additional community-based pilot programs with proven track records in reducing infant mortality will be launched, and the evidence-based CenteringPregnancy® group prenatal care model will be expanded.

Ohio also will leverage federal grants to support local infant mortality initiatives during the next year:

  • To assist 27 Ohio counties at risk for poor birth or childhood developmental outcomes to expand local voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to women during pregnancy, and to parents with young children.

  • To assist 14 Ohio counties with the highest infant mortality rates for African-American babies to promote healthy pregnancies, positive birth outcomes, and healthy infant growth and development.

    Ohio’s goal is to reach the national objective of a 6.0 infant mortality rate or lower in every race and ethnicity group. An infant mortality rate is calculated as the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Ohio’s overall (all races) infant mortality rate increased from 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015 to 7.4 in 2016. The white infant mortality rate increased from 5.5 to 5.8, and the black infant mortality rate increased from 15.1 to 15.2, with black babies dying at nearly three times the rate as white babies. However, Ohio’s infant mortality rates are trending downward over time.

    The complete 2016 Ohio Infant Mortality Report including data by county, a list of new initiatives to address infant mortality, and a summary of initiatives over the past six years is available here. Ohio’s infant mortality website contains infant mortality tools, resources, and information at www.PreventInfantMortality.ohio.gov. 

Posted on October 6, 2017 .

First 2017 Ohio death in a human west nile virus case reported

Ohio Department of Health Urges Continued Precautions to Prevent Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Ohio’s first 2017 death in a human West Nile virus case has been reported by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The 74-year-old Defiance County man had been hospitalized with encephalitis.

The Ohio Department of Health is reporting a total of 10 human cases of West Nile virus across the state. Counties with at least one case include - Clark, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton (2), Logan and Summit. In recent years, Ohio reported 17 human West Nile Virus cases in 2016 including four deaths, 35 in 2015 including two deaths and 11 in 2014 including one death.

The primary way people get West Nile virus is through the bite of an infected mosquito. Most people who become infected with West Nile virus do not have any symptoms. About one in five people who become infected develop a fever with other symptoms such as a headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious neurologic illness, such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

“This time of the year, the risk of West Nile virus infection increases and individuals should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites and eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites,” said ODH State Epidemiologist and Bureau Chief of Infectious Diseases Sietske de Fijter. “Mosquito season in Ohio lasts until the first freeze which is not usually until mid-October.”

Here are some tips to avoid mosquito bites:

  • If you are outdoors between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, be sure to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, shoes, and socks.

  • Wear light-colored clothing, which is less attractive to mosquitoes.

  • Use EPA-registered mosquito repellent and follow the label directions.

  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

    Here are some tips to eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home:

  • Eliminate standing water.

  • Empty or remove water-holding containers, such as buckets, unused flower pots and bird baths.

  • Make sure all roof gutters are clean and draining properly.

  • Keep child wading pools empty and on their sides when not being used.

    Learn more about mosquitoes and West Nile virus on the ODH website at www.odh.ohio.gov/wnv. 

Posted on September 6, 2017 .

Health department warns of phone call scam seeking personal information

Callers use caller ID spoofing technology to appear to call from credible sources

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is warning of a phone scam where callers posing as health department staff are asking for personal information that the department would never seek over the phone. The callers use caller ID spoofing technology to make it appear that they are calling from a credible phone number, including from ODH and at least one Ohio local health department.

In addition to posing as ODH staff, some callers have said that they are calling on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or a hospital or other healthcare provider.

The callers often have some personal information about the individuals they are calling, such as name, date of birth, address and the name of the person’s physician.

Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of a phone scam:

  • ▪  If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and find a phone number on the company's or government agency's website to call to verify the authenticity of the request.

  • ▪  Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.

  • ▪  Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.

  • You can block the caller’s phone number to try to prevent follow up calls – although the caller

    may call back from a different phone number.

  • File a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov/complaint.

    Since this scam includes caller ID spoofing of a state agency, the Ohio Highway Patrol is investigating these calls. 

Posted on August 31, 2017 .

Access to health insurance restored in 19 Ohio counties

Insurance Department and Five Health Insurers Announce Plan to Restore Health Insurance Coverage for 2018

Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment today joined five major Ohio health care insurers to announce that health insurance options have been restored on the federal exchange in 19 Ohio counties following the withdrawal of other insurers earlier this year. Buckeye Health Plan, CareSource, Medical Mutual of Ohio, Molina Health Care of Ohio and Paramount Health Care are helping ensure coverage is available in these counties on the exchange in 2018.  Announcements made earlier this year would have left Ohioans in 20 Ohio counties without access to health insurance.  The department is working to restore coverage to the 20th county before insurers must enter contracts with the federal government in late September.

“Knowing 20 counties might not have access to health insurance on the exchange in 2018, our team went to work with the companies to find a way through the challenge, and together we have identified a solution,” Froment said.  “Ohio has long had a strong insurance system and once again our insurers stepped up at an important time for thousands of Ohioans, taking unprecedented action to provide access to health insurance for Ohioans who otherwise were without options.”

The 19 counties are Coshocton, Crawford, Guernsey, Hancock, Harrison, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Knox, Lawrence, Logan, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Van Wert, Vinton, Williams and Wyandot.  Approximately 11,000 Ohioans purchase coverage through the health care exchange in those counties.  

In light of this announcement, insurers are still in the process of finalizing filings at the Department of Insurance, including the types of plans that will be sold in these areas and the rates that will be charged.  The department’s review must be completed later this summer and insurers must sign contracts with the federal government by late September to sell coverage on the federal exchange.

The department continues to look at coverage options in Paulding County where no insurer is presently planning to sell an exchange product in 2018.  

“There is more work to do as we try to secure coverage options in Paulding County while also making sure this plan can be finalized in the fall,” Froment added. “We will continue working with the industry, but those efforts are heavily dependent on market stability and clarity from Washington.  We encourage Congress to work on ways to stabilize our health insurance markets.”

Consumers with questions can contact the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526

COMPANY COVERAGE BREAKDOWN BY COUNTY

Buckeye Health Plan: Harrison, Logan, and Van Wert

CareSource: Guernsey, Jackson, Lawrence, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, and Vinton

Medical Mutual of Ohio: Crawford, Knox, Hocking, and Hancock 

Molina Health Care of Ohio: Coshocton, Hancock, and Holmes

Paramount Health Care: Williams and Wyandot

STATEMENTS FROM OHIO HEALTH INSURERS

“We are pleased to expand Ambetter from Buckeye Health Plan from 9 to 27 Ohio counties in 2018.  Working in partnership with the state to include three of the bare counties helps ensure that Ohio residents will continue to have access to high-quality, comprehensive health care.”
Bruce Hill
Buckeye Health Plan President & CEO

“At CareSource, we are proud to be a part of this collaboration to maintain health care options for thousands of working Ohioans.  Our commitment to the Marketplace has been unchanged from the very beginning.  As a result of our 28-year history of serving uninsured populations, we see firsthand the value affordable health care coverage offers to families in Ohio.”
Pamela Morris
CareSource President & CEO

“We’re fortunate to be able to play a part in the solution, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that the willingness of local providers to come to the table is what allowed us to get to this point.”  
Steffany Larkins
Medical Mutual of Ohio Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer

Posted on August 8, 2017 .

LISTEN NOW

The Senate health care debate to dismantle Obamacare continues.

Posted on July 26, 2017 .

Patients, doctors and researchers embracing new plan to deal with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that afflicts millions of Americans, haunts families, and frustrates doctors and researchers, is now the third leading cause of death in the US, behind heart disease and cancer, costing Americans more than $32 billion a year.

For those living with or affected by the disease, there is new hope, thanks to a recently unveiled COPD National Action Plan.

Developed by patients, agencies and organizations under the stewardship of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the Action Plan shines a spotlight on the devastating physical and emotional toll the disease causes.

“Not being able to catch your breath and fearing your next breath may not come is just like drowning,” said Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, president of the COPD Foundation and a longtime COPD patient. “It is frightening beyond words and feels very, very lonely.”

Yet many with these symptoms tend to attribute them to something else: the common cold, old age, being out of shape. This lack of awareness delays diagnosis and treatment, worsening the condition and quality of life. Even mundane tasks -- housework, bathing, dressing, walking -- can feel onerous.

That’s why the first goal of the plan is to empower patients and families to recognize COPD and get treated quickly.

“I was diagnosed in 2001 and was told COPD is incurable,” said Dorney Koppel. “But that does not mean [it is] untreatable. Doctors need to teach patients the difference. I was given three to five years to live…sixteen years ago.”

Compounded with this misinformation is the idea that it’s exclusively a smoker’s disease mainly affecting men. While it most often affects people over 40 with a history of smoking, as many as one in four with COPD have never smoked. Long-term exposure to substances that irritate the lungs or a genetic predisposition called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency also present as risk factors. What’s more, 56 percent of those diagnosed are women, and they die of COPD more than men.

Unlike heart disease and cancer, COPD prevalence and deaths aren’t decreasing. One in five people over age 45 has it.

“You know someone who has it. You may even have it and not know it,” said James P. Kiley, director of NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases.

So how to reverse this trend? One key is improving the level of diagnosis. “Spirometry is a simple and inexpensive breathing test that can identify COPD,” said Dorney Koppel.

MeiLan Han, M.D., medical director of the Women’s Respiratory Health Program at the University of Michigan, agreed, noting another goal of the Action Plan: to equip health care professionals with tools to diagnose and care for COPD patients. “We need to develop easy-to-follow guidelines and get them into the hands of providers on the frontlines.”

Developing an educational curriculum and tools for clinical decision-making, in sync with detection and management guidelines, will significantly improve diagnosis and care, said Han. So will improving patient access to spirometry, pulmonary rehabilitation, smoking cessation programs and affordable medications -- all of which are called for in the plan.

To learn more about the Action Plan and find out how to get involved, visit COPD.nih.gov.

“This plan represents a new understanding of what it takes to minimize the burden of COPD,” said Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., director of NHLBI. “Now, it’s just a matter of getting to work.” - StatePoint

Posted on July 26, 2017 .

Parsing the policies: What’s to become of Medicaid and Medicare?

Opinion writers offer their thoughts on how the current Affordable Care Act replacement debate impacts Medicaid and how governors should proceed in pursuing Medicaid waivers as well as current Medicare funding issues. 

Daily Beast: Medicaid Delivers As Obamacare Survives
Medicaid got a reprieve from the budget axe with the GOP’s failure so far to repeal, let alone replace, Obamacare. Suddenly, the program for the poor that began in 1965 seems less like a scapegoat for politicians looking to score rhetorical points and to shore up state budgets, and like it may join Medicare and Social Security on the third rail in American politics—touch it and you die. (Eleanor Clift, 7/24)

RealClear Health: Republicans Are Tackling Medicaid Wrongly
The high decibel fight in the Senate over Medicaid is one more example--did we need more?--of why lasting changes in social programs require thoughtful legislative deliberation leading to bipartisan consensus. There should be hearings to gather input from all sides and serious debate in committees as well as on the floor. If one party rams through big changes in any program as important as Medicaid, the other party will demonize the result. In the case of Medicaid cuts, arousing public outrage won't be hard. Individuals and families, state governments, rural hospitals and other health providers will all be vocal about their plight. One wonders why either party would seek such opprobrium when they could be working together on sensible Medicaid reform. (Alice M. Rivlin, 7/24)

Morning Consult: Governors: Avoid Harmful Insurance Practices In Medicaid Waivers
While our nation’s governors recently gathered in Rhode Island for the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, most of the country’s political attention remained focused on the debate in Washington, D.C. over the fate of the Affordable Care Act. Less noticed, but also critically important, is that fact that each governor holds in their hands today the ability to radically reshape Medicaid for their state’s most vulnerable citizens regardless of the outcome of that debate. (Donna Christensen, Scott Mulhauser and Jason Resendez, 7/24)

CBS News: Medicare Funding: Problems And Solutions
Medicare's funding problems often get overlooked when the Social Security trustees issue their annual report on the funded status of the Social Security and Medicare programs. Yet together they form the twin pillars of financial security for retirees. That's why it's important to understand Medicare's financial situation, so you can be an informed health care planner -- and voter. (Steve Vernon, 7/24)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

Posted on July 24, 2017 .

What your friends with cancer want you to know (but are afraid to say)

People with cancer are supposed to be heroic.

We fight a disease that terrifies everyone.

We are strong because we endure treatments that can feel worse than the actual malignancies.

We are brave because our lab tests come back with news we don’t want to hear.

 The reality of life with cancer is very different from the image we try to portray.

Our fight is simply a willingness to go through treatment because, frankly, the alternative sucks. Strength? We endure pain and sickness for the chance to feel normal down the road.  Brave? We build up an emotional tolerance and acceptance of things we can’t change. Faith kicks in to take care of the rest.

The truth is that if someone you love has cancer, they probably won’t be completely open about what they’re going through because they’re trying so hard to be strong.

For you.

However, if they could be truly honest and vulnerable, they would tell you:

1. Don’t wait on me to call you if I need anything.  Please call me every once in a while and set up a date and time to come over. I know you told me to call if I ever needed anything, but it’s weird asking others to spend time with me or help me with stuff I used to be able to do on my own. It makes me feel weak and needy, and I’m also afraid you’ll say “no.”

2. Let me experience real emotions. Even though cancer and its treatments can sometimes influence my outlook, I still have normal moods and feelings in response to life events. If I’m angry or upset, accept that something made me mad and don’t write it off as the disease. I need to experience and express real emotions and not have them minimized or brushed off.

3. Ask me “what’s up” rather than “how do you feel.” Let’s talk about life and what’s been happening rather than focusing on my illness.

4. Forgive me.  There will be times when the illness and its treatment make me “not myself.” I may be forgetful, abrupt or hurtful. None of this is deliberate. Please don’t take it personally, and please forgive me.

5. Just listen. I’m doing my very best to be brave and strong, but I have moments when I need to fall apart. Just listen and don’t offer solutions. A good cry releases a lot of stress and pressure for me.

6. Take pictures of us. I may fuss about a photo, but a snapshot of us can help get me through tough times.  A photo is a reminder that someone thinks I’m important and worth remembering. Don’t let me say “I don’t want you to remember me like this” when treatment leaves me bald or scarred.  This is me, who I am RIGHT NOW. Embrace the now with me.

7. I need a little time alone.  A few points ago I was talking about how much I need to spend time with you, and now I’m telling you to go away.  I love you, but sometimes I need a little solitude. It gives me the chance to take off the brave face I’ve been wearing too long, and the sil1ence can be soothing.

8. My family needs friends. Parenting is hard enough when your body is healthy; it becomes even more challenging when you’re managing a cancer diagnosis with the day-to-day needs of your family. My children, who aren’t mature enough to understand what I’m going through, still need to go to school, do homework, play sports, and hang out with friends. Car-pooling and play dates are sanity-savers for me. Take my kids. Please.

My spouse could also benefit from a little time with friends. Grab lunch or play a round of golf together. I take comfort in knowing you care about the people I love.

9. I want you to reduce your cancer risk. I don’t want you to go through this. While some cancers strike out of the blue, many can be prevented with just a few lifestyle changes – stop smoking, lose extra weight, protect your skin from sun damage, and watch what you eat. Please go see a doctor for regular check-ups and demand follow-up whenever pain, bleeding or unusual lumps show up. Many people can live long and fulfilling lives if this disease is discovered in its early stages. I want you to have a long and fulfilling life.

10. Take nothing for granted. Enjoy the life you have right now. Take time to jump in puddles, hug the kids, and feel the wind on your face. Marvel at this amazing world God created, and thank Him for bringing us together.

While we may not be thankful for my cancer, we need to be grateful for the physicians and treatments that give me the chance to fight this thing. And if there ever comes a time when the treatments no longer work, please know that I will always be grateful for having lived my life with you in it. I hope you feel the same about me.

Kim Helminski Keller is a Dallas-based mom, wife, teacher and journalist. She is currently receiving treatment for thyroid cancer. 

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Posted on July 15, 2017 .

Trinity Hospital Twin City hosts free diabetes support group about healthy coping

DENNISON—Trinity Hospital Twin City is hosting a free diabetes support group meeting on Monday, July 17th at 1:30 pm at Trinity Hospital Twin City’s second floor St. Raphael conference room. The meeting will feature a presentation on “Healthy Coping: The Impact Sizzling Emotions can have on Diabetes.” Featured speaker, Suzanne Stull of the hospital’s Vibrant Living Program, will discuss how stressors can affect blood sugar and share methods for coping with stress.

The support group is led by LuAnn Beavers-Willis, Certified Diabetes Educator, and all area residents who have diabetes are encouraged to attend, and family and friends are also welcome. To register for participation in this free support group meeting, visit www.trinitytwincity.org or call (740) 922-7450, ext. 2177.

The diabetes support group is offered regularly through the hospital’s diabetes wellness services program.

Posted on July 10, 2017 .

Trinity Hospital Twin City recognizes volunteers

DENNISON—During a special volunteer appreciation and recognition luncheon in June, Trinity Hospital Twin City honored all members of the Trinity Hospital Twin City United Volunteer Auxiliary. Additionally, nine volunteers were awarded service pins in recognition of their years of dedicated service to the hospital, and one volunteer was lauded as volunteer of the year.

Volunteers received service pins for anniversary milestones earned in 2016, and the group recognized represented a total of 85 years of volunteer service to the hospital.  Nathan McGee of Dennison; and Delecta Ditcher and Colette Shaver of Uhrichsville were honored for five years of service. Jane Modon of Dennison, June Mathias of Gnadenhutten, Joan Beorn of New Philadelphia, Pat Smith of Tuscarawas, and Vicki Hickey of Uhrichsville were recognized for 10 years of service. Vickie Lehman of Dennison was honored for 20 years of service.

 Vickie Lehman of Dennison was honored for 20 years of service

Vickie Lehman of Dennison was honored for 20 years of service

 Volunteer of the Year award to Norma Jean McGuire of Dennison

Volunteer of the Year award to Norma Jean McGuire of Dennison

Trinity Hospital Twin City United Volunteer Auxiliary President Emillie Blackwood presentedthe Volunteer of the Year award to Norma Jean McGuire of Dennison.  McGuire has been a hospital volunteer for 24 years, and she has faithfully served at the front desk and in the coffee bar and gift shop. She has also assisted with fundraisers. 

 “She is very kind and a friend to everyone,” noted Blackwood of McGuire. “She always works at our card parties and bake sales and supports all of our projects.”

“We are so thankful for all of our volunteers,” shared Blackwood. “Without their dedication and hard work, we would not be able to assist the hospital in funding much-needed equipment for patient care.”

Community members of all ages are welcome to join the Trinity Hospital Twin City United Volunteer Auxiliary. Opportunities are available to volunteer for as little as one shift a month to several shifts a month. Officers of the United Volunteer Auxiliary include President Emillie Blackwood of Gnadenhutten, Vice Presidents Jan Thomas of Gnadenhutten and Barb Besozzi of Scio, Treasurer Carolyn McCoy of Tuscarawas, Assistant Treasurer Debbie Heddleson of Tuscarawas, and Secretaries Helen Gordon of Tippecanoe and Connie Colvin of New Philadelphia.

For more information about volunteerism at Trinity Hospital Twin City, call Kelly Bowe, Volunteer Coordinator, at (740) 922-7450, ext. 2124 or e-mail kbowe@trinitytwincity.org.

Posted on June 30, 2017 .

Don’t let kids drown: Teach them to swim

Cooling off in a pool, lake or ocean can be a refreshing idea—but only if you know how to avoid the dangers. 

  Water safety classes are a good idea for all kids—and their parents

Water safety classes are a good idea for all kids—and their parents

The Problem

Drowning is a leading cause of death in children under 14. One reason is that 70 percent of African-American and 60 percent of Hispanic children don’t know how to swim, the USA Swimming Foundation reports. Minority children are also less involved in competitive swimming when compared to their white peers, comprising only 1 percent of USA Swimming membership. 

Some of the reasons include:

• Lack of Swimming Access. Facilities in traditionally underserved communities are few and far between and tend to be expensive.

• Cultural Constraints. Data shows there may be a legacy of fear, perpetuated through generations.

• Parental Perceptions. Adults who don’t swim may not know what needs to be done so that their children learn to swim safely.

An Answer

To help close the gap in swimming safety, the YMCA created Safety Around Water, a program that teaches children of all ages and backgrounds—and their parents—that water should be fun, not feared, as long as you know how to stay safe. This year, the Y awarded over 27,000 scholarships for free water safety lessons to children in underserved communities. The children learn fundamental water safety skills that include what to look for in a safe place to swim, what to do if they find themselves in the water unexpectedly, and how to swim a short distance on their front, roll over onto their back to rest, and then roll on their front to continue swimming to safety.

“The Y teaches more than 1 million children from all backgrounds invaluable water-safety and swim skills every year, and the disturbing statistics about youth drownings underscore the significance of this work,” said Kevin Washington, president and CEO of Y-USA. “We are giving swim scholarships to children in underserved communities who statistically are at greatest risk of drowning so they can learn to be safe in and around the water. The Y is committed to reaching more kids, saving more lives and changing the statistics.”

Water Safety

If you know how to stay safe in and around water, swimming can be a lifelong source of fun and exercise. Here are six things you should know:

1. Never swim alone. Swim only when a lifeguard is on duty.

2. Supervise children whenever they are in or near water. Whether it’s a bath, the ocean or anything in between, stay within arm’s reach of the child at all times.

3. Don’t hold your breath. When swimming, children should avoid holding their breath for any length of time. This can lead directly to drowning and other severe physical side effects.

4. Wear a life jacket. Novice and nonswimmers should wear Coast Guard−approved life jackets.

5. Don’t jump in to save someone struggling in deep water. Even if you’re a great swimmer, you can be overpowered by a panicked person, pulling you underwater. The Y teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for the swimmer and pull him or her to safety.

6. Enroll in water safety classes. The Y teaches fundamental water safety skills and how to react if you find yourself in water unexpectedly.

Learn More

Families interested in further information about enrolling a child in Safety Around Water or Y Swim Lessons should visit www.ymca.net/watersafety. - NAPSI

Posted on June 11, 2017 .

Health awareness - Susan G. Komen

I found a very tiny, pea-sized lump. I found a bruise on the right side of my breast. It was kind of just a fluke that I felt it. I found I had breast cancer on a routine mammogram. I had a leakage from my left nipple and went to see a doctor about it. He said I want you to go have a mammogram. I said, what do you mean a mammogram? I don’t have breasts. He said, yes, men do have breasts. I certainly didn’t expect to be struck by breast cancer at thirty-three years old. The day I got the results, I felt scared. The first thing I thought about was my kids, I was like I didn’t want to leave them and that hurt. At that time, I had no insurance, whatsoever. It made me absolutely, positively worried about my husband and my son. You know, who’s going to take care of them if something seriously happened to me? My favorite thing about my mom is that through all the things she’s been through she still kept strong. Without you, my family would not be whole again. I can’t imagine not having support during this diagnosis and treatment. I can’t imagine somebody not having financial help. A lot of times, people don’t know where to go and they’re basically lost. If I didn’t get the diagnostics and treatment in time with the help of Susan G. Komen, I don’t think I’d be standing here right now having this conversation. This disease does not discriminate. Without you, we can’t realize a world free of breast cancer. Without you, we can’t help the women around the world who are diagnosed with breast cancer every nineteen seconds. Without you, we cannot rally millions of people across this country. Without you, we can’t save more lives. Without you. Without you. Without you, there is no us.

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

Protecting mental health in the wake of natural disasters 

The often sudden and overwhelming devastation and destruction caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters take an emotional toll on millions of people each year. Many survivors experience anxiety, trouble sleeping, depression and substance misuse. Help protect your mental health by learning ways to cope before, during and after these stressful events.

Emotional Impact: Before, During And After Natural Disaster

Knowing that a storm, tornado or other destructive event is coming can stir anxiety. Receiving continuous updates and warnings in the news can cause a heightened state of alert. This level of alert is particularly common in regions that frequently experience disasters: coastal communities vulnerable to hurricanes, towns on fault lines where earthquakes are likely, Tornado Alley, and dry regions prone to wildfires. 

After a disaster, the task of rebuilding can cause additional stress and sleeplessness. Others may experience grief and depression stemming from personal injuries or the loss of life, home or employment. 

In the wake of a disaster, it’s important to watch for several common warning signs of emotional distress. They include:

• Eating or sleeping too much or too little

• Pulling away from people and things

• Having low or no energy

• Having unexplained aches and pains, such as constant stomachaches or headaches

• Feeling helpless or hopeless; constant worrying

• Excessive smoking, drinking or using drugs, including prescription medications

• Thinking of hurting or killing yourself or someone else

• Having difficulty readjusting to home or work life.

The anniversary of an event may also renew feelings of fear, anxiety and sadness. Certain reminders such as sounds, like sirens, can trigger emotional distress. These and other environmental sensations can take survivors right back to the disaster or cause fear that it’s about to happen again.

Coping in the Event of a Natural Disaster

It’s normal to have difficulty managing your feelings about natural disasters. However, not dealing with the stress of these events can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Here are healthy ways to cope when disaster strikes:

• Limit your consumption of news. The constant replay of news stories about a disaster on TV, radio and the Internet can increase stress and anxiety. Reduce your news intake and engage in relaxing activities instead, like spending time with loved ones. 

• Get enough “good” sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, only go to bed when you are ready to sleep, avoid using cell phones or laptops in bed, and avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol for at least one hour before going to bed. If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, try writing in a journal.

• Take care of pets or spend time in nature when it’s safe. Nature and animals can help us feel better when we’re down. Spend time with your pet outdoors or go for a hike. 

• Know when to ask for help. Pay attention to what’s going on with you. What may seem like everyday stress can be depression, anxiety or alcohol/drug abuse. If you or someone you know is in need of extra help, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline (www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline), which provides free, confidential crisis counseling 24/7. 

Preparing can help reduce the potentially devastating impact of natural disasters. Know how to protect your physical and mental well-being so you, your family and community can be ready to rebound, rebuild and recover.

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call (800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. - NAPSI

Posted on June 4, 2017 .

How aging women can fight fibromyalgia pain

As the body ages, aches and pains might become more difficult for men and women to handle. While not all pain is indicative of a disorder or condition, aging women who experience pain may be suffering from fibromyalgia. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that fibromyalgia is a common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain. While anyone can get fibromyalgia, the NIAMS that between 80 and 90 percent of those diagnosed are women and that sufferers are most often diagnosed in middle age. Doctors may prescribe medication to help women fight pain resulting from fibromyalgia, and there are some additional ways to combat that pain as well.

• Get enough sleep. The NIAMS says the getting enough sleep can help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. To ensure a better night’s sleep, women can adopt sleep schedules so they go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including on weekends and during vacations. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, as both substances can make it more difficult to sleep soundly. In addition, avoid reading or working while in bed, as such activities can stimulate the body, making it harder to fall asleep as a result.

• Exercise regularly. Exercising while in pain may seem counterintuitive, but the NIAMS notes that numerous studies have indicated that regular exercise is an effective treatment for fibromyalgia. When beginning a new exercise regimen, take things slowly at first, gradually building up your endurance levels and amping up the intensity of your workouts as your body acclimates itself to exercise.

• Change your diet. Some women suffering from fibromyalgia have reported feeling better when they began to avoid certain foods, though the NIAMS points out that there is no specific diet connected to reducing fibromyalgia-related pain. The AARP notes that foods such as red grapes and cherries and herbs and spices, such as ginger and turmeric, can help aging women combat pain.

• Examine your work space. Working women who are dealing with fibromyalgia may benefit by examining their work spaces and adapting those spaces to make them more comfortable. Replace desk chairs if they do not provide adequate support and speak with an occupation therapist regarding other ways to make work stations more comfortable.

Posted on June 4, 2017 .