Confusion reigns on Good Morning America’s ‘complementary natural’ flu remedies report

by Kevin Lomangino, managing editor of
He tweets as @KLomangino.

Talk of the widespread and dangerous flu circulating this year has the public on edge and hungry for quality information about how to protect themselves.

ABC’s “Good Morning America” isn’t helping with this segment featuring Chief Medical Correspondent Jennifer Ashton, MD, titled “3 complementary natural remedies for the flu.”

It’s a mess of conflicting messages about herbal approaches to managing flu symptoms. And it positions Ashton — an ABC physician-journalist who’s brought in to report the story — as the only expert perspective about the effectiveness of these products.

Where were the independent sources?

Is Ashton — an ob/gyn — uniquely qualified to assess the anti-viral activity of oregano oil, olive leaf, and elderberry?

If not, then why is she the only one offering an opinion about whether or not these products are effective?

A sampling of Ashton’s head-spinning statements about these products make it clear why another voice was necessary.

The segment starts out with Ashton issuing some common sense-sounding disclaimers:

  • “There’s not yet peer-review, evidence-based medicine that supports the use of alternative or complementary therapies in the battle against the flu.”
  • “…especially with children and pregnant women and children, this is not recommended without the consult and advice of your health care provider.”

But then she quickly pivots to discussing oregano oil’s “antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties” and instructing viewers how to take it.


Success stories in driving up adult immunization rates

As we continue to lead longer and healthier lives, too many Americans aren’t taking advantage of an easily accessible set of tools that could protect their well-being into old age: adult vaccines. As a nation, we’ve embraced a regular schedule of vaccines for our children. But science shows that they are proven life-savers for us grown-ups, too.

The numbers are staggering: tens of thousands of Americans die each year from flu while another 200,000 people will be hospitalized with the disease.

Some 19,000 people over 65 will die from pneumococcal pneumonia, which also puts 200,000 people in the hospital each year and adds $5.5 billion in disease-related costs.

CDC adult immunization schedule for article, Success stories in driving up adult immunization rates
2015 Adult Combined Immunization Schedule – United States

And every year a million people in the U.S. will get shingles, a viral infection that will strike one in three Americans during their lifetime.

Every one of these diseases is vaccine-preventable. The problem is that vaccination rates for adults are way below public health targets, risking the health of hundreds of thousands of adults and threatening to drive up the nation’s health care costs.

Healthy People 2020, a 10-year initiative to improve the health of all American adults, set an immunization goal for influenza at 70 percent. But during the 2015-2016 flu season, only 42 percent of people 18 and older got the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For pneumonia, the CDC found that 61 percent of adults 65 and older, the most vulnerable population for the disease, said they had ever received a shot for pneumococcal pneumonia, short of the Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent.

And while the CDC recommended that all adults over 60 get the vaccine for shingles, only one in five got the shot between 2007 and 2013.  Last October, FDA approved a new and far more effective shingles vaccine, and the CDC now recommends that adults 50 and get vaccinated against the disease, with the goal of driving up rates to protect more people from this painful and debilitating disease.


Top 5 Take Away Points from 2017 National Workers’ Comp & Disability Conference – Part 1

Here’s the first installment from the Conference by Michael Stack , CEO of Amaxx.

January 9, 2018

“We’re about a month out from the conclusion of the National Work Comp and Disability conference held again this year in Las Vegas, back at Mandalay Bay. The general theme of the conference itself was really focusing on much of what, frankly, I teach and believe in, which is really the outcomes for the injured workers that drive down workers’ compensation costs, creating a true win-win scenario. I want to talk to you about my top five takeaways from the sessions that I attended.”



Take Away #1: Alliance of Woman in Workers’ Compensation

logo for Women's in Workers' Compensation Leadership Forum for article, Top 5 Take Away Points from 2017 National Workers’ Comp & Disability Conference – Part 1Let’s talk about takeaway number one, which comes from the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation Leadership Forum which was held the day before the official conference started. Now, the presentation was given by Margaret Spence. Margaret did a tremendous job at that presentation and at that leadership forum. To be frank, it had a fairly big impact on my own life in this past 30 days. Let’s talk about some of the things that she discussed and while this presentation was obviously directed towards women. Obviously, I’m not a woman, so I can’t fully appreciate and empathize with the experience of a professional woman in today’s environment or in the years past.

But I will tell you that the stories that she was describing, some of the challenges that women face, that she described both in the past and, currently, today in 2018 was a bit disheartening. It was a bit disheartening to hear that that still exists in our world, particularly, as I’m raising two young daughters. From my perspective, one of the underlying themes as it was given from the female perspective was to acknowledge and appreciate the struggles that women have come through and still face today, But having the courage and the confidence to break through it. One thing I’ll add from the male perspective and the perspective I think is very similar.

From the male perspective to appreciate and acknowledge the struggles that women have faced in the past and often continue to face today, but having the confidence and the courage to break through that, because while some of those prejudices may still exist in our world today, they should not exist in your world. If you take an honest and genuine look at yourself, and you see that those prejudices still exists in your world then you need to take the steps to correct it.


Employee Screening Tools

Tools employer can use to pre-qualify applicants include:

  1. Medical testing identifies applicants who have medical limitations. All testing must be done after an offer of employment is made and must be job-related. For example, a hearing test establishes a baseline if later on a hearing loss is graphic of global employment screening practices for article, Employee Screening Tools
  2. A baseline hearing test allows the employer to practice pro-active safety by protecting employees from further hearing loss by requiring the use of sound protection devices. Pay special attention to older employees who may be more sensitive and somewhat in denial about their hearing loss. A worker may not acknowledge an inability to hear instructions from supervisors or co-workers and may need printed instructions to understand directions. Remember – hearing loss due to the workplace environment is an occupational injury and is compensable.
  3. Applicants demonstrate job abilities where all new hires show they can safely perform the job.
  4. Personality profiling provides insights into the values, ethics, and behavioral characteristics of the potential employee, including an entitlement mentality, theft, deception, cheating, drug use, dishonesty, hostility, and propensity to violence.
  5. Background Check includes hidden criminal records, drug arrest, prior employment history, prior academic achievements, prior names and addresses, prior workers’ compensation claims, and credit history.

    [More tips on reducing your Workers’ Comp costs here}

Start the New Year Off Right With an Ergonomic Review

Blog Editor’s note: You can schedule a complimentary ergonomic review with the Physical Therapy Office at Central Coast IndustrialCare at ‭(805) 922-5003‬.

January 4, 2018 by Michael Stack

The New Year provides employers an opportunity to re-examine the issue of ergonomics in the workplace.  Making sure that workplace ergonomics is in place for all employees not only improves workplace morale but can reduce the costs of workers’ compensation claims in the future.

What is Ergonomics?

Defined by Webster, ergonomics is the “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.”  This study includes a review of workstations and job functions to reduce muscle overuse, correct poor posture and eliminate injuries cause is repetitive work activities.  It can also include a review of policies and procedures that seek input from a varied of interested stakeholders—include the person perform a particular work function.  It is important to include a review of tools used on a daily basis and other intangibles including, but not limited to workspace lighting.

illustration of correct ergonomics for office worker for article, Start the New Year Off Right With an Ergonomic ReviewImplementing an Effective Review

A proper ergonomics review includes the use of different specialists and stakeholders.  Beyond using a qualified specialist, it is important to include input from company management and employees performing job functions.  This review can also include a review of available resources and budget constraints.

It is also essential to understand the demographics of your labor force.  Studies show that Americans are working into their later years.  This is resulting in more severe injuries from repetitive type injuries that lead to longer periods of disability.  Factors to consider when addressing this issue include:

  • Age discrimination laws that prevent employers from engaging in unlawful labor practices;
  • State and federal OSHA laws and regulations; and
  • Addressing injury and post-injury response.


The Significance of Maximum Medical Improvement in Workers’ Comp

How MMI can both reduce your Workers’ Comp costs and benefit the overall health and well being of employees.

December 13, 2017  by Michael B. Stack

The concept of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI) is an important notion in workers’ compensation claims.  This concept is based on the fact that it often triggers the discontinuance of various wage loss benefits.  In other instances, once an employee reaches MMI, cases are prime for settlement.  Failure to identify this status promptly can add unnecessary costs to claims and the bottom line of a workers’ compensation program.

doctor viewing exray on a tablet for article, Significance of Maximum Medical Improvement in Workers' CompWhat is MMI?

Maximum medical improvement (in some instances referred to “end of healing period”) is a legal concept where no further significant recovery from or lasting improvement to a personal injury can be reasonably anticipated, regardless of subjective complaints from the employee.  In essence, additional medical care and treatment may still be required to keep the employee in a stable condition, but no noticeable improvement will take place in that medical care.

Each jurisdiction has a legally defined standard for MMI.  This standard is defined in statute or rule and interpreted via case law.  Any doctor or health care provider can usually declare an injured employee to be at MMI if they have an adequate foundation to issue their findings and opinions within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

Significance of MMI in Your Claim

Placing an employee suffering the effects of a work injury at MMI has a significant impact on the employee’s ability to receive future workers’ compensation benefits including entitlement to wage loss.  In some jurisdictions, it can reduce or limit the employee’s ability to receive future medical care via a workers’ compensation program.


FDA campaign reframes quitting for smokers

The Food and Drug Administration’s Every Try Counts anti-smoking campaign is competing with tobacco ads for a smoker’s attention at the convenience store counter.

print ad for smoking cessation campaign mentioned in article, FDA campaign reframes quitting for smokersEvery Try Counts, which will launch in January, is the FDA’s first smoking cessation campaign targeting adults. The FDA wants to reframe quitting smoking for this audience as a process that often takes more than one attempt.

See also: Anti-smoking group Truth releases musical FOMO spot for MTV Video Music Awards

“The messaging is very different from a cessation standpoint,” said Kathy Crosby, director of the Office of Health Communication and Education in the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “How we’re approaching the messaging is by not talking about the final quit, but trying to convince people to try to quit again and change how they perceive the fact that they tried to quit in the past as failures.”

The goal is to provide messages of support and encouragement for smokers trying to quit. The campaign will have ads in convenience stores and gas stations near the cigarettes, online, in print, on radio and TV, and on billboards. Every Try Counts also has a website with tips for how to get through a craving and an option to sign up for encouraging text messages Continue reading FDA campaign reframes quitting for smokers

Older Adults’ Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep

Older brains may forget more because they lose their rhythm at night.

sleeping senior male for article, Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep

As people age they may forget more because their brain waves get out of sync, new research finds.

During deep sleep, older people have less coordination between two brain waves that are important to saving new memories, a team reports in the journal Neuron.

“It’s like a drummer that’s perhaps just one beat off the rhythm,” says Matt Walker, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “The aging brain just doesn’t seem to be able to synchronize its brain waves effectively.”

The finding appears to answer a long-standing question about how aging can affect memory even in people who do not have Alzheimer’s or some other brain disease.

“This is the first paper that actually found a cellular mechanism that might be affected during aging and therefore be responsible for a lack of memory consolidation during sleep,” says Julie Seibt, a lecturer in sleep and plasticity at the University of Surrey in the U.K. Seibt was not involved in the new study.

To confirm the finding, though, researchers will have to show that it’s possible to cause memory problems in a young brain by disrupting these rhythms, Seibt says.

The study was the result of an effort to understand how the sleeping brain turns short-term memories into memories that can last a lifetime, says Walker, the author of the book Why We Sleep. “What is it about sleep that seems to perform this elegant trick of cementing new facts into the neural architecture of the brain?”

To find out, Walker and a team of scientists had 20 young adults learn 120 pairs of words. “Then we put electrodes on their head and we had them sleep,” he says. Continue reading Older Adults’ Forgetfulness Tied To Faulty Brain Rhythms In Sleep

It’s Official – Put Your Cellphone Down!

About 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and 12 percent rely on their smartphones for everyday Internet access, the health department said. In addition, the average age when children get their first phone is now just 10, and a majority of young people keep their phones on or near them most of the day and while they sleep. “Children’s brains develop through the teenage years and may be more affected by cellphone use,” Smith said.

Other tips for reducing exposure to radio frequency energy from cellphones: Keeping the phone away from the body, reducing cellphone use when the signal is weak, reducing the use of cellphones to stream audio or video or to download or upload large files, keeping the phone away from the bed at night, removing headsets when not on a call, and avoiding products that claim to block radio frequency energy because they may actually increase your exposure.

It’s only temporary – smartphone blindness

Smartphone habits may force doctors to ask patients a few more questions when diagnosing vision or neurological problems. “I think if a person experiences a temporary loss of vision in one eye, that’s potentially a very important problem for which they should seek medical attention,” says Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. Dean Wingerchuk. “But, it doesn’t always mean there’s an abnormality.”

Mayo Clinic

Healthcare spending growth slowed in 2016

Private health insurance continues to be the largest payer for healthcare goods and services, accounting for just over one-third of total spending.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Healthcare spending grew at a slower rate in 2016 than during the previous two years, according to new analysis released Wednesday by the Office of the Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In 2016, U.S. healthcare spending grew at a rate of 4.3 percent to $3.3 trillion. This compares to spending increases of 5.1 percent in 2014 and 5.8 percent in 2015.

Spending growth in 2016 was more in line with the rate of 4.2 percent from 2008 to 2015.

chart for article, Healthcare spending growth slowed in 2016The slower growth is primarily due to decelerated spending for retail prescription drugs, hospital care, and on physician and clinical services, according to the Office of the Actuary report.ntions]

Spending growth also fell among the three major payers: private health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

The last time there was a spending drop of this type was in 2010, when there was a decrease in the three area of goods and services – retail prescription drugs, hospital care, and physician and clinical services, CMS said.

This is the first time in memory CMS has witnessed a slowdown in  goods and services spending, and among the three major payers.

For private health insurance and Medicaid, the slower growth was influenced by decelerated enrollment growth, while Medicare spending slowed because of lower enrollment increases due to defections to Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Advantage now makes up a third of all Medicare enrollment. This means slower growth in fee-for-service Medicare spending as MA is value-based.

CMS said it didn’t have details on how other value-based models such as bundled payments have played a part in slower healthcare spending increases.

Continue reading Healthcare spending growth slowed in 2016