Category Archives: Health News

Is Cleanliness Next to Illness?

photo of kids in a modernistic sterile environment
Are kids being kept too clean?

Is Cleanliness to Blame for Increasing Allergies?
Allergies have become a widespread in developed countries: hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma are all increasingly prevalent. The reason? Excessive cleanliness is to blame according to Dr. Guy Delespesse, a professor at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Medicine.
Allergies can be caused by family history, air pollution, processed foods, stress, tobacco use, etc. Yet our limited exposure to bacteria concerns Dr. Delespesse, who is also director of the Laboratory for Allergy Research at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal.

“There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases,” says Dr. Delespesse. “The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an immune problem in their lifetime.”
In 1980, 10 percent of the Western population suffered from allergies. Today, it is 30 percent. In 2010, one out of 10 children is said to be asthmatic and the mortality rate resulting from this affliction increased 28 percent between 1980 and 1994.
“It’s not just the prevalence but the gravity of the cases,” says Dr. Delespesse. “Regions in which the sanitary conditions have remained stable have also maintained a constant level of allergies and inflammatory diseases.”
“Allergies and other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are the result of our immune system turning against us,” says Dr. Delespesse. Continue reading Is Cleanliness Next to Illness?

Last Minute Gift Idea – “Invisible” MedAlet Bracelet?

‘Invisible bracelet’ for emergency health alerts?

All That Twitters is Not Gold
All That Twitters is Not Gold

AP

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer

WASHINGTON – Emergency health alerts for the Facebook generation? The nation’s ambulance crews are pushing a virtual medical ID system to rapidly learn a patient’s health history during a crisis — and which can immediately text-message loved ones that the person is headed for a hospital.

The Web-based registry, invisibleBracelet.org, started in Oklahoma and got a boost this fall when the state’s government made the program an optional health benefit for its own employees.

Now the Invisible Bracelet attempts to go nationwide as the American Ambulance Association next month begins training its medics, who in turn will urge people in their communities to sign up.

For $5 a year, basic health information and up to 10 emergency contacts are stored under a computer-assigned PIN number that’s kept on a wallet card with your driver’s license, a key fob or a sticker on an insurance card.

It’s a complement to the medical alert jewelry that people with diabetes, asthma and a host of other conditions have used for decades to signal their needs in an emergency.

And it comes as the American College of Emergency Physicians is trying to determine just what information is the most critical for medics and ER doctors to find when you’re too ill or injured to answer questions, so that competing emergency-alert technologies don’t miss any of the essentials.

“Too many times, we don’t have the information to help us treat the patients correctly,” says James Finger, president of the American Ambulance Association, the largest network of emergency medical service providers. Continue reading Last Minute Gift Idea – “Invisible” MedAlet Bracelet?

Calming the Swine Flu Frenzy

Keep Workplace Calm
Keep Workplace Calm

Prevent Pig Panic at Work!
December 9, 2009 by Christian Schappel

Posted in: Communication, Employment law, FLSA, Health care, In this week’s e-newsletter – benefits, Latest News & Views, Pay and benefits

Whatever you call it — H1N1, Swine Flu — the illness du jour is definitely a distraction to your entire workforce. From fears of the coughing co-worker in the next cubicle to heated debates over whether or not to vaccinate, everyone has the flu on the brain these days. So how can you keep the panic to a minimum and maximize productivity?

  • Communicate your contingency plans. People have to be wondering what your company has planned should this turn into a full-blown pandemic. Assuming your company has a plan, it’s time to make sure all your workers are in on it.
  • Educate employees. An informed workforce is a less jumpy workforce. Try an info blitz on H1N1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Web page devoted to the virus. Your state health department also has info. You could even bring in a doctor to debunk myths.
  • Encourage short breaks. When employees are stretched too thin, their immune systems can get run down — increasing their chances of getting sick. Keep an eye out for staffers who look stressed or overworked, and encourage them to take a break.
  • Know the law. What’s worse than having employees out sick? Getting hit with a labor law violation because of your policies about sick workers run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Here is a list of guidelines that’ll help make sure your policies are OK with Uncle Sam.

House Call is a Home Page?

Increased use of online health help
Increased use of online health help

Web Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
By Dennis Thompson – HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) — People regularly turn to the Internet for games and gossip, news and entertainment, essential information and high weirdness.

And now, apparently, for their health as well.

A number of successful online medical interventions have been reported in recent months, helping folks quit smoking, lower their blood pressure and deal with any number of ailments.

New York City cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg figures it’s a great trend, as long as people are going to reliable and trusted sources for help.

“I think it is the wave of the future and, theoretically, it seems like a great idea,” said Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, a clinical associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Women’s Heart Program at New York University Langone Medical Center and author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg’s Complete Guide to Women’s Health. “There could be multiple interactions with patients that are brief and effective.”

Online interventions have spanned a variety of medical issues. One program, for instance, used Internet and telephone interactions with heart attack survivors and cardiac patients to help improve their heart health. A study found that participants’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels fell, more of them quit smoking and they were one-third less likely to die than cardiac patients who did not receive the attention.

Several programs have popped up to help smokers quit. An analysis of 22 clinical trials found that Internet- and computer-based smoking cessation programs gave smokers nearly twice the chance of successfully quitting than if they had tried to quit without help. Continue reading House Call is a Home Page?

Santa Barbara County Swine Flu Update

Beth_portrait
Beth Soderberg, MSN, CS, FNP-C

The newest member of our professional team, Nurse Practitioner, Beth Soderberg has an extensive background and interest in communicable diseases and she always has up-to-date information.

According to Beth, “Right now I’m educating the Industrial Care staff about the upcoming release of the two stage vaccine for H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu). As of July 8th, 2009 there have been 33 confirmed cases and one hospitalization in Santa Barbara County. And these numbers are not a complete or accurate picture because testing is so limited.”

Beth adds, “For the upcoming fall and winter flu season health care providers need to be ready to offer both information and the new vaccines to our community.”
If you have questions about vaccinations and special programs for Santa Maria businesses, give our Industrial Care Manager, Cody Matthews, a call at (805) 614-9000 or email him here.

Here’s some more details on the Vaccine Administration:

While clinical trials are currently underway to confirm the final process, it is likely that the vaccine administration will be as follows:

  • Seasonal flu vaccine available in August – will be handled normally in all respects
  • Novel H1N1 vaccine will likely require 2 doses – at least for some segments of the population
  • H1N1 vaccine dose 1 will be able to be administered at the same time as seasonal flu vaccine
  • H1N1 vaccine dose 2 will be administered 21-28 days following the first dose

Swine Flu Update

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the H1N1 flu is the fastest-moving pandemic ever, spreading as much in less than 6 weeks as past pandemic flu viruses spread in more than 6 months. Because of this rapid spread, the agency has revised its reporting requirements so that authorities need not report every case but only clusters of severe cases or deaths caused by the virus or unusual clinical patterns.

Luckily, for Santa Maria, our newest staff member, nurse practitioner Beth Soderberg, is a communicable disease specialist (among other things) and is up to date on the new two stage vaccination process and all things swine flu related.
If you’re a Santa Maria resident and want to know more about the swine flu threat or the newly announced vaccine, please feel free to give her a call (after August 31st) at our offices.

Continue reading Swine Flu Update

Health Reforms Come Home

The Obama administration’s plans to move forward with a technology driven “medical home” initiative as part of overall efforts to reform the nation’s health care system is generating speculation about potential long-term impacts on the practice of occupational medicine.

The administration’s support of prevention initiatives as well as studies aimed at improving quality and lowering costs also are expected to have a halo effect. The federal budget introduced by the Obama administration sets aside a reserve fund of more than $630 billion over 10 years that will be dedicated to financing health care reforms, and the president says he is committed to working with Congress to find additional resources.

1 “Reforms will affect all medical specialties and practices,” Clarion Johnson, M.D., global medical director for Exxon Mobil Corporation, said during a session on health care reform at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s annual conference in April. “Occupational medicine physicians will encounter challenges that reflect on the many settings in which we practice.
How proposed reforms look depends on where you are standing, but even a few, if enacted, will make things better than they are now.” There is a difference in opinion between experts and average consumers about problems with the U.S. health care system, according to polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Experts target unnecessary and troubling variations in care. Consumers appear to be more concerned about under-service than over-service, and they are worried about how they are going to pay for the care they receive. In an April survey, a majority of respondents said they or a member of their household have delayed or skipped health care in the recent past.

2 “These differences between experts and the public matter because key elements of health reform which elected officials expect to resonate with the public could get a decidedly less enthusiastic reception than expected if more is not done to close the gap in basic premises and beliefs between experts and the public.”
Drew Altman, Ph.D., Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO says in a recently published commentary. “Most fundamentally, the challenge is to educate the public about why health costs are rising as fast as they are in the U.S.” According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a research institution whose mission is to improve the health of all Americans, the key driver of spending—accounting for an estimated one-half to two-thirds of spending growth—is technology, not changing demographics or medical malpractice. Other important drivers of health care spending include health status, particularly obesity, and low productivity gains in the health care sector. In addition, higher spending does not achieve better outcomes, the foundation reports.

While there are many proposals on the table, Dr. Johnson said he expects expanded coverage for the uninsured and federally supported insurance plans to top the federal agenda, along with expanded use of communications technology, a greater focus on wellness and improved incentives or payment for better care. He noted that Exxon Mobil is a self-insured company, and when it comes to the health and well-being of its employees, there is no room for compromise. Consequently, the company’s ongoing focus is on cost savings and quality. For example, it is working with multiple vendors on information technology solutions, improved care management capabilities through the use of evidence-based medicine and the development of safer work environments for its employees.

Integrated Coverage is among the many proposals under consideration, various permutations of the integrated, or 24-hour care, delivery model are likely to be resurrected as part of reform discussions in the coming months, predicts Doug Benner, M.D., an occupational medicine physician who coordinates the occupational health program for Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.

However, while workers’ compensation is on the radar, it is not yet clear how prominent a role it might play given the overall magnitude of the nation’s heath care crisis, he said. There are a growing number of integrated disability management programs, but many barriers to a fully integrated health care delivery system remain.

State-specific regulations and the entitlement mentality inherent to workers’ compensation are two reasons why it is challenging to integrate occupationally focused care with non-work-related medical treatment and disability management programs.
However, despite these obstacles, Dr. Benner says considerable efficiencies and better outcomes can be gained when patients are treated by the same physician or medical group under the same health plan, regardless of the cause of their injury or illness.

“A lot of physicians don’t want to do workers’ compensation,” in part because it is so paperwork-intensive, he said during a presentation in May at a Workers’ Compensation Forum sponsored by the Council on Education in Management. “We need physicians who understand workers’ compensation, return to work, disability and function.” Aetna, one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, recently reported results from a set of analyses of members with access to integrated benefits compared to control groups without integrated benefits.
The most significant finding from the studies showed members with integrated benefits were more likely to take a health risk assessment and enroll in wellness and disease management programs that contribute to healthier behavior and improved health risk.

“When we have a more complete picture of our members and all the benefits available to them, we can have a much greater impact on their health outcomes and on their overall willingness to engage in their health care,” said Laurie Brubaker, head of Health and Productivity Solutions for Aetna.
Aetna offers an Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) product that includes a risk assessment with questions on work limitations and productivity based on health and emotional conditions. Risk indicators trigger one-on-one wellness counseling to address conditions holistically through other Aetna programs, often before they involve costly acutecare services, company officials said.

“The results suggest that increased coordination of services and member engagement in managing their health condition may be the keys to decreased short-term disability (STD) durations and fewer complications,” Ms. Brubaker said. “Earlier Aetna studies demonstrate that STD claim durations were 3.2 days shorter with integrated health and disability benefits.”

Excerpted from article by Karen O’Hara in VISIONS
The Periodical of the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals

Hello world!

When we launched our eLetter, “Central Coast Industrial Care News,” last May we didn’t anticipate how much news, discussion and employer resources that our subscribers would find useful. A lot more than we could fit into a monthly newsletter … at least more than most would want to scroll through onscreen!

That’s what inspired us to launch this blog; to include more of the information about Workers’ Comp as it relates to California employers. And as a place where you can share your opionions and ideas with your fellow emloyers in the Santa Maria Valley.

Who would have predicted even a year ago that health care would be daily front page news? Please comment with any suggestions or specific questions you have about occupational medicine and our services.

Thanks for looking and stay tuned as we will add content several times per week.