Space Coast Daily Healthcare Headlines of the Week
By Dr. James Palermo // October 24, 2014
Topics Include: Breakthrough In Treatment Of Spinal Cord Injury; CDC: Stricter Ebola Protection Protocol; Exercise Key To Children’s Cognitive Development — and More.
A man who was completely paralyzed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough, which offers hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries.
Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a 38-year old Bulgarian man who sustained a completely severed spinal cord from a stab injury four years ago, to provide pathways along which regenerated nerve tissue bridged the gap in the cord.
Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London’s Institute of Neurology discovered the technique, said: “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.” (Donnelly, The Telegraph, 10/21)
In the wake of widespread criticism of existing national safety protocols, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued expanded and much stricter Ebola guidelines to protect the nation’s healthcare workers after two caregivers were infected in Dallas while treating a patient who subsequently died from the disease.
Initial guidelines allowed some skin exposure around the head and neck and were not specific on the crucial technique of gown and glove removal. The expanded protocol calls for covering every bit of skin, provides specific techniques for safely donning and removing personal protective equipment, and includes directives for properly disposing of infected medical waste.
Bloomberg reports that Abbigail Tumpey, an associate director for communications science at the CDC, said, “The original recommendations that we put out in August provided a lot of flexibility.” In an interview, Tumpey said that hospitals “in the past wanted to adapt to what they have locally.” But, Tumpey said, “What we found in Dallas is that some of that adaptation could lead to potential confusion. These new recommendations are going to be much more specific.” (Chen and Lauerman, Bloomberg, 10/18)
For a variety of reasons, medical cost information is very often not readily available to consumers, making price transparency an increasing focus of the healthcare industry. With increasing numbers of consumers with private coverage bearing more of the costs of care, would they use price point information if it was readily available to compare prices and search for a better deal?
According to new research from Castlight Health, a San Francisco-based company that provides health price transparency information to employers, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), those study participants who had pricing information readily available to them through the study’s “transparency platform” did price compare and had lower payments on average for all three services included in the study.
Commenting on these findings in a separate JAMA editorial, healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt says the early results seem to support expectations that transparency in health care can lower spending. (Millman, The Washington Post, 10/21)
There exists a plethora of research that links drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks to weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Now, a study out of the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) links soda to premature aging, disease and early death.
The UCSF research team found that in people who drank more sugar-sweetened beverages, the ends of their chromosomes, known as telomeres, were shorter, which resulted in diminished ability for cells to regenerate thus accelerating aging and raising the risk of disease and early death.
Dr. Elissa Epel, who worked on the study for 5 years, told CBS News, “This finding is alarming because it suggests that soda may be aging us in ways we are not even aware of.”
According to researchers there was no link found between cell aging and the consumption of diet sodas or fruit juices. (CBS, 10/18)
The Miami Herald reports that more than 35,000 Florida residents have lost the health insurance in which they enrolled under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because they were not able to prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency status by Sept. 5th.
Thousands of undocumented immigrants were able to initially enroll in Obamacare. Two states with large Latino populations topped the list of unresolved cases, with Florida having more at risk of losing their coverage than any other state.
Of the original 93,800 cases in question, about 58,700 in Florida did provide the documentation by the deadline to keep their coverage. (Nehamas, Miami Herald, 10/17)
If you haven’t already signed up your kids for a sport, you might want to get on that.
The most ambitious study to date on children’s physical activity and cognitive performance comes out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and shows that exercise may improve children’s performance on cognitive tasks.
The study, which was published in September in Pediatrics, recruited 220 8- and 9-year old students from public elementary schools in the surrounding communities for an after-school exercise program. The group was divided in half, with 110 children participating in an organized, structured, fun after-school program in which they were very physically active. The other half continued with their normal lives and served as a control group.
The New York Times reports that, as would be expected, “the children in the exercise group were now more physically fit than they had been before, while children in the control group were not. The active children also had lost body fat, although changes in weight and body composition were not the focus of this study.”
More important, the children who participated in the exercise group showed the greatest improvements in their scores on each of the computer-based tests of cognitive function, and although children in the control group also raised their test scores, their scores were significantly lower compared to the children who ran and played.
Dr. Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois who led the study said, “The message is, get kids to be physically active” for the sake of their brains, as well as their health. (Reynolds, New York Times, 10/8)