Tag: public health

Gates Foundation to fund global informatics training

The American Medical Informatics Association will announce today that it has received a $1.2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote health informatics and biomedical education and training worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This will be the first project of a new program called 20/20, in which the International Medical Informatics Association
and its regional affiliates, including AMIA, will attempt to train
20,000 informatics professionals globally by 2020. This is an outgrowth
of the AMIA 10×10 program to train 10,000 people in informatics in the U.S. by 2010. IMIA will present details of 20/20 this week at the Wellcome Trust in London.

will use the Gates Foundation money to develop "scalable" approaches
to e-health education, including a replicable blueprint for training
informatics leaders, including physicians, medical records
professionals, computer scientists and medical librarians.

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Fighting AIDS for decades

Facing AIDS - World AIDS day 2008

Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the United States is infected with HIV. Every 33 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from AIDS.

While great gains have been made in the fight against HIV, still more than 53,000 new HIV infections occurred in 2006 and it predominately burdens minority communities. Young, black men and women are at the highest risk of new infection. The HIV incidence rate for black females is nearly 15 times the rate for white females, according to the CDC.

Today is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Here are some links to excellent summaries of the progress in fighting HIV in the U.S. and around the world.

Up in smoke

Taxing cigarettes is the single-most effective way to lower smoking rates, particularly among youth. And if we could lower smoking rates, we’d save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year.

Good Magazine demonstrates this strong correlation on a state-by-state basis in a fantastic interactive graphic. Go check it out.


In a related matter, I heard Matt Myers, president of Tobacco Free Kids, recently predict a federal cigarette tax increase to fund SCHIP. He said there’s strong bipartisan support, particularly to fund an expansion of children’s health coverage.

Fighting Alzheimer’s one ribbon at a time and the Alzheimer’s Association have teamed up to spread awareness about the disease through an online
Ribbon campaign.

The official campaign ended earlier this year with 1,000 blogs and websites displaying the purple ribbon, but ribbons are still available for creating. For each ribbon created, donates $10 to the Alzheimer’s Association for education programs.

Anyone who wants to help
raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease can create a free web ribbon with just a few clicks. You can personalize the ribbon with a
loved one’s name and it comes in different shades and sizes to
match your website or blog.

Also, if you’re an adult child or caregiver caring for a parent or loved
one with Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias section
of for helpful information and resources.

A Great American Smokeout, but where’s the coverage to help people quit?

Today is the Great American Smokeout, and while San Franciscans are doing their part to help people battle nicotine addiction, I became aware recently that not all the health insurance plans for our county workers in San Francisco  — nor in many other counties around California – were covering all of the smoking cessation benefits recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

The City of San Francisco has embraced a multi-faceted approach to reduce tobacco use, while protecting individuals from insurance coverage barriers as they battle their addiction to nicotine:

  • We have endorsed a policy calling on the health plans that provide health insurance coverage for City and County employees to offer comprehensive smoking cessation benefits consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
  • The City of San Francisco covers smoking cessation services and treatments for the uninsured.

According to the CDC, the most effective health insurance benefits are those that include patient reimbursements for smoking cessation counseling and FDA-approved pharmacotherapeutic treatments, and reimbursements to clinicians for providing tobacco dependence treatment, just as they are reimbursed for treating other chronic conditions.

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Battling MRSA with transparency

Two weeks ago, I made an emergency trip home to Minnesota because my grandmother fell ill. She went to the emergency room on a Sunday night, complaining of fatigue and shortness of breath.

The emergency physician diagnosed her with pneumonia and admitted her for the night. Two days later, she was transferred to the intensive care unit and put on a ventilator. My grandma is only 74, healthy and energetic. Her rapid decline shocked my family.

My grandma, however, had not been taking good care of herself since her husband died three weeks earlier. He had many health issues, but at the end, died of MRSA pneumonia. My grandmother slept by his side, caring for him daily during his last days.

No one from the nursing home hospice program or the hospital warned my grandma about the seriousness of this drug-resistent staph infection. No one suggested she take precautions to protect herself or that she be tested as a carrier.

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Sick neighborhoods raise sick people

I live and study public health in Baltimore, a city in which one-third of its children live in poverty, another two-thirds live in single-parent families, and more than a third of students drop out of high school.

Not coincidentally, Baltimore has an infant mortality rate nearly twice that of the nation, its teen birth rate is higher than the national average, and people here live shorter lives, especially minorities and low-income residents, than their counterparts just a few miles away in the suburbs.

This is a sick city. Literally blocks of houses are boarded up – dead and rotting with crime, hopelessness and fear. If you think I’m being melodramatic, watch the HBO drama The Wire. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal.

<a href="">Are health connections to poverty &amp; education adequately recognized?</a> | <a href="">BuzzDash polls</a>

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Judging States By the Health of Their Children

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America has just released a report that reveals the degree to which a child’s health is determined by the hand he draws when he is born.

The report, which is titled “America’s Health Starts With Healthy Children: How Do States Compare?” confirms what we have written in other Health Beat posts.

While having or not having health insurance is important, poverty will have an even greater influence on an individual’s health. As Commission Co-Chair and former Congressional Budget Office director Alice M. Rivlin puts it, “This report shows us just how much a child’s health is shaped by the environment in which he or she lives.”

Moreover, the report reveals that it is not only the poor who are molded by their environment. “In nearly every state, children in middle-income families also experience shortfalls in health when compared with those in higher income families. And these differences in children’s health by income can be seen across racial or ethnic groups”  says the report, which is based on  research  done at the University of California at San Francisco’s Center on Social Disparities in Health. Ultimately, this study highlights “the unrealized health potential possible if all children had the same opportunities for health as those in the best-off families.”Continue reading…

The Politics of Pet Food

In a new book "Pet Food Politics," Marion Nestle uses last year’s pet food safety scare to highlight the importance of a sound food safety regulation system. As she puts it, “Advocacy for policies good enough to protect pets also means advocacy for policies that protect people."

The Economist reviewed the book and interviewed Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. Nestle said the pet food scare can be viewed as the "Chihuahua in the coal mine" in that it serves as a warning of our national and international food safety system.

The pet or animal food systems cannot be separated from the human food system for several reasons, Nestle said. Thus, the lessons from the contaminated pet food is a lesson for us all that:"We have a food safety system in the United States that is not adequate."

Healthy Howard coverage expansion could inform future reforms

Howard County, Maryland is set to launch an ambitious universal health coverage, and the county’s top health officials says the effort will provide valuable lessons for future reformers.Fastfacts

Starting next month, 2,200 of Howard County’s 20,000
uninsured residents can enroll in the Healthy Howard Plan,
which will provide them access to primary, specialty and hospital care, and
prescriptions drugs for $85 or less a month.

Dr. Peter Beilenson, Howard County health commissioner and former Baltimore City health commissioner who ran for Congress in 2006, said this is the most ambitious local effort at universal coverage since San Francisco launched a universal coverage plan in April 2007.

Like Healthy San Francisco, Healthy Howard is not portable health insurance but rather health coverage for local treatment. Instead of levying a "pay or play" tax on businesses like San Francisco, however, Healthy Howard’s funding comes from individual premiums, county general fund dollars and substantial amounts of charity. (The Golden gate Restaurant Association is battling San Francisco in court over its tax.)

Beyond the grand ambition to provide universal health coverage, what Beilenson says  distinguishes Healthy Howard is its emphasis on personal responsibility, mandatory health coaching and a forthcoming rigorous evaluation.

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