gordonwd / MorgueFile

Living on a small income doesn't mean people can't eat well. Sometimes it just means getting your hands a bit dirty. 

The state of Michigan is encouraging Bridge Card holders to use their benefits to buy fresh produce at stores and farmers markets. It also suggests recipients buy fruit, vegetable and herb plants  to grow themselves.

Tom Varco / Wikimedia commons

Congress is trying to speed up the review process for new medicines and devices while still keeping them safe.   A bill before the House would increase the amount of money and authority given to the Food and Drug Administration to do that.

Congressman John Dingell represents Michigan's 15th District and supports the bill.  He says one way the new bill will protect the drug supply is by increasing the FDA's authority over imported medicine.

"[The User Fee bill] enables [the] Food and Drug [Administration] to address the problems that we had (i.e. unsafe pharmaceuticals and unsafe commodities and components for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals in this country," Dingell said.  "So Food and Drug can control them now."

Drug and medical device manufacturers typically pay user fees that fund the reviews by the Food and Drug Administration.  The new bill will expand those fees to more companies, including international ones. 

"This is the best way of leveling the playing field between American manufacturers and foreign manufacturers" said Dingell, "and also seeing to it that everybody -- consumers, manufacturers and all get the services that they're entitled to from [the] Food and Drug [Administration]."

Patient safety advocates are against parts of the bill. They say even tougher reviews should be applied to medical devices.

-Nishant Sekaran, Michigan Radio Newsroom

MSU Physical Plant / flickr

The Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids has developed a new diagnostic test for cancer, based on the discovery of a gene that contributes to the illness.

George Vande Woude is the founding research director at the Van Andel Institute. He discovered what is called the MET gene in the 1980's. He says the MET gene is frequently activated in many cancers.

"What is important in this discovery is the diagnostic tests can be performed to determine whether patients' tumor is positive for the gene or not," he says.

The diagnostic test may be able to diagnose as many as 30 forms of cancer.

The Obama administration has given new leeway to states to choose their level of involvement in running health care exchanges. States are required to create the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges will allow individuals and small businesses to shop for health care plans.

Ari Adler is the press secretary for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger.

He says Bolger doesn't plan to move forward on the exchanges until the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act.

"If we are put in a position where we have to have some sort of health exchange, " says Adler, " [Bolger] is willing to work with the governor and others to put something in place at the state level -- so we do not have the federal government coming in and controlling our health care in Michigan."

Governor Snyder says he wants the Legislature to send him a bill that would create an exchange. He's said waiting too long could leave Michigan vulnerable to missing the federal deadline for creating the exchanges.

He's directed some staff to do preliminary work on setting up an exchange. That work includes creating a database of possible health care plans, and reviewing software programs that other states are developing.

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Helen Levy, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research who worked with President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors in 2011.

White talked with Levy about how health insurance exchanges work and  what health care options they may provide to individuals.

Take a listen to their conversation below or read a transcript here.


Doctors are already required to send immunization records to the State of Michigan. With the new system, the data will arrive in real time with no extra steps for the doctors or hospitals.

The system was launched by a non-profit called Michigan Health Connect. Executive Director Doug Dietzman says eventually the data could travel both ways – so doctors could avoid giving patients shots they don’t need. He outline tetanus as a common example. 

Ann Gordon / Flickr

The National Institutes of Health has set a goal to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease by 2050.

Henry Paulson is the director of the University of Michigan's Alzheimer's Disease Center.

"I'm a 100-percent supporter of this," he says. "This is a huge medical problem. We have over 5-million people who have Alzheimer's now in this country and as we get older, the number is increasing rapidly. So this is a crisis and although we understand a lot about the mechanisms of the disease, we still don't have effective therapies. So this push, this additional support I think will drive toward those therapies that we so desperately need."

16-million Americans are expected to have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia by 2050.

The Obama Administration has allocated $50-million for Alzheimer's Research. N-I-H will spend an additional 30 million on two national studies.

"One of the things I like about the announcement yesterday is there are two major studies that they emphasize that are going to be funded right away," Paulson says. "One is a symptomatic study, that is the intranasal insulin, is looking to see if that can improve symptoms in people who have cognitive impairment. The other study is a preventative study from families who actually have inherited caused dimentia which is not what most people have."

Paulson says many investigators with the U of M's Alzheimer's Disease Center will be applying for additional funding for Alzheimer's research.

- Emily Fox, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The city of Jackson is getting its first teaching hospital.

Allegiance Hospital will soon start accepting medical students and residents to train them for their future practices.

Dr.  John Lake is Allegiance's Program Director for Family Medicine.

He says the hospital's start up costs could run into the millions of dollars - but it will be worth it, because being a teaching hospital keeps instructing physicians "on their game," and having residents improves patient care.

"There will be time to spend with patients to explain a lot of things to them," says Lake, "And I think (in) more of a depth than we would normally have time for because (the residents) will be there 24/7."

Lake thinks having a teaching hospital will also be good for Jackson, providing a spark to the local economy.

He says about 20% of doctors end up practicing where they do their residency.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new Michigan State University study finds the peak of teen misuse of prescription drugs comes earlier than previously believed.

MSU researchers say teen misuse of prescription drugs peaks at age 16, not the later teens as previously believed.   Many children start using pain killers and other prescription drugs to get high in their tweens.   

The MSU study shows about 1 in 60 young people between 12 and 21 years old starts abusing prescription pain relievers each year.    That ratio rises to roughly 1 in 30 at age 16.  

Jim Anthony is a professor of Epidemiology at MSU.    He says the study shows it’s important to get the public health message against misusing prescription drugs to children when they are in middle school.

“We don’t want to delay public health programs…until the high school years or college years," says Anthony,   "We want to begin to think about them as early as 12 and 13.”

Anthony says it may also be a good idea for doctors to write some pain killer prescriptions for just a few day supply instead of the more common one or two week supply.   He says that might reduce the number of prescription drugs that sit unused in the family medicine cabinet.  

Anthony says parents need to pay close attention to their teenager and their medicine cabinet and properly dispose of unneeded painkillers and other prescription drugs.

The MSU study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.


Sylvar / flickr

Michigan ranks tenth in the country, when it comes to the number of people who are overweight or obese. It's an issue that affects many of us personally, and it affects society as a whole.

A new HBO, documentary series called  The Weight of the Nation takes an in-depth look at this epidemic. It's in partnership with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

John Hoffman is an HBO producer who worked on the documentary. The documentary recently screened in Detroit. He says, "We’ve got to engage the entire nation in addressing obesity. Almost 70% of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, and the costs are just going to bankrupt our health care system. Our national security is threatened when one quarter of recruits can’t qualify for our military service because they are overweight or obese…so, we are trying to sound the loudest possibly alarm in every community that this has got to become a priority."

Obesity seems to hit minorities and poor people especially hard. Hoffman says it's a matter of economics and not race. 

N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs

Michigan lawmakers are making another attempt to outlaw sales of over-the-counter synthetic marijuana.

The drug is sometimes labeled as incense or potpourri  and is sold under a variety of names at convenience stores and other small shops.

The distributors often change the chemical contents or packaging to skirt current laws.

A sweeping Senate bill targets the artificial pot  and a host of other possible additives, including opiates and amphetamines.

Dr. Norb Kaminski is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

Nobody would dispute that health care is one of the biggest issues facing this nation. And virtually everyone, regardless of their politics, is waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next month, the nation’s highest court will announce its decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Congress passed two years ago.

Their decision will have a major impact on this nation. But in Ferndale, a small, charming, quirky, and largely working class Detroit suburb, a tiny group hasn’t been waiting.

Gabriela Camerotti / Flikr

Patients with heart disease should ask their doctors more questions before undergoing elective heart procedures.

That's according to a study by the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Marianne Udow-Phillips is Director of the Center and lead author of the study.   

She says whether or not Blue Cross/Blue Shield patients in the study underwent elective heart procedures depended more on where they received their care compared to whether or not it may have been the best option.

"We do believe that most of the use of these services is really more driven by physician preferences than patient preferences," said Udow-Phillips. "Patients do need to be more involved; they need to ask more questions of their physicians before they have a catheterization procedure.  There does need to be a better dialogue between physicians and patients."

The overall rate of these procedures have declined by 19-percent between 1997 and 2008.

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman for the recently closed Cheboygan Memorial Hospital says its sale to Flint-based McLaren Health Care Corp. is moving toward completion.

McLaren's efforts to buy the hospital fell through a month ago because of problems obtaining necessary federal regulatory approval. The hospital closed April 3, idling about 400 workers.

But hearings Monday in federal bankruptcy court cleared the way for the sale to proceed. Services such as an emergency room could reopen.

Spokesman Mike Grisdale said Wednesday that paperwork and legal documents have been prepared but the deal still isn't final.

The hospital announced in March it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after losing more than $7 million in 2011.

McLaren has rehired about 50 people to work at the hospital's clinics in Cheboygan, Pellston and Petoskey.

wikimedia commons

10 community health centers in Michigan will get $19.6 million in federal funds.

Those health centers are key primary care providers for uninsured and underinsured people in many communities.

The money is part of about $11 billion provided to community health clinics through the national health care reform law.

user anitapatterson / morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan has made some progress in improving maternal and infant well-being.

The Michigan League for Human Services' Kids Count in Michigan project found a drop in the percentage of teen births over the past decade. Repeat births to teens and pre-term births have also decreased.

But it’s not all good news. Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Mchigan project director, says the state saw worsening trends over the decade in babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds, or low-birthweight babies.

"One of indicators that is of most concern is the 7 percent increase in low-birthweight, because that is what drives infant mortality particularly in the African American community."

African Americans babies had double the risk of being born too small, compared to white and Hispanic babies.

The report calls for more state investment in programs and policies to improve the well-being of mothers, and provide a stronger safety net for low-income families and their children.

Zehnder-Merrell says these data are not only indicators of how successful the next generation will be, but also "how successful our state will be."

user mconnors / morgueFile

Washington, Montana and other states are experiencing pertussis outbreaks.

The respiratory disease, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious. If infants catch it, they often end up in the hospital.

(courtesy of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say a Senate subcommittee has significantly increased the recommended annual funding for a planned $600 million physics research facility at Michigan State University.

The Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has budgeted $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

That's up from $22 million that President Barack Obama recommended Feb. 13 in his budget proposal. About $55 million in funding was stipulated by the original agreement.

Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and design work is under way.

Levin and Stabenow say construction of the facility will create about 5,000 construction jobs, with 400 permanent jobs after completion.

Cheyboygan Memorial Hospital

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman for McLaren Health Care Corp. says the health care system has to go before a bankruptcy court judge before it can reopen the emergency room and most outpatient services at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital in northern Michigan.

Kevin Tompkins said Tuesday that Flint-based McLaren has reached an agreement with the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services - a first step in reopening portions of Cheboygan Memorial.

McLaren could go before the bankruptcy court next week. If approved, the reopening process and hiring of staff will start immediately.

The hospital closed unexpectedly April 3 after a sale to McLaren fell through. The Michigan Nurses Association said Monday night that McLaren has formed a partnership with Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey to obtain tentative federal approval.

CDC / wikimedia commons

Health officials have confirmed a case of  tuberculosis at a high school in suburban Detroit.

WXYZ-TV reports that a student at Northville High School was diagnosed with an active case of the disease and local health officials are working to determine the extent of possible exposure.

From WXYZ:

Parents were notified Monday by a letter from Principal Robert E. Watson, “The protocol followed by the Health Department is to identify other individuals who may be at higher risk of exposure to Tuberculosis during the infectious time period… and to provide an opportunity for testing the identified individuals. ” The infectious time period in this case was January 2012 through April 2012.

Active TB, unlike the latent form of the disease, causes symptoms, is transmittable, and can be fatal if untreated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, TB bacteria are primarily spread through the air from person to person (e.g. through coughing or sneezing and inhaling bacteria) but not through physical contact like shaking hands.

Data from the CDC show Michigan as having a relatively low incidence rate of TB - 184 cases in 2010 (or 1.9 per 100,000 people). That compares to 11,182 cases nationwide (or 3.6 per 100,00o).

U.S. rates, which have declined steadily for the past 20 years, are dwarfed by the roughly 9 million global cases  in 2010 estimated by the World Health Organization.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Photos courtesy of Nicole Bouchard.

This week we’ve been talking about autism, what we know about it, and how autism coverage is changing in Michigan.

Twenty-two-year-old twin sisters Michelle and Nicole Bouchard both have Asperger’s syndrome. It’s commonly thought to be at the milder end of the autism spectrum.  

Michelle says school wasn't easy. "There was a list of things they told me I couldn't do. I couldn't go to college, I couldn't find a was a big struggle for me," she says.

User: Sam Hames / Flickr

This week we’ll be taking a closer look at autism.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that about 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder – a significant increase in diagnosis.

Dr. Richard Solomon is a Medical Director of the P.L.A.Y Project at The Ann Arbor Center of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

AARP is out with a proposal this week that calls for targeting state Medicaid dollars to fund at-home care. The senior citizen advocacy group says the state could care for three people at home for the cost of one patient in a nursing home. 

A new national ad campaign to get people to quit smoking is already showing dramatic results in Michigan.

The Center for Disease Control launched the ads two weeks ago. They feature former smokers who’ve had heart attacks, strokes or parts of their bodies amputated because of tobacco use.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Community Health. She says the number of calls coming into the Michigan Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) has skyrocketed.

“We’ve had a 200-percent increase in the two weeks since the campaign has launched and that’s not something that we’ve ever seen before,” Minicuci said. She said the early results are similar across the country.

user Waldszenen / wikimedia commons

More than 200 American Red Cross workers in Michigan went on strike this morning.

Staff members represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 459 and Teamsters Local 580 walked out because of a dispute over health care benefits.

The strike affects blood collection centers in Kalamazoo, Jackson, Lansing, Flint and parts of northern Michigan.

Monica Stoneking is communications manager for the Great Lakes Region of the American Red Cross.

She says the strike will impact an already-low blood supply.

"That's about 700 units of blood every day that the Great Lakes region needs to collect," Stoneking says. "And if our staff members are on strike, we are limited as to the  number of blood drives we are able to hold."

Stoneking says blood donations are also lower because fewer people donated during Michigan's recent nice weather, because students have been been on spring break.

A New York-based insurance company that allowed unlicensed agents to sell health plans in Michigan has been suspended.

American Medical and Life Insurance Company marketed the limited health plans to customers with specific illnesses, such as cancer. About 2,500 policies were sold in Michigan.

"They're not typically required to provide the same level of coverage, so they cover fewer types of medical expenses than a comprehensive policy," says Michigan’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation spokesman Jason Moon.

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear legal arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The federal health care law has come under fire for a variety of reasons, including changes to the way Americans will get their health care.

Michigan Secretary of State

Michigan drivers now have the option of buying a license plate that will support the state’s organ donor registry.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has signed a bill meant to encourage organ donation.

The initial plates will cost an extra $35 and renewals will cost $10 more per year.

Richard Pietroski is CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, a nonprofit organ procurement group.

He says about 2.5 million Michigan residents are already registered to become organ donors, but many more are needed.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Click on the photo to see more images.

People in Dexter gathered on the streets this morning to assess the damage from Thursday's tornado, and to help clean up the mess.

DTE trucks lined Central Street in Dexter as crews worked on power lines. Nearby Keri Romine, co-owner of Dexter Mill, says two structures were destroyed on her property.

On Wilson Street, at the Huron Farms subdivision, cleanup crews like the Statewide Disaster Restoration Mobile Command Center were on site. Across the street, two cars had been crushed by a collapsed roof.

Homeowner Ricke Stauffer says he estimates the damage to his home at $20,000 to $30,000. Shingles and siding were ripped from his house, windows were blown out and the deck in his backyard was torn off.

Employees of Busch’s grocery store in Dexter were in the neighborhood giving away bottles of water.

This video was taken by Matthew Altruda at 5:30pm on March 15.

Warning: this video contains graphic language





(coutresy of the MSU-Facility for Rare Isotope Beams project)

Michigan State University officials are stepping up their efforts to convince Congress to fully fund a major scientific project on the East Lansing campus.

MSU was expecting the federal government to provide 52 million dollars for the next construction phase of the ‘Facility for Rare Isotope Beams’, or ‘FRIB’ for short.  But the Obama administration is only budgeting $22 million. 

Mark Burnham is an MSU vice president for government affairs.  He says university officials are talking with influential members of Michigan’s congressional delegation , including the chairman of committee that control federal spending on technology.

"We have other members who are key important members of Congress, in both the House and the Senate, and so we want to make sure we’re working through the entire delegation," says Burnham.   

Today, a state senate committee passed a resolution encouraging Congress to fully fund the FRIB project.