flickr - Jennifer Durfey

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control released a report today identifying another increase in asthma rates across the country.

They looked at data from 2009 and pegged the rate at 8.2%. That's up from 7.8% in 2008.

The report says the rate has grown, on average, by 1.2% since 2001.

A Los Angeles Times report says improvements in identifying the disease could account for some of the increase:

Better diagnostic efforts could be part of the reason for the increase. They were believed to be a main reason for an increase in asthma seen from 1980 through 1995, said Dr. Lara Akinbami, a medical officer at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

The asthma rate in the Midwest is higher than the national average at 8.8% (that's more than 6 million asthma sufferers in the region). 

The northeast has the highest rate at 9.9%.

Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and those living below the poverty level have higher than average rates as well (all higher than 11%).

A report from the European Respiratory Journal says asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

The CDC say sufferers of asthma are more at risk when these triggers are present:

  • tobacco smoke
  • dust mites
  • outdoor air pollution
  • cockroach allergen
  • pets
  • mold
  • and other things like colds, viruses, chemicals, and strenuous exercise
Neeta Lind / Creative Commons

Michigan’s Department of Community Health is refusing to voluntarily turn over the records of 7 medical marijuana patients to the federal government. The federal government is now taking the state to court to get them.

Health Workers in Nigeria battle polio
Evan M. Wheeler / Flickr

A team of Michigan State University researchers is spending the next month in northern  Nigeria looking at what the media can do to stem a surging polio outbreak.

 The region has the highest number of confirmed polio cases in the world and the outbreak has been spreading through west Africa.

A couple jogging
Ed Yourdon - Flickr

A wellness program is paying huge dividends for Kalamazoo County. This year, the county spent $7.7 million on health care for its employees. That’s a little more than $2 million less than it spent 6 years ago.

Anne Conn is Kalamazoo County’s assistant director of Human Resources. She says they enticed employees to participate in the wellness program by offering freebies and even an extra day off.

"People are in the wellness program now because they want to be, not because we’re giving them a t-shirt to do it."

Lunar eclipse tonight

Dec 20, 2010
Lunar eclipse
D'Arcy Norman - wikimedia commons user

Update December 21st, 2:00 a.m.:

Well, I woke up... the Earth's shadow is passing over the moon right now. NASA says it'll be in full eclipse starting at 2:41 a.m. and then the shadow will start slipping off the moon at 3:53 a.m.

Welcome to the shortest day of the year! Now... time for bed.

December 20th, 1:12 p.m.

It's not as special as a solar eclipse, which happens in one spot (say in Detroit, MI) around once every several hundred years, but a lunar eclipse is still pretty cool. Even if it does happen around twice a year.

Grand Rapids' "medical mile"
John Eisenschenk / Creative Commons

Another Michigan university is looking to take advantage of Grand Rapids’ medical mile. The area is known for the growing number of specialty hospitals, medical research facilities, and medical schools located there. Just a few months ago, Michigan State University opened a brand new skyscraper in Grand Rapids – a new home for its College of Human Medicine.

Battle Creek Health System
Courtesy BCHS

Patients at Battle Creek Health System are expected to have more services and physicians available to them after a deal with a larger hospital is completed.

Bronson Health Group of Kalamazoo is buying a 51% stake in the smaller BCHS.

Denise Brooks-Williams is president and CEO of the Battle Creek facility. She says the two hospital systems have common goals.

Spectrum Hospital first heart transplant
Bruce Rossman / Spectrum Health

Doctors are celebrating the first successful heart transplant done in west Michigan. In February Spectrum Health was approved to perform heart transplants. Three other hospitals in Michigan are allowed to do the complicated procedure, but they’re all located in southeast Michigan.

Heroin abuse in Michigan is on the rise. Felix Sharpe of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services says that 680 people died from heroin overdoses in Michigan last year.
United Nations Photo

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research has been monitoring drug use among teens for 36 years. This year's "Monitoring the Future" study had responses from more than 46,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.

They found that marijuana use is on the rise. 43.8% of 12th graders said they've used marijuana in their lifetime. That's up from 42% in 2009, and 42.6%  in 2008. From the study:

Marijuana use, which had been rising among teens for the past two years, continues to rise again this year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline of the preceding decade

Alcohol use, on the other had has been decreasing. 54.1% of 12th graders said they'd been drunk in their lifetime. That's down from 56.5% in 2009, and 54.7% in 2008. From the study:

Alcohol use—and, specifically, occasions of heavy drinking—continues its long-term decline among teens into 2010, reaching historically low levels.

 University of Michigan researchers say drug use is rising among middle schoolers.   They say it could be a ‘bell weather’ of problems ahead.  

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is praising a federal judge’s ruling striking down part of the federal health care reform law. 

The federal judge ruled the health care law is unconstitutional because it requires all Americans to buy insurance.   The Justice Department plans to appeal.

Wyoming medical marijuana
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapid’s suburb is the latest city to adopt a ban on medical marijuana. Wyoming City Council voted unanimously in favor of local laws that reflect federal rules governing marijuana over the state’s new laws allowing medicinal use.

Mayor Jack Poll, who is also a pharmacist, says they would like to see medical marijuana dispensed as any other drug for the safety of the patient and the city’s neighborhoods.

John Ter Beek is a medical marijuana patient in Wyoming, MI
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapids suburb will consider a ban on the state’s new medical marijuana law Monday night. Their decision comes days after the ACLU announced they’re taking three Detroit suburbs to court over similar bans.

Wyoming City Council will consider medical marijuana regulations that are similar to rules passed by Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham. Those cities are being sued by the ACLU on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis.

Attorney and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek lives in Wyoming. He is also considering legal action if city council adopts the rules. He has been in talks with the ACLU about taking up his case. Officials with the ACLU confirm that but say it’s too soon to say if they will.

Wyoming’s City Council unanimously favored an early version of the ban last month. They have safety concerns when it comes to distributing medical marijuana. Under the new rules, the city would follow federal law over state laws about marijuana. Mayor Jack Poll says he expects final approval despite pending court cases.

Holland is the latest city in Michigan planning to file a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield over variable fees. The fee is a 13.5% administrative access fee Blue Cross charged the city on any insurance claims filed by employees.  The city claims the insurer didn’t tell them about the fees for 17 years.

Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says,

Nursing students

Health care leaders throughout the state are preparing for changes under federal health care reform laws. Dozens gathered at Grand Valley State University Tuesday to take part in a national discussion on how nurses can ease the transition.

Sparrow Hospital nurses are supposed to start voting today on a new contract.

Last minute negotiations headed off a threatened lockout at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital ten days ago.

Hospital administrators threatened to lockout Sparrow’s 21 hundred nurses and support staff if they didn’t agree to the hospital’s final offer. 

Earlier, the nurses union authorized a strike and walked away from contract talks.

In the end, the two sides hammered out a tentative deal that included a modest wage hike and increase nurse staffing levels. 

Brian Calley

Supporters are pushing the Michigan legislature to pass a bill that would expand health care coverage for autism treatment before the measure dies at the end of the lame duck session. The bills would force health insurance companies to offer coverage for behavioral therapies for autism.

CT scan machine
user NithinRao / Creative Commons

No doubt CT scans have improved a doctor's ability to make diagnoses. The ability to see inside the body without cutting it open has meant better treatment.

But CT scans can deliver high doses of radiation, which can lead to cancer later in life, or in severe cases, can cause severe burns and even death.

No Smoking sign / Creative Commons

At first glance, there's not much new about another hospital in Michigan going "smoke free" - more than 90% of Michigan hospitals can already claim that status. Here's how the Michigan Health and Hospital Association defines "smoke free":

John Ter Beek has 12 plants in his grow room.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A medical marijuana patient and attorney is filing suit against a west Michigan city set to ban portions of the state's new medical marijuana law.

The city of Wyoming is poised to adopt a ban on growing medical marijuana next month through zoning regulations. If it does, it would join about 30 other Michigan cities with similar rules.

Attorney and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek spent about $3,000 to create his small grow room for 12 plants. It's in the basement of his modest two-story home in Wyoming. He intends to keep it.

Joseph Casias with his ACLU attorneys after Friday's hearing in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments today in the case filed by a medical marijuana patient who was fired from Wal-Mart in Battle Creek.

(lky luciano/Google Creative Commons)

DETROIT, MICH. (Michigan Radio) - A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging the firing of a medical marijuana patient.
Joseph Cassias was fired from a Walmart in Battle Creek a year ago after he tested positive for marijuana.
Dan Korobkin is an attorney for the ACLU who's representing Cassias. He says employers from across the country are watching the case.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speaks at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Muse
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Rosalynn Carter is in Grand Rapids raising awareness of mental illness. She's promoting her new book about how to end what she calls a "national mental health care crisis."

 The National Weather Service issued numerous tornado warnings this afternoon, as severe storms rolled across Michigan.  No actual tornados were confirmed.

 A Michigan State University researcher says it’s time to reconsider how severe weather warnings are issued.

 Research Bob Drost says only about 63 percent of people take weather warnings seriously. 

Dean of MSU's College of Human Medicine Marsha Rappley with the presidents of Ho
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is partnering with three private colleges in west Michigan to give undergraduate students a head start in medical school.

It's not easy to get into medical school. Last year more than 6,000 students applied for 200 open seats at MSU's College of Human Medicine in downtown Grand Rapids.

Department of Justice building in Washington D.C.
user cliff / Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Justice along with the Michigan Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

U.S. Department of Jusitice Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney Holds said:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 Federal and state prosecutors are suing Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.

 The non-profit health insurance company is accused of violating anti-trust laws. 

When Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan negotiates a contract with a hospital, it includes a provision giving it a discounted rate compared to other health insurance companies. 

Blue Cross insists that allows it to provide its members with discounted hospital stays.    But the US Justice Department and Michigan’s Attorney General’s office disagree.

 The number of adults over 50 entering into substance abuse treatment nearly doubled in Michigan during the past decade, according to a new state health department study.

 The Department of Community Health compared data on substance abuse treatment admissions from 2000 and 2009. 

Alcohol was and is the main reason most older adults ended up in treatment Michigan.

A decade ago, alcohol was the reason 85% of older Michiganders ended up in substance abuse treatment.  But by 2009,  that percentage dropped to 59%.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that U.S. District Judge George Steeh refused to issue a preliminary injunction to stop "preparations for putting federal health reforms into full effect in 2014. He also dismissed the key points of the suit — requiring Americans to buy health insurance and penalizing those who don’t starting in 2014."

 President Obama discusses patient bill of rights in backyard
White House

New census data says 16.7% of Americans are without health insurance:

The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 46.3 million in 2008 to 50.7 million in 2009

But starting today, that will change for many without coverage, including young adults and kids with pre-existing conditions.