Health

Science/Medicine
12:29 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan pharmacies see uptick in interest in anti-radiation medication

Potassium iodide
(Wikipedia Commons)

Since the Japanese nuclear crisis began, the handful of pharmacies in Michigan that stock anti-radiation medicine are seeing an uptick in demand.   

Read more
Science/Medicine
11:47 am
Mon March 14, 2011

Michigan: Testing for radiation since 1958

Hand held Civil Defense Geiger counter
(Flickr spike55151)

The state agency charged with monitoring radiation at Michigan’s three nuclear reactors has so far not recorded any increased radiation coming from Japan. Japan’s troubled nuclear reactors might be a half a world away, but it wouldn’t be the first time a nuclear accident overseas had an effect on Michigan. 

The state of Michigan has been monitoring radiation levels since January of 1958. Ken Yale is the acting chief of the Department of Environmental Quality’s Radiological Protection Section. His office monitors radiation levels at Michigan’s three nuclear plants (Fermi 2, DC Cook and Palisades). He says the last time his office recorded abnormal radiation readings was back in the mid-1980’s, at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine.

Experts do not expect a ‘Chernobyl’ level of radiation release from the Japanese reactors, due to improved containment technology.

medical marijuana
6:28 am
Mon March 14, 2011

Safe under medical marijuana laws, and driving laws?

Is it against the law for medical marijuana patients to drive if they've smoked earier that day?
Craig Finlay Creative Commons

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows people to use the drug, but motor vehicle laws forbid driving with any marijuana in your system. The legal battle could head to the State Court of Appeals.

Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.

A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is supporting the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s appeal to the State Court of Appeals. He says Koon isn’t “being prosecuted for using marijuana, but for driving shortly after using it.”

Science/Medicine
12:28 pm
Sun March 13, 2011

Study to examine whether air pollution can cause diabetes, heart disease

Study will focus on air pollution's effects on in Detroit and in rural areas.
wired.com

It’s no secret that air pollution can lead to breathing problems, like asthma. But a new study will look at what else pollutants may be doing to humans.

Michigan State University has been named a Clean Air Research Center by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Scientists will investigate how certain mixtures of air pollutants affect human health.

MSU professor Jack  Harkema is leading the study.

He says certain toxins may contribute to or even cause heart disease or diabetes, especially in people with other health issues.

"One of those risk groups are people who are overweight or obese," Harkema says. "And maybe you wouldn't think of that right away, but we have some evidence, just like  cigarette smoke, can affect multiple organ systems."

The study will take place primarily in the Detroit area and in rural areas.

University of Michigan and Ohio State University researchers are also taking part.

Science
10:07 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Race & Happiness

(flickr kk+)

A new Michigan State University study finds Black Americans who identify strongly with their racial identity tend to be happier. MSU researchers talked with African-Americans living in Michigan.  

Researcher Stevie Yap says they found people who said that ‘being black’ was an important part of their life and gave them a sense of ‘belongingness” to a wider community.  

"We did also find the sense of belongingness…the degree to which that is a mechanism…in racial identity to happiness…that is especially the case for women.”

The MSU study appears in the current issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Medicine
10:00 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Ingham Regional Medical Center starts layoffs this week

Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing will start laying off about 7 percent of it’s workforce this week.

Interim hospital CEO Patrick Salow says a 10 percent decline in patient numbers over the past year is forcing the staffing cuts. He says the layoffs will affect the hospital’s nursing staff, but the layoffs will also affect other divisions like the finance department.

“If we’ve got fewer patients, so there’s fewer bills to send out, do we need as many people to process bills for example."

The total layoff will be between 100 and 150 hospital employees.

Changing Gears
1:41 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

High-tech dummies help educate health care students (Part 2)

Second year nursing students Travis Pierce, Shelby Feldpausch, Staci Pierson (kneeling), Jennifer Meaton, Ashley Neybert and Jamie Hill. And of course, Mr. Pointer, center.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

The country is facing a nursing shortage, but schools in our region can’t keep up with the demand for nursing education.

As we reported in our first story, that’s partly because there are a limited number of clinical settings where student nurses can work with patients.

Now, to augment the clinical experience, some nursing programs are enlisting the help of a newfangled dummy, wired with smart technology.

Actually, calling these high tech mannequins “dummies” might be a bit insulting.

Forget those passive plastic torsos you’ve seen in CPR demonstrations. We’re talking about high fidelity mannequins, remotely operated by IT guys with headsets and laptops.

Larissa Miller runs the nursing simulation program at Lansing Community College. She can wax poetic about the virtues of the school’s simulated man.

“Our mannequin can shake,” she said, “which is great, we make him have a seizure right in the bed. He can sweat and it starts pouring down his face. He blinks, he breathes, he has pulses…”

He talks. And his female counterpart can even give birth. Miller has been a nurse for 19 years and she says the technology is exploding, "simulation is absolutely one of the fastest paced things I’ve ever watched in education," she said.

Read more
Changing Gears
11:11 am
Wed March 2, 2011

Health care students face long wait lists (Part 1)

Second year occupational therapy student, Craig Morea, helps patient Shirley Teffner with her shoulder.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Nursing is a hot career.

The federal government says the field will create more new jobs than any other profession this decade — almost 600,000 jobs by 2018.

But there’s a bottleneck.

Schools in our region can’t keep up with all the people who want to become nurses or other health care workers.

In the first of two stories, Changing Gears is examining some of the high tech tools schools are using to help ease the training crunch.

Read more
Science/Medicine
6:24 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Too many doctors still prescribing antibiotics for viral infections

A new study says overuse of antibiotics is still a big problem, fifteen years after the Centers for Disease Control began a campaign to stop the practice.  

Marianne Udow-Phillips is head of the University of Michigan’s Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.  She says antibiotics do not work for viral infections.  And the more physicians over-prescribe antibiotics, the more pathogens will develop resistance to the drugs.  But she says patients and doctors alike haven’t gotten the message. Udow-Phillips says:

"We’re just sick for a long time and we just want that magic pill to fix us... But if we have a virus, an antibiotic is not gonna help.  And sometimes physicians cave in to the pressure from families who say, 'just do something'."

Udow-Phillips says drug-resistant staph has become a huge problem.  In fact, more Americans die every year from antibiotic-resistant staph infections than AIDS. 

The practice of overprescribing the drugs is a bigger problem in some parts of Michigan than others, the study found.  In Holland, only about 10% of children who saw a doctor for an upper respiratory viral infection were given a prescription for antibiotics.

But in West Branch, nearly 68% of children with upper respiratory infections were given a prescription for an antibiotic.

Udow-Phillips thinks the differences in prescription rates is most likely because the CDC campaign focused on pediatricians rather than family physicians or internal medicine specialists.  She says more children may be seeing family physicians in areas like West Branch.

Udow-Phillips says the worst part of it is, physicians are often over-prescribing so-called "broad spectrum" antibiotics, when "narrow spectrum" antibiotics would, at least, do less harm.

Read more
Science/Medicine
4:15 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Docs would not be liable for “I’m sorry” under bill up for vote

Eddie Griffith Flickr

The Michigan House could vote on a bill this week that protects doctors who say “I’m sorry” from having the comment used against them in a lawsuit.  

Rick Boothman is the chief risk officer for the University of Michigan Health System. The U-of-M adopted a policy 10 years ago to encourage doctors to show compassion and sympathy when a medical procedure goes wrong.

“The practice of medicine is inherently very risky and when things go badly, it can feel very punitive. Historically, we have chilled the communication between patients and physicians because physicians are afraid of saying anything that’s going to get them into trouble.”

Boothman says it’s impossible to tell if the policy is the cause, but the number of malpractice lawsuits against his hospital has gone down in the past decade.

The bill before the Legislature would not shield doctors from liability if they admit a mistake.

Science/Medicine
4:09 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Few uninsured taking advantage of health coverage pool

Contrando Estrelas Flickr

Fewer than 200 people have signed up for Michigan’s federally subsidized health coverage pool. The pool was created for people with pre-existing medical conditions but no insurance.

The managers of the program say there are thousands of openings. But some prospective buyers appear to be put off by the cost.

Even at a reduced rate, the premiums can run as high as $650 a month for people in their 50s and their 60s. Younger people get a lower rate – as little as $180 a month, but it can still be difficult for some people to come up with that much money. 

Some hospitals are offering to split the cost of premiums with patients, or to direct people to foundations that can help with payments.

Kevin Downey, who is with the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, thinks there are dangers to avoiding insurance.

“Those without coverage are in situations where their conditions worsen and by the time they are actually seen at a hospital in the emergency room there are fewer options and the costs are higher.”

Eric Schneidewind is with AARP of Michigan. He says providing treatment for people with chronic conditions is a bargain for everyone.

“People who do not have insurance who show up at a hospital are costing the rest of us a thousand dollars a year to pay for this, so it’s in our interest to get these people coverage and have them pay what they can afford to pay rather than nothing and have no coverage.”

The pre-existing conditions pool won’t be necessary after 2013 under the new federal healthcare law. After that, everyone will be required to carry coverage through healthcare exchanges, and people can’t be turned down for a medical condition.

Science/Medicine
11:16 am
Sun February 27, 2011

Study will use acupressure to treat breast-cancer related fatigue

An MSU study will teach women to use acupressure in an effort to relieve fatigue from breast cancer treatments.
medindia.net

Women who’ve been treated for breast cancer often suffer from extreme fatique. A Michigan State University professor wants to try an ancient procedure to see if it can relieve the  symptoms.

Gwen Wyatt, a professor at MSU’s College of Nursing, says breast cancer patients who’ve undergone chemotherapy and radiation therapies often complain of being very tired -- all the time.

Wyatt will teach 300 women to try an alternative therapy and will follow their results over five years.

Read more
Science
2:12 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Aurora borealis may be visible in Michigan tonight, tomorrow

Aurora Borealis aka "the Dance of the Spirits"
(commons/wikipedia)

Michiganders might get a glimpse of nature's greatest light show tonight and tomorrow.   Recent solar flares are expected to create a spectacular aurora borealis

The weather forecast tonight calls for potentially ideal conditions with clear skies (though with temperatures falling through the 20's you might want to bundle up).  There's a chance for more clouds Saturday night ( It should also be colder).   Don't miss your chance to see the "Dance of the Spirits". 

Read more
Science
12:07 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

US House rejects Michigan lawmaker's request to hold up money for Chicago canal

Michigan congressman Dave Camp had hoped he could cut off federal funding to reopen the Chicago Sanitary Canal.  The canal could be the main path of Asian Carp may take from the Mississippi River watershed to Lake Michigan.   The Associated Press reports last night's vote wasn't close: 

Read more
Science/Medicine
10:18 am
Wed February 16, 2011

Access to medical marijuana uneven

Confusion continues to reign over medical marijuana dispensaries
Dominic Simpson flickr

There are still some open questions about how the state will implement its two year old Medical Marijuana law.

The state has not said how dispensaries of the drug should be regulated so some cities allow the dispensaries and others do not.

These differences have put a few cities in court. Advocates say the state is missing an opportunity by not regulating the dispensaries.

Karen O’Keefe is with the Marijuana Policy Project, a supporter of the original law.

 

"States that have regulated dispensing, a lot of them subject medical marijuana to sales tax. Some of them also have modest business taxes and there are fees. So in addition to helping patients have access and clearing up some of the confusion that localities are facing it would help the state financially."

 

Groups on both sides of the issue plan to continue to push the state to weigh in on the issue this year.

-Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Medical Marijuana
8:38 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

Federal judge rules against medical marijuana patient fired from Wal-Mart

Joseph Cassias outside the Federal Court in Grand Rapids in November.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Joseph Cassias once stocked shelves at the Walmart in Battle Creek. He was fired after he tested positive for marijuana. Cassias has an inoperable brain tumor and qualifies as a patient under Michigan’s medical marijuana act.

Read more
Science/Medicine
2:59 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

New obstacles for medical marijuana plant-growers

Joe Gratz Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against growing medical marijuana plants in partially-exposed outdoor enclosures, setting a new precedent in Michigan’s medical marijuana debate. From the news spot:

A lower court had dismissed charges against an Owasso resident and medical marijuana card holder. But the Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal, and two of the three judges say the enclosure did not meet the standards set in the new law.

The medical marijuana law was approved by voters in 2008. Many lawmakers have said the law is too unrestricted and needs further clarification.

Clarification--and clarity--is an ongoing problem for medical marijuana advocates and critics in Michigan. John McKenna Rosevear wrote an article in November for arborweb.com which looks at some of the uncertainties surrounding medical marijuana. He describes Ann Arbor as a "Wild West" of in-plain-sight dispencaries and access:

The new frontier opened when voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 (earlier laws enshrined the alternative spelling). The act protects people with "debilitating medical conditions" from prosecution for possessing or using marijuana, and sets what looked like tight controls on its production and distribution: "patients" can raise up to twelve hemp plants for their own use, or delegate the growing to a designated "caregiver."

The law says nothing about buying or selling. Yet by the time the Ann Arbor City Council hastily enacted a moratorium in August, eight businesses dispensing marijuana had already opened in the city. Anyone with a physician's recommendation can now walk in, join a "club," and walk out with up to 2.5 ounces of Blueberry Haze or White Widow--or "medibles" like marijuana brownies and rainbow-colored lollipops dosed with marijuana extract.

Roseyear's article goes on to describe how medical marijuana works--what the rules are, what kind of people are buying and who (he gets pretty specific) is selling--in Ann Arbor.

How is it affecting the rest of Michigan? What do these issues look like where you live?

-Brian Short

Health
1:06 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Report: Federal judge dismisses challenge against heath care law

In 2009, then Ohio Representative John Boehner spoke out against the health care reform bill. Now courts are weighing in.
GOP House Leader Flickr

A federal judge in Mississippi tossed out a lawsuit aimed at challenging the health care reform law. The dismissal comes the same week a federal judge in Florida ruled that the whole law was unconstitutional.

Politico.com reports:

Ten individuals without health insurance argued that the law’s requirement to buy insurance violated their rights. One of the plaintiffs is Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Judge Keith Starrett said the individuals didn’t prove they have proper standing to challenge the law because they didn’t prove the mandate would apply to them. The suit was thrown out on procedural grounds.

It's not the first time lawsuits challenging the health care law have been tossed. Politico writes, "about two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the health care reform law since it was passed in March. Thirteen have now been thrown out over procedural matters such as a right to bring the suit."

Keeping score

NPR's Health blog went to their "go-to overhaul scorekeeper" Julie Rover for a tally on how challenges to the health care law have fared in court. The bloggers on "Shots" wrote:

The judicial scorecard on the law has pretty much followed party lines. Two judges who found the law constitutional were appointed by Democrats. Two who found the requirement for most people to have health insurance unconstitutional were appointed by Republicans.

The several dismissals issued for the health care court challenges, like the one today, have not followed any party ties.

Health
9:10 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Flu season picking up in Michigan

Michigan is among more than 2 dozen states reporting widespread influenza outbreaks.

Flu outbreaks have been reported in most regions of Michigan. Nursing home patients, college students and other groups of people living in close quarters have fallen ill with the flu. State health officials report one child has died from the flu.

Still, James McCurtis, a spokesman for the state Department of Community Health, says this has been a relatively mild flu season:

"Its very typical. Its nowhere near when we had the (Swine Flu) pandemic with H1N1 last year and two years ago."

McCurtis says the flu season still has about 3 months to go. Which means there is still time to catch the flu, and there’s still time to get a flu shot.

Science/Medicine
5:08 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

New housing complex to serve Detroit's senior citizens

Rendering of the East Jefferson Neighborhood Project
Hooker DeJong Architects and Engineers

Henry Ford Health Systems and two non-profit partners will team up to offer more long-term care options to Detroit’s senior citizens.

 

Henry Ford, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, and United Methodist Retirement Communities are involved in the $35 million project on the city’s east side.

 

The complex will include affordable senior housing, assisted living units, and a Center for Senior Independence.

 

Read more

Pages