health

John Chevier / Flickr

This morning we posted Mark Brush's story about giving blood, including why some people are disallowed from giving.

The story started with a post to Facebook about giving blood, and the comments you posted about the rules for giving.

Now that the final story has been posted, people are still reacting.

Anita Weber says, "Here's one way they can start...by using different sized needles! I've been turned away three times because they only use one size of needle. I avidly exercise so I'm not buying them telling me to lift weights more! My veins are the size they are! Their loss! I wanted and still want to donate!"

Carrie Paps responds, saying, "I give all the time, 2 gallons so far, but I understand the issues. Sometimes my iron is too low and sometimes they can't find a vein."

Craig Hennigan still objects to rules for giving blood. He says, "The lifetime ban for gay men is still stupid, homophobic, and wrong."

redcrossofnci.org

  The American Red Cross says they're facing a critical shortage to the nation's blood supply. And blood donations often drop in the summer when people are busy or traveling.

So they want you to give.

When we posted information about the appeal on our Facebook page, it sparked a debate about blood donor screening.

Not everyone can give blood. Only about 37%  of us can. Donors are pre-screened for potential exposure to diseases to keep the blood supply safe.

But many people feel some healthy donors are needlessly kept from donating blood.

Anathea Utley / Flickr

With the news of the world's first "Tickle Spa" opening in Madrid last week, the BBC's James Coomarasamy spoke with Carrie Graham, a Laughter and Happiness Coach based in London.

Graham conducts laughter workshops in which participants are "pretend tickled" if they're not familiar with each other, and full-on tickled if they are.

Naturally, Graham had to try out a little tickle therapy on her BBC interviewer.

Have a listen:

Feel better? You can listen to the full interview from the BBC Newshour (click on chapter 10).

This press release is from the Michigan Department of Agriculture:

La Providencia of Holland is recalling raw cilantro and other food products prepared or packed in the store because they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

All of the following products sold on or before June 29, 2011 are under recall:  Raw Cilantro, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Red Salsa, Green Salsa, Grated Cotija Cheese, or Sour Cream sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers, and Oaxaca Cheese or Fresco Cheese sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers or on Styrofoam trays covered in plastic wrap. 

The recalled products were sold at La Providencia, located at 372 W. 16th Street, Holland and Santa Fe Supermarket #3, located at 981 Butternut Drive, in Holland, MI. 

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths. The very young, the pregnant, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to infection. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

The contamination was noted after testing by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat products collected at Santa Fe Supermarket #2 and La Providencia on June 21, 2011.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with this problem.

Production of the product has been suspended at this location while La Providencia and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development continue their investigation as to the source of the contamination.

Consumers who have purchased raw cilantro or various other products sold in these stores are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact LA PROVIDENCIA at (616) 546-8857.

Pratibha Varshney / Flickr

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) - Eastern Michigan University is considering a campuswide smoking ban as the University of Michigan gears up to go smoke-free.

AnnArbor.com reports that the Eastern Michigan will try out a two-week smoking ban at its Ypsilanti campus this fall to see how that works. Ellen Gold, executive director of EMU Health Services, says the two-week ban is being called "Heads up, butts out."

If all goes well, Gold says smoking could be banned on campus within a year-and-a-half of the practice run.

Officials at Eastern Michigan will be watching to see how things go with University of Michigan's ban on smoking outdoors and indoors, which takes effect Friday. The university has banned smoking inside its buildings since 1987.

Ohio's pain management clinics come under tough new regulations Sunday. Many of the clinics are blamed for prescription drug abuse in a state where the leading cause of accidental death is unintentional drug overdose. In the south of the state, Scioto County is leading the fight against the so-called "pill mills."

Anybody you talk to around the city of Portsmouth can tell you about a family member, a teammate or a colleague who's been in trouble with painkillers.

Mike Babcock / Flickr

A few hundred opponents of Michigan’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law rallied today at the state Capitol.

They support a state Senate bill that would allow riders 21 years and older to choose to ride without a helmet. They would have to have at least two years of riding experience, or have passed a motorcycle safety course.

Governor Rick Snyder says he's open to granting the wish of riders who want the helmet requirement repealed, but he also says he needs some assurances that the public won’t be saddled with big medical bills when helmetless riders are injured.

"And I’ve had an open discussion with them and I said one of the concerns that I want to look at is the cost to all of our citizens in the state, and understanding those and making sure we are doing it in a fair way," Snyder said.

Helmet law foes believe they have the votes in the Legislature to get a helmet law repeal passed.

Laura Brand-Bauer says she typically wears a helmet, but wants the option to ride without it.

"You know, I've ridden without a helmet on occasion in Ohio and Indiana and wouldn’t mind being able to do that when I felt like it," said Brand-Bauer. "I do believe that people should have a choice."

Insurance companies and traffic safety advocates say the helmet law is working and should remain as it is. Opponents of the law say training and experience are more important than wearing a helmet to avoid deaths and injuries.

 State House Republican leaders failed to muster enough votes to reverse health benefits for the live-in partners of state employees. The new policy will treat unmarried employees with live-in partners the same as married employees, and it will apply to people in same-sex relationships. A two-thirds majority vote isrequired to reverse  the contracts approved by the state Civil Service Commission.

GOP lawmakers said the Civil Service Commission decision undermines “traditional families” and violates the intent of a voter-approved amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions in Michigan.

House Speaker Jase Bolger says he is looking for other avenues to block the new policy from taking effect October first.

"I’m going to continue to explore the legality of their decision. I believe they made an end run around the constitution. I’m not an attorney, but I’m going to consult with attorneys to see if something can be done about their illegal decision,” Bolger said.

Democrats say the Legislature should not rescind agreements collectively bargained with state employee unions.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has also been asked for an opinion on whether state employee live-in partner benefits violates Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban.

Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

Until last July, many people in Marshall had no idea an oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners ran underneath their town.

Then, it broke. More than 840,000 gallons of thick, black oil from the Canadian tar sands poured into the Kalamazoo River.

“I think I can sum it up in one word and that is nightmare."

Deb Miller lives just 50 feet from the Kalamazoo River.

“The smell, I don’t even know how to describe the smell, there are no words. You could not be outside."

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Joe Schwarz, one of the best-informed, multi-talented men in public life in this state. After a stint as mayor of his native Battle Creek, Schwarz spent sixteen years in the state senate, where he was immensely knowledgeable on education policy and finance.

That was, of course, back in the era before term limits. Schwarz is also one of those people whose resume could fill a box. He’s also had a career in the U.S. Navy, and as a spy in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He ran for governor once and congress twice, finally winning a single term in 2004.

Schwarz’s problem was never the general election. Every time he got to one of those, he won easily. But he had trouble in  Republican primaries. He is a fiscal conservative and a military hawk, but also believes in funding education, and that abortion should be “legal, safe and rare.” Nor does he always suffer fools gladly.

By the way, I didn’t mention his day job. He is an otolaryngologist, which we civilians call an ear, nose and throat surgeon, and is still happily practicing medicine. 

That is, when he isn’t teaching at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Schwarz understands health care issues, and I was curious about our medical school explosion.

The U of M has a medical school; Wayne State has one; Michigan State has two; Oakland University and Beaumont Hospital have started one, and Western Michigan is now starting one.

Is that too many? Will we be producing too many doctors?

That’s a good question, the good doctor told me, but not the most important one. When all these medical schools are up and running, they’ll be producing something like six hundred and ninety doctors a year, trained largely at state expense.

countyhealthrating.org

A new study says Ottawa County is the healthiest county in Michigan. The county borders Lake Michigan’s shore directly west of Grand Rapids.

Marcia Knoll is a community health analyst at Ottawa County’s Health Department. She says the department does not take credit for the county’s “healthiest” rating. Knoll says there are many organizations, churches and people working together to keep the community healthy.

“Instead of standing like silos, each with our own agenda and our own territory. So that’s not the environment here, that’s not the culture here and I think that has stood us well in the struggles and with our health care.”

The study was done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It looks at a number of measures that affect a community’s health; how many people smoke, are overweight, and have access to fresh, healthy foods.

Nicole Lowen / Environment Michigan

Several protestors rallied outside Congressman Fred Upton’s offices in Kalamazoo Friday.

Nicole Lowen is the with Environment Michigan, a state-wide advocacy group that tries to protect clean air, water and open spaces.

“We had gigantic, oversized asthma inhalers that we dropped off at his office just to represent the thousands of his constituents that are likely to suffer more frequent and severe health problems if he’s successful in stripping away these critical clean air protections.”

She says they were protesting a bill (H.R. 910) Upton introduced that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House. The republican from St. Joseph says allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will drive up energy costs, destroy jobs and make America less competitive globally.

“Such regulatory authority can only come from elected legislators, not unelected bureaucrats.  We must not allow this administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” Upton said in a press release issued Friday.

NPR.org

For soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the biggest threats has been IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices. When these bombs go off, they can do enormous physical damage. But they can also cause damage to the soldier that often goes undetected.

NPR's Daniel Zerdling and ProPublica conducted an investigation of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) in soldiers serving in the U.S. military.

In the series, Brain Wars, they found that "the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom receive little or no treatment for lingering health problems."

We're beginning to learn more about the persistent debilitating effects of these brain injuries from studies of football and hockey players and other athletes involved in contact sports. These are unseen injuries. Injuries that, prior to our understanding of them, might have gotten a "shake it off, you just got your bell rung" response from a coach.

As it turns out, the military has been slow to understand the effects of these brain injuries as well.

To get a grasp of how these unseen brain injuries can affect somebody - watch this video of Sgt. Victor Medina who says, "sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier to get my leg blown off - you can see it.":

Steve Rhodes / Flickr

Earlier this month, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills that ban the practice of partial-birth abortions, a practice that is already banned by federal law. The federal law was also upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

Supporters of SB 160 and SB 161 say a state law is necessary so local officials can assist federal authorities when enforcing the law.

These are some examples of anti-abortion bills moving in the Michigan legislature.

Louise Knott Ahern wrote about other bills being considered in today's Lansing State Journal.

Ahern writes about bills aimed at preventing insurance companies from covering abortions unless the coverage is added as a separate rider on a policy. From the LSJ:

Within two months of being sworn in, GOP legislators introduced 11 bills backed by Right to Life.

The most sweeping change would come from two bills awaiting action in the House committee on health policy.

Introduced by Rep. Jud Gilbert of Algonac, they would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman adds the coverage as a rider on her policy and pays for it separately from her monthly premium...

The bills don't apply to emergency abortions in which the mother's life is at risk, nor do they ban insurance coverage outright. But abortion rights advocates fear they would essentially have that effect.

Sarah Scranton of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan says "we have looked in states that already have this and we have not been able to find one insurance provider that offered a rider for abortion coverage. Women don't plan for unplanned pregnancies. These riders don't exist."

If passed, the law could also apply to insurance plans that will be created under the federal health care law.

In 2014, health care exchanges are expected to be set up under the federal health care law. These group plans will be available to people who can't afford individual private plans. Ahern writes in a "last-minute" compromise, President Obama accepted a "clause that allows states to require the separate abortion riders for insurance plans purchased through the exchanges."

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has voted by a super-majority to reverse a state Civil Service Commission decision that would allow unmarried state employees to claim domestic partners on their health insurance.

Earlier this year, a state employment panel approved unmarried partner benefits that would include people in same-sex relationships and their dependents.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen says the state can’t afford it – and voters have already spoken about domestic partner benefits by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

“This is about economics. This is about our budget. This is about getting Michigan back on track."

But, Democratic state Senator Rebekah Warren says rejecting domestic partner benefits would hurt children.

“Families are always stronger when health insurance is accessible to everyone in the household.”

The measure now goes to the state House, where Republicans will have to muster a two-thirds majority vote to reverse the policy. Otherwise, state employees will be able to claim unmarried partners on their benefits starting October first.

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.

Derek Hatfield / Flickr

Bob Probert was known as an "enforcer" in the game of hockey. The guy who had your back.

If an opposing player started something, Probert was there to exact a penalty on the other player with his fists.

He played in the NHL for sixteen seasons, including a long stint with the Detroit Red Wings.

Probert died last year at the age of 45 after suffering chest pains.

The New York Times published a piece this morning on the discovery that Probert suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a brain trauma disease that has also been found in many former NFL players.

After learning about CTE, Probert told his wife he wanted his brain donated to researchers.

Probert's widow, Dani Probert, is quoted in the Times article:

"I remember joking with him, ‘Wouldn’t your brain make a nice specimen?’ ” she said. “He started questioning whether he would have it himself. He told me that he wanted to donate his brain to the research when he died. Who would have thought that six months later it would be happening?"

His brain was donated after his death last year.

Researchers at Boston University said they found evidence of CTE in Probert's brain.

One of the researcher's noted they couldn't isolate where Probert's exposure to head trauma came from:

“How much is the hockey and how much is the fighting, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Robert Cantuco-director of the Boston University center and a prominent neurosurgeon in the area of head trauma in sports. “We haven’t definitely established that the skills of hockey as a sport lead to a certain percentage of participants developing C.T.E. But it can happen to hockey players, and while they’re still relatively young.”

Probert's wife believes it came from all the checking and hits in the game itself. She did note that in his last years, Probert did show signs of "behavior uncharacteristic to him, especially memory loss and a tendency to lose his temper while driving."

Wherever the brain trauma came from, the NHL will likely take a closer look at protecting its players, the same way the NFL has been creating new rules to cut down on head trauma in its sport.

If they're successful in better protecting their players, the sports have reporters from the New York Times to thank.

Times reporters, like Alan Schwartz, have been exposing the effects of head trauma in sports for the last several years.

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.

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.

Sono Tamaki / flickr

Washtenaw County's data shows African-American babies are at least three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. That's according to data from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Washtenaw County’s rate for African-American infant deaths is among the highest in the state, and it also has one of the widest statewide gaps between white and black infant mortality rates.

The rate for white infant deaths is among the lowest in the state and going down.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Strang / U.S. Air Force photo

Bad winter weather through the eastern half of the U.S. has caused the cancelation of more than 14,000 blood and platelet donations, according to the American Red Cross.

They say they haven't seen the blood supply diminish this badly, during this season, for the past ten years.

With more bad weather likely, the Red Cross has put out an appeal for more donations from eligible blood donors "to help boost its blood supply back up to sufficient levels."

Update 11:43 a.m.:

The state Civil Service Commission has approved agreements to allow state employees to put their live-in partners on their insurance plans, Rick Pluta reports.

The commission's action ratifies agreements that were worked out between Governor Jennifer Granholm's administration with two state employee unions and state workers who are not part of a union. The commission acted over the objections of Governor Rick Snyder's administration.

8:20 a.m.:

It’s expected that The Michigan Civil Service Commission will take up a measure today that would extend health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of state employees, The Detroit News reports. As the News explains:

An attempt to push through the change in the waning days of the Granholm administration failed when the commission tabled the issue in December. Now, the new administration of Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to tell the commission today the state can't afford the change — expected to cost close to $6 million a year…

The four-member commission is split on the issue, as are unions for state employees who are bracing for anticipated fights on wage and benefit issues viewed as higher priorities. Employee benefits for same-sex partners were negotiated in 2004, shortly before Michigan voters passed a ballot initiative that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

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
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."

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.

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.

Sweet N' Low, sugar, and salt and pepper shakers
William Hartz / Flickr

I always thought twice before adding those little pink packets to my iced tea because a little voice in my head was telling me they were bad. No proof, just something I had heard somewhere.

As it turns out, saccharin WAS on EPA's hazardous constituent list. It's been on the list since 1980. The substance was put on the list because the EPA's Carcinogen Assessment Group listed it as a "potential human carcinogen."

Lice nit on hair
Gilles San Martin - wikimedia

It's something a lot of parents dread. Lice in your kid's hair.

Pesticides in shampoo form is one way to tackle the problem, but some people go pesticide-free.

Kyle Norris filed a report on Rapunzel's Lice Boutique in Ann Arbor for the Environment Report. I tagged along with her with a camera when she visited a family getting a treatment and we put together this slide show:

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

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