health

State Legislature
7:40 am
Thu March 10, 2011

State Senate votes to reverse unmarried partner benefits

The State Senate has voted to reverse unmarried partner benefits
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.

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.

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Sports
12:01 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

Former Red Wing hockey player suffered from brain trauma

Researchers are finding more evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes involved in contact sports.
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.

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.

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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
2:34 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Black infant mortality rate on the rise in Washtenaw County

Rearchers have found a wide disparity between infant mortality rates in Washtenaw County
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.

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Science/Medicine
12:59 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Bad weather leads to low blood supply for American Red Cross

The Red Cross says their blood supply is running low
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."

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Health Insurance
11:49 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Same-sex health insurance issue expected to be discussed today

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.

Health
3:47 pm
Wed January 12, 2011

Study: asthma rates on the rise

Asthma inhaler
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
Science/Medicine
10:29 am
Tue December 28, 2010

MSU researchers travel to Nigeria to help with polio situation

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.

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Health
7:18 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

Kalamazoo County saves millions in health care costs

Wellness programs encourage people to lead health lifestyles. Kalamazoo County says their program is paying off.
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."

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Health
4:10 pm
Wed December 15, 2010

Bronson Healthcare to buy major stake in Battle Creek Health System

Kalamazoo-based Bronson Healthcare Group plans to buy a majority stake in 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.

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Health
3:43 pm
Tue December 14, 2010

More teens using marijuana, fewer using alcohol

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research has been conducting this study for 36 years.
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.

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Food
2:37 pm
Tue December 14, 2010

Saccharin removed from EPA's bad list

Use those little pink packets to your heart's delight. Saccharin is off an EPA hazardous list.
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."

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Health
12:13 pm
Tue December 14, 2010

Lice boutique tackles parasites (audio slideshow)

Most animals get some form of lice. We get these little beauties. A lice nit attached to 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:

State Law
11:49 am
Wed December 1, 2010

ACLU sues cities for medical marijuana bans

Voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008.
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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Medicine
10:42 am
Mon November 22, 2010

A call for safer CT scans

Patients getting overdosed by radiation are causing hospitals to more closely monitor CT scans.
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.

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Music
12:16 pm
Fri November 19, 2010

"Detroit's Child" - J Dilla's legacy grows

J Dilla at a drum set
Thomas Angermann Creative Commons

Every once in a while you stumble upon a story that passed you by. Here's one I missed from Paul Farber, a former arts intern here at Michigan Radio.

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Heath care showdown
5:12 pm
Thu October 7, 2010

Health care law upheld by federal judge in Detroit

The new health care law will mandate that people buy some form of insurance.
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."

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Health Insurance Changes
5:38 pm
Thu September 23, 2010

Health care consumer protections take effect today

President Barack Obama marks changes in health care laws at the Brayshaw residence in Falls Church, Va., Sept. 22, 2010
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.

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