Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

All eyes these days are trained on the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to rule sometime this month on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

But some people are waiting more anxiously for the court to rule than others. Among them are those with a major financial stake in whether the law goes forward or not and if so, in what form.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Local officials are warning of an increase in HIV infections in Austin’s adolescent population.

“We’ve identified just in the last few months about five newly confirmed HIV cases,” Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Medical Director Dr. Philip Huang tells KUT News. “By comparison, all of last year in Travis County, we had six cases.”

Dr. Huang couldn’t speak to specific cases, but cited Centers for Diseases Control statistics regarding sexually-active adolescents: some 52 percent of Texas high school students have had sex at least once, and only 54 percent of sexually active students used a condom the last time they had sex.

Photo by kcdsTM http://www.flickr.com/photos/kcdstm/2220683741/

Though shocking and disturbing, many gunshot wounds to the face are not as serious as they appear, Harvard surgery professor and trauma surgeon George Velmahos reminded an audience of trauma surgeons and nurses this morning.

Velmahos joined several other surgeons in giving quick lessons about surgical techniques or advancements as part of the Austin Trauma and Critical Care Conference at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas Campus.

In between surgeon-centered jokes, Velmahos showed provocative photos of patients with gunshot wounds to the face because he said he knew they would elicit a strong response.

Photo by rbbaird http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbbaird/4711842910/

The classic backyard entertainment may be more dangerous than assumed warned University of Oklahoma professor of surgery Roxie Albrecht today at a conference focused on trauma and critical care.Her lecture, called “Trampolines are Fun?” explained to surgeons how to treat patients afflicted with a trampoline related injuries.

She said most injuries come from jumping with more than the recommended amount of people on the trampoline. Most trampolines are made for one person.

Albrecht cited research showing children are more likely to get hurt on trampolines in the early evening when guardians are too busy or distracted to watch over them.

“They are more into making dinner and the kids are out on the trampoline trying to hurt themselves,” she said.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/redcrosspdx

The City of Austin wants everyone to take 10 minutes to learn hands-only CPR.

Each year, about 600 people in Austin and Travis County experience cardiac arrest and are treated by EMS. When bystanders perform CPR, survival rates can double or even triple.

Hillary Funk is the Community Integration Coordinator with Austin-Travis County EMS. She says some people are hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth.

Photo courtesy texas4000.org

A group of students called Texas 4000 will embark tomorrow from Austin on the world’s longest annual charity bike ride – all the way to Anchorage, Alaska.

Riders from the community can join the group on the first leg of their 4,687 mile journey this Saturday morning. They leave from Running Brushy Middle School in Cedar Park at 8 a.m. There are several other events leading up to the kick-off that provide opportunities for the community to interact with the riders.

This is the group’s ninth year to make the ride. To date the organization has raised more than $3 million for the Livestrong Foundation.

Photo by Wells Dunbar for KUT News

President Obama’s signature healthcare reforms calls for an automatic review of any increase in health insurance costs ten percent or higher.

But an organization promoting better health care access across Texas says the agency in charge of monitoring and reviewing these hikes isn’t doing its job.

The Texas Department of Insurance is responsible for determining whether or not price increases for insurance premiums are justified. This is supposed to help protect consumers from overpaying for insurance.

FDA Rules Corn Syrup Can't Change its Name to Corn Sugar

May 31, 2012

Corn-based-sweetener manufacturers may be singing a sour tune today. The Food and Drug Administration just ruled that the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup that sweetens many of our candies, sodas and snacks cannot be called "corn sugar." But much like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator character, they'll probably be baaack.

You know all those lawsuits now pending around the country charging that the Obama administration's rule requiring most health insurance plans to offer no-cost contraception is a violation of religious freedom?

Well, a whole bunch of supporters of the rule are chiming in now to say that argument has no legal merit.

Trained Interpreters Can Help Prevent Medical Errors

May 22, 2012

When someone arrives at the hospital who doesn't speak English very well, it's common for workers at the hospital who are fluent in that language —doctors, nurses, even administrative staff — to step in and act as the patient's interpreter.

So much for compromise.

A total of 43 Catholic educational, charitable and other entities filed a dozen lawsuits in federal court around the nation Monday, charging that the Obama Administration's rule requiring coverage of birth control in most health insurance plans violates their religious freedom.

It turns out we may not know nearly as much about all the money spent on health care in the U.S. as we thought we did.

But there's a new group that wants to, well, remedy that.

The problem, Martin Gaynor, chairman of the Health Care Cost Institute, told Shots, is that "two-thirds of the population has private [health] insurance, but most of the information comes from Medicare."

Karlton Hill was only 12 years old when when he found out he had diabetes. Even though he was only in seventh grade, Karlton knew what diabetes was; he had watched the disease destroy his great-grandmother's life.

"I was really upset. I cried," he says. "I didn't want any of this to happen to me. I was like, 'Why is this happening to me?' "

Public health experts have been worrying for years that the obesity epidemic would lead to an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes among kids.

When it comes to hepatitis C, things that happened to baby boomers back in the day can make all the difference.

One in 30 baby boomers is infected with virus, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most of them don't know it. So, the CDC is moving ahead with a proposal that all baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) get a blood test to check for the virus.

The current guidelines call for testing when someone has known risk factors.

If you're already a kale and lentils kind of person (we know there are a lot of frugal foodies out there) — you won't be surprised by this finding: According to a new study from some economists at the USDA, eating a healthy diet isn't necessarily more expensive than a diet loaded with sugar and fat. In fact, fruits and vegetables are often cheaper when you calculate the cost in a smarter way.

Image courtesy flickr.com/jacockshaw

In July, University of Texas employees who use the UT SELECT Medical plan will have to declare whether they use tobacco. And if they do, they will have to pay a $30 dollar premium every month starting in September.

The same goes for spouses and children who are on the plan. The maximum charge would be $90 per month, per family.

“During Annual Enrollment, all UT SELECT Medical plan participants will need to declare whether they are or are not a tobacco user,” the university’s Office of Employee Benefits writes. Approximately 200,000 employees, spouses and children are enrolled statewide in the UT SELECT insurance program.

U.S. government spending to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries is also preventing death from other diseases, a new study finds.

Some experts worry the billions of dollars the United States spends to treat people with HIV in poor countries may crowd out prevention and treatment of other illnesses.

Photo courtesy jamelah via Flickr

The Obama Administration has unveiled a plan to address Alzheimer’s disease.

It has five broad goals for addressing the disease and helping families facing challenges from it, with an end- goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025.

The numbers are staggering: One-third of Americans are obese; another third are overweight. Some 26 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes. An additional 79 million more are pre-diabetic. Thanks to these figures, the children of today have a good chance of becoming the first generation of Americans to die at younger ages than their parents.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Most students would agree that cramming for finals is painful. 

But one overlooked stressor is eye strain, which can result in computer vision syndrome. A recent BBC article noted 90% of matriculating students in major Asian cities are suffering from nearsightedness.

According to Dr. Benjamin Warta, a VSP optometrist with Vision Care Specialists in Denver, Colorado, people that engage in daily or extended work, reading, or entertainment viewing on a screen near their face – “close work,” as Dr. Warta calls it – tend to show a definite increase in eye-strain.

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