Friday, November 30, 2007

The Shame of the American Health Care System

As is well publicized, over 47,000,000 Americans have no health insurance—more than 15 % of the population. Even more Americans do not have any dental insurance. With the exception of the United States, most developed countries have a National health system which benefits all of its citizens both rich and poor. Although the United States is a first world country, for the more than 47 million uninsured, medical care is third world.

I recently read an article, “Patients without Borders” by Sara Corbett, in the November 18, 2007 edition of The New York Times Magazine, which made me feel very ashamed of the state of the health care situation in the United States. This photo journal told of some very generous and humane physicians, dentists, optometrists, and nurses who belong to a group called Remote Area Medical (RAM). The original purpose of this group was to send health expeditions to such 3rd world countries as Guyana, India, Tanzania and Haiti. The only difference was that this time the expedition took place right in the United States.

On a rainy July weekend, at the Wise County Fairgrounds in Virginia, right after the finish of the Virginia-Kentucky Fair and Horse Show, volunteers from the Virginia Lions Clubs scrub down the facilities and ready the fairgrounds for the Remote Area Medical team. Working in animal stalls and makeshift tents, these volunteers provided free eyeglasses, dental work, radiology, and even minor surgery to over 2,500 patients without health insurance. These patients had to wait on long lines and were treated in less than comfortable surroundings. At the end of the weekend, several hundred patients were turned away because they simply arrived too late to be seen. This expedition is only held once a year. What happens to these patients if they become ill and have medical or dental needs before the RAM team returns?

Many of the RAM health expedition patients are hard working people who simply can’t afford the high cost of medical care or the medical insurance needed to pay for this costly care. Is good medical care only a privilege of the wealthy?

To the credit of the Democratic candidates running for President, each of them does have a health care plan which would ease the current health care crisis. Unfortunately a few of them only address the needs of children whose families don’t have any health insurance. While this might be a good place to start, don’t adults need medical care as well?

If you listen to the Republicans, the solution to the current health insurance debacle can be found in the private sector. Hasn’t the private sector failed? It is the private sector that has brought us managed care, overly priced pharmaceuticals, and out of control prices. Can we trust our health care to a private sector that cares more about corporate profit margins than the health of Americans? If you listen to the Republicans debate, you come away with the feeling that they have more interest in abortion, guns, gay marriage, persecuting undocumented immigrants, spying on American citizens, and what goes on in our bedroom than in providing decent health care to hard working Americans.

George Bush fooled the American people by stating that he would be a compassionate Conservative. Do these 2 words even go together? This so-called compassionate Conservative vetoed the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Plan) which would have extended more health benefits to children without insurance. There were not enough Republicans to join with the Democrats for the 2/3 majority needed to override the presidential veto.

Keep health care in mind when you vote in the upcoming primary elections and the November 2008 general election. In the meantime, if you are one of the 47 million Americans without health insurance or the 7 out of 10 without any dental benefits, visit for information on how to save money on your health care.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ask your Healthcare Provider about Infection Control

A recent incident in Nassau County, Long Island, New York, in which a number of patients were infected with hepatitis C, prompted me to write this blog post. Hepatitis C is a debilitating virus infection of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver cancer over time.

In the Long Island case, an anesthesiologist who specialized in pain management was found to have used improper infection control techniques while giving epidural injections for the relief of severe lower back pain. The affected patients went in for the relief of their chronic and severe back pain and came back with a serious, life threatening illness. All patients who received these injections were instructed to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

Unfortunately this has not been the first case of the transmission of hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and even HIV through the use of improper sterilization of instruments. In the case of the Long Island physician, he had reused syringes, only replacing the needle, with multi-dose vials of the anesthetic solution. As a result, the multi-dose vials became contaminated with hepatitis C. There have also been documented cases of contamination after endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopy or laparoscopy. How many cases of life-threatening hospital acquired infections and MRSA have resulted from intubation and catheterization.

As a patient, it is important to question your healthcare provider about his or her sterility procedures. Refuse any medication given from multi-dose vials. It might be a means of the doctor saving money, but it could put your health in danger. Also, before submitting to injections or any other invasive techniques, make sure that there are no alternative treatments available.

To take charge of your healthcare and help pay for alternative treatments visit: Health Plans Plus.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Family That Plays Together Stays Together

In today’s world of electronic devices, cable TV, VCRs, computers, video games, and busy work schedules, it is often difficult for families to get together. Yet, research has shown that a strong family life produces happier and more successful adults.

It is important for families to take some time out and schedule a definite time during the week for family fun and recreation. This can be in the form of a family fun night.

Here are a few tips from Shape Up America:

1) Schedule a regular time during the week for physical activity and recreation.
2) Family members can take turns selecting an activity for the family to do as a group each week.
3) Buy toys and equipment that encourage physical activity.
4) Select gifts that promote physical activity with the recipient’s skills and interests in mind.
5) Limit the time spent watching TV, surfing the web, or playing video games.
6) Emphasize the importance of having fun and learning rather than competing to win.

Both indoor and outdoor activities, when the weather permits, should be encouraged. Board games are always fun for the family to play and encourage thinking skills, strategy, and eye/hand coordination. Choose games that are appropriate for all skill levels involved.

In nice weather, encourage outdoor play. A variety of ball games can be played even on city playgrounds. Volley ball can be set up on the beach or in the backyard, and who can resist a game of badminton or croquet. Miniature golf can be set up both indoors and outdoors. Shop around to find good equipment at discount prices.

If space permits, set up an indoor recreation room that can be used for family fun. A game of table tennis will provide physical activity, fun, and eye-hand coordination. Try a game of billiards. You can even purchase an inexpensive multi-game table which will provide hours of family fun and recreation. Add an arcade game like a basketball shootout game. Your children will have fun while they enhance their skill level and self esteem. Young children will appreciate a trampoline, balls of various sizes, jumpropes or a golf putting game. Many companies manufacture junior size sports equipment scaled just for young toddlers and elementary school children.

For some ideas for family fun and recreation visit The Family Gamer.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Family Fun and Fitness

I am probably giving away my age here, but I can remember a time when we all ate our dinner at the same time, we didn’t have 300 + television programs to choose from every day, children did not spend hours after school playing video games, sitting in front of computer screens, or talking on cell phones. When I came home from school, if weather permitted, I was expected to go outside to play. We would go to the playground, play ball, jump rope, and play running games.

Kids today are frequently stressed out by many of hours of homework and the pressure to take college level courses for advanced placement before they are intellectually ready. I have heard of children getting by on only a few hours of sleep each night because of excessive homework and skipping lunch in order to take on such a demanding curriculum. Frequently both parents are at work outside of the home, and there is no parent to see that the child engages in healthy outdoors activities during these afternoon hours.

Today’s children are more likely to be found playing video games, surfing the web, watching television or the VCR than engaging in sports and healthy recreation. As a result, we have seen a rise in both children and adults in such lifestyle disorders as obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes—disorders that are preventable and even treatable by attention to both diet and exercise. A recent survey showed an increase in prescriptions in young people for high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).

In a message from former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D., for the Shape up America program, Dr. Koop states: “A survey conducted by Shape Up America has revealed that child care responsibilities are interfering with the efforts of many families to get more exercise and at the same time we know many children are now overweight or obese. The solution is a commitment on the part of the entire family to spend more time together. I encourage you to choose activities you can do together and support and reward each other’s efforts to be more active at home, at school, at work, and in your communities. I urge you to replace the use of food as a reward for good behavior and offer to take a walk with your child instead. The pleasure of your company is the best reward your child can receive and the best gift you can give.”

This is good advice indeed. In my next few postings, I will offer some suggestions for family fun, recreation, and fitness. Not only will your family be healthier and more fit, but these activities will help your children develop their self esteem and skill development. Since “the family that plays together stays together”, as an added bonus, these activities will also help foster good family relationships.

For some suggestions for family fun and fitness visit The Family Gamer.