Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Last week was National Women’s Health Week, and I fully intended on writing a great blog post telling everyone that they should take a moment out of their busy schedules and focus on their health. The only problem was that my busy schedule got in the way.
Last Wednesday, my daughter needed to make it to her ENT, so I pushed my eye appointment off. I really didn’t want to miss two days of work in a week. But on Friday morning, I got a call that my godmother had a heart attack (she’s fine now, she just needs to remember to make time for her health), so I missed the entire day of work anyway. Now imagine if I’d actually made it to that eye appointment, I would have missed three days of work and I wouldn’t be squinting at my computer so early in the week spreading the urgent message that you should not let your schedule get in the way of your health.
But in all seriousness, when I watched my god sister sobbing after being asked if she was her mother’s proxy last Friday, it really did hit me. Neglecting our health to take care of everyone else actually hurts them in the end.
Even if you have lots of time, but no health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many of the screenings women need are free. For example, the health care law requires coverage of well-woman visits, cervical cancer screenings, depression screenings, and more.
Visit WomensHealth.gov to learn more about living a healthier life.
I’ve rescheduled my eye appointment and I won’t cancel it this time. Take a moment out of your busy schedule this week, and take care of your health. Your kids are counting on you.
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Friday, May 10th, 2013
U.S. approves Novartis drug Ilaris to treat childhood arthritis
Novartis said on Friday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved its drug Ilaris to treat a serious form of childhood arthritis. (via Reuters)
Give immigrants healthcare access: U.S. kid doctors
A group representing U.S. pediatricians said this week that its members should pay special attention to the healthcare needs of immigrant children and support health insurance for all – regardless of legal status. (via Reuters)
Pregnancy Interventions Widespread, Not Always Desired, National Survey Shows
Nearly 60 percent of moms said they believe giving birth is a natural process that should not be interfered with unless medically necessary, however the same women reported significant intervention when they were in labor, according to a new national survey. (via Huffington Post)
Texas May Soon Require Cameras In Special Education Classrooms
A bill that would require video cameras in all special education classrooms was passed in the Texas Senate in April and is currently being considered by the state’s House Public Education Committee. (via Huffington Post)
Kids of Tiger Moms Are Worse Off
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In her controversial memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Yale law professor Amy Chua defended her draconian parenting methods, explaining how being a controlling “Chinese-style” parent drives Asian-American children to succeed in ways that permissive “Western-style” parenting does not. But a recently released decade-long study of 444 Chinese-American families shows that the effect tiger parents have on their kids is almost exactly the opposite. (via Yahoo)
Monday, November 5th, 2012
How can you keep your family healthy—and what’s it going to cost? In September, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, visited Parents to talk about the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, which went into effect in March 2010. As more features and benefits of the law roll out—including eight new preventive services for women that will be covered in plans that renew on or after August 1, 2012—it’s more crucial than ever that families understand what they’re entitled to. We put out a call on Facebook asking exactly what you wanted to know, and your questions helped shape our conversation with Secretary Sebelius.
Parents: Which parts of the Affordable Care Act most directly affect women and families?
Kathleen Sebelius: In September 2010, preventive services started to be offered without co-pays. This was a way to encourage things like immunizations, folic acid supplements, and mammograms, because we know that preventing a problem [or detecting one early] is cheaper and healthier than treating a problem.
Then, in August 2012, we rolled out a series of benefits aimed specifically at women. They affect your health at every stage of your life, with HIV screening, contraception, and the assurance that your plan will include maternity benefits such as pre- and post-natal care. This includes free gestational diabetes screenings and breastfeeding supplies and support. If you are not in a grandfathered health plan (a plan already in place when the Affordable Care Act was enacted that has not been changed in certain ways) you will receive these benefits without co-pays.
Too many women have been faced with a policy that doesn’t cover maternity care. If, God forbid, something goes wrong along the way—they end up with an emergency C-section, or they have a baby who has complications and is in the NICU—it could mean bankruptcy. Beginning in 2014, most plans will be required to cover maternity care and millions of women will have peace of mind.
[Editors’ note: For more information on grandfathered plans, visit healthcare.gov]
Under the ACA, will families who already have insurance need to get new coverage?
If you like your insurance, you don’t have to do anything. Your coverage is not going to go away. But starting in 2014, if you’re shopping for coverage on your own, or you’re a small-business owner who can’t find affordable coverage for yourself or your employees, you’re going to have some additional choices. Insurance companies are going to operate under different rules for changing premiums and dealing with preexisting conditions. Each state will have what’s called an Affordable Insurance Healthcare Exchange that will accept applications, provide eligibility determinations for health benefits coverage, and provide a way to purchase health benefit coverage online. [Editors’ note: Consumers can log on, see what they’re eligible for, and compare plans.]
Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled on the provision of the ACA that requires people to pay a penalty for not having health insurance; they found that it was constitutional and upheld the law. But it seems clear that if President Obama is not re-elected, the ACA will be vulnerable again. What’s the reality?
The President is committed to full implementation of the act. The other candidates [Romney and Ryan] say they want to repeal. How successful that could be, what that would look like, I really have no idea. We’re just looking ahead, assuming that the law will be fully implemented. [Editors’ note: We asked Robert Field, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H., professor of health management and policy, School of Public Health, at Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel University, what it would take to overthrow the law, and how likely that is. “An out-and-out repeal seems unlikely,” says Dr. Field. “In order for that to happen, both houses of Congress would have to pass the legislation and the President would have to sign it.” Even if Governor Romney wins the election and Republicans take control of Congress, they’d be up against many passionate consumers who support parts of the law as well as lobbyists from drug companies, hospitals, and insurance companies who would fight to keep the new customers they’ve gained under the ACA. However, even if the law were not fully overturned, it might not remain intact the way it’s currently written. A Romney administration could do a lot to impede the full implementation. “Some of the parts of the law are discretionary, and Romney could decide to defund or under-fund them,” says Dr. Field. And though the ACA requires preventive care services to be provided without deductibles or co-pays, a Romney administration could redefine preventive care to exclude more controversial elements, such as contraception.]
What else is ahead that families should know about?
Right now, a lot of women can be charged up to 50 percent more for exactly the same coverage that a man has—even if that coverage doesn’t include maternity care—because the practice of “gender rating” is legal until 2014. But after that, insurers will not be able to charge women more for their health coverage.
Also, starting in 2014, no one can be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. For women, a pre-existing condition could mean you’re a breast cancer survivor, you’re a victim of domestic violence, or you’ve had a Cesarean section in the past. Right now, insurance companies can refuse to insure you or refuse to pay for any kind of complication that may arise in the future from those circumstances. But those rules will change across the board. What I like to say is, “Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.”
People will also have more flexibility when it comes to leaving their jobs. I know women who work only for the insurance. They may hate their job, but they or a family member have a health condition, and they say, “I can’t leave.” Those choices will be a thing of the past. You will be reassured that, no matter the circumstance, whether you have a pre-existing condition, have difficulty paying for health insurance, or lose or change jobs, the law will help you get access to affordable coverage.
This brings us to a reader named Kristin Lupo, who asks, “Will the law help cover expenses such as groups or therapies for kids with autism or other developmental delays?”
Certainly there are some specific screenings for autism recommended by experts for children at a very young age that will be covered without any co-pay or co-insurance [in non-grandfathered plans]. The right services will be determined by the family and their health care provider, but the provisions in the Affordable Care Act will remove financial barriers for recommended services in behavioral health. And a young adult [a child under age 19] who has an autism diagnosis can’t be locked out of the market, and can stay on a parent’s plan until 26—as can any young adult without his or her own coverage—and will be able to fully participate in the insurance market, which isn’t an option now.
How will the act affect reimbursement for members of the military?
It doesn’t. TRICARE is the federal government’s program that covers the military and their families. The ACA affects private insurance plans, so TRICARE is not impacted in this.
This question from our reader Stephanie Dixon may sum up how many moms feel: “It seems like even people who think that the ACA is a good idea are very scared of how it’ll affect their family’s budget. Most of us, regardless of our political bent, are struggling. How will it help the average working-class citizen?”
We know that it’s far less expensive for a family and for employers to pay for preventive care than to pay the costs when people get sick. Families currently have co-pays, and pay out of pocket every time they get flu shots and every time they get their kids immunized. Under ACA that ceases to exist. Also—and a lot of people don’t know this—people who have insurance are paying for people who come into the emergency room and have no insurance at all. When an individual is uninsured and cannot afford to pay for care, the cost of that care is absorbed and passed on in the form of higher premiums to those who are in a position to pay, which drives medical costs up across the board. So having everybody with some coverage actually lowers the costs for everyone. In the two and a half years since the law has been passed, we are seeing the slowest rise in health costs that we have had in the last 30 years.
Is there anything else you’d like to get across?
We want to encourage people to use their preventive health services throughout the year. For example, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We know that if breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is close to 100 percent; the survival rate for late detection is closer to 23 percent. Between private insurance and Medicare, there’s no co-pay—there really are no financial barriers anymore. So get screened. [Editors’ note: For more information about breast cancer screening, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, visit womenshealth.gov]
How does your role as a mother and new grandmother [to 13-week-old grandson] inform the work you do with healthcare?
A lot of things that were statistics on a page are now very meaningful to me. I watched my son and daughter-in-law plan for a baby, want to conceive a baby, have the experience of going to prenatal care, think about birthing, and use lactation-support services. Watching all of this up close and personal at every step along the way, I thought about how many parents would not have had that coverage if the ACA had not been passed and signed into law. We had gone to the Institute of Medicine and asked doctors, researchers, and experts to look at health plans and tell us what the gaps were for women’s services. A lot of health plans had no maternity coverage; a lot of women don’t even think about that until they get pregnant, and then it’s too late, so they’re doing it 100 percent out of pocket, or don’t get screened for gestational diabetes, or have to pay for infants’ immunizations. Now, 47 million women will have access to preventive services without out-of-pocket costs. That’s a huge deal.
For more about the ACA, including a timeline of what’s changing and when, visit healthcare.gov.
Editors’ note: This conversation was edited for space.
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Mother’s Touch Could Change Effects of Prenatal Stress
Scientists at the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester, and Kings College, London, have found that mothers who stroke their baby’s body in the first few weeks after birth may change the effects that stress during pregnancy can have on an infant’s early-life development. (via Science Daily)
World TB Cases Fall, But Drug-Resistance A Worry: WHO
The number of people in the world newly infected with tuberculosis fell again last year, dropping by 2.2 percent, but the burden of TB looms large and the pace of diagnosis of drug-resistant strains of the infection is slow, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. (via Reuters)
Are Health Check-Ups Necessary? Study Says Not So Much
The latest review, published in the Cochrane Library from the The Cochrane Collaboration shows that yearly physicals do not reduce the risk of dying from from serious illness like cancer and heart disease, and may cause unnecessary harm instead. (via Time)
Housing Starts Jump to Fastest Pace in 4 Years
Groundbreaking on new U.S. homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, a sign the housing sector’s budding recovery is gaining traction. (via NBC)
Epigenetic Difference in Twins Explains Different Risk of Breast Cancer
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A research team has identified an epigenetic change in the twin who will develop breast cancer but not in the healthy one. The finding has been advanced this week in the journal Carcinogenesis. (via Science Daily)
Friday, January 7th, 2011
New look at study shows facts linking MMR vaccine to autism may be altered
Consider that from A British study linking autism to childhood vaccines is reportedly a fraud. According to the British Medical Journal, Dr. Andrew Wakefield altered information in the 1998 study. Unfortuantely, the scare is still very real to some families. More cases of measles and mumps have been reported in the last 10 years, than any other year since 1997. Dr. Katherine Burns is a developmental pediatrician for UAMS. She says after Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s false study in 1998 linking autism and vaccines — parents have been unnecessarily cautious before vaccinating their children. (Today’s THV)
Regrets of a stay-at-home mom
We had wonderful times together, my sons and I. The parks. The beaches. The swing set moments when I would realize, watching the boys swoop back and forth, that someday these afternoons would seem to have rushed past in nanoseconds, and I would pause, mid-push, to savor the experience while it lasted. Now I lie awake at 3 a.m., terrified that as a result I am permanently financially screwed. As of my divorce last year, I’m the single mother of two almost-men whose taste for playgrounds has been replaced by one for high-end consumer products and who will be, in a few more nanoseconds, ready for college. (Salon.com)
China: Pollution in China: Hundreds of children poisoned by lead
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A factory in the eastern province of Anhui operated illegally for years a few feet away from homes. In 2010 they nine cases of lead pollution were officially recorded. The government is in trouble, as evidenced by the conviction of the activist who exposed the scandal of melamine-tainted milk. (Speroforum.com)
Monday, November 8th, 2010
Many breast-fed babies lack Vitamin D - Although breast milk may be the best source of nutrition for babies it is low in Vitamin D. Newborn babies need 400 international units of Vitamin D a day, and can not get that from breast milk alone. Mothers who have breastfed should also give their child a Vitamin D droplet. This is a simple solution however, only five to thirteen percent of breastfed babies receive these supplements according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. [MSNBC]
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Cute naked photos of tots pose dilemma for parents - It seems that the days when parents could take photos of their baby taking a bath are now over. They have the potential of getting arrested themselves for the exploitation of a minor if they post the nude shots online or in public. [MSNBC]
Kids get an eyeful of fast food marketing – According to researchers from Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity there has been a substantial increase in fast food adds bombarding child audiences, and it seems to be working. Forty percent of children ages 2 to 11 ask their parents to take them to McDonald’s at least once a week, and 15 percent of preschoolers ask to go every single day. [Washington Post]
Mental health visits rise as parent deploys – As multiple deployments become a norm there is a need to investigate their effects on military families as a whole. A new study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics including more than half a million children, released information suggesting that it is harder on their psyche than anticipated. Visits for mental health concerns, like anxiety and acting out at school, were the only kind to increase during deployment; complaints for all physical problems declined, the study found. [The New York Times]
In efforts to end bullying, some see agenda – Angry parents and religious critics agree that schoolyard harassment should be stopped, but are charging liberals and gay rights groups as using the anti-bullying banner to pursue a hidden “homosexual agenda.” [The New York Times]
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