Two Risks

31 01 2011

Courtesy of NOAA's People Collection

Ben Franklin chose not to inoculate his little boy against smallpox, fearing the inoculation more than the disease.  In 1736, Ben’s son died at the age of four — from smallpox infection.

Was Ben right to choose the “common way” of infection? Well, no, he wasn’t, although inoculation was nasty.  First, a string was drawn through a pustule of someone infected with smallpox.  The string was then left to dry, and later drawn through a cut made on an uninfected person.  The resulting infection was milder in form and about two percent of those inoculated died from infection versus 15 percent of those who became infected the common way.

Ben Franklin was a brilliant man, but in this case, he failed to look at the science.  Some years after losing his son, he said:

“In 1736 I lost one of my Sons, a fine Boy of 4 Years old, taken by the Smallpox in the common way. I long regretted that I had not given it to him by Inoculation, which I mention for the Sake of Parents, who omit that Operation on the Supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a Child died under it; my Example showing that the Regret may be the same either way, and that therefore the safer should be chosen.”

After his son’s death, Franklin became a big believer in inoculation, considering it the safer choice.  He wrote an introduction to English physician William Heberden’s pamphlet on the subject, which promoted the act and even explained how parents could inoculate their children themselves.  Ben then distributed the document in America.

Nearly 300 years after Ben Franklin chose between two risks and lost, parents face the same choices. No vaccine is 100 percent safe, and no disease is 100 percent benign.  There’s a risk when vaccinating and a risk when choosing natural infection.

The fact is, our kids don’t live in bubbles, and we can’t keep them safe from exposure to germs.  Although the vaccines today are not perfectly risk-free, they are much safer than the infections they prevent.

All we can do as parents is look at the science, talk to our pediatricians, and make the safest choices for our kids.





HAIs and Patient Safety

27 01 2011

Did you know the landmark health reform law requires Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals (i.e., most hospitals in the country) to make public their infection rates for certain healthcare-associated infections?

Consumers can use this information to determine whether a hospital is taking appropriate steps to minimize a patient’s chance of acquiring an infection such as staph or MRSA as a result of their hospitalization.

Beginning in January 2011, hospitals are required to report rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) in the intensive care and neonatal intensive care units. Other reportable infections include surgical site and ventilator-associated pneumonia infections.

The CDC estimates that about 250,000 central line-associated bloodstream infections occur each year in hospitals, resulting in approximately 130,000 deaths.

The CDC defines healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) as “a localized or systemic condition that (1) results from an adverse reaction to the presence of an infectious agent(s) or its toxin(s), (2) that occurs during a hospital admission, (3) for which there is no evidence the infection was present or incubating at admission, and (4) meets body site-specific criteria.”

These infections include blood infections, staph infections, meningitis, pneumonia, and other infections that can be very serious and even fatal. Beginning in 2012, Medicare payments to hospitals will be tied to how well hospitals perform relative to the new safety standards.

Consumers should avail themselves of this information so they can protect themselves and loved ones from getting sicker during a hospital stay. It’s another tool to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the various risks associated with hospitalization.

Hospital-specific information is available at the Stop BSI website.

More patient safety information relative to the new health care reform law is available on the health reform website.





Multi-Language Flu Information

24 01 2011

How many times have you been confused by the information (or misinformation) about influenza? Just sorting symptoms, risk factors, vaccination information, and different strains can be a bit of a challenge. Now imagine that you don’t speak the language in which the information is written. Not easy, to say the least.

The CDC’s flu.gov website has a helpful page, “Flu Essentials – What You Need To Know” – with everything you need to know in various languages, including Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Russian, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese.

The page links to information sheets that one can print out, and the info sheets cover topics such as “People with Asthma,” “Emergency Warning Signs,” “Pregnancy,” “10 Ways You Can Stay Healthy at Work,” and more.

Everyone is entitled to make an informed decision when it comes to their health and parents must do so on behalf of their children. If you or someone you know could use this important information in a language other than English, be sure to share this blog with them!

¿Cuántas veces ha sido confundido por la información (o información incorrecta) sobre la influenza? Sólo clasificar los síntomas, factores de riesgo, la información de la vacunación, y las tipos diferentes pueden ser un poco un difícil de entender. Ahora imagine que usted no habla el idioma en que está escrita la información.? No es fácil, por decir lo menos.

El CDC tiene una página web, “Fundamentos de la gripe – Lo que usted necesita saber” – con todo lo que necesita saber en varios idiomas, incluyendo español, francés, alemán, italiano, árabe, ruso, tagalo, coreano y vietnamita.

La página le lleva a las hojas de información que se puede imprimir, y las hojas de información cubren temas tales como “Las personas con asma”, “Señales de Alerta de Emergencia”, “Embarazo”, “10 maneras de cuidar su salud en el trabajo , “y mucho más.

Cada uno tiene derecho a tomar una decisión informada cuando viene a su salud y los padres deben hacerlo en nombre de sus niños. ¡Si usted o alguien que usted sabe podría utilizar esta información importante en un idiomia distinto del inglés, esté seguro de compartir este acoplamiento con éllos!





Healthcare Reform & Me

20 01 2011

No matter what side of the aisle we’re on, we all agree that our healthcare system needs improvement.  The new Affordable Care Act makes some sweeping changes to that system and most of us have questions about how the Act affects us, and how to separate truth from fiction.

The White House has a section on its website that’s helpful for those of us who don’t really know what’s involved in this legislation. There are several informative and simply written pages to be found, if you poke around.

The States page helps bring the info home.  By clicking on a state, we can hear stories and information about the specific effects of the new Act and how it will directly impact that state and its citizens.

The site is an easy way to gather fast facts about some of the highlights of the new Act and answers some of the more common questions many of us have. For example, will Medicare benefits be reduced? No.  In fact, benefits will be added, including “free prevention coverage, annual wellness visits and a phase-out of the Medicare donut hole.”

Another significant change is being able to keep children up to age 26 on a parent’s health insurance plan.

Information about business incentives, drug rebates, and the specific dates when various provisions take effect can also be found on the White House site.

And for a look at the Act itself – who doesn’t have occasional insomnia? – take a look here.





Time for a Tune-Up?

17 01 2011

The start of a fresh year is a clean slate, especially when it comes to our health. We’re making resolutions to exercise more, eat a little better, seek more relaxation. It can be a great opportunity to make those appointments that we’ve been putting off. January marks Cervical Health Month,  and it’s a nice reminder to get a check-up, ahem, down there.

PKIDs has several blogs and pods on HPV and cervical cancer if you want to find out what the big deal is, and it’s a pretty big deal.  Any of us can be at risk for STDs or cancer. Learning how to prevent infection is key to staying in control of our bodies.

The HPV vaccine gives us that control. In addition to preventing infection with many strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it helps prevent STDs and anal cancer for both women and men .

There’s a lot of stuff to keep up with in our lives. At the start of a new year, it’s overwhelming!  Taking control of our own health by getting vaccinated to prevent disease is something we can easily do. Let’s make 2011 our healthiest year yet!





Haiti – Unfulfilled Promises

13 01 2011

This week marks the grim one-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, yet it’s hard to find significant progress in the recovery efforts.

Roughly one million Haitians are still homeless, living in 1,200 tent camps across the country.  Fewer than half of the 45,000 t-shelters (semi-permanent structures) that the U.N. and other housing organizations have pledged to build have been realized.

The rubble has been oppressive for the island country.  Only 5% of the up to 22 million cubic yards of heavy debris has been removed, and at this pace it could take 19 years to clean it all up.

Thanks to the generous outpouring of donations from governments and individuals, nearly $10 billion in short- and long-term aid has been pledged in the past year, but only $1.6 billion has actually been spent.

Stumbling blocks to Haiti’s recovery include Haitian laws and taxes that make it difficult to implement aid on the ground, and the lack of coordination and cooperation among relief agencies.

Why aren’t the agencies and organizations working together more often to solve these problems?  It’s a simple question with no good answers.

A side effect of the slow recovery has been the spread of cholera. While the U.S. has been free of cholera since the early 1900s, the disease remains active in the poorest parts of the world.

Cholera, which is spread through contaminated drinking water and food, has already claimed the lives of over 3,600 Haitians since October, and scientists say the spread of the disease has not yet peaked.

Because cholera was not a common disease in Haiti before the earthquake, many parents don’t recognize the symptoms. They are not taking their children to see the doctor soon enough because they are mistaking cholera symptoms for food poisoning.

There are two vaccines to prevent cholera, but widespread vaccination in Haiti is just not feasible for many reasons:

  • There is literally not enough vaccine in the entire world to cover the population of Haiti
  • The cost per vaccination can be high – up to $40/dose
  • The vaccines are only 60-80% effective
  • Administering the second dose is logistically difficult
  • Immunity takes about three weeks to take hold

Clean drinking water and food, proper sanitation, and hand washing are the best ways to combat the spread of this disease, along with some sort of vaccination program. But, these basic needs are difficult to meet in Haiti.

There are so many needs.

There needs to be an action plan to introduce a more modern culture to Haiti. The goal of getting Haiti to pre-earthquake status is not enough.

The 10,000 nongovernmental organizations that have pledged support need to work together to get Haiti back on her feet.  Few of the report cards from big organizations highlight coordinated efforts with other organizations.

We cannot turn our eyes and give up. We can offer a future to Haiti if all of the helping hands join together in this work.





Over 30? See Your Provider!

10 01 2011

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, tells the over 30 crowd what screenings they need to maintain optimal health.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (5.5 mins/2.5 mb)