Medical Tourism is Risky

14 10 2010

Skyrocketing healthcare costs in the U.S. have been a boon to medical tourism, with eager patients globetrotting for anything from cosmetic surgery to organ transplantation.

These “medical tourists” often believe they will receive quality care at affordable costs, with the added benefit of recuperating in a vacation spot.  It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  That’s because it often is.  The quality care they seek may not be what they get.

There are several reasons to pause before packing, including ethical concerns related to organ and tissue donor sources, and legal and physical issues should one be harmed rather than helped by the procedure and follow-up care.

Another worry includes the potential for infection with a superbug that is resistant to most drugs.  Traveling patients could be bringing home serious infections along with their newly formed scars.

Currently, the number of identified cases of infection with a superbug in the U.S. is small.  However, the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria (the superbug) to grow in dominance is real.  There has been some success in treating these superbugs with an older drug (Colistimethate), but this drug has a number of toxic side effects.

Potential medical tourists need to ponder the risks, including exposure to a drug-resistant superbug that may not only endanger them, but also contribute to a global public health problem.





PKIDs Now Hiring

9 09 2010

PKIDs is doing exciting work and would like to invite  individuals on the West Coast to join us in these forward-moving times. We will hire either two part-time people, or one full-time person.

We’re seeking a creative person afflicted with perpetual curiosity to work in a fast-paced, collaborative environment.

The ideal candidates are energetic, expert multi-taskers and the two focuses are:

Tech Savvy and Research Acumen

The right person will have experience and expertise in the following:

  • Social media participant (more than just a Facebook, Twitter account-holder) – you know how to use social media to promote your ideas and causes
  • MS Office Suite Expert – you know how to use various office products (including Excel, Word, Outlook) and have a few efficient tricks up your sleeve.
  • Adobe  – You can make, share and comment on .pdfs and can easily work in other Adobe products
  • Proficient blogger, writer, and SEO practitioner

This individual will also have writing, research, and editorial acumen with an ability to craft messages for various social and traditional communications outlets.  The right person will participate in all programs – leading in some and assisting with others.

Experience:

  • 3+ years experience in the areas outlined above
  • Exceptional communication and organizational skills
  • Strategic thinker, excellent writer
  • Proven track record in online community/social media
  • Strong project management and interpersonal skills
  • Health and medical knowledge a plus
  • Bachelor’s degree

All PKIDs’ employees work from home offices and one must be comfortable and productive in that environment. You are expected to have your own working phone, computer, and a fast-internet connection available for work usage.

Please visit our website to find out more about us www.pkids.org and feel free to email any questions you may have.

Please send your resume, salary requirements, links to online work, writing samples, and anything else you would like us to see to pkids@pkids.org.





Improving Health Literacy

21 06 2010

Nearly 9 out of 10 adults have problems understanding and using basic health information.

Insufficient health literacy (a person’s ability to understand health information) is not limited to a select group.  It cuts across all cultures, levels of education and income, and all age groups.

We need to be educated to improve our health literacy, so that we can make optimal health-related choices.

Toward this end, the Department of Health and Human Services, led by Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health, has developed the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy.

The plan does a good job of outlining the barriers to health literacy, identifying goals, and providing some steps to reach those goals:

  • Develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible, and actionable
  • Promote changes in the health care system that improve health information, communication, informed decisionmaking, and access to health services
  • Incorporate accurate, standards-based, and developmentally appropriate health and science information and curricula in childcare and education through the university level
  • Support and expand local efforts to provide adult education, English language instruction, and culturally and linguistically appropriate health information services in the community
  • Build partnerships, develop guidance, and change policies
  • Increase basic research and the development, implementation, and evaluation of practices and interventions to improve health literacy
  • Increase the dissemination and use of evidence-based health literacy practices and interventions

The American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation has done a lot of work over the years toward improving health literacy, providing helpful tips and tools to physicians to improve communication and understanding between patients and providers.

In fact, lots of groups are working on health literacy.  If you search the term on the Internet, you’ll get half a million results or more.

If so many people are working on it, why is it still a problem?

It’s a tough nut to crack. Low literacy is a key factor in non-compliance with healthcare recommendations. For example, if the directions for taking medication are complicated, or the instructions for recovery from surgery are hard to understand, chances are patients will be reluctant to ask for help in deciphering the language and therefore they will not be able to follow the directions. In other words, they become non-compliant.

Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals don’t always know why a patient is not responding to treatment.  They may not know that there’s a non-compliance issue and that it’s connected to low health literacy.

Low health literacy plays a significant role in:

For the health of our population, we as educators need to become better at finding ways to improve health literacy. Perhaps Dr. Koh’s plan will blaze some trails.

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Medical Waste – A Waste of Life

24 03 2010

Photo: Robert Maletta

Children, ravaging dump sites filled with toxic treasures waiting to be resold or reused, are not an uncommon sight in some parts of the world. They’re on the lookout for syringes, among other items, as they feel a perfectly good syringe is too valuable to be used only once.

This scene replays itself in many developing areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the former Soviet Republics, and Latin America.

Infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are also not uncommon in many of these areas.  A significant source of infection is the reclamation and reuse of improperly disposed medical waste, including syringes, needles, tubing, soiled dressings, and contaminated medical devices.

Part of the problem is cultural.

In some areas of developing countries, there is a cultural belief that an injection cures all ails. The patient complains of fatigue or general malaise? He gets a vitamin injection. Is there a skin infection or respiratory illness? An injection of antibiotics is the answer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that in developing countries, 5% or less of injections are given as immunizations, which prevent infections. The other 95% are given as curative therapy, to treat an existing illness rather than prevent infection, and most of these injections are unnecessary.

Oral medications could easily take the place of an injection. However, culturally, injection therapy is deemed most effective and is popular. There is a deep, underlying sense of value associated with injections.

WHO estimates that at least 50% of injections given for curative reasons are unsafe injections. This is based on data from five regions of the developing world, representing 19 countries. This would include single-use syringes that have been reused, multi-use syringes that have not been adequately sterilized, and the contamination of multi-dose vials.

It’s conservatively estimated that a single syringe might be used on three to ten patients before it is disposed of or sterilized. Because of the high incidence of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, the likelihood of continuing to spread these diseases, even to the healthy population, increases.

AD or Auto-Disable syringes are one way to prevent the reuse of syringes and, consequently, the spread of disease.  Proper disposal of medical waste is another way to prevent infection.

However, education and supervision of health care workers, and patient education, are primary to changing these risky practices.

Support PATH in its work to develop safer methods of medical waste disposal.

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Researching Health Information on Twitter: Tip#1 – Hash It!

19 05 2009

Twitter_Logo

Social media has made the spread of information lightening fast.

One of the most interactive and helpful social media Websites is Twitter, a microblogging service that lets you make frequent 140 character updates.

As an avid Tweeter myself, I have found quite the handful of useful tools to navigate the Twitterspace. Some of these tools can be used to stay abreast of pertinent health information.

Tip #1 is the hashtag (#). The hashtag lets someone follow a conversation or relate his or her tweet (a.k.a. message) to a topic.

Take a look at one of  PKIDs’ tweets:

Twitter_Post_PKIDs_profile

In the post, there are multiple hashtags (#cellphones, #germ, #health) that, when typed into Twitter’s search box, will allow you to follow the current trends on that subject.

View what the search box looks like below. It’s also featured on the bottom right side of your Twitter profile page (or look at http://twitter.com/pkids).

Twitter_Search_pkids_profile

The search function also shows recent hot topics and allows you to search for topics you’re interested, i.e. #health for health information.

So, why use the hashtag?

Not every hashtag has a conversation attached, but the # attached to a word allows Twitter users to tag relevant posts so others can find them, even if you aren’t following their posts on Twitter. Hashtags before a specific word, like #health, also help exclude irrelevant posts like “I am a health freak,” which wouldn’t teach you much.

Here are a few good hashtag choices for health info:
#health
#wellness
#medicine
#medical

If you want more specific health information use the specific disease or virus name, like #hepatitis or #H1N1.

There are also Twitter-independent tools you can use to follow health information on Twitter, without getting a Twitter account. TweetDeck and Search.Twitter.com are two that are easy and free to use.

And remember, as with all information on the Web, not all of it is credible. Consult your doctor before acting on any health advice from a third party.

Stay tuned next week for another tip on social media and your health.