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.





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 Info on the Internet. Reliable?

14 06 2010

When we or our loved ones are diagnosed with a condition, many of us turn to the Internet for information.

Last year, 61 % of Americans used the Internet to research health topics.

The question is, how do we know if the medical information we find online is worth the time spent looking it up?

The National Library of Medicine has a 16 minute tutorial in both English and Spanish that helps users distinguish between reputable sites and those that may not be credible.

When faced with a potentially catastrophic diagnosis, we want to believe the hopeful sites that promise a cure, no matter who the authors may be, but we’re better served in the end by paying attention to details that tell us if a website is trustworthy.

Following are some things to note when determining a site’s credibility:

  • Who sponsors the website and are they easy to identify?
  • Is the sponsor’s contact information easy to find?
  • Who are the sites’ authors?
  • Who reviews the text?
  • Is it easy to determine when something was written?
  • Is there a privacy policy?
  • Does the information sound too good to be true?

The Internet can provide real assistance to us as we work to become team members in our own health care.

One benefit to having access to new technology is we can arrive at our doctor’s office better prepared for the visit. Given that doctor/patient visits last on average only eight to10 minutes, this is good news.

The more we understand walking in the door, the more time we’ll have to get the information that only comes from our healthcare professionals.

Bottom line is, we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the Internet, but if we become discerning in our online research, we’ll be more effective health advocates for ourselves and those we love.

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Amy Pisani of Every Child By Two (ECBT)

23 05 2007

Listen in as Amy Pisani talks about the beginnings of the national immunization program and Every Child By Two.

www.ecbt.org

www.pkids.org

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (11MB, 22 min)





Interview with Candie Benn of the NMA

22 05 2007

Candie Benn of the National Meningitis Association discusses NMA’s beginnings, why vaccination is so important and how she became involved with the nonprofit. http://www.pkids.org
http://www.nmaus.org 

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (9MB, 20 min)





National Meningitis Association

11 05 2007

We recently asked the National Meningitis Association to share a bit about themselves, as we think their work is important.  So, in their own words:

The National Meningitis Association (NMA) is a nonprofit organization founded by parents whose children have died or live with permanent disabilities from meningococcal disease.  Our goal is to educate other families about meningococcal disease and prevention in an effort to save them from experiencing the same tragedy our families have endured.

NMA recently developed an educational video called “Getting It: A Disease…A Vaccine”, which is narrated by actress Glenn Close and designed to educate parents and school communities about the risks of meningococcal disease for adolescents and young adults and the importance of prevention.  The video features families and individuals personally affected by meningococcal disease discussing how the disease has impacted their lives.

To accompany the video, NMA developed a corresponding resource guide, which includes suggested lesson plans and materials for parents and students, designed to help educators utilize the video within the classroom and initiate discussions on the disease.
 
The educational video, which received a 2007 Bronze Telly Award, was written and produced by Emmy-award winner and NMA advisory board member Doug Myers.  Nancy Snyderman, MD, NBC Today Show chief medical correspondent and NMA advisory board member, provided medical commentary for the video.

NMA would like to ensure parents, adolescents and young adults are educated about the risks of meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention so they can make informed decisions about immunization.

We invite you to learn more about meningococcal disease, the CDC immunization recommendations, NMA and the “Getting It: A Disease…A Vaccine” educator kit. Please visit our Web site at www.nmaus.org.