Health Highlights: Jan. 29, 2002
States Warning They Can't Absorb Prescription CostsLessons From Past Will Help U.S. Afghan War VetsCDC Sends Most Experts Ever Into the Field More DNA Needed to Identify WTC Victims, Say Experts Mother's Voice Calms Kids The Best, Study Shows Medicare Adds Nutritional Counseling
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:
States Warning They Can't Absorb Prescription Costs
The recession is hitting home in a particularly sore spot.
Congress hasn't been able to come up with a prescription subsidy program for the elderly, and now many state governments say they can't continue to make up the difference.
The Associated Press is reporting that about half the state programs are running out of money.
The wire service quotes Gail Shearer, a health issues expert for Consumer Reports magazine: "A storm is brewing for prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. Prices are going up. New drugs are being introduced for various conditions, so demand is growing. States are cutting back. Everything seems to be closing in on people," Shearer said.
Her concerns have been echoed by many elderly-interest groups, like AARP, the American Association of Retired People. John Luehrs, who deals with state affairs for AARP, told the wire service: "It's a combination of the increase in drug costs as well as the turndown in state revenues."
Lessons From the Past Will Help U.S. Afghan War Vets
The U.S. government is taking seriously the old axiom about not learning from history and being doomed to repeat it.
Unlike those who returned from the Vietnam war and the combatants in the Gulf War, American soldiers from the war in Afghanistan are going to be beneficiaries of guidelines that can get them medical help with a minimum of red tape.
NBC News reports that returning combat troops with hard-to-diagnose ailments will get faster treatment and relief, even if their medical problems cant be explained.
The network reports about the mistakes made when soldiers from the 1991 Gulf War returned, and their complaints went largely unheeded.
"Returning Gulf War veterans suffering from a strange assortment of maladies, including memory loss, anxiety, nausea, low-back pain and chronic fatigue, which has come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome, were often bounced around the medical and mental health system," NBC reports.
"Rather than dismissing a veteran's concerns as psychological, the new guidelines, to be released tomorrow by the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration, instruct civilian and military doctors on how to treat veterans symptoms even when they can't make a definitive diagnosis, such as recommending an exercise regimen to combat pain and fatigue, or diet changes and medication to control irritable bowel syndrome."
CDC Sends Most Experts Ever Into the Field
It's not unexpected news, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is confirming what most people expected: the agency sent more Epidemic Intelligence Service Officers into the field in 2001 than ever before.
These "disease detectives," as the CDC calls them, were dispatched across the country, especially after the anthrax outbreak occurred in September. New York City got 34 officers, and Florida, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut all were inundated with CDC officials as anthrax claimed victims in all those states.
The deployment accounted for 93 percent of all CDC disease experts, the agency says.
If you want to know more about how the CDC handled the crisis, you can read this government press release.
More DNA Needed on WTC Victims, Say Experts
For weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, families of victims stood in lines to submit razors, hairbrushes, and other samples of their missing loved ones' DNA.
But authorities said this week, there simply weren't enough samples to identify the remains of some people killed, reports the Associated Press.
Only 692 of the 2,870 people reported missing at the site have been identified, according to figures released yesterday.
The city's medical examiner's office said that families of relatives still unidentified can call a hotline or check a new Web site listing the names of the missing to find out if they need to provide additional DNA samples. The site is located at www.nyc.gov/dna.
Mother's Voice Calms Kids Best, Study Shows
Lullabies may be soothing, but there's nothing quite like the sound of a mother's voice to truly calm a child, a new study concludes.
The study, presented at last weekend's meeting of the Society of Critical Care Medicine in San Diego, looked at 29 children, between the ages of 3 months and 8 years, who had pneumonia or other critical illnesses.
When the children's medication was wearing off, they were exposed on six occasions to either a tape of soothing music; the music along with the voice of the child's caregiver (usually the mother but sometimes the father); or a blank tape, according to wire reports.
Scores on the levels of agitation among the children were lowest after listening to the tape with the mother's voice and the music.
Medicare Offers Nutritional Counseling
A new Medicare benefit should allow an estimated 5 million seniors to seek nutritional therapy, the Washington Post reports.
Prior to the new policy, only people with severe health problems qualified to receive nutritional counseling under Medicare.
But the new benefit, which went into effect Jan. 1, allows individualized medical nutritional therapy to the many more whom studies have shown may be best helped by such treatment advice, including those with high blood pressure, heart disease and milder forms of diabetes.
The extended benefit became available after the Institute of Medicine conducted a congressionally commissioned study and found that offering medical nutrition therapy could not only be cost-effective for the country's elderly and improve their quality of life, but could also save taxpayers' money.