Health

Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis
courtesy of Barnes Jewish Hospital

A health industry report published Thursday suggests federal programs that tie hospital quality scores to Medicare reimbursements are giving St. Louis hospitals a reason to improve.

Seventeen St. Louis area hospitals received bonus payments this year from Medicare thanks to programs in the Affordable Care Act that reward hospitals for providing a high quality of care. At the same  time, 25 were penalized for low scores, high readmission rates or failing to improve between 2011 and 2012.

Flickr/Jeremy Noble

With the clear, warm weather of summer, more St. Louisans of all ages are taking to the streets and the sidewalks on foot and by bike. The city has plans in the works to make walking, biking and running easier, from Complete Streets to separated bike lanes.

“I think overall we have great facilities in St. Louis and there has been a lot of improvement in the five years that I’ve lived here,” said Aaron Hipp, assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. His research evaluates how built communities affect the activity and health of those who use them.

Courtesy: Panera Bread Co.

Artificial sweeteners have been controversial for decades. Several studies have attacked sweeteners, especially aspartame used in diet sodas.

In June, St. Louis-based Panera Bread Co. announced it will eliminate artificial sweeteners, coloring and preservatives from its foods by 2016. Panera nutrition manager Katie Bengston said “taste is the driving factor.”

Bengston said Panera is evaluating everything, including the sodas it sells.

(Credit: Flickr/Free Grunge Texutres

Randa Herman of Marion, Ill., always knew something was wrong. Her menstrual period came late and wasn’t regular. She had extra hair growth where there wasn’t supposed to be any, and acne after adolescence.

Eventually, Herman discovered her troubles were caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and found her way to Dr. Valerie Ratts' office at Washington University’s School of Medicine.

For the Sake of All

If your skin isn’t black, why should you care about the health and well-being of African Americans in the St. Louis region?

That’s just one of the questions Washington University public health researcher Jason Purnell and his team set out to answer in a project called For the Sake of All.

Purnell, along with colleagues from Washington University and St. Louis University, assessed racial health disparities in the region and their larger impact over the course of 14 months.

(via Wikimedia Commons)

With this winter’s prolific snowfalls, slippery streets and biting cold aren’t the only dangers to be concerned about. According to cardiologist Andrew Kates, people should also think twice about shoveling snow if they aren’t accustomed to exercise. That’s because shoveling snow can cause heart attacks.

A graphic included in the For The Sake of All report shows the economic divide along Delmar Blvd in St. Louis.
For the Sake of All

Fourth Brief: For the Sake of All

In the fourth policy brief from For the Sake of All, a collaborative, inter-disciplinary study on the health of African Americans in St. Louis and St. Louis County, researchers focused on the role segregation plays on health in the area. It is titled "Segregation: Divided Cities Lead to Differences in Health."

(via Flickr/Joshua Smith)

When Reggie Rideout's daughter Maya was born seven years ago, she weighed just 1 lb. 15 oz.

"I was aiming for a St. Patrick's baby and ended up with a Christmas baby," said Rideout. Her daughter was born at 27 weeks. “I was just so unprepared. And I’m a planner....All of a sudden, not only are you not pregnant anymore, but your baby is very sick.”

Despite Maya's tough start, she is doing well now. "She's a first-grader. She's healthy and intelligent. You would never look at her and know she was born actually a little over three months early," said Rideout.

National Cancer Institute | Wikimedia Commons

First Brief: For the Sake of All

A disproportionate number of African Americans in St. Louis live in poverty and lack a high school education. African-American St. Louisans also have a higher death rate than white St. Louisans. According to a multi-disciplinary study currently under way in St. Louis, there is a connection between the two trends.

U.S. CDC Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, 2008-2011. *Represents statistically significant annual decrease or increase in obesity.

Updated at 5:30 p.m.  to adjust y-axis units on graph and to add second map.

It's not a big change, but it's at least in the right direction.

According to a new report released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity among low-income preschoolers (ages 2-4) declined by at least one percentage point over the period from 2008 to 20011 in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

(University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute)

Is St. Charles County healthier than St. Louis City?

New data out from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute says "yes."

The study ranked all US counties, by state, based on different factors including tobacco use, diet and exercise, access to care, environmental quality and more.

Flickr |neil conway

Earlier this week, prompted by the mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama announced a series of measures aimed at curbing gun violence.

Among the proposals is increasing access to mental health care.

All too often access to mental health care is scarce.  Sometimes, the only place people can get care is if they are arrested and charged with a crime.

Chris McDaniel, St. Louis Public Radio

A federal grant of $4.2 million has been awarded to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, which will spend the money on kids in north St. Louis.

The money will be used for a variety of mental health services, including screenings and assessments for children, as well as home visitations to teach skills to parents.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said north St. Louis was chosen for a reason.

(via Flickr/Jennifer Boriss)

Health issues often become more prominent as people age.  Many of them are avoided or at least postponed; and much of living healthfully has more to do with attitude than it does medicine.

Host Don Marsh talked with geriatrician Dr. John Morley, who is Director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Members of Congress from across the country are responding to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Mo.  Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt called the shooting a huge tragedy and said that it put other parts of life in perspective.

But Blunt said stricter gun laws are unlikely to deter similar acts of violence.

Brain sculpture in Bloomington, Ind.
(via Flickr / Ali Eminov)

While it may be well established that our brains command our actions, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we can have greater control over the message.

Increasingly, research shows people can take steps to protect the health of their brain and as one aspect of that, may be able to sidetrack compulsive behaviors such as eating disorders.

The Missouri Eating Disorders Association is one agency which provides education, resources and advocacy to bring understanding and support to those treating or affected by the disease.

Washington University School of Medicine

Washington University School of Medicine has received a $50 million federal grant aimed at turning research findings into improvements in human health.

The grant is the renewal of an award from the National Institutes of Health. It will support Wash U's Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS), one of 60 such centers in the U.S.

St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville says 26 patients received a dose of a drug produced by a Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have linked cases of fungal meningitis from the use of contaminated steroids by the New England Compounding Company.

The patients received a dose of a cardioplegia solution produced by the pharmacy since May of this year.

Acne, the scourge of many an adolescent life, is getting harder to treat, but 80 percent of teenagers have some form of it.

Conventional treatment includes topical and oral antibiotics. Studies are now finding the bacteria that cause acne are increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment. Alternatively, there are effective laser treatments. But these are costly and typically not covered by insurance.

CDC.gov

The St. Louis County Department of Health will receive $30,000 for asthma education and outreach in the Normandy School District.

The grant from the Environmental Protection Agency is part of $1.2 million in funding to 32 state and local governments, tribes, and non-profit organizations for indoor air quality projects.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Washington University is hosting a conference tomorrow afternoon on public health challenges in the 21st century.

Melissa Jonson-Reid directs Wash U's Brown Center for Violence and Injury Prevention.

She says one challenge the conference will take on is the problem of violence in St. Louis, and the role local public health professionals can play in addressing it.

(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

Giving women free access to contraception can dramatically reduce abortion rates.

That's the finding of a new study out today from Washington University School of Medicine.

Researchers gave more than 9,000 St. Louis-area women free birth control for three years.

To protect children against whooping cough, doctors recommend five shots of vaccine before they turn 7.

But what happens after that? How long does the protection last?

(National Cancer Institute/Bill Branson)

Saint Louis University is launching a new initiative to try to fight cancer in minorities.

The SLU Center for Cancer Prevention, Research and Outreach will work with community organizations to improve cancer outcomes for African Americans living in North St. Louis City and County.

The initiative will initially focus on breast and prostate cancer.

(via Missouri Foundation for Health)

Reporting from Jacob McCleland of KRCU used in this report.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Missourians have less access to healthcare and tend to be less healthy than the general population. That’s according to a new report by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

In 2010, the slumping state budget forced the Missouri Department of Mental Health to close the emergency room and 50 short-term beds at the Metropolitan Psychiatric Center.

The move saved $16 million. But it also forced those in need of immediate mental health treatment into local hospitals, which are not designed for those in crisis.

With the help of the area’s two largest hospital systems and some state support, there are now 16 beds available for patients with psychiatric needs who have already been screened at other hospital emergency rooms. Beginning this fall, patients needing urgent mental health care should be able to go straight to the new Psychiatric Stabilization Center.

The PSC is a temporary fix - but its creators are also hoping it helps shift the treatment paradigm.

(via Flickr/nate steiner)

A new study out of Washington University has found that the 2-1-1 phone information system could be an effective tool to fight cancer in low-income and minority communities.

Across the U.S., people can call 2-1-1 to get help with housing, food, and other social service needs.

A new report shows Missouri's unintended pregnancy rate has dropped. Some researchers say it could be due to increased usage of long-lasting contraceptives like IUDs.
(Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor)

A new study out of Washington University has found that long-term birth control methods are 20 times more effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies.

The research compared the rates of contraceptive failure in women using long-term methods like intrauterine devices or contraceptive implants to those using short-term methods like oral birth control pills or a contraceptive patch.

IndofunkSatish/via Flickr

Judge approves settlement in lawsuit over mental health care for the deaf

A federal judge has approved a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought against two Missouri state agencies on behalf of more than a thousand deaf residents.

Plaintiffs in the 2010 lawsuit alleged that the state departments of Mental Health and Social Services failed to provide adequate mental health care for deaf persons in crisis.

The departments were sued under the  Americans with Disabilities Act.

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