Monday, April 30, 2012

3 common misconceptions about doctors

Dr. Evans makes some excellent points here...
In the current climate of health care reform, it is important to understand doctors and the work they do. I have found 3 common misconceptions, held even by doctors themselves, concerning the job of being a doctor

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Starving in India: A Scribe Tries to Save a Life

Last fall, I conducted field research on starvation in India along with my colleague Ankita Aggarwal from the New Delhi-based Centre for Equity Studies, a think tank. As we traveled across several states, hearing tale after tale of families battling chronic hunger to stay alive, it became clear to us that the media play a critical role in holding public officials accountable. A powerful news report can generate a wave of public outrage over starvation – and can result in government action.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen argued long ago that independent India had successfully managed to prevent famine because of its democratic political structures. He was referring not just to electoral processes, but also the independent media that shines a light on government wrongdoing and galvanizes the public’s attention when starvation deaths happen.
“The government cannot afford to fail to take prompt action when large-scale starvation threatens. Newspapers play an important part in this, in making the facts known and forcing the challenge to be faced,” Mr. Sen wrote in a 1984 article in the journal Food and Nutrition.
Indeed, the catalyst for the “right to food” public interest litigation the Supreme Court has been hearing since 2001 was evidence of starvation deaths reported by several media outlets.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saving Lives in a Time of Cholera

Cholera is on the rise around the world. Last year, according to Unicef, West and Central Africa had “one of the worst ever” cholera outbreaks. An outbreak in Haiti sickened 1 in 20 Haitians and killed more than 7,000 people. The World Health Organization estimates that there are between three million and five million cases of cholera each year, and between 100,000 and 120,000 deaths. New and more virulent strains are emerging in Asia and Africa, and the W.H.O. says that global warming creates even more hospitable conditions for the disease.
With cholera, speed matters. It can kill very quickly — in a few hours if victims are already malnourished. And since the incubation period for the cholera bacteria can be as short as two hours, it spreads fast.
Until now, early action has been nearly impossible. Governments, fearing stigma and a loss of tourism, often cover up cholera, and international organizations sometimes go along with the fiction. Even when governments  do call cholera by its name and start inviting international help and expertise, the W.H.O. and Unicef are bureaucracies — and such invitations can come weeks after a widespread epidemic is under way.
A new partnership between two organizations that battle cholera will make it possible to get supplies and knowledge to cholera-stricken areas much faster.
Their most important message is the importance of early and massive hydration — if a patient is too weak to drink, then IV solution is necessary. “The biggest mistake is that patients do not get enough hydration fast enough,” Mr. Pietroni said. “You have to give huge amounts of IV fluid in the first three hours — seven or eight liters. In Dhaka at the end of April you see people with IVs in each arm and leg. But as soon as the patient can drink, you switch them to oral rehydration.”
Flooding patients produces Lazarus-like effects.

How Exercise Can Prime the Brain for Addiction

Statistically, people who exercise are much less likely than inactive people to abuse drugs or alcohol. But can exercise help curb addictions? Some research shows that exercise may stimulate reward centers in the brain, helping to ease cravings for drugs or other substances. But according to an eye-opening new study of cocaine-addicted mice, dedicated exercise may in some cases make it even harder to break an addiction.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New View of Depression: An Ailment of the Entire Body

Scientists are increasingly finding that depression and other psychological disorders can be as much diseases of the body as of the mind.

Scientists are finding that the same changes to chromosomes that happen as people age can also be found in people experiencing major stress and depression.
The phenomenon, known as "accelerated aging," is beginning to reshape the field's understanding of stress and depression not merely as psychological conditions but as body-wide illnesses in which mood may be just the most obvious symptom.
Scientists say more work needs to be done to figure out exactly how severe a psychological experience must be to affect telomere length. Some research suggests that as few as two episodes of major depression may be sufficient to affect cell structure. Other studies indicate that the more bouts of depression a person experiences, the more impact there is on telomere length.
The "holy grail" of this area of work is to try to find the molecular mechanisms by which depression or stress take their toll on the body, says P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of the division of biological psychiatry at Duke University, who isn't involved in telomere work. Such information could help provide clues about how much of age-related disease is due to genetics versus life experience, and whether it can be reversed, he says.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Resistance spread 'compromising' fight against malaria

Scientists have found new evidence that resistance to the front-line treatments for malaria is increasing.
They have confirmed that resistant strains of the malaria parasite on the border between Thailand and Burma, 500 miles (800km) away from previous sites.
Researchers say that the rise of resistance means the effort to eliminate malaria is "seriously compromised".
The details have been published in The Lancet medical journal.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Rise of the Medical Expertocracy

Excellent article...


Both Democrats and Republicans want to introduce the paternalism of 'best practices' into health care

Should everyone take vitamin D, and if so, how much? At what age and how often should a woman have a mammogram? Should a healthy man be screened for prostate cancer, and if cancer is diagnosed, how should he be treated?
As the health-care debate heats up again in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans will try to convince us that they have the experts to answer all our health questions. President Barack Obama and the Democrats propose panels of government experts to evaluate treatments and, in the president's words, "Figure out what works and what doesn't." Republicans claim that the free market (that is, insurance companies with their own experts) will pay for value and empower consumers. Both sides insist that no one will come between us and our doctors.

Democrats and Republicans share a fundamental misconception about medical care. Both assume that, as in mathematics, there is a single right answer for every health problem.


Social media campaign aims at fighting food crisis in Africa's Sahel

Vast portions of west and central Africa have become so dry that they can't support crops, livestock and the millions of people who live there.
The Sahel - a belt of arid land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara Desert - is a zone prone to cycles of drought, and eight countries are seeing the worst of it this time.
The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people are in danger of starving to death. Aid workers on the ground say it's getting worse quickly.
In response, UNICEF is launching a 24-hour social media campaign on Tuesday to raise awareness about the food crisis in Africa.

'Island of the Blind' Riles a Greek Public Facing Cutbacks

The island of Zakynthos, long known for its Venetian ruins and turquoise waters, lately has new fame in Greece—as "the island of the blind."
The Greek health ministry is investigating on Zakynthos after local officials flagged records showing what they said is an implausibly high number of disability claims for blindness.
About 1.8% of the island's population of 39,000 claimed the benefit last year, according to the health ministry. That is around nine times the prevalence of blindness estimated for many European countries in a 2004 study published in a World Health Organization journal.

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