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Packed Lunches: Cutting Corners, But Not Food Safety

The Free Press WV

As a working mom of four boys, ages 8 and under, I’m asked on a near-daily basis: “how do you DO it?!” It’s a carefully orchestrated dance: keeping my family fed, healthy, dropped off at school and daycare at the appropriate times, with their respective accompaniments, whether homework, snacks or lunches. And then in the evening, allowing opportunity to focus on homework and dinner, without sacrificing quality family time. Making this happen on a daily basis takes a keen attention to detail, a little luck and some advanced planning.

I’m game to try anything to help our daily routine run smoothly, and will cut any corners I can. However, one corner I won’t cut is safe food handling and preparation. Because let’s face it—a houseful of children in the throes of foodborne illness is no one’s idea of a good time.


Advanced Planning

To keep our household running as efficiently as possible, I prep the boys’ lunches a few days in advance. I pre-portion snack size bags of baby carrots for two to three meals and place those in the fridge with the other vegetables. On a clean and separate cutting board, I make enough ham sandwiches for two to three lunches. The prepped sandwiches go back into the fridge in a designated spot.


The Morning Of

In the morning, I pack each soft-sided cooler lunch bag with a napkin, cold sandwich, cold baggie of carrots, any other non-perishable sides and either a frozen water bottle or a frozen tube of yogurt. I also slide an ice pack on top of the lunch contents so each bag has two cold sources that keep the contents out of the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40°F and 140°F at which bacteria grows most rapidly) until lunch time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has great resources on safe food handling, particularly for bag lunches.


After Lunch

We’ve taught our boys to throw out their leftovers and not eat anything from their lunches later in the day. When they arrive home from school, they promptly discard anything that didn’t make it into the trash can in the cafeteria. I wipe out their lunch bags with a disinfectant wipe and leave to air dry overnight. 

By prepping a few days of lunches in a session, I save quite a bit of time. Mornings run smoother because there’s no shuffling and rummaging for something to eat. Knowing that the food was safely prepared, stored and packed in their lunch boxes gives me the peace of mind that I’ve reduced the risk of foodborne illness in my kids, while carving out a little more quality time to spend with them in the evenings.

UHC’s Three Germ-Zapping Robots Been Named

Environmental Service Employees Win $100 Gift Cards

United Hospital Center (UHC) recently announced that it has the most Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots in West Virginia. The three robots are being used to enhance environmental cleanliness by disinfecting and destroying hard-to-kill germs, bacteria, and superbugs in hard-to-clean places.

The Environmental Services team participated in a contest to name all three of the robots, as these modern marvels of technology are also included as part of the cleaning team at UHC. Each of the following contest winners received a $100 gift card to the cafeteria:

    • Brenda Morrison with the name “UHC3PO”

    • Karen Minnear with the name “Elroy”

    • Chris Owen with the name U.S.H.E.R. (Ultra Sanitation Healthcare Efficient Robot)

The Free Press WV
Pictured from left front row: Brenda Morrison, Environmental Services, contest winner; Karen Minnear, Environmental Services, contest winner; Chris Owen, Environmental Services, contest winner; Pictured from left back row:  Dr. Mark Povroznik; chief quality officer, vice president of quality; Beth Bond, MBA, BSN, RN, CIC, infection preventionist manager; Annetta Payne, RN, CIC, infection preventionist; and Brian Fijewski, MBA, director of environmental services.


“This was a great opportunity to engage with our Environmental Services staff that is responsible for the room cleaning program,” said Dr. Mark Povroznik, chairman of Infection Control at UHC. “The entire Environmental Services team, including the robots, is critical in the implementation of ultra violet room disinfection.”

Each person could submit up to three names for the contest, as a total of 30 names were submitted. The committee of judges from the UHC Personnel Action Committee (PAC) selected the three winning entries.

“If not properly cleaned some spores, such as C-diff, can live on surfaces for up to five months,” said Dr. Povroznik. “Upon a patient discharge, Environmental Services will clean the room as they would normally and then they terminally clean a room with one of the robots. These robots are just the latest step in UHC’s effort to prevent infections.”

Healthy Meals Help Kids Succeed in School

The Free Press WV

Making healthier choices from all five food groups is a simple and proven way to help children succeed in school.

A growing body of research links nutrition and achievement, meaning that kids who eat well do better in school. The start of the school year is a great time to give children every academic advantage possible by encouraging participation in the school breakfast and lunch program and including nutrition education in the classroom.

School meals provide a convenient and affordable way for families to ensure children have access to healthy food at school. Student participation in school breakfast or lunch programs is associated with improvement in grades, standardized test scores and school attendance.

When specific nutrients missing from students’ diets are increased (nutrients emphasized in school meals via fruits, vegetables and dairy products) academic performance improves. (Bradley, BJ, Greene, AC. Do Health and Education Agencies in the United States Share Responsibility for Academic Achievement and Health? Journal of Adolescent Health, 2013.)

The link between nutrition and academic achievement is so strong that many teachers across West Virginia and the country are adding classroom nutrition education to their lesson plans.

If you still need some convincing on the importance of nutrition education in the classroom, here are five testimonials from teachers. Parents can share this article with their student’s teachers or the school principal to help make this the best school year ever!


5. Students get excited about learning.: “My class gets really excited about it (the nutrition lessons), and it’s such an important part of teaching ‘the whole child!’”


4. Students put nutrition education to the test in real-life situations: “The greatest thing I notice is that the students encourage each other to eat healthier snacks and foods. They flat out tell each other when they are eating poorly!”


3. The benefits of nutrition education reach far beyond the classroom: “I had a student that went above and beyond and prepared a shopping list of healthy meals for her mom to take to the grocery store! I thought it was amazing to see the students who encouraged their family members to eat healthier.”


2. Improve the quality of your students’ education by teaching a topic left out of standard curriculum: “So many students are not aware of the health benefits in foods and how it affects their body. Students are interested and are engaged when we fill out the workbook. Each student strives to improve their results. This program is a win-win situation.”


1. Nutrition lessons provide essential education that can lead to more academic success: “We discuss healthy eating first at recess time. One student used to bring candy every day for snack and after listening to lessons asked his parents to send better snacks for his brain to learn.”

Family Foundations of Health

The Free Press WV

The family provides a foundation for children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being. The unique and frequent interactions between children and their families can create protective factors that may promote and support health now and into adulthood. The Lancet Commission’s report on adolescent health notes that during adolescence, peers and other people in a teen’s life also influence health, but the family remains a central influence.

Family members can influence an adolescent’s health by:


1.       Promoting delayed sexual activity.

In 2012, nearly nine in ten teens said that it would be easier for teens to postpone sexual activity if they could have an honest conversation with their parents, and about 40 percent of teens cited parents as the biggest influence regarding their decisions about sex. Research also shows that when parents talk to their teens about sex, teens are more likely to delay sex, use contraception if they do have sex, and communicate more effectively with their partners. Talking about sex with adolescents can be intimidating. Family members can use conversation tools to stay calm and talk honestly. Advocates for Youth also provides a collection of guidance and resources in the Parents Sex Ed Center for parents who may not know exactly what to say or how to say it.


2.       Protecting against substance use.

Teens whose parents establish clear rules and talk about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are less likely to use these substances. Parents and other caring adults should monitor parties to prevent underage drinking and protect against unhealthy relationships with alcohol in the future. Similarly, parents can establish and enforce clear driving rules to prevent teens from drunk or risky driving.

Families can encourage teens of all ages to stay drug-free by clearly communicating the consequences of drug use, talking about what they’re learning at school, and commenting on the positive aspects of the teen’s life and character. Avoiding alcohol consumption or limiting drinking also are good behaviors to model for adolescents. If you believe a teen is already drinking or using drugs, there are ways to help them stop.


3.       Preventing unhealthy relationships.

Open communication and closeness with parents can help prevent dating violence and promote healthy relationships. For example, parents and other family members who get to know their teen’s friends and romantic partners can more effectively monitor those relationships and encourage positive decision-making. In addition, family members can talk about and model healthy relationships to their teen. For instance, using conflict resolution skills can show adolescents how to set boundaries and compromise even when they feel angry or uncomfortable.

Since relationships aren’t black-and-white and exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive, adults may need to evaluate the health of their own relationships. Adults can see where their relationships land on the spectrum and learn ways to improve them. If you think that you or your adolescent is in an abusive relationship or needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.


4.       Building connectedness.

Parental supervision combined with high levels of support increases family connectedness. When families are connected, teens may be less likely to become violent. Family connectedness also helps adolescents build resilience so they can withstand setbacks. Sharing a meal can promote family connectedness, stability, and healthy eating habits. To make the most of family mealtimes, unplug from phones and have make-your-own meals that get everyone involved. Other activities from ParentFurther can help families strengthen their bonds even as adolescents become more independent. Disconnection or withdrawal from social interactions, along with other warning signs, may indicate a mental health issue. In times of emotional distress or crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.


5.       Shaping lifelong habits.

Life at home can help teens establish healthy habits. Talking with teens about how to manage different aspects of their lives builds self-sufficiency and provides them with skills they will use in adulthood. Younger children and adolescents can be involved in tasks like grocery shopping and meal planning to ensure healthy food habits throughout life. Similarly, a friendly competition with family can encourage adolescents to be physically active, a habit that helps prevent chronic conditions in the future.

Families also can educate teens on good money management skills. Teach teens the five principles of money management and how to factor them into decision-making. Money as You Grow helps adults guide children as they begin earning money and making financial decisions. Financial education curriculum and other resources help educators and community leaders connect youth and families to financial services and support lifelong decision-making skills.

Love Your Country? Save Health Care!

The Free Press WV

Senators are home to celebrate Independence Day this week. Don’t let them go back to D.C. without hearing how important saving health care is to our country.

We have one more chance to stop the GOP’s health care repeal before it sickens, bankrupts, and even kills many of us. Remember: grassroots pressure works.

Here’s how we can make our voices heard:

Visit your senators at their local offices. Tell them why you oppose health care repeal and believe every person should get health care.

Attend a health care rally or protest in your community.

Find your senators at an Independence Day parade and wave your “no health care repeal!” sign.

Call your senators’ local offices every day. Talk to your family and friends during the holiday and ask them to call every day, too!


We Can Resist

Republican leaders in Congress originally wanted President Trump to sign their health care repeal on January 20. We’re more than five months past that date.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell then drafted a bill in secret and wanted to rush it through, but is unable to muster enough support from his party, so has had to delay a vote.

This means grassroots activism is working. We’ve managed to hold off repeal until now. You’re saving lives.

But repeal is still at the top of the GOP’s agenda, so let’s keep the pressure on.

Here’s a reminder of what the Senate’s repeal legislation does:

Kicks 22 million people off health care in less than decade.

Slashes 35 percent of the Medicaid budget by 2036, cutting health care for more than 70 million people, threatening nursing home coverage for us and our parents, and forcing people with disabilities from their homes.

Brings back lifetime and annual caps on care, cutting off everything from chemotherapy to post-surgery recovery care.

Raises our health costs while making our insurance cover less, raising deductibles to a jaw-dropping $6,000.

Trades away our health care to give massive tax break to the ultra-rich, drug corporations, and insurance companies.

Lead to more than 208,500 deaths by 2026.

Starves state budgets of funds needed not just for health care but also for education, roads, and other needs.


The GOP’s Next Move

There’s only one way to pass a terrible, unpopular piece of legislation like this: offer side deals to wavering lawmakers.

As one Trump administration official put it bluntly, I really think they’ll bribe off the moderates with opioid money and then actually move policy to shore up Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.”

Lee and Cruz are the two extremist GOP senators who once forced a 16-day shutdown of the Federal government to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking effect. Now they’re doing everything they can to gut the legislation so many lives depend on.

In coming days, McConnell will dip into his “slush fund” of $188 billion to offer side deals to undecided Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, to win them over. He might offer to fund opioid treatment or phase in Medicaid cuts more slowly. But the goal of the repeal – to cut out the heart of health care for millions of people – remains the same.


Don’t Be Fooled

As Republican leaders revise their repeal and try to sell it to the public, keep a few things in mind:

Side deals aren’t health care

No amount of side deals will soften the cruelty of this bill. For example, West Virginia’s uninsured rate will quadruple under the Senate bill, taking health coverage away from 20 percent of the state’s non-elderly adults. Cutting their health care more slowly or adding dollars for opioid treatment won’t stop the devastation wreaked by gutting Medicaid.

Every person in our country should get health care

If this repeal takes health care away from any one of us, it should be rejected. While McConnell may try to offer a “softened” version of the bill that shows fewer people losing health care, remember that no one should lose their health care. It doesn’t matter if a new a new version of the bill “only” kicks off 15 million, or 10 million, or 3 million from health care.


Do You Care?

If Republican lawmakers really cared about our health, they could make make care more affordable and more available. They could open Medicare to everyone, breaking the insurance companies’ stranglehold on coverage. They could also require Medicare and other programs to negotiate lower prices from drug corporations.

Whatever it promises in the short term, this bill still violates the promise of better, more affordable health care for all. Real fixes are available. Our lawmakers know this. This Independence Day, let’s make sure they know that we know this, too.

~~  Sarah Chaisson-Warner ~~

Obamacare Repeal and Replace Harder Than GOP Thought

The Free Press WV

For over seven years, Republicans criticized Obamacare.  The words “repeal and replace” were part of the conservative mantra, and one that contributed to their election successes.  But like the barking dog that caught the car, the GOP’s next step is uncertain.

That became painfully evident this week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the Republican replacement for Obamacare until after the July 4th recess. McConnell risked a defeat if he had gone ahead now with the Senate plan as an increasing number of Republican Senators came out in opposition.

Among the “no” votes is Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.  While a member of the House, Capito voted multiple times to repeal Obamacare, but when given the opportunity in the Senate to actually vote for a replacement she couldn’t do it.

During an appearance on Talkline Wednesday, Capito said she found the Senate bill lacking. “Repeal and replace and fixing Obamacare is important, but it’s got to be done the right way,” she said. Capito added that she was never even close to supporting the bill.

Capito, like several of her fellow Republicans, has issues with how the Senate bill changes Medicaid.  The expansion program, which is funded by a 90-10 federal match, would phase out and by 2024 the match would revert to the current state rate for traditional Medicaid, which is 72-28.

West Virginia has nearly 173,000 people in the expansion.  It’s estimated that the state will have to pay $50 million under the 90-10 match, so a 72-28 split could push the state share to nearly $150 million just for the expansion.

If the state could not afford the additional cost the expanded coverage would be at risk. Supporters of the Senate plan believe those individuals could be shifted to private insurance, but there’s a question whether they could afford it, even with the proposed tax credits.

Capito, along with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, also object to how the Senate plan would impact drug treatment programs, since both come from states battling the opioid epidemic. Phasing out Medicaid expansion would make it harder for addicts to get treatment and the $2 billion included in the Senate plan for drug treatment would be woefully short when spread among all 50 states.

West Virginia has the trifecta of health care problems; we are older, sicker and poorer than most states. Our costs are higher, while a large share of our population can barely pay for day-to-day needs, much less an unexpected medical bill or long-term care.

These are complicated issues.  Obamacare’s overreach triggered the “repeal and replace” movement. That still plays with many, especially those who have seen their premiums and out-of-pocket costs skyrocket.

But the question now is “replace it with what?”  Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul said, “It’s worse to pass a bad bill than to pass no bill.”  That should be the new mantra until lawmakers figure out how to make the Affordable Care Act better.

WV Medicaid Patients Closely Watching U.S. Senate

Despite Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s promises to defend their health care, some folks covered under the Medicaid expansion in West Virginia are frightened by the health care bill in the Senate - and they haven’t even seen it yet.

Capito initially said she would defend the expansion. But more recently, she’s said she would vote for the expansion to be phased out under the Senate legislation now being drafted behind closed doors.

That’s disturbing to Allison McComas from Charleston. She gets emotional remembering what it was like before the Medicaid expansion, when she ran up thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills while working low-paid restaurant jobs.

“People get sick from not having health insurance, and they let it go too long, and they can’t work,” McComas said. “All in all, it makes sense for everybody to have coverage, not just rich people.“

Capito did not respond to requests for comment.

The Free Press WV
Folks like Allison McComas say Medicaid expansion has made a huge difference for them.


She has said she thinks people who enrolled when Medicaid was expanded, such as McComas, should go through a transition period as Medicaid funding is cut. Supporters of the reduced funding call it necessary for the program’s stability.

Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the little information that has been leaked about the Senate bill indicates it generally resembles the one that passed the House. He said both would cut a quarter of Medicaid funding to make room for tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and the health care industry.

He said he predicts the Senate bill’s timeline will be slower, but would have the same impact.

“The progress that’s been made with the Medicaid expansion would be lost over time, and then the coverage levels that were even in place pre-Affordable Care Act would be rolled back as well,” Park said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Medicaid cuts in the House bill would cost 14 million people their health coverage. Park said the Senate bill would eventually arrive at the same result.

“With the same outcome as the House bill: that is, very large Medicaid cuts and millions of low-income individuals, who would otherwise be on Medicaid, losing their coverage,” he said.

About 170,000 West Virginians signed up when Medicaid was expanded, one of the highest rates in the country.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Senior Group Promises Strong Opposition to GOP Healthcare Bill

Groups representing doctors, hospitals and people over 50 all are voicing strong opposition to the latest version of the American Health Care Act.
The Free Press WV

The healthcare bill just passed by Republicans in the U.S. House is facing opposition from groups representing doctors, hospitals and seniors.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and AARP all are sharply criticizing the revised American Health Care Act.

The AARP’s David Certner is the legislative counsel and policy director for government affairs.

“We believed we had a bad healthcare bill,“ he says. “Changes this week have only made that bill worse, putting at risk the insurance, and coverage and access to affordable care, for tens of millions of seniors.“

This version of the bill has yet to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, although it estimated the previous bill would have cut 24 million people off of the insurance rolls.

Supporters of the bill as amended say it can now do more to lower the cost of premiums, and it would create and fund high-risk insurance pools for people with preexisting conditions.

Since the bill ends the requirement to cover people with preexisting health conditions, the AMA argues it would make it impossible for most of them to get coverage.

Lina Walker, vice president for public policy at AARP, says her group estimates premiums in the high-risk pools could be nearly $26,000 a year per person. The White House has disputed that figure given the complexity of the insurance market.

But, Walker says other groups’ calculations are similar.

“We didn’t pull a number out of a hat,“ she says. “This is based on real-world data, and it shows that premiums will be exceedingly high, unaffordable to the very people who need the coverage.“

A separate estimate says funding in the legislation would cover just five percent of the 2.2 million people with preexisting conditions now in the individual marketplace.

The bill also repeals some of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular protections against annual and lifetime caps on coverage.

Certner says AARP will continue to express its opposition.

“Town-hall meetings, visits back home, visits here in D.C., Grassroots mailings; we’ve been doing a great deal on social media,“ he adds. “Targeted ads in, I think, roughly 25 to 30 cities around the country.“

Our Fight for Health Care During Recess and Beyond

The Free Press WV

It’s time to ramp up our resistance to the Trump-Ryan agenda on health care. We scored our biggest legislative victory so far on March 24, when Speaker Paul Ryan called off his bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because he didn’t have the votes. This was an inspiring, hard-fought win for everyone who believes health care is for all.

But Republican leaders in Congress are still gunning for our health care; their radical plans for our economy leave them no choice. Without gutting healthcare and other essential economic benefits, how else will they pay for the massive tax giveaway for corporations and billionaires that they’ve set their sights on?

During Resistance Recess, now until April 23, as lawmakers visit their home districts, we will let them know we’re still fighting to make sure everyone in the country gets the care they need.

Twenty thousand members of People’s Action, MoveOn.org, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Working Families Party and others gathered on a conference call April 9 to strategize with Reps. Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and other progressive leaders. Is there strength in numbers? You bet.

Why is this urgent? Last week, the Trump administration and House GOP leaders were scrambling to revive the health care repeal legislation by trading away protections for people with preexisting conditions to appease the far right. They didn’t get a vote on the bill before heading home for congressional recess, but we can be sure that gutting health care is still on their minds, and still a top priority.

Proposals like block-granting Medicaid or privatizing Medicare aren’t just about pushing people off good, government-guaranteed health care into an uncertain market – though that’s certainly bad enough. These proposals are also designed to take resources from working and poor families in order to hand ever more wealth to corporations and the rich.

The stalled Trump-Ryan health care repeal would have forced 24 million people off health care to make way for $600 billion in tax giveaways largely for corporations and the rich. If that tax break is huge, the tax reform giveaways that Donald Trump has proposed come in at a jaw-dropping $6 trillion – ten times the amount of the health repeal tax giveaway.

So they’ll be looking for more places to cut, which is why health care will loom large in the upcoming showdowns over the federal budget and taxes, where food, housing, and the other essentials for survival will also be at stake.

This will all play out in the upcoming tax and budget battles that will extend through the summer and beyond. The first round will come on April 28, when the continuing resolution that’s keeping the government funded in 2017 expires. Then Congress will turn to the fiscal year 2018 budget and hammering out the tax plan.

And, to complicate matters, while the tax and budget fight is underway we need to stay alert for any attempts to pump life back into health repeal. There’s also the possibility that Congress and the administration will try to make their misinformation about ACA implosion come true by sabotaging the underpinnings of the system. One avenue would involve stopping payments to insurers that lower deductibles and other cost-sharing for 58 percent of those enrolled in ACA coverage. Refusing these payments would be a big blow to the 7.1 million people who receive the support, and it also could prompt insurers to withdraw from ACA markets.

These details aside, the fight is clear. We can start guaranteeing an essential quality of life for all, or we can drive further inequality and corporate power. While your members of Congress are home for recess, tell them to stand on the right side of this choice.

Here are some ways they can start doing just that:

Protect our public health insurance programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, from any cuts or changes that would mean less care or more expensive care. Instead of cutting these programs, we should expand them to begin to serve the real need.

Reject any legislation that would penalize people for having a preexisting condition, cut essential health benefits such as prescription drugs, or let insurance corporations put caps on our care.

Open public options for coverage in every state so insurance corporations like Anthem can’t hold us hostage, especially in rural and less-populated counties.

Make our health care stronger by making it more affordable and less profit-driven. We can start by negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

Oppose any tax plan that would result in corporations, hedge funds, and the rich contributing less in taxes than they do now. Our economy is already too unequal.

Support a budget that protects and expands the basic rights of people, families, and communities to thrive. This means ensuring that all people get the health care, food, housing, and other essentials that form the basis of just and democratic society.

What can you do? Join our fight. Visit the Resistance Recess website to find an event in your area, or organize one of your own. We can win!

~~  Sarah Warner ~~

Health Study Shows WV Ranks 50th For Eighth Year In A Row

The Free Press WV

For eight years in a row, West Virginia has ranked 50th in a national health study from Gallup and Healthways.

That study reviews well-being in a holistic manner. Holistic healing and care has been the base of Dr. Clay Marsh’s message from West Virginia University where he is the vice president and academic dean of health sciences.

“If you want to keep people younger older so we have a healthier population, it turns out in every longevity study, it’s about connection. It’s about purpose and it’s about seeing your life with gratitude and with abundance and feeling that you can do what you want,” Marsh said in Charleston Tuesday for WVU Day at the Capitol.

The 2016 health study observed the feeling of purpose, social relationships, economic stress and security, community pride and actual physical health among residents.

“We gotta love the people in our state. We gotta help them. We can’t just go away when it gets a little tough because there are tough things that people are dealing with,” Marsh told Metronews “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval. “But, hope, I think is part of our nature. And love and safety I think are the two keys for us. It’s going to happen a family, a community at a time.”

A 2015 Gallup and Healthways report listed West Virginia as one of two states with the highest prevalence of diabetes.

The same group determined West Virginia was among states with the highest obesity rate every year from 2008 to 2014.

Last month, the Center for Disease Control reported the highest prevalence of heart disease across the nation is in West Virginia.

Marsh explained how WVU can have a role in improvement in those areas.

“We believe our role here is to bring any resource that is needed by a community to help them on their quest toward hope, connections and purpose and a better life. But, we can’t create that for them.”

For example, former WVU student body president and primary care physician Dr. Dino Beckett returned to his home community of Williamson where he has help further success of a diabetes clinic, started a community garden and initiated walking clubs.

Those are the healthy movements Marsh said WVU can support.

“When people want help, when they’re ready to flip, when they’re ready to change their mindset, there are so many things we can do. We love our state. We love the people in our state. We want better for them. But, we need to have them want better for themselves. I think that’s key.”

Addressing Public Health Crises: Suicide and Opioid Addiction are Preventable

Both opioid addiction and suicide are serious preventable and treatable public health problems, and everyone has a role to play.

The Free Press WV

During National Public Health Week , April 03-09, we celebrate the progress we’ve made helping people live healthier lives and those public health professionals who have helped us make that progress. But one hallmark of public health is life expectancy, and the United States just experienced a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993. This was due in part to increases in two of the nation’s most heart-breaking and yet preventable public health issues facing us: the increasing rate of suicide and the increasing misuse of opioid drugs.

In 2015, nearly 44,200 deaths were due to suicide in the United States, or about one suicide every 12 minutes. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 600,000 U.S. residents died by suicide from 1999 to 2015. The suicide rate has steadily climbed, resulting in a 2015 rate that is 28 percent higher than in 2000.

Suicide rates in less urban areas have been higher than those in more urban areas. During this time period, the gap in suicide rates increased between less urban and more urban areas. This gap began to widen more quickly in 2007-2008, possibly reflecting the impact and financial hardship of the recession, which hit rural areas harder.

Geographic disparities may also be associated with limited access to mental health care and greater social isolation, as well as the “opioid overdose epidemic,” according to the CDC report.

According to the CDC report: “Communities can benefit from implementing policies, programs and practices based on the best available evidence regarding suicide prevention and key risk factors.” And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline , 1.800.273.TALK (8255), supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is always available for anyone in need of help or information about suicide prevention.

Opioids include both prescription medications, such as hydrocodone, oxydone, morphine and methadone, which are approved to manage pain, as well as illicit drugs, such as heroin.

Suicide and opioid misuse and abuse risk factors can overlap, including pain, other addictions, mental disorders and disruptions in social support. Whether opioid overdose is unintentional or intentional, more than 300,000 Americans have died since 2000, including more than 33,000 deaths involving prescription and illicit opioids in 2015 alone. 

To address this crisis, President Trump recently established a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which has been tasked to make recommendations to the President for improving the federal response to the opioid crisis. The commission includes heads of key Cabinet departments, including HHS Secretary Tom Price.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health provide roadmaps for comprehensive public health approaches to suicide and substance abuse prevention. The emotional and economic impact on individuals as well as on families and communities demand a continued proactive and coordinated response.

Both opioid addiction and suicide are serious preventable and treatable public health problems, and everyone has a role to play. Learn about some of the available resources for treatment options, mental health and behavioral health issues and related concerns:

“Medicare for All” Backed as Next Healthcare Reform

Now that the Obamacare replacement backed by
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price has failed,
some physicians are backing “Medicare For All.“

The Free Press WV

As the GOP tries to resuscitate its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, the debate over how to fix health care in the U.S. is heating up again.

Partisan divides remain deep, but according to Glenn Pearson, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, the failure of the American Health Care Act could present a unique opportunity for President Donald Trump to make good on campaign promises for more coverage and better benefits by moving beyond for-profit models.

“America is the only wealthy country in the world that has a free market, for-profit system,” Pearson said. “It treats health care as a commodity, like buying a TV. In every other country, health care is a human right.“

Pearson said the Medicare for All Act - introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. - would provide immediate and comprehensive coverage to all Americans by expanding Medicare, the popular single-payer program already in place for people 65 and older.

Critics have said it would be too costly. But independent analysis of similar legislation found 95 percent of U.S. households would pay less than the current system of insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Pearson, while not a fan of the ill-fated Republican proposal, noted that the Affordable Care Act still leaves many without coverage and channels billions of taxpayer dollars to private insurance companies. He said a majority of Americans, including Republicans, support a system where money currently going to administrative overhead and private profits is spent on patient care instead.

“There would be no deductibles, no co-insurance, there would be very small co-pays,” he said. “And so, nobody would ever go bankrupt because they became ill.“

Even though more people have health insurance since the ACA rollout, Pearson said, nearly 2 million Americans go bankrupt each year because of health care expenses.

A National Day of Action calling for universal health care is set for Saturday, April 8 - the first day of the congressional recess.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

Obamacare Repeal Plan Looks Negative for Rural States Such as WV

The Free Press WV

Congressional Budget Office figures show the main GOP replacement for Obamacare would have a negative impact on rural areas, and especially on older residents.

The House’s American Health Care Act would let insurance companies charge up to 40 percent more for folks in their 50s and 60s.

And Edwin Park, vice president for health policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says at the same time cuts to Medicaid, and especially the bill’s reduced subsidies, would land hard on rural states such as West Virginia.

“Let’s say a 60-year-old making $30,000 a year, they would see the value of that help fall by as much as three quarters in West Virginia,“ he points out.

Republicans point to other CBO projections that the replacement plan would reduce the budget deficit.

Park says most of the savings comes from shifting Medicaid costs onto the states. He says the very wealthy and some big health care corporations would see huge tax cuts.

Before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, many rural hospitals in states such as West Virginia were just barely hanging on. Park says they often were surviving on very thin margins, or actually losing money.

“But in contrast in those states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, rural hospitals saw big improvements in their operating margins, some are actually expanding” he points out. “But that would all be at risk and more.“

Park says rural residents were more likely to have voted for Donald Trump, but they also would be more likely to be hurt by the repeal proposal.

“Rural Americans are more likely to be uninsured, they have less access to job-based coverage, they’re more likely to be low income, so they’re disproportionately reliant on Medicaid for their health coverage,“ he points out.

Republicans note that under the ACA, insurers have pulled out of some less profitable, rural markets. They argue this is one reason they want to replace Obamacare.

Despite opposition from hospitals, nurses, the American Medical Association and AARP, Republican leaders in Congress hope to pass their ACA replacement quickly.


03.17.2017
LivingHealthNewsWest VirginiaUnited States

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Why Western Medicine is Failing to Fix Our Addiction Crisis

According to board-certified medical doctor Mylaine Riobe, MD, addiction is a physiological metabolism disorder and requires specialized treatment.

The Free Press WV

Dr. Riobe studied pre-med at Columbia, went to NY Medical College for her MD, and completed an OB-GYN residency. She then “went out into the real world,” only to find that what she’d learned wasn’t enough for many problems patients came to her for.

“Most of my patients were tired all the time, couldn’t sleep, were gaining weight, and experiencing anxiety and depression. While I could prescribe sleeping pills, anxiety meds, and antidepressants, [my patients] seemed to return with other problems or even the same problems again later.”

Thus began her quest for answers. She credited her grandmother for introducing her to natural medicines. That, plus Dr. Riobe’s interest in Buddhist principles, led her to study Chinese medicine for five years. “I also studied with mentors for two years by seeing patients with them in their offices.”

In the United States, she explained, medical doctors don’t need to formally study Chinese medicine. “They can get away with a six-month course and begin practicing. This leads to a misunderstanding of Chinese medicine because it’s simply not enough time to learn it.”

The doctor then implemented Chinese medicine into her practice “with great results” and was able to help her patients in new ways. Still not completely satisfied, she continued to seek solutions by then studying functional medicine. “That introduced me to a sophisticated method of testing called cellular-based testing.”

After her extensive education, Dr. Riobe founded the Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine in Stuart, Florida where she treats patients with her own medical recipe: a fusion of Western, Chinese and Functional medicines. Riobe is also the author of The Tao of Integrative Medicine: The Path to Prevention and The Answer to Cancer: The Ending of An Epidemic. She is also certified in office-based opioid addiction management.

“In conventional medicine,” said Riobe, “the term prevention isn’t used accurately. An annual checkup is looking for an early diagnosis of any existing diseases. If something is wrong, both the doctor and patient hope to catch it early. The goal is to prevent death, not prevent disease.”

She said, “Similarly, when an addict goes to detox, the focus is on removing the substance from the body. A ‘good’ doctor will try to make the addict more comfortable by prescribing a drug to ease withdrawal, anxiety, and depression.”

After days or weeks in rehab, the addict’s body has rid itself of the drug, and after-care programs may offer meditation, exercise, and psychiatric help. That all sounds good, right? Yes, said Riobe, but with that approach, we are failing to look at the bigger picture.

“We’re leaving the patient with the same underlying physiological causes of addiction, which is why our current methods have up to a 95% failure rate.”

She referred to a 2016 study released by the University of Beijing that focused on addiction as a physiological metabolism disorder. She is certain it all comes down to a problem with metabolism.

“Metabolism is the reactions the body uses to make its energy so it can perform its functions,” said Riobe. “As we take in foods containing proteins and fats, and breathe oxygen, they are broken down and converted into energy. If this process doesn’t take properly, we get lactic acid instead. These metabolic problems stem from nutrient deficits, hormone imbalances, and an accumulation of toxins,” she said. “Without proper evaluation and testing, it’s extremely difficult to determine the causes.”

After looking at the study, I still needed to understand what the authors—and Riobe—were getting at. In layman’s terms, lactic acid is a chemical compound that comes from blood cells and muscle. It can become problematic when a buildup occurs, which can happen as a side effect of toxin buildup from drug use or poor nutrition. Riobe explained, “The Beijing study showed that the release of lactic acid by glia cells in the brain triggers cocaine-addiction memories and fuels addiction in rodents.”

Okay, so then I had to understand what glia cells are: they are nervous system cells in your brain and spinal cord. Your brain’s neurons do the thinking while glia cells make sure the brain is working properly so the neurons can do their thing. The study found that if production of lactic acid is blocked, cravings for cocaine diminish. I’d say that’s an important discovery toward treating coke addicts, eh?

Riobe then talked about the glaring problem with our current treatment for opioid addicts. Based solely on western medicine, the patient is medicated with a “safer” version of the addictive drug, such as Suboxone.

“This satisfies the craving and drastically reduces the risk of death from drug overdose,” said Riobe. “But it leaves the underlying cause of addiction untreated, which explains why weaning addicts off of [Suboxone] is so difficult. The disease is still present, as are its underlying causes.”

The fatal flaw in this system, according to Riobe, is this focus on preventing death. “We look at the craving as the disease and mask it with prescription drugs,” she said. “We need to look for the cause of the craving.”

That’s where Riobe’s intensive studies and integration of Chinese medicine and functional medicine comes in. Her three-fold approach is to focus on preventing disease. She explained that western medicine is not equipped to look at disease from the perspective of metabolism, but traditional Chinese medicine and functional medicine are. “Their very premise is to correct ‘metabolic dysfunction,‘“ said Riobe.

Once again, I had to slow things down to understand all of this. I felt like it was going over my head. Let’s break it down in terms of treating addiction:

  • Western medicine is focused on diagnosing the disease and preventing death. A doctor looks at symptoms, makes a determination, and prescribes a solution. He/She might treat all patients with similar symptoms in the same way. Often, treatment includes pharmaceuticals. This can work in the short-term but it is only masking symptoms. The problem is that addiction is a chronic illness with underlying causes that are not just mental.
  • Chinese medicine looks at the whole person. Each patient is considered unique and the examination is based on “life force energy” or qi (pronounced chee). The doctor will look for why the balance in the body’s metabolism has been thrown off and what is causing the cravings. Treatment will be based on restoring the body’s natural balance. This focuses on long-term wellness. Riobe explained: “Chinese medicine is scientific. It is related to quantum physics as opposed to Newtonian physics like our conventional [western] and functional medicine models.”
  • Functional medicine, like Chinese medicine, does not merely mask symptoms, doesn’t rely on “one size fits all” answers, and looks to bring the body back to a healthy state. However, functional medicine shares western medicine’s problem-solving through advanced laboratory testing in order to determine why the body is malfunctioning.

Riobe’s practice combines these three strategies to wean patients off of addictive substances for a much better chance at long-lasting sobriety. She is in the process of opening an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility to implement her specialized three-fold medical model. In addition, Riobe is currently seeking grants for a study that will enroll addicted patients to prove the value in her integrative model to treat drug cravings.

“If drug dependence is treated naturally from a root cause perspective,” Riobe said, “we can see a momentum shift in the U.S. and bring this epidemic under control.”

~~  Dr. Riobe studied Chinese medicine for five years.  ~~

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