CA health program for youth under threat

SAN FRANCISCO -- When US senators return from their recess at the end of the month, they would have to pass a budget by the Sept. 30 deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown. Among the many items on the table, health care has been the centerpiece of the discussion.

Medi-Cal and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) together cover more than 5.7 million children in California. CHIP, a 20-year-old program, covers children whose families are low-income but not poor enough to qualify for Medi-Cal. Its funding set to expire on Sept. 30 unless it is renewed.

President of The Children’s Partnership Mayra Alvarez said cuts to the health care program would impact millions families and their children.

“Medi-Cal and CHIP are lifelines for families who cannot afford insurance on their own,” Alvarez said during a telephone conference on Aug. 10.

Among the many benefits children receive from the two programs are free preventive services, including dental care, vision exams and mental health services.

Since May of last year, Medi-Cal, which is funded by California taxpayers, has covered 190,000 undocumented children under 19.

According Andie Patterson, who is the director of Government Affairs with California Primary Care Association (CPCA), cuts to Medi-Cal could also result in a 30 percent funding reduction to the 2,800 non-profit clinics that are in the organization.

“Any threats to Medi-Cal undermines the survival of health centers,” Patterson said.

According to Patterson, CPCA clinics are urging their patients to put pressure on their federal legislators to not
upend Obamacare.

Mascots, tarps employed by DOH to promote nationwide smoking ban

Department of Health (DOH)Spokesperson Eric Tayag on visited various establishment with a slew of mascots in tow to promote the nationwide smoking ban.
DOH employees roamed the streets and visited public establishments like the Andres Bonifacio Elementary School in Manila dressed as packs of cigarettes, the labels of which prominently feature the health problems caused by smoking e.g. cancer and gangrene.
Tarpaulins were plastered on public spaces covered by the smoking ban.
Tayag and DOH officials were also spotted making an X with their fingers — a hand sign to further promote the campaign against smoking.
President Rodrigo Duterte last May signed Executive Order 26, which prohibits smoking in "enclosed public places and public conveyances" among other anti-smoking measures.
EO 26 takes effect on July 23,Sunday. Violators will be fined at least P500, while establishments may lose their license to operate. —GMA News

Social isolation, loneliness could be greater threat to public health than obesity

Loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, and their impact has been growing and will continue to grow, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

"Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need -- crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment," said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. "Yet an increasing portion of the U.S. population now experiences isolation regularly."

Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP's Loneliness Study. In addition, the most recent U.S. census data shows more than a quarter of the population lives alone, more than half of the population is unmarried and, since the previous census, marriage rates and the number of children per household have declined.

"These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness," said Holt-Lunstad.

To illustrate the influence of social isolation and loneliness on the risk for premature mortality, Holt-Lunstad presented data from two meta-analyses. The first involved 148 studies, representing more than 300,000 participants, and found that greater social connection is associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of early death. The second study, involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals primarily from North America but also from Europe, Asia and Australia, examined the role that social isolation, loneliness or living alone might have on mortality. Researchers found that all three had a significant and equal effect on the risk of premature death, one that was equal to or exceeded the effect of other well-accepted risk factors such as obesity.

"There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators," said Holt-Lunstad. "With an increasing aging population, the effect on public health is only anticipated to increase. Indeed, many nations around the world now suggest we are facing a 'loneliness epidemic.' The challenge we face now is what can be done about it."

Holt-Lunstad recommended a greater priority be placed on research and resources to tackle this public health threat from the societal to the individual level. For instance, greater emphasis could be placed on social skills training for children in schools and doctors should be encouraged to include social connectedness in medical screening, she said. Additionally, people should be preparing for retirement socially as well as financially, as many social ties are related to the workplace, she noted, adding that community planners should make sure to include shared social spaces that encourage gathering and interaction, such as recreation centers and community gardens.

Story Source:

Materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Over 2 million Pinoys blind, sight-impaired

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733. File
MANILA, Philippines - Over two million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

As of this year, the DOH said an estimated 332,150 people in the country are bilaterally blind while the current number of persons with bilateral low vision has already reached 2,179,733.

Of the total number of bilaterally blind, 33 percent or about 109,609 cases were due to cataract while 25 percent was caused by error in refraction (EOR). Fourteen percent was due to glaucoma.

About 937, 285 or 43 percent of those suffering from bilateral low vision was due to EOR, 34 percent or 741,109 was caused by cataract while the rest was attributed to glaucoma and other eye diseases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired, with 39 million blind and 246 million with low vision.

Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally followed by glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration as the secondary causes.

Health experts said blindness or severe visual impairment results in reduced functional ability and loss of self-esteem and contributes toward the reduction of quality of life.

The disability from visual impairment has considerable economic implications with loss of productivity and income and can lead to poverty and social dependency, experts said.

To address the problem, the government drafted a new National Policy on the Prevention Program on Blindness that is more responsive to changing trends in the prevalence of eye diseases.

The DOH also spearheaded yesterday the annual observance of the Sight Saving Month with the theme “Universal Eye Health: No More Avoidable Blindness.”

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said this year’s theme is aimed at strengthening public awareness on the importance of proper eye care and promote the prevention of avoidable blindness, which is now considered a serious public health issue of global magnitude.

Ubial said early detection and preventive care can help keep the eyes healthy and avoid common causes of blindness.

Thus, the DOH’s current thrust is to integrate eye care into public health programs at the local government unit level for continued advocacy and promotion of comprehensive eye care with focus on avoidable blindness.

She said the development of the Community Eye Health Program (CEHP), particularly at the primary level, district and provincial settings will be able to make most of the shared referral and service delivery network from barangay health stations, rural health units up to tertiary hospitals.

Aside from several provinces in the regions that have adopted the CEHP, the model is being expanded to the poorest provinces like Eastern Samar, Leyte and Surigao.

Population and individual eye care services focusing on the prevention and management of avoidable blindness (cataract, EOR, childhood blindness, other emerging eye diseases) at each stage of the life cycle shall be provided through the functional service delivery network (SDN).

Through the SDN, families especially the poor and marginalized are profiled, navigated, referred and arrangements made with health providers at the different levels of care.

“I would like to assure the public that DOH is serious in its mandate and commitment to ensure that every Filipino, particularly the poor, indigent and marginalized has access to affordable and quality eye care,” Ubial stressed.

3 different ways to face cancer

Image: Cancer care management is a shared decision strategy between the patient and the family.
MANILA, Philippines — How do we beat cancer?

Cancer remains as a national health priority in the Philippines.

A disease caused by a malignant growth or tumor, cancer is the third leading cause of morbidity and mortality, following heart and vascular diseases, according to the Philippine Health Statistics. According to latest statistics released in 2012, about 50,000 to 60,000 Filipinos die from cancer every year.

These, however, do not mean that cancer, despite being a “spectrum of different diseases,” cannot be treated.

For medical oncologist Dr. Denky dela Rosa, cancer management is important to know what type of treatment should be applied.

“There are different faces of cancer which can be treated with different treatments. It is important to know that the management of cancer is not purely physician-driven,” Dela Rosa said.

“Some patients have very advanced diseases that cannot be cured while some with stage 4 disease actually have very minimal disease. It is only a matter of prolonging his life and lessening the suffering,” she added.

Here are some of the continually improving types of treatment for cancer:

1. Chemotherapy

According to the National Cancer Institute, chemotherapy utilizes drugs to slow down or kill the growth of cancer cells. These drugs also destroy the cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body.

Nonetheless, as one of the staple treatments for all kinds of cancer, chemotherapy frightens many patients and families due to its side effects. As the drugs kill fast-growing tumors, it also destroys the growth of healthy cells that result to hair loss, mouth sores and nausea.

But for Dela Rosa, the stigma against the side effects of chemotherapy should now be lessened because of the continuing “redevelopments” in the strategies applied on the therapy.

“We now have very good medicines that will be able to control the vomiting and hair fall,” the doctor said.

For those who fear vomiting, there is now a continuing upgrade applied on some medicines that protect the healthy cells on the mouth and intestines. A cold cap to lessen the amount of hair fall is also being introduced.

“The management is ideally a consensus among the members of the health care team as well as the family and the patient,” Dela Rosa said, adding that the use of new treatments is optional and can be discussed among the family.

2. Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is one of the recently introduced type of cancer treatments.

Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy uses drugs that stop the growth and spread of cancer cells by acting on specific “molecular targets” or only the cells associated with the growth of cancer.

Targeted therapy is often used to block tumor cell proliferation or as a cytostatic and is focused on precision medicine, which uses information about the patient’s genes usually found through biopsies.

Along with the introduction of new treatments to cancer, new tests are also being implemented to identify the proper treatment appropriate to the biology and principles of the patient, which helps on knowing what type of medicine or drugs should be given.

As of now, there are two types of targeted therapies: monoclonal antibody drugs which is targeted on the area outside the cancer to restore or enhance the immune system’s attack on cancer cells; and small-molecule drugs, which targeted on blocking the cancer cells from spreading and developing.

Dr. Denky dela Rosa, oncologist

3. Immunotherapy

Although a foreign object in the body, cancer can still be recognized by the immune system as an unhealthy cell. With immunotherapy, the immune system is strengthened to help fight cancer and stop the tumor from growing.

“One of the principles of cancer management is knowing that our body has the ability to heal itself, and this can be strengthened through immunotherapy,” Dela Rosa said.

In the cancer management report by Dela Rosa, the difference in the effects of cancer to the patient always lies on the patient’s biology.

Immunotherapy prevents the interaction between the cancerous chemicals and healthy organs through using the immune system to eliminate it immediately.

“Even if they all rise, they are actually different diseases from one person to another. All patients have differing biology, the reason why some patients survive longer,” Dela Rosa reported.

“Most of the time when the patient manifest symptoms, it has already transferred to a different organ. It is important to know that there are actually different mechanisms to attack the cancer cells,” she added.

Dela Rosa’s cancer management program promotes proper knowledge on different kinds of therapies to know what properly fits the patient.

“There are patients with stage 4 diseases who actually have vey minimal disease that we can do a lot. I have a patient now who is surviving for almost 10 years and this patient actually has stage 4 colon cancer,” said Dela Rosa, whose clinics are at St. Luke’s Medical Center Bonifacio Global City MAB 820 and University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

“The management is ideally a consensus among the members of the health care team as well as the family and the patient,” she said. “It’s time to shift our management from being very aggressive to just provide comfort to the patient.”

Study finds existentially alarming human sperm counts drop

A newly published study shows sperm counts in men have declined significantly in recent years, raising concerns about human extinction.

The study, which assesses the results of nearly 200 samples, was carried out by a multinational team and published on the Human Reproduction Update journal of Oxford University Press.

It demonstrates a significant decline in sperm counts between 1973 and 2011, a 50-60 percent decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and NewZealand.

Specifically, the researchers found a 52.4-percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3-percent decline in total sperm counts in those areas. The study also indicates that the rate of decline is continuing and possibly even increasing.

Hagai Levine, lead researcher of the study, said in an interview with BBC that he was "very worried"about what might happen in the future.

"Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, it may be the extinction of the human species," Levine said.

There is no clear reason for the apparent decrease. However, possible causes include exposure to chemicals used in pesticides and plastics, obesity, smoking, stress, diet and even watching too much TV.

Because of the significant public health implications of the results, the study calls for more research on the causes of the decline.

"We must take action, for example, better regulation of man-made chemicals, and we must continue our efforts on tackling smoking and obesity," Levine said about ways of reversing the descending trend. (PNA-Xinhua)

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