Archive | Policies & Solutions

Healthcare Reform to Go into Effect

NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (UPI) — Millions of U.S. adults and children will have access to healthcare next week under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a non-profit groups says.

A report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation in New York supporting independent research on health policy reform, found that among those people who will be helped by the new law right away are:

– 102 million people who currently have lifetime limits on their health insurance and 18 million who have annual limits. Under the ACA, insurers face restrictions on placing such limits on policyholders.

– 1 million young adults will be able to join or remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are age 26.

– 10,700 people who have their coverage rescinded, or retroactively cancelled, each year will not be rescinded.

– 200,000 to 400,000 people with pre-existing health conditions will immediately be able to enroll in special pre-existing condition insurance plans.

– Thousands of children with pre-existing conditions may no longer be denied health insurance.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Canada: Universal Drug Plan May Save $10B

OTTAWA, Sept. 14 (UPI) — A patchwork of private and public prescription plans in Canada is costly but researchers say a universal prescription drug plan would save $10 billion a year.

The report by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives says the existing patchwork of private and public plans in Canada is inequitable, inefficient and costly.

“Canada’s pharmaceutical policies are a total failure,” study author Marc-Andre Gagnon told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

The report says Canada’s costs for prescription drugs are higher than those of the United States, Switzerland and Germany because drug prices are inflated so as to attract pharmaceutical investment.

Gagnon says Canadians receive different coverage depending on what plan they’re in and where they live, and administrative costs from hundreds of different private, public and company plans increase the costs as well.

A universal prescription plan would lead to savings of nearly $3 billion a year but the savings jump to more than $10 billion a year if Canada were to cut pharmaceutical industry privileges, Gagnon says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Scientists: Biodiversity a World Concern

CAMBRIDGE, England, Sept. 9 (UPI) — Halting the decline of Earth’s biodiversity will require changes in behavior by human society, British researchers say.

In an article in the journal Science, conservationists and scientists argue that unless human societies recognize the link between their consumption choices and biodiversity loss, the diversity of life on Earth will continue to decline.

“If we are to make any kind of impact, it is critical that that we begin to view biodiversity as a global public good which provides such benefits as clean air and fresh water, and that this view is integrated not just into policies but also into society and individuals’ day-to-day decisions,” Mike Rands, director of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and lead author of the paper, said.

Biodiversity loss is usually the result of unintended human actions and therefore presents unique problems, researchers say.

“The impacts of a particular action are often distant in space and time. This makes effective regulation difficult, as no single body has jurisdiction over the world’s biodiversity,” the article says.

The authors urge managing biodiversity as a global public good as one part of a possible solution.

“The value of biodiversity must be made an integral element of social, economic and political decision-making, as is starting to happen with carbon and climate change. Government, businesses, and civil society all have crucial roles in this transition,” the authors say.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Summit: Pain Relief Sought As Human Right

MONTREAL, Sept. 4 (UPI) — Eighty percent of people with chronic pain do not get relief and there are those who want pain treatment to be a human right, an Australian pain expert says.

“This has gone on for too long. Pain has been regarded as a simple problem. It must be recognized as a disease in its own right,” Australian anesthesiologist Michael Cousins, the driving force behind the first International Pain Summit in Montreal at the 13th World Congress on Pain, tells The (Montreal) Gazette.

Cousins — who has led the international steering committee that wrote the Montreal Declaration on pain, aimed at bringing attention to inadequate pain policies worldwide — calls on governments and healthcare organizations to establish laws, policies and systems to increase pain management.

In the developed world, part of the problem is that some patients are not believed when they complain of chronic pain and primary care physicians need more training because veterinarians get three times more pain training than doctors, Cousins says. In the undeveloped world, many just don’t have access to healthcare and most have low or no access to pain medication.

“About 70 percent of children in (Australia and the United States) the terminal phase of life with cancer had severe unrelieved symptoms and severe pain,” Cousins tells The Gazette. “That’s a shocking statistic for a so-called civilized society. It’s disgraceful. It’s cruel and inhuman.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Summit: Pain Treatment As a Human Right

MONTREAL, Sept. 4 (UPI) — Eighty percent of people with chronic pain do not get relief and there are those want pain treatment to be a human right, an Australian pain expert says.

“This has gone on for too long. Pain has been regarded as a simple problem. It must be recognized as a disease in its own right,” Australian anesthesiologist Michael Cousins, the driving force behind the first International Pain Summit in Montreal at the 13th World Congress on Pain, tells the Montreal Gazette.

Cousins — who has chaired the international steering committee that wrote the Montreal Declaration on pain, aimed at bringing attention to inadequate pain policies worldwide — calls on governments and healthcare organizations to establish laws, policies and systems to increase pain management.

In the developed world, part of the problem is that some patients are not believed when they complain of chronic pain and primary care physicians need more training because veterinarians get three times more pain training than doctors, Cousins says. In the undeveloped world, many just don’t have access to healthcare and most have low or no access to pain medication.

“About 70 percent of children in (Australia and the United States) the terminal phase of life with cancer had severe unrelieved symptoms and severe pain,” Cousins tells the Gazette. “That’s a shocking statistic for a so-called civilized society. It’s disgraceful. It’s cruel and inhuman.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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New Technique Could Help Ozone Layer

NORWICH, England, Sept. 3 (UPI) — A new way to measure atmospheric gases could track down sources of CFCs thought to be slowing the recovery of Earth’s ozone layer, European researchers say.

CFCs, chlorofluorocarbons, were used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants until restricted by a global treaty in 1987, but they have stayed in the air longer than many expected, the BBC reported Friday.

A team of British and German researchers says it is now possible to chemically “fingerprint” CFCs to potentially trace their origin.

The scientists worked on samples of atmosphere retrieved from 115,000 feet in the stratosphere by French space agency balloons.

Using mass spectrometers, they detailed the ratios of different isotopes of chlorine atoms present in small concentrations of chlorofluorocarbon-12.

The sharp falls in global emissions of CFCs seen in the early years following the signing of the treaty have leveled off, suggesting some chlorofluorocarbons, which should have been exhausted in developed countries by now, are still in use.

“Even though the production and use of CFC-12 is forbidden by the Montreal Protocol, we still find it in the atmosphere,” Jan Kaiser of the University of East Anglia said.

The ability to make fine measurements opens the door to chemical fingerprinting — of being able to tie a particular sample to a known origin.

Such information could help authorities identify continuing sources, the BBC said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Review: EU Falling Down on Environment

BRUSSELS, Aug. 30 (UPI) — The European Union has earned a failing grade on its environmental commitments in almost all areas, recent officials studies say.

From protecting biodiversity to improving air quality in the cities, official reviews of the EU’s performance overwhelmingly say more must be done, Inter Press Service reports.

The European Commission, the bloc’s governing body, confirms the worrisome problems in its latest Environment Policy Review released Aug. 2.

Although many official environmental protection programs have been launched and progress is evident in some areas, “further efforts are needed, in particular (to tackle) the loss of biodiversity,” the EC review said.

Only 17 percent of protected EU habitats and species have a good conservation status, the review said.

“Grasslands, wetlands and coastal habitats are the most vulnerable, mainly due to factors such as the decline in traditional patterns of agriculture, pressure by tourist development, and climate change,” it said.

The review also found the quality of air in most European cities continues to be “bad.” Exposure to particulate matter, especially ozone and other heavy polluters such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, remains high, it said.

European Commissioner for Environment Biodiversity Janez Potocnik has urged European governments to increase their environmental efforts.

“A number of data and trends (in environmental protection) remain worrying. I see a clear need … for further EU and national policy measures to make Europe more resource efficient,” Potocnik said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Report: Grand Canyon Park at 'risk'

PHOENIX, Aug. 24 (UPI) — The Grand Canyon, one of America’s iconic national parks, is under threat from without and within, a report from a conservation group says.

The National Parks Conservation Association report says pollution, tourism, mining, changes in the Colorado River and chronically under-funded budgets compromise efforts to protect resources and present a threat to the park, The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday.

“When you look at all of the challenges, you find out that the Grand Canyon is at risk, at grave risk,” David Nimkin, the group’s Southwest regional director, said.

“We made a deal when we created the national parks, that we would support them, and we need to do that.”

The non-profit group, founded in 1919 by the first National Park Service director, aims to protect national parks by lobbying Congress and government agencies, often to stop policies and legislation that could harm resources, the Republic said.

To fix the issues raised would require significant amounts of money, changes in state and federal policies, and concessions by private businesses, but if left unchecked the very nature of the park could change forever, the association’s report said.

Future visitors could find the most majestic views obscured, and habitats for native species could vanish, the group said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Study: Motor Vehicles Make Americans Fat

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 21 (UPI) — European countries with high rates of walking and cycling have fewer obese people than Australia and the United States, U.S. researchers found.

David Bassett Jr. of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville said “active travel” — bicycling or walking — fosters healthier communities compared with regions where cars are the favored way to get around.

Bassett and colleagues conducted a study on “active travel” in the United States and 15 other countries. They linked more than half of the differences in obesity rates among countries to walking and cycling rates, finding places with the highest walking and biking rates have fewer obese people.

In addition, about 30 percent of the difference in obesity rates among U.S. states and cities was also linked to walking and cycling rates.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that differences in the built environment for physical activity (e.g., infrastructure for walking and cycling, availability of public transit, street connectivity, housing density and mixed land use) influence the likelihood that people will use active transport for their daily travel,” the study said.

“Moreover, land-use policies should foster compact, mixed-use developments that generate shorter trip distances that are more suitable for walking and biking.”

The findings are published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Ozone + Nicotine = Bigger Asthma Threat

BERKELEY, Calif., Aug. 17 (UPI) — Ozone can react with secondhand tobacco smoke to form ultrafine particles that may pose a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine, U.S. researchers say.

Study leader Mohamad Suleiman, a chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s environmental energy technologies division, and colleagues say the ultrafine particles become major components of thirdhand smoke — the residue from tobacco smoke that clings on surfaces, long after a cigarette or cigar has been extinguished.

The study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, finds nicotine can react with ozone to form secondary organic aerosols that are less than 100 nanometers in diameter and become a source of thirdhand smoke.

“Because of their size and high surface area to volume ratio, ultrafine particles have the capacity to carry and deposit potentially harmful organic chemicals deep into the lower respiratory tract where they promote oxidative stress,” Suleiman says in a statement. “It’s been well established by others that the elderly and the very young are at greatest risk.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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