Archive | Policies & Solutions

Medicare Rates May Affect Hospice Stays

PROVIDENCE, R.I., July 13 (UPI) — The amount of time for an average Medicare-certified hospice stay in a nursing home has doubled in the last 10 years, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Susan Miller of Brown University and colleagues evaluated hospice use in U.S. nursing homes from 1999 to 2006 and found the typical treatment time has increased from 46 days to 93 days.

The study, scheduled to be published in the August issue of The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, said a standard daily payment rate for most Medicare hospice enrollment days was an incentive for some of the longer stays.

One-third of Medicare beneficiaries who die in nursing homes access hospice services and the study raises the possibility that reimbursement policies may contribute to the volume of the very long stays.

“We undertook this study to inform efforts in Medicare hospice reform,” Miller says in a statement. “Although we found a direct link between increases in hospice enrollments and a rise in the number of providers, it is the increasingly long lengths of stay we believe that raise policy concerns. Still, we caution against making sweeping changes to the program, which could deny nursing home residents hospice care.”

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Jails Are Top Mental Health Institutions

LOS ANGELES, July 12 (UPI) — New York’s Riker’s Island, Chicago’s Cook County Jail and the Los Angeles County Jail are the largest mental health institutions in the nation, a study found.

Members of the International Association for Forensic and Correctional Psychology say 15 percent of the inmates of those three jails are mentally ill, making penal institutions — not hospitals — the three largest U.S. mental health institutions.

The association charged a committee to revise their psychological standards for jails, prisons, correctional facilities and agencies, which were first published in 1980.

Committee members say the revised standards, published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, will benefit institutional security and help integrate former inmates back into the community, and may reduce litigation due to inadequate correctional mental health services.

“Offenders, mentally ill or not, entrusted to the custody of correctional facilities and agencies, benefit in a number of ways from the highest quality of rehabilitative and mental health services,” committee chair Richard Althouse says in a statement.

Althouse and colleagues hope the revised standards, which include organizational policies and ethical principles to govern areas such as intake, staffing, suicide prevention and intervention, keeping records and research will guide administrators and clinicians in providing optimal mental health services.

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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U.N.: Ag Investment a Must in Asia-Pacific

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 (UPI) — Greater agricultural investment is vital to combating hunger in the Asia-Pacific region, a United Nations food official said.

The number of hungry people in Asia and the Pacific rose by more than 60 million in 2009 to 642 million, Jacques Diouf, director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a release issued from New York.

“The sheer magnitude of food insecurity is the result of the low priority that has been given to agriculture in economic development policies,” Diouf said in a video message to an investment forum in Manila.

Agriculture accounts for 11 percent of the gross domestic product of Asia-Pacific’s developing countries and more than half of total employment. The region is home to about two-thirds of the world’s 1 billion malnourished people

Diouf said he was encouraged that agri-investment trends were moving in the right direction.

“In view of the critical dependence of this region’s people on agriculture for their food security, it is encouraging to note that the long-standing neglect of agriculture is finally being reversed,” Diouf 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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White House Orders Pathogen Policy Changes

WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) — The White House says President Obama has ordered fundamental changes in the way hazardous pathogens and toxins in the United States are secured against misuse.

Research on Biological Select Agents and Toxins is critical for the development of tools to detect, diagnose, recognize and respond to outbreaks of infectious disease of both natural and deliberate origin, the White House said Friday.

The expansion in the last 10 years of the infrastructure and resources dedicated to BSAT work, coupled with the discovery that the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks may have been a U.S. government employee, underlines the need to ensure BSAT are properly secured against possible misuse or attempts to harm people, animals, plants, or the environment, administration officials said.

Under Obama’s executive order, federal activities for securing BSAT will be consolidated under revised regulations jointly overseen by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture with support from the Department of Justice and the FBI.

The order, issued after an administration-led review of federal policies and procedures associated with the security of BSAT, calls for “significant improvements in the structure, coordination, and oversight of these activities across the Federal government.”

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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Public Transit = Weight Loss

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., June 30 (UPI) — Public transit systems can provide a daily built-in exercise program for those who commute, reducing the risk of obesity, U.S. researchers found.

Lead investigator John M. MacDonald of the University of Pennsylvania said the researchers conducted two surveys; one collected data prior to the completion of a light-rail system in Charlotte, N.C., and the second survey was conducted after completion.

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found after the light-rail system was built, people using the system reduced their weight by about 6 pounds for a person 5′ 5″ and over. In addition, the public transit users were 81 percent less likely to become obese over time.

The surveys assessed level of physical activity, body mass index, perception of the neighborhood, public transit use before and after light-rail transit construction, plans to use light-rail transit when available and actual light-rail transit usage.

“Given that perceptions of neighborhood environments are independently associated with improved health outcomes, and that individuals who choose to use light-rail transit obtain some relative weight reduction, it would be prudent to encourage public policies that improve the safety and attractiveness of pedestrian environments that link home, work and transit stops to increase use of public transit for commuting to work,” MacDonald said in a statement.

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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No Employment Loss After Smoking Ban

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 30 (UPI) — Smoking bans in two Minnesota cities were not linked to job losses in bars and may have increased job in restaurants, researchers say.

Lead author Elizabeth Klein of Ohio State University, and co-authors Jean Forster, Darin Erickson and Leslie Lytle of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Barbara Schillo of ClearWay Minnesota, said the study examined employment trends before Minnesota adopted a comprehensive statewide clean indoor air policy in late 2007. A comprehensive citywide smoking ban took effect March 31, 2005, in Minneapolis and on March 31, 2006, in St. Paul.

In Minneapolis, bar jobs increased more than 5 percent after passage of the city’s smoking ban, while in St. Paul bar employment had a statistically insignificant decrease.

“These clean indoor air policies are designed to protect workers from exposure to secondhand smoke,” Klein, an assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion, said in a statement.

“We are evaluating business employment because employment is an objective measure of the overall economic health of these businesses.”

There hasn’t been a significant economic effect for bars, and in fact for restaurants, there has been some positive change in employment, Klein 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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U.S. Farmers Need Help with Challenges

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) — New challenges and expanding needs mean pressure on U.S. farmers who will need new agricultural policies and research to sustain them, a report says.

Asked to produce more, pollute less, predict consumer preference and still make a living, farmers will need help from national agricultural policies that look beyond just low costs and high production, a National Research Council report released Tuesday said.

“If farmers are going to meet future demands, the U.S. agriculture system has to evolve to become sustainable and think broadly — past the bottom line of producing the most possible,” says Julia Kornegay, chairwoman of the committee that wrote the report and professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

The report identified four goals considered necessary for sustainable agriculture: satisfying human food, fiber and feed requirements; enhancing environmental quality; maintaining the economic viability of agriculture; and improving the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole.

Reaching those goals will mean long-term research, education, outreach and experimentation by the public and private sectors in partnership with farmers, the report 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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Apartment Dwellers Exposed to Tobacco

BOSTON, June 19 (UPI) — Non-smokers who live in U.S. public housing are exposed to toxins from tobacco smoke and smoking should be banned in such housing, two U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Dr. Jonathan Winickoff of MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Michelle Mello of the Harvard School of Public Health said more than 7 million people live in public housing, with four in 10 units occupied by families with children.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a memorandum last year that encouraged local public housing authorities to implement no-smoking policies in some or all of their housing units but only about 4 percent have banned smoking in the units they manage.

Winickoff’s and Mello’s article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, details how smoking in a single unit within a multi-unit building puts other residents of the building at risk. The article gives specific guidance on policy options for public housing authorities and HUD and clarifies that there are no legal barriers to banning smoking in public housing.

“Research shows that those living in multiple-unit housing are being exposed to toxins from tobacco smoke,” Winickoff says in a statement. “Even if you are not a smoker and don’t smoke inside of your own apartment, if you have a neighbor who is smoking inside of his, the entire building is contaminated.”

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.

Posted in Other, Policies & Solutions, Smoking0 Comments

Hazard Seen from Burning Leaking Oil

LOS ANGELES, June 18 (UPI) — Burning off oil from the ruined Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico creates toxic byproducts that could be a health hazard, one expert says.

Dr. Phil Harber, head of Occupational and Environmental Medicine division at UCLA, says people living on nearby shorelines could be affected, CNN reported Friday.

Depending on the scope and duration of the burn, Harber said, “People with asthma, or who are very young, or who have cardiac disease, are much more likely to be sensitive the released pollutants.”

The black cloud rising from the cleanup burn contains small particles that can wind up in the lungs. Gases such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, and volatile hydrocarbons are also a health concern, CNN said.

The Environmental Protection Agency says air-quality levels for ozone and particulates on the Gulf Coast are no different from usual for this time of year.

But hospitals have reported complaints from several dozen cleanup workers of headaches, nausea and dizziness, CNN reported.

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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Great Lakes Groundwater Threats Assessed

WINDSOR, Ontario, June 16 (UPI) — The Great Lakes Science Advisory Board issued a bi-national assessment Wednesday of threats to groundwater in the Great Lakes basin.

The report, prepared for the International Joint Commission, notes groundwater in the Great Lakes basin is similar in volume to Lake Michigan and provides a source of drinking water for millions of basin residents.

“Yet this major component of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem receives inadequate attention in policies designed to protect Great Lakes water quality,” officials said.

“Annex 16, which was added to the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1987, acknowledges that contaminated groundwater affects the boundary waters of the Great Lakes System and specifies how the two countries should coordinate their existing programs to control this phenomenon,” the report says. “Despite these connections, groundwater receives less attention in the agreement than it should. Newer government programs for source water protection do include groundwater, but Annex 16 is the shortest annex in the agreement.”

The agreement is currently being renegotiated by the governments of Canada and the United States.

The report is available at http://www.ijc.org/php/publications/pdf/ID1637.pdf.

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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