Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is small always better in education?

According to a NYTimes article, Brockton High School has been successful in a school-wide effort to improve performance in a school that originally had only a quarter of students passing state-wide exams and 1 in 3 students dropping out. This year, with Brockton surpassing 90% of Massachusetts high schools in state educational tests, many are looking to learn more from a school whose large scale success seems to be an exception to the opinion that smaller is better.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Emergency care becoming the new primary care?

On CNN's On The Chart blog, the author focuses on the possibility that emergency care has become the new primary care center in America. Citing September's issue of Health Affairs, it appears that less than half of the 345 million annual visits for acute-care problems take place with one's personal physician. Nearly a third of these visits occur in the E.R., with an enormous chunk of these occurrences not really fitting a true definition of the word "emergency".

The author believes that providing health insurance for a country's people is a basic tenet of a civilized society and questions the priorities of those who are looking to chip at the recently passed health care legislation.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Diabetes risk and magnesium

According to a new study released in Diabetes Care, study participants who had a higher intake level of magnesium were less likely to develop the disease. The study looked at both men and women between 18-30 years of age and followed the participants for 20 years. Out of the 4,497 participants, 330 developed diabetes. People who had the highest level of magnesium intake were 47 percent less likely to have developed diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Roundup

Here is a listing of of articles of interest published within the last 7-10 days:

1. New health care changes are only the beginning,, Sep. 23, 2010
Brief Intro:"The Armstrongs' story is familiar to many young adults and their families, and the frustration of being uninsured is taking its toll on people of all age groups. Thursday, six months after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, several provisions go into effect. Health officials are hoping this first wave of changes will "put consumers in charge of their health care." This week, President Obama unveiled a website to help provide critical information to consumers regarding the legislation."

2. Insurers scramble to comply with new rules,, Sep. 22, 2010
Brief Intro:"The first big wave of new rules under the federal health care law goes into effect on Thursday, leaving many insurers scrambling to get ahead of the changes."

3. Chronically ill, and covered,, Sep. 22, 2010
Brief Intro:"Joe and Mary Thompson had agreed to adopt Emily before her birth in 1999, and it never occurred to them to back out when she was born with spina bifida. But that same year, their residential remodeling business in Overland Park, Kan., went under, prompting job changes that left the family searching for health coverage with a child who was uninsurable."

4. Obese kids face bias from parents,, Sep. 23, 2010
Brief Intro:"Studies have shown parents are less likely to help overweight or obese offspring pay for college but researchers from the University of North Texas in Denton have also found parents may be less willing to help their overweight child buy a car."

1. City reports nearly a fivefold increase in students repeating a grade,, Sep. 23, 2010
Brief Intro: "The number of New York City elementary and middle school students who failed to move on to the next grade skyrocketed this school year, as weak students faced a higher bar on state tests and the broadening of the city’s tough promotion policy.

Nearly five times as many students in the third through eighth grades are being required to repeat a grade this year compared with last year, the city announced on Thursday. The weakest performance was in the eighth grade: 5,017 students, or 8 percent of all eighth graders, were held back."

Vulnerable Populations
1. Some Obama allies fear school lunch bill could rob food stamp program,, Sep. 23, 2010
Brief Intro:"At issue is how to pay for additional spending on the school lunch program and other child nutrition projects eagerly sought by the White House. A bill that the House is expected to consider within days would come up with some of the money by cutting future food stamp benefits.

When the Senate passed the bill in early August, Mrs. Obama said she was thrilled. But anti-hunger groups were not. They deluged House members on Thursday with phone calls and e-mails expressing alarm."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A call for providing e-readers to students

A short article on PBS' Need to Know blog discuses how Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York is calling for the provision of e-readers to public students. By Weiner's estimation, the use of digital textbooks could save public schools thousands of dollars by eliminating the purchase of print books that cost about $137/pupil in Weiner's home city of New York.

The switch to e-readers would of course be a big boon to manufacturers who are trying to reach a textbook market worth almost $10 billion.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The cost of obesity

An interesting article on MSNBC takes a look at the cost of obesity for both men and women. George Washington University researchers found that the annual cost of obesity for women was $4,789 for a woman and $2,646 for a man. Items factored in include employee sick days, lost productivity and even more gasoline. This outweighs the costs of just being overweight, $524 for women and $432 for men.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is Child Obesity an Infectious Disease?

In USNWR, an article discusses the possibility of childhood obesity being linked to a cold virus. The new report in Pediatrics that focused on the possibility, found that children exposed to the adenovirus 36 were more likely to be obese than those who were never infected. About 22 percent of the children with the antibodies were obese compared to 7 percent of normal-weight children.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Documentary of Interest: Vision Test

This short film is an excellent tool that helps the viewer think about the biases one may have when it comes to selecting both males and females of different races to be the next president, a business owner, a supervisor, or a mate for their own children. The film closes out with a vision test for the viewer to determine what their biases are when it comes to the question of what is more American when it comes to religion, art, and historical leaders.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Roundup

These stories have been published in the last 7-10 days and have been categorized under subjects of interest.

1. Recession raises poverty rate to a 15 year high,, September 16, 2010

Brief Intro:"With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance."

2. Census: 1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty, Yahoo News, September 16, 2010

Brief Intro:" The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.

The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Barack Obama's first year in office."

1. Teaching doctors about nutrition and diet,, September 16, 2010

Brief Intro: "Research has increasingly pointed to a link between the nutritional status of Americans and the chronic diseases that plague them. Between the growing list of diet-related diseases and a burgeoning obesity epidemic, the most important public health measure for any of us to take may well be watching what we eat.

But few doctors are prepared to effectively spearhead or even help in those efforts. In the mid-1980s, the National Academy of Sciences published a landmark report highlighting the lack of adequate nutrition education in medical schools; the writers recommended a minimum of 25 hours of nutrition instruction. Now, in a study published this month, it appears that even two and a half decades later a vast majority of medical schools still fail to meet the minimum recommended 25 hours of instruction."

2. Can exercise make kids smarter?,, September 15, 2010

Brief Intro:"Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains."

3. Number of insured drops for first time,, September 16, 2010

Brief Intro:"The number of people with health insurance in the United States dropped for the first time in 23 years, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.

There were 253.6 million people with health insurance in 2009, the latest data available, down from 255.1 million a year earlier."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Documentary of Interest: Struggling to Survive

This documentary takes a look at Letcher County in Kentucky that had considered a living wage proposal in 1999. Many of the businesses state that they can't afford to pay a living wage to their employees. The Living Wage bill failed to pass but there are plans to bring the bill back up for another vote before the newly elected Fiscal Court.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Documentary of Interest: Immersion

This film takes a look at Moises, a ten year old student in a new school who struggles to communicate in his new school with limited access to his native language. The student portrayed in the film is exceedingly bright, but with his limited English skills and no access to English as a second language programs at his school, his educational experience is negatively affected.

I highly recommend this film to those who are interested in learning more about the educational experiences of students who are non-native speakers of English.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Documentary of Interest: Day Job

This Media That Matters short documentary takes a look at who the day laborers are. Many of the day laborers have children to support, but are finding it increasingly harder to find work. Sometimes fights breakout with men not having worked for two or more weeks. While the film states that the median wage for a day laborer is $10 an hour, many of the workers find that the people who hired them at the wage negotiated prior to the job, end up giving them much less once the job is done.

This film is highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the day laborer population.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Documentary of Interest: Uninsured in the Mississippi Delta

This short Media That Matters documentary takes a look at the uninsured in the Mississippi Delta. The Delta region is one of the most impoverished and uninsured areas in the nation. The film focuses on those people who are working but are making too much for Medicare, but too little to buy their own insurance. Greenville, MS, has the highest rate of uninsured households in the country with 34% of households lacking coverage. Those who lack coverage usually wait until the condition becomes serious before seeking aid as they can't afford the doctor's visit to resolve the issue at the very beginning.

This film is highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the obstacles to health care that the working poor face today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Roundup

Here is a listing of articles of interest published within the last 7-10 days:

1. B vitamins shown to slow progression of dementia,, September 9, 2010

Brief Intro: "Daily tablets of large doses of B vitamins can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with memory problems and may slow their progression toward dementia, data from a British trial showed on Wednesday,

Scientists from Oxford University said their two-year clinical trial was the largest to date into the effect of B vitamins on so-called "mild cognitive impairment" -- a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia."

2. Pre-teen brothers battle obesity: One family's story,, September 9, 2010

Brief Intro: "Last spring, Doubrava decided to take action, thanks in part to the help of a Cleveland Clinic program that targets the heaviest kids and their families.

She banned soda from her family’s refrigerator and cut out fast food and high-fat snacks. She filled bowls with fruit and platters with vegetables and she sent everyone outside for long walks and bicycle rides."

3. Too little sleep raises obesity risks in children,, September 8, 2010

Brief Intro: "Children aged four and under who get less than 10 hours of sleep a night are nearly twice as likely to be overweight or obese five years later, according to a U.S. study. Researchers from the University of California and University of Washington in Seattle looked at the relationship between sleep and weight in 1,930 children aged 0 to 13 years old who took part in a survey in 1997 and again five years later in 2002.

For children who were four years old or younger at the time of the first survey, sleeping for less than 10 hours a night was associated with nearly a twofold increased risk of being overweight or obese at the second survey."

4. Kids eligible for, absent from, U.S. health programs,, September 8, 2010

Brief Intro: "An estimated five million uninsured children in the United States were eligible for Medicaid or the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP) but were not enrolled in either plan, according to a new report.

The study published Friday in the journal Health Affairs recommended policy reforms and broader efforts to get uninsured children into government medical programs, including the use of income tax data for automatic enrollment."


1. Teachers get chance to fix poorer schools,, September 6, 2010

Brief Intro: "Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?"

2. Feds are investigating Arizona's stance on teacher fluency,, September 8, 2010

Brief Intro: "Arizona's superintendent of public instruction says the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice are investigating whether the state discriminates against teachers whose first language isn't English, according to the Associated Press.

The AP news comes from a story published by The Arizona Republic. It says that in April, state education officials began telling school districts to fire teachers who weren't fluent in English. However, state officials have contested that version of events to me, as I've reported on this blog. State officials sent me a copy of a protocol that shows they monitor the fluency of teachers of English-language learners."

Race and Culture

1. Anger flares in L.A. after fatal police shooting,, September 8, 2010

Brief Intro: "City officials and Guatemalan leaders have moved to calm feelings and quell anger after the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan construction worker by a Los Angeles police officer set off two nights of violent protests in a neighborhood populated largely by Central American immigrants.

On Monday and Tuesday nights, people perched on rooftops in the Westlake district were seen hurling objects at officers in riot gear as they sought to control crowds of as many of 300 people who were yelling and waving fists. The Rampart police station was pelted with rocks, bottles and eggs, officials said,"

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Racial violence in Philadelphia school

A recent MSNBC article describes the racial violence occurring between Asian and African-American students at a Philadelphia high school. According to some, the friction has been caused not because of racial hatred but because of simmering resentment against the perceived benefits for Asian students. The resentment came to a head one day with close to 30 Asian students being injured by mostly African-American students. Past attacks had been reported to school officials and police, but students said that nothing had changed.

Most students blame the attacks on a small group of trouble-makers and don't endorse the violent actions that have been taken against another minority group. In the wake of this violence, the school has established 50-50 programs that bring together groups of Asian and African-American students to participate in school-sponsored group outings. In addition, more bilingual trainers and diversity training has been added.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Florida's Foreclosure Courts

According to a NYT article, Florida has set up special foreclosure courts to reduce the backlog of foreclosure cases by 62% in a year. Attorneys who represent those that are being foreclosed on have complained that the courts favor the institutions rather than the homeowners. According to April Charney, an attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, you only get a five-minute hearing on the case and likened the new system like "a factory".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Employers pass on more health costs to workers

According to a recent article in the New York Times, a survey has shown that employers are passing on more of the health costs to employees. The employee contribution towards family coverage rose an average of 14% or $500 more than what employees paid last year. Workers now pay close to $4,000 for a family policy, which translates into a jump of 47% since 2005.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Documentary of Interest: I am Sean Bell

This short film by Media That Matters takes a look at the plight of young black males and the fears and hopes they possess in a city where the lives of young black men are often cut short. This film interviews young African-American males on their opinions of the Sean Bell incident and how the incident has affected them in their everyday lives.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Roundup

Here are articles of interest that have been published within the last 7-10 days:

1. Majority of Caesareans done before labor, August 31, 2010, New York Times
Brief Intro: "A new study suggests several reasons for the nation’s rising Caesarean section rate, including the increased use of drugs to induce labor, the tendency to give up on labor too soon and deliver babies surgically instead of waiting for nature to take its course, and the failure to allow women with previous Caesareans to try to give birth vaginally."

2. Returning to classrooms and to severe headaches, August 30, 2010, New York Times
Brief Intro: "Doctors say frequent headaches and migraines are among the most common childhood health complaints, yet the problem gets surprisingly little attention from the medical community. Many pediatricians and parents view migraines as an adult condition. And because many children complain of headaches more often during the school year than the summer, parents often think a child is exaggerating symptoms to get out of schoolwork."

3. Child's ordeal shows risks of psychosis drugs for young, September 1, 2010, New York Times
Brief Intro: "More than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are now taking antipsychotic drugs, according to a September 2009 report by the Food and Drug Administration. Their use is growing not only among older teenagers, when schizophrenia is believed to emerge, but also among tens of thousands of preschoolers.

A Columbia University study recently found a doubling of the rate of prescribing antipsychotic drugs for privately insured 2- to 5-year-olds from 2000 to 2007. Only 40 percent of them had received a proper mental health assessment, violating practice standards from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry."

4. Improving access to health care data, September 1, 2010, JAMA
Brief Into: "The April 2010 release of the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS’) Open Government strategy was a major step forward in expanding health data access. The DHHS developed the strategy in response to President Obama's Open Government Directive.."

Vulnerable Populations
1. Deal would provide dialysis to illegal immigrants in Atlanta, August 31, 2010, New York Times
Brief Intro: "Thirty-eight end-stage renal patients, most of them illegal immigrants, would receive the dialysis they need to stay alive at no cost under a rough agreement brokered Tuesday among local dialysis providers and Atlanta’s safety-net hospital, Grady Memorial."


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Documentary of Interest: No One Bothered

This short documentary takes a look at a homeless couple in England and their living experience. The film provides a good lesson of the kinds of hurdles that the homeless endure everyday while out on the streets.

Documentary of Interest: Denied

The short film follows cancer patient, Sheila Wessenberg, as she tries to fight her cancer while having no insurance. As a cancer patient, Sheila finds herself with no insurance as insurance plans are reluctant to take her due to her preexisting condition. At the beginning of her illness, she was covered under her husband's medical insurance, but as a contract worker, his contract was not renewed. They were under COBRA for awhile, but could no longer pay the premiums.

Sheila ultimately had to drop out of chemotherapy and was told by her doctor to go to the county hospital. She went in for another checkup and was told the cancer had spread but the nurse on the phone told her that they could not help her as she did not have insurance.

I highly recommend this video to those interested in learning more about the serious barriers uninsured patients face.