Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Roundup

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

1. New vaccine a game changer for polio, BBC, October 26, 2010
Brief Intro: Dr. Bruce Aylward, the Director of World Health Organization's Polio Eradication Initiative, tells the BBC World News Service that a new vaccine is changing the fight against polio.

2. Health insurance companies drop NM policies for individuals, small groups, The New Mexico Independent, October 26, 2010
Brief Intro: Four health insurance companies (National Health, Aetna, John Alden, and Principal), have notified the New Mexico Division of Insurance that they will no longer write individual of small group plans in New Mexico. Some companies discontinuing coverage may or may not renew their customers' existing policies.

3. 1 in 3 Americans could have Diabetes by 2050, RTT News, October 26, 2010
Brief Intro: A new report from the CDC suggests that the national diabetes rate could skyrocket by the year 2050 if the obesity rate continues to rise.

1. Making things hard to read 'can boost learning', BBC, October 22, 2010
Brief Intro: According to an article published in the international journal Cognition, researchers at Princeton University recruited 28 volunteers for a study to determine if difficult to read font can improve learning and information retention. Researchers found that those given a more difficult to read font actually recalled 14% more of what they had read.

The research team then decided to tested their results on 222 Chesterland, Ohio students that were between 15-18 years old. They found that students given the harder-to-read materials actually scored higher on classroom assignments than their control group counterparts.

2. Year-round school gains ground around U.S., MSNBC, October 27, 2010
Brief Intro: The Indianapolis School Board are soon scheduled to make a decision about whether or not they should adopt year-round classes. If the measure is approved, pupils would go to school in cycles of eight to ten weeks, with three to five weeks off after each, throughout the year. According to Indianapolis Superintendent Eugene White, the new plan would add 20 class days to the school year and provide more frequent, shorter breaks that would allow the students to come back refreshed but retain more of what they have been taught.

Report paints portraits of costliest patients

In a recent New York Times article, a recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality took a look at data collected to analyze the 2 million most expensive stays in short term non-federal hospitals during 2008. Fifty-four percent of the patients were male with an average age of 58, and they were more likely to live in the Western half of the United States. The five most common diagnoses were: sepsis, clogged coronary arteries, heart attack, respiratory failure, and complications arising from the use of a medical device, implant or graph.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evaluating school leaders

A recent article in Time takes a look at how school leadership should hold teachers accountable for student outcomes. A recent report by New Leaders for New Schools, concluded that "most principal evaluation systems tend to focus too much on the wrong things, lack clear performance standards, and lack rigor in both their design and attention to implementation." The report offers four principles to create the conditions for principles to lead in the first place. They are:

1. Base principal evaluations largely on student outcomes
2. Ensure that the central office staff, i.e., the district employees who support and oversee schools, are likewise held accountable for principal effectiveness
3. Create demanding performance expectations and real accountability and allow for professional growth and improvement
4. Ensure that the evaluation system itself can be modified and improved over time

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More working families getting food stamps

According to a recent Time article, more working families are getting food stamps. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that 30 states have adopted rules that make it easier to qualify for food stamps since 2007. In all, 38 states have loosened eligibility standards. With more than 1 in 8 Americans on food stamps, participation in the program has jumped about 70% from 26 million in 2007. The nation's economic down turn is credited for helping push up participation numbers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bitter taste receptors in lungs

According to a recent Time article, a group of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have discovered bitter taste receptors on human lungs. The interesting part of this find is that when exposed to bitter substances, these receptors resulted in a swift and thorough relaxation of lung muscles that allowed for freer breathing.

The discovery may lead to the development of new medications for asthma patients.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Employers may win U.S. health law exemption

According to an article on Bloomberg, employers may be allowed to switch health insurers and still be shielded from costly coverage changes called for in recent health care legislation. Under the health law passed in March, companies who change plans must provide added services like preventive care. Talks are taking place to determine whether employers should be able to avoid the new requirements, even with a new insurer, as long as benefit levels stay the same.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Using psychology in the school lunch line

According to an article on, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $2 million initiative that will fund food behavior scientists to find ways in which they can use psychology to improve kids' use of the federal school lunch program and fight childhood obesity. With almost a third of children and teens obese, schools are looking for ways to help students make healthy choices themselves, as other methods have backfired or proved to be ineffective.