Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

A new facility for older Austinites is scheduled to open soon in south Austin. It will serve those with memory impairments like Alzheimer’s or dementia. The “Silverado Senior Living” plans to house 90 people.  Right now, the only facilities like it are in Round Rock.  But, the needs of Austin’s elderly population continue to grow at a fast pace.

Silverado Senior Living is a private facility. Loren Shook is the company’s CEO.  He says “there are thousands of people within the city of Austin that are suffering from this disease [Alzheimer’s] and we are very confident there is sufficient resources in the market for people to afford our services ”

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

The new state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program began on Jan. 1. It provides low income women in Texas with basic health screenings and contraception. State officials said the new program began with more capacity to serve clients then the program had when it was federally funded. But at least one state lawmaker believes there’s a problem with the agency’s list of providers.

Austin Democrat Donna Howard has been worried about the Women’s Health Program since the state said it would create its own version of the program. That came after the state moved to exclude clinics affiliated with abortion providers – such as Planned Parenthood – from participating, which led the federal government to announce it was pulling all funding. Howard was worried when she wrote a letter to the Health and Human Services Commission asking for information about new providers.

Texas Tribune

The state of Texas launched its Women’s Health Program this week. Texas is funding the program on its own because the federal government pulled money after the state blocked Planned Parenthood from participating.

The Texas version still serves low income women who would qualify for Medicaid if they became pregnant. It will cover about 110,000 women between 18 and 44 years old with free well-woman exams, basic health and certain family planning services.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Update: Here's a statement from Gov. Rick Perry: 

“Today’s ruling finally clears the way for thousands of low-income Texas women to access much-needed care, while at the same time respecting the values and laws of our state. I applaud all those who stand ready to help these women live healthy lives without sending taxpayer money to abortion providers and their affiliates.”

Original post: A judge has ruled against granting Planned Parenthood a temporary restraining order that would prevent it from being kicked out of the state’s new Women’s Health Program.

Texas officials plan to launch a new program on Jan. 1 that will provide family planning services, well-woman exams and more, but will exclude clinics affiliated with abortion providers – mainly Planned Parenthood, which historically has provided over approximately half the services in the program.

Tim Gueramy and Tracey Haas, docbookmd.com

On the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s likely that your doctor’s office may be closed at some point.

But doctors are never really off. There’s always someone on-call to take care of emergencies. And that someone could be from the Gueramy-Haas household here in Austin. The two-doctor home took some valuable lessons from a day of back-to-back emergencies and turned them into a better way to care for their patients.

Picture this: you’ve been married to the love of your life for almost a year. You’ve carefully selected the restaurant where you’ll have dinner on your anniversary, and you’ve made sure every detail is meaningful. When the big night arrives, everything is just as you’d imagined it: Both of you look sharp. The appetizers arrive. And … we’ll let Tracey Haas take it from here:

flickr.com/scatx

Update: A decision on whether to allow women in Texas to receive government subsidized health screenings through Planned Parenthood will not be issued until hours before the organization could be cut off by the state.  

Visting judge Gary Harger today delayed a decision until Monday, Dec. 31 at 1:15 p.m. over whether to extend the temporary restraining order requested by Planned Parenthood. The order would ensure continued funding for Planned Parenthood through the Texas Women's Health Program, at least until another hearing on Jan. 11. 

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

When state lawmakers pushed to remove Planned Parenthood from Texas’ Women’s Health Program as part of an anti-abortion agenda, some questioned whether the state could absorb the cost of the change.

We still don’t know, because at year’s end, the legal battle over whether Texas can exclude Planned Parenthood – currently the largest provider in the program– is still being fought.

Here's an experiment you can try. But please be the scientist and not the test subject.

Watch people cross the street and note whether they're yakking on the phone, texting or bopping to tunes while they do it. If you're really ambitious, time how long it takes them to cross.

This past summer researchers from the University of Washington did it. They watched more than 1,100 pedestrians at the 20 intersections in Seattle that racked up the most pedestrian injuries over the last three years.

flickr.com/andymccarthyuk

The Austin Area Comprehensive HIV Planning Council is looking for volunteers.

Federal legislation for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program requires “that we have a board with committee members that reflect the make up of the community,” says the council’s John Waller. Recruiting new members is a normal part of the council’s charge, but Waller says with a new chair and other members recently having completed their terms, the council is looking for new members.

The council needs different types of volunteers: HIV positive Austin residents that use programs funded by Ryan White grants; local social and medical service providers; and community leaders.

With bedbugs bunking just about everywhere these days, people battling the bloodsucking insects may be tempted to try their hand at driving them away.

But ultrasonic bug zappers, which retail for less than $25, aren't the solution, say entomologists who tested some of the devices.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget in 2011 that moved $73 million from family planning services to other programs, the goal was largely political: halt the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Now they are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.

Friday marks a not-so-happy anniversary for some of President Obama's biggest supporters: It's exactly one year since Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided not to lift the age restrictions on availability of the so-called morning-after pill, Plan B.

Pakistan has made a lot of progress this year in wiping out polio. There are signs that one type of poliovirus is gone and transmission of other strains seems to be slowing.

But a recent outbreak of polio there has health officials concerned about the overall effectiveness of the effort to eliminate polio in that country.

Two years and $8.4 billion into the government's effort to get doctors to take their practices digital, some unintended consequences are starting to emerge.

One is a lot of unhappy doctors. In a big survey by Medscape, an online site for doctors, 38 percent of the doctors polled said they were unhappy with their electronic medical records system.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state’s cancer research agency has revealed it handed out an $11 million grant without reviewing the proposal.

It’s the latest challenge facing the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT.

The grant was awarded to Peloton Therapeutics in June 2010, making it one of CPRIT's first grants.

The cancer research institute says the oversight was discovered during an internal review.

Amanda Mills, Centers for Disease Control

The San Antonio-based Texas Biomedical Research Institute has applied for a patent for a new genetically engineered HIV vaccine. This new vaccine would provide lifelong protection from the disease with a single dose.

The vaccine is designed to target the cells that line the body’s surface structures. which are the point of entry into the body in approximately 90 percent of HIV cases. Once HIV enters the body through these cells, it quickly spreads to the lymph nodes and other organs, where it replicates throughout the body. The new vaccine would stimulate the body’s outer layers and cells to generate cells that produce antibodies to HIV. 

flickr.com/ag2r

Update: The City of Pflugerville says “The boil water notice is now lifted. Chlorine levels are now at required levels and water is safe to drink.” You can read more here.

Original post (Nov. 20, 7:02 a.m.): The City of Pflugerville is telling people in several subdivisions to boil their water until further notice. The city says a routine check of  the water revealed the chlorine level is too low.

People who live in Pflugerville Heights, Spring Trails, Springbrook and Enclave should boil tap water for at least two minutes before drinking, cooking and making ice.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

The holiday shopping season is here. But a consumer advocacy group wants to make sure you don’t buy toys that could endanger the health of children.

One example is the Fisher‑Price Dora the Explorer Guitar pictured above, according to Ilya Slavinski with the Texas Public Interest Research Group. 

“The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders recommends that no toy should be above 85 decibels. And this Dora Guitar clocked in at 93 decibels,” Slavinski said. “It’s dangerous and can lead to hearing loss.”

Online insurance markets set to begin selling health coverage to consumers next October may be hampered by software delays.

State regulators learned late last week that an electronic system most insurers will use to submit their policies for state and federal approvals won't be ready for testing next month, as originally planned. The lag is being blamed on the wait for several regulations from the Obama administration that are needed to update the software.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Ahead of a Friday deadline to decide, Gov. Rick Perry's office has reaffirmed that Texas will not implement a major tenet of federal health reform — a state-based online marketplace for consumers to purchase coverage.

That means the federal government will have to roll out a program for Texas instead. Every state must have an exchange by 2014, the year “Obamacare” — which many Republicans had hoped would be repealed if Mitt Romney won the presidency — requires most Americans to carry coverage.

Allison Castle, Perry’s spokeswoman, said Texas won’t design its own exchange because there is “really no such thing as a ‘state exchange.’”

flickr.com/aesum

Update: Nov. 11, 1:09 p.m.:

Dr. Philip Huang is the Medical Director for Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. He says there are still some people in the county who are very sick from the virus but he’s hopeful the death total won’t continue to rise.

Dr. Huang says it’s not clear if West Nile will be as big of a problem next year.

“This particular season with the warmer winter and then some of the spring rains seemed to be sort of the conditions that really promoted West Nile activity," Huang says. "So we don’t know how things are going to be next year. But I think there’s certainly some concern that there is going to be for the future continued increase in some mosquito activity and things in the Austin-Travis County area.”

Huang says the county has found mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile as recently as late October.

Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune

Planned Parenthood will continue participating in the Women’s Health Program — for now. Travis County District Judge Stephen Yelenosky on Thursday approved a temporary injunction to delay the state’s implementation of the “Affiliate Ban Rule,” which would bar the nonprofit from participating in the program, until a full trial can be held in December.

Planned Parenthood is "likely to prevail on their claim that the rule is inconsistent with the instructions of the Texas
Legislature," wrote Yelenosky in a letter authorizing the temporary injunction. 

Credit flickr.com/dogra, Lizzie Chen for KUT News

Update: Planned Parenthood received a temporary injunction against the state today. You can read more here

Original Post: Planned Parenthood is awaiting a judge’s ruling on their request to extend an injunction against the State of Texas banning its clinics from the Women’s Health Program. The program provides basic screenings and other health services for 130,000 low-income Texas women.

Texas is trying to enforce a law that says state money can’t go to clinics affiliated with abortion clinics. That would exclude Planned Parenthood, which has been the program’s largest provider.

Two weeks ago, Planned Parenthood won a temporary restraining order allowing its clinics to stay in the program. Now, Planned Parenthood is trying to extend the time its clinics can stay in the program.

After a shaky few years, President Obama's health care legacy looks secure.

His health overhaul law barely made it through Congress and to his desk. Then there were the legal challenges, launched when the ink of his signature was barely dry, that were resolved by a surprising Supreme Court ruling in June.

Credit Phalin Ooi, flickr.com/phalinn

While advocates of a proposed medical school in Austin claim that the region faces a looming doctor shortage, a recent study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio seemingly argues otherwise.

The San Antonio study, led by surgeon Ronald M. Stewart, M.D., examined changes in the number of physicians throughout the state of Texas, compared with changes in the general population, in the years after Texas lawmakers limited medical liability claims in 2003.

The study found that the number of physicians practicing in Texas grew by 44 percent since 2003, which is more than double the state's 21 percent overall population growth.

In the Austin-Round Rock region, Stewart's report found that the number of physicians per 100,000 people grew from 178 to 216 from 2002 to 2012.

Women's health providers in Texas have had Nov. 1 marked on their calendars for months. It was supposed to be the day the state-funded Women's Health Program would launch. But it hasn't. And it won't until, according to Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials, the federal government stops funding it or a final court decision is rendered.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

After spending years wading through temporary homes in the foster system – some for most of their lives – 28 children were adopted into permanent homes today during legal proceedings at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center on South Congress Avenue. It is one of dozens of events taking place across the state during National Adoption Month.

One of the adoptees was 18-year-old Alexander Wells, a teenager who had been removed from his biological family twice and had changed foster homes many times, according to a state official. Wells was smiling throughout the adoption proceeding as he sat next to his new mother and answered questions from their family attorney, Denise Hyde.

“Why is it important for Judge Hathaway to legally make you their child?” Hyde asked Wells.

“This is my new forever family,” he responded. “I get to come home for Christmas. I get to come home for all the holidays. It’s a place where I get to have a solid ground to come home to, a solid place. A home that I can call mine now.”

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

The Texas Women’s Health Program that excludes clinics like Planned Parenthood that are affiliated with abortion providers will not launch on Thursday as the state planned.

Despite comments Wednesday morning from Texas Health and Human Services Commission executive director Kyle Janek indicating the program would be ready to start on Nov. 1, an agency spokeswoman confirmed that the state-led program would not begin until ongoing court controversy over the issue is clarified.

Vampires and monsters will be out in force tonight, but some of the darkest creatures out there might be your little angels inside those Halloween costumes.

You can barely listen to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney make a speech or give an interview without hearing some variation of this vow:

"On Day 1 of my administration, I'll direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. And then I'll go about getting it repealed," he told Newsmax TV in September 2011.

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