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

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Austin Community College students and staff who make a New Year’s resolution to stop smoking will have an added incentive when they head back to school: ACC’s smoke-free policy takes effect on January 2.

The policy was adopted by the ACC board in October and bans smoking anywhere on college grounds or inside ACC-owned vehicles. Signs reminding people about the new policy will be set up over the winter break.

Photo by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has turned down Texas’ request to run a family planning program that excludes certain providers — namely Planned Parenthood — saying it’s a violation of the federal Social Security Act.

Photo by Todd Wiseman

The cuts could take effect on January 1st and would make Texas’ Medicaid spending on par with other states. But therapy providers worry it could leave many patients without services.

According to Stephanie Goodman, spokesperson with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the organization reviews its rates from time to time.

"Recently we looked at our therapy rates and found out that in Texas, for some reason, we’re paying substantially higher than other states.”

Physical, occupational, and speech therapy services would all be affected, including both out-patient and in-home care. Mary Hennigan with the Texas Occupational Therapy Association says it should come as no surprise that those types of treatment are expensive.

Elena Adams lives in East Austin and has three children. Her youngest was born prematurely with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.

Adams was shocked when she found out, because her other two kids are healthy. Doctors told Adams her son Smith would not be able to walk or talk.  

But Smith is slowly proving them wrong. He can speak and is trying to walk on his own. 

Adams has a hard time affording treatment, but she gets a little bit of state money and help from organizations like Any Baby Can.

Now, she's optimistic about the future.

“You can’t really stress about a lot of problems,” she said. “You just have to let them go the way they’re supposed to go.”

Jeff Heimsath shot and edited KUT's video interview with Adams. Check it out above. 

Photo by Graham via http://www.flickr.com/photos/gragsie/

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Since 1988, December 1st has been observed around the globe as a day to draw attention to the continuing battle against HIV and AIDS, as well as to those who've lost that battle.

According to Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, about 200 people contract HIV in Central Texas each year. There are a handful of events around Austin Thursday, giving people a chance to learn about the struggles of living with HIV and also to honor those who have died of AIDS.

One all-day event, World AIDS Day: Austin Remembers, Austin Responds, will take place at the For the City Center at 500 E. St Johns Ave. from 8:30 am until about 9:00 pm. 

Photo courtesy of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

The University of Texas is committing $75 million to kick start the new Institute for Applied Cancer Science, which will focus on speeding up the discovery and delivery of effective cancer drugs at a time when pharmaceutical companies have scaled back research and development.

Gov. Rick Perry, taking a break from his busy pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination, was on hand for the announcement at the south campus of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, site of the new facility, in Houston on Monday. Perry said the institute would help Texas cement its position as a leader in cancer research and scientific innovation.

“I believe this state represents a unique crossroads, a place where academic research can come together with a very vibrant private sector to tap into this steadily growing biosciences sector. We’re just scratching the surface of its potential,” Perry said. “We’re creating a culture that will help ensure that great ideas that are born in Texas will stay in Texas, from the laboratory to the marketplace, and then we will export them around the world.”

Who didn't see this coming?

The Supreme Court has added a case challenging the constitutionality of the provision of last year's health overhaul requiring nearly every American to have health insurance beginning in the year 2014 to the list of cases it will hear this term.

This morning on KUT, we reported on the challenges people with autism face when trying to find gainful employment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports increases in the prevalence of autism. Meanwhile, the state legislature slashed spending that would help people afflicted by the disorder.

One of the people we talked to was Daniel Shackelford. He has Asperger’s Syndrome but was able find gainful employment at Seton Medical Center through a privately run program called Project SEARCH. You can hear more from Shackelford in the video above, shot and edited by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

Photo by Daquella Manera http://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/

Five obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) groups in the greater Austin-area hope to reduce costs and improve their quality of care by merging into a single network called Central Texas OB/GYN Associates or CTOA for short.

The five OB/GYN groups are Austin Area Obstetrics, Gynecology & Fertility, Oakwood Women’s Centre, Renaissance Women’s Group, the OB/GYN Group of Austin, and Women Partners in Health.

Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Austin Groups for the Elderly held a Medicare workshop Saturday, the first day of the annual Medicare enrollment period. This year the annual enrollment period is earlier than usual. It also ends earlier, December 7th.

Photo by Rosemary http://www.flickr.com/photos/rvoegtli/

Medicare payments to doctors are scheduled to be slashed by almost 30 percent in January unless Congress does something to stop that from happening. A new poll of Texas doctors shows that half of them would stop taking Medicare patients if the cuts take effect.

Medicare is a federal program that provides health insurance to about 47 million people over the age of 65. It also costs taxpayers $452 billion a year.

“Our Medicare patients are like family to us, but most doctors in Texas run small businesses,” former Texas Medical Association (TMA) president Sue Bailey told KUT News. “We have employees to pay. We have rents and utilities to pay just like any small business.”

Photo by Linda Tanner http://www.flickr.com/photos/goingslo/

A disease transmitted by blood sucking parasites may be more common in Texas than scientists previously thought. New research released by the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin suggests suggest South Texas in particular is an area of high risk for Chagas infection.

The tropical parasite triatomine is known commonly as the "kissing bug" because it loves biting faces. Here’s a of one of the bugs to give a sense of scale. 

Photo by Jarekt https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/wiki/User:Jarekt

Texas joined 25 other states today in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the the health care overhaul championed by President Obama is unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Justice filed its own appeal of a lower court ruling, arguing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should stand as is. The showdown could provide an up-or-down vote on the law in the middle of the 2012 campaign season.

The filling from the 26 states targets three core provisions of the act:

Photo by Images of Money http://www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/

More than two out of five children with cancer in Texas rely on Medicaid for health care, according to an analysis of Medicaid in Texas by Families USA, a non-profit organization that advocates for affordable health care. The report comes as a showdown looms in Washington over how to manage costs of the chronically underfunded program.

Photo by breahn http://www.flickr.com/photos/rueful/

Services for sexual assault victims are significantly lacking in Texas, according to a new survey out of the UT-Austin. 

The study said, for example, that emergency room wait times for sex assault victims are so long that they often leave before receiving treatment and reporting the assault.

"Sexual assault crimes persist as a social problem in Texas and the need to propel this issue to the public's attention is pressing," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Noël Busch-Armendariz said in a press release.

Daniel Reese/KUT News

Lawmakers and local leaders are hopeful a plan unanimously adopted at Thursday's University of Texas System Board of Regents meeting means they could finally get what they've long been waiting for: a new medical school.

Photo by Flickr user ElenahNeshcuet

A new study co-authored by a University of Texas at Austin psychologist finds sexually active teenagers in romantic relationships are less likely to exhibit anti-social behavior than their peers who have casual sex.

Photo by Sanofi Pasteur http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanofi-pasteur/

It’s almost time for children to return to school, and students entering kindergarten or pre-K and the 7th grade are required to be vaccinated. Parents may also request an exemption from state vaccination requirements using this form.   

Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services offers vaccinations at two locations in Austin: St. John Community Center on 7500 Blessing Ave and the Far South Health Clinic at 405 West Stassney.  Call 972-5520 to make an appointment. It costs $10, but they won’t turn away people who can’t pay. 

A U.S. appeals court has found the mandate in President Obama's health care law that requires individuals to purchase health insurance to be unconstitutional. The 2-1 ruling, on a suit brought by 26 states, agreed with a lower court in rejecting the "individual mandate," but it disagreed with the lower court's finding that the rest of the law must be struck down.

Photo by Kelsey Sheridan

A University of Texas study found that 90 percent of bag lunches brought to school by preschool students were kept at temperatures that could result in food-borne illnesses.

The researchers took the temperatures of 700 preschoolers lunch's at nine different Texas child care centers. Forty-five percent of the lunches had at least one ice pack and 39 percent had none.

Photo courtesy Cargill Meat Solutions

In one of the largest meat recalls in American history, Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey products that may have been contaminated with a drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.  Many of the products are sold at HEB, Randall’s, and other local grocery stores.

Photo by m_morgavan http://www.flickr.com/photos/m_morgavan/

The federal government has issued a public health alert, warning people about eating ground turkey. The Food Safety and Inspection Service has not named specific brands, but says it is monitoring an outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg that appears to be linked to consumption of the meat.

Seventy-seven illnesses, including one death, have been reported in 26 states. But no recall has been issued.

Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The Austin Child Guidance Center celebrated its 60th anniversary this weekend with an open house at its 45th Street location. The Center has help treat 130,000 Austin children with mental health issues. This year may be one of the most challenging for the Center. Executive Director Russell Smith says 84 percent of the children that come to the Center live at 200 percent the federal poverty level or below. Most can qualify for some type of state health program such as CHIP or Medicaid.

Photo by Hannah Jones for KUT News.

The reality weight loss TV show “The Biggest Loser” came to Austin Saturday in search of new contestants for its thirteenth season. The casting call drew a good crowd to the Long Center where the try-outs were held. Michael Goana waited in line with hundreds of others.

“Life's a game itself,” he said.

Even papayas can spread salmonellla, it turns out.

There's a recall of papayas from Mexico after testing by the Food and Drug Administration found samples from Agromod Produce had the same strain of bacteria seen in outbreaks of salmonella affecting 97 people in 23 states.

McAllen, Texas-based Agromod Produce distributes four papaya brands: Blondie, Mananita, Tastylicious and Yaya.

Photo by Clinton & Charles Robertson http://www.flickr.com/photos/dad_and_clint/116297459/

The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting a high number of rabies cases, especially in Central and North Texas. The extreme heat and drought is causing wild animals to search for food and water for longer periods of time and closer to human habitat, causing clashes with people and their pets.

Photo by Maʝicdölphin http://www.flickr.com/photos/majicdolphin/

Mass killings dominated the media this weekend with a string of shootings in the United States following just hours after a murderous rampage in Oslo. Some of the violence since Friday included:

A local psychotherapist says the deluge of grim news can be a trigger for people already trying to cope with grief. For those with a history of trauma, mental illness or personal losses, it can actually be harmful, according to two local experts.

Photo courtesy of jennfinley at http://flickr.com/people/jennfinley/

One in four gay, lesbian or transgender teens and 15 percent of bisexual teens are homeless, according to a study issued by the American Journal of Public Health. This is in contrast to three percent of heterosexual teens who are homeless. The study was made up of 6,300 Boston, Mass. public high school students.

Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection

A new state law passed by the 2011 Legislature requires any college student under 30 who attends classes on a Texas campus must be vaccinated against meningitis. Previously only students who lived on campus needed one.

An amendment that conservative state lawmakers hoped would wipe out the only taxpayer-funded elective abortions in Texas ultimately might not do much at all.

One of many tacked onto an omnibus health care bill during the Legislature's special session in June, the amendment by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, aims to remove state funding from any hospital district — a health care system financed by city or county tax dollars – that provides elective abortions.

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