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More Bad News About The Obesity Epidemic In America

A report released recently by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health issued some grim warnings about the current and future state of the U.S.’s obesity epidemic.

Bluntly titled “F is for fat: How obesity threatens America’s future 2011,” the report found that obesity rates rose in 16 states since 2010 and that more than 30% of people are obese in 12 states, compared with one state just four years ago. The South is still the worst-faring region—nine out of 10 states with the highest obesity rates are located there.

The report compared today’s data with data from 20 years ago, when no state’s obesity rate exceeded 15%. Now, only one state—Colorado—has a rate below 20%. The report also points out that despite the increased attention paid to obesity by government (not to mention the media), no states posted a decrease in rates over the past year. Diabetes and hypertension rates have also risen sharply over the past two decades, the report said.

Recommendations to address the problem include preserving and in some cases restoring federal funding for obesity prevention and implementing legislation to improve nutrition in schools, among others.

Meanwhile, two researchers are making headlines for proposing a more extreme solution: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

About The Placebo Effect

Placebos helped ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) even when patients knew that was what they were taking, a new study reports.

Researchers randomly assigned 80 patients with IBS to receive placebo pills (openly labeled as such) or no treatment over a three-week period. Patients taking placebos had significantly higher mean scores on the IBS Global Improvement Scale at 11 and 21 days, and also reported significant improvements in symptom severity and relief. The results of the study, which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, were published online Dec. 22 by PLoS ONE.

Anthony Lembo, M.D., a study coauthor, said in a press release that he didn’t expect the placebo to work. “I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them,” he said.

Ted Kaptchuk, O.M.D., the study’s lead author, told the LA Times that a larger study needs to be done to confirm the findings, and said that he didn’t believe such effects would be possible “without a positive doctor-patient relationship.”

ACP Internist looked at placebos’ place in clinical practice in a 2009 article. (PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, LA Times, ACP Internist)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

How Will Today’s Elections Affect Healthcare Reform?

All eyes are on today’s mid-term elections and how they’ll play out across the country. The results are likely to affect the recently enacted healthcare reform legislation, Politico reports. Although repealing the legislation would be difficult, Republicans may be able to challenge its implementation if they gain control of the House. Attempts to modify the law could require a delicate balance since, as noted by the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, some of its provisions, such as coverage for dependents age 26 and younger, are individually popular.

Reuters has published a Q&A on what the election results could mean for the healthcare reform law. The Wall Street Journal is asking readers to weigh in on whether the legislation is affecting their votes. (Politico, Washington Post, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day: Over 34,000 Sites Join In

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) coordinat[ed] “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” this [past] Saturday [September 25th], encouraging people to turn in their unused prescription drugs. The agency hopes the event will help decrease rates of crime and addiction linked to prescription drug abuse, the New York Times reports.

From the DEA press release:

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Many Americans are not aware that medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are increasing at alarming rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, many Americans do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Should “Old Age” Be A Cause Of Death?

The Washington Post asks whether “old age” should be reconsidered as a legitimate cause of death for the elderly. Because more people are dying at very advanced ages with multiple system failure, it’s often harder for physicians to pinpoint the specific underlying cause, but using “old age” as a catch-all term could make mortality data less meaningful, the article said.

An upcoming revision of the International Classification of Diseases might provide some guidance: “Each revision of the ICD is the right moment to reconsider this question,” the co-head of the ICD’s mortality statistics committee told the Post. (Washington Post)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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