Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

What To Expect From The New Sunscreen Labels

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the new rules regarding labeling of sunscreen.  The goal is to make it easier for the average person to chose a sunscreen.

The new labels will not be in place until next summer, so you need to be aware.

When the new labels are in place, NO sunscreen will be allowed to be labeled as a SUNBLOCK or as WATERPROOF.

Under the new labeling rules

  • Products that have SPF values between 2 and 14 may be labeled as Broad Spectrum if they pass the required test.
  • Only products that are labeled both as Broad Spectrum with SPF values of 15 or higher may state that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, when used as directed.
  • A warning statement will be required on any product that is not Broad Spectrum, or that is Broad Spectrum but has an SPF between 2 to 14 stating that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.

In addition to the final rule for sunscreen labeling, the FDA released a Proposed Rule which would Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Weight Loss Tips For ABC News

The weather is heating up, and soon most of us will be back in shorts and t-shirts…  and worrying about looking good in our dreaded bathing suits. I had the opportunity to offer some evidence-based weight loss and fitness tips to ABC News in Washington, DC. You can view the clip or read my summary below:

Read more »

Coffee And Stroke: Another Study The Media Got Wrong

Here we go again. Headlines across America blaring lines like, “Coffee may reduce stroke risk.”

It was a big study, but an observational study. Not a trial. Not an experiment. And, as we say so many times on this website that you could almost join along with the chorus, observational studies have inherent limitations that should always be mentioned in stories. They can’t prove cause and effect. They can show a strong statistical association, but they can’t prove cause and effect. So you can’t prove benefit or risk reduction. And stories should say that.

USA Today, for example, did not explain that in its story. Nor did it include any of the limitations that were included in, for example, a HealthDay story, which stated:

“The problem with this type of study is that there are too many factors unaccounted for and association does not prove causality, said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center at Duke University Medical Center.

“Subjects were asked about their past coffee consumption in a questionnaire and then followed over time. There is no way to know if they changed their behavior,” Goldstein said.

And, he noted, there was no control for medication use or other potential but unmeasured factors.

“The study is restricted to a Scandinavian population, and it is not clear, even if there is a relationship, that it would be present in more diverse populations. I think that it can be concluded, at least in this population, that there was not an increased risk of stroke among coffee drinkers,” he said.”

When you don’t explain the limitations of observational studies — and/or when you imply that cause and effect has been established — you lose credibility with some readers. And you should. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

You Are “The Biggest Wasted Resource In Health Care” has posted a great new piece by Dr. Roni Zeiger entitled, “The Biggest Wasted Resource in Health Care? You.” Subtitle: “How Your Internet Research Can Help Your Relationship With Your Doctor.” It’s well reasoned and clearly written, and continues the trend we cited a month ago, when Time posted Dr. Zack Meisel’s article saying that patients who Google can help doctors.

Related notes:

– Dr. Zeiger’s article title parallels what Dr. Charles Safran told the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health in 2004: Patients are “the most under-utilitized resource.” He was talking about health IT, quoting his colleague Dr. Warner Slack, who had said it many years earlier. I often quote it in my speeches for the Society for Participatory Medicine, asserting that it applies not just to IT but to all of healthcare.

– Dr. Zeiger is on the editorial board of our Journal of Participatory Medicine and is Chief Health Strategist at Google. He gets the power of patient engagement deeply and clearly. Last fall he posted a prediction that in the future it might be malpractice for doctors not to prescribe a patient community to help you help yourself with your conditions.

Prediction: Googling and patient networks will become essential as we move toward the practice of shared medical decision making (SMDM). I know firsthand that the information my kidney cancer community gave me about coping with treatments went well beyond what my excellent clinicians could offer. (We’re starting a series on SMDM. The first entry was in December.)

*This blog post was originally published at*

ABC News Interviews Dr. Val About The ePatient Revolution

The Internet has revolutionized how we receive information -- and it’s also changing how we learn about and manage our health. A new “ePatient” movement promises to empower patients with online and mobile tools -- making it easier than ever to contact a physician, track health variables, and join a support group.

Four minutes isn’t much time to summarize an entire movement, and I think I got a little off topic while suggesting a new use case for David Hale’s NIH PillBox (a pill identifier tool). I said it could be used to identify pills even after your pet licked part of the label off them!

For more information about ePatients, check out my earlier blog post.

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

See all book reviews »