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Latest Posts

HHS Recommends Toothless, Unfunded Plans To Reduce Health Disparities And Promote Disease Prevention

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman who finds himself trapped in a do-loop, covering the numbingly boring display of Punxutawney Phil, over and over again.

groundhog 194x300 HHS Serves Up Prevention LiteForgive those of us who follow news from the Department of Health and Human Services for feeling like Bill Murray in that movie.

Last month, HHS released an action plan to reduce racial disparities in health care. The plan called for new care models, more service delivery sites, a beefed-up health and human services workforce, and targeted efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease, childhood obesity and other scourges of minority populations.

Remarkably however, the plan came with no funding. Apparently, it was supposed to prompt agencies within HHS to assure that their own internal plans were aligned with the effort to reduce racial disparities. Worse yet, the plan involved only HHS itself. In effect, it assumed that a ‘medical model’ can solve racial disparities in health care. However as I argued here, these disparities aren’t about health, at all. They are about socioeconomic status, and HHS can’t fix that by itself.

Solving the problem of racial disparities in health care clearly requires input from many branches of government, including those involved with education, urban planning, transportation and more, in addition to HHS.

When it was all said and done, the HHS plan came off looking like a political stunt by the Obama administration. While the administration probably does want to fund a bona fide effort to reduce racial disparities, today’s incessant (and appropriate) focus on deficit reduction forced the administration to release a plan with no teeth. It isn’t going to make a dent in the problem. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

November Is American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month, and in the video below I talk with a local TV news reporter about risk factors, complications, and ways to prevent diabetes. The interview was only about two minutes and there’s much more to be covered, so check out the American Diabetes Association’s website for more information.

If you find this video helpful, I invite you to view more of my TV interviews on my YouTube channel. Happy November!

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

Blogging For Clean Water

This year’s topic for Blog Action Day [was] water. Many of us take clean water for granted, but even in the United States we are finding more and more that our drinking water is contaminated with prescription drugs. Dry years put our water reservoirs at risk and often result in mandatory restrictions on water use.

I am guilty of taking water for granted. I do try to use a full load when washing my clothes. I do turn off the water while brushing my teeth. I don’t water my lawn regularly. But I am still guilt of taking it for granted. I expect clean water to be there for me to drink and use for bathing.

Clean water is not the norm for many in the world. Nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water. That’s nearly 1 out of every 8 of us. Organizations like are trying to bring clean wells to areas in Africa that lack clean water.

Read more »

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

Preventive Health/Medicine/Care: Let’s Give It A Name

It’s a scene that plays out thousands of times every day in doctors’ offices across the country — the moment the doctor shifts from addressing the concerns that brought the patient into clinic to when he or she attempts to make sure everything else is going okay.

Often this happens at the end of a sick visit, after working up an upper respiratory infection or back pain. Sometimes it happens after following up a chronic medical problem such as high blood pressure or arthritis, and occasionally it happens under ideal circumstances, during an annual physical or routine wellness visit. It doesn’t necessarily happen at the end of the visit. Often it sneaks it’s way into various points in the encounter — as when the doctor places his or her stethoscope over a patient’s chest while evaluating for knee pain.

What I’m referring to is so indistinct that it doesn’t even have an universal name, but rather goes by many titles — “preventive health,” “preventative health,” “preventive medicine,” “preventive care,” “healthcare maintenance,” “routine healthcare,” “routine checkup,” “annual physical,” and “health and wellness” — to name a few.

But whatever you call it nearly everyone agrees how important it is. The healthcare reform debate was ripe with calls for more “health”-care not just “sick”-care, and one of the most welcome measures in the new healthcare legislation across both sides of the aisle are provisions to support it. Outside of Capitol Hill, from cereal boxes to magazine racks and celebrity doctors, messages about staying healthy are everywhere, as is the general belief that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at BeyondApples.Org*

Nutritional Supplements: Do They Really Help Prevent Disease?

(Guest post submitted by MD Anderson Cancer Center)

Aisles in grocery stores and pharmacies are stacked with vitamins, minerals, herbs or other plants that you take in pill, capsule, tablet or liquid form. And, many of us buy these supplements and take them regularly, hoping to lower our chances of getting cancer and other diseases.

But do supplements really work wonders? Should you take them to help prevent cancer? Our experts say beware.

“Don’t be fooled by the label on the bottle,” says Sally Scroggs, health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “Researchers are still unsure about whether or not supplements actually prevent cancer.” Some studies have suggested that supplements may actually increase cancer risk by tilting the balance of nutrients in the body. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

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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