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Latest Posts

Healthcare And Fred Flintstone

Like most kids who grew up in the 1960s, I spent many a night watching the adventures of Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty, the coolest cavemen ever (sorry, GEICO). It is hard to explain the appeal of the Flintstones, which [recently] celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast. Its animation was primitive, the stories campy and cliché, and it was horribly sexist — but the characters were lovable, the dialogue funny, and who couldn’t love the way it depicted “modern conveniences” (like washing machines) using only stone-age technologies (bones, stones and dino-power?)

What does Fred Flintstone have to do with healthcare? Not much, really, although Fred was the victim of a medical error. According to “A 1966 episode had Fred can’t stop sneezing, so he goes to the doctor for some allergy pills. The prescription gets mixed up with another package of pills which, when taken, transform Fred into an ape! Only Barney witnesses this metamorphosis, and naturally he can’t convince anyone what is happening … until a fateful family outing at the Bedrock Zoo.” (Of course, this all might have been prevented if they had e-prescribing in those days.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

American Cancer Society Debunks Prostate Cancer Screening Myths

Dr. Otis Brawley has taken the gloves off on prostate cancer screening.

Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS), makes some powerful statements about controversies in prostate cancer screening in a new YouTube video that is billed as the first of a series that the ACS will post on discussions with its officials.

Key nuggets from this video — not surprising to anyone who has followed this debate or Brawley’s past comments — include these quotes:

I’m very concerned. There’s a lot of publicity out there – some of it by people who want to make money by recruiting patients – that oversimplifies this – that says that ‘prostate cancer screening clearly saves lives.’ That is a lie. We don’t know that for sure…

…We’re very concerned about a number of clinics that are offering mass screening where informed decision making – where a man gets told the truth about screening and is allowed without pressure to make a decision – that’s not happening. Many of these free screening things, by the way, are designed more to get patients for hospitals and clinics and doctors than they are to benefit the patients. That’s a huge ethical issue that needs to be addressed.

We’re not against prostate cancer screening. We’re against a man being duped and deceived into getting prostate cancer screening.” 

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

Cervical Cancer Screening: The Jade Goody Effect

The Telegraph reports that the number of screening pap smears performed in the UK has declined after an 8 percent blip upwards in 2009 when publicity surrounding the death of Jade Goody from cervical cancer may have led more women to have this important screening test:

NHS laboratories processed 415,497 tests in 2009-2010, about 35,000 fewer than the previous year when 450,522. Miss Goody’s death in March last year prompted a 20 percent increase in the number of Scottish women taking tests. More than 122,000 were processed between April and June last year, the statistics revealed.

The irony of course, is that British reality TV star Jade Goody did have pap smears, but chose to ignore her doctor’s recommendations for treatment when her pap smears came back abnormal.

Nonetheless, the decline in pap smears has led NHS of Scotland to initiate a campaign to reach the up to 25 percent of young women who do not respond to invitations to have pap smears. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

Responsible Vaccine Advocacy: How To Make A Difference

I lost a patient this season, an infant, to whooping cough (pertussis). After falling ill, he lived for nearly a month in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, three weeks of which was spent on a heart/lung bypass machine (ECMO) due to the extent of the damage to his lungs. But all our efforts were in vain. The most aggressive and advanced care medicine has to offer couldn’t save his life. The only thing that could have saved him would have been to prevent him from contracting pertussis in the first place.

He was unvaccinated, but that was because of his age. He was part of the population that is fully dependent on herd immunity for protection, and that is exquisitely prone to a life-threatening course once infected. This is a topic we’ve covered ad nauseum, and I’m not inclined to go into greater depth in this post. Suffice it to say his death is a failure at every level. We, both as medical professionals and as a society at large, need to do a better job of protecting our children from preventable diseases. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

The Problem With The Newly-Launched “”

If a website touted misleading healthcare information, you’d hope the government would do something about it. But what do you do when the government is the one feeding the public bad information?

Last week the Obama administration launched the new It’s mostly an online insurance shopping website. It’s very much a federal government version of sites like or Massachsetts’ HealthConnector site, which have been around for years.

So when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in announcing the new site, claims it gives consumers “unprecedented transparency” into the healthcare marketplace, you should wonder what she means. But that’s not the big problem with this site. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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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