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Baby Boomers Are Bypassing Primary Care

Office-based practices are focusing increasingly on patients 45 and older, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2008, those 45 and older accounted for 57 percent of all office visits, compared to 49 percent in 1998. Prescriptions, scans and time spent with the doctor also became increasingly concentrated on those middle aged and older, according to data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Also, physician visits increasingly concentrated on medical and surgical specialists and less on care provided by primary care practitioners for those ages 45 and older. Furthermore, for patients ages 65 and older, the percentage of visits to primary care specialists decreased from 62 percent to 45 percent from 1978 to 2008, while the percentage of visits to physicians with a medical or surgical specialty increased from 37 percent to 55 percent. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

New Study: Shingles Vaccine Is Safe And Effective

Shingles (herpes zoster) is no fun. It usually begins with a couple of days of pain, then a painful rash breaks out and lasts a couple of weeks. The rash consists of blisters that eventually break open, crust over, and consolidate into an ugly plaque. It is localized to one side of the body and to a stripe of skin corresponding to the dermatomal distribution of a sensory nerve.

Very rarely a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death. More commonly, patients develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in the area where the rash was. The overall incidence of PHN is 20%; after the age of 60 this rises to 40%, and after age 70 it rises to 50%. It can be excruciatingly painful, resistant to treatment, and can last for years or even a lifetime. Read more »

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

Preventive Health Tip: Get Vaccinated For Whooping Cough

California recently declared an epidemic of whooping cough (pertussis) which resulted in the death of five infants under the age of 3 months. The pertussis vaccine, which is already given routinely to infants, is first given at 2 months of age, then 4 months and 6 months of age, with an additional booster at 15 to 18 months of age, and then again at 4 to 6 years old.

The vaccines for Bortella pertussis bacteria, which causes whooping cough, does not confer lifelong immunity. In other words, fully-vaccinated children who then become teenagers and then adults lose immunity, can acquire the infection and then spread it. Should babies acquire pertussis, as the public has discovered, it can be deadly. The persistent cough tires the baby, causes difficulty breathing, and can make them turn blue or cyanotic resulting in pneumonia or convulsions. According to CDC, about half of children aged 1 year and younger need to be hospitalized if infected with the illness. Although older children and adults can handle the cough, the infection can cause them to cough for weeks or months. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

WHO And H1N1: Conflict Of Interest?

On June 11, 2009, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared that the H1N1 flu that was then spreading around the world was an official pandemic. This triggered a series of built-in responses in many countries, including stockpiling anti-viral medications and preparing for a mass H1N1 vaccination program.

At the time the flu was still in its “first wave” and the fear was that subsequent waves, as the virus swept around the world, would become more virulent and/or contagious –- similar to what happened in the 1918 pandemic. This did not happen. At least our worst fears were not realized. The H1N1 pandemic, while serious, simmered through the winter of 2009-2010, producing a less than average flu season, although with some worrisome difference. Read more »

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

The Return Of Mumps

I write this post with a great deal of trepidation. The last time I perused the Medical Voices website I found nine questions that needed answering. So I answered them. One of the consequences of that blog entry was the promise that Medical Voices was poised to “tear my arguments to shreds.” Tear to shreds! Such a painful metaphor.

They specified that the shred tearing would be accomplished during a live debate, rather than a written response. While Dr. Gorski gave excellent reasons why such a debate is counterproductive, I am disinclined for more practical reasons. I am a slow thinker and a lousy debater and have never, ever, won a debate at home. If I cannot win pitted against my wife, what chance would I have against the combined might of the doctors and scientists at Medical Voices? My fragile psyche could not withstand the onslaught.

Still, there is much iron pyrite to be mined at Medical Voices and it may provide me for at least a years worth of entries. Please forgive me if I seem nervous or distracted. I have a Sword of Damocles hanging over my head and it may fall at any time. My writings may, without warning, be torn to pieces by the razor sharp logical sword of Medical Voices. Or maybe not. It is my understanding that Medical Voices will only answer with a debate, so maybe I am safe from total ego destruction.

This month, as I perused Medical Voices, I found it difficult to choose an article. So much opportunity and I have limited time to write. I finally decided on Why the New Mumps Outbreak Puts You At Risk by Robert J. Rowen, M.D. Read more »

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

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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