Moving on up: Palm Beach County now the 8th healthiest in the state

Palm Beach County got it’s annual physical and the news was good.

Diverse and with a population of 1.4 million, Palm Beach County moved up to No. 8. It has moved up one slot each of the last two years and health officials say it shows that wellness programs by the Department of Health are working.

All the other counties ahead of them have far less population.

The  2017 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to give a snapshot of health across the country.

The researchers look at physical environments, social and economic factors, health behaviors and clinical care.

“These rankings are a testament to the hard work and commitment our community partners have toward assuring a healthy community,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director, Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Alina Alonso, director of Department of Health in Palm Beach County, has gotten healthier as well in the last few years.

Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Healthcare Foundation, said programs such as Let’s Move, Diabetes Month and Healthier Together have paid off with healthier citizens.

He pointed to Joshua Timmer, a 14-year-old from St. Ann’s Catholic School in downtown West Palm Beach who took it upon himself to bring the Let’s Move program — a Palm Healthcare initiative – to his classmates. The program encourages 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day to combat obesity.

Joshua told The Palm Beach Post’s for a story earlier this month that he wanted to get kids moving who play a lot of video games.

On Wednesday, Joshua said between classes he was thrilled with the county’s ranking but wants to get people moving around the world.

He said it wasn’t easy putting down the video games at first.

“It was a hard change,” he said. “At the beginning, I wanted to play more video games, but then I realized I got stuff to do and I need to do more stuff outside.”

These days he plays basketball with his sibling and golf. “I do at least 30 minutes outside every day,” he said.

McNamara said it was Timmer and residents like him that moved the needle for Palm Beach County in the right direction.

“He was just an example of a resident taking it upon himself to be part of the solution,” he said. “One of the affirming things for us is that we are seeing growing numbers like him.”

Timmons is not alone. Andrea Bruton, the owner of SkyeHigh Fitness, leads an exercise program for older women in the black community in Delray Beach.

“Let’s Move has already made such a positive difference, such as bringing people and communities together–groups that would never otherwise mingle and building great rapport between the community and law enforcement,” she said.

The program gets companies, schools, colleges, non-profits, local community groups, families, to organize a team whose members log the minutes they have “moved” and compete against each.

Let’s Move is held each March for the entire month.

So let’s look at the numbers of the county’s annual checkup.

We got good numbers in the category of “health behavior” be it smoking tobacco or drinking excessively, ranking third among all Florida’s 67 counties. We landed in the top 10 in Life Expectancy (9) and Clinical Care (9).

Palm Beach County did get seem dings. It ranked 19th in Social and Economic Factors, such as income inequality and violent crime. It also ranked 32nd in “Physical Environment” that measures everything from pollution to driving alone to work.

We are lonely commuters, it appears.

Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

The hospitals see it from a different perspective. They see a community benefiting greatly from the Charles E Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University which spins out doctors in training to five hospitals.

“It is kind of known fact whenever you have academic institution affiliated with a hospital provider that elevates the level care,” said Dr. Anthony N. Dardano, the vice president for Medical and Academic Affairs at Delray Medical Center.

He also said that increase the quality of care and cutting-edge medical care are due to the elderly population.

So next time you shake your fist at a senior maybe driving too slow think that he or she is to thank for heart surgery techniques not available in other counties and a host of other specialties that are available when it comes to treating cancer and brain disorders.

“The average age of a patient at Delray Medical Center is in the 80s,” Dardano said. “They are sicker people and in order to keep up we have developed state of the art techniques and have recruited physicians who can do all these specialties.”

 

Nixed: Judge rejects plan to revamp state’s trauma-care system

A judge in Tallahassee rejected a Florida Health Department’s plan to revamp the state’s trauma care system.

According to Florida News Service, the judge rejected a plan by the Florida Department of Health that likely would have led to an increase in trauma centers across the state. A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices.

A contingent of lawmakers are following Gov. Rick Scott’s lead in trying to inject more competition into medical care, saying it will lead to better services and lower prices despite many medical professionals saying it will actually do the opposite.

In a 70-page ruling, Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall, in a 70-page ruling, said the Health Department’s position actually turned two state laws on its head.

Five major hospitals — UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Bayfront Health-St. Petersburg and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa —had challenged the plan. Currently, Florida caps the number of trauma centers statewide to 44 as well as the how many can operate in 19 different regions in the state.

The battle is not over. A House subcommittee on Monday approved a bill that would eliminate the limits opposed by Gov. Scott and HCA health care company.

Scott was CEO of Columbia/HCA, but resigned in 1997 after the company came under fire for Medicare billing practices.

borrego-photo
Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center.

In Palm Beach County, Tenet Hospitals runs two Level 1 trauma centers at St. Mary’s Medical Center and Delray Medical Center.

Dr. Robert Borrego, medical director of the Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center, says most trauma surgeons would be opposed to lifting caps on the number of trauma centers in the state.

Borrego told The Palm Beach Post earlier this year that more trauma centers will lead to worse service. He said it is important that trauma centers have a certain number of patients to remain proficient.

“Can you imagine coming to a center and you have traumatic brain injury and the neurosurgeons only do about 10 operations a year? he said. “Are you going to comfortable there or do you want somebody who does 1,000 operations a year?”

Blinded by science: Women go blind after stem-cell treatment at Florida clinic

Three women reportedly went blind after a stem cell treatment at a Florida clinic.

What’s more is that at least two of the women had gone to the clinic because it was listed as a macular degeneration study on a federal database.

Doctors call the incident an example of how risky such clinics can be.

News reports from The Associated Press, The New England Journal of Medicine and others say that a clinic the experimental procedure occurred was in Sunrise, Florida run by U.S. Stem Cell Inc.

Age-related macular degeneration can rob a person of their central vision.

The women were injected in their eyes with a cell preparation derived from her own fat tissue.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami, who examined the women, said one woman is totally blind and the others legally blind.  He said all suffered detached retinas.

“These women had fairly functional vision prior to the procedure … and were blinded by the next day,” Albini said.

The clinic’s method hasn’t been proven effective or tested for safety in people, he added.

“It’s very alarming to us as clinicians that somebody would do this to both eyes at the same time,” said Albini.

 

Dr. Thomas Albini of the University of Miami.

Elizabeth Noble, one of the women said she was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration that blurs the central vision. The former educator said she heard about the treatment at the clinic for a research study described on ClinicalTrials.gov, a website run by the National Institutes of Health.

The former educator said she heard about the treatment at the clinic for a research study described on ClinicalTrials.gov, a website run by the National Institutes of Health.

“It’s very easy to register studies on ClinicalTrials.gov and essentially use a government website as a marketing device,” Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News.

Noble went to the clinic in June 2015  where staff took fat from around her belly button, extracted those cells and mixed them with Noble’s blood plasma. They then injected it into both her eyes for $5,000, according to a story in Buzzfeed.

In an editorial accompanying the Journal’s report, stem cell expert Dr. George Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, called the clinic’s treatment careless.

“This report joins a small but growing medical literature highlighting the risks of such wanton misapplication of cellular therapy,” he wrote. Providing such treatments for profit outside a proper research setting “is a gross violation of professional and possibly legal standards,” he said.

Buzzfeed reports this isn’t the first time experimental procedures at a clinic have gone awry.

In 2010, for example, a woman with the autoimmune disease lupus died after her own bone marrow cells were injected into her kidneys at a clinic in Thailand.

In 2013, the Florida Department of Health revoked the medical license of Zannos Grekos over the death of a 69-year-old woman. He had extracted material from her bone marrow, filtered it, and then infused it into the arteries feeding her brain. The woman had a stroke.

Treatment for age-related macular generation is at the center of the Medicare fraud trial in West Palm Beach of Dr. Salomon Melgen, who happens also to be tied to a bribery scandal involving a U.S. senator.

Read The Palm Beach Posts coverage of the fascinating Melgen trial by clicking here.

 

Thanks a lot! Now the clothes in your closet are polluting the planet

You know that non-iron dress shirt or sexy cocktail dress you love? It’s killing Mother Earth!

Last week, we learned we can’t drink white wine without getting cancer. Today, well, we find out that research says maybe if we really cared about the planet we’d go naked. Or maybe wear hemp or something wrinkly.

According to a story on Health News Florida from WSFU-FM, new research shows pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is coming straight from our closets.  The culprit: polyester, nylon and acrylics that are washing out of household fabrics and into the ocean.

University of Florida scientist Maia McGuire, who is marshaling up this research told WSFU-FM, that scientists aren’t just concerned about styrofoam, plastic bags and K-cups anymore.  Microscopic pieces of plastic are believed to be tiny fibers coming from clothing.

“Essentially they are from fabrics or other items that are made of little tiny threads of petroleum-based plastics. So when you think of fabric like polyester and nylon and acrylic,” she said.

University of Florida scientist Maia McGuire thinks microscopic fibers found in the Gulf of Mexico is washing out of our clothes.

These plastic microfibers are starting to show up in the stomachs of plankton, fish and oysters.

“That is something that a lot of people are trying to figure out. We know a lot of organisms, a lot of marine life are consuming these plastics,” McGuire said.

McGuire says the best way for consumers to limit pollution from plastic microfibers is to be more aware of their purchases, check the labels, and limit the use of plastic-based products.

So pick up an iron for goodness sakes!

To read the whole Health News Florida article click here.

Study: White wine increases chance of deadly skin cancer

In the category that everything gives you cancer, talk in recent months of a study that shows drinking white wine could increase the chance of skin cancer.

The study is making the rounds. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, spoke about this white wine connection this week.

Alcohol, in general, is responsible for about 4 percent of cancer cases worldwide. Researchers believe that the ethanol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and prevents DNA repair.

A team of researchers from Harvard and Brown universities looked into alcohol consumption and cancer among 210,252 people. The study found that each drink of white wine was associated with a 13 percent increase in melanoma.

Again the culprit is acetaldehyde, which has a higher concentration in white wine and a lower concentration of antioxidants.

The study appeared in the December 2016 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Malignant melanoma is a type of cancer that is associated with exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or other sources. Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

If you drink white wine, you might want to consider reserving it for special occasions. And you may want to sample a few reds as well.

So since we are all getting cancer one way or another, here’s Joe Jackson singing his song “Cancer.”

 

Study: Pot increases risk of heart failure, stroke

Well, if smoking increases the risk of heart failure, then it goes to reason that marijuana use would as well.

Now new research analyzing millions of U.S. medical records bear this out, according to CBS News.

“Even when we corrected for known risk factors, we still found a higher rate of both stroke and heart failure in these patients,” lead researcher Dr. Aditi Kalla, a cardiologist at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, told CBS.

Kalla’s study looked at 20 million health records of patients aged 18 to 55 who were discharged from one of more than a thousand hospitals across the United States in 2009 and 2010. Of those patients, 1.5 percent said they’d used marijuana.

Researchers also associated pot with a 26 percent increased risk of stroke and a 10 percent increased risk of heart failure.

“More research will be needed to understand the [reasons] behind this effect,” Kalla said.

The study was not without its detractors

Paul Armentaro, deputy director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, said the study “is inconsistent with other studies finding no adverse effects to those who consume marijuana.”

Kalla said now that medical or recreational marijuana use is now legal in more than half of U.S. states and a better understanding of pot’s health effects is needed.

You can read the whole CBS story by clicking here.

Sex toys that spy? Manufacturer settles lawsuit

First microwaves, now vibrators.

The manufacturer of a “smart vibrator” agreed to pay customers $3.2 million after a lawsuit was filed that alleged the sex toy tracked the owners’ use without their knowledge.

We-Vibe agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle the class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois federal court.  The vibrators advertised that it would allow users to “turn on your lover” via a Bluetooth connection, according to The New York Times.

“The usage information collected by Standard Innovation through We-Connect is extraordinarily intimate and private,” according to court documents from the plaintiffs.  The lead plaintiff said she bought a $130 We-Vibe Rave and downloaded the app but was never warned her use would be tallied, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Among problems with the device, reported in The Guardian, the app that controls the vibrator had security and privacy vulnerabilities, allowing anyone with a bluetooth range to seize control of the device.

Data that was sent back to We-Vibe’s owner – Standard Innovation – included the temperature and intensity of the device.

Standard Innovation said in a statement it takes customer privacy and data security seriously.

“We have enhanced our privacy notice, increased app security, provided customers [with] more choice in the data they share, and we continue to work with leading privacy and security experts to enhance the app.

Now if we can just get President Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway to again explain to us about those microwaves.

CDC: Sperm donated in South Florida may contain Zika

Zika not only can be transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito, the birth-defect causing virus can be transmitted through sex, as well.

So the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have issued a warning for men in Palm Beach County and two others not to donate sperm because of the risk of spreading the disease, according to a story by The Associated Press.

The guidance applies also to Broward and Miami-Dade, the later the only place in Florida where there’s proof the virus was spread by mosquitos. Most cases diagnosed in Florida have been of those who contracted the disease by traveling to infected zones in the Caribbean or South America.

“When semen is donated it can be stored frozen for periods of time. It does not necessarily inactivate Zika, so it could be stored in tissue banks, used subsequently and people should be made aware,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNN. 

He said women “might want to use these donations from other sources.”

The CDC advisory is mostly precautionary.  There have been no cases of pregnant women being infected by Zika through a sperm donation. The risk is considered low but the consequences are severe. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects

“Now we understand more than we did months ago is that evidence of the Zika virus is present in semen for up to three months after a man is infected and people may not have accurately recalled potential exposure [to the virus] especially if in a local area,” said Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, who is part of the CDC Zika emergency response team and director of the CDC office of blood, organ and other tissue safety.

He was quoted in the story on the sperm alert for CNN.

The FDA, which regulates sperm donations, said the 12 donor banks in South Florida should consider the CDC’s new advice discouraging donations from men in the three South Florida counties an FDA spokeswoman said.

The last case of mosquito transmission of Zika in Florida was in December. But officials expect another outbreak this summer.  There were 221 people who contracted got Zika from mosquitoes in the continental U.S. last year, most in the Miami area. There were six cases in Texas.

Family: Teen suicides evidence of failure of privatized foster care

A lawyer representing the biological family of a teenager in foster care who broadcast her suicide on Facebook live says the tragic death is just the latest evidence that the state’s move to privatize foster care is not working.

WLRN-FM reports the death of 14-year-old Naika Venant in January was the second teen suicide in a Miami Gardens foster care home overseen by the agency Our Kids in the two months. In December, 16-year-old Lauryn Martin hanged herself with a scarf in her room at the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter on Plantation Key.

Howard Talenfeld, a lawyer representing Naika Venant’s biological family, said it is the Department of Children and Families that gives the job to a contractor like Our Kids.

Naika Venant on Facebook

 

“We’re seeing kids that just aren’t in the right kinds of placements, don’t receive the right kinds of services. In her case, she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the internet,” he said in a story published by Health News Florida.

The Department of Children and Families contract out cases with management agencies, such as Our Kids.

“We’re trying to get at the truth. Until we know what the truth is, we couldn’t even begin to try to determine what’s appropriate,” he said

Lauryn Martin, courtesy of family.

Talenfeld says it’s been 40 days since his firm requested relevant records from DCF and Our Kids, and it hasn’t gotten anything yet.

“We’re hopeful that this kind of information becomes available very soon so that the Florida Legislature can hear more than the fact that ‘this kid was just a kid we couldn’t help,” he said.

Representatives of DCF and Our Kids did not respond immediately to requests for comment, WLRN reported.

Venant was a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, bouncing in and out of state care since 2009 – 10 just since April of last year until her death She hanged herself from a shower stall while about 1,000 people watched on Facebook, many of them taunting her, according to the Miami Herald.

At a news conference in January, Naika’s mother, Gina Alexis, said: “I am sick and devastated. I have trusted Florida foster care people to care for my baby. Instead, she kills herself on Facebook.

Study: Florida cancer hot spots higher hazardous waste sites

Florida has the sixth highest number of hazardous waste sites in the U.S. The Sunshine States is also projected to have the second largest number of new cancer cases in the country.

A new study says there just may be a connection.

Researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Missouri School of Medicine studied cancer incidence rates in relation to Superfund hazardous waste sites and found a possible correlation, according to an article in Science Daily 

“We reviewed adult cancer rates in Florida from 1986 to 2010,” said Emily Leary, assistant professor at the MU School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “We found the rate of cancer incidence increased by more than 6 percent in counties with Superfund sites.”

Florida is home to 77 sites that currently are or have been classified as Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. Adults cancers were the only one studied since pediatric cancers tend to be genetic.

“This work is novel because it is another piece of evidence to support an environmental cause of cancer,” Leary said.

“While it would be premature to say these differences are attributed to Superfund sites, there does appear to be an association. ”

Alexander Kirpich, a post-doctoral associate at the University of Florida and co-author of the study, said the hope is that the findings will help public health agencies dedicate more efforts to areas with cancer hot spots.”

The study, “Superfund Locations and Potential Associations with Cancer Incidence in Florida,” recently was published online in Statistics and Public Policy.