mm494: Blast from the Past! No. 50 — Health care excuses

September 9, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

A very long day today (the alarm went off at 3:10am!), but hey, recycling is IN, right?

We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons. And, with nearly 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, the recycling process has an exceptionally rich vein to mine.

I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, originally posted November 11, 2007, and truer now than ever, titled “mm190: U. S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm456: Blast from the Past! No. 38

August 2, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

So, back into the archives yet again.

I console myself by guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 17, 2007, and originally titled “mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon! (And stay away from that pie!).”

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our medical mini-series, this story was among the NYTimes’ most emailed yesterday.

Type II, adult onset diabetes is the focus of the piece, delving in great detail into recent research that is raising more questions than answers.

It’s a lengthy article, but well written, and well worth your time.

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our medical mini-series, this story was among the NYTimes’ most emailed yesterday.

Type II, adult onset diabetes is the focus of the piece, delving in great detail into recent research that is raising more questions than answers.

It’s a lengthy article, but well written, and well worth your time.

nytimes

By AMANDA SCHAFFER

An explosion of new research is vastly changing scientists’ understanding of diabetes and giving new clues about how to attack it.

The fifth leading killer of Americans, with 73,000 deaths a year, diabetes is a disease in which the body’s failure to regulate glucose, or blood sugar, can lead to serious and even fatal complications. Until very recently, the regulation of glucose — how much sugar is present in a person’s blood, how much is taken up by cells for fuel, and how much is released from energy stores — was regarded as a conversation between a few key players: the pancreas, the liver, muscle and fat.

Now, however, the party is proving to be much louder and more complex than anyone had shown before.

So, the usual suspects, pancreas, liver, muscle and fat have been joined by new candidates: a hormone produced by bone, osteocalcin; inflammation in the immune system; the brain; and the gut.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

In Diabetes, a Complex of Causes – New York Times

Read the rest of this entry »


mm447: Blast from the Past! No. 36

July 24, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Well, today was that Thursday that actually began at 10:00pm last night, flowing seamlessly from Wednesday, and save for about two hours between the end of one meeting at 2am and the preparation for the next at 5:15am, sleep for yr (justifiably) humble svt has been as scarce as home buyers.

So, we’re on a reduced blogging schedule, with just enough energy to faithfully observe the Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily.

As we’ve opined in the past (recently, actually) one of our favorite bloggers regardless of topic is Sandy Szwarc.

The first time we found her was last October. Enjoy!

lhc7601904[3]

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last fall, and always in season, originally posted October 8, 2007, and originally titled “mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox No. 13 — Take heart.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm445: Another dietary mistake

July 20, 2008

dreamstime_3286477

© Simone Van Den Berg | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Summertime. People are vacationing. The weather, here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least (reportedly quite chilly in Oz, sorry guys!) is excessively hot and humid. The beach beckons.

News is sparse, but the need to sell the advertisers’ wares means that the 24-hour news cycle keeps on spinning.

Thus a story in the New England Journal of Medicine received undue prominence this week: a report on a clinical study of a comparison of two popular diet programs, the Atkins diet (once a tool of yr (justifiably) humble svt) vs. the Mediterranean diet (a favored tool of an official brother of y[j]hs). So it was all over the headlines for a day or so, midweek, filling those column inches and 30-second sound bites during the summer doldrums and of more than a little personal interest.

This was a 2-year study, and the weight loss reported was depressingly small. What was going on?

I turned, as often I do when trying to dig beneath the headlines on medical issues, to Left-Handed Complement‘s favorite authority on such medical studies, especially as regards weight loss, Sandy Szwarc, writing in her amazingly wise blog, Junkfood Science. Here are some previous occasions when she cut through the jargon and the statistical distortions for us.

Junkfood Science: Sandy Szwarc’s Genius

mm390: Mudge’s Healthy Obsession
mm363: “60 Minutes:” Dead wrong?
mm305: Google Health – 1984 for the 21st Century
mm276: Fat Tuesday…
mm197: Short attention span
mm177: Healthy eating — Overrated!
mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13

Sure enough, yesterday’s Junkfood Science post provided a thorough analysis, detailed but not excessively technical, of the study. Were you aware, for example, that it was partially funded by the Atkins people?

Read the rest of this entry »


mm346: All together now: Ewwwwwwww!

April 13, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Encountered this at lunch last week; it became a formidable challenge to finish (the story / the lunch: pick one!). Consider yourself warned, faithful reader, should you be snacking on some luscious sweet or casserole while perusing this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And remember, this comes not from some fringe or undocumented source, and also remember, April Fool’s day was some time ago.

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Surgery Without the Slicing

Going in through existing orifices is good for patients and device makers, less so for doctors and hospitals

by Catherine Arnst | Business Week Sci Tech April 3, 2008, 5:00PM EST

On Mar. 11 Jeff Scholz, a 42-year-old former U.S. Marine, developed severe abdominal pain. It wasn’t as bad as the gunshot wound to the leg he suffered while in the service, but it kept him doubled over for most of the night. At the insistence of his fiancée, he went to the emergency room at the University of California at San Diego med center the next morning, where he learned his appendix was inflamed and had to come out. That’s how Scholz, the owner of a wholesale clothing company, ended up making medical history. He’s the first patient in the U.S. to have his appendix removed through his mouth.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm268: Sometimes it’s personal

January 28, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Yr (justifiably) humble svt has been practicing this hobby? trade? avocation? for nearly nine months. Early on, I was exposed to the Prime Directive of Blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

Okay, started (seriously) 07-May-2007… tonight it’s 28-January-2008… timeanddate.com (as discussed previously) … 266 days … this is mm268 (and there have been some WCW’s and decimals) and WordPress.com tells me that I’ve produced 293 posts up to now: I have met the Prime Directive of Blogging. 293 posts in 266 days. Whew!

With some difficulty. Take this week, for example. And by week, I’m referring to the past seven days, actually just the past six will do.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm230: Stem Cells; Insurance Scum; Overtreatment!

December 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Yes, fan, it’s a Health/Medical edition of SASB!

shortattention_thumb2 ©

We begin with a doubly frightening topic: Cancer combined with cancerous Stem Cells. This story hit NYTimes:

nytimes

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause

By GINA KOLATA | Published: December 21, 2007

Within the next few months, researchers at three medical centers expect to start the first test in patients of one of the most promising — and contentious — ideas about the cause and treatment of cancer.

The idea is to take aim at what some scientists say are cancerous stem cells — aberrant cells that maintain and propagate malignant tumors.

Although many scientists have assumed that cancer cells are immortal — that they divide and grow indefinitely — most can only divide a certain number of times before dying. The stem-cell hypothesis says that cancers themselves may not die because they are fed by cancerous stem cells, a small and particularly dangerous kind of cell that can renew by dividing even as it spews out more cells that form the bulk of a tumor. Worse, stem cells may be impervious to most standard cancer therapies.

Not everyone accepts the hypothesis of cancerous stem cells. Skeptics say proponents are so in love with the idea that they dismiss or ignore evidence against it. Dr. Scott E. Kern, for instance, a leading pancreatic cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said the hypothesis was more akin to religion than to science.

“…more akin to religion than to science.” How fitting when stem cells are the topic!

Of course these are one’s own, cancerous stem cells in question.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause – New York Times

Here’s the telling quote:

“Not only are some of the approaches we are using not getting us anywhere, but even the way we approve drugs is a bad model,” he said. Anti-cancer drugs, he noted, are approved if they shrink tumors even if they do not prolong life. It is the medical equivalent, he said, of mowing a dandelion field.

Cancer patients and their families are desperate, so promising drugs can get expedited approval, even if, as noted, they don’t prolong life.

It would be spectacular if this stem cell related research might yield an effective, more permanent treatment.

Now, let’s get angry together…

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For some time now, we’ve had Esoterically.net/weblog as a member of L-HC’s blogroll blogroll2. The subtitle has changed since we originally captured it, Life is too short to live it as a Republican,” but the blog continues to highlight the important issues. Here’s one also from Dec. 21 that set me off:

esotericallynetweblog

Health insurance screwup

Published by Len Dec. 21, 2007 at 17:50 under General, Politics

I hope the Sarkisyan family wins their lawsuit and is award millions and millions of dollars. It is time for these $7.00/hour clerks at the insurance companies to stop playing doctor.

Family to Sue Insurer in Transplant Case

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The family of a 17-year-old girl who died hours after her health insurer reversed a decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant plans to sue the company, their attorney said Friday.

Nataline Sarkisyan died Thursday at about 6 p.m. at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, said her mother, Hilda.

Len updated the post with a link to a more complete analysis definitely worth the detour.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Esoterically.net/weblog » Health insurance screwup

Tragedy is tragedy, but the absolute worst ones are those that were preventable: Katrina, the I-35 bridge, and now Nataline Sarkisyan are all examples of bureaucratic failures caused by a deliberate policy of undercutting the public good in the service of private political agendas, in the first two examples, and shareholder profit, in poor Nataline’s case.

U.S. healthcare needs fixing, and here’s a story pointing to an unexpected cause, and potential fix.

shortattention_thumb2 ©

This week, NYTimes published its list of top economics books as chosen by its columnist, David Leonhardt. His No. 1 book is one I’d not encountered shame on me!

nytimes

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions

By DAVID LEONHARDT | Published: December 19, 2007

In 1967, Jack Wennberg, a young medical researcher at Johns Hopkins, moved his family to a farmhouse in northern Vermont.

“Overtreated” by Shannon Brownlee, above, diagnoses the big flaw in medical spending.

Dr. Wennberg had been chosen to run a new center based at the University of Vermont that would examine medical care in the state. With a colleague, he traveled around Vermont, visiting its 16 hospitals and collecting data on how often they did various procedures.

The results turned out to be quite odd. Vermont has one of the most homogenous populations in the country — overwhelmingly white (especially in 1967), with relatively similar levels of poverty and education statewide. Yet medical practice across the state varied enormously, for all kinds of care. In Middlebury, for instance, only 7 percent of children had their tonsils removed. In Morrisville, 70 percent did.

Dr. Wennberg and some colleagues then did a survey, interviewing 4,000 people around the state, to see whether different patterns of illness could explain the variations in medical care. They couldn’t. The children of Morrisville weren’t suffering from an epidemic of tonsillitis. Instead, they happened to live in a place where a small group of doctors — just five of them — had decided to be aggressive about removing tonsils.

But here was the stunner: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.

That last bears repeating: Vermonters who lived in towns with more aggressive care weren’t healthier. They were just getting more health care.”

As you’ve doubtless heard, this country spends far more money per person on medical care than other countries and still seems to get worse results. We devote 16 percent of our gross domestic product to health care, while Canada and France, where people live longer, spend about 10 percent.

So, we’re overtreated, but undercured. Part due to our fee-for-service system; part due to our own ignorance of medicine’s true costs when we ourselves are the patients; part due to that byzantine health insurance system” that dazzles and confuses us, and lets Natalines die rather than pay.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

No. 1 Book, and It Offers Solutions – New York Times

As Leonhardt makes clear, the true value of this book is that it has clear and achievable recommendations for reforming our sick healthcare system.

When it’s back in stock (ah, the power of the press!) we ought to buy copies for every senator, congressperson and presidential candidate.

So, that’s our Health/Medicine edition of SASB shortattention©. Stay healthy!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the links to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. It’s an artifact of Sequitur Service©. Deal with it.


mm201: Stemming the tide of ignorance despite the neocons

November 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Last post, we picked up on the report that stem cell researchers have an alternative source for the miracle tools. The writer of that NYTimes story follows up with a sidebar on the lead scientist, James A. Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, who has played a leading, even defining, role in stem cell research for more than a decade.

nytimes3_thumb1

By GINA KOLATA

If the stem cell wars are indeed nearly over, no one will savor the peace more than James A. Thomson.

Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate.

And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo.

Turns out that Dr. Thomson was, as he and his UW colleagues report it, concerned about the ethical implications of stem cell research from the beginning.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It – New York Times

Some of the commentary others in the blogosphere have shared since the original story hit the other day have expressed a good deal of knee-jerk cynicism regarding the nature of this latest twist. It’s just so perfect that this latest news fits so well with Bush administration dogma. See, you can do your research without abortion!

People, this isn’t politics, or religion; it’s science. Forced by ethical, political and/or religious imperatives to curtail stem cell research, many wrung their hands, took off to more scientifically adventurous locales, or found a new field to pursue.

Thomson, and, separately, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, decided that the potential for breakthrough discoveries was too important, and figuratively lit a candle rather than curse the darkness, and began the work that resulted in this weeks breakthrough announcements.

MUDGE chooses to suspend cynicism (after all, it’s a holiday in the U.S. today!), and believe the best. Okay, so this fits with distorted agenda of the neo-con know-nothings who have distorted too much and spread a huge swath of medieval ignorance over too much of our culture.

But, sometimes, even good news for the dolts is good news for humankind, and this discovery, whose potential to accelerate further discoveries into the cause, prevention and cure of many neurological diseases that have caused such misery in the world, is worthy of our Thanksgiving celebration.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil, we now have an alternative source

November 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research, emblematic of all that’s promising regarding the ability of scientists to remedy hitherto incurable diseases. Stem cell research, emblematic of the George III administration’s wrong-headedness in nearly every important issue of our times.

Until yesterday, stem cell researchers found their most promising source material in human embryos, whose availability is, one presumes, mainly dependent upon the supply resulting from aborting pregnancies.

Since 1973, such supplies have been legally available to science in the U.S. Since the Bush administration outlawed the practice (or severely curtailed the use of new embryonic material by restricting federal funds required to finance it), researchers into cures for the crippling and fatal diseases that include multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have been thwarted from fully pursuing this most promising field of research.

Now it appears that scientists have discovered an alternative to embryos as the feedstock for stem cells.

nytimes3

By GINA KOLATA

Published: November 21, 2007

Two teams of scientists reported yesterday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

Science in the pursuit of prevention or remediating disease is critical, and the fact that it has been hamstrung over this moral quandary, mainly promoted by those same folks who brought you Creationism, is yet another embarrassing lowlight of the past seven years.

So much of what research has been occurring moved offshore (as so many other occupations have). But, science is always attempting to navigate new ways around knowledge gaps, and this promising achievement is an eye-opening demonstration.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells – New York Times

So there’s much work left to do before this new process is proven successful — the fact that a cancer gene is part of the process sounds distressing — but we can’t help but be hopeful that, after years of roadblocks, necessary research into the causes, prevention and cures of some of the most dreadful diseases can resume at full throttle.

In the long run, the new process might prove to be more useful, with wider application than the controversial one. So in a way, maybe the know-nothings did science a favor.

Irony. Today’s sixth sense.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm190: U.S. Health Care – Excuses, not facts

November 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Access to affordable health care. Five words. Easy to write. Rolls off the keyboard fluidly even. Simple phrase; political cesspool. Can universal access to affordable health care ever happen in the U.S.?

Paul Krugman, the economist whose columns appear in the Opinion section of the NYTimes, this week reminds us that the failings of our health care system are manifest: we spend more, but get less – fewer covered and lower life expectancy than in any other western economy.

Moreover, the usual suspects (our lifestyle) and the usual bugbears (socialized medicine!) are distortions and outright lies.

krugman

By PAUL KRUGMAN | Published: November 9, 2007

The United States spends far more on health care per person than any other nation. Yet we have lower life expectancy than most other rich countries. Furthermore, every other advanced country provides all its citizens with health insurance; only in America is a large fraction of the population uninsured or underinsured.

For those fortunate enough to have health insurance, premiums keep rising, and employers are beginning to push employees to pay more of the freight, or even to start to pay additional for their lifestyle choices.

For example, several cases have hit the news recently where employers have fired, or failed to hire, otherwise qualified people who are smokers.

Aside from the disturbing privacy concerns, the entire concept of group insurance (where the large numbers of average members in good health balances those few with greater needs) is at risk here.

But, as Krugman tells us, what apologists and politicians like Rudy Giuliani have done is blanket us with excuses, not solutions, and inaccurate and downright wrong excuses at that.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Health Care Excuses – New York Times

As a reluctantly, increasingly active consumer of the U.S. healthcare system, one of the luckiest ones covered through a plan 80% subsidized by my employer, I take for granted that I see medical professionals regularly, for the cost of a nominal co-pay up to that 20%. For what is spent, my experience should be the rule and not exceptional.

Armed with Paul Krugman’s excuse-busters, let’s all work to shed light to undo all of the misinformation out there on this subject.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE