Posts tagged with Health

KDHE secretary advises KU pharmacy students to get to know their legislators

The secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told a group of Kansas University pharmacy students they should be their own advocates and make their voices heard as the state works to fix a gap between Medicaid funding and expenses.

Bob Moser told the group of students and administrators on Monday the funding gap is widening for Medicaid costs —enrollment is going up by about 4.6 percent per year, while costs are increasing at about 7.4 percent per year, he said.

“We have to address this cost growth, or it’s going to affect other programs,” he said.

Costs are growing in large part because the population is aging, he said, and more people are becoming disabled, which qualifies them to receive Medicaid funds.

Moser said his office is focused on efforts to integrate “whole-person” care into the system and to involve health care managers in the care of patients to help them take medications on time, refill prescriptions and keep appointments, among other efforts.

He encouraged pharmacy students to involve themselves in the policymaking process by meeting with legislators.

He talked about working as a physician for 22 years in the western Kansas town of Tribune. He was often called upon to testify at state legislative hearings on a variety of topics.

“They value what health care providers have to say,” he said of legislators. “But they may not seek you out, necessarily.”

He encouraged students to make appointments with legislators, to be brief and come prepared with two or three talking points, leave with a business card and follow up with a thank-you note.

“Develop that relationship,” he said. “Whether you voted for them or not doesn’t matter.”

Donating big dollars to campaign war chests isn’t necessary, he said. But, especially at the national level, pairing with an organization with a political action committee can help get you in the door to see a legislator rather than working with staff.

“(Money) does get you access,” he said. “Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.”

Still, students shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to make their voices heard.

“It’s amazing what you’ll be able to do,” he said.

By Andy Hyland


Combat the common cold

Sneezes are in the air. And the onslaught of germs will only get worse as cold viruses go from hand to hand during the holiday season. There’s no cure for the common cold, but there are plenty of ways to aid recovery. Here’s a guide to surviving the common cold.

Move over vitamin C

In helping fight off colds, vitamin D might be the new vitamin C. A 2009 study from the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, found that people who have the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood also had significantly more bouts with colds and flu. For those with chronic respiratory disorders, such as asthma or emphysema, the risks were even higher. Scott Risley, a doctor with Risley Chiropractic, takes vitamin D during the winter months.

“It’s a really good immune booster. It’s like vitamin C’s big brother,” he said.

Typically, sunshine produces vitamin D in the body. In the winter, sunshine is lacking. Vitamin D can be found in milk and fish, such as herring or salmon, but is easier to take as a vitamin supplement.

A diet rich in vitamin C isn’t a bad idea either. The Mayo Clinic reports that while vitamin C won’t prevent the cold, it can help shorten the duration of the symptoms. Vitamin C can be found in a lot more places than orange juice. Peppers, green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, guava, cantaloupe and strawberries all have a lot of vitamin C.

Eat, sleep, drink well

Besides eating well, it’s important to get enough rest and exercise, even if it’s at a reduced level.

Just as the mind gets a little foggy with too little sleep and too much stress, Risley said the pathogen fighting cells don’t react as well in those conditions.

Another key to recovery is staying hydrated. The Mayo Clinic says you can’t flush out a cold, but drinking a lot of liquids help. Water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey loosen congestion and prevent dehydration, the Mayo Clinic claims. Staying away from alcohol, coffee and caffeinated sodas also helps.

“The folks who end up in the hospital are the ones who don’t keep up with it. Their fevers are high. They stay in bed, don’t eat or drink. And the next thing you know they are at the hospital on IV fluid,” said Karen Evans, a doctor at Mount Oread Family Practice.

Pamper the nose

Humidifiers can be a good first line of defense in fighting off the cold. The cold virus thrives in dry air, so using a humidifier helps moisten mucus membranes in the nose, Risley said. And that helps catch more bacteria and germs going in and out of your body. It also helps prevent a stuffy nose and scratchy throat.

Once a cold is in full force, the Mayo Clinic recommends using over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays, which make breathing easier and relieve congestion. Unlike nasal decongestants, saline drops and sprays won’t worsen the symptoms when you stop taking the medicine. For a scratchy throat, try gargling salt water.

Try what can’t hurt

Researchers continue to debate the effectiveness of age-old remedies such as echinacea, zinc or even chicken soup. Evans holds to the theory that if it makes you feel better, then do it.

“It’s not going to hurt anything,” she said.

And some research shows that these time-worn preventions come with scientific proof to back them up. The Mayo Clinic claims that the reason chicken soup tastes so good to sore throat sufferers is because it may have “anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning effects.”

Zinc, the Mayo Clinic reports, has been shown through comprehensive analysis and clinical-trial data to be beneficial. Of course there are a few drawbacks: Zinc lozenges don’t taste that good and can cause nausea. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that zinc-based nasal sprays can take away a sense of smell.

As for echinacea, results have been mixed on whether the herbal supplement helps treat or prevent colds. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease reports that some researchers have found it might help in treating a cold if taken in the early stages; however other studies have found it has no effect.

Don’t turn to antibiotics

Antibiotics attack bacteria, but don’t kill viruses, which is the menace behind the common cold. So resist the urge to call your doctor or dig through your medicine cabinet to acquire antibiotics to battle a cold. The Mayo Clinic claims using antibiotics inappropriately can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious concern in health care.

“I think we are sometimes too prone to want to medicate it as opposed to have the chance to fight it off,” Risley said and noted allowing your body to fight it off builds your immune system.

Evans suggests giving your body a week to fight off the virus before visiting the doctor.

“Most viruses are going to clear up and will be starting to improve within a week’s time. If not, it could be something else going on,” she said.

If the cold doesn’t get better after a week, Evans said it’s time to go to the doctor.

Keep hands, germs to yourself

These tips won’t do you much good when you’ve already landed a cold. But they will help you from spreading it. Washing your hands, coughing into your elbow and using antiseptic wipes to disinfect telephones, doorknobs and grocery carts are all good ideas. Also, when sick or when just trying to stay healthy, avoid large crowds. Just think of all those germs swarming around Black Friday sales.

By Christine Metz


Mandatory reporting of child abuse is obligation not to be taken lightly

In all the questions swirling around the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State, one stands out: How could such high-level officials suspect sexual abuse was occurring and not report it?

The question is both a legal and moral one.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing or molesting eight boys. But what really caught the media’s attention was an incident in 2002 where a Penn State graduate assistant allegedly witnessed a sexual act between Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy in the football locker room showers. He reported that incident to legendary coach Joe Paterno, who reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley. They and other university officials never reported the incident to authorities.

Even for someone who has seen as many child sex abuse cases as Douglas County chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan, the information from the grand jury’s report that detailed the allegations was shocking.

“The first question is how could it go on and no one do anything about it,” she said.

The scenario at Penn State reminds McGowan of the scandal of sexual abuse that continues to rock the Catholic Church.

“Much like the Catholic Church, they didn’t want to believe it was happening, they didn’t want their reputation to be sullied,” McGowan said.

McGowan, who handles many of the district’s sex crime cases, knows that people’s immediate impulse is to believe the sexual abuse is not happening. And often they are afraid of the repercussions of reporting it.

“People are really afraid of a witch hunt kind of deal. They know if they report accusations that are valid it can change people’s lives and have a long-lasting effect. Adults know when I pick up that phone and make the call, this is what can happen,” McGowan said. “What I say ... (is) err on the side of caution for the protection of the child.”

In Kansas, state law requires people in certain kinds of professions to report child sexual abuse to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The list of mandatory reporters is a long one and focuses mainly on those who commonly come in contact with children.

“It’s designed to make sure that those who have the most contact with children, who are the likely ones to see the potential for abuse and neglect, report it,” SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki said.

It includes doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, counselors, teachers, school administrators, other school employees where the child attends, child care providers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, court services officers, case managers and mediators.

While it’s clear that those working in schools are required to report child sexual abuse in Kansas, universities are in a grayer area.

Siedlecki said all academic institutions would fall under the mandated reporting law. But in a statement issued Thursday, Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said the state’s mandatory reporting law doesn’t cover institutions of higher education. However, she stated KU is examining changes to its policies that would “codify that responsibility for our employees.”

Mandated reporting is even required for instances that usually fall under confidentiality agreements, such as those between a doctor and patient.

“You have to do it. The law makes you do it. So you are not going to be worried about other oaths or ethics or professionalism. It’s all about the protection of the child,” McGowan said.

Being a mandated reporter also means you don’t get the chance to do an investigation of your own before calling SRS. That’s what trained professionals are for, McGowan said.

Those who are mandated by law to report child sexual abuse and fail to do so could be charged with a misdemeanor, which comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. The firing of Paterno and other top university officials at Penn State drives home just how serious this law is, Siedlecki said.

“It will prompt people to know if you don’t report something and follow up you could face serious penalties, including losing your job and prosecution,” Siedlecki said.

SRS has a 24-hour hot line (1-800-922-5330) for child abuse reports. Once SRS gets a report, its goal is to have an initial written assessment within the next half working day. Those are calls SRS takes seriously, Siedlecki said.

“Every adult has an obligation to prevent child abuse. While protecting the child is part of the mission of SRS, preventing child abuse and neglect is part of everyone’s responsibility,” Siedlecki said. “No child deserves to be put through the trauma like they were in Pennsylvania.”

By Christine Metz


Brownback sets up meetings across state to discuss child poverty

Child welfare advocates say they are pleased that Gov. Sam Brownback has initiated meetings to address childhood poverty but are concerned about some earlier Brownback actions.

“We’re delighted to see the governor elevate the conversation,” said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children.

But Cotsoradis said she is worried about a directive from Brownback to state agencies to reduce Children’s Initiatives Fund expenditures in their proposed budget submissions. Some of those submissions have proposed cuts of nearly 30 percent, she said.

If approved by the Legislature next year, those cuts “would have a devastating impact,” on programs that provide newborn screenings, early childhood education and other services to children and their families, she said. Funding for the CIF comes from payments made to the state from the master tobacco settlement, which in turn goes to programs that serve about 200,000 Kansas children.

Nearly a quarter of Kansas children are living in poverty, the governor’s office said.

Brownback has said reducing the percentage of children living in poverty is one of his top goals.

“Studies show children who grow up in poverty are less likely to succeed in school and later in life,” Brownback said.

Brownback has set up three meetings “to gather insights and strategies to reduce childhood poverty, increase childhood educational outcomes and decrease child abuse and neglect.”

He has put Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. in charge of the meetings.

“Every Kansan has a stake in the outcome of this initiative,” Siedlecki said. “I am hoping that everyone concerned about childhood poverty will attend these meetings and participate in these discussions, regardless of their vocation or background,” he said.

But the format and times of the meetings have raised some concerns.

The meetings are from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., which will decrease the chance of people who work during the day to attend.

And the format of the meetings, which Brownback has called “town hall meetings,” will have those attending divided into small groups for discussions with a facilitator at each table. Attendees also are being asked to register before attending.

Kari Ann Rinker, state coordinator of Kansas National Organization for Women, said the format and time of the meetings will thwart open dialogue.

“It prevents the expression of legitimate public concerns about the issue of childhood poverty,” she said.

Brownback’s office disagrees. The format allows all participants to be heard and have input, said Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag.

It is the same format the Brownback administration used for meetings held on Medicaid issues, which Jones-Sontag said received a lot of positive impact.

As far as having the meetings during the day, she said that will give advocacy groups more of an opportunity to participate. Nighttime meetings are more difficult to attend, she said, especially for people who have children.

By Scott Rothschild


Cedar Creek Pharmacy to participate in bone marrow registration campaign

De Soto's Cedar Creek Pharmacy will be participating in a national campaign to get more Americans registered to be bone marrow donors through the National Community Pharmacists Association and DKMS Americas.

The pharmacy, located at 8960 Commerce Dr., Suite 4A, will be performing cheek swabs and filing paperwork for any interested, potential donors next week, Nov. 7-11, during regular business hours, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Because the donor eligibility requirements are strict, pharmacist Lori Murdock recommends either calling the pharmacy, (913) 583-1117, or visiting DKMS Americas website beforehand to make certain you are able to register before being swabbed.


Sheriff's department collecting expired and unused medications

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office will once again be taking part in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, Oct. 29, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Any Johnson County resident can drop off unused, unneeded or expired prescription medication at either the Johnson County Courthouse, at the east entrance, at 125 N. Cherry St. in Olathe or at the Fred Allenbrand Criminal Justice Complex Operations Center at 27747 W. 159th St. in New Century.

Any solid dosage medication will be accepted but injectable medications and syringes will not.


Hospice program recruiting volunteers, will provide free training

Care Alternatives Hospice is currently recruiting volunteers in the De Soto area to work with professionals to make a difficult time a bit easier for patients and families.

Volunteers compliment hospice services by reading, playing music, sharing stories, offering a caring presence or simply listening in the patient's home or nursing facility. Care Alternatives will provide free training to those interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities in the area.

To learn more, contact Valerie Webb, Volunteer Coordinator at or (816) 584-8111.


Brownback’s rejection of health insurance grant continues to spur questions

Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to reject a $31.5 million federal grant to start a health insurance exchange stirred up controversy and confusion on Monday.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger told legislators that the state is in danger of not meeting a crucial deadline in implementation of the exchange.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the exchanges are meant to provide online marketplaces where consumers can shop for health insurance and receive subsidies, if eligible.

But Praeger conceded that development of the exchanges and the entire federal health reform law could be altered by legal decisions or the outcome of next year’s presidential and U.S. Senate elections.

“At this point, we just have to look at what is on the books today,” she told the Special Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance.

“Tomorrow this could all change,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who is a vocal critic of the health reform law.

Praeger said even though that’s true, “It’s still important to stay at the table and deal with the uncertainties, otherwise it will be done to us.”

The issue of establishing a state-based exchange in Kansas was dealt a blow in August when Brownback rejected a $31.5 million “early innovator” grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Brownback, who had earlier supported the grant, rejected it, saying there were too many strings attached to the federal funding. He said his administration would not move forward on implementing the ACA until the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on whether the law, signed by President Barack Obama, was constitutional.

Praeger said it is possible the court could rule on the case as early as June.

The exchanges are supposed to be in effect by 2014, and Praeger said the state was in danger of not being able to meet that deadline unless the Legislature next year agreed to move forward.

She said the federal government will implement an exchange in Kansas if the state doesn’t. Kansas would lose some flexibility if the feds put in the exchange, she said.

By Scott Rothschild


Advocates hope Food Day eventually gains same staying power as Earth Day

In spring 1970, at a time when industries could pump and dump practically whatever they wanted into the skies and waters, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson created a day that called attention to the need for regulatory change.

Nearly 20 million Americans demonstrated throughout the country, and by the end of that year the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

Each April 22, now known as Earth Day, is marked by parades, festivals and other events.

Five years after the first Earth Day, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sponsored Food Day to raise awareness of food safety and nutrition issues. It lasted just three years.

More than 35 years later, the same organization thinks the nation is ready to address the issues of a healthy and sustainable food system. And this time it is a topic that could have the staying power of Earth Day.

“People want to support local food and reconnect with food producers. In the states, I see that coming up again and again,” said Catherine Kastleman, a Food Day project coordinator.

Hundreds of events are planned across the country to celebrate the return of Food Day on Oct. 24. Celebrity chefs will be serving dinner in Times Square, and more than 15,000 people are expected to attend a regional food festival in Savannah, Ga.

While there isn’t anything quite so flashy here, Douglas County will have more than a dozen events throughout the next two weeks to celebrate Food Day.

Haskell Indian Nations University is using Food Day to promote recognizing indigenous foods. It will have speakers, workshops and an indigenous food feast.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is hosting a kids-focused nutrition carnival, and the Raven Book Store will have a book reading.

“There is so much to do this week, you can’t attend everything,” said Patty Metzler, a dietician at Lawrence Memorial Hospital who is the community coordinator for Lawrence’s Food Day activities.

On Oct. 24, the Douglas County Food Council will release a report that looks at Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties’ food systems. The report examines how much money is spent on food, how much is produced and consumed in the region and the number of residents who live in “food deserts.”

“It sets forth what kind of areas we have to focus on and what really needs attention,” said Eileen Horn, the sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County.

The number of events from different groups highlights just how much the community has rallied around the local food movement in recent years and the many reasons it is being supported.

“I’m so proud of the people around here who are so involved,” Metzler said.

The intent of Food Day is to take a holistic view of the food system, Kastleman said.

“Food Day is a great opportunity for people to advocate and work together on not just one aspect, but trying to fix the entire American food system. To improve it, to make it more healthy, sustainable and affordable for everybody,” Kastleman said.

Food Day is founded on six principles:

  • Reduce diet-related diseases by promoting safe, healthy foods.

  • Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness.

  • Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.

  • Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms.

  • Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to children.

  • Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.

Organizers hope those principles will continue to be promoted during Food Days years from now.

“Imagine if 30 years from now it is as big as Earth Day. It is exciting to be in on the ground floor,” Horn said.

Food Day Activities


7 p.m.

Haskell Auditorium, Haskell Indian Nations University

Kicking off Haskell’s Indigenous Food Festival will be a keynote address from Casey Camp-Horineck, a member of the Ponca Nation, longtime native-rights activist, environmentalist and actress.


1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Stidham Union, Haskell

Haskell will host a series of workshop on indigenous foods. Sessions will focus on school garden curricula, tribal food projects, food sovereignty and seed-saving projects.

5:30 p.m.

Stidham Union, Haskell

An indigenous food cooking contest will be held. Categories include chili, stews or soups, side dish and dessert. All dishes should have ingredients commonly found in Native foods or are indigenous to the region. The cooking contest will be followed by the indigenous foods feast at 6 p.m.


2 p.m.

Harter Union lobby, Baker University

Baker Servers, a community service organization, will host a Numana SWIPE Out Hunger food packaging event that aims to package 20,000 school meals for Haitian relief.

5 p.m.

Harter Union Dining Hall, Baker

An OXFAM Hunger Banquet will feature recent Baker graduate and food activist Blain Snipstal and Marta Chiappe, a sociology faculty member at Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay.

7:30 p.m.

Rice Auditorium, Baker

Cornelia Butler Flora, a professor of agriculture and sociology at Iowa State University, will give a talk on Climate Change, Food Security and Food Sovereignty. She’s the featured speaker at Baker University’s Food Day celebration

Monday, Oct. 24

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Harter Union lobby, Baker

A Real Food Information Fair will feature local organic farmers, diet and disease specialists, food activists, Baker Farm Hands, Baldwin Food Pantry representative and dining services purchaser.

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Multicultural Resource Center, Kansas University

The KU Center for Sustainability will host a talk on the role of higher education in fighting hunger. The discussion will look at what the campuses are doing and what they could be doing from both an academic and service perspective.

7 p.m.

Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., Lawrence

Alison Cain will read excerpts from Girls Got Guts, a booklet of interviews from small-scale, sustainable women farmers in the region. The event will also feature a panel of local community leaders, who will discuss the importance of local foods and how they can be incorporated into the community. And, there will be sampling of local foods.

9 p.m.

Owens Audio Visual Room, Baker

“Dirt! The Movie” will be shown. The documentary looks at the relationship between humans and dirt, a resource that helps sustain life.

Tuesday, Oct. 25

11 a.m.

Mabee 100, Baker

A workshop on sustainable growing practices will be presented by Steve Pierce and Matt Williams

Wednesday, Oct. 26

4 p.m.

Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Mass., Lawrence

The Douglas County Food Policy Council will discuss their recommendations with the Douglas County Commission regarding a report that examines the regional food system.

Thursday, Oct. 27

5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Baker University dining room

A virtual farm tour will feature many local growers and producers.

Friday, Oct. 28

12 p.m.

Harter Union lobby

Speech Choir performance will focus on real food topics.

Saturday, Oct. 29

9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Lower level of Lawrence Memorial Hospital

Lawrence Memorial Hospital will host a kid-centric nutrition carnival that will include booths and speakers that promote healthy eating for children. Seed packets will be handed out to encourage children to become involved in food production.

By Christine Metz


Medical startup to locate in KU’s biosciences incubator

A startup company that works to make painkillers have fewer side effects has signed a deal to locate in Kansas University’s biosciences incubator.

Mencuro Therapeutics Inc. has agreed to move into the Bioscience and Technology Business Center Expansion Facility near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The company uses research developed by KU researcher Tom Prisinzano and Laura Bohn, a neuroscientist at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida. That pair teamed up with colleagues Robert Karr and Randy Weiss to launch the company earlier this year. The startup is hiring one full-time biologist immediately and plans to hire additional scientists within the next year.

The company’s focus is on how to make painkillers similar to morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, but without harsh side effects.

“We’re trying to take the strongest, most potent painkillers and eliminate the side effects so they’re more like Advil or Tylenol,” Prisinzano said.

Mencuro becomes the 11th tenant for the 14-month old incubator system. The incubator houses nine tenants at its main facility on West Campus and two at its expansion facility at Bob Billings and Wakarusa Drive. The incubator is a partnership among KU, the city, the county, the chamber, the local bioscience authority and the state bioscience authority. The strong amount of tenant activity has led to expansion plans for the incubator. The city has put $500,000 in its 2012 budget to kickstart an effort to build more space on West Campus. The project likely will take $7 million to $8 million to complete.

By Chad Lawhorn