Posts tagged with Health

Audio-Reader celebrates 40 years of helping visually impaired

At 103 years old, Bill Calwell still plays golf and goes fishing. The Topeka resident has authored three books and continues to write on an old Royal typewriter.

However, his vision limits his ability to read, a big problem for a writing man. No worries, though. For the past 15 years, Calwell has subscribed to a free program that provides him audio recordings of his work and reads him the day’s news.

It’s called Audio-Reader, a Kansas University public service for visually impaired people. It’s based in Lawrence at the Baehr home, 1120 W. 11th St., next door to Kansas Public Radio. It broadcasts readings of national and local newspapers and excerpts of books 24 hours a day.

“It’s my right hand,” Calwell said. “Sometimes I think, at my age, my life wouldn’t be worth living without it.”

Public-radio stations broadcast the program on a subchannel received through specially tuned radios. Audio-Reader provides free radios to anyone with a documented vision handicap.

The founder, the late Petey Cerf, an advocate for elderly people, realized nursing home patients needed such a service. She ignored skeptics and started the program with the university, which agreed to administer the program through its KANU station and pay for receivers. Cerf bought the transmitter required to broadcast the program. Audio-Reader began broadcasting 40 years ago Tuesday from the Sudler house, now the Max Kade Center.

“Probably not more than three or four of us could record at a time,” said Eleanor Symons, who has volunteered for 40 years.

The station gradually grew, acquiring an old prison trailer and expanding its broadcast range beyond Lawrence. In 1988, the station moved into its current location, formally a fraternity house.

Today, the program is hosted on the NPR satellite and picked up by seven stations in Kansas and Missouri. Stations as far away as California and New Jersey broadcast select portions. Lori Kesinger, program manager, said Audio-Reader is nationally recognized for its excellence.

Programming is a mix of national and local news. Kesinger said the focus is to keep listeners in touch with their community.

“I try to ask, ‘If you lived in that town, what would you look for?’” Kesinger said.

Users can call in and listen to the day’s news over the phone. They can also submit documents to be recorded.

Audio-Reader relies on funding from the university and private donors, including the Lions Club. Money comes in cycles and, lately, Kesinger said it’s a low one. The station is not facing immediate danger, though.

“It’s not going to shut down,” she said. “The founders set up a good framework.”

Volunteers read thousands of pages every day.

When asked what motivated her to work with the organization for 40 years, Symons said it was the same reason she started.

“Honestly, I like reading aloud,” she said. “I always have.”

By Chris hong

Reply

Constitutionality of health care reform mandate debated at Dole Institute event

A one-sentence question was posed by Dole Institute of Politics Associate Director Barbara Ballard: Is the federal government’s 2014 insurance mandate under the new health care law constitutional?

One attorney on each side tried to make it simple. But it’s complicated.

“What doesn’t seem to fall into the rubric of regulating commerce is forcing people into commerce so that the government can regulate them,” said Gregory Katsas, a litigation partner at the Washington firm of Jones Day, who is involved in one challenge to the federal health care law on behalf of a national small-business group.

But Catherine Stetson, a partner and director of appellate practice at another Washington firm, Hogan Lovells, had members of the audience raise their hands if they’d ever had to unexpectedly go to the doctor or the emergency room.

“There is another market that all of us are in or will be in whether we want to be or not,” she said, “and that’s the health care market.”

Stetson argued that’s what Congress was trying to accomplish by passing the law in 2010 and including the mandate that requires every individual to purchase insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. It’s crucial because it costs the health care industry and hospitals billions of dollars in uncompensated care to uninsured patients, she said.

Both attorneys told moderator Steve McAllister, a Kansas University law professor, that they believed the U.S. Supreme Court would decide the issue by June. An 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled this year that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage.

Katsas, who was involved in that case, argued the health insurance market was not unlike the selling of any other products “whether it be broccoli or General Motors cars or Citibank mortgages.”

But Stetson said her side was talking about financing a risk.

“You do not drive a General Motors car off the lot and tell the dealer just to bill your neighbor or to take the cost of the car on yourself,” she said. “That’s what Congress has concluded has happened every single day to the tune of billions of dollars in the health care economy.”

The debate was part of Constitution Day programming at KU.

As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s expected handling of at least one of the legal challenges that has worked its way through the appellate court system, Stetson predicted that for how divisive the issue was before Congress, the justices won’t split 5 to 4 on party lines, but instead uphold the mandate 7 to 2, with Justice Clarence Thomas and one other justice yet to be determined dissenting.

Katsas didn’t make a prediction based on his involvement in the 11th Circuit case, but he said the Supreme Court will be breaking new ground either way.

“I think both sides have a pretty good fighting chance,” he said. “And I think I’ll just leave it at that.”

By George Diepenbrock

Reply

5 Questions: Think Pink

Q: Can breast cancer be prevented?

A: There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are things all women can do that might reduce their risk and help increase the odds that if cancer does occur, it is found at an early, more treatable stage.

Q: How can I lower my risk of developing breast cancer?

A: You can lower your risk of breast cancer by changing those risk factors that can be changed. Women who limit alcohol intake, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy body weight have a lower risk of getting breast cancer. Women who choose to breast-feed for at least several months may also get an added benefit of reducing their breast cancer risk. Not using hormone therapy after menopause can help you avoid raising your risk.

Q: Is there more I can do?

A: Other than lifestyle changes, the most important action a woman can take is to follow early detection guidelines.

Q: What are the American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection?

A: Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year and should continue to do so for as long as they are in good health.

Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.

Breast self exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Q: What causes breast cancer?

A: Many risk factors may increase your chance of developing breast cancer, but it is not yet known exactly how some of these risk factors cause cells to become cancerous. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.

Reply

Without a state health insurance exchange, feds will take over major portions of system, official says

If Kansas doesn’t put together its own health insurance exchange, the federal government will install one, taking over major portions of the health care system in the state, an official said Tuesday.

“It takes huge control away from states,” said Linda Sheppard, director of the health and accident division of the Kansas Department of Insurance, about a federally implemented exchange.

Gov. Sam Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant to help set up a Kansas-designed health insurance exchange. He said there were too many strings attached to the grant, although he had earlier supported it and some of the contentions by his administration about the exchange have been refuted.

Critics of Brownback have said he rejected the grant to appease those who oppose any movement to prepare for the federal Affordable Care Act.

The health insurance exchanges are a key provision under the federal law and are required to be in place by 2014. The exchanges will provide a one-stop marketplace for hundreds of thousands of Kansans to purchase health insurance. The exchange will also determine eligibility for subsidies to buy coverage.

If a state doesn’t design its own exchange, the federal government will step in and do it, said Sheppard, who recently attended meetings in Washington, D.C., with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to discuss what an exchange would be like if the federal government implemented it in Kansas.

On Tuesday, she reported about those discussions to a working group that is handling health insurance reform issues.

Sheppard said she was told a federally implemented exchange would determine eligibility for Medicaid, enrollment of consumers in qualified health plans, and what coverage insurance plans would offer.

“They (the federal government) would be taking over eligibility and enrollment,” Sheppard said. “They would be determining who was eligible and tell states who you need to cover. It would take eligibility control over the states.”

Sheppard added, “We communicated with them we didn’t like that.”

She said that the federal officials said they were open to ideas and recommendations from the states.

“There was some sense they were open to talking to us,” she said.

Several members of the working group said failure by Kansas to establish an exchange could jeopardize potential Medicaid reforms.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

Without a state health insurance exchange, feds will take over major portions of system, official says

If Kansas doesn’t put together its own health insurance exchange, the federal government will install one, taking over major portions of the health care system in the state, an official said Tuesday.

“It takes huge control away from states,” said Linda Sheppard, director of the health and accident division of the Kansas Department of Insurance, about a federally implemented exchange.

Gov. Sam Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant to help set up a Kansas-designed health insurance exchange. He said there were too many strings attached to the grant, although he had earlier supported it and some of the contentions by his administration about the exchange have been refuted.

Critics of Brownback have said he rejected the grant to appease those who oppose any movement to prepare for the federal Affordable Care Act.

The health insurance exchanges are a key provision under the federal law and are required to be in place by 2014. The exchanges will provide a one-stop marketplace for hundreds of thousands of Kansans to purchase health insurance. The exchange will also determine eligibility for subsidies to buy coverage.

If a state doesn’t design its own exchange, the federal government will step in and do it, said Sheppard, who recently attended meetings in Washington, D.C., with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to discuss what an exchange would be like if the federal government implemented it in Kansas.

On Tuesday, she reported about those discussions to a working group that is handling health insurance reform issues.

Sheppard said she was told a federally implemented exchange would determine eligibility for Medicaid, enrollment of consumers in qualified health plans, and what coverage insurance plans would offer.

“They (the federal government) would be taking over eligibility and enrollment,” Sheppard said. “They would be determining who was eligible and tell states who you need to cover. It would take eligibility control over the states.”

Sheppard added, “We communicated with them we didn’t like that.”

She said that the federal officials said they were open to ideas and recommendations from the states.

“There was some sense they were open to talking to us,” she said.

Several members of the working group said failure by Kansas to establish an exchange could jeopardize potential Medicaid reforms.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

The art of "Self-Examination": Survivor's works headline breast cancer-themed exhibit

When Connie Ehrlich was diagnosed with breast cancer, first came the shock. No one in her family had breast cancer. She was only in her mid-40s. She was otherwise healthy. How could it be that she had cancer?

But there it was, straight from a nurse’s lips, at closing time before the long July 4th weekend: stage 2 ductal carcinoma in-situ, high grade.

Once the shock had settled in and the treatment plan ensued, Ehrlich leaned on her family, friends and her art. A longtime painter, Ehrlich found herself using brush strokes to express feelings she couldn’t get out in words alone.

“I kept notes and stuff and I kind of used those and just ... the feelings just poured out of me,” says the Lawrence artist, who worked on paintings and monoprints during the time. “The paintings are more moody, kind of mysterious pieces. But the monoprints are more defined on having cancer.”

Now, Ehrlich and her art of expression are featured in “Self-Examination” an exhibit that opened Tuesday at The Lawrence Art Guild’s space, 1109 Gallery, 1109 Mass. Ehrlich will speak during a reception held in conjunction with September’s Final Fridays festivities — 7 to 9 p.m., Sept. 30.

Ehrlich’s works are featured in the garage gallery, while the rest of the gallery is filled with thoughts and impressions by more than 30 artists. Included are 21 plaster busts that have been decorated by local talent and will be sold with all proceeds going to a breast cancer patient’s medical expenses. “Self-Examination” runs through October — National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and beyond, ending Nov. 20.

Linda Baranski, director of the gallery, says the works are moving, personal and educational — and sure to help those in need in the same way that other fund-raising shows have in the past at the gallery.

“We try to do a couple of shows a year that help other organizations in the community,” says Baranski, noting the gallery has raised funds and exposure for the Lawrence Humane Society and the Douglas County AIDS Project. “We decided this year we wanted to do something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

Baranski approached Ehrlich, who was working on the pieces at the time, and the two cooked up the exhibit so that it might have a benefit angle.

With the show finally up, Ehrlich, who will be a year in remission in December, says that she’s thrilled for the opportunity to share work that she knows will resonate with anyone touched by cancer.

“It was a shock, but it helped to inspire my art,” Ehrlich says. “I don’t look at it as a blessing, but as something you live through and learn from, if you can.”

By Sarah Henning

Reply

‘Taste Test Tuesdays’ offer De Soto students first bite of new treats

Amy Droegemeier, the De Soto school district's student nutrition director, serves up samples.

Amy Droegemeier, the De Soto school district's student nutrition director, serves up samples. by Stephen Montemayor

Before Amy Droegemeier could serve up samples of potential school lunch additions last week, to Riverview Elementary fifth-graders the De Soto school district’s student nutrition director first had to serve as emcee.

Three new — and, to some, unknown quantities — menu items would be doled out as part of the district’s ongoing Taste Test Tuesday tour, and Droegemeier had to preview the fare.

“Good afternoon, fifth-graders!” she said to the packed cafeteria. “I’m the lady responsible for setting up your lunches. If I hear any boos, you’ll be getting chocolate bugs and oatmeal.”

Riverview Elementary was the second school to play host to Taste Test Tuesday — eventually, Droegemeier said, all 12 district schools would see samples by year’s end.

Today’s samples?

Sweet potato fries. Ooh! Yay!

Egg rolls. Whoa!

Hummus. (Confused chatter).

“If you don’t want to try any of the samples, just say ‘no, thank you,’” Droegemeier said. “But you’re my brave fifth-graders, so I know you’ll give it a shot.”

Droegemeier then proceeded, with several cafeteria workers, to pass out the fries, egg roll slices and hummus with tortilla chip scoops to the students and solicited their reactions on the spot.

As with the first Taste Test subjects last month at Starside Elementary School, it took little time to convert the hummus skeptics.

Droegemeier pointed out Josh Padron, who Droegemeier thought boo’ed the hummus.

“Did you boo?” she asked.

“No! I eww’ed” he said. “I had never tasted it before. But it’s good, it’s good.”

Josh said he said the hummus tasted like a “spicy sauce” with hints of mustard and “different spices.”

Droegemeier then returned with a plastic bucket of sweet potato fries, which too received praise. Josh and the rest of his table flashed thumbs up after a taste.

“I’m in love with the sweet potato fries,” Lucy Graff said.

On her way to unload her tray, Lucy called the sampling “a privilege.”

If mention of samples recalls memories of strolling the aisles at Sam’s Club on the weekends, it’s not an accident.

Droegemeier, in her first year as the district’s student nutrition director, said her two sons, who also attend schools in the district, once asked her why they couldn’t also have samples in their cafeterias. With approaching changes to federal guidelines on what schools must serve for lunch, Droegemeier found a way to introduce some new items that will soon be appearing out of necessity.

Before the lunch period ended — the taste tests continued with each crop of students — Droegemeier put the offerings to a vote. By a show of thumbs, students would show their support for the potential menu additions.

The egg rolls gained near unanimous support. Sweet potato fries saw thumbs raised by nearly three-fourths of cafeteria regulars. When Droegemeier asked how many tried the hummus — which she revealed to be roasted red pepper-flavored and made out of smashed chickpeas — about half of the room raised its thumbs. All thumbs remained up when asked how many of those that tried the dip, liked the dip.

Among the requirements included as part of the new federal guidelines include weekly requirements of dark green and orange vegetables and legumes. The sweet potato fries, which will appear next month on De Soto district menus, go toward fulfilling the orange veggie requirement. Hummus soon may make its way to menus, too, as Droegemeier said the new legume requirement is more challenging.

She said bell peppers, asparagus and black bean burgers were among other considerations that also would be tested. Next up in a few weeks is De Soto High School and then Droegemeier’s off to Prairie Ridge Elementary.

“Let’s see what ends up on the menu,” Droegemeier said before the fifth-graders filed out and the fourth-graders filed in.

By Stephen Montemayor

Reply

Back in the saddle: Woman rides again after 60-plus years

Danila Rock reacts to being atop a horse for the first time in more than 50 years as New Horizon Ranch riding instructor Ronda Wooden and CEO Brian Miller help situate her in the saddle. On Sept. 20 a wish-granting group enabled Rock, an 85-year-old resident at Sweet Life Shawnee, to ride a horse for the first time since she emigrated from Italy, where she rode daily in her youth.

Danila Rock reacts to being atop a horse for the first time in more than 50 years as New Horizon Ranch riding instructor Ronda Wooden and CEO Brian Miller help situate her in the saddle. On Sept. 20 a wish-granting group enabled Rock, an 85-year-old resident at Sweet Life Shawnee, to ride a horse for the first time since she emigrated from Italy, where she rode daily in her youth. by Sara Shepherd

Danila Rock didn’t vice-grip the saddle horn with both hands, or sway like a rag-doll when the horse started moving.

No, she had done this before.

Even though it had been more than 60 years since Rock, an 85-year-old resident of the Sweet Life in Shawnee, rode a horse as a girl in Italy, the memories seemed to come right back last week when she climbed atop a 15-year-old gelding named Tooie at New Horizon Ranch.

The Sweet Life, 11400 W. 65th St., offers Alzheimer’s and dementia care options for seniors. Rock previously lived in Kansas City, Kan., with her husband, who died last fall.

Cindy Gardner, a life enrichment coordinator at the Sweet Life, recalls talking to Rock shortly after she moved in earlier this year.

Gardner teared up as she described how Rock’s eyes sparkled when she talked about riding her horse growing up in Italy.

Rock told Gardner she wished she could have ridden just one more time.

Gardner had an idea — Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime Program — and set to work.

On Sept. 20, after New Horizon staff helped her clamber into the saddle from a raised platform, Rock grabbed the reins, sat up straight and beamed.

New Horizon CEO Brian Miller, volunteer Lynn Riddle of Shawnee and riding instructor Ronda Wooden of Paola flanked Rock as she and Tooie circled the corral, waving to a group of relatives each time she passed the gate. She only started to lean after tiring toward the end of her ride.

Wooden marveled at Rock’s ability to get back on a horse after so many years.

“It’s just inspiring and courageous,” Wooden said. “She just relaxed and settled right in and followed the horse’s motion.”

Back in the barn, Rock talked to Tooie and petted his face, telling him over and over what a nice horse he was, her Italian accent still prominent.

“It was fun riding that horse,” she told a relative. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a horse — at first I was scared.”

Rock still remembers her horse in Italy, where she lived in a country village until moving to the United States after her wedding in 1950. It was a “real nice” horse, was red with white feet, and Rock called her “Pupa,” an Italian term for baby girl.

Back then, she rode a lot.

“All the time,” Rock said. “Every day, sometimes the whole day.”

A relative asked, didn’t she have to ride the horse not just for pleasure but on errands, too?

“Yeah,” Rock said, “but to me, it was fun.”

Jeremy Bloom, a former Olympic skier and professional football player, launched his nonprofit organization in 2008 in honor of his own grandmother, and its website bears the slogan, “Give back to those that gave so much to us.” Brookdale Senior Living, parent company of the Sweet Life, is a major sponsor.

Miller said a Wish of a Lifetime representative contacted him about helping Rock ride again, and he knew it would be a good fit for New Horizon, a therapeutic riding center.

“Our mission is enriching lives through equine-assisted activities,” Miller said. “That’s why we’re here.”

By Sara Shepard

Reply

Affordable Care Act can’t seem to get traction in Kansas

“Obamacare was not popular in Kansas,” Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer told legislators last week in explaining various reasons why Gov. Sam Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant to set up a system required by the Affordable Care Act.

That could be the understatement of the year as far as the Kansas Legislature and Brownback go.

As a U.S. senator, Brownback, a Republican, voted against the ACA that was signed into law by President Barack Obama. As a candidate for governor, Brownback argued for its repeal.

And as governor, he has pushed for a legal challenge of the reform law, signed legislation passed by the Legislature aimed at neutralizing it in Kansas and has now moved administratively against it.

Many Republicans in the Legislature say they hope for the end of the ACA either through a U.S. Supreme Court decision or a GOP victory in the next year’s presidential election.

State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, said, “It was a political decision to pass” the law, and she said a political decision may kill it, noting next year’s congressional and presidential elections.

The $31.5 million “early innovator” grant rejected by Brownback was for Kansas to implement a health insurance exchange. Under the ACA, the exchanges are to be used by individuals and small businesses to shop for health insurance. The exchanges are required to be in place by 2014, and the grant would have allowed Kansas to develop the model that could have been used by other states.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said many who oppose the ACA — on both the right and left — hope it will fail and see “anything done to facilitate (the law) could undermine the lawsuits.”

But Praeger, a Republican, and many Democrats say the ACA is the law of the land and planning should be going on now to implement it.

Praeger has refuted the administration’s claims in turning down the grant.

Brownback and Colyer have said there were too many strings attached to the grant. But Praeger said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has accommodated states, asking them to come forward with ideas and recommendations.

Colyer also said that the exchange would be determining whether end-of-life treatments were too costly. Praeger said that wasn’t true.

Praeger said regardless of one’s opinion on the ACA, “This is a private-insurance approach to make the private-insurance market work. If the law does go away, we still have a dysfunctional health insurance system that we have to fix.”

While polls indicate the public is divided on the Affordable Care Act, supporters of the law say most people agree with its various components, such as prohibitions on pre-existing condition exclusions for children, extended access to insurance for young adults and prohibitions on lifetime dollar limits in health plans.

Despite Brownback’s rejection of the grant, Praeger continues to do the planning work for the exchange. But when asked if she was trying to do an end-run around the Legislature to install a health insurance exchange, she said, “That would be impossible and I wouldn’t want to do it anyway.”

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

5 Questions: Avoiding The Flu

Some health providers already have begun flu clinics, and flu shots will continue to be offered the vaccine throughout the influenza season. Here, officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment discuss flu shots.

Q: Who should be vaccinated?

A: This fall, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated against flu, even if they got vaccinated last season.

Q: What is the big deal about getting vaccinated?

A: By getting the flu vaccine you can protect yourself from influenza and may also avoid spreading influenza to others.

Q: When is flu season?

A: Flu season can begin as early as October. Its severity and timing are impossible to predict and may vary widely from year to year, but “there is no reason to wait until flu season hits before getting a flu shot,” said KDHE secretary Robert Moser. “Get the flu vaccine as soon as it’s available in your community to protect yourself and your family throughout the flu season.”

Q: How long does it take after I get my flu shot for it to be effective?

A: It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

Q: Is there an alternative to getting a “flu shot?”

A: There are two types of influenza vaccine:

Attenuated influenza vaccine contains live but weakened influenza virus and is sprayed into the nostrils. If you’re phobic about needles and you’re between 2 and 49 years of age, ask your health provider about the nasal spray vaccine. It’s just as safe and just as effective as the injection, and it may be the right vaccine for you.

The second is the inactivated (killed) influenza vaccine, or “flu shot,” which is given by injection with a needle.

Reply