Helping make the health care system work for you

Overall, Tdap shot safe for mom and baby, study finds

pregnant pregnancy ms multiple sclerosis silhouette

Photo by mahalie stackpole via Flickr Creative Commons

The Tdap shot - which protects against pertussis - is not associated with preterm birth, small birth weight, or hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, according to a new study.

As loyal readers of this Impatient blog know well, a whooping cough epidemic swept across the Golden State this year.

Infants too young to be vaccinated are most vulnerable to this disease, also known as pertussis. So to protect them, the state health department, as well as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (the group that develops vaccine recommendations for the country) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently began recommending that all pregnant women in their third trimester get the Tdap shot, which protects against pertussis, as well as diphtheria and tetanus.

This new strategy allows moms to pass antibodies onto their babies, protecting the infants until they're old enough to get vaccinated.

But as a new article in the Journal of American Medicine explains, there has been limited data on whether Tdap vaccination during pregnancy affects the health of mothers or their babies… until now.

Read More...

More kids are being hospitalized with mental illness. Why?

astrid westvang/Flickr

Only 700 of the state’s acute psychiatric hospital beds are devoted to patients under age 18.

The number of California kids hospitalized with a mental illness has been steadily climbing since 2007. In fact, for California kids ages 5 to 19, the rate of hospitalization due to mental illness increased about 43 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to figures from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

The graph below, from KidsData.org, shows the striking increase in youth hospitalizations. I've sifted through some of the best research and reporting on this topic, and found some complicated explanations for why this trend might be occurring.

 

Why hospitalized?

Among children admitted to hospitals for mental illness, depression, bipolar disorder, and psychosis are the most common primary diagnoses, according to an analysis by researchers at UCSF’s Benioff Children's Hospital, and published in April in the journal Pediatrics.

Read More...

How accurate are your diabetes test strips and glucose monitors?

Bradley Johnson/Flickr

Diabetics must constantly check their blood sugar levels with a glucose meter and test strips. Some have concerns about the accuracy of these devices.

Last month, we asked people with diabetes to share what they pay for their test strips. It's part of our ongoing #PriceCheck collaboration.

We've heard that the cost of test strips can vary greatly. We've also heard that these test strips - and the blood glucose monitors they're used with - can provide inaccurate data. As we've dug into this topic, people with diabetes and clinicians have told us that the inaccuracy of these strips and glucometers is a huge – and life-threatening – issue.

Accuracy questioned

Strip Safely is an online campaign intended to raise awareness about the inaccurate blood glucose test strips and monitors on the market – and spark change. Here's how it describes this problem:

"Patients using meters that fail to meet accuracy standards face increased risks. Inaccurately high meter readings may cause patients to take too much insulin resulting in insulin shock. Conversely, meters that incorrectly show low results may keep patients from taking enough insulin. To [sic] little insulin may cause high blood glucose and possibly risky diabetic ketoacidosis."

Read More...

Ebola doesn't spook most Californians, poll says

Courtesy of Marci Lopez

On Halloween, a new poll finds there's one thing that a majority of Golden State residents are not worried about: Ebola.

Californians might be scared of ghosts, goblins, and zombies. But on Halloween, a new poll finds there's one thing that a majority of Golden State residents are not worried about: Ebola.

The poll, out of the University of Southern California's Dornsife College of Arts, Science and Letters and the Los Angeles Times, says:

  • 46 percent of California voters are "not at all worried" that they or a family member will be exposed to Ebola;
  • Another 24 percent said they are "not too worried" about Ebola;
  • Meanwhile, 18 percent of Californians said they are "somewhat worried" about it;
  • And, 12 percent are "very worried."

The results are based on interviews with 1,537 registered voters between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29. In comparison, a national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted between Oct. 15 and Oct. 20, found:

Read More...

A side effect of Ebola coverage: Anxiety

stress pencil

Photo by Marsmettnn Tallahassee via Flickr Creative Commons

Forty-one percent of people in the United States are worried that they, or someone in their family, will be exposed to Ebola, according to the Pew Research Center.

Forty-one percent of people in the United States are worried that they, or someone in their family, will be exposed to Ebola, and 17 percent say they are very worried. That's according to a national survey conducted Oct. 15-20 by the Pew Research Center.

In fact, there's little to worry about, since you are extremely unlikely to contract Ebola, say public health officials. This story from NPR explains that other diseases - like measles - are much, much more contagious than Ebola. (You can find our handy reference guide to all things Ebola here.)

Still, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and its Department of Mental Health are teaming up to help adults and children reduce any anxiety they might feel about Ebola, says county Interim Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser. 

Read More...