Insight News

Oct 13th


Obamacare pre-existing condition insurance now enrolling

Some call it health reform, some Obamacare, yet many with a pre-existing health condition and no health insurance may call it a life saver. For them the wait for affordable health insurance may be over. The Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), part of the new Affordable Care Act, is now enrolling.

“For too long, Americans with pre-existing conditions have been locked out” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. “The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan gives them a new option – the same insurance coverage as a healthy individual.”

Returning predators to the wild

Returning predators to the wildDear EarthTalk: What is happening with various programs initiated over the years in the U.S. to return to the wild certain animal species that had been endangered or threatened? And do environmentalists tend to be for or against such efforts? -- Susan Adams, Owl’s Head, ME

From the standpoint of species and ecosystem health, limited attempts at predator reintroduction in the United States have for the most part proven very successful. The gray wolf, extirpated by hunters in the Yellowstone region some 90 years ago, is now thriving there in the wake of a controversial reintroduction program initiated in 1995, when the National Park Service released 31 gray wolves into the park’s expansive backcountry. Today as many as 170 gray wolves roam the park and environs, while the elk population—which was denuding many iconic park landscapes in the absence of its chief predator—has fallen by half, in what many environmentalists see as a win-win scenario.

Radiation exposure from CT scans

Radiation exposure from CT scansDear EarthTalk: Should I fear radiation exposure associated with medical scans such as CT scans, mammograms and the like? -- Shelly Johansen, Fairbanks, AK

The short answer is…maybe. Critics of the health care industry postulate that our society’s quickness to test for disease may in fact be causing more of it, especially in the case of medical scans. To wit, the radiation dose from a typical CT scan (short for computed tomography and commonly known as a “cat scan”) is 600 times more powerful than the average chest x-ray.

A 2007 study by Dr. Amy Berrington de González of the National Cancer Institute projected that the 72 million CT scans conducted yearly in the U.S. (not including scans conducted after a cancer diagnosis or performed at the end of life) will likely cause some 29,000 cancers resulting in 15,000 deaths two to three decades later. Scans of the abdomen, pelvis, chest and head were deemed most likely to cause cancer, and patients aged 35 to 54 were more likely to develop cancer as a result of CT scans than other age group.

Free training for people with chronic health conditions

Free training for people with chronic health conditionsPathways to Better Health: Managing Ongoing Health Conditions is a training program offered by HealthEast Care System for people who are living with chronic health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, obesity, cancer, to name just a few. The program also provides training for caregivers and medical professionals.

The program is a series of six weekly workshops that run for 2 to 2.5 hours. The workshops are informal and include a break and healthy snacks. Participants also receive the 380-page reference book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions. These workshops are provided free of charge.

Congregations unite to promote health and wellness

Focusing on health disparities in the African American community

Four St. Paul congregations are joining forces, for the second year, to raise awareness around the importance of health and wellness.  The “Know Your Numbers” health fair will take place at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, 451 Central Avenue W, St. Paul, on Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 am to 1 pm.  The goal is to promote healthy lifestyles by empowering people through education and screenings, while creating increased awareness of community resources that are available to individuals and families.  

This is an interdenominational activity involving: Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Pilgrim Baptist Church, and Resurrection Temple.  The congregations are part of a larger health initiative under the auspices of the Stairstep Foundation called “There Is A Balm”.

The upsides and down sides of hydroelectric dams.

The upsides and down sides of hydroelectric dams.Dear EarthTalk: Many people oppose dams because they change the flow of rivers and affect the migrating patterns of fish and other species, but aren’t they also a great renewable energy source? -- Ryan Clark, Milton, WA

Hydroelectric dams are among the greenest and most affordable electricity sources in the world—and by far the most widely used renewable energy sources—but they also take a heavy environmental toll in the form of compromised landscapes, ecosystems and fisheries. Hydroelectric dams have been an important component of America’s energy mix since the powerful flow of rivers was first harnessed for industrial use in the 1880s. Today hydroelectric power accounts for seven percent of U.S. electricity generation—and some two-thirds of the country’s renewable power—according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Should soy drinks be called "milk?"

Should soy drinks be called Dear EarthTalk: Is the dairy industry really trying to stop soy milk makers from calling their products “milk?” They must feel very threatened by the preponderance of soy milks now available in supermarkets. -- Gina Storzen, Weymouth, MA

Indeed, just this past April the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), a trade group representing dairy farms, petitioned the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on what it calls “the misappropriation of dairy terminology on imitation milk products.” NMPF has been asking for such a ruling for a decade, and argues that the soy industry’s “false and misleading” labeling is now more common than ever.

According to NMPF president and CEO, Jerry Kozak, the FDA has let the issue slide so that the meaning of ‘milk’ and even ‘cheese’ has been “watered down to the point where many products that use the term have never seen the inside of a barn.”
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