Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump’s Nominee For Agriculture Has Key Health Role |

Although consumers may simply think of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) as responsible for overseeing the farming industry, it also plays a key role in promoting health.  The department is influential in maintaining the nation’s health in four key areas:
Nutrition Assistance
Although food insecurity across the nation has declined in recent years, the USDA found 12.7 percent of all households in 2015 faced hunger. The department helps address this problem by managing the nation’s food assistance initiatives.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is among the best known of those efforts. SNAP, formerly called food stamps, provides a monthly stipend to eligible residents through an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card to use at any qualifying grocer. Since its inception, SNAP has become the nation’s largest safety net for the hungry, feeding more than 44 million Americanslast year. There are additional programs through the school dietary program, the Summer Food Service Program distributes meals at public areas such as churches and playgrounds. This program helped feed 2.6 million children every day during the program’s peak month of July in 2015.  Department of Health and Human Services, the department issued the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Supporting Rural Medicine 

Among those efforts is the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants, which distributes millions of dollars to strengthen telecommunications in rural communities and increase access to resources such as teachers and doctors

Health Education

Since 1969, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program has worked with low-income families to develop healthy diet and exercise habits and educate them about food safety.
Preventing Foodborne Illness Nationally And In Your Home

The USDA helps protect the food supply through the Food Safety and Inspection Service. The office monitors the importation of meat, poultry and egg products by issuing safety certifications to some foods from other countries and auditing their food inspection systems.

Domestically, the same agency monitors food processing and distribution through microbiological testing. It also maintains a system that tracks and alerts potentially dangerous foods. For consumers, the office maintains a USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline to answer individual questions about food preparation.

Amid the cacophony of confirmation hearings for Cabinet nominees, President-elect Donald Trump reportedly has settled on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to fill the final Cabinet-department vacancy: secretary of Agriculture.  

Trump’s Nominee For Agriculture Has Key Health Role | California Healthline

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Alexander to Dr. Price: We Will Work to Rescue Americans Trapped in Collapsing Obamacare System, Build Better Systems

When Will They Ever Learn ??

 At today’s Senate health committee hearing on the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced simultaneously and concurrently as President-elect Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan have also suggested.
“To me, ‘simultaneously’ and ‘concurrently’ means Obamacare should be finally repealed only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care. The American people deserve health care reform that’s done in the right way, for the right reasons, in the right amount of time. It’s not about developing a quick fix. It’s about working toward long-term solutions that work for everyone.”
During the hearing, Alexander addressed the collapsing Obamacare exchanges in Tennessee and across the country and detailed his three-part plan to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously and concurrently.

Alexander said Dr. Price was an excellent nominee and said he looked forward to working with him on rescuing Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare system and building better systems.
Alexander concluded: “Finally, when our reforms become concrete, practical alternatives, we will repeal the remaining parts of Obamacare in order to repair the damage it has caused Americans.  This is what I believe we mean when we say Obamacare should be repealed and replaced, simultaneously and concurrently.”

While some criticize Dr. Price for some of his leanings, it is reassuring that a qualified physician/surgeon has been appointed as a cabinet member, one who truly understands what patients and providers need from organizations that regulate health care.

Press Releases | Press | Chairman's Newsroom | Chairman | The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HHS’s $240M ACA Funding Awards Support Primary Health Access

Not quite as 'sexy' is what the affordable care act is funding in regard to helping eliminate health care professional shortage.   Adding 30 million uninsured to the ranks of 'insured' increases the shortfall in regard to provider access.

“The most critical step in connecting people to quality health care is a primary care provider,” says Secretary Burwell within a press release. “These awards provide financial support directly to health professionals, including physicians, registered nurses, and physician assistants, to help individuals – particularly the 17.6 million uninsured who have recently gained coverage – find the primary care services they need,” Burwell adds.
According to HHS, over 9,600 NHSC primary care medical, dental, nursing and behavioral and mental health practitioners provide “culturally competent care to millions of medically underserved people.” Over 2,000 NURSE Corps nurses are working to strengthen care access, the organization maintains. The bipartisan Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama last April, allows for a two-year NHSC funding extension, explains HHS.
“These awards not only strengthen our primary health care workforce, but increase access to primary care in urban, rural and frontier locations nationwide,” adds Jim Macrae, Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). “Collectively, these programs are serving millions of Americans who rely on the National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps clinicians for essential health care services,” says Macrae.
A financial breakdown regarding the awards and the type of support they intend to offer is as follows:
  • National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program: 200 new awards at $39 million to provide students studying medicine, dentistry, or pursing education as a nurse-midwife, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner in exchange for the delivery of primary health care services in areas where need is “greatest”
  • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: nearly 3,000 new awards at nearly $126 million granted to fully trained primary care clinicians in exchange for providing primary health care services where need is “greatest”
  • National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: nearly 100 new awards at over $11 million to provide loan repayment assistance to allopathic and osteopathic medical students nearing graduation in return for their completion of a primary care residency and work within rural and urban areas of “greatest” need
  • NURSE Corps Scholarship Program: over 250 new awards at over $23 million granted to nursing students in exchange for a minimum two-year work agreement within a facility experiencing “critical shortages”
  • NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program: over 600 awards at almost $40 million to offer nurses loan repayment assistance in exchange for a commitment to serve at least 2 years at a healthcare facility with a “critical” nurse shortage or as a faculty member at an accredited nursing school
  • Faculty Loan Repayment Program: over $1 million for 21 new awards to health professions educators in exchange for serving as a faculty member in an accredited, eligible health professions school
  • Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program: nearly $800,000 to provide 9 new awards to Native Hawaiian healthcare professionals
Regarding such awards, it is perhaps unclear at this time what primary emotional, financial, professional, educational, and personal challenges students and healthcare professionals will face working in areas where there are noted staffing shortages and dire “critical” need situations. It is hopeful the student completion and retention rate, for instance, will remain steady. Nursing faculty – as well as other STEM-based faculty members – are now facing “the most severe” shortages within entire educational institutions, in turn threatening the collective quality of the nursing workforce. Will awards such as these help the healthcare industry thrive? Perhaps large sums of money placed on the table for loan repayments and the like will mean only the strongest survive, at least with heavier wallets.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded over $240 million this week – including nearly $176 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding – to strengthen primary healthcare accessibility. Confirms HHS Secretary, Sylvia M. Burwell, funding will support the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and NURSE Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs.

HHS’s $240M ACA Funding Awards Support Primary Health Access

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New study shows marijuana users have low blood flow to the brain

As the U.S. races to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, a new, large scale brain imaging study gives reason for caution. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a sophisticated imaging study that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns, demonstrated abnormally low blood flow in virtually every area of the brain studies in nearly 1,000 marijuana compared to healthy controls, including areas known to be affected by Alzheimer's pathology such as the hippocampus.

Hippocampus, the brain's key memory and learning center, has the lowest blood flow in  users suggesting higher vulnerability to Alzheimer's. As the U.S. races to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, a new, large scale brain imaging study gives reason for caution. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), a sophisticated imaging study that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns, demonstrated abnormally low blood flow in virtually every area of the brain studies in nearly 1,000 marijuana compared to healthy controls, including areas known to be affected by Alzheimer's pathology such as the .
All datawere obtained for analysis from a large multisite database, involving 26,268 patients who came for evaluation of complex, treatment resistant issues to one of nine outpatient neuropsychiatric clinics across the United States (Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fairfield, and Brisbane, CA, Tacoma and Bellevue, WA, Reston, VA, Atlanta, GA and New York, NY) between 1995-2015. Of these, 982 current or former marijuana users had brain SPECT at rest and during a mental concentration task compared to almost 100 healhty controls. Predictive analytics with discriminant analysis was done to determine if brain SPECT regions can distinguish marijuana user brains from controls brain. Low blood flow in the hippocampus in marijuana users reliably distinguished marijuana users from controls. The right hippocampus during a concentration task was the single most predictive region in distinguishing marijuana users from their normal counterparts. Marijuana use is thought to interfere with memory formation by inhibiting activity in this part of the brain.
According to one of the co-authors on the study Elisabeth Jorandby, M.D., "As a physician who routinely sees marijuana users, what struck me was not only the global reduction in blood flow in the marijuana users brains , but that the hippocampus was the most affected region due to its role in memory and Alzheimer's disease. Our research has proven that marijuana users have lower cerebral blood flow than non-users. Second, the most predictive region separating these two groups is low  in the hippocampus on concentration brain SPECT imaging. This work suggests that marijuana use has damaging influences in the brain – particularly regions important in memory and learning and known to be affected by Alzheimer's."
Dr. George Perry, editor in chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease said, "Open use of marijuana, through legalization, will reveal the wide range of marijuana's benefits and threats to human health. This study indicates troubling effects on the hippocampus that may be the harbingers of brain damage."
According to Daniel Amen, M.D., Founder of Amen Clinics, "Our research demonstrates that marijuana can have significant negative effects on  function. The media has given the general impression that marijuana is a safe recreational drug, this research directly challenges that notion. In another new study just released, researchers showed that marijuana use tripled the risk of psychosis. Caution is clearly in order."


New study shows marijuana users have low blood flow to the brain

Starting age of marijuana use may have long-term effects on brain development

Contrasting Brain Scans of Marijuana Usage.
Divergent patterns in overlapping areas of anterior prefrontal cortex. Credit: Center for BrainHealth

The age at which an adolescent begins using marijuana may affect typical brain development, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. In a paper recently published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, scientists describe how marijuana use, and the age at which use is initiated, may adversely alter brain structures that underlie higher order thinking.
Findings show study participants who began using marijuana at the  of 16 or younger demonstrated  variations that indicate arrested brain development in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, reasoning and complex thinking. Individuals who started using marijuana after age 16 showed the opposite effect and demonstrated signs of accelerated brain aging.
"Science has shown us that changes in the brain occurring during adolescence are complex. Our findings suggest that the timing of cannabis use can result in very disparate patterns of effects," explained Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., principal investigator and Bert Moore Chair of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the Center for BrainHealth. "Not only did age of use impact the brain changes but the amount of cannabis used also influenced the extent of altered brain maturation."
The research team analyzed MRI scans of 42 heavy marijuana users; twenty participants were categorized as  users with a mean age of 13.18 and 22 were labeled as late onset users with a mean age of 16.9. According to self-reports, all participants, ages 21-50, began using marijuana during adolescence and continued throughout adulthood, using cannabis at least one time per week.
According to Filbey, in typical adolescent brain development, the brain prunes neurons, which results in reduced  and greater gray and white matter contrast. Typical pruning also leads to increased gyrification, which is the addition of wrinkles or folds on the brain's surface. However, in this study, MRI results reveal that the more marijuana early onset users consumed, the greater their cortical thickness, the less gray and white matter contrast, and the less intricate the gyrification, as compared to late onset users. These three indexes indicate that when participants began using marijuana before age 16, the extent of brain alteration was directly proportionate to the number of weekly marijuana use in years and grams consumed. Contrastingly, those who began using marijuana after age 16 showed brain change that would normally manifest later in life: thinner cortical thickness, stronger gray and  contrast.


Starting age of marijuana use may have long-term effects on brain development

Synthetic cannabinoids versus natural marijuana—a comparison of expectations

An article entitled "Comparison of Outcome Expectancies for Synthetic Cannabinoids and Botanical Marijuana," from The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, studied the expected outcomes of both synthetic and natural marijuana.

186 adults who had previously used both synthetic and natural marijuana, as well as 181 who had previously used only botanical marijuana, were surveyed about their expected outcomes of using either type of cannabinoid. The results showed that the expected  were significantly higher for  than for natural marijuana across both categories of use history.
Despite the more commonly expected negative effects of synthetic cannabinoids, the most cited reasons for using these compounds were wider availability, avoiding a positive drug test, curiosity, perceived legality, and cost.
Authors concluded, "Given growing public acceptance of recreational and , coupled with negative perceptions and increasing regulation of synthetic cannabinoid compounds, botanical marijuana is likely to remain more available and more popular than synthetic cannabinoids.

Journal Article: Comparison of outcome expectancies for synthetic cannabinoids and botanical marijuan

Synthetic cannabinoids versus natural marijuana—a comparison of expectations

Study: Long-term marijuana use changes brain's reward circuit

The recent legalization of marijuana use in California and many other states inspired Health Train Express to publish a series of articles on the use of Marijuana.

Chronic marijuana use disrupts the brain's natural reward processes, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.


In many ways this legalization follows the aftermath of 'prohibition' of alcohol many decades ago. History repeats itself.  The course now set before us very much mirrors that of  alcohol.

Caveat emptor !  Beware.  Most of the same caveats apply to marijuana as they do to alcohol. Legalizing marijuana use is in no way any safer than using alcohol.  Addiction and abuse are major dangers.  Government now will tax sales in lieu of the cost of enforcment and the many lives that are imprisoned for minor infractions using marijuana in the past.

Scientific peer reviewed articles have been published in the past decade

This is the first of a number of article on legalization ofMarijuana.

Dependence alters the brain's response to pot paraphernalia

New research from The University of Texas at Dallas demonstrates that drug paraphernalia triggers the reward areas of the brain differently in dependent and non-dependent marijuana users.
The study, published July 1 in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, demonstrated that different areas of the brain activated when dependent and non-dependent users were exposed to drug-related cues.
The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. According to a 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of Americans ages 18 and older have tried marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 9 percent of daily users will become dependent on marijuana.
"We know that people have a hard time staying abstinent because seeing cues for the  use triggers this intense desire to seek out the drugs," said Dr. Francesca Filbey, lead author of the study and professor at the Center for BrainHealth in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. "That's a clinically validated phenomenon and behavioral studies have also shown this to be the case. What we didn't know was what was driving those effects in the brain."
To find this effect, Filbey and colleagues conducted brain-imaging scans, called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), on 71 participants who regularly used marijuana. Just more than half of those were classified as dependent users. While being scanned, the participants were given either a used marijuana pipe or a pencil of approximately the same size that they could see and feel.Marijuana has been shown to have some therapeutic effects

Study: Long-term marijuana use changes brain's reward circuit