Friday, November 9, 2012

Is making the bed hazardous to your health?

If you don't like making the bed, here's a good excuse not to.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem have associated the act of applying a fitted sheet to the mattress with a malady called "sheet fitting palsy."

They've identified the injury in people who spend a long period of time repeatedly trying to pull a fitted bed sheet over the corner of a mattress.

Caused by continuously flexing the wrist, the injury results in a tiny stroke in the artery of the hand and blood clots that cut off blood flow to the median nerve, producing numbness or weakness.

A case study was described by Wake Forest neurologist Dr. Francis Walker and colleagues in the September issue of the journal Clinical Neuromuscular Disease.

The victim was an active 73-year-old woman who was unable to slip the last corner of a fitted sheet over a mattress and had to ask her granddaughter for help. Sometimes she noticed a "pins and needles" feeling in her hand, but didn't think much of it. After she shook her hand, it would go away.

A few weeks later, when she tried to make the bed again, she tried without success to get the fitted sheet on. To her surprise, her thumb dropped down, limp, when she moved her hand from the bed corner. She couldn't tie her shoe or button a sleeve with her right hand.

Dr. Mary Lyles suspected acute carpal tunnel syndrome and called Walker to perform nerve conduction studies and an ultrasound.

Walker's study showed something few physicians have seen, the report said. "High resolution color flow Doppler showed a rare persistent median artery that had blood flow in it in the forearm, but not at the wrist where it was next to a swollen, injured median nerve."

Shortly after those tests, the patient had surgery to relive some of the pressure on the nerve, but her thumb remained limp. The surgeon advised her to strengthen it by going through the motions of her everyday activities. Just trying them could be helpful.

Slowly that strategy worked. It took nearly a year for the nerve in her wrist to grow the new pathways that allowed her to open and close a bag clip.

Researchers say the injury has also been reported in basketball players and people who perform a lot of push ups -- because of trauma to the wrist.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

E! News Anchor Giuliana Rancic in Concord

E! News anchor, fashion expert and breast cancer survivor
Giuliana Rancic will speak Sept. 15 in Concord at "Women's Symposium: Empowering Women to Better Health."

Rancic, at right, had a double mastectomy in late 2011. She is co-star of E!'s popular "Fashion Police" team and has been on the red carpet interviewing celebrities at the Oscars, Grammy Awards and Golden Globe events. She is the author of two books, "I Do, Now What?" and "Think Like a Guy: How to Get a Guy By Thinking Like One."

The daylong event, sponsored by Carolinas HealthCare System, will also feature physician-led sessions on various health conditions, interactive exhibits, demonstrations, a fashion show, and Zumba class.

It will be held at the Embassy Suites, 5400 John Q. Hammonds Dr. NW from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration is $35 at the door, $20 in advance. Lunch and refreshments included. See

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What doctors can learn from Cheesecake Factory

Surgeon and writer Dr. Atul Guwande has a new piece in the Aug. 13 edition of the New Yorker about how to improve medical care by taking hints from managers of Cheesecake Factory, the national restaurant chain.

On an interview with NPR today, I heard him describe his mother's knee replacement surgery and how they chose her surgeon because of his "factory-like" approach -- standardizing the surgical techniques and equipment so that outcomes could be more predictable.

It makes a lot of sense, as Guwande always does.

Here's a link to his article, "Big Med," with the subtitle: "Restaurant chains have managed to combine quality control, cost control, and innovation. Can health care?"

Friday, July 27, 2012

The generous act of a loving son

I'm saddened by the death of Lewis Deaton (above left), 59, of Davidson. The beautiful obituary, written by his longtime partner Jon Guttman (right) , describes many of the reasons why so many people loved and respected Lewis, who died July 26 of pancreatic cancer.

I'll remember him most for one generous act of love.

Twelve years ago, in August 2000, Lewis' father, Rock Deaton, a popular Davidson resident and ardent fan of Davidson College athletics, died after surgery. That left Lewis' mother in a predicament. Eugenia (center) had lost her sight in recent years, and Rock had been her sole caregiver. She couldn't live alone.

Lewis, their only living son, had left North Carolina for New York City, where he and Jon had established, exciting careers. What would they do?

Despite the culture shock -- especially for Jon, a native New Yorker -- the two men decided to move to Davidson to care for Eugenia. I wrote this story about their decision in August 2001. By the time Eugenia died in 2006, Lewis and Jon had put down roots and chose to stay.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CPR training required for high school grads

On Thursday, N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue (seated in the photo at right) signed a law requiring students to complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation training before they graduate from high school, starting with the 2014-2015 school year.

Since 1997, state law has required basic education in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver in the public schools, but it hasn't been compulsory or documented.

State Rep. Becky Carney (D –Mecklenburg) and Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-New Hanover, Pender) co-sponsored the legislation aimed at saving more lives.

Carney was “saved by good Samaritans that knew CPR and responded quickly" after she suffered cardiac arrest during a legislative session in April 2009.

Mark Fleming, a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, moved Carney from her desk, where she had slumped over, and laid her on the floor. State Rep. Bob England, an Ellenboro Democrat and retired physician, helped perform CPR. And General Assembly police officers Will Smith and Willie Morris and Sgt. Forrest Johnson assisted with CPR and used an automated defibrillator.

"I am honored to be part of a lasting life-saving legacy for North Carolina,” Carney said in a news release. “Providing our youth with the power and confidence to save a life when it matters most may be the most valuable lesson a student can learn.”

North Carolina is the fifth state to pass such legislation. The State Board of Education will work with the American Heart Association to develop a plan for implementation.

Fewer than one-third of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest victims receive bystander CPR and less than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of the hospital live, according to the American Heart Association. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can vastly improve victims chance of survival, the association said.

“If we lived in a world where most everyone knew CPR and was ready to help, we could double, even triple their chance of survival," said Todd Baker, director of training and education at Southeastern Emergency Equipment.

Protection for pre-existing conditions

Nearly 2.1 million North Carolininas, under 65, have been diagnosed with pre-existing medical conditions that could have led to denial of insurance coverage, prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, according to Families USA, a Washington-based advocacy group.

The group published a report Thursday, “Worry No More,” showing the extent of pre-existing medical conditions in individual states and counties.

In North Carolina, more than 25 percent of non-elderly residents would be at risk of being denied coverage without health reform, the report said. The risk increases with age. More than 38 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have a pre-existing condition that could lead to denial of coverage. And nearly half of those aged 55 to 64 have a pre-existing condition.

In Mecklenburg County, 23.5 percent of residents have been diagnosed with a pre-existing condition. The range by county is from 22.9 percent in Onslow County to 30 percent in Robeson County.

Other Charlotte-area counties and their numbers are: Gaston and Lincoln, 27.2 percent; Rowan 26.8 percent; Cabarrus, 24.6 percent; Union, 23.8 percent; Iredell, 25.8 percent.

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurers were generally free to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Under the act, insurers are now prohibited from refusing to insure children with pre-existing medical conditions. The law expands that prohibition to adults in 2014.

People of all races and income groups are represented in the Families USA analysis. But the report says that, because people with low incomes and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately uninsured and under-insured, they are likely to be undercounted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Got Breast Milk?

Milk for Wishes is looking for breastfeeding mothers with extra milk who want to do a good deed for premature babies.

Qualified mothers can donate to the virtual milk bank that works with Prolacta Bioscience, a company that processes human milk to create a breast milk fortifier to give to critically ill, premature babies in neonatal intensive care units across the country. The fortifier is used to reduce necrotizing enterocolitis, a leading killer of premature babies.

In return, Prolacta donates one dollar for every ounce of qualified milk received through Milk for Wishes to the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Almost any healthy, nursing mother can donate. Milk for Wishes requires donors to complete a medical survey and get approval from their obstetricians and their babies' pediatricians to have blood tests and cheek cells samples taken at no cost.

The milk bank wants only excess milk, so donors should make sure their own babies' needs are met before making donations.

Qualified donors should pump their milk into clean bottles connected to the pump, then transfer the milk into breast milk storage bags for freezing. Milk for Wishes provides cold shipping containers for the milk to be sent directly to Prolacta Bioscience. Milk for Wishes pays all testing and shipping costs.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Check out these health stories

A couple of interesting health stories worth sharing:

The first is about the American Urological Association's support for a bill that would make changes to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the independent group that recently recommended against routine PSA screening for prostate cancer.

"We should be wary of any legislated efforts to invite the foxes to guard the hen house," warns the author, Dr. Richard Hoffman, an editor at the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation and a reviewer for Here's the link. is a great information source, published by Gary Schwitzer, who leads a team of more than two dozen people who grade daily health news reporting by major U.S. news organizations. While you're there, look for Schwitzer's blog, HealthNewsWatchdog. Here's the link.

The second story is called "How Your Chicken Dinner is Creating a Drug-Resistant Superbug," published by The Atlantic magazine. It's by Maryn McKenna, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and author of "Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA."

Her chilling report warns that treating urinary tract infections as a short-term, routine ailment rather than a long-term food safety issue risks turning the responsible bacteria into a major health crisis. Here's the link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Belize patients get help from Charlotte

Surgeons performed the first open-heart surgery in Belize this week thanks to equipment and assistance from Carolinas HealthCare System's International Medical Outreach Program, founded by renowned Charlotte heart surgeon Dr. Francis Robicsek.

Dr. Mark Stiegel, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute in Charlotte, performed the surgery with Dr. Adrian Coye, medical services director at Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City. Their patient, a 72-year-old Belize man, is recovering after undergoing a coronary artery bypass graft Monday.

The surgeons expect to perform the second open-heart procedure, a mitral valve replacement, on a 56-year-old Belize woman Tuesday, July 17.

Although heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Belize, the country lacked a modern cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional facility until 2011, when the international outreach program began providing support. Before then, patients would either not receive treatment or would travel to neighboring countries.

The international program, a partnership between Carolinas HealthCare and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, donated and installed the country’s first fully-equipped cardiac catheterization laboratory in February 2011 at the Belize City hospital. The laboratory, also equipped with diagnostic imaging equipment, modernized cardiac care by 30 years.

Since October 2011, cardiology teams from Sanger have performed catheterizations in Belize each month and will continue to send teams until the hospital's own interventional cardiologist is trained to perform them alone.

The Charlotte program also helped make possible the first heart transplant surgery in Costa Rica in 2007 and co-founded the largest, most comprehensive heart institute in Central America, located in Guatemala City, in 1984.

Since the 1960s, the international program has donated a variety of medical equipment to hospitals and clinics worldwide. Robicsek's program raises money to refurbish and ship medical equipment that would otherwise be discarded by the Charlotte hospital system.

In addition to equipment, the program has provided free training for medical personnel from facilities globally. Coye and other medical staff from the Belize City hospital have visited Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte for educational experiences.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Levine Cancer Institute adds nationally known doctors

Levine Cancer Institute, created in 2010 by Carolinas HealthCare System, has announced the hiring of six cancer specialists to play key roles in expanding research and treatment offerings to cancer patients across the Southeast.

They are:

Dr. Edward S. Kim from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is a national leader in molecular prognostication for lung cancer and specializes in thoracic oncology and head and neck cancers. He will start July 2 and serve as chair of the Department of Solid Tumor Oncology. He received his medical degree from Northwestern University and completed residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and medical oncology fellowship at M.D. Anderson.

Dr. Edward A. Copelan from the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute. He will begin work in September and serve as chair of the Department of Hematologic Oncology and Blood Disorders. His clinical specialties include bone marrow transplantation, leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes. He received his medical degree from Tufts University in Boston and completed residency at Ohio State University Hospital in Columbus, fellowships in hematology and oncology at Ohio State University Hospitals and bone marrow transplantation at the University of California-Los Angeles.

Dr. Belinda Avalos from Ohio State University Hospital’s James Comprehensive Cancer Center. She will begin in September and serve as vice chair of the Department of Hematologic Oncology. She specializes in hematology and bone marrow transplantation and will lead the institute’s efforts to develop collaborative research initiatives and to understand the stem cell biology of blood disorders. She received her medical degree from Ohio State University and completed residency at Ohio State University Hospital, a hematology fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle, and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Ohio State University Hospital and the University of California-Los Angeles.

James Symanowski, formerly director of the Biostatistics Core and of the Clinical Trials Office at the Nevada Cancer Institute. He will begin in September as chair of the Department of Biostatistics. He has spent his career in laboratory, translational clinical, and population sciences areas of cancer research and consults internationally in the field. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from The College of William and Mary, and both his master’s and doctorate degrees in statistics from Iowa State University.

Ram Ganapathi and Marukh Ganapathi, both from the Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Center. They will join the institute’s pharmacology lab team in July, helping to increase understanding of the science of oncology drug interactions and effectiveness. Ram Ganapathi got a doctorate at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and served fellowships at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and University of Miami Hospitals and Clinics. Mahrukh Ganapathi got a doctorate at the University of Miami and served a fellowship at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Institute president Dr. Derek Raghavan, who came to Carolinas HealthCare from the Cleveland Clinic, said: “We are building a world-class team of clinicians and researchers...and look forward to collaborating with them to benefit our teams and our research efforts, and ultimately, the care of our patients.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mobile mammography in Charlotte

To increase access to screening mammograms, two new mobile units will be bringing mammography to Charlotte women where they live and work.

On Thursday, Presbyterian Healthcare unveiled a new 38-foot mobile Presbyterian Breast Center Mammography Unit. The coach, purchased with donations from Agnes and Ed Weisiger, Goodrich Foundation and Mecklenburg Radiology Associates, offers digital screening mammography, a private changing room and clinical exam room. Special initiatives will be planned to reach women in underserved areas around Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte Radiology announced this week it is adding a second mobile mammography unit in August to serve more women – both insured and uninsured – in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union and York counties. Since February 2011, Charlotte Radiology's current 38-foot mobile center has screened almost 7,500 patients.

“Our experience is that convenience and access play a major role in whether or not women ages 40 and above comply with the American Cancer Society’s annual screening guidelines,” said Dr. Matthew Gromet.

Women age 40 and older should have screening mammograms annually, according to the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology.

About 38 percent of women age 40 and over in Mecklenburg County have not had an annual mammogram, according to the 2010 Community Profile Report of the Charlotte Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In addition, the report says Mecklenburg County has the highest percentage of women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the top reasons that women don't get recommended mammograms is that they're too busy, forget to make or keep appointments, can't afford it or don't realize they should get one.

“Our goal is that the Presbyterian Breast Center Mammography Unit will eliminate these barriers for women,” said Paula Vincent, interim president of Presbyterian Healthcare and a senior vice president with Novant Health.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Eat good food

Like First Lady Michelle Obama, Elaine Jones (second from left in photo) has started a community garden to teach others about the benefits of fresh, locally grown produce.

Jones, a dietitian at Carolinas Medical Center-University, was joined by other hospital officials Wednesday at the groundbreaking of a 500-square-foot garden that will feature raised vegetable beds, fruit trees and a composting area.

(In the photo, Dr. Michael Zgoda, a specialist in critical care, pulmonary and sleep medicine, is at the left and Bill Leonard, president of CMC-University is at right.)

Local businesses are assisting hospital staff and volunteers in building the garden, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of June. It will also have a large cedar pergola, benches and dining tables for use by patients, visitors and staff. The garden is the first of its kind for a Carolinas HealthCare System hospital.

“We see the garden as an extension of our outreach to the community and a way to teach healthy habits to both children and adults,” Jones said.

Funding was provided by Morrison Healthcare Food Service, Carolinas HealthCare Foundation, LiveWELL Carolinas!

Cole Jenest & Stone, Metrolina Landscapes, Blue Max Materials, Carmichael Fence and King’s Greenhouse donated labor and materials.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Banning large sodas in New York

New York Mayor Michael Blumberg has announced plans to ban the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, as part of an effort to combat rising obesity.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages. And it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

Corinne Krupp, an associate professor of public policy at Duke University, weighed in today, calling the idea "silly."

"Making large sizes unavailable will not stop people from buying multiple sodas; it will just inconvenience them," Krupp said in a statement issued by Duke.

"The root causes of obesity are far deeper and more complex than just soda consumption, and targeting a particular industry is unfair. What's next? Limiting the size of potato chip bags to five chips? Requiring that candy bars only come in bite sizes? I don’t believe this will be an effective tool in combating obesity.”

Dr. Gilbert Ross, medical director of the American Council on Science and Health, agrees that research demonstrates there is no correlation between per capita soda consumption and weight.

“There is no solid evidence showing that restricting sodas to a certain size will have the slightest impact on obesity,” Ross said. “In addition, enforcement of such a regulation will not only be extremely complex, but it will also be very costly and difficult to interpret because of the confusing exceptions to the proposed ban.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

West Wing Walking

"The West Wing" may be my all-time favorite television show.

If you're a fan too, you'll remember all the problems worked out by the cerebral president and his fast-talking staff as they walked the halls of the White House.

So I was fun to see some of the cast reunited -- if only for a few minutes -- in this "tongue-in-cheek public service announcement about the health benefits of walking."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Food as Medicine

Dr. Sheila Kilbane, a Charlotte pediatrician with an interest in integrative and holistic medicine, will give a free talk about "How Food is Used as Medicine to Prevent Many Childhood Illnesses" May 12 at 1 p.m. at Davidson Montessori School, 605 South St., Davidson.

Kilbane specializes in nutrition, allergies, autism, sensory integration disorder, ADHD and integrative/holistic medicine.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Heart screening for athletes

Student-athletes from Charlotte-area high schools can get free athletic screenings - with extra attention to undetected heart problems - on four Saturdays in May, June and July.

"Heart of a Champion" screenings, sponsored by Carolinas HealthCare System, check for abnormalities that could lead to sudden death and may include an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram. Neither test is offered during routine athletic screenings.

Also included are orthopedic and general medical screenings. Last year, nearly 2,000 student-athletes participated and 200 were found to have conditions that required follow-up.

Schools are assigned to specific dates and locations:

May 12, Fort Mill and Nation Ford high schools, at CMC-Fort Mill Medical Plaza, 704 Gold Hill Rd., Fort Mill.

June 2, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, at Carolinas College of Health Sciences,
1200 Blythe Blvd., Charlotte.

June 9, Union County, Anson County and Chesterfield (S.C.) high schools, at Union West Medical Plaza, 6030 W. Highway 74, Indian Trail.

July 21, North Lincoln, Lincoln Charter, Lincolnton, East Lincoln high schools, at CMC-Lincoln Medical Plaza, 441 McAlister Rd., Lincolnton.

Register online: Click the “Students” tab at the top of the page.

in Fort Mill, SC, and Charlotte, Indian Trail and Lincolnton, NC.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Medicare for all

Drs. Cathy Canepa and Dan Neuspiel of Health Care for All North Carolina will talk about how to achieve a single-payer Medicare system for everyone on March 31.

The discussion will be 7 p.m. at the Charlotte Friends Meeting (Quaker), 570 West Rocky River Road, at the intersection of Highway 29 and Highway 49 in the University City area.

The discussion follows a salad supper at 6 p.m. Register at by e-mailing Phone: 704-599-4999.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health care law, constitutional or not

Now that the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on President Obama's health-care law, it seemed appropriate to review some of the debating points made at Charlotte School of Law last September.

Elizabeth Wydra, general counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center, argued that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, approved by Congress last year, is constitutional.
Nelson Lund, professor of constitutional law at George Mason University, argued the opposite.

Debate centered, of course, on the "individual mandate," the law's requirement that every citizen buy health insurance or pay a penalty, and whether it is allowed by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8), which gives Congress the right to make laws regulating commerce among the states.

Wydra said the mandate is constitutional because it "regulates the means by which people pay for health-care services" across the country. U.S. hospitals are required to treat people who show up at the ER even if they don't have insurance.

"They will run up a bill that they can't afford to pay," she said. "But someone will pay it" -- namely other patients with private insurance and other taxpayers. Uninsured people may seek care in hospitals outside their home states, she said. The decision to "opt out" of buying insurance "profoundly affects the nation as a whole" and, thus, falls within the Commerce Clause, she said.

Lund countered that the Commerce Clause pertains to economic activity. "Failing to purchase health insurance is not an economic activity. It's not an activity at all. Never before has Congress tried to use this power to force Americans to buy things they don't want...It's a completely novel idea."

Instead of relying on the Commerce Clause, Lund said Congress could have used its taxing powers to raise money to pay for insurance coverage for all citizens. But President Obama had promised not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans.

"This is a stealth tax operating in the guise of a regulation of commerce," Lund said. "Just because Congress can do something under one of its powers is not enough reason to expand another power."

Wydra responded that the mandate is allowed under the Commerce Clause because Congress is allowed to pass laws that are "necessary and proper" to carry out its enumerated powers.

Without the mandate, and without large pools of healthy people who are less expensive to insure, insurance companies wouldn't be able to afford to extend coverage to all citizens, including those with pre-existing medical conditions. The mandate, she said, is part of a larger "scheme" to overhaul health care. "No one can possibly argue that health services reform is not an appropriate commercial regulation."

Lund countered that if Congress can require citizens to buy health insurance, it could also require them to buy broccoli. "It's not now a part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme, but it could easily become one."

No winner was declared. And neither speaker would predict what the Supreme Court will do. We're all waiting for that decision.

Monday, March 26, 2012

That baby chick could make you sick

Children love getting baby chicks at Easter. But public health officials warn people to be careful when handling these pets.

“All poultry, including baby chicks and ducklings, can potentially carry salmonella in their droppings as well as on their feathers, feet and beaks, even when they appear healthy and clean,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies. “Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.”

Parents should make sure children wash their hands thoroughly with hot water and soap after handling poultry or touching any area where poultry is produced or housed.

Most people become ill from salmonella infection between one to seven days after exposure. Many people recover in a few days without any medical treatment, but some experience life-threatening illnesses, bloody diarrhea, dehydration and other complications.

Symptoms include fever, headache, severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Carl Williams warns that salmonella can also get on cages, coops, hay, plants and soil in the area where the poultry live or roam. Last year, 15 states, including North Carolina, reported 40 documented human cases of salmonella illness associated with baby poultry.

Read more here in English, and here in Spanish.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

White House honors Adam Searing

Adam Searing, director of the Health Access Coalition for the N.C. Justice Center, is being honored today at the White House as a "Champion of Change" dedicated to improving access to health care.

Searing's Health Access Coalition is North Carolina’s leading voice for progressive health care reforms that address the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. He also teaches a class in policy and politics at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Public Health. In 2012 he was named a Health Advocate of the Year by the national consumer group Families USA.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted. Groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

To learn more, go to

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social Security: Why it matters

"What’s Ahead for Social Security and Why It Matters" is the subject of a free forum Thursday, March 22, at the YWCA, 3420 Park Road.

The forum is from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments starting at 6 p.m.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters and AARP-NC, the forum will feature a panel discussion, including Helen Savage, director of development at AARP-NC; David Swindell, associate professor in public policy at UNC Charlotte; and Chris Fitzsimons, director of N.C. Policy Watch.

RSVP appreciated: Peg Chapin,; 704-846-2540

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Health care for the uninsured

Charlotte-area health providers will speak at a free forum on "Health Care Reform: Its Effect on Our Local Uninsured" Tuesday, March 20, at Whitehead Manor, 5901 Sardis Road.

Pam Silberman, president and CEO of the N.C. Institute of Medicine, will open the meeting at 8 a.m. with a talk about access to health care for the uninsured and the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

A panel discussion will follow, including Dr. Michael Dulin of Carolinas Healthcare System; Mary Wilson, director of Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services; and Dr. Hayes Woollen of Novant Health.

Breakfast and registration begin at 7:30. Parking is free. Enter the parking lot from Sardis Road. RSVP to Rebecca Palmer at or 704-248-3724.

The forum is sponsored by MedLink of Mecklenburg, safety-net providers of health care.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Life Saver

Charlotte's Claire Blocker, president and founder of the HeartBright Foundation, is featured on the National Institute of Health's website supporting the use of electronic health records -- or EHRs, as the medical community likes to call them.

Blocker, who has survived a stroke, a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, says:
"I am quite sure that I would not have had the opportunity to have lived this long if the valuable information EHRs provide to my physicians on a daily basis was not so readily available. It has been 13 years since my bypass surgery, and at 65, I feel happier, healthier, and far more balanced than I have ever been."

Blocker takes more than 60 pills a day (22 different medications). When her medicines are changed, the prescribing physician updates that information by sending the electronic medical record to her entire team of doctors, so they're all working from the latest information.

"This is exactly how EHRs saved my life in the ER," Blocker writes on the website. "My medication had given me grand mal seizures and my husband, who is my caregiver, was out of town. If the doctors did not have access to my EHR, they would have not known what caused the seizure and how to treat me."

Here's a link to her story:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shop smart at the grocery store

A healthy diet starts in the grocery store, but knowing what to choose when you get there can be challenging.

The N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Cooperative Extension has created "Aisle by Aisle: Choosing Foods Wisely" – a series of 12 free online videos with tips to help people navigate the grocery store aisles.

Each video is about two minutes long and offers tips on how to read nutrition labels and understand ingredient lists. They include tip sheets that can be downloaded to carry in a purse, pocket or coupon book for ready reference.

Find them at:

“Most people know they should eat a healthy diet to prevent disease and promote good health, but there is still a gap between what we know and what we do,” said Dr. Ruth Petersen, chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section in the Division of Public Health.

Dr. Carolyn Dunn, a nutrition specialist with N.C. Cooperative Extension, said the videos can “help shoppers reach the goal of cooking and eating more meals at home – an important strategy for managing weight and controlling sodium, fat and sugar.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Appetite for Life

Nutrition experts from the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis will give host a series of free seminars in February and March.

Here are the dates, speakers and topics in the "Appetite for Life Academy":

Feb. 7: Dr. Steven Zeisel, director of the Nutrition Research Institute, "Diet and the Risk of Cancer." Zeisel specializes in how the nutrient choline affects brain development.

Feb. 13: Melanie Spencer, NRI researcher, "Gut Microbes: A Trillion Tiny Friends for Life." How the many microbes in the gastrointestinal tract influence everything from immunity to nutrient absorption.

Feb. 21: Philip May, a research professor at the NRI, "Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders." Up to 5 percent of U.S. children may suffer cognitive and behavioral problems caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol.

Feb. 28: Andrew Swick, director of obesity and eating disorders at NRI, "Obesity: It Is Not Easy Being Lean." His research shows why it's difficult for some people to lose weight and maintain weight loss.

March 6: Karen Corbin, registered dietitian and research assistant professor at NRI, "Why Diets Don't Work: Myths, Mysteries and Truths." Learn how nutrients, genetics and other factors can make your ideal diet less of a mystery.

All seminars are from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Events Room at the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, 201 N. Main St., Kannapolis. Seating is limited. Online registration is required at:
Or call 704-250-5000.

Eating on a food stamp budget

What can you eat on a food-stamp budet of $3 a day?

Filmmaker Yoav Potash and his nutrition educator wife, Shira, tried to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on that food-stamp budget and filmed their experience in an hourlong documentary, "Food Stamped: Is It Possible To Eat Healthy On A Food Stamp Budget?"

It will be one of the films shown this year in the free Learn and Live Film Series at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis.

"Food Stamped," which includes interviews with members of Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts and people living on food stamps, will be shown Feb. 20.

The documentary has won awards at multiple film festivals around the country. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, has said: “Food Stamped is a warm, delightful, and entertaining film with a serious message: it’s really difficult to eat healthfully on food stamp benefits even if you are educated, savvy, live near a decent grocery store or farmers’ market, have plenty of time and energy, and are a great cook. Everyone should see this film, especially those who complain about how low-income people use their benefits.”

A second film, "Living Proof," will be shown April 16. It is based on the 1998 book, "HER-2: The Making of Herceptin, a Revolutionary Treatment for Breast Cancer," by Robert Bazell, the chief science and health correspondent for NBC News. The 2008 movie stars Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Dennis Slamon, a UCLA oncologist and researcher who helped develop the breast cancer drug Herceptin from 1988 to 1996.

Both films will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Events Room of the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, 201 N. Main St., Kannapolis. Each will be followed by a discussion led by NCRC scientists and community partners.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Scratch that itch

How good does it feel to scratch an itch?

It depends on where you're scratching.

That's the finding of Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist and researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Characterized in the medical center's news release as a "world-renowned itch expert," Yosipovitch has done previous studies which have shown that itching is pleasurable.

His latest study focused on which of three body sites -- sorry, no buttocks or genitals included -- feel the best when scratched.

Relief was felt most intensely at the ankles and on the back when compared to the forearms. And “the pleasurability of scratching the ankle appears to be longer lived compared to the other two sites,” Yosipovitch concluded.

He induced itching for 18 study volunteers by rubbing them with Mucuna pruriens, a tropical legume that is known to cause intense itching.

What's the point of all this?

Yosipovitch said his research will lead to a better understanding of itch and how to relieve it for people who have skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.

“If we could translate this to a treatment that induces a pleasurable relief sensation without damaging the skin, we may be able to help itchy patients,” he said.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease. It was published online this month in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is yoga safe?

"How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body" -- that was the provocative headline on a New York Times article earlier this month. It caused a stir in yoga circles, where instructors and practitioners are passionate about their poses.

"The article...misrepresented information and used extreme situations to make sweeping statements," said Grace Morales, who opened Charlotte Yoga 10 years ago. "As a 15-year teacher, many of the examples did not add up.

"To say you should not practice yoga because you could get hurt is the same as don't run, don't lift weights, give up on movement. That is not the answer...That said there was also a lot of truth. The article exposed dangerous physical alignment, poor choice of postures and a disconnect that can ignore good sense. I have observed the good and bad over the years and the positive health benefits have far outweighed the negative.

"Continuing education is the a large piece of the puzzle. I was taught alignment that was not optimal in my first few trainings, but new research showed a better way. This happens all the time in the health profession, better information leads to new protocol...A certified yoga teacher would be able to respond to this article's sighting of injuries with anatomically sound alternatives, current information and resources. If not, it is time to get more training."

Nancy Nicholson, an instructor who specializes in "gentle yoga," said that much of the yoga taught in America today "puts students at risk due to untrained teachers, teachers who encourage students to push beyond their comfort and safety zone, and due to the lack of mindfulness and attention during practice...

"I teach many older students, up to age 96, and I tell them, just like my younger students, to be aware, to back off if there is discomfort, especially if they don't really know their limits...Yoga means 'the union of mind, body and spirit,' and that union is what keeps us safe, without injury."

Here's a link to the Times' article:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Paper towels or hand dryers?

I've never known for sure which is better.

Hand dryers produce less waste, but unless they're very powerful, they don't really dry your hands. I'd always rather have paper towels in a public restroom.

Here's a discussion on the topic by Dr. Ben Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at N.C. State University.