East Meets West: Acupuncture Said To Boost Pregnancy Rates

For Maria Coplit, the decision to use traditional and laser acupuncture to complement her high-tech fertility treatments seemed like a “no brainer,” especially after experiencing the toll of multiple miscarriages while trying to have a second child. "We decided to empower ourselves as much as possible,” said Coplit, of Westport, who gave birth to a daughter through in vitro fertilization (IVF) at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut. "Acupuncture helped create a calming environment, even if it was just having a blissful hour to myself where I wasn't stressing out about the world or raising a toddler at home.”

Coplit is among many women and couples who are turning to the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture to supplement the assisted reproductive technology that helps infertile Connecticut couples to become parents. While proponents concede acupuncture alone won’t lead to pregnancy in complex fertility cases, they say it is an effective complement to traditional treatment. “More women and couples are seeking a holistic approach to fertility treatment that takes into account the mind-body connection,” said Dr. Joshua Hurwitz, a reproductive endocrinologist at Reproductive Medicine Associates, which has four offices in Fairfield County.

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ACA Court Challenge: What’s At Stake For Connecticut

Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who receive federal subsidies to help pay for health insurance won’t be affected immediately by the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. But experts say there’s a good chance Connecticut residents will experience some political fallout from the court decision – which could come as soon as Thursday – challenging the validity of federal premium tax credits to 6.4 million Americans in 34 states with federally operated insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges). Nearly 74 percent (74,682) of the 101,294 people who purchased commercial health insurance plans through Access Health CT (AHCT) received federal subsidies, as of June 2015. Connecticut is among the 16 states – along with the District of Columbia – that established their own state-based marketplaces through the health law. A court decision that blocks health insurance subsidies in the federally-operated marketplaces could lead to “some crazy maneuvering at the federal level from a legislative perspective that could impact Connecticut” if Congress moves to repeal or significantly modify the law, said James Wadleigh, chief executive officer of AHCT.

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Mental Health Crisis Teams Bridge Service Gap To Stabilize At-Risk Youth

The growing number of children and teens exposed to traumatic events in everyday life has forced the state’s crisis intervention teams to respond to a broader range of behavioral and mental health issues, and those teams often serve as a bridge until at-risk youth find appropriate outpatient or inpatient services. Sixty-four percent of Connecticut’s youth who use Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS), the state’s mobile crisis intervention team, have experienced one or more traumatic incidents, such as domestic violence, cyber-bullying, physical assaults, or gang warfare, experts report. Research shows childhood exposure to violence, physical or sexual abuse, and other traumatic events can cause chronic health and behavioral health problems, and such exposure is associated with increased involvement with the child welfare and criminal justice systems.

“The number of children who have been exposed to trauma is a significant concern. It’s a common occurrence among young people,” said Jeffrey Vanderploeg, vice president for mental health initiatives for the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI). He is director of the EMPS Performance Improvement Center, which is housed at CHDI.

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Health Law Complicates Tax Season: What Consumers Need To Know

With tax season underway, some Connecticut taxpayers are struggling with the Affordable Care Act mandate that all Americans must report their health insurance status on their federal income taxes. “It’s been a big source of confusion for some people,” said Karen Riccardelli of Riccardelli Accounting in New Canaan, who has been helping Connecticut taxpayers understand the law’s requirement that they carry health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Here’s what Connecticut taxpayers need to know. Do I need to pay the penalty? People who were uninsured in 2014 face a tax penalty – unless they qualify for an exemption.

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Free Ultrasound Breast Screening Offered To Young Black Women

A new program offering free ultrasound screenings to young black women aims to raise awareness about the high incidence of aggressive breast cancers in African Americans. The Connecticut Breast Health Initiative has awarded a $33,350 grant to begin a five-year breast ultrasound screening study involving black women ages 25 to 39. “We need to get the word out,” said Dr. Kristen Zarfos, a breast surgeon at the Hospital of Central Connecticut who applied for the grant. “Young African American women are developing aggressive tumors and nobody understands why.”

The study will examine the effectiveness of breast ultrasound as an early detection tool for aggressive tumors in young black women. Women can get the screenings at two sites: the Medical Arts Center in Plainville adjacent to the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Imaging Center of West Hartford.

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Yale Study Finds 3D Mammography Decreases False Alarms

Three-dimensional mammography used in conjunction with conventional mammography reduced the rate of false alarms by more than a third compared to women who underwent traditional mammography alone, according to a new study from Yale School of Medicine published in the January issue of the journal Radiology. The study provides further evidence that the advanced technology, also known as breast digital tomosynthesis, represents the "evolution of mammography" for breast cancer screening, said Dr. Melissa Durand, assistant professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale University School of Medicine and one of the study's authors. "With 3D mammography, women won't have to experience the anxiety of a call back (for further testing) as often and at the same time they can feel more comfortable that their screening exam will find the types of cancers we worry about," she said. Unlike conventional mammography that produces two-dimensional images, tomosynthesis produces a series of 3D images that display breast tissue in 1-millimeter sections. The technique reduces the superimposition of breast tissue, which can help radiologists differentiate between abnormalities and normal tissue, thereby decreasing the need for women to return for additional tests.

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Diabetes graphic

Diabetes Takes Disproportionate Toll On Hispanics And Blacks

Connecticut’s diabetes rate ranks lower than the national average, but Hispanics and African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have the disease compared with their white neighbors and are at greater risk of dying from diabetes-related causes. Approximately 250,000 Connecticut adults (8 percent) have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and an estimated 83,000 state residents don’t realize they have the disease, according to 2011-13 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, 29.1 million people (9.3 percent) have diabetes and 8.1 million people don’t know they have the disease, reports the CDC. Connecticut’s Hispanics (14.6 percent) and African-Americans (14.1 percent) have significantly higher rates of diabetes than whites (6.7 percent). In addition, adults with annual household incomes below $25,000 are 2.3 times more likely to have diagnosed diabetes compared with adults with household incomes over $75,000, according to the CDC.

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Medicaid To Cover Autism Therapies For Children, Teens

Plans are underway to provide thousands of individuals under age 21 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with home-based interventions and other services through the state’s Medicaid program beginning Jan. 1. “This is absolutely huge,” said Jennifer Bogin, director of Autism Spectrum Services for the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS). “Many children already get quality programming during the school day. But it’s rare when that programming is brought into the home.

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Dr. David Gruen, director of Women's Imaging at Stamford Hospital, reviews a 3-D image.

Medicare Costs For Breast Cancer Screenings Soar, But Benefits Remain Unclear

Medicare-funded breast cancer screenings jumped 44 percent from $666 million to $962 million from 2001 to 2009, yet those added costs did not improve early detection rates among the 65 and older Medicare population, according to a Yale School of Medicine study published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The increase was due mostly to the use of costlier digital mammography ($115 per screening) compared to film mammography ($73 per screening), along with newer and expensive screening and adjunct technologies, including breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and biopsy. The study is the second from Yale since January 2013 to conclude that increased Medicare spending for breast cancer screening does not necessarily translate into better outcomes. The latest study has spurred debate about the cost and value of mammography in Medicare beneficiaries, particularly women 75 and older. Some physicians recommend continued screening, while others argue that it is unnecessary and only fuels anxiety among older women.

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Diligence Pays Off When Shopping For Health Insurance

Connecticut consumers who carefully consider their health status and financial needs stand to reap the greatest benefits when shopping for insurance during the 2015 open enrollment period. The enrollment period to purchase coverage at Access Health CT (AHCT), the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, runs from Nov. 15, 2014, to Feb. 15, 2015. The law requires most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes.

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