More Adolescents Getting HPV Vaccinations, But Gender Gaps Persist

A growing number of adolescents in Connecticut and nationwide are protecting themselves from human papillovirus (HPV), new data show, but disparities persist in who is getting vaccinated. Statewide and nationally, adolescent girls were vaccinated at much higher rates than boys in 2015. In Connecticut, 55 percent of girls received all three doses of the vaccine, compared to 42 percent of boys, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Nationally, 42 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys received all three shots, the CDC data show. Nationally, Hispanic girls (46 percent) and boys (35 percent) received all three doses, compared to African American girls (41 percent) and African American boys (26 percent), and white girls (40 percent) and white boys (25 percent), the CDC reports.

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It’s Time To Stop Segregating Reproductive Rights

Now is the time to repeal a 40-year-old law that perpetuates inequality among women. The Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in certain circumstances, is unfair. The amendment targets women who rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, roughly two out of three adult women enrolled in Medicaid are between the ages of 19 and 44—the reproductive years. Abortions can run upward of $1,000, which places the (legal) procedure out of reach for most women living in poverty.

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CT Startups Edge Into Cluttered Market With Diabetes Apps

When Adam Berger, 29, who has Type 1 diabetes, decided to get a sandwich from a deli, he first ran it by his mobile application ezbds, which he launched in Stamford two years ago. The app told him that in the past when he’d eaten that particular sandwich from the same deli, he hadn’t experienced glucose spikes. “So I decided to stick with it,” Berger said. “An hour later when ezbds reminded me to check, my glucose was 123.” That’s a good number according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which suggests a target of less than 180 mg/dL an hour or two after beginning a meal for adults with diabetes. “By tracking what they eat, people can identify how certain foods affect their blood sugar,” said Nancy Salem, coordinator of the Diabetes Education Program at Danbury Hospital.

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Daun Barrett, center, director of Community Outreach and Parish Nursing at Griffin Hospital, gathers contact information from nurses concerned about asthma. Barrett and other health officials are pushing for more asthma education to help people better manage the disease.

Asthma ER Visits And Hospitalizations Drop In Many Communities

The rates of asthma-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations dropped in many Connecticut communities, the latest data from the state Department of Public Health show. Overall, 58 percent of communities saw a decrease in the age-adjusted rate of emergency room visits, while 63 percent saw a decrease in the rate of hospitalizations for asthma, according to a C-HIT analysis of the data. Some 36 percent saw improvement in both areas. The data compares age-adjusted rates for each town for 2005-2009 and for 2010-2014 per 10,000 people. Meanwhile, the state’s overall rate for emergency room visits in 2014 was lower than recent years but still was higher than it was 10 years ago.

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Drug Prices Keep Rising Despite Efforts To Reduce Out-Of-Pocket Costs

Michael Baudin of Manchester retired eight years ago after a career in auto repair, but now the 76-year-old is back working part time as a driver so he can afford prescription medications. “Every year premiums go up and my co-pay is increasing,” he said. “I take medication for cholesterol, hypertension, heart, prostate and digestion. My wife quit her job due to health issues and her medication is expensive too.”

Baudin says his out-of-pocket cost for a 90-day supply of just one drug, Creon from AbbVie Inc., which he takes for digestion, is $100. The drug does not have a generic equivalent.

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Alzheimer’s Care Puts Financial Strain On Family Members

Connecticut has a high prevalence of Medicare beneficiaries living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, often placing an enormous financial strain on caregivers who are spending thousands of dollars a year on care, reports show. “Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America,” said Jennifer Walker, vice president of communications and advocacy for the Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “The cost of care is very high.”

Medicare covers most fees for doctor visits, and some hospitalization, if needed; but other costs associated with care—including home health services, transportation, diapers for incontinence—are not covered. People with Alzheimer’s often suffer from other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart and hypertension, which add to the out-of-pocket costs for care. The financial burden is forcing families who rely on Medicare to tap into retirement savings, cutback on food and medical care for themselves, reduce work hours or quit work altogether to be caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association report Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

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Who’s Guarding Our Reproductive Rights In Hospital Mergers?

Officials at St. Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital began negotiations in 2011 to merge and join a Texas-owned company. But the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women—with MergerWatch, a hospital watchdog group—successfully argued against the merger by making the case that since the new hospital would honor Catholic religious directives, a significant portion of patients would be left vulnerable—because God help you if you are a woman and need emergency reproductive services at a Roman Catholic hospital. Medical professionals at Catholic-owned or -sponsored hospitals operate under directives—known officially as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. These directives come from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and take 43 pages (plus footnotes) to describe what constitutes appropriate Catholic health care.

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Aging Boomers Highlight Need For More Geriatric Specialists

Health experts are struggling to narrow the gaps in Connecticut’s geriatric care to meet the needs of the state’s rapidly aging population. The state needs more professionals to focus on geriatric care while also addressing other ways to meet the increasingly complex care needs of older residents, says the American Geriatric Society (AGS). In Connecticut, only 134 certified geriatricians are currently practicing—caring for a 65-plus population that topped 577,000 in 2015, according to the AGS. And that population will continue to grow, the AGS says, with an elderly population of 956,000 expected by 2030. That’s a 40 percent increase, and will require an estimated 340 geriatric specialists to meet that treatment need.

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Health Conference To Focus On Veterans, Aging And LGBT Issues

Health risks challenging veterans, particularly those who have recently returned home from combat, is one of the topics of an upcoming conference for consumers and health care providers. The conference, “Better Health: It’s Your Health, Take Charge,” will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Foxwoods Resort Casino. CT Partners for Health, a coalition of dozens of stakeholders working to help consumers better understand health care, is organizing the event. Conference breakout sessions will address a wide range of topics, including caring for veterans. That discussion will focus on the health-related challenges veterans face after they return from combat zones.

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Three-year-old Angely Nunez watches as Lauren Frazer, a nurse at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, applies a topical anesthetic to her arm before a blood draw to check for lead levels.

Thousands Of Children Suffer From Lead Poisoning, Many Not Tested

Nearly 60,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported with lead exposure in 2013, and an additional 2,275 children had high enough levels of the toxin in their blood to be considered poisoned. While those numbers, the latest available from the state Department of Public Health, may seem high, health experts say they actually must be higher because of significant gaps in state-mandated testing. Even though Connecticut has some of the strictest lead-screening laws in the country – requiring every child to be tested twice, before age 3 – DPH figures show that only half were screened twice, as mandated. Unlike in Flint, Mich., whose residents were poisoned when a corrosive water source was directed through aging lead-lined pipes, the main culprit in Connecticut is lead paint. Though banned in 1978, lead-based paint is present in countless older apartment buildings and homes, especially in urban centers, such as Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport.

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