Legislative Proposal Aims To Stem Suicides Of Women Vets

A study showing that women veterans commit suicide at six times the rate of civilian women has prompted U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and colleagues to propose legislation requiring the VA to develop gender-specific suicide prevention programs.

The "Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Act" would expand the Department of Veterans Affairs’ annual evaluation of mental health and suicide-prevention programs to include data specific to female veterans. The act also would require the VA to determine which programs are the most effective for female veterans. “With suicide among women veterans happening at an alarming rate, (the proposed bill) will help save lives by ensuring VA is providing the care, counseling and outreach these veterans need,” Blumenthal said. Co-sponsors include Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

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Alyson Hannan said she experienced back and pelvic pain and a rash and boils, after having Essure inserted in her fallopian tubes.

Essure Contraceptive Under FDA Review After Public Outcry

When Alyson Hannan, 44, decided she was done having children, she chose Essure, a non-surgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The day the tiny metal coils were inserted into her fallopian tubes in her doctor’s office is one that she can’t forget, said Hannan, regional sales director for Met Life who underwent the procedure on Sept. 11, 2014. “I will never forget that date. None of us will.”

Hannan is among tens of thousands of women, now referred to as “E-Sisters,” who have banded together on Facebook to share their stories of adverse health problems, including allergic reactions, chronic pelvic pain, device migration, hair loss and headaches.

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What To Watch In Health Care In 2016

As we open the book on 2016, here are a few things to watch for in the field of women’s health and well-being. In no particular order, from the Office of Healthcare Prognostication—a department I just made up—comes these predictions for the new year:

1 • The use of mobile health apps, or so-called “health wearables,” will increase, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 10th annual survey on fitness trends. Already, the adoption of smartphone health apps has doubled in the last two years, from 16 percent in 2013 to 32 percent of consumers saying they have at least one health app on their mobile device. 2 • Beyond measuring one’s fitness, health care in general will begin a “shift into the palms of consumers’ hands,” according to PwC’s 2015 Health Research Institute’s annual report. It’s happening already in primary care and the management of some chronic diseases, though programs such as Omada Health’s online program called Prevent are pushing into fields such as behavior modification.

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Rise In Pregnancy-Related Deaths Is Shameful

About 650 U.S. women die each year during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly after giving birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Compared to other countries – and not just newly developing ones – that figure is abysmal. In fact, according to a new study from the World Health Organization and others, the U.S. is one of just 13 countries where the maternal mortality rate has actually risen between 1990 and 2013. Other countries on that list include North Korea and Zimbabwe. The gross domestic product of Zimbabwe is $13.5 billion.

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Chlamydia, Syphilis Rates Rise; Gonorrhea Numbers Drop

The number of syphilis and chlamydia cases increased statewide last year as the number of gonorrhea cases dropped slightly, according to newly released figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nationally, the number of cases involving all three common sexually transmitted diseases increased for the first time since 2006, the CDC reports. The 2014 Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, which was released in November, shows that, nationally, the number of reported cases of syphilis increased 15 percent over the number reported in 2013. The number of gonorrhea cases rose 5 percent last year, and reported chlamydia cases increased by 3 percent. Statistics for the state show a slightly different picture.

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Yale: Black Women With Breast Cancer Less Likely To Benefit From Early Chemo

Black women with breast cancer fare worse than other women when treated with early chemotherapy, according to new research from the Yale Cancer Center. Typically, black, Hispanic and Asian women are more likely to undergo neoadjuvant chemotherapy, or chemotherapy prior to surgery, than white women because they are more likely to develop advanced-stage breast cancer. But the new study found that black women are less likely to benefit from the treatment. The finding is significant because it proves further research is needed, and could impact how future research and treatment options are pursued for black women, said Brigid Killelea, the study’s first author and associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine. “African American women didn’t respond as well to the chemotherapy when a pathologist looked at the tumors under a microscope after [subsequent] surgery,” she said.

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Pentagon’s Effort To Prevent Sex Assaults Is Lacking, Report Says

The Pentagon is not doing enough to make its sexual assault prevention strategy effective, according to a Congressional watchdog agency. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Department of Defense (DOD) has failed to: identify risk factors that “promote sexual violence” in the military community and in military leadership; communicate the strategy to military bases to ensure consistency among Armed Services prevention programs; and undertake methods to measure if the strategy is working and whether changes are needed. The report to Congress notes that sexual assaults reported to the military increased from 2,800 in 2007 to 6,100 in 2014, but adds that they represent “a fraction” of actual incidents. The report cites a 2014 RAND survey, which estimated that 20,300 active-duty service members were sexually assaulted in the prior year. The report concludes that the DOD needs to take actions to better address the problem.

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Game Teaches Sexual Safety Is Nothing to Play With

Researchers at Yale University are testing whether a humorous card game can help young, black women reduce their chances of contracting HIV and AIDS—part of a new but growing trend examining whether games can spur health behavior changes. Played among three to five people, “One Night Stan” has players draw cards to establish sexual scenarios and then prompts players to discuss how they would react in those settings. The game, developed by play2PREVENT, a gaming lab within the Yale School of Medicine, is still a prototype, but designers are hoping to launch a video game version eventually and bring it to a broader audience. “It’s really about evaluating sexual situations and encounters,” said Kimberly Hieftje, a developer of the game who is an associate research scientist at Yale School of Medicine and deputy director of the play2PREVENT Lab. A growing number of developers, in Connecticut and nationally, are testing whether card, video, online and mobile games are effective tools for getting people to make healthier choices.

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New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Rekindle Rage, Debate

When the American Cancer Society announced new guidelines for mammograms a week ago, the response on the organization’s Facebook page was swift. “For adoptees, this just adds 5 more years of potential unknowing,” wrote Angela from Connecticut. “Without a medical history, we are denied mammograms through insurance carriers.”

And then Dr. Henry Jacobs, a Hartford area longtime OB-GYN who, among other duties, serves as the Connecticut State Medical Society president, took to Facebook, too, and posted a message that summarized the general rage: “It is clear that rationing care is the new sales pitch and sacrificing women that could live out their lives is considered acceptable. I think it is UNCONSCIONABLE!!!!!!! We can afford athletes, entertainers, CEOs, hedge fund scammers that make upwards of a 100 million $$$$$ a year, but we can't provide decent medical care to people???

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Women interviewed said they wanted to feel a connection to their PCP.

Are OB-GYN Well Visits Short-Changing Women?

During their childbearing years, many women view their obstetrician-gynecologists as primary care physicians, seeing them for preventive health care as well as for reproductive-related issues. Several studies, including one published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicate that women may be shortchanging themselves by consulting only an OB-GYN for preventive health care visits. The national study of 63 million preventive health visits by non-pregnant women found that those “of reproductive age who see OB-GYNs only for preventive care may not be receiving the full spectrum of recommended screening and counseling.”

A number of Connecticut OB-GYNs and other women’s health care specialists said, however, that they are aware of the unique role they play, and that they make a point of addressing patients’ broader needs, especially when meeting a new patient. These needs vary, of course, depending on a woman’s lifestyle, risk factors and age. “If you’re young, in your 20s, don’t smoke and are healthy, you’re very low risk,” said Dr. Susan Richman, a Branford OB-GYN.   “What [those patients may] have is very treatable, and I’m comfortable treating them.”

The JAMA study of “well-woman” visits from 2007 to 2010 showed that while OB-GYNs generally screened for cervical and breast cancers, chlamydia and osteoporosis, general practitioners more often screened for colorectal cancer, cholesterol counts and diabetes.

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