Joanne Goldblum of New Haven is on a mission to get health care clinicians to recognize that poverty may be the underlying cause of their patients’ illnesses and that the best treatment might be as simple as a brown bag of food or a tube of toothpaste. Goldblum is CEO of the New Haven-based National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), an organization dedicated to getting basic needs to people. She co-authored the Basic Needs-Informed Care Curriculum—with support from Yale School of Medicine faculty—designed to help clinicians, social workers and educators recognize the myriad ways a lack of resources can present itself. For example, a baby comes to a well child visit in dirty clothes. Clinicians might typically ask: Is the mother too depressed to care for the infant?
When doctors and patients communicate well, research shows that patients are more likely to follow treatments, recover more quickly and are less likely to be the victims of medical errors. But with an average office visit of just 18 minutes and an increasingly complex variety of diagnostic and therapeutic options, good communication may be modern medicine’s final frontier. In this podcast, sponsored by ConnectiCare, Dr. Juan Estrada, medical director of Sanitas Medical Centers and Lisa Freeman, director of the Conn. Center for Patient Safety, provide tips on how to communicate with your doctor. A recent patient survey by ConnectiCare found that patients generally rated communication with their doctors highly, but there were concerning gaps.
Combining medication with other forms of therapy can help people with opioid addition avoid relapse by calming cravings and managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Less than half of the privately drug addiction programs nationally offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT); and even in those programs, only one-third of patients receive MAT, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. In Connecticut, there are about 40 Medicaid providers that prescribe medication for treatment. In our podcast, sponsored by Wheeler Clinic, Dr. Robert Grillo discusses medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Increasing access to MAT is important given the extreme danger associated with relapse, says Dr. Robert Grillo, medical director for psychiatry at Wheeler Clinic.
Adult children should talk with parents about health and end-of-life preferences long before these matters become urgent, experts in the field say. “If you can think early on about options, identify preferences, talk to people about what they would like done, you really tend to have more control over the process,” according to gerontologist Donna Fedus, founder of the Connecticut-based consulting company, Borrow My Glasses. More than a third of U.S. adults provide care for an older relative, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. As life expectancy increases and health care becomes increasingly complex, Fedus said, that role becomes more difficult.
Our podcast, sponsored by ConnectiCare, Donna Fedus, founder of Borrow My Glasses and Anne Elwell of Qualidigm, provide tips on ways to discuss care with an elder parent years before it is needed. Talking with parents about their health status, their medications and their doctors while health is relatively good can give children important information and make the transition to the adult child actively managing care less jarring, she said.
Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
Is marijuana a harmless way to relax or a dangerous gateway drug? The science says “No” and “We don’t know,” respectively. Arguments for and against legalization often misrepresent the medical effects of cannabis, some experts say. Several bills proposed in the 2017 session of the General Assembly would make recreational use of marijuana legal in Connecticut. Medical marijuana use for conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer has been legal in the state since 2012, though dispensaries did not open until 2014.
Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.
This year 97 percent of blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, survived the Connecticut winter and are hungry for blood as temperatures warm. These arachnids transmit bacteria that cause Lyme disease and are likely thriving in your backyard, according to Connecticut Chief Entomologist Kirby Stafford. About 3,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the state each year, the state Department of Public Health reports, but Stafford says that most cases aren’t reported. The true number is closer to 35,000, he estimates. “Under-reporting is more likely to occur in highly endemic [widespread] areas, whereas over-reporting is more likely to occur in non-endemic areas,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
Emerson Cheney has survived drug addiction, an abusive relationship, years of cutting and burning himself, and multiple suicide attempts. Now a student at Tunxis Community College, Cheney, 22, recalls how he struggled as a teenager with rejection by friends, school administrators and even doctors, after he came out as transgender. Advocates for LGBT youth say that Cheney’s story is all too common—rejection often pushes young people to risky behaviors that result in health challenges. For LGBT youth, finding health care professionals who can fully address their medical and psychological needs at a critical time in their psychosocial development can be difficult. Several recent studies have highlighted discrimination and mistreatment of sexual and gender minority individuals seeking health care. In Connecticut, a 2008 study that surveyed pediatricians to examine health barriers among LGBT adolescents found that 31 percent of doctors expressed reservations about discussing sexual orientation or gender with patients.