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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Studies report that the cost of insulin has risen by triple-digit percentages.

Low-Income Diabetics Paying High Price For Insulin

The high cost of insulin, which has risen by triple-digit percentages in the last five years, is endangering the lives of many diabetics who can’t afford the price tag, say Connecticut physicians who treat diabetics. The doctors say that the out-of-pocket costs for insulin, ranging from $25 to upwards of $600 a month, depending on insurance coverage, are forcing many of their low-income patients to choose between treatment and paying their bills. “Some of my patients have to make the choice between rent or insulin,” said Dr. Bismruta Misra, an endocrinologist with the Stamford Health Medical Group. “So they spread out taking insulin [injecting it less frequently than a doctor has prescribed] or don’t take it.”

Experts and recent studies point to drug companies’ long-standing patents and the lack of generic or “biosimilar” insulin as key reasons why the drug is so expensive. A study by Philip Clarke, a professor of health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia, reported that the price of insulin has tripled from 2002-2013.

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Secondhand Smoke Exposure Remains High Among Kids, Adults Living In Poverty

Despite laws in many states that protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, exposure remains especially high for children ages 3 to 11, African-Americans, and those who live in poverty or rental housing, according to a recent report. Jessica Hollenbach, the director of asthma programs at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, agreed with the report, done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said tobacco is a negative toxin that can make other illnesses worse. Hollenbach studies the relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and asthma in children. She said tobacco is an asthma trigger, and children with asthma often have higher exposure to second-hand smoke. In Connecticut, 13.9 percent of public school students have asthma, according to a state Department of Public Health report released last year.

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Amy Devoe breastfeeds Zoe, five months.

Breastfeeding Rates On The Rise, As Mother-Baby Support Systems Expand

Candid online posts describing the challenges of breastfeeding fill the Facebook page of Breastfeeding USA’s Connecticut chapter. The daily stream of anecdotes, questions and comments alternate in tone from exasperated to celebratory. “Small victory for today. I actually breastfed in the open with my husband and day care provider in the same room (with a nursing cover, of course), but I haven’t done that yet, so I feel good about it. “

“Any tips to get better pumping results?

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Yale Study: Brain Responds Differently In Male And Female Smokers

By analyzing dynamic brain scans, Yale researchers have pinpointed a different brain response between male and female smokers, a finding that could lead to breakthroughs in developing gender-specific treatments to help smokers quit. The study, published today in The Journal of Neuroscience, measured in a new way how and where nicotine affects pleasure receptors in the brain, according to Evan Morris, senior author of the study and an associate professor of diagnostic radiology, biomedical engineering and psychiatry at Yale University. Previous research has shown smoking cigarettes affects men’s and women’s brains differently, but this study marks the first time that PET (positron emission tomography) scans were used to create “movies” of how smoking affects dopamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of pleasure in the brain, Morris, the Co-Director of Imaging Section, Yale PET Center, said. Movies were made of 16 addicted smokers’ brains, eight men and eight women. Each smoked their cigarette of choice while undergoing a PET scan that lasted about 90 minutes.

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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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Woman smoking

Meds To Alleviate Stress May Help Women Smokers Quit

For the last 50 years, men have consistently had an easier time quitting smoking than women. More men go cold turkey. More men stop on nicotine blockers like gum and patches. More men succeed on medications. Sherry McKee, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, thinks she may know why.

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Autism

Autism Treatment For Under-Threes Is Key, But Diagnosis Is Tough

Most children with autism are well past their fourth birthday by the time they’re diagnosed with the condition, according to new government data. Their parents and teachers may have raised red flags earlier, but it takes months or years to confirm suspicions with a formal diagnosis.  And therapy rarely starts without one. “The school wouldn’t do anything for us until we had a diagnosis,” said Kimberly Vincent, of Wallingford, whose daughter Rebekah was diagnosed at age 6. That’s why researchers are trying to come up with new strategies for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders as early as possible. Last month’s release of new government data showing autism spectrum disorders now affect one in 68 kids provided an extra push and sense of urgency, several experts said.

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Girls Are Getting The HPV Vaccine, But Disparities Persist

When it comes to vaccinating adolescent females against human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease known to be the main cause of cervical cancer, Connecticut boasts a slightly higher participation rate than the national average. About 58 percent of females in the state received the initial HPV vaccine dose compared with roughly 54 percent nationally, according to the National Immunization Survey, based on data from 2012 for girls aged 13-17. HPV vaccine is given in three shots and Connecticut has a completion rate of 44 percent, better than the national average of 33 percent, according to the survey.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the number of girls receiving the HPV vaccine nationally lags behind other vaccination rates and has “not moved forward.’’

The state’s rate is “probably due to a combination of factors,” said Linda Niccolai, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and director of the HPV-Impact Project at the Yale Emerging Infections Program. “Health insurance coverage and rates are pretty good in Connecticut, but it’s also possible that providers in Connecticut are more proactive in making sure their patients are vaccinated and parents are more aware of the need for the vaccination.”

The national data show that Hispanic females have the highest participation rate at 63 percent, followed by whites at 51 percent, and blacks at 50 percent.

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‘End The Freeze On Gun Violence Research’

Since Newtown, the country has witnessed at least seven mass shootings. The most recent was in Chicago, where suspects used a military-type rifle and a gun, injuring 13 people in a park, including a 3-year old boy, who was shot in the head. Earlier that same week, a shooter killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington. Ironically, that same day Newtown family members and other gun legislation advocates were in the nation’s capital for a long-planned trip to lobby for tighter laws. After each shooting, there’s a sense of despair that these horrible events will just keep happening.

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