Study: Integrating Legal Aid With Medical Care Improves Veterans’ Lives

Veterans’ mental health and housing improved when they accessed free legal services in a Veterans Affairs facility, according to a study of veterans in Connecticut and New York City. The more legal services they had, the better they fared, experiencing reduced symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and psychosis, spending less money on abused substances and having better housing situations, the study found. In addition, the study concluded that mental health was improved even if veterans lost their legal battles. The study analyzed the legal/medical partnerships between the nonprofit Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) and VA Connecticut Healthcare and between New York Legal Assistance and two VA hospitals. It looked at free legal help given to 950 veterans from 2014 through 2016 and its effects on the mental health, housing, and income of 148 of those veterans followed closely for a year.

Heavy Drinking Among Women At All-Time High, Despite Health Consequences

An ever-increasing number of women in the state are drinking to excess, state and federal data show. Statewide, female admissions to acute hospital emergency departments for alcohol-related reasons rose by 4.8 percent between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, according to the Connecticut Hospital Association. The female-only Eden Hill Recovery Retreat in Canaan fills an average of 10 to 12 beds per month; earlier in the center’s eight-year history, rarely were there more than eight beds occupied at a time. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine note an increase in the number of women enrolling in studies that examine the effectiveness of a medication to curb one’s desire to drink alcohol. The uptick in problem drinking among women in Connecticut mirrors a national trend.

Why Women—More Than Men—Can’t Sleep

Millions of Americans will have a hard time falling or staying asleep tonight, and research says most of them will be women. “Insomnia is definitely more common in females, and it seems to begin fairly early on,” said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine who studies sleep. Sleep problems can appear in women as early as their teens or 20s, he said. Various research shows women are more likely than men to experience the sleep disorder. Women are about 1.5 times more likely to have insomnia, said Kryger, who has written several books on the topic, including “The Mystery of Sleep,” which was published in March.

Racial Disparities Persist Despite Decline In Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths

The rate of infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly has dropped in recent years, but data show that racial disparities persist. Babies born to American Indian and Alaska Natives and African American families suffer much higher rates of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) than other races and ethnicities, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show. Between 2011 and 2014, 194.1 American Indian and Alaska Native infants and 170.2 African American infants per 100,000 live births died from SUID nationwide. Those rates are significantly higher compared with 83.8 for whites, 51.1 for Hispanics and 32.1 for Asian or Pacific Islander babies per 100,000 live births, during the same time period. SUID encompasses sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, as well accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and other unspecified causes of death in children up to a year old.

Yale Study: Minority Breast Cancer Patients Less Likely To Have Genetic Test

A genetic test that helps doctors determine how best to treat breast cancer—and whether chemotherapy is likely to help—is significantly more likely to be administered to white women than blacks or Hispanics, a Yale study has found. The test, called Oncotype Dx (ODx), uses gene expression to gauge how early-stage breast cancer is affecting patients’ gene activity. It uses the information to determine how likely cancer recurrence would be, and physicians and their patients can use that knowledge to decide how to proceed with treatment. Yale researchers retrospectively analyzed a group of more than 8,000 Connecticut women who were diagnosed with hormone receptor positive breast cancer between 2011 and 2013, and found “significant racial and ethnic disparities in use of this new gene test,” said study leader Dr. Cary Gross, a member of Yale Cancer Center and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine. “It reinforces that, at the same time we are investing in developing new treatments and new testing strategies and we’re promoting them with great excitement, we really need to double-down our efforts to eliminate disparity,” Gross said.

State Ranks High In Opioid-Related Visits To Hospitals

In less than eight hours last June, Yale New Haven’s emergency department treated 12 patients who had overdosed on opioids. Three died; nine were saved. With opioids in wide circulation, Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, chief of emergency medicine at the hospital and chair of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine, isn’t sure that one-day spike will stand as a record. “To be honest, no, I don’t expect the numbers to get better,” D’Onofrio said. “We’re going to have more treatment options in Connecticut, I think, more safe prescribing — but I don’t know that we’ll see improvements in the numbers of people using.”

D’Onofrio’s concerns are borne out in a recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that ranks Connecticut the 5th highest among 30 states in the rate of opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits — 254.6 per 100,000 population in 2014, well above national rate of 177.7.

Menopause Puts Women At Higher Risk Of Fall-Related Injuries

A growing number of women are getting hurt by falling, and they are much more likely to suffer fall-related injuries than men, data show. From 2011 to 2014, 51 women per 1,000 population were hurt in falls, up from 47 per 1,000 from 2005 to 2008, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Falls were the most common cause of nonfatal injuries to women, the report found, and significantly outpaced injuries from overexertion, the second leading cause of injury that afflicted just 14 per 1,000.  

Hormone-related changes associated with menopause are the main reasons women are so prone to falling, especially as they age, said Dr. Karen Sutton, an orthopaedic surgeon, director of Women’s Sports Medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, and associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the Yale School of Medicine. “Their muscles are weaker, their bones are weaker,” she said, since hormone changes lead to reduced bone mass and the onset of osteoporosis in many women.

Working Long Hours Is Bad For Women’s Health

Women who spend many years working long hours have significantly higher chances of developing heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, according to new research. The study found that women who worked more than 60 hours per week were nearly three times more likely to develop heart disease, non-skin cancers, arthritis and diabetes than those who worked less. Researchers at the Center for HOPES at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health and the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery at Mayo Clinic conducted the research. Even among women who worked fewer than 60 hours per week, the odds of developing the chronic ailments grew as women’s work hours increased, according to the study—a trend that did not hold true for men. Men who worked longer hours had an increased risk only of developing arthritis, and actually had a decreased risk of heart disease when they worked “moderately long hours” of 41 to 50 hours per week.

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.

Disclosure Rules Don’t Stem Flow Of Pharma Cash To State’s Doctors

Dozens of Connecticut doctors accepted six-figure payments from drug and medical device manufacturers in 2015 for consulting, speaking, meals and travel, with six of the 10 highest-paid physicians affiliated with academic institutions, new federal data show. The top 10 doctors – less than 0.1 percent of the 11,000 who received payments – took in $3.6 million, or nearly 15 percent of the total $24.9 million paid out. Among them is the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Robert Alpern, who received $445,398 in 2015 from two companies – Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie – in consulting fees, meals and travel expenses for serving on the boards of both companies. In 2014, he received $458,194 from the two companies. The Yale medical school began a research partnership with AbbVie in 2013, after the pharmaceutical company spun off from Abbott Laboratories.