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Arthritis: An all too common and costly disease

Outwardly, Kerry Tucker of Atlanta looks perfectly healthy.

But for the past 25 years, Tucker has battled constant stiffness and pain from psoriatic arthritis.

Kerry Tucker

Kerry Tucker

“Mornings are the toughest,’’ Tucker said at an Atlanta arthritis conference last week. Then there are the flare-ups that leave her in bed for days.

She’s among patients taking a breakthrough “biologic” drug – medications that have made a major difference in their ability to handle arthritis symptoms.

Yet these specially engineered drugs have a hefty price tag for insurers, employers and patients. That cost has consumer advocates alarmed about the potential financial impact on families.

Roughly one in four Georgians are estimated to have a form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Atlanta-based Arthritis Foundation. More than 800,000 of them are “limited’’ by the condition, the CDC says.

Thousands of Georgia children have a form of juvenile arthritis. full story

27% of state’s hospitals earn top safety rating

One in four Georgia hospitals earned an “A’’ grade in recently released ratings on patient safety.

clipboardThe 27 percent figure put Georgia hospitals roughly in the middle of the pack among states, according to the Leapfrog Group’s safety scores report.

The ratings measure the ability of hospitals to prevent errors, injuries and infections. The report on the ratings is intended to help consumers as they choose a facility for health services.

More than 1,000 people die each day in the United States because of preventable hospital errors, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit, Washington-based organization that focuses on patient safety.

Nationwide, one in 25 patients actually picks up an infection in the hospital.

full story

Free app gives lowdown on restaurant safety

Chris Peoples and Jake Van Dyke of Augusta went to look up health inspection scores for some local restaurants.

They found a state website providing restaurant inspection reports, but it was not user-friendly, they say.

Inspired by this problem, the two friends came up with an app that puts restaurant inspection scores and grades instantly on a smartphone, tablet or computer. The scores are updated weekly, they say.

The app – called What the Health – debuted in September. It’s free for consumers, and covers restaurants across the state.

YouTube Preview Image“We were sort of surprised at the grades at places we liked to eat,” Peoples said. One that had a low score, he said, “had rodents and bugs in the kitchen.” full story

Premature births show slow decline in state

Georgia’s preterm birth rate remained steady in 2013 at 12.7 percent, earning the state a “C’’ grade on an annual March of Dimes report card released Thursday.

The data, though, show Georgia’s premature birth generally declining since 2006, when the percentage hit 14.1 percent.

The national preterm birth rate, meanwhile, fell to 11.7 percent in 2013, the lowest in 17 years, the March of Dimes said.

Women in some rural counties are having to drive long distances to deliver their babies.Preterm births — those before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy — cost the U.S. more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. And preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death.

Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong medical challenges, such as breathing problems and cerebral palsy. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.

The report card shows Georgia did well in reducing late preterm births, and the percentage of Georgia women who smoke also has dropped. Smoking by the mother is a risk factor for early births.

Yet one problem area has become worse: Insurance coverage for women in the state. full story

Video campaign seeks more openness about HIV

“Fear, shame, guilt, disappointment — even thoughts of suicide.”

That’s how Abraham Johnson, a Savannah State University student, describes his reaction when diagnosed with HIV.

Johnson, 21, has posted a video about his experience with HIV and his feelings about it, as part of a national campaign (#SpeakOutHIV) in which young gay men speak out about their disease.

YouTube Preview Image“There are some journeys in life that we take that we sometimes do not want to,’’ Johnson says at the beginning of the video. “For me, my journey was having HIV.”

He did the video, he told GHN, to help others and to show that “having HIV isn’t the end.”

The video campaign comes from Greater Than AIDS, a national public information program, co-founded by the Kaiser Family Foundation,  that aims to increase knowledge, confront the stigmatizing of infected people and promote actions to prevent the spread of the disease. full story

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