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Public Health

Ordinary folks on the health care front lines

Barbara Ellington, a health care volunteer, is helping her Athens neighbors live healthier lives. She gives them sound advice on how to take care of themselves and when to seek medical treatment.

Taking Blood Pressure

Ellington received special training from nurses and health educators in Athens as part of the Community Health Partner Program.

Through that program, she and others have become a resource for people who have little access to health advice or medical care, as well as for those whose worlds are limited by lack of transportation or infirmity.

“I was able to educate my neighbor, and I got him to start taking his blood pressure medicine by telling him why it was important,” says Ellington, who completed the training in 2013 and uses what she learned on a regular basis. full story

Is tobacco cessation being improperly slighted?

State insurance officials are investigating whether health insurers are covering tobacco-cessation products as a free benefit, as required under the Affordable Care Act.

“We have received several inquiries from [medical] providers and consumer groups,’’ said Glenn Allen, spokesman for the state insurance department, confirming the investigation.

Cigarette BurningThere are questions about several Georgia insurers — operating through the ACA exchange, the regular insurance market or both — not covering the tobacco cessation products.

The health law requires that certain “preventive” benefits be covered without a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible. Besides tobacco cessation, these include immunizations, as well as screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, depression and HIV.

Allen said the state office of Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is working with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the cessation product investigation.

“We’re not aware of other states that are having the same issue,’’ Allen told GHN. But he noted that some of the same health insurers in Georgia operate in other states. full story

Program for pregnant women can be a lifesaver

Lakizzy Carson’s first child, a boy, was born several weeks premature, weighing only 1 pound, 5 ounces. He needed hospital care for several weeks after his birth before he was able to go home.

Clayton County

Clayton County

It was not the kind of experience that Carson, of Clayton County, wanted to repeat. When she was pregnant with her second child, in 2012, she enrolled in a local health program intended to reduce premature births and infant mortality.

“I wanted help to guide me,’’ says Carson, now 37. She adds that she has what is known as an “incompetent cervix,” one with a tendency to weakness that can cause or contribute to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy.

Public Health officials in the county gave Carson information about nutrition, prenatal care and other resources.

“They gave me a whole lot of attention,” Carson says. “They kept me sane.’’

The second child, Jasmine, was born premature at 36 weeks, but she was able to go home with her mother.

Clayton County has been working on improving its infant mortality statistics for several years, targeting women such as Carson.

And the county, just south of Atlanta, recently received a $3.5 million award over five years from the federal Healthy Start grant program. full story

Measles scare over with no spread

The Georgia measles scare that stemmed from an infected infant arriving here from overseas is apparently at an end, with no further spread of the disease.

DPH-Logo-Center-HeightEarlier this month, state health officials said they identified 35 people – most of them children – as susceptible to getting measles from the infant who was hospitalized in Atlanta for the disease.

The baby arrived at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston with measles in early February. Officials said the child left the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan on a flight and eventually landed in Atlanta.

“There are no known secondary cases of measles connected to the first case of measles in the infant from Kyrgyzstan,’’ Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, said Friday.

Friday was the last day of the incubation period for potential secondary cases, she said. The incubation period of measles is seven to 21 days.

There are no known new cases of measles in Georgia either, she said. full story

Medical cannabis bill clears House panel

A Georgia House panel passed a medical cannabis bill Monday that its author said could eventually help up to a half-million Georgians.

The revised House Bill 1, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), would set up a process whereby patients with one of eight diagnoses, and a recommendation from a doctor, would register for cannabis oil use with the state Department of Public Health.

An individual, or that person’s caregiver, would be issued a registration card from Public Health that would allow them to possess the cannabis oil. (Possession would remain illegal for the general public.)

Miranda Sievert, 20, has seizures from epilepsy.

Miranda Sievert, 20, has seizures from epilepsy.

Peake said with the eight diagnoses – down from 17 in an earlier proposal – as many as 500,000 people in the state could be helped.

The eight diagnoses are cancer, ALS, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease.

The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee passed the bill unanimously, after approving an amendment that raised the legal limit of weight of THC in the oil to 5 percent from 3 percent. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that makes a person “high.” full story

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