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Public Health

Georgians help a nation stretch its health resources

Mozambique, like many African countries, suffers from an array of health care problems.

Life expectancy there is just 50 years old. The adult HIV rate is 11 percent.

Mozambique (in dark blue)

Mozambique (in dark blue)

And, like many African nations, Mozambique has a shortage of skilled health care workers.

The World Health Organization recommends 235 health care workers per 100,000 population. Mozambique in 2012 had 75 workers per 100,000.

It’s that shortage that three Atlanta area organizations have teamed up to address.

The Task Force for Global Health, the CDC and a group of Georgia Tech students have produced a new Excel-based tool that can help a nation distribute health care workers more evenly around a country — ensuring that the sickest people have access to care.

The tool was developed for Mozambique, where it will be piloted this year. full story

Medical cannabis bill scores major victory

Georgia’s medical marijuana proposal took what its chief sponsor called “a giant leap’’ forward Thursday by passing a Senate committee after a long, emotional hearing.

Rep. Allen Peake

Rep. Allen Peake

A divided Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), after hearing testimony on issues ranging from medical treatment and patients’ pain to drug addiction and a lack of research data.

Peake said the legislation, if ultimately passed by the Legislature, can bring home the Georgia parents who are living with their ailing children in Colorado to give the youngsters access to medical cannabis. Colorado’s relatively loose marijuana laws have made it a magnet for families whose children need the treatment.

“The families are the real heroes in this,’’ Peake said after the committee approved the bill.

The vote came after a Senate panel introduced a substitute bill that included a provision for clinical trials.

full story

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

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