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A letter to GHN about kidney disease

To the Editor,

In 2004, I wasn’t feeling well and went to the doctor, only to find out that my kidneys weren’t working. I began dialysis immediately and was put on the waiting list for a transplant. This was the toughest thing I ever went through in my life, and I want to help others avoid what I went through.

Over 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), yet only 10 percent are aware they have it. full story

Georgia inches up in senior health ratings

Georgia ranks 39th among the states on seniors’ health, one place better than last year, according to a new report on people 65 and older.From America's Health Rankings Senior Report

America’s Health Rankings Senior Report listed several Southern states at the bottom, including Arkansas at 47th, Kentucky 48th, Mississippi 49th and Louisiana 50th.

Georgia’s strengths, the report said, include a low prevalence of chronic drinking among seniors; high food stamp enrollment; and a high percentage of health screenings. The state’s challenges include low percentage of quality nursing home beds; a high rate of hip fractures; and a low rate of people in very good or excellent health.

Vermont is the healthiest state for seniors, according to the report, produced by the United Health Foundation. full story

Cancer program focuses on best-rated treatments

Hundreds of Georgians have received cancer treatment under a new payment model created by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia’s parent company.

Dr. Jennifer Malin

Dr. Jennifer Malin

Last year, Georgia was one of six states that Anthem chose to begin the oncology program, which encourages doctors to treat patients under a standardized cancer regimen.

Physicians get extra pay if they choose one of several treatment protocols approved by the insurer.

Anthem said Monday that about two-thirds of patients with colon, breast or lung cancer in the six states were part of the Cancer Care Quality Program, which debuted last July.

The protocols used are recommended as being the best in quality and the most cost-effective, Anthem said.

Physicians are paid an extra $350 management fee per month for each patient on active therapy.

Currently, there is much variation in quality of care in cancer treatment, and costs have soared, Dr. Jennifer Malin, an oncologist and staff vice president for Anthem clinical strategy, said in an interview. full story

Cancer survivors teaming up to help others

Fourteen years ago, corporate executive Angie Patterson had breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Angie Patterson

Angie Patterson

That yearlong process was harrowing, but she calls it “an enlightening time.”

Patterson, now 58, discovered as a patient that she “had a real passion to help others diagnosed with cancer.’’

In recent years, she has been working with cancer survivors as vice president of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE).

Now Patterson will be teaming up with health care providers and other stakeholders, along with survivors, to develop research to address the needs of vulnerable Georgians who have had the disease. full story

Smoking rate declining in Georgia, says CDC

Georgia’s smoking rate is showing a steady decline, a new CDC report said Thursday.

Cigarette BurningThe state’s rate of adult cigarette smoking fell from 21.2 percent in 2011 to 20.4 in 2012, then fell to 18.8 percent in 2013.

Georgia’s smoking percentage is lower than other Southern states except for Florida, at 16.8 percent, and Texas, at 15.9 percent.

Overall, 26 states had a drop in cigarette smoking prevalence over that period, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s use of smokeless tobacco increased from 4.4 percent in 2011 to 5 percent two years later, but that change was too slight to be statistically significant.

While Georgia’s smoking rate decreased, an American Lung Association official said Thursday that the news was not altogether comforting. full story

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