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Commentary: A state in poor health

Georgia ranks near the bottom in various health measurements nationally.

Dr Harry Heiman

Dr. Harry Heiman

And the state also doesn’t fare well on its rates of poverty, high school graduation and unemployment.

In a new Commentary, Dr. Harry Heiman of Morehouse School of Medicine says the state’s leaders must adopt new policies to improve these statistics – and improve the health of vulnerable Georgians.

“Through a health lens, our state is going from bad to worse, a trend that will continue without a change in course,’’ Heiman writes.

Here is a link to his Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

Use of antipsychotic drugs cut in nursing homes

Georgia has reduced its use of antipsychotic medications on nursing home residents by 26 percent, one of the largest drops in the nation.

smslogoThe decrease, occurring from the end of 2011 to the end of 2013, was powered in part by a pilot program targeting the Georgia nursing homes that had the highest use of antipsychotics.

Nationally, the prevalence of these drugs in long-stay nursing home patients dropped by 15 percent over that period, federal officials announced last week.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has pushed for a decrease in the use of antipsychotics in managing dementia patients in nursing homes. full story

Enterovirus D68 outbreak documented in Georgia

The rare enterovirus that has caused a surge in emergency room visits nationally has been confirmed in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said Monday that nine cases of enterovirus D68 have been identified in the state.

140px-US_CDC_logo.svg“There are additional specimens and more tests pending,’’ said Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for Public Health.

Enterovirus D68 has been linked to clusters of respiratory illness among children and teenagers in Kansas City and Chicago.

From mid-August to September 19, a total of 160 people in 22 states were confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by D68, the CDC says. full story

Is the expanded U.S. response to Ebola enough?

President Obama, visiting Atlanta on Tuesday to talk to officials at the CDC about the Ebola crisis, announced a ramped-up response as the West African epidemic “is spiraling out of control.”

The U.S. will assign 3,000 military personnel to the region to supply medical and logistical support, train as many as 500 health care workers a week, and build 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each. “We have to act fast,’’ Obama said.

Dr. Mark Rosenberg

Dr. Mark Rosenberg

The head of the Task Force for Global Health, a Georgia-based nonprofit that runs health programs in West African nations, called the president’s plan “a very good idea.’’

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, CEO and president of the Task Force, told GHN, “We’ve got to step up our effort. The disease is diagnosable, patients can be isolated to control spread, and they can be given supportive care.  In this way we can control the spread and help the affected people.  It is not hopeless.”

“There is a huge amount that needs to be done.”

More than 2,400 people have died in the Ebola epidemic. Obama called some of the West African scenes of death “absolutely gut-wrenching.”

“It’s spiraling out of control,’’ Obama said. “It’s spreading exponentially.” full story

Released Ebola patients see an answer to prayers

Richard Furman recently received a grim phone call from a physician in Liberia.

The doctor gave an update about medical missionary Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been stricken with the Ebola virus in the West African nation.

Dr.-Kent-Brantly-news-conference

Dr. Kent Brantly (in blue shirt) addresses the media Thursday at Emory. Photo from Samaritan’s Purse

The physician didn’t think Brantly would survive, said Furman, a retired surgeon who’s on the board of directors of the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, where Brantly worked. Furman said the doctor “thought he [Brantly] was gone.”

On Thursday, Dr. Furman celebrated Brantly’s recovery while seated among journalists during an emotional news conference at Emory University Hospital, where Brantley’s discharge was announced.

Fellow Ebola patient Nancy Writebol, who also caught the disease while working as a medical missionary in Liberia, was released Tuesday from Emory, officials said. Writebol had requested no announcement be made when her discharge occurred, Emory said.

Their release poses “no public health threat,’’ said Dr. Bruce Ribner, an Emory infectious disease specialist who addressed the media.

Brantly, 33, and Writebol, 59, show no evidence of Ebola, said Ribner. full story

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