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Public Health

Georgia, South still low in health rankings

Georgia retained its ranking of 38th in a newly released 2014 state-by-state health report card.

healthyfoodimageSouthern states generally ranked at the bottom in the annual report by America’s Health Rankings.

The report says Georgia has strengths that include a low prevalence of binge drinking; a low rate of drug deaths; and a low occupational fatality rate.

Since 1990, Georgia’s infant mortality has decreased by 48 percent from 12.6 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, the report said. And in the past year, premature deaths in Georgia decreased by 8 percent.

The report said Georgia’s weaknesses include a low rate of high school graduation, a high prevalence of low-birthweight babies, and a limited availability of dentists.

In the past two years, obesity increased from 28 percent of Georgia adults to 30.3 percent. And in the past year, diabetes increased from 9.9 percent to 10.8 percent of adults.

Georgia also has a high level of uninsured residents, where it’s ranked 46th. full story

Contest targets teen prescription drug abuse

The video begins with a teenage boy opening a cabinet to grab a bottle of prescription drugs.

“A few little pills can’t hurt, right?’’ says the narrator.

The teenager then is shown on the floor, apparently unconscious.

The video, produced by George Walton Comprehensive High School students in Marietta, won a Georgia high school video contest aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse among teenagers.

YouTube Preview ImagePrescription drug abuse is a problem that affects almost all age groups.

Among teens, a national CDC-sponsored survey in 2013 found that nearly one in five high school students has taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. The survey asked if they’d ever taken a drug such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax, without a prescription.  full story

Magazine, CDC director pay homage to Ebola teams

“The Ebola Fighters” are Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2014, the magazine announced Wednesday morning.

Hours later, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden essentially agreed with that choice, in speaking to the Atlanta Press Club.

Dr. Tom Frieden

Dr. Tom Frieden

“It’s the people on the front lines,” said Frieden, when asked about Time’s 2014 selection. “They [the Ebola workers] deserve all the recognition,’’ he said. “CDC has over 700 people working on Ebola at any one time,” he said, “and 180 CDC staff are in West Africa right now.”

Frieden was quick to add that the people in the field — the special forces of Doctors Without Borders, the Christian medical relief workers of Samaritan’s Purse and many others from all over the world — continue to fight side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.

“Ebola is the story of the year,” said Frieden. full story

State putting together Ebola hospital network

Georgia public health officials are assembling a tiered system among the state’s hospitals for identifying and treating Ebola patients.

Dr. Patrick O'Neal

Dr. Patrick O’Neal

And they hope to have it in place this month, with the hospitals publicly identified as treatment facilities in the state.

The plan was outlined by Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection for the Georgia Department of Public Health, at the agency’s board meeting Tuesday.

“Georgia has done an outstanding job in preparation for Ebola,’’ said O’Neal, who credited leadership by Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the agency’s commissioner.

“We’ve led much of the country,’’ he said. “Our hospitals and health care providers have stepped up.’’ full story

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

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