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Public Health

Sex questions still taboo on state teen survey

In a CDC-sponsored survey, Georgia high school students answered questions on smoking cigarettes, wearing bicycle helmets, carrying a weapon, drinking alcohol, having suicidal thoughts and trying marijuana.

But the state’s students, once again, did not answer questions about their sexual behavior. They didn’t get the chance.

For more than a decade now, Georgia has deleted the questions on sex. So unlike most of their counterparts nationally, the state’s students were not asked about whether they have ever had sexual intercourse, and whether they wore a condom during intercourse.

220px-Teens_sharing_a_songThe Youth Risk Behavior Survey’s results, released last week, were taken from 2013 responses.

Though the effort is federally sponsored, each state decides which questions can be asked within its jurisdiction. Besides Georgia, other states prohibiting the sex questions last year included Louisiana, Utah and Virginia. full story

Agencies unite in crackdown on illegal care homes

The state’s main health agency said Thursday that it has formed a partnership with the GBI to crack down on unlicensed personal care homes.

Clyde Reese, the commissioner of the Department of Community Health, told the agency’s board that the partnership, which includes Adult Protective Services from the Department of Human Services, will mount “an aggressive effort to put [unlicensed homes] out of business.”

DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

These facilities deliver “substandard care to the elderly and disabled,’’ Reese said.

The problems of unlicensed facilities and elder abuse are growing in the state, he told GHN. These unlicensed homes exist all across the state, with many in the metro Atlanta and southwest Georgia areas, he added.

Reese also said Thursday that Community Health will rebid the contract for care coordination of the elderly and people with disabilities in the Medicaid program.

The current contracting process was shelved last week because bids came in “over budget,” according to state officials. (Here’s a GHN article about the bid.) The rebidding of the contract to serve “the aged, blind and disabled’’ category will begin next month, and Community Health will give more details about the savings goals it seeks, Reese said.

And the agency said it will announce by July 1 the winners of a new round of bidding to deliver medical services to the State Health Benefit Plan next year. The benefits plan for state employees, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents has been the target of widespread criticism since changes were instituted Jan. 1. full story

Health officials report on TB outbreak, MERS scare

The major outbreak of tuberculosis that has struck Atlanta homeless shelters this year actually began in 2009, a Georgia health official said Tuesday.

DPH-Logo-Center-HeightThis year, there have been 14 active TB cases at shelters with the same genetic makeup identified in 2009 in four homeless TB cases, said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection for the Department of Public Health.

The outbreak in 2009 was followed by another four cases in 2010, two in 2011 and three each the next two years.

O’Neal told the agency’s board Tuesday that more than half of this year’s cases involve patients who are also HIV-positive. All cases have proved resistant to treatment with the TB drug isoniazid (INH).

O’Neal added that it’s likely that more TB cases will surface this year. The homeless are “an extremely vulnerable population,” he said. full story

Feds say drug testing for food stamps violates law

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially warned the state that drug testing of applicants for food stamps would violate federal law.

200px-Supplemental_Nutrition_Assistance_Program_logo.svgHouse Bill 772, approved on the final day of the 2014 Georgia legislative session, and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, requires drug testing of some applicants for food stamps and welfare. It would require people applying for this government assistance to be tested if they raise “reasonable suspicion’’ of illegal drug use.

In a letter dated Tuesday, a USDA official told Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Keith Horton that Food and Nutrition Service policy “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of [food stamp] applicants and recipients.”

In a second letter, also dated Tuesday, Food and Nutrition Service regional administrator Robin Bailey informed Horton that the problem of Georgia’s food stamp backlog has been resolved. full story

The Personal Side: You sure this is for my health?

The other day I filled out a customer satisfaction survey for an Internet service that I use.

The company promised me a choice of gifts for doing so.

I didn’t exactly think it would be a trip to Hawaii or a new convertible. But I thought maybe I would get something useful, like a desk calculator or a coffee mug to add to my collection.

Imagine my surprise, as a health care reporter, to be offered three unusual health-related gifts.

After I had answered the last question, the next screen offered me a choice of one of these three items:

Gift No. 1: A weight-loss concoction. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but trying this supplement could give me an amphetamine-like buzz that would have me typing 10,000 words a minute. I passed on this one.

full story

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