Raising Women’s Voices

Government Reports on US Health System

Posted in Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on May 7, 2009

Two government reports on healthcare were released on Wednesday, finding that the efforts to improve the quality of healthcare and narrow ethnic disparities are moving painfully slowly and that patient safety may be declining.

The report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found measurable improvement in less than half of the 38 patient safety measures that were examined. It concluded that, despite a push for preventative care, the US Health System works best when providing diagnostic, therapeutic, or rehabilitative care in response to an actual, acute medical problem.

min_affairs1A separate report noted the wide ethnic disparity in healthcare-highlighting that black Americans are 10 times more likely than whites to contract AIDS and twice as likely to have a leg amputated due to diabetes complications.

Like prior research, the study found great variation in patient care between states. For example, the study found that 66% of adult diabetics received a flu vaccine in one state, compared with 24% in another state.

While progress was found across 45 core measurements, the reports found a median annual improvement of only 1.8% and improvement in treatment for heart attacks was twice that for preventative care, such as cancer screenings.

An average decline of almost 1% was found in patient safety during each of the past six years, due in part to accidental punctures and lacerations as well as infections from the placement of central venous catheters.

For the full article click here

Birth Survey Evaluates Local Facilities

Posted in Health Disparities, Maternity Care, Personal Stories, Reports and Studies, Reproductive Health Care by raisingwomensvoices on April 27, 2009

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) has released thousands of feedback postings on obstetricians, midwives, hospitals, birth centers, and home birth services.  The  program is  “dedicated to improving maternity care for all women. We will do this by 1) creating a higher level of transparency in maternity care so that women will be better able to make informed decisions about where and with whom to birth and 2) providing practitioners and hospitals with information that will aid in evaluating and improving quality of care.”

 The Birth Survey allows individuals to share their own experiences and birth stories, connect with other mothers, hospitals, doctors and midwives in their area, and learn more about the intervention rates of hospitals.

The program’s objectives include:

  1. Annually obtain maternity care intervention rates on an institutional level for all fifty states.
  2. Collect feedback about women’s birth experiences using an online, ongoing survey, The Birth Survey.
  3. Present official hospital intervention rates, results of The Birth Survey, and information about the MFCI in an on-line format.
  4. Increase public awareness of differences among maternity care providers and facilities and increase recognition of the MFCI as the gold standard for maternity care. 

“A woman who looks at a list of names from her insurance company is often choosing a provider on nothing but blind luck. Where and with whom to give birth are important health care decisions. Research shows that both provider and location have a significant impact on birth outcomes. CIMS wants expectant parents to ask questions of their providers and facilities, and have access to more information about their local options”, said Elan McAllister, founder of Choices in Childbirth in New York City and co-chair of the The Birth Survey committee.

To volunteer or get more information about the New York City Pilot please e-mail info@choicesinchildbirth.org.

High Uninsurance Rates Affect the Insured, Too

Posted in Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on March 12, 2009

On February 24th, the Institute of Medicine released a report complied by a committee of medical, health, policy, economic and business professionals. The report claims that when the percentage of uninsured in an area increases, access and quality of care decreases, even for the insured.

High uninsurance rates tend to drive providers from an area, affecting availability, quality, and cost to those that are covered.

The report also says that both children and adults benefit from having health insurance, which can help with preventative treatment, and be less likely to lead to later hospitilaztion, especially because those without coverage are likely to delay or forgo treatment.

The State of Health Care Journalism

Posted in Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on March 12, 2009

As President Obama and policy makers plan a major overhaul of health care, health journalists are now facing obstacles attempting to report new policies due to cutbacks.

health-care-journalist1According to a new survey and report done by the Kaiser Family Foundation in conjunction with the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), financial pressures and competition to break news on the internet about both new and expanding platforms are affecting the quality of health reporting.

Those surveyed admitted worries about the lack of in-depth reporting as well as influence of public relations and advertising on online reports. They also lamented the increasing trend of “quick hit” stories, and the plentiful coverage of consumer health and subsequent meager coverage of policy health.

The survey, report and webcast are all available online

sara siegel

Pfizer-Harvard Relationship Questioned

Posted in Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on March 5, 2009

On Tuesday, Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) asked drug company Pfizer about payments they had made to over 149 faculty members at Harvard Medical School.

Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and is investigating the drug industry’s influence on the practice of medicine. This inquiry expands his previous investigation of industry payments to three Harvard psychiatrists promoting anti-psychotic medication for children. In that case, the professors were accused of not properly reporting as much as $4.2 million in payments from 2000-2007.


Grassley also asked Pfizer for any documentation regarding medical school students protesting drug company influence. Harvard policy prohibits drug companies having any interaction with medical students, but does not bar them from campus, nor from taking photographs. A man identified only as a representative from Pfizer had done just that last October.

In response to the investigation and criticism of drug companies’ involvement with medical schools, a Pfizer representative has said that collaboration with medical schools is a “valuable source of innovation and scientific advancement”.

Last year the American Medical Student Association gave Harvard Medical School an F for how well it controlled drug company payments to faculty members. This was based on Harvard’s published policy, even though the dean, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, believes the appropriate grade would be an “incomplete” for not submitting paperwork to the association.

For the full NY Times article click here

sara siegel

Americans at Risk

Posted in Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on March 5, 2009

According to a new Families USA Report, in the past two years almost 87 million Americans under the age of 65 were uninsured. That’s one out of every three Americans without insurance at some point in 2007 and 2008–BEFORE the recession. With the economy in crisis, this number is only likely to rise, regardless of race, age, gender, even income level.

For Families USA’s blog post, click here

sara siegel

Massachusetts Healthcare “Reform”?

Posted in Health Reform Policy Proposals, Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on February 19, 2009

piggybankIn a post on Wednesday in The Healthcare Blog, . Rachel Nardin, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler detail in their report concerning Massachusetts’ healthcare reform.

The doctors, members of Physicians for a National Health Program and professors at Harvard Medical School, claim that the reforms actually add 5% more administrative expenses. They also criticize the Urban Institute’s 2008 report that only 2.6% of Massachusetts’ citizens are uninsured because of the Institute’s failure to reach out to non-English speaking citizens.

The report claims that the reforms actually make the most vulnerable worse off than before, noting the lack of development in primary care compared to much-used higher technology such as CT scanners. And, perhaps most importantly, the doctors stress the fact that having an insurance plan does not necessarily guarantee access to care.

In the report, the doctors conclude that single-payer nataional health is the only reform that will do.

For the full article, click here: http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/the_health_care_blog/2009/02/mass-doctors-say-singlepayer-or-bust-noon-embargo.html

sara siegel

Racial disparities in distrust toward medical research

Posted in Health Disparities, Reports and Studies by raisingwomensvoices on February 6, 2009

medical-research-imageA report published in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine finds that, when controlled for education levels, African American parents exhibit distrust toward medical research at approximately double the rate of white parents.

While there is an undeniable and ugly history in this country of racist exploitation of blacks in clinical experiments, the report calls for active strategies for overcoming this barrier to enrollment in clincal studies and the benefits that come of participation (often including financial compensation and free medicine, transportation and medical care).  One such strategy is the creation and dissemination of “culturally appropriate” recruitment materials.  But Somnath Saha, M.D., M.P.H., of the Portland VA Medical Center in Oregon, insists that clinical subjects will not be representative of the general population until members of the medical, science, and research professions reflect the diversity of our communities.

“Many minority groups are grossly underrepresented in the health care professions and in the research enterprise…If we want minority communities to participate in our work, we must first fix the racial and ethnic imbalance that continues to tilt our ivory towers.”

The topic of this report and the related article at Science Daily presents an uncommonly lucid example of the way in which barriers to equality operate systemically within our society.  The overwhelmingly white (or perhaps more accurately, disproportionately non-black, non-Hispanic), male face of the medical and science professions has far-reaching consequences that translate into unequal access to, and quality of, health care and medical resources across our communities.

File this one under “disparities” and “disparities.”