July 23, 2014

Survey finds Latino children most likely to be uninsured

Information from the annual Kids Count survey released Tuesday shows Latino children in Iowa are more than three-times as likely to be uninsured than their white and black counterparts. Five years ago the number of uninsured black and Latino children in Iowa was about equal at a little more than 10 percent.

Joe Enriquez Henry, the director of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, says the state of Iowa has failed to promote healthcare within the Latino community. “I think the difference is that within the African-American community is that you have several generations of families that understand how access health care and other programs. Whereas within the Latino community you have a lot of young families, some are just first generation. They may not understand how the system works,” Henry says.

Henry recommends the state approach parents through their children’s school or by mailings, instead of using the internet, since fewer Latinos have access.


State wins grant to continue substance abuse recovery program

The Iowa Department of Public Health has won a three-year grant of nearly $8 million for a program to help people overcome substance abuse. Kevin Gabbert is the project director for what’s called Access to Recovery or ATR. “Because every person in the recovery is different, a key component to our program is choice,” Gabbert explains. “And so with ATR, the individual receiving the service chooses what services they want to be involved in from a variety of our providers.”

Gabbert says providing support services to those in recovery can be key to helping them succeed. “Basic things like transportation — so gas cards and bus passes. Child care so an individual can go to treatment services in the evening or go to a 12-step meeting. Some of those basic things that might have been barriers otherwise if they had not had access to ATR,” Gabbert says.

The program has been running since 2010, but its grant money was running out. “There was a new grant application process that was initiated in 2014. We applied and were one of six grantees out of 30 applicants,” Gabbert says. Gabbert says they’ve seen success with the percentage of individuals not using alcohol or drugs six months after admission increasing from over 73.3 percent to 82.3 percent from 2010 to this year.

He says they expect to serve 7,000 people with the new grant. “Individuals can come to us from a variety of different referral sources. It could be from the Department of Corrections, it could be from a primary care provider, it could be from the Department of Human Services, the list just goes on and on,” Gabbert says. “Individuals can just walk into one of our care coordination providers which we have across the state.”

For more information about Access to Recovery, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.



Health Department reminds you to use sunscreen

The hottest days so far this summer have arrived, prompting a reminder from Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. She’s encouraging Iowans who are spending any time outdoors to use plenty of sunscreen. “We know that people who get burnt or have lots of sun exposure are at risk for quite a few health events that you don’t want, the worst being a kind of skin cancer called melanoma,” Quinlisk said.

Around 840 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed in Iowa this year. Quinlisk advises applying sunscreen that’s SPF 15 or higher at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors. If you’re also using bug spray, it should be added on top of sunscreen. “That makes sure the bug spray is on the outside and will repel the insects,” Quinlisk said. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, according to Quinlisk.

The IDPH is partnering with the Iowa Cancer Consortium and other organizations to provide free sunscreen to RAGBRAI riders. The annual bicycle ride across the state started on Sunday in Rock Valley and ends this Saturday in Guttenberg.


Iowa moves up to 3rd in the Kids Count survey

Iowa moved up four spots in the annual “Kids Count” survey released today.  “We moved up to 3rd this year, we were 7th last year, so obviously a move up four places is very good,” Iowa Kids Count director, Michael Crawford says. The survey by the Anne E. Casey Foundation looks at 16 factors believed to be an indication of how well kids are doing in each of the 50 states.

Massachusetts and Vermont were ranked one and two. Crawford says the move by Iowa shows how close the states in the top 10 are. “I think some of it is attributed to the policies we have in place as far as helping children — particularly in the health areas — we ranked first in the health areas of all 50 states, which is very good,” Crawford says. “But I think also some of it has to do with the fact that maybe the other states are slipping in the work they do, so I think it’s kind of a combination of those two things has helped Iowa move up.”

The 4 health areas ranked are the number of low birthweight babies, the number of children without health insurance, the number of child and teen deaths and the number of teens who use drugs or alcohol. Iowa also saw an improvement in all four education areas. “We’ve improved the number of children going to pre-school — which is a good idea, a good thing — fourth in eighth graders improving their proficiency in their reading and math scores, and our tests. And also, we are lowering the number of kids who are dropping out of school or not graduating on time,” Crawford says.

Iowa saw the state’s marks drop in some areas. “We’ll be seeing an increase in the number of children living in poverty, which is a bad sign. And also, the number of children living in single parent homes,” Crawford says. Also on the negative side, Iowa saw an increase in the number of kids living in a situation where housing costs are a burden and the number of teens not in school and not working.

Crawford says measuring the state against the rest of the country is good, but not the only way to find out how we are doing. “I think it is import also to keep in mind, not only to compare Iowa to other states, but to compare Iowa to Iowa,” Crawford says. “Maybe compare Iowa to where we were 10 years ago, to where Iowa is now and really not look at the others states to see if our policies and programs in place are really helping families.”

New Hampshire and Minnesota rounded out the top five in the survey behind Iowa. Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi ranked lowest among the states.

Learn more about the survey here: www.aecf.org


Attorney General sues telemarketers of two ‘miracle cures’

Attorney General Tom Miller is taking legal action against a company marketing a human growth hormone spray and another firm selling a product that telemarketers claim could treat hundreds of ailments, including cancer.

“Some health care claims that are nothing short of outrageous,” Miller says.

Today a district court judge has ordered the Las Vegas company selling the human growth hormone spray to quit doing business in Iowa and to provide refunds to Iowans who may have purchased the product, which sold for $249 a bottle. In a phone call Miller’s investigators recorded, a telemarketer claimed the human growth hormone spray was the “only known product…proven to kill cancer cells.”

“The claims are just so out-of-bounds,” Miller says.

Miller’s investigators caught another Las Vegas company making similar wild claims to try to sell marine phytoplankton supplements. One of the company’s telemarketers pitched the product to someone he thought was an elderly woman, but who turned out to be an investigator for Miller’s office.

“They found that this marine phytoplankton, they found that it’s actually helping with or fully reversing over 500 different health problems — things arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, even cancer,” the telemarketer said. “We’re not supposed to say ‘cure for cancer’ but my wife is a survivor definitely because of the marine phytoplankton. I believe that 100 percent.”

Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the state’s top public health official, says there is no such thing as a miracle cure for cancer.

“I have a mother who is having health problems and is having trouble remembering things and I would just hate for her to be a victim of these kind of fraudulent and basically unbelievable health claims,” Quinlisk says.

According to Quinlisk, the telemarketers use “scientific double-speak” to try to fool people into buying the products. Miller is asking a judge to forbid the company marketing the marine phytoplankton supplements from selling the product in Iowa.

State medical director urges bike riders to take along water

Participants in next week’s annual bike ride across Iowa are being urged to drink up. Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says her agency conducted a study on hydration during RAGBRAI last year and found water isn’t always readily available, so bicyclists should carry their own.

“RAGBRAI does a great job at making sure there are plenty of water stations, but there were a couple of places where the distance between water stations could be up to seven miles,” Quinlisk said. “For the slower riders, that might be up to a half-an-hour to an hour.”

The study also found while most riders understood the importance of drinking plenty of water, they weren’t aware of the signs of dehydration. “So, we want to just remind RAGBRAI riders that when you’re outside doing something like this, you need to be drinking (water) all the time,” Doctor Quinlisk said. “Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, just drink water all of the time.”

Quinlisk also notes that salt and minerals lost through sweating can be replaced with re-hydration fluids designed for athletes. Salt can also be replaced with foods like salted crackers and minerals like potassium can be replaced by eating fruits, especially bananas. RAGBRAI begins Sunday in Rock Valley and ends Saturday, July 26 in Guttenberg.


Partnership for Drug Free Iowa leader says limit kid’s summer screen time

The president of the Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa says summer should be a time for kids to play at the park, ride bikes and learn how to paddle a canoe, not to while away the hours on Facebook, and parents should limit a teen’s access to social media, internet and TV during summer vacation.

Peter Komendowski says too much screen time can raise the risk of alcohol and substance abuse. “Children are not happy if they spend an excessive amount of time on Facebook,” Komendowski says. “We’ve even heard children say things like, ‘I OD’d on Facebook.’ They start sensing that there’s a problem with how much involvement there is and what we forget as parents is they count on us to lead them and to give them guidance as to what to do.”

Social media can be a very antisocial experience, he says, when it reduces the actual time spent in activities with friends and family members. Komendowski says, “Studies are showing that the more time children spend on the media as a basis of how many hours a week they spend doing things, the more difficult time they have structuring decisions when it comes to high-risk behavior.”

Too much social media and screen time can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which he says is setting the stage for substance abuse and other high risk behavior. Smart phones aren’t evil, he says, but they need to be used properly. “If you use your cell phone to make a date with somebody to meet at the ball field to play ball or to go to a movie, that’s a great tool,” Komendowski says. “But if you’re spending all of your time just interacting on the media, the risks in terms of how children feel, their psychological strength, their behavioral sort of aptitude, those things begin to get diminished.”

He says parental involvement in youth-focused media improves a children’s physical health, sleep, school performance and social behaviors. The average American teen spends 35 hours a week in the classroom and more than 55 hours a week engaged in social media, video games, television and internet activities.