Study: Black Patients More Likely Than White Patients to Be Re-Admitted

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Eliminating the racial gaps in U.S. health care remains a national priority.  One of those gaps involves hospital readmission rates. A new study finds black patients within the Medicare system are more likely than white patients to be readmitted within 30 days of a hospital visit for three common conditions, with differences related to race and where the care was received.

Heart problems or an episode of pneumonia are some of the most common conditions bringing the elderly into America's hospitals, but what happens to many of these patients in the first 30 days after they go home? "It's a time in which patients are very vulnerable to developing a complication that might end up with them coming back into the hospital," says Dr. Karen Joynt from Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

She along with co-authors analyzed data involving more than three million Medicare patients, admitted to hospitals nationwide from 2006 to 2008 for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Researchers looked at how many of these patients were readmitted to the hospital during the first 30 days after being discharged. "Black patients overall had a 13 percent higher odds of readmission than white patients across all three conditions," according to Joynt. The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. "Patients discharged from hospitals that served a high proportion of black patients had about a 25 percent higher odds of readmissions."

Researchers say understanding why black patients are readmitted to the hospital more often than white patients may help improve the quality of care they receive. "It's a time in which patients often have to adjust to new medications, new physicians sometimes, new follow up plans, new nutrition plans and that's a time where we're really seeing a disparity between patients who may have more resources to support them once they come out of the hospital," Joynt says. Involving family whenever possible may also help in improving patient outcomes. 

Researchers say this study is one of the first nationwide looking at how the  most common medical conditions are affecting Medicare patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Early Hair Loss Could Mean Higher Risk of Prostate Cancer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PARIS) - A new study suggests that early hair loss in men may show an increased risk of prostate cancer later in life, reports HealthDay News.

Researchers at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris found that men with prostate cancer were two times more likely to have started balding in their 20s, although it did not suggest that those who developed the early signs of male pattern baldness would develop prostate cancer earlier.

Study authors said they will work to determine whether this finding may help them narrow down prostate cancer screening.

"At present, there is no hard evidence to show any benefit from screening the general population for prostate cancer," said study author Dr. Philippe Giraud from the European Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris. "We need a way of identifying those men who are at high risk of developing the disease. Balding at the age of 20 may be one of these easily identifiable risk factors, and more work needs to be done now to confirm this."

The team said it is too soon to conclude that early male pattern baldness and prostate cancer are indeed linked.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Men Sleep Better than Women After Drinking

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) - A new study suggests that a woman's sleep is disrupted more than a man's after drinking alcohol, reports HealthDay News.

The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that the difference may rest in differences in metabolism.

"These (gender) differences may be related to differences in alcohol metabolism since women show a more rapid decline in BrAC (breath alcohol concentration) following alcohol consumption than men," said lead author J. Todd Arnedt, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Michigan.
Researchers studied 59 women and 34 men before they went to bed -- some of whom had consumed alcohol to the point of inebriation, others who drank non-alcoholic beverages before bed. The research found that women who had drank alcohol slept less and woke up more frequently than men who had drank.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CDC: New Hepatitis C Infections Remain Stable

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GALVESTON, Texas) - New figures from the Centers for Disease Control suggest that new cases of the hepatitis C virus have remained stable since dropping dramatically in the early 1990s, reports WebMD.

Researchers attributed the dramatic drop in infections and the resulting stabilization to a decline in the use of needles by illicit drug users. Illicit IV drug use is now the most common cause of new HCV  infections.

“New IV drug users are still being infected in high numbers, but they represent a very small percentage of the pool of people who are infected,” researcher Miriam J. Alter, PhD, of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, told WebMD.

Among other findings, researchers found that there was little evidence that tattoos and similar practices were responsible for major contributions to the number of HCV infections. A sizable portion -- 14 percent of new HCV infections -- occurred in people who admitted to having sex with an infected partner or multiple partners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Recycled Phones Could Save Lives

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STANFORD, Calif.) - Josh Nesbit had a simple idea - one that turns old cell phones into lifesavers.

As the goalie on Stanford University's soccer team, Nesbit earned a full scholarship. But it was his hustle off the field that makes him a superstar.

During his sophomore summer break four years ago, Nesbit volunteered at an AIDS clinic in Malawi, one of Africa's poorest, least-developed nations. In Malawi, 85 percent of the people live in rural areas and most survive on a dollar a day. Nesbit volunteered at St. Gabriel's Hospital to help children with HIV.

"This particular hospital was serving about a quarter-million people, spread a hundred miles in every direction. So you literally had patients walking 60, 80, a hundred miles to access care. Basically one nurse would get onto a motorcycle and drive 10 hours a day trying to track down patients," Nesbit said.

Often, community health workers, who travel miles to isolated African villages to see patients, have to lug boxes of medical records with them. Paper records can be lost or damaged, especially on long trips.

His idea was to use high-tech open source software on a laptop, along with some solar power, and give away old cell phones so that local health workers can work on the frontlines of global health.

Back at Stanford, surrounded by high-tech engineers, Nesbit found a software guru who could help make it happen. Then, back in Malawi, Nesbit set up an ad hoc network using solar panels, a laptop and cell phones. With the software, paper records could be transformed into text messages. Soon the health workers were texting a hundred miles in each direction.

The new technology allowed workers at St. Gabriel's to respond to emergencies, diagnose patients, and keep track of their medical records, all via texts -- saving time, resources, and lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Labor of Love: Woman Carries Her Daughter's Baby

File Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) - A mother's love takes many forms. For Kristine Casey, 61, it meant giving the gift of motherhood to her infertile daughter by carrying and giving birth to her own grandson.

With the help of hormone supplementation, Casey, who had gone through menopause 10 years earlier, became pregnant during her second round of in vitro fertilization, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She carried full term and gave birth via Cesarean section to Finnean, her first grandchild, last week at Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. Although Casey's daughter, Sara Connell, 35, had been unable to carry a pregnancy to term, her egg and her husband Bill's sperm were used in the procedure, making the couple Finnean's biological parents.

"The idea of having a family member being open to doing this for us was so extraordinary for us," Sara Connell told the Tribune.

In the world of surrogate parenting, the Connell's scenario is not as uncommon as you might think. The first case of such an arrangement dates back to 1987 when a South African woman gave birth to her triplet grandchildren. More recently, ABC News' Good Morning America spoke with 56-year-old Jaci Dalenberg of Wooster, Ohio, who gave birth to triplet girls that she carried for daughter Kim Coseno in 2008.

Casey, who is retired, told the Tribune that giving birth to her own three daughters were three of the happiest days in her life and she believed that serving as a surrogate to her daughter was a spiritual calling. She had kidney complications after the birth that were quickly resolved.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Diet High in Fiber Reduces Your Risk of Death

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ROCKVILLE, Md.) - Fiber may help reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a new study. In fact, eating foods rich in fiber can reduce your risk of death from any cause by 22 percent.

“Prior studies have focused on the relationship between fiber intake and cardiovascular disease, but few have examined the link between dietary fiber and mortality,” study researcher Yikyung Park, a scientist at the National Cancer Institute, told WebMD. “Our analysis adds to the literature and suggests that dietary fiber is associated with a decreased likelihood of death.”

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicince, found that fiber from grains, not fruits and vegetables, was most effective in promoting overall health and well-being.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can You Measure Charisma?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) - While it is a trait said to make women around the world swoon, a University of Tennessee professor has studied what it actually means to be charismatic.

Professor Kenneth Levine says that although there is no shortage of academic literature on charisma, charismatic communication has never been defined.

"There's this illusion that we know what charismatic communication means, but in the research I reviewed, no one had ever really looked at that," Levine said.

Levine and his study co-authors asked university students to pinpoint behaviors of people with charisma and to define what they consider charisma to be.

"Everyone has a leadership capacity in something," Levine said. "But we found that if you want people to perceive you as charismatic, you need to display attributes such as empathy, good listening skills, eye contact, enthusiasm, self-confidence and skillful speaking."

The results could help social scientists determine which traits can be studied to better understand a person's level and depth of charisma.
Among the most surprising result of his inquiry, said Levine, was the idea that a person could learn to be charismatic. The finding contradicts some beliefs, which say that charisma is a "god-given" gift.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Zinc Helps Tame the Common Cold

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(OXFORD, England) - A recent systematic review of several studies has determined that zinc is indeed helpful for shortening and reducing the effects of the common cold, although some medical professionals remain skeptical.

The Cochrane Library announced Tuesday that a review of 15 studies that examined a combined 1,300 patients found that a zinc supplement is efficient if taken by healthy individuals within 24 hours after symptoms begin.

The review also found that taking a zinc supplement reduced the risk of developing a cold by 36 percent. Others, however, are not so sure.

ABC News' chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard E. Besser, responded to Thursday's findings.
"The current state of the science makes it impossible to say whether zinc works," Besser said. "I am most skeptical of zinc as a means of preventing colds in people who are otherwise well-nourished."

Dr. Besser said he does not recommend zinc for either the prevention or treatment of colds. Rather, he recommends washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers frequently for prevention. Although he said most over-the-counter products are ineffective for treatment, Dr. Besser said acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective pain and fever medications. Nasal decongestants, tissues, salt water nose drops and petroleum jelly can also help to ease affects of the common cold.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


ADHD: Finger Tapping Test Could Aid in Diagnosis, Researchers Say

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- The cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which affects roughly 5.4 million kids in the United States alone, remains unknown. But new research into "mirror movements" sheds light on the mysterious neurobehavioral disorder and might even aid in its diagnosis.

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore studied 50 children between the ages of 8 and 13 who had been diagnosed with ADHD, and 25 who hadn't, as they tapped the fingers of one hand while resting the other in their laps. The ADHD kids showed increased mirror movements, meaning the voluntary finger taps in one hand were involuntarily reflected in the other.

Boys with ADHD had more than twice as many mirror movements than children without ADHD when they tapped with their nondominant hands. The difference was not seen in girls.

The study was published Feb. 14 in Neurology.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Jonathan Mink, professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, wrote that the study provides "important evidence for impaired inhibitory function in ADHD."

Although ADHD has long been linked with motor symptoms, such as poor handwriting, the study suggests that measuring hand movements could become a useful test in diagnosing ADHD. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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