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  • 10 Feb 2023 9:41 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    A five-year experiment aimed at improving care for some of California’s most at-risk Medicaid patients — including homeless people and people with severe drug addictions — resulted in fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits that saved taxpayers an estimated $383 per patient per year, according to a review released Wednesday. [AP Associated Press] 

    The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research said that for every 1,000 people enrolled in California’s Whole Person Care pilot program, there were 45 fewer hospitalizations and 130 fewer ER visits when compared with a similar group of patients who were not in the program.

    California has the largest Medicaid program in the country, with about 13 million people getting free health care from the government. That’s about one-third of the state’s population.

    In 2016, the state launched an experiment focused on the most at-risk Medicaid patients, those who were prone to expensive, repeated hospital visits but whose conditions rarely improved. These included people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, people recently released from prison, people with multiple chronic health conditions and patients with severe drug addiction or mental health problems.



  • 9 Feb 2023 6:56 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Five Illinois Democrats joined colleagues last week to introduce a proposal to expand family and medical leave. [Health News Illinois]
    The bill would expand protections to those working for smaller employers by reducing the current federal coverage threshold from 50 employees to one employee as well as eliminating the requirement that an employee work 1,250 hours at a single workplace over the previous year. It would also cut the amount of time an individual must have worked at their workplace to receive protections from 12 months to 90 days.
    Lawmakers that have signed on include Sen. Dick Durbin for U.S. Senate, D-Ill., and Reps. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove; Danny Davis, D-Chicago; Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston; and Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.
    Underwood introduced the proposal last week, ahead of Sunday's 30th anniversary of the original legislation mandating that certain employers provide family and medical leave.
    “(Co-sponsor Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.) and I are introducing the (bill), the largest expansion of the (Family and Medical Leave Act) since its enactment, so that working people can provide for their families and care for their loved ones without having to worry about their job security or putting their career plans on hold,” Underwood said in a statement. 


  • 8 Feb 2023 4:07 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Advocates and lawmakers joined together Tuesday to call for more state investments in Black-led HIV and AIDS service providers that help those in underserved communities. [Health News Illinois] 

    Officials at the state Capitol in Springfield recognized Feb. 7 as Black HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day. Creola Hampton, founder of the Black leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity, said it was not a day of celebration, but a ”solemn day for the Black community.”

    She called on additional funds already provided to the Department of Public Health to go specifically to Black-led organizations that have the cultural competency necessary to impact the rates of HIV and AIDS in their communities.

    “We cannot keep having funding going to white-led organizations … (while) Black-led organizations are not being equitably funded,” Hampton said.

    In 2017, an estimated 39,842 Illinoisans were living with HIV, according to data provided by Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago. In 2020, Black Illinoisans accounted for 52.1 percent of new HIV diagnoses and 48 percent of existing diagnoses, despite making up just 14.2 percent of the state’s population.

    Simmons said they were set to speak later in the day with IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra on the issue and how additional resources can help address disparities.

    “For too long, our healthcare systems have failed to support the health needs of the Black community,” Simmons said. “I will continue to fight for legislation that ensures all people have access to equitable, affordable, culturally-competent care.”

    Simmons and Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said no money in the current budget is specifically directed toward Black-led HIV and AIDS community service providers. 


  • 7 Feb 2023 6:37 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Most states had lower average official poverty rates in 2019-2021 than a decade earlier, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates released in January, during National Poverty in America Awareness Month. [US Census Bureau]

    new historical table using the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) shows that three-year average official poverty rates fell nationwide and in most states between 2009-2011 and 2019-2021.

    Download Table here>

    These changes reflect economic trends over the decade. 

    The 2009-2011 data cover the period immediately following the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009), when poverty rates were among their highest this century.

    The 2019-2021 data include three key time periods:

    • The end of economic expansion following the Great Recession.
    • The recession that accompanied the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (February to April 2020).
    • The government’s response to the pandemic, which provided support and reduced poverty rates

    The official poverty measure uses a set of thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. Those thresholds are compared to family or individual before-tax money income. Capital gains and noncash benefits (like public housing, Medicaid or food stamps) are not included as income.

    Overall, the national average official poverty rate fell from 14.8% in 2009-2011 to 11.2% in 2019-2021. The figures below demonstrate the differences between the states during both time periods. 



  • 6 Feb 2023 5:39 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    It's easy these days to take an at-home COVID test when you have symptoms like a fever and sore throat. But when the test is negative, the next step toward diagnosis usually means leaving the comforts of home. [MedScape]

    But that could soon change. The FDA says it is confident that at-home rapid tests like those for COVID-19 are forthcoming for the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

    The division of the National Institutes of Health that helped create rapid COVID tests confirmed it is partnering with developers on combination tests that can look for multiple respiratory illnesses.

    Combination tests that can look for the markers of more than one disease are called multianalyte. Europe and Australia already have over-the-counter tests that look for flu and RSV along with COVID-19.

    "We will be authorizing at-home flu and/or RSV tests that are multianalyte with COVID," an FDA official told WebMD. "I can't tell you exactly when that would happen, but we are eager to do that."

    Making such an at-home test possible would be in line with the FDA's goals to expand healthcare equity and affordability, the official said.

    Right now, the process for developing and applying for FDA approval of combination tests is less complicated and expensive for developers under special pandemic rules. Developers get extensive assistance from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the NIH, particularly in the area of validation studies.

    The institute has already helped develop combination tests that can be used in healthcare settings, says its director, Bruce Tromberg, PhD.



  • 3 Feb 2023 7:33 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Nonstop inflammation and immune problems top the list of potential causes of long COVID, but doctors say it's growing clear that more than one thing is to blame for the wide swath of often debilitating symptoms that could last months or even years. [Medscape]

    "I think that it's a much more complex picture than just inflammation, or just autoimmunity, or just immune dysregulation. And it's probably a combination of all three causing a cascade of effects that then manifests itself as brain fog, or shortness of breath, or chronic fatigue," says Alexander Truong, MD, a pulmonologist and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, who also runs a long COVID clinic.

    Long COVID, post-COVID-19 condition, and post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC) are among the terms used by the National Institutes of Health to describe the long-term health issues faced by an estimated 10% to 30% of people infected with COVID-19. Symptoms — as many as 200 — can range from inconvenient to crippling, damage multiple organ systems, come and go, and relapse. Long COVID increases the risk of worsening existing health problems and triggering new ones, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.



  • 2 Feb 2023 3:09 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

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    Better nursing home protections are needed for future health emergencies, says a data brief from the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG). [JAMA Network]

    The new OIG report found that during the first year of the pandemic, bimonthly COVID-19 or likely COVID-19 diagnosis rates among Medicare beneficiaries peaked at 75% or higher at 1358 nursing homes nationwide. “For-profit nursing homes made up a disproportionate percentage of these homes,” the report’s authors wrote. The result was mortality close to 20%, or about double that in facilities with lower diagnosis rates.

    The report recommends examining and revising as necessary nurse staffing requirements; improving how surveys identify infection control risks; and providing more oversight and technical assistance to homes found to be at high infection risk.


  • 1 Feb 2023 5:57 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    A recent systematic review of studies found that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have had a previous SARS-CoV-2 infection, known as having hybrid immunity, have better protection against the Omicron variant than those with only a previous infection. [JAMA Network]

    The effectiveness of hybrid immunity against hospital admission or severe disease was 97% at 12 months compared with 75% after infection alone. Effectiveness against reinfection was 42% for hybrid immunity and 25% for previous infection at 12 months.

    The findings, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, suggest that people with hybrid immunity may not need COVID-19 vaccine booster doses as soon as people who are vaccinated but have never been infected, the authors noted. “Producing estimates of protection for vaccines targeting new variants will be crucial for COVID-19 vaccination policy and decision-making bodies,” the authors wrote.



  • 31 Jan 2023 2:34 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to help authors improve the preparation and quality of their manuscripts and published articles are rapidly increasing in number and sophistication. These include tools to assist with writing, grammar, language, references, statistical analysis, and reporting standards. Editors and publishers also use AI-assisted tools for myriad purposes, including to screen submissions for problems (eg, plagiarism, image manipulation, ethical issues), triage submissions, validate references, edit, and code content for publication in different media and to facilitate postpublication search and discoverability.1

    In November 2022, OpenAI released a new open source, natural language processing tool called ChatGPT.2,3 ChatGPT is an evolution of a chatbot that is designed to simulate human conversation in response to prompts or questions (GPT stands for “generative pretrained transformer”). The release has prompted immediate excitement about its many potential uses4 but also trepidation about potential misuse, such as concerns about using the language model to cheat on homework assignments, write student essays, and take examinations, including medical licensing examinations.5 In January 2023, Nature reported on 2 preprints and 2 articles published in the science and health fields that included ChatGPT as a bylined author.6

    Full article here

    Download PDF here 


  • 30 Jan 2023 6:29 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Evidence of the efficacy and safety of messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines in children aged 5 to 11 years has been emerging. The collected data will inform clinicians, families, and policy makers. [JAMA Network] 

    Download full paper here> 

    Objective  To evaluate the efficacy and safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in children aged 5 to 11 years in a systematic review and meta-analysis.

    Data Sources  PubMed and Embase databases were searched on September 29, 2022, without language restrictions.

    Study Selection  Randomized clinical trials and observational studies comparing vaccinated vs unvaccinated children aged 5 to 11 years and reporting efficacy or safety outcomes were included. Studies reporting safety outcomes in vaccinated children only (ie, no control group) were also included.



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