More pregnant mothers smoking, rates particularly high in rural counties

By BRIDGET BUSH

Capital News Service

LANSING– Limited educational resources for smoking prevention and cessation, combined with limitless high-risk addictive substances caused a spurt in women who smoke during pregnancy, policy experts and educators say.

Babies of smokers are at an increased risk of malnourishment, preterm birth, asthma, childhood obesity and sudden death, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“More mothers smoking during pregnancy means more babies are being born with lifelong complications,” said Alicia Guevara-Warren, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The number of births to women who smoked while pregnant skyrocketed 18 percent from 2008 to 2014, according to a recent report by the league. That means that 21.4 percent of all live births in Michigan are to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, the 27th-highest rate in the country.

Many counties with the highest rates of mothers smoking while pregnant had the highest birth rates by mothers with no diploma or GED, according to the league’s 2016 Right Start Report on Maternal and Child Health. Guevara-Warren linked smoking and low education levels. Continue reading

Technology could improve state’s mental health

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — A lack of psychiatric counselors across the state and an increase in people with mental illness have created the need for mental health care that transcends county and city lines.

Telepsychiatry – psychiatric therapy provided through video and phone conference – is the answer, some health officials say.

In Michigan, some lawmakers are pushing to join a compact expanding the network of telepsychiatry providers. Opponents have raised concerns over how it would be regulated.

As of 2012, there were 3,669 mental health professional shortage areas containing almost 91 million people, according to the federal Health Resources and Service Administration. Continue reading

Despite insurance, people skip doctor visits due to cost

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — More Michiganders have health insurance but still skip doctor visits and blame it on cost.

In 2015, nearly 13 percent of Michiganders said they hadn’t been to the doctor in the past 12 months because of the cost, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which conducts the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System every year.

That’s too many, said  Robert Jackson, president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.

“The whole thing is disturbing,” he said, because more visits to a primary care physician lead to lower costs and better health in the long run. Continue reading

Elevated levels of lead in adults unnoticed

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING —  While the Flint water crisis brought national attention to children exposed to lead, a larger group of adults and children with elevated lead levels is mostly ignored, officials say.  

Young children whose parents have elevated blood lead levels are a high-risk group, health experts say. In Michigan, 34 percent of children under 6 with parents who have elevated lead levels also have elevated levels, according to a 2014 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The lead comes home on the shoes and clothes of the parents who pick it up at work.

“The percentage of children in this group is much higher than in Flint,” said  Ken Rosenman, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Michigan State University.

“What about these kids? Why aren’t they being mentioned?” Continue reading

Super gonorrhea: bad bugs, no drugs

By BRIDGET BUSH

Capital News Service

LANSING—Health experts are bracing for a strain of gonorrhea resistant to all forms of antibiotic treatment, a threat potentially more daunting than HIV AIDS.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that it is still too early to determine whether this strain has become widespread, Michigan communities are playing it safe.

“We’re not waiting until it becomes a problem to start talking about it,” said Meghan Swain, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health.

The main focus of health departments’ efforts right now is prevention.

“I’m not aware of any recent spikes in gonorrhea,” said Kate Donaldson, public information officer for the Local Health Department for District 10, which serves Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana and Wexford counties.

“Educating the public and raising awareness among doctors is one approach adopted by local health departments and global institutions, such as the United Nations World Health Organization,” said Kara Schrader, doctor of nursing practice and family nurse practitioner for the College of Nursing at Michigan State University. Continue reading

Drug epidemic leaves more Michigan children with uncertain future

By RAY WILBUR

Capital News Service

LANSING — The use of prescription opiates, heroin and other drugs is a rising statewide epidemic that threatens the future of more children.

Drug overdose was the number-one cause of injury-related deaths for Michigan adults in 2014 when they jumped to 1,745. That’s about a 12 percent increase over the previous year, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services data.

The illegal use of drugs, specifically prescription opiates, has steadily increased during the past five years, said Alicia Guevara-Warren, Kids Count project director for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

But the real state-altering issue here is the children’s lives that are uprooted as a result, she said.

The number of children of parents with substance abuse problems and who entered foster care rose from 6,989 in 2011 to 7,971 in 2013, which Guevara-Warren said is the latest reliable data. Continue reading

Lake fish, even with some mercury, good for your health

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

inter-tribal-fisheries-assessment-program-logoLANSING — Eating Great Lakes fish that contain mercury may threaten your health, but the nutritional benefits may outweigh the risks, according to a new study of lake trout and lake whitefish consumption by members of Native American tribes with high rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

“Great Lakes fish should be considered for their nutritional importance relative to contemporary options, even when adjusting for risks of mercury toxicity,” according to the researchers from the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority’s Inter-Tribal Fisheries and Assessment Program in Sault Ste. Marie and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Continue reading

Vaccination waivers drop, decreasing disease risk in schools

By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan schoolchildren are less susceptible to diseases such as pertussis, chickenpox and measles, thanks to a recent decrease in immunization waivers, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Michigan has experienced a 39 percent decrease in the number of waivers submitted for the 2015-2016 school year, compared to the same time last year, the department said in a news release.

Waivers, which some parents seek for religious or philosophical reasons, exempt children from required vaccines to enter a specific grade. The fewer children who are vaccinated, the higher the risk of spreading preventable diseases.
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