Medical officials applaud new state vaccination campaign

By ISAAC CONSTANS

Capital News Service

LANSING –  Michigan, with vaccination rates that put it near the bottom of a list of all states, has launched a new campaign — I Vaccinate — that it hopes will boost rates up to 90 percent.

Currently, 67.6 percent of Michigan children aged 19 to 35 months have received all of their recommended vaccinations, according to a 2016 United Health Foundation report.

The program, which was launched in late March, has an “innovative” multi-platform structure that will educate and encourage Michigan residents, according to state officials.

I Vaccinate combines a social media, web and TV presence to convey the importance of vaccinations for communities by focusing on parents’ concerns. Its website offers vaccination schedules, links to the immunization registry and answers questions that parents and guardians typically have. Continue reading

Fewer Michigan parents seek vaccination waivers

By LAURA BOHANNON

Capital News Service

LANSING — The percentage of Michigan parents opting out of vaccinating their children has continued to drop since the state changed its waiver rules, Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon said.

“We’ve changed the way the waivers worked for parents to basically ask for an exemption for vaccinations for their children,” he said. “We’ve seen those waiver rates drop from 4.6 percent in November 2014 to 2.9 percent in 2016.”

Now, Michigan parents must speak with a public health provider to obtain a nonmedical waiver. In 2015, the year the changes were implemented, statewide waiver rates dropped to 3.1 percent.

The changes were prompted by the large number of Michigan parents waiving vaccines for their children. Michigan has one of the highest immunization waiver rates in the country, with some counties reporting rates as high as 12.5 percent, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Continue reading

Severe impact predicted in Michigan if new health care bill passes

By ISAAC CONSTANS

Capital News Service

LANSING — About 2.5 million Michiganders could lose health care coverage under the Republican-proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The study comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office projection that the recently introduced American Health Care Act(AHCA)  would cause 24 million people to lose their insurance over 10 years, while reducing the federal deficit by about $337 billion.

The Republican proposal jeopardizes the Healthy Michigan Plan, the Michigan Medicaid expansion that has insured 650,000 residents under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The ACA would be repealed and replaced with the AHCA. Continue reading

Antibiotics rules create buzz for bee doctors

By BEN MUIR

Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan State University is hunting for veterinarians willing to treat bees.

MSU’s Pollinator Initiative launched the search after a recent Food and Drug Administration decision outlawing over-the-counter antibiotics for all food-producing animals went into effect this year.

Medication for cows, pigs, chickens and bees is no longer available over the counter after low levels of antibiotics were detected in the food.

“The concern is that if it’s not well-regulated, antibiotics can get in the food supply, and then people get low doses,” said Meghan Milbrath, a beekeeper of 23 years and a research associate in the MSU Department of Entomology. “And all of sudden you are resistant to those antibiotics. And if you get sick down the road, those antibiotics won’t work.” Continue reading

State Senate: Make February about taking care of you

By CAITLIN TAYLOR

Capital News Service

LANSING — If taking time for yourself often feels like an impossible task, now you have a reason to be a little more selfish.

A  Senate resolution promoting healthy lifestyle choices was adopted at the end of January. Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the resolution recognizes February 2017 as Self Care Month.

The resolution’s sponsors include Sens. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; John Proos, R-St. Joseph; and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

According to the resolution, self-care is a lifelong commitment to good hygiene practices, monitoring changes in health, knowing when to consult a healthcare practitioner and preventing infection and illness.

While there are many types of self-care, the resolution highlights knowing when it is appropriate to self-treat physical health conditions with over-the-counter medications.

Schuitmaker said Perrigo, an over-the-counter pharmaceutical company in Allegan, asked her to propose Self Care Month.

Continue reading

Climate change threatens Great Lakes forest health, researchers say

By MARIE ORTTENBURGER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Great Lakes forests will get warmer and suffer more frequent short-term droughts, scientists say.

“We know climate change is going to really stress these systems in ways they haven’t been stressed in the last several thousand years,” said Stephen Handler, a Houghton-based climate change specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

How trees will respond to such different growing conditions is unknown. But experts say they can’t wait to find out.

“You don’t wait until the car has already gone over the cliff,” Handler said. “You hit the brakes when you can. You steer and find a better way around the cliff.” Continue reading

Physician assistants could expand access to health care

By BRIDGET BUSH

Capital News Service

LANSING — Patients would gain greater access to health care if lawmakers approve a bill that would let physician assistants practice with less supervision and make it easier for some of them to prescribe drugs.

The measure would make Michigan the first state to offer that level of autonomy.

The idea is to help physician assistants better reach and serve patients, said Michael DeGrow, executive director for the Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants. The legislation will make it easier for them to practice in many different counties.

For example, if you’re homebound with a chronic condition in rural Northern Michigan, multiple visits to outpatient health care may not be possible. Physician assistants can help better serve these patients, DeGrow said.

Current law creates a burdensome reliance on physicians when prescribing medicine, he said. This bill would relieve that bottleneck, while allowing individual physicians to decide the terms of oversight that best fits their practice. Continue reading

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

Communication key to fighting increase in child suicide

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan health officials say there isn’t enough help for kids with mental health problems.

Beds are closing, community mental health is underfunded and there’s a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists, said Dr. Bernard Biermann, medical director of the inpatient child and adolescent psychiatric unit at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. There’s a major crisis in treatment availability, he said.

The number of Michigan kids ages 10-14 who died by suicide doubled between 2011 and 2014, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has data. That year, 20 kids died by suicide compared to 10 kids in 2011. Michigan’s rate of 3.1 deaths per 100,000 is higher than the national average of 2.1.

The center says the number of child suicides is up for that period nationwide. In fact, suicide rates are up across all ages nationwide, according to an April report from the center. Continue reading