Super gonorrhea: bad bugs, no drugs

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.

Heroin’s spread in Michigan concerns health advocates

LANSING — Heroin and related drugs are spreading across Michigan and have become more deadly in recent years, some experts say. Michigan-wide numbers of unintentional overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999, according to a Department of Community Health (DCH) report. Meanwhile, the number of deaths due to other drugs such as cocaine has gone down, according the report. Genesee, Macomb and Wayne Counties account for the highest recent heroin and opioid-related death rates, according to the DCH. But the problem is creeping into other areas: DCH data shows Antrim, Manistee, Clare, Hillsdale and Cass counties all recorded opioid-related overdose rates higher than the state average between 2009 and 2012.

Michigan working to stop disability fraud at the front door

Capital News Service
Lansing — A new unit investigating disability fraud in Michigan projects that it has already saved taxpayers $700,000. The Cooperative Disabilities Investigations Unit (CDI) is a joint organization of the Social Security Administration and the Michigan Department of Human Services formed last August. Michigan is one of 24 states that now has a branch of the organization since it was created nationally 17 years ago. The Michigan branch has found 50 suspicious applications. Of those, 16 have been investigated further, 10 are still open and the six that have been denied that would have cost the taxpayer $700,000 over the next five years if they went unnoticed, said Bob Wheaton, acting manager of communications and public information officer for the Department of Human Services.

Push on for more children’s health centers

Capital News Service
LANSING — The Department of Community Health is pushing for a program that would expand health centers for poor children to also treat mental illness. Department and child health center officials are pushing for a $2 million expansion of the program, which has been around for 25 years. This expansion would create new health centers that offer individual and family counseling, screening for mental disorders and prevention services for suicide and bullying, according to department officials. The centers would treat youth with disorders such as mild to moderate depression, high stress or anxiety, body issues and anger management. There are currently not many resources for those problems, said Carrie Tarry, manager for adolescent school health programs at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Federal funds help expand dental care for children

Capital News Service
LANSING – Smiles in Michigan will soon be a little brighter – and healthier – thanks to a recent federal grant. The Department of Community Health will use a $1.3 million grant to expand oral health programs in Mecosta and Genesee counties. The grant is from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. In Mecosta County, the funds will expand the SEAL! Michigan program that places hygiene students in elementary and middle schools to provide sealants and dental education.

Higher insurance costs, weight loss programs loom for overweight workers

Capital News Service
LANSING – Obese Michigan employees can expect higher insurance premiums and thus more incentive to join weight loss programs when the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is fully effective in 2014. Department of Community Health public information officer Angela Minicuci said two-thirds of Michigan adults struggle with their weight. Of those, about 31 percent are obese. Obesity is medically defined by body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 30 or more is classified as obese.

Hepatitis is new focus of public health efforts

Capital News Service
LANSING – The state will use a new $1.6 million federal grant to better determine barriers to hepatitis screening, testing and treatment. The grant was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. James K. Haveman, director of the Department of Community Health, said that it was the first time the state received federal funding for the surveillance of this prevalent disease. “Hepatitis affects millions of Americans, and opportunities such as this are critical to detecting and treating those cases,” Haveman said. Hepatitis, a disease that causes inflammation of the liver and eventual liver cirrhosis, requires extensive statewide awareness because according to the department, up to 75 percent of infected people aren’t aware they have it.

Lack of doctors plagues small Michigan communities

Capital News Service
LANSING – The state’s physician shortage has an adverse impact on smaller rural counties like Crawford and Roscommon while the demand for physicians nationwide remains high. According to the Department of Community Health, more than 10 counties are categorized as health professional shortage areas, including Wexford, Gladwin and Crawford. These areas have “significant need for additional primary health care resources,” according to the department. Jessy Sielski, director for communications of the Michigan State Medical Society, said the society advocates increased funding for medical residencies in Michigan and support. Mercy Hospital Grayling’s chief business development officer, Bryan Lydick, said its medical staff is comprised of physicians practicing in two counties – Crawford and Roscommon.

Racial disparities in infant deaths draw attention

Capital News Service
LANSING – While the infant mortality rate in Michigan is one of the highest in the nation, experts say the disparity in racial and ethnic groups is equally alarming. “The clearest issue to us is the huge difference in the health disparity by racial and ethnic groups,” said Paulette Dunbar, the manager of the Maternal, Infant and Family Health section at the Department of Community Health. According to the department, for every 1,000 babies born in Michigan, approximately five Caucasian and seven Hispanic babies die, compared to 14 African American babies who die before their first birthday. The state average is 7.1. Dunbar said in the late 1990s, the department started to identify what groups of residents were contributing to the infant mortality rate more than others.

Grant to aid fight against obesity

Capital News Service
LANSING – The state and higher education institutions are expanding a new model that bridges communications among health professions in the fight against obesity. The Department of Community Health received a three-year, $1.5 million grant to build an innovative state model in inter-professional collaborative practice. It is the first time that Grand Valley State University’s West Michigan Inter-professional Education Initiative Model will be put in a clinic setting since it become active in 2008. It is also the first time that the model has been used outside West Michigan. The model will be piloted in two urban nurse-managed primary care facilities at Grand Valley and Wayne State University, focusing on child and adult obese populations and affecting a minimum of 175 overweight or obese patients.