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December 14, 2005, 8:5 PM CT

Squinting While Staring At A Computer

Squinting While Staring At A Computer
Squinting at a computer screen can cut in half the number of times someone blinks each minute. And that could lead to an irritating condition called dry eye, new research suggests.

The more that the participants in this study squinted their eyes, the less they blinked. And the less they blinked, the more their eyes ached or burned, and the more they reported sensations of dryness, irritation and tearing.

Just a slight amount of squinting reduced blink rates by half, from 15 blinks a minute to 7.5 blinks a minute.

"People tend to squint when they read a book or a computer display, and that squinting makes the blink rate go way down," said James Sheedy, the study's lead author and a professor of optometry at Ohio State University. "Blinking rewets the eyes. So if your job requires a lot of reading or other visually intense work, you may be blinking far less than normal, which may cause eye strain and dry eye."

Squinting serves two purposes: It improves eyesight by helping to more clearly define objects that are out of focus. It also cuts down on the brightness from sources of glare. It may be voluntary or involuntary - a person working at a computer may not realize that he is squinting.

Dry eye is commonly treatable with over-the-counter eye drops. It's rarely a debilitating condition, but it can be irritating and painful.

The results appear in a January issue of the journal Optometry and Vision Science. Sheedy conducted the study with Ohio State colleagues Sowjanya Gowrisankaran, a graduate student, and John Hayes, a research scientist in optometry.

The scientists asked 10 college students to squint at different levels. All participants had 20/20 vision in both eyes. The scientists attached two tiny electrodes to the lower eyelids of each student. The electrodes were also attached to an electromyogram, a machine that records the electrical activity of muscles. In this case, the scientists wanted to record the action of the orbicularis oculi muscle, which encircles the eye socket and allows the eye to both blink and squint. The electromyogram measured the different degrees of squint.........

Mike      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 7:49 PM CT

Simple Instrument To Check Literacy

Simple Instrument To Check  Literacy
Health-care providers soon will have access to a new tool designed to assess patients' health literacy skills quickly and simply, thanks to medical school scientists at the universities of Arizona and North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Knowing for sure if patients can understand health information enables doctors and nurses, for example, to boost how well patients fare.

Dr. Barry D. Weiss, professor of family and community medicine at AU, and Drs. Michael Pignone, associate professor, and Darren DeWalt, assistant professor, both in medicine at UNC, and his colleagues developed what they call the "Newest Vital Sign." Their chief goals are to improve recognition of limited literacy and its effect on health and health care.

The Newest Vital Sign is a simple, six-question assessment based on an ice cream nutrition label, Pignone said. It enables health workers to gauge individuals' ability to read, comprehend plain English and act on health information in productive ways. It is the only rapid assessment tool developed both in Spanish and English.

"We believe this offers a way for providers to identify patients at risk for literacy-related communication problems," he said. "Here at UNC, we are also developing interventions to help patients with low literacy get the education, training and care they need for conditions like diabetes, asthma, and heart failure. Being able to identify those with communication problems early on and tailor messages to fit each patient's literacy level can reduce most such problems.".

Poorer-than-optimal results spring from trouble patients have in navigating the complexities of health care, Pignone said, from interpreting instructions for drugs and self-care regimens to understanding insurance and informed-consent documents. Among the consequences are failure to receive appropriate preventive care, increased hospitalization risks and possibly higher health-care costs.........

Janet      Permalink

December 14, 2005, 7:33 PM CT

Lack of Resources, Not Lack of Students, Cause Nurse Shortage

Lack of Resources, Not Lack of Students, Cause Nurse Shortage
Preliminary data from a new survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports the view of a prominent Houston nursing educator that America's nursing shortage cannot be blamed on a lack of people wanting to become nurses. Insufficient space and resources to train all of those qualified to become nurses, along with an ever-shrinking pool of people willing and able to turn down higher-paying nursing jobs to become educators, is the actual cause of the problem.

"Texas nursing schools turned away 4,200 qualified applicants last year because they lacked the faculty, equipment and space with which to educate them," said Patricia L. Starck, D.S.N., dean of The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston. "Our school alone had to turn away 10 applicants for every one we accepted, because of limited resources.".

The AACN just released preliminary data that shows enrollment in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs increased by 13 percent from 2004 to 2005. However, surveyed nursing colleges and universities were forced to deny entry to 32,617 qualified applications in 2005, a dramatic increase from the 3,600 turned away in 2002.

The federal government is projecting a shortfall of one million registered nurses by the year 2012. According to research conducted at Vanderbilt University, enrollment in nursing programs would have to increase by at least 40 percent annually to replace those nurses expected to leave the workforce through retirement. The full report is available online at

Texas is far below the national average of the nurse-to-population ratio, currently 782 nurses per 100,000 people. In Texas, the ratio is 609 nurses per 100,000 people. By some estimates, Texas will need 138,000 additional nurses in the next seven to 10 years.........

Janet      Permalink

December 13, 2005

Link Between Caffeine Dependence And Family History Of Alcoholism

Link Between Caffeine Dependence And Family History Of Alcoholism
A study led by Johns Hopkins investigators has shown that women with a serious caffeine habit and a family history of alcohol abuse are more likely to ignore advice to stop using caffeine during pregnancy.

Withdrawal symptoms, functional impairment and craving were cited by the women as reasons they could not cut out or cut back on caffeine use.

None of the women had a current alcohol-use diagnosis, and none had been treated for alcohol problems.

"Results of this study suggest that genetic vulnerability reflected in a family history of alcoholism may also be at the root of the inability to stop caffeine use," said co-lead author Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The study appears in the recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Griffiths, whose past studies of caffeine use helped establish the drug's addictive nature, collected data on caffeine and alcohol use from 44 pregnant women seeking prenatal care from a private obstetrics and gynecology practice in a suburban community. Results showed that half of the women who had both a lifetime history of caffeine dependence and a family history of alcoholism ignored their doctor's recommendation to abstain from caffeine use and consumed caffeine in amounts greater than those considered safe during pregnancy.

Women in the study without these dual risk factors were able to abstain from caffeine during pregnancy, Griffiths said.

"This study helps to validate the diagnosis of caffeine dependence as a clinically significant phenomenon," Griffiths said. "It's one thing to speculate how powerful the dependence is, but here we have an example of people who are not following clinician recommendations and are unable to quit caffeine in spite of wanting to do so.".........

JoAnn      Permalink

December 13, 2005

Obesity, High Blood Pressure Impacting Many In U.S

Obesity, High Blood Pressure Impacting Many In U.S
Half of Americans aged 55-64 have hypertension - a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke - and two in five are obese, according to Health, United States, 2005, the government's annual report to the President and Congress on the health of all Americans. The report was prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics from data gathered by state and federal health agencies and through ongoing national surveys.

The report features an in-depth look at the 55-64 age group, which includes the oldest of the baby boomers. In 2011, the oldest of the boomers will be eligible for Medicare, and by 2014, the ranks of Americans ages 55-64 will swell to 40 million, up from 29 million in 2004.

"Controlling hypertension and obesity is crucial for health, and especially for baby boomers as they grow older," said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. "It's time to act against both conditions so more Americans can live longer, healthier lives.".

Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC Director, urged 55-to-64-year-olds to take careful stock now of their health, including such vital measures as weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure, risk of heart attack and any signs of diabetes. "The late 50s and early 60s are a crucial time of life to focus on disease prevention. It's never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a longer, healthier life," she said.

While a number of adults in their late 50s and early 60s enjoy good health, others are dealing with chronic and debilitating diseases and lack of health insurance. The report finds that minorities - primarily blacks and Hispanics - are more likely to fall into those categories.

The report also notes that 11 percent of Americans ages 55-64 lack health insurance-compared to the national average of Americans under age 65 without health insurance (16.5 percent). Eighty-three percent of married adults ages 55-64 had private health insurance, compared to 60 percent of widowed, separated, divorced or single adults in that age group.........

JoAnn      Permalink

December 13, 2005

Criminal Justice Handling of Statutory Rape Cases

Criminal Justice Handling of Statutory Rape Cases
A new study of statutory rape cases in Rhode Island finds significant evidence of leniency in the criminal justice system and makes recommendations for amending statutes, revising sentencing procedures, and increasing public education about sexual assault and statutory rape, particularly among teen-agers.

"The enforcement of statutory rape laws - too lenient? too severe? - has been a subject of vigorous debate in recent years," said Ross Cheit, associate professor of public policy at Brown and lead author of the study. "The debate has been passionate but driven largely by anecdote and ideology, not data. We wanted to assemble the facts of the matter.".

Statutory rape laws forbid sexual relations between adults and teen-agers who are older than the age at which they are considered children by child molestation statutes (commonly 13) but younger than the age of consent (commonly 16). Laws in all 50 states recognize that young teen-agers are not legally able to consent to sexual relations, eventhough the age of consent varies from 14 to 18. The age of consent is 16 in Rhode Island.

Cheit and two former students - coauthor Laura Braslow, now a graduate student in public administration at New York University, and Veena Srinivasa, who recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Prague - drew data for their study from three sources. First, they examined all 403 Rhode Island Superior Court cases in which statutory rape was charged from 1985 through 2002. Second, they prepared a contextual sample of 158 of those cases, from 1997 through 2002, for which they examined court files and police reports. Third, they examined electronic records in substantiated cases of sexual abuse involving hospital visits by 14- and 15-year-olds.

There are two opposing arguments, Cheit said. One holds that statutory rape laws are too strictly enforced, that they "criminalize young love," and that they are not in accord with changes in social and sexual mores. The other holds that statutory rape laws should be more strictly enforced because sexual contact with older adults can be mentally and physically damaging to young adolescents. In 1997, Congress also urged stricter enforcement as a way to reduce the frequency of teen-age pregnancy.........

Janet      Permalink

December 13, 2005

More Women Physicians Maychoose Pediatric Subspecialties

More Women Physicians Maychoose Pediatric Subspecialties
Concerns among health care analysts that the majority of pediatricians in training are now women and that that might cause shortages in the future in pediatric subspecialties appear to be almost entirely unfounded, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes.

Unlike in the past, women pediatricians are increasingly likely to enter subspecialties, scientists discovered, saying that the news is reassuring.

"This shows that women are breaking into the glass ceiling in more areas," said Dr. Michelle Mayer, research associate at UNC's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. "Pediatrics appears to be a field with great opportunities for women.".

Mayer also is a faculty member in health policy and administration at the UNC School of Public Health.

"For nine of the 16 pediatric medical subspecialties we studied, the percentages of board-certified women were significantly greater among younger pediatricians than among older ones," she said. "Subspecialties that remain predominately male among the younger group include cardiology, critical care medicine, gastroenterology, pulmonary and sports medicine.".

A report on the study appeared recently in the journal Pediatrics. Along with Mayer, Dr. John S. Preisser, research associate professor of biostatistics in public health, carried out the study. Their work involved analyzing extensive board certification data from the American Board of Pediatrics and dividing the doctors listed into older and younger groups as part of that analysis.

According to information supplied by the board, the number of women choosing to become pediatricians is rising. In 2003, data showed that 63 percent of pediatricians seeking certification were women, Mayer said. Because women doctors in past decades were more likely to practice general pediatrics than to work in subspecialties, concerns developed about the future supply of doctors in some disciplines.........

Janet      Permalink

December 12, 2005

African-american Women's Decisions To Join A Screening

African-american Women's Decisions To Join A Screening
Do African-American women who join a screening trial for cancer differ from those who do not join? Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health sought to answer this question by surveying African-American women who were invited to join the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial, a randomized, community-based longitudinal study evaluating the effectiveness of cancer screening tests on site-specific mortality.

Their results, published in today's issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, indicate that African-American women who decided to join PLCO held significantly different beliefs regarding the benefits and risks of participation than those who did not join - the majority of those who joined were much more likely to report that African-Americans benefit as much as whites from participating in clinical trials. Interestingly, the study also found that none of the women surveyed had reported learning about clinical trials from their doctors or other health care providers.

"By interviewing women who joined the PLCO as well as those who did not, we were able to analyze their responses and suggest a strategy for improving the recruitment of African-American women to cancer clinical trials," said Jeanette Trauth, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of behavioral and community health sciences, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The scientists interviewed 299 African-American women between the ages of 55 and 74 who were eligible for the PLCO; 230 of these women decided not to participate in PLCO (non-joiners) and 69 of these women decided to participate in PLCO (joiners). The investigators found that joiners had a better understanding of cancer and the role of early detection and screening, and appeared to be motivated to join a trial by the experience of having a loved one with cancer. Joiners also tended to seek out information more than non-joiners and were willing to take the next step and take part in a study of a new therapy for a health problem that they perceived was important, particularly if they or one of their loved ones had the problem.........

Janet      Permalink

December 11, 2005

Help for Hispanic Families Caring for a Loved Ones

Holidays are a time to share with family and friends. But when a family member has Alzheimer's disease (AD), holidays can be particularly stressful. Providing care at home for a memory-impaired person can be overwhelming. By educating themselves, however, families can learn to develop creative solutions to adapt to the physical and mental changes caused by the disease.........

Janet      Permalink

December 11, 2005

Willingness Of Minorities To Participate In Health Research

New findings by scientists at the National Institutes of Health show that minorities participate in health research studies at the same rate as non-Hispanic whites when they are made aware of the study and meet the medical requirements. The findings counter the widely held notion that minorities are less willing to participate and lead the scientists to suggest that minority involvement is more a matter of access than attitude.

The study was led by scientists in the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, the hospital at NIH. The work is published online December 6, 2005 in the medical journal PLoS Medicine, published by the Public Library of Science.........
Janet      Permalink

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