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HHS Office for Civil Rights — HIPAA Privacy in Emergency Situations

May 19, 2015 Comments off

HIPAA Privacy in Emergency Situations (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights

In light of the Ebola outbreak and other events, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is providing this bulletin to ensure that HIPAA covered entities and their business associates are aware of the ways in which patient information may be shared under the HIPAA Privacy Rule in an emergency situation, and to serve as a reminder that the protections of the Privacy Rule are not set aside during an emergency.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects the privacy of patients’ health information (protected health information) but is balanced to ensure that appropriate uses and disclosures of the information still may be made when necessary to treat a patient, to protect the nation’s public health, and for other critical purposes.

Vital Signs: Hispanic Health

May 14, 2015 Comments off

Vital Signs: Hispanic Health
Source: CDC

Hispanics or Latinos are the largest racial/ethnic minority population in the US. Heart disease and cancer in Hispanics are the two leading causes of death, accounting for about 2 of 5 deaths, which is about the same for whites. Hispanics have lower deaths than whites from most of the 10 leading causes of death with three exceptions—more deaths from diabetes and chronic liver disease, and similar numbers of deaths from kidney diseases. Health risk can vary by Hispanic subgroup—for example, 66% more Puerto Ricans smoke than Mexicans. Health risk also depends partly on whether you were born in the US or another country. Hispanics are almost 3 times as likely to be uninsured as whites. Hispanics in the US are on average nearly 15 years younger than whites, so steps Hispanics take now to prevent disease can go a long way.

Inpatient and outpatient costs in patients with coronary artery disease and mental disorders: a systematic review

May 8, 2015 Comments off

Inpatient and outpatient costs in patients with coronary artery disease and mental disorders: a systematic review
Source: BioPsychoSocial Medicine

Background
To systematically review in- and outpatient costs in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and comorbid mental disorders.

Methods
A comprehensive database search was conducted for studies investigating persons with CAD and comorbid mental disorders (Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Psyndex, EconLit, IBSS). All studies were included which allowed a comparison of in- and outpatient health care costs (assessed either monetarily or in terms of health care utilization) of CAD patients with comorbid mental disorders (mood, anxiety, alcohol, eating, somatoform and personality disorders) and those without. Random effects meta-analyses were conducted and results reported using forest plots.

Results
The literature search resulted in 7,275 potentially relevant studies, of which 52 met inclusion criteria. Hospital readmission rates were increased in CAD patients with any mental disorder (pooled standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.34 [0.17;0.51]). Results for depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder pointed in the same direction with heterogeneous SMDs on a primary study level ranging from −0.44 to 1.26. Length of hospital stay was not increased in anxiety and any mental disorder, while studies on depression reported heterogeneous SMDs ranging from −0.08 to 0.82. Most studies reported increased overall and outpatient costs for patients with comorbid mental disorders. Results for invasive procedures were non-significant respectively inconclusive.

Conclusions
Comorbid mental disorders in CAD patients are associated with an increased healthcare utilization in terms of higher hospital readmission rates and increased overall and outpatient health care costs. From a health care point of view, it is requisite to improve the diagnosis and treatment of comorbid mental disorders in patients with CAD to minimize incremental costs.

Policy Basics: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

May 4, 2015 Comments off

Policy Basics: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, popularly known as WIC, provides nutritious foods, counseling on healthy eating, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals to more than 8 million low-income women, infants, and children at nutritional risk.

Infants and very young children can face lifelong cognitive and health consequences if they don’t get adequate nourishment. WIC aims to ensure that pregnant women get the foods they need to deliver healthy babies and that those babies are well-nourished as they grow into toddlers.

An extensive body of research over the last few decades shows that WIC works. WIC participation contributes to healthier births, more nutritious diets, improved infant feeding practices, less anemia, and more preventive health care.

Mathematica Conducts First Study of WIC Agencies’ Breastfeeding Policies and Practices

May 2, 2015 Comments off

Mathematica Conducts First Study of WIC Agencies’ Breastfeeding Policies and Practices
Source: Mathematica Policy Research

The psychological, economic, and overall health benefits of breastfeeding, for both infants and mothers, are well documented. However, many barriers to breastfeeding exist, including cultural norms, lack of family support, employment and lack of health services, particularly among disadvantaged and low-income populations. In an effort to overcome those barriers, breastfeeding promotion and support is a core component of the nutrition services provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to low-income women and children up to five years of age.

A new In Focus and Research Recap video from Mathematica Policy Research’s WIC Breastfeeding Policy Inventory Study (WIC BPI) for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, shed light on the comprehensive range of policies and practices that WIC agencies use to promote breastfeeding. The first study to examine WIC agencies’ breastfeeding policies, the WIC BPI surveyed 90 state-level agencies and nearly 1,800 local WIC agencies.

Mathematica found the following:

+ Nearly 80 percent of local WIC agencies had at least one staff member with a breastfeeding credential.
+ Two-thirds of local WIC agencies operated a peer counseling program to provide breastfeeding support. Peer counseling has been shown to be one of the most successful approaches to encourage mothers to breastfeed.
+ Nearly all local agencies collected information about WIC participants’ breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity, but only about half collected information about intensity.

The WIC BPI lays the groundwork for future research on how agencies’ breastfeeding policies and practices evolve over time and which practices are associated with better breastfeeding rates for different populations. Helping the USDA understand WIC agencies’ currently breastfeeding measurement capabilities can contribute to the design of future breastfeeding reporting systems.

Fact Sheet: Hunger and mass incarceration

April 27, 2015 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Hunger and mass incarceration (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World Institute

People in prison are more likely to have struggled with hunger and poverty before entering prison. This puts them at high risk for returning to conditions of hunger and poverty after prison.

CRS — Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs (February 4, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Domestic Food Assistance: Summary of Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Over the years, Congress has authorized and the federal government has administered programs to provide food to the hungry and to other vulnerable populations in this country. This report offers a brief overview of hunger and food insecurity along with the related network of programs. The report is structured around three main tables that contain information about each program, including its authorizing language, administering agency, eligibility, services provided, participation data, and funding information. In between the tables, contextual information about this policy area and program administration is provided that may assist Congress in tracking developments in domestic food assistance. This report provides a bird’s-eye view of domestic food assistance and can be used both to learn about the details of individual programs as well as compare and contrast features across programs.

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