Monthly Archives: April 2017

Rebuilding Continues in Joplin

It’s been months since a massive Level 5 tornado flattened Joplin, Mo., killing 125 people and destroying more than 8,000 buildings. It was one of the most destructive twisters in U.S. history, and its devastating effects are still being felt.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, the non-profit AmeriCares connected directly with its partner clinics, shelters, and health care providers in Joplin and nearby Springfield to provide essential first-aid supplies. It also supplied life-saving intravenous fluids and medications to the field hospital that was temporarily erected near the ruins of St. John’s Regional Medical Center, the city’s main hospital. But as important as these critical-care supplies were, residents were also in desperate need of chronic care medications for diabetes and heart disease, among other conditions. AmeriCares helped ensure the continued supply of these pharmaceuticals despite local pharmacies’ empty shelves.

Your donation will help AmeriCares keep the medications flowing to people who need them.

In mid-July, Alex Ostasiewicz, a multimedia associate for AmeriCares, revisited the devastated region to check up on the town’s progress. “I’d never seen tornado damage before,” she said. “Although it’s clear that much progress has been made in the cleanup, the landscape is bleak and barren, and there’s still a significant amount of debris.” Since the storm, more than 65,000 volunteers have flocked to Joplin and the surrounding areas, and debris removal is still ongoing. AmeriCares supplies tetanus vaccine, antibiotics, and other essential medications to ensure volunteers’ safety. In addition, like the rest of the country, Joplin has been engulfed in the heat wave, making the workers’ jobs harder.

What’s becoming increasingly important in the tornado’s aftermath is providing much-needed psychological care to the survivors. “We saw similar needs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters,” explains Ostasiewicz. “These people have lost their homes, their community, and their support system.” Group therapy to address longer-term complications like depression and anxiety is important to repairing the community of Joplin.

Keep front line health care workers safe

They save lives, prevent suffering, and help save money on health care. They make us feel protected, secure and safe. But surprisingly, more than 80 percent of nurses don’t feel safe or secure when they’re at work.

Why? Because in the course of a day, they are regularly exposed to dangerous bacteria and viruses, like hepatitis and HIV. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1,000 needle-stick and other “sharps” injuries are suffered every day by nurses and health care workers.

At greatest risk for serious illness are volunteer health care workers who serve the poor and uninsured, who are more likely to carry infectious diseases. That’s where AmeriCares comes in; the non-profit delivers necessary medical supplies, like needles and hand sanitizer, to free and low-cost health clinics nationwide in an effort to protect America’s nurses and health care workers. “They’re a nation’s greatest resource,” explains Frank Bia, MD, medical director of AmeriCares. “Protecting them from injury and disease is critical to ensuring the overall health of the population.”

Bia has firsthand experience with this issue — when he was an intern, he contracted hepatitis B, a serious liver infection, from a needle stick. “Anything you can do to prevent exposure can have a great payoff,” he says.

In fact, protecting America’s health care workers isn’t that difficult or costly. Just a few bottles of hand-sanitizing gel weekly — donated by AmeriCares — help keep the staff infection-free at The Way-Free Clinic, which delivers comprehensive medical care to more than 37,000 uninsured residents of Clay County, Fla.

“Our staff is entirely volunteer, and we must keep them healthy,” explains executive director Christie Fitzgerald. “In the past, we’ve had some significant flu outbreaks, and when those patients come in to be treated, they are highly contagious. Hand sanitizer helps ensure that we don’t transmit the virus from person to person. Thankfully, none of our volunteers have gotten the flu, and I credit the hand sanitizer; our staff is constantly using it.”

Supplying necessary everyday items like hand-sanitizing gel or needles equipped with safety features doesn’t just protect health care workers, it also protects patients from unnecessary exposure and as a result, halts population outbreaks of illnesses like the flu.

Your support could help ensure healthier nurses and patients. Donate now.

In addition, by donating such everyday items, AmeriCares helps free clinics preserve their funding for other needs, such as diagnostic tests, labwork, and treatment procedures. “The money I save on items like hand-sanitizing gel goes directly to patient care,” explains Fitzgerald.

Everyday Health For All, Everyday Health’s new philanthropic initiative, is teaming up with AmeriCares to raise $8,000. That will pay for three months of hygiene and safety supplies for each of five free clinics to keep nurses and other health care workers healthy and injury-free.

Smart tips can make using your cell phone safer

Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancer have you thinking twice about making that phone call?

Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.

Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue, hour-long catch-up with your sister. Keep calls as short as possible — Do you need me to get the dry cleaning, honey? — and switch to a landline if they’re veering off into chitchat territory.
  4. Watch the bars. Can you hear me now? If you’re struggling to maintain a connection, ditch the call and wait until you have better service. When your phone has fewer signal bars, it has to work harder (and, therefore, emit more radiation) to connect.
  5. Keep the phone away from your ear when you can. EMF-Health.com recommends waiting for the call to connect before you bring the phone to your ear, which minimizes radiation exposure. And when you talk, tilt the phone away from your ear and bring it in close when you’re listening. That’s because the radiation levels are “significantly less when a cell phone is receiving signals than when it is transmitting,” Lin Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University in Houston, told The New York Times.
  6. Don’t make calls in elevators or cars. You already it’s dangerous to talk and drive; EMF-Health.com says that cell phones use more power to establish a connection in enclosed metal spaces like cars and elevators.
  7. Make sure your kids use the landline. It seems like even toddlers are using cell phones today, but experts say kids are the most vulnerable to potential radiation dangers. The EWG says children’s brains absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as adults. According to The New York Times, health authorities in Britain, France, Germany, and Russia all have warnings against letting children use cell phones.

Chemicals May Affect Thyroid Function

Chemicals called phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) that are found in solvents, plastics and numerous household products may alter levels of thyroid hormones in the body, according to a new study.

Thyroid hormones play a role in many critical bodily functions, including reproduction and metabolism.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to compare thyroid levels and traces of phthalates and BPA in urine samples of 1,346 adults and 329 teenagers. Their findings confirmed previous research linking BPA — used in certain plastic water bottles and the linings of canned foods — with disruptions in thyroid hormone levels, they said.

Overall, higher concentrations of the chemicals had an inverse impact on thyroid levels, said study lead author John Meeker, an assistant professor, in a university news release. The greater the exposure to phthalates and BPA, the lower the thyroid hormone levels.

The strongest link occurred with exposure to DEHP, a phthalate commonly used as a plasticizer, which people come into contact with through diet.

In the cases of DEHP ingestion, urine samples showed that the greatest exposure was associated with as much as a 10 percent drop in thyroid hormones.

“This seems like a subtle difference,” said Meeker, “but if you think about the entire population being exposed at this level you’d see many more thyroid related effects in people.”

The authors concluded that additional research is needed. In other ongoing studies, they are assessing the chemicals’ potential effects on pregnancy outcomes and child development.

Developing fetuses and children may be particularly vulnerable to disruptions in thyroid hormone levels associated with exposure to these and other environmental chemicals, Meeker said.

The researchers, acknowledging some limitations of their study, said their work could be improved by following people over time and collecting several urine samples, since these chemicals metabolize quickly and one single sample may not represent the true chemical exposure.