Thursday, August 24, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Happy Thursday, folks! Welcome to Morning Rounds. I'll be out until next Wednesday on vacation, so look out for your daily dose of health and medicine news from some of my colleagues. 

Judge weighs required health screenings for Flint kids

A federal judge heard oral arguments this week in a lawsuit over health harms schoolchildren suffered from lead in the water of Flint, Mich. The class action lawsuit, filed by the Michigan ACLU and the Education Law Center, alleges that the Michigan Department of Education and two local school districts failed to provide special education services for children harmed by lead exposure. Attorneys are asking the judge to require education officials to screen all kids in the Flint school system for physical, learning, and behavioral disabilities and accommodate them accordingly.

Lead contamination continues to be an issue for schools across the country. In New Orleans, school is back in session but education officials still haven’t followed through on their plan to install water filters to eliminate lead in school water lines, the Lens reports.

Help run microbiome experiments from your desk

You can lend a hand to microbiome research while you read your morning newsletter (if you’re on a computer, at least). Scientists from the Broad Institute, University of California San Diego, and other institutions are trying to map the three million bacterial genes in the human microbiome as part of the Microbiome Immunity Project. Now, they’re roping in citizen scientists who are willing to volunteer the extra processing power on their computers to IBM's community grid to help them conduct virtual experiments. Those combined forces could give the scientists the power of a supercomputer to study the microbiome’s role in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

How racial health disparities narrowed after the ACA


the rate of adults who went without health care because of costs. (the commowealth fund)

A new report out this morning from the Commonwealth Fund finds that fewer black and Hispanic adults have skipped doctors' visits due to costs in the years since the start of the Affordable Care Act. In 2015, 17 percent of black adults avoided getting care due to the cost, compared to 21 percent in 2013. There was a similar shift among Hispanic adults — 22 percent didn't get care due to the cost in 2015, compared to 27 percent in 2013. 

Writing group helps cancer survivors through treatment

Sharon Bray has taught writing workshops for cancer patients and survivors for more than 15 years, founding writing groups at three California health care centers. Bray wrote throughout her own radiation therapy, and often found herself asking questions about what her life would be like after her treatment. Patients in the writing groups she leads have similar thoughts, and Bray believes writing can help them cope with those questions. Natalie Jacewicz of Kaiser Health News has more in a new story, published here in STAT. 

ER use varies widely from one country to another

Emergency room use shows stark differences from one country to the next — a measurement that's intertwined with other parts of a nation's health system. A new analysis from George Washington University digs into ER data from seven countries, including the U.S. Here’s what it finds:

  • ER use is lowest in Germany and Australia. That’s likely due to better, faster access to primary care. Nearly two-thirds of Australians and three-quarters of Germans are able to make same- or next-day appointments with their primary care doctors, compared to just under half of Americans.
  • ER use was most common in Canada. The U.S. and Switzerland were close behind in emergency room utilization. The caveat, of course, is that the report only included seven developed nations.
  • The U.S. did best at keeping people from coming back to the ER. The report's authors say the lower rates of readmission in the U.S. might be due, in part, to ACA programs that incentivized hospitals to cut their readmission rates.

Rethinking the way doctors reduce heart disease risk

Two new studies in NEJM add fuel to an ongoing debate about the best blood pressure targets for patients at risk of heart disease. Right now, it’s recommended that patients get their systolic blood pressure down to 140 mmHg to reduce their risk of heart disease. But research over the past two years from the SPRINT trial — short for the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial — has suggested that the target should really be 120 mmHg. The first of the new studies found that intensive therapy needed to get blood pressure down to that level is cost-effective, and the second found that patients on intensive therapy to hit the 120 mark are just as satisfied with their care as their peers who received standard treatment. The researchers say that together, those findings indicate 120 is a good, manageable goal that’ll help improve health outcomes in high-risk patients.

What to read around the web today

  • 'It's a slow death': the world's worst humanitarian crisis.  New York Times
  • Some U.S. diplomats in Cuba diagnosed with serious health conditions, medical records show. CBS 
  • Intent on reversing its opioid epidemic, a state limits its prescriptions. Maine Public Radio

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

  • Amgen fires back over cost effectiveness for its cholesterol drug
  • 7 things to know about Sage Therapeutics’ pivotal trial of a drug for severe epilepsy. 

Thanks for reading! I'll be back on Wednesday. More tomorrow from my colleague Andrew  Joseph, 


Have a news tip or comment you want to send me?

Send me an email