News & Trends

August 1, 2002

AHA primary prevention, IBI survey on physician role in management of disabled patients, second thoughts on drug imports, BLS survey on working mothers and benefits

 

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AHA! PRIMARY PREVENTION

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Risk factor screening should begin early, says the American Heart Association (AHA), which emphasized primary prevention — avoiding that first big crisis — in its new guidelines on cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention. Starting at age 20, patients should undergo blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and pulse measurements at least every two years. Cholesterol profiles and glucose testing are appropriate every five years.

The AHA emphasized that multiple minor risk areas could be more of a health hazard than a single big risk. Patients age 40 or above with two or more risk factors are advised to find out their percentage risk for developing heart disease within 10 years and have this calculation repeated at least every five years. Read the complete AHA guidelines.

Beta blockers, which lower blood pressure by slowing the heart rate, do not greatly increase rates of depression, fatigue or sexual dysfunction, contrary to earlier claims, says a study in the July 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. These drugs can reduce the risk of cardiac death but have previously been avoided by many because of the believed side effects.

 

PHYSICIANS WANT THEIR PATIENTS BACK AT WORK

Employers are ignoring a potent ally in efforts to get disabled workers back on the job as soon as possible. The Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) surveyed 300 physicians on their role in the management of disabled patients and found that they wish more employers would offer transitional work to disabled employees. Physicians also want guarantees that employers will implement work restrictions that meet disability needs. The problem: eight out of 10 physicians report that no employers have contacted them regarding return-to-work recommendations.

Among other things, the doctors would like to see detailed job descriptions and length of absence guidelines. Without the latter, half of physicians ask patients how much time they want off from work, and one third ask about maximum disability leave, questions that may undermine attempts to encourage return to work. More survey highlights.

About 93 percent of U.S. companies now offer health promotion plans, an increase of four percent since 1996, says a study by Hewitt Associates. Disease management programs are available at 76 percent of companies; 42 percent give employees gifts or financial awards if they take part in health appraisals.

 

SECOND THOUGHTS ON DRUG IMPORTS

Three fifths of voters support reimportation of American-made drugs if this means reduced drug prices, says a recent PhRMA poll. The 1000-person survey conducted for the pharmaceutical trade group in June by Ayres, McHenry and Associates, found — not surprisingly — that, when presented with the idea that terrorists could tamper with reimported drug supplies, the majority of respondents decided they would oppose reimportation.

When questioned about importing drugs made in foreign countries, half of survey-takers indicated their support, but three fifths opposed the idea when reminded of terrorist threats. Not even Canada drew majority support as a source of safe imports. More survey results.

Doctors should administer the fecal occult blood test and/or flexible sigmoidoscopy as colorectal cancer screening for everyone age 50 and older. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said that colonoscopy, too, can be used but direct evidence of its benefits does not yet exist.

 

WORKING MOMS AND THEIR BENEFITS

Three out of four women with children under 18 were in the workforce in 1999, as were three out of five with children under age three. Only three decades earlier their participation rates were, respectively, 49 and 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and those changes have been driving the proliferation of employer-sponsored childcare benefits.

Only one percent of workers had child-care resource and referral services in 1985 compared with 14 percent of all employees and 46 percent of workers at large firms in 2000. More information on the BLS survey is available.

Almost a quarter of American adults are informal caregivers, says a newly released survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that most of these people are married, working full-time and under age 45. Approximately half of caregivers earn less than $35,000 a year, and one third have a serious health problem of their own.

 

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