The Pulse

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The Pulse is written by Lynn Arditi.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

Mass. to consider assisted suicide

Oct 25, 2012

My friend Sacha Pfeiffer at WBUR filed this story for NPR about a ballot question Massachusetts voters will be asked to answer this November.  If voters approve the measure, that would make it the third state to legalize a lethal prescription for terminally ill patients who wish to end their lives.

UPDATE:The first lecture in this series has been rescheduled for Thursday, Nov. 1 at 5 pm.

The Rhode Island Medical Society is marking its 200th anniversary with a series of neuroscience-related lectures, all free and open to the public. The lectures are co-sponsored by Brown’s Institute for Brain Science and the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute.

How Obama and Romney differ on health care

Oct 19, 2012

For Rhode Islanders who are still a bit fuzzy on that or undecided about how to cast their vote, here are a couple of great resources.

Prime Healthcare Services, the latest suitor to try to buy Woonsocket’s struggling Landmark Medical Center, is “on a buying spree,” says Modern Healthcare magazine. Prime has closed deals on six financially troubled hospitals and announced its intent to buy Landmark in the past year. The story mention’s Prime’s public relations problems, including a tussle with the Service Employees International Union and an investigation over its billing practices in California, where the firm is based.

Compassion center regulations closer to final

Oct 16, 2012

News from the RI Dept. of Health from spokeswoman Dara Chadwick about medical marijuana. They’re close to finalizing the regulations for compassion centers. She writes that “…one more review meeting will be held to finalize. After that, the regulations will be filed with the Secretary of State’s office.”

The three approved applicants must then submit their “Registration to Operate a Medical Marijuana Compassion Center.”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit has just been filed accusing the Dept. of reversing course, without warning, on who can prescribe medical marijuana.

Violence as contagious disease

Oct 15, 2012

Sometimes it’s a new way of thinking, a new model, an idea out of left field, or, as I like to think of it, using the map of one universe to navigate another – that helps solve some of our most intractable problems. I like to highlight that kind of new thinking from time to time, so here’s a recent example.

Therapeutic value of medical marijuana

Oct 12, 2012

Science Friday is airing right now (the 2 o’clock hour on Friday) on Rhode Island Public Radio. (Listen now.) The topic is the medical value of marijuana; a federal appeals court is set to hear arguments about its value next week. Host Ira Flatow is talking to an oncologist and a microbiologist about it. Fascinating.

Rhode Islanders least healthy New Englanders

Oct 9, 2012

A new poll from Gallup Healthways came out today showing physicians are generally healthier, or at least engage in healthier behaviors, than nurses and other health care workers. To wit: 15% of nurses smoke, whereas only 4% of physicians do. (The Rhode Island College of Nursing has just banned smoking on campus AND by any of its students in uniform, while “representing” the school, the dean told me the other day. It’s a good start.)

Meningitis outbreak and pain management clinics

Oct 5, 2012

One of the facilities in Rhode Island that received shipments of steroids used in spinal injections happens to be a pain management clinic. The other is an anesthesiology clinic. There were no hospitals or other regulated facilities on the list of places in RI to have dispensed the contaminated steroid. (And if you were one of those patients, the clinic has already notified you or is still trying to, according to the RI Dept. of Health.)

The University of Rhode Island’s nursing school announced today that it has won $3.8M in federal grants – a huge number for a small school, and for nursing, at that. You can read more about those grants in our news coverage here and see URI’s press release here.

Mandated flu vaccines?–UPDATE

Sep 27, 2012

UPDATE: As of today, October 5, 2012, the Rhode Island Department of Health has issued a ruling that it will mandate flu vaccines for all health care workers and volunteers. You can get a medical exemption with a note from your doctor, or fill out a form saying you refuse to get the shot but understand you’ll have to wear a surgical mask when interacting with patients during flu season. Link to the state regulation (it’s a .pdf).

Suicide now kills more people than car wrecks

Sep 21, 2012

A troubling finding out this week in the American Journal of Public Health.The article, “Leading Causes of Unintentional and Intentional Injury Mortality: United States, 2000-2009,” by Ian R. H. Rockett, et al., looked at data from the National Center for Health Statistics on all kinds of intentional and accidental  injury-related deaths, and in particular at five causes: suicide, car accidents, homicide, poisoning, and falls. Here’s what they found:

The health insurance cost paradox

Sep 19, 2012

I just spoke with RI health insurance commissioner Christopher Koller, who shared a repeat-worthy fact, and I quote:

Primary care is the only part of our delivery system where the more we have, the lower our overall costs are. We can’t say that about anything else. And yet, historically, we’ve only spent six percent of our dollars on primary care.

Health benefits exchanges in the spotlight…literally

Sep 17, 2012

States that have chosen to make their own online marketplaces for health insurance are moving ahead, some more quickly than others. And there’s no time to lose: these exchanges have to come online in 2014, under the Affordable Care Act timeline. (Here’s an update on where states are with their exchanges.)

The health costs of post-9/11 wars

Sep 11, 2012

On this solemn anniversary, an update on the terrible costs of war, including the toll on veterans’ and their families’ lives, from the Brown University-based “Costs of War” project. The ongoing project taps academics of all stripes to tally up the myriad costs of post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, from the invisible and previously unaccounted for costs to taxpayers to the vastly under-reported costs in civilian lives, economies, and environments.

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