Archive for: July 2011

Free water testing offered at Scotts Bluff County Fair

MITCHELL — Nebraskans with private water wells can have their drinking water tested for nitrates during the Scotts Bluff County Fair August 2 – 6.
To find out the nitrate level in the water they drink, well owners can bring a cup-size sample of water in a clean bottle to the Scotts Bluff County Health Department/Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services booth at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds on Tuesday from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. There is no charge for the test, and they can get the results while they wait.
Nitrates are a concern for infants under six months of age and pregnant women, as well as anyone who has a weakened immune system. High levels of nitrates interfere with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and can cause “blue baby” syndrome.
Livestock, especially cattle, are also susceptible to nitrate poisoning, resulting in lower milk production and loss of calves.
The testing is sponsored by the Scotts Bluff County Health Department and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health.

Study could help generations of type 1 diabetics

By Maunette Loeks
Staff Reporter

Like many people, one of my least favorite things to do is to have my blood drawn. Recently, though, I volunteered to do just that for a diabetes study.
One drop of blood is all it may take for some people to learn whether they may develop type 1 diabetes in the future. The Diabetes Care Center at Regional West Physicians Clinic will be participating in the research study, called Trial Net. The study screens selected relatives of people with Type I diabetes to determine if they are at risk for developing the disease. On June 23, the clinic hosted a screening fair for people willing to participate in the story sponsored by the National Institute of Health and being conducted by The Barbara Davis Center.
Patty Brisco, medical director at The Diabetes Care Center, outlined the study.
“The study looks more closely to see what we can do to prevent type I diabetes, she said. Through a simple blood test, people could learn that they are at risk for type I diabetes up to 10 years before symptoms appear.
The study looks at people with family who have been treated for diabetes.
Free screenings are offered to persons who are 20 years old or younger, with a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, half-sibling or cousin with Type I diabetes; persons age 45 years old and younger with a parent, sibling or child with type 1 diabetes.
Interestingly, research has shown that 95 percent of people with type 1 diabetes also test positive for three specific autoantibodies. The body’s autoimmune response is to protect itself, so it develops the autoantibodies.
Not all people who exhibit symptoms of type 1 diabetes necessarily test positive for the autoantibodies. However, Brisco said, “if it acts like type 1 diabetes, talks like type 1 diabetes, but doesn’t test for the autoantibodies, the treatment is still the same.” For type 1 diabetics, treatment means daily injections of insulin and monitoring.
The treatment of diabetes is one of the reasons many of the people participating in the study are more than willing to bring their children, grandchildren and other young relatives and at-risk relatives in to be studied. Though the type 1 diabetes is commonly thought of as juvenile diabetes, adults also develop the diseases.
“The biggest reason that most people are participating in the study is not for themselves, but for their children,” Brisco said.
In most cases, persons with type 1 diabetes also have a genetic link, with environmental factors at play in triggering the disease. Onset of type 1 diabetes can often be rapid, so the goal with pre-testing is also to prevent hospitalizations and other complications that can be associated with type 1 diabetes. It’s not uncommon for a person to find out they have diabetes after they have suddenly lost weight, become dehydrated or other complications.
“With the tests, we can find out if someone is at risk for type 1 diabetes much earlier and before they start to exhibit diabetes,” Brisco said. “They want to make sure that their children, or grandchildren, do not end up with the problems that they have experienced.”
Just one tablespoon of blood is all that it took to help ease the mind, or start the process of awareness or treatment, for many people participating in the study.
If people participating in the study test positive for the autoantibodies, they may be eligible to enroll in clinical research studies that are looking at ways to prevent and delay type 1 antibodies. One study, conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disorders, is examining the use of oral insulin to delay type 1 diabetes.
Also, Brisco said, the study could evolve into other studies that can help study other ways to identify at-risk persons and even other different forms of treatment.
“We spend a lot of time here at the Diabetes Center treating patients with type II diabetes,” Brisco said. “This study allows us to participate in helping patients of type 1 diabetes. ”
Nearly 200 TrialNet locations nationwide offer screening and research studies. For information on participating through the Diabetes Care Center, contact the center, 308-630-2100. For information on studies in other areas, perhaps for a relative or other person, visit Kits are also available and can be sent out to persons not located near a testing center.
Maunette Loeks is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9054 or by email at

CAPWN Minority Health Program receives continuation grant funding

Staff Reporter

Community Action Partnerships Minority Health Program has been focused on helping minority populations in the area for nine years now.
The program recently received word that grant funds will let the program continue to serve Panhandle patients.
The Minority Health Program will receive a two-year grant from the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity, a division of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services — Public Health. The $275,803 grant gives the program two more years of funding, funding operations and services through June 30, 2013.
“We did suffer some cuts in funding,” Program Director Martin Vargas said, saying that funds were decreased by $80,000 over the two-year period. “I firmly believe that it is because census numbers showed a decrease in minority populations, though I feel that minorities were less likely to fill out the census because of fears of immigration policies. “
With the recent grant period, three more counties were added to the CAPWN’s Minority Health Program service area. The Minority Health Program will now offer services to Deuel, Garden and Sioux counties in addition to its previous counties of Scotts Bluff, Box Butte, Morrill and Cheyenne.
Vargas said he does have concern that minority populations aren’t taking advantage of the program.
“For example, I see a lot of African Americans in the area and we have hardly any African Americans in the program. We want to stress that the program isn’t just targeted at Hispanics, but Native Americans, Asians, Indians and any minority population in our area. They should take advantage of the program.”
Many of the minority populations experience health disparities that coupled with economic disadvantages mean they are less likely to seek preventative health care, according to studies.
The Minority Health Program provides services to aid minorities get the care that they need. The program offers screening and transportation to health appointments. Regularly, the Minority Health Program, in collaboration with Scotts Bluff County Public Health, arranges a bus trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where Native Americans can receive medications and health appointments for free.
“Being a rural area, public transportation options for our clients are limited,” he said. “The inability to line up transportation can prevent clients from getting to necessary medical appointments so we provide those services. We will also provide some transportation to other appointments on a case-by-case basis.”
As part of its outreach services, health screenings are offered at CAPWN Health Center and health fairs throughout the year. In the last two years, the program provided over 1,000 glucose screenings and 600 obesity screenings as part of its programs.
The program coordinates the annual Latina Red Dress event and hosted its first Red Shawl event aimed at Native American women this year.
“We have focused on obesity in our health fairs and screenings because of its link to other health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension,” Vargas said. “Cardiovascular has been a key area for our program for a few years.”
A health educator and community programs help provide patients with the information they need to accept and manage their illnesses. Health education programs specifically focused on diabetic patients and chronically ill patients provide information on proper nutrition, physical activity, communicating with your provider and more. Classes are offered in English and Spanish.
“It is key for chronically-ill patients, including diabetics, to understand how their diet affects their body and their illnesses,” he said. “The goal of all our programs is to prolong the onset of serious illnesses or the onset of complications. We teach them to live a healthier, happier life.”
Through Minority Health, patients can also be paired with medical interpreters. The Minority Health Program offers trained medical interpreters. Patients receiving services at the CAPWN Health Center can utilize the interpreters and Vargas said the interpreters would accompany patients to referral appointments when needed.
CAPWN has been at the forefront of providing medical interpreters for patients with limited English proficiency and provided interpretation for nearly 3,000 cases over the last two years.
“It is a pretty amazing number when you think about how much the service is actively needed,” Vargas said.
Some providers continue to lack adequate interpretation services, despite federal requirements for providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid to provide
“It is important for people who are bilingual to get trained as a medical interpreter,” he said, saying that medical interpreting is not as easy as simply translating a language. “If NASA called me tomorrow, I do not know the terminology or how things work and could not interpret for them. We offer certified medical interpreter training to provide that need.”
For more information on CAPWN Minority Health Programs at 308-635-3089.

Establishing your own wellness program

Establishing a wellness program at your company doesn’t need to be a difficult task. Taking the right steps can mean success for your wellness program.
Martha Stricker, nurse manager with Scotts Bluff County Health, and Terri Allen, wellness consultant with Scotts Bluff County Health, offer advice for getting wellness initiatives started at your workplace.

  • Make the case to your administration for a wellness program.
    “Ask for buy-in on the senior level,” Stricker said. “If you don’t have that senior level backing, you aren’t going to be successful.”
    To get that buy-in, make a case for the benefits to the business. Will the program help reduce insurance costs? Will the program help reduce absenteeism and improve productivity? Are their specific goals or needs that your company can work on, such as establishing an injury prevention program? If you need help with materials, the Wellness Council of America offers materials on its website,
  • Gather data and individualize your wellness program.
    “The little hit and miss programs are great, but try to build an all–encompassing program,” Stricker said.
    She encourages businesses to reach out to its administration, employees and others to gather information on the needs and wants of a wellness program.
    “Wellness doesn’t just have to be about urging people to lose weight and get fit,” Allen said. “Wellness can encompass a variety of different things, like forming polices to help employees like  establishing breastfeeding, family leave, seat belt use and drug use policies.”
    With input from employees, you can also individualize the plan. Gathering data establishes demographics that can help you tailor your program.
    “There is no need to offer free mammograms when you have a business that is mostly made up of 50-year-old males,” she said.
  • Form a committee.
    Stricker urges businesses to form a wellness committee. Committees can keep the events going, such as hosting a health fair where people can get screenings.
    They can also help encourage people to participate. At the City of Gering, Human Resources Director Carrie Havranek said, the committee is made up of one person from each department. She said the involvement helps to offer programs that will appeal to everyone, and she has an advocate for activities right in the department.
    Committee members can also serve as the cheerleader of the program.
  • Think of your wellness program as an investment – in your employees.
    “There is no better investment than your employees,” Allen said. “Most of us spend the majority of our days at work, spending more time there than we do at home. Everything is always going at such a fast pace that we forget to stop and take care of ourselves.”
    Wellness programs can help serve as that reminder, through regular activities, reminder newsletters and other work. Employees also notice the effort, the two women said.
     “We all want to know our employers care about us on a personal level,” Stricker said. “For younger generations, wellness programs are becoming more important. Wellness programs are becoming retention tools for keeping employees and for getting new employees.”
  • Take advantage of worksite wellness efforts near you.
    Scotts Bluff County Public Health and Regional West Community Health have been partnering to offer worksite wellness programs for about ten years after receiving grant funds made available through tobacco settlement dollars. Help is available to businesses to implement their own programs.  Over 100 businesses, small and large, participate in worksite wellness programs and 25 businesses participate regularly in monthly meetings that Allen hosts to provide a support network for programs.

Panhandle employers are also now able to take advantage of the newly formed Panhandle Worksite Wellness Council. The council launched this week, and will be coordinated by Jessica Davis, with the Panhandle Public Health District, and Stricker. The program will be able to provide technical assistance and guidance to businesses in the 11 counties of the Panhandle.
Stricker said that employers would be able to receive one-on-one contact, mentoring, information on programs locally.
“We are trying to bring the (state) wellness council to them,” she said. “It’s a way for Panhandle businesses to be more active without the expense of traveling to Grand Island or farther.”
Workshops, annual trainings and other sessions will be available, Stricker said.
A panel on worksite wellness is also slated among the events at the Live Well Nebraska Tour event in Scottsbluff on Aug. 12, starting at 10:30 a.m. at Monument Mall. The event is sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska.
Participation in the Panhandle coalition will be done by a simple dues structure and information is available online at  Information is available by calling Davies at 308-487-3600 ext. 101 or Stricker at 308-630-1559.

Panhandle Prevention Coalition calls for change

The Panhandle Prevention Coalition (PPC) launched a comprehensive education campaign in May designed to teach residents about underage drinking and change behaviors that tolerate it. 
The campaign, titled “Change Starts With You”, will continue through January 2012. Campaign messaging will appear throughout the 11 counties of the Panhandle.
 “Our mission is to protect the youth of western Nebraska,” said Michelle Peters, PPC member. “Underage drinking is a problem in each of our communities and one that won’t go away until people are committed to changing social norms. Through this campaign, we want people to know about the dangers and consequences to buying or providing alcohol to minors.”
The grassroots campaign, led by The Panhandle Prevention Coalition, will appear on printed material, as public service announcements on the radio, in community presentations Panhandle-wide, and on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
The PPC is targeting parents, young adults and youth in three phases that will include different areas of educational content about Nebraska laws such as social hosting, underage drinking, the use-and-lose law, the DUI zero tolerance law and contributing to minors.
The PPC is a part of the Panhandle Partnership for Health and Human Services and is comprised of local community coalitions and a regional coalition united together by a passion and dedication to healthy and safe people across the lifespan.
PPC efforts include reducing underage drinking, binge drinking and drinking and driving in the Nebraska Panhandle. Together they:
>> Seek policy change at the local and regional levels to reduce youth access to alcohol.
>>Collaborate with law enforcement to facilitate, fund and sustain compliance checks, sobriety checks and beverage server training.
Educate and generate awareness about the dangers of substance abuse and consequences of minors in possession (MIPs) and buying/providing alcohol to minors.
PPC community partners include concerned parents, law enforcement, health care workers, public health, faith communities, social service professionals, community leaders, elected officials, educators, business owners, volunteers and citizens both locally and statewide who seek safe communities for our children and families to live and grow.
For more information or to volunteer, call 308-633-2092.

Diabetics receive blood vessels grown in lab

(AP) — For the first time, scientists have given several diabetic patients blood vessels grown in a lab from donated skin cells.
The work is a key step toward creating a supply of ready-to-use veins and arteries that could be implanted in dialysis patients, soldiers with damaged limbs, children with heart defects, people having heart bypass surgery and others.
The blood vessels are made by a California company, Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc. Three dialysis patients in Poland have received them so far, and they are working well two to eight months later. A larger study in Europe is planned.
The research is still in the early stages, but it is considered so promising that the American Heart Association featured it Monday in the first of a new series of webcasts about cutting-edge science.

Lead poisoning in adults is down, CDC report says

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal health officials say the lead poisoning rate for U.S. adults has fallen by more than half in the last 15 years, but it remains unusually high in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Kansas. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday said that about 6 out of every 100,000 employed adults had lead poisoning in 2009, down from 14 per 100,000 in 1994. 
Lead poisoning in adults is almost always due to at-work exposures. CDC officials say the decline may be tied to a reduction in the number of manufacturing jobs that involve lead, lead paint or lead dust. 
The report focuses on adults who have elevated lead levels that are high enough to cause irritability and concentration problems as well as other symptoms.

Quit line calls spike after cigarette

ATLANTA (AP) — Graphic new cigarette warning labels may already be having the desired effect: Calls to a national smoker’s quit line more than doubled the day they hit the media. 
The warning labels won’t appear on cigarettes until next year, but were unveiled to the media last week. 
Calls to the national 1-800-QUIT-NOW smoking cessation line surpassed 4,800 that Tuesday and 3,200 the next day. A typical Tuesday or Wednesday in June sees about 2,000 calls. 
The new labels replace the traditional small, white “Surgeon General’s Warning” text strips with graphic photograph warnings that cover the entire top half of each cigarette pack. 
Versions of the new labels include depictions of diseased lungs and rotting teeth and gums. They also carry the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number, which the old labels did not.

Fraternal twins with autism: Is risk in the womb?

CHICAGO (AP) — Most of the risk of autism has been blamed by experts on inherited genes. Now one of the largest studies of twins and autism shifts the focus to the womb, suggesting that the mother’s age and health may play a larger role than thought. 
The new research doesn’t solve the mystery of what causes autism. Most scientists think faulty genes and outside factors are both at work. And since autism spectrum disorders include a wide range of conditions, from mild to severe, it’s unlikely there’s a single cause for all of them. 
Conditions during pregnancy may trigger autism where there’s a genetic vulnerability, said Dr. Gary Goldstein of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, who was not involved in the new research. 
“We’ve identified lots of vulnerability genes, but not everybody who has them gets autism,” Goldstein said. 
The new twins study, published Monday by Archives of General Psychiatry, used rigorous methods to diagnose autism spectrum disorders, including direct observation of the children. 
Using California health records, it’s the largest study to do that and the first to consider a large sample of twins drawn from a general population, said lead author Dr. Joachim Hallmayer of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. 
Children with autism can have trouble communicating and interacting socially. They may have poor eye contact and engage in repetitive behavior such as rocking or hand-flapping. One in 100 children have autism disorders, according to U.S. government estimates. 
The new study included 192 sets of twins where at least one of the twins was affected with autism. 
Some of the twins were identical and some were non-identical, or fraternal, twins. 
The researchers used DNA testing to determine which twins were identical and which were fraternal. That was important because identical twins come from one fertilized egg and have identical genetic makeups. Fraternal twins, from two fertilized eggs, share no more genetic material than any other siblings. 
The new study found, as expected, high rates of shared autism disorders for identical twins: 77 percent of male twin pairs and 50 percent for female pairs had autism in both twins. 
Surprisingly, it also found fairly high rates of fraternal twins both having autism spectrum disorders: 31 percent rate for male fraternal twins and 36 percent for female fraternal twins. 
Other studies have found 10 to 20 percent of younger siblings of children with autism are likely to be diagnosed themselves with the disorder. 
Fraternal twins share the same womb, even though they don’t share identical genes. That could be important, said Dr. John Constantino of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who wasn’t involved in the new research. 
“Finding so many fraternal twin pairs in whom both twins have autism spectrum disorders is a key finding that puts a spotlight on pregnancy as a time when environmental factors might exert their effects,” Constantino said. 
Those factors could include stress, diet, infections, a mother’s age and medications, experts said. The new study didn’t try to determine what factors increase risk. 
The study was funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and Autism Speaks, an advocacy group. 
In another study published Monday in the same journal, researchers found a higher risk of autism among children born to mothers who took antidepressants during the year before birth, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy. 
It’s too early to advise pregnant women against antidepressants, however. Untreated depression also can be harmful to mother and baby, said lead author Lisa Croen of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente, a large health maintenance organization in California.