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The Power of Joy in Health and Medicine – Learning From Dr. Regina Benjamin

Former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin was the first person who quoted to me, “Health isn’t in the doctor’s office. It’s where people live, work, play and pray,” imparting that transformational mantra to me in her 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times. I wrote about that lightbulb moment here in Health Populi. Dr. Benjamin was the 18th Surgeon General, appointed by President Obama in 2009. As “America’s Doctor,” she served a four-year term, her mission focused on health disparities, prevention, rual health, and children’s health. Today, Dr. Benjamin wears many hats: she’s the Times Picayune/NOLA.com professor of medicine at

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Learning Health Behavior Change From the Guru Prochaska

For us mere humans, behavior change is hard. Changing health behaviors is really tough. Enter Dr. James Prochaska, who has been at the forefront of researching and understanding human and health behavior for several decades. He’s the father of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM). I have the honor today to listen live to Dr. Prochaska’s talk at the Health Integrated EMPOWER conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I’ll be addressing attendees on the new health consumer tomorrow. “Empower,” indeed. Dr. Prochaska is all about how people have good intentions to make good health decisions, but we all slip and

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Financial Stress As A Health Risk Factor Impacts More Americans

A family in Orange County, California, paid a brother’s 1982 hospital bill by selling 50 pieces of their newly-deceased mother’s jewelry. “It’s what she wanted,” the surviving son told a reporter from The Orange County Register. The cache of jewelry fetched enough to pay the $10,000 bill. Patients in the U.S. cobble together various strategies to pay for healthcare, as the first chart drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation report on medical debt attests. As health care consumers, people cut back on household spending like vacations and household goods. Two-thirds of insured patients use up all or most of their savings

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Consumer Healthcare Reviews on Yelp Help

Just as consumers use TripAdvisor, Zagat, OpenTable, and their Facebook pages to review restaurants, hotels, automobiles, and financial services companies, many patients – now health consumers in earnest – have taken to reviewing healthcare services in social networks. Finding reliable, understandable information about healthcare quality and prices is very challenging for most consumers. Are healthcare reviews on social networks statistically valid? An analysis of consumer ratings for New York State hospitals on Yelp, the social network, were positively correlated to objective scores of hospital quality, according to the research published in Yelp for Health: Using the Wisdom of Crowds to

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Telehealth and Virtual Healthcare Are Mainstreaming

As the annual meeting of the American Telemedicine Association convenes this week in Orlando, there’s a lot of telehealth news to curate. The topline of it all: virtual healthcare is mainstreaming, with more providers, payors, and patients aligning in support of virtual health care delivery. Three-quarters of providers have some form of basic telemedicine or telehealth in place. One-third of healthcare providers use some flavor of virtual care technology in their workflow, according to research from KPMG and HIMSS Analytics summarized in the first graphic. KPMG sees virtual care options — remote patient monitoring, enhanced portals, and web interactions for patient-provider

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Health Care Costs Are A Top Worry for Americans Across Political Parties

Health care costs are out-of-reach for more Americans, among both people who have insurance through the workplace or via health insurance exchanges. The first chart illustrates the growing healthcare affordability challenge for American health consumers, discussed in a data note to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll in March 2017. In 2017, 43% of consumers found it difficult to meet the health care deductible before insurance would kick in 37% of consumers found it difficult to pay for the cost of health insurance each month 31% said it was difficult to pay for copayments for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

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Most Americans Favor Some Flavor Of National Health Care Plan

Most US adults favor some kind of national health care plan, based on an Economist/YouGov poll conducted in April 2017. Six in ten people are for expanding so-called “Medicare for All,” where the health plan that currently serves older Americans would extend to all U.S. health citizens. Six in ten people would also favor a Federally-funded health insurance system that would cover all Americans — that is, universal health care. The table details this poll question by political party identification and family income. At least 3 in 4 Democrats would be more likely to favor either of the two healthcare

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Diet, Surgery and Pharmacy – The Pillars of Healthcare for 500 Years

Healthcare was based on three pillars in 16th century Florence, Italy: diet, surgery, and pharmacy. Five centuries later, not much has changed in Italy or the U.S. But how healthcare gets funded and delivered in the context of these pillars significantly varies between the two countries, and impacts each nation’s health. To put this in context, visiting the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (the Medici’s Laurentian Library) today in Florence was a trip through medical-surgical history, starting in the second half of the 16th century. The design of this magnificent library’s foyer and reading room was initially conceived by Michelangelo. The reading room

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The Pharmacy as Herbalist – An Italian Prescription

CNN called it, “the ancient perfume store you never heard of,” but the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella had its literal roots in medicinal herbs. With scents wafting onto a 13th century Florence piazza, the Farmacia now operates as a pharmacy storefront for homeopathic and herbal supplements, along with perfumes and home scents. A visit to the pharmacy today is a journey into medicinal time-travel, back to the year 1221. I spent time in the pharmacy today to learn about the literal roots of the shop in medicinal herbs cultivated in a monastery garden and reformulated by monks into

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Slow Food As Medicine: Eating In Italian

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Valuing Children = Valuing Health: Learning From Florence, Italy

This week I celebrate two spring holy holidays in one city that embraces spirituality, civility, and culture: Florence, Italy. Today, I had the special opportunity to tour Ospedale degli Innocenti: the Hospital of the Innocents. The hospital is now an institute for studying the culture and economics of children, and a museum telling a unique story of Florentine babies born in the early 15th century, spanning our contemporary era. The founding and root history of this beautiful place has lessons to teach us even today. It is key to realize, first, that Florentine humanism exalted the ideal virtues of the

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Health Inequity in the United States – A View From Across the Pond

The statistics on the health of people living in America illustrate a divide between have’s and have-not’s. Average life expectancy is lower in the US compared with other wealthy nations: the wealthiest Americans live 10 to 15 years longer than the poorest, according to a landmark article in JAMA from 2016 studying the relationship between income inequality and mortality. See the first chart: this illustrates that people living in the US whose income reaches the top 95th percentile far outlive folks in the bottom 5th percentile of income. I find myself in London, England, this week, across the Pond (that is,

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Finding Health in Consumer Goods

People want to live healthier lives, and consumer good companies are responding to these demands to keep and gain market share and profit margins. Consumer product firms reformulated over 180,000 consumer products in 2016 for in response to consumers’ health and wellness wishes, based on data collected by Deloitte for The Consumer Goods Forum project (CGF) and published in The CGF Health & Wellness Progress Report. The CGF is an industry network of some 400 consumer goods, retail, and service companies supporting the global adoption of standards and practices. This Report focused on the CGF members’ progress toward health and wellness

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Connecting the Dots Between Population Health and the Local Economy

U.S. counties with better health have better performing economies. There’s a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy, where healthier regions enjoy lower unemployment and higher incomes, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. When compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index score, counties within the top 10 percent had: A per capita income that’s $3,700 higher than the median 10-year economic growth that’s 3.5% higher An unemployment rate half a point lower. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) worked with Moody’s Analytics (part of the Moody’s financial services company) on this second edition of this

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Health Insurance Plans Rank Lowest In Consumer Experience

Consumers love their supermarkets, fast food shops, retailers, delivery services, and banks. These industries rank highest in the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings, my go-to source for understanding consumer service Nirvana. Health insurance companies and internet service providers (ISPs) are at the bottom of the Temkin Ratings, as shown in the first chart. Note that health plans range from a score approaching 70 to under 50, illustrating the very wide range of consumer experience from okay-to-good, too very poor. The top-ranked health plan was Kaiser Permanente, with a rating of 67%; Health Net was ranked the worst of the health plans

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