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NRF: Stutter step reported in May retail sales not a dark cloud over pending BTS season

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — After a strong first quarter, consumers in May took a more practical approach to their spending. According to a National Retail Federation release on Wednesday, May retail sales (excluding automobile, gas stations and restaurants) decreased 0.3% seasonally adjusted from April but increased 4.8% unadjusted year over year, marking 23 consecutive months of retail sales growth.

“As the first industry to feel any backlash from consumers’ attitudes about the revival of the economy, retailers are far from discouraged by May’s sales report; it’s evident that consumers are simply taking a breath,” stated NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Going forward, retailers will make sure to keep a steady eye on key economic indicators, being cautious with inventory and promotions as back to school — the second biggest time of the year — approaches.”

May retail sales, released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce, showed total retail and food services sales — which includes nongeneral merchandise categories, such as automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants — decreased 0.2% seasonally adjusted month to month but increased 7.1% unadjusted year over year.

Health and personal care stores’ sales decreased 0.1% seasonally adjusted month to month but increased 3.1% unadjusted year over year.

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Government agency issues draft recommendation doubting calcium, vitamin D benefits

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCKVILLE, Md. — U.S. Preventive Services Task Force on Tuesday issued a draft recommendation around the ineffectiveness of vitamin D and calcium to prevent cancer or fractures. The draft guidance also suggested vitamin D and calcium could equate to a greater risk of kidney stones in older women.

"Many people take the supplements, but the science was insufficient to make recommendations for everyone," stated panel member Timothy Wilt of the University of Minnesota.

In response, the Council for Responsible Nutrition urged caution in interpreting what the Task Force report means for recommending vitamin D and calcium supplementation. “The draft report … does not change expert recommendations for the benefits of calcium," stated Taylor Wallace, senior director of scientific and regulatory affairs at CRN. "The Institute of Medicine supports a recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU to 800 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg of calcium daily for adults," he added, citing long-term randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses that support that supplementation with calcium and vitamin D is beneficial for bone health, particularly in post-menopausal women and the elderly, when the diet is not sufficient.

"Even though the USPSTF’s recommendations are based on a large body of evidence, the draft report recognized that in the largest [randomized control trial], the Women’s Health Initiative study, the vitamin D dose used ‘may have been too low to cause an effect,’" Taylor added.

Previously, the USPSTF found that supplementation with vitamin D was beneficial in preventing incidences of falls among adults ages 65 years and older. Since falls commonly result in fractures, it’s common sense for the elderly to consider supplementing with vitamin D and calcium, Taylor noted.


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Managed care organization Health Net releases PSA campaign on prenatal health

BY Michael Johnsen

LOS ANGELES — Health Net on Tuesday launched a national public service campaign to help increase awareness of prenatal and infant health.

Created in collaboration with the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, the campaign announcements encourage mothers and fathers to sign up for a free mobile health service called Text4baby.

Text4baby delivers timely health information during pregnancy and through baby’s first year via personalized text messages based on a pregnant woman’s due date or her baby’s date of birth. Messages focus on a variety of critical health topics, including immunization, nutrition, mental health, oral health and safe sleep. Text4baby also connects receivers to prenatal and infant care services and resources.

“Mobile phones can play a significant role in promoting prenatal, postnatal and infant health care by delivering accurate and timely information directly to both expectant and new parents,” stated Mary Beth Govier, director of Care Management for Health Net. “Text4baby joins our tool kit of prenatal resources,” she said. “Health Net also offers health coaches and Decision Power Healthy Baby, an online educational video series available free of charge to our website visitors.”

Anyone can sign up for the service by texting BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411.

The campaign — which features two 30-second television announcements — has been distributed to media outlets nationwide. The “Belly-to-Belly” announcement shows just the pregnant bellies of two friends talking about Text4baby. One pregnant mom is a Text4baby subscriber and shows her friend how to sign up. Accompanied by the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the “Baby Photos” announcement shows photos of babies whose mothers used Text4baby. The mothers of the babies in the PSA received three Text4baby messages a week while they were pregnant and/or until their babies’ first birthday.

Text4baby already has reached more than 240,000 users since it began in 2010. Health Net was the first health plan in California to partner with Text4baby and provide statewide outreach in 2010. The company was one of the first Text4baby health plan partners in Arizona and Oregon.

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