HEALTH

Walgreens positions itself as a go-to for pertussis concerns

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The heartbreaking news is that California is battling an unnerving whooping cough epidemic that unfortunately already has claimed the lives of nine babies. But the silver lining — if there is one — lies in the fact that this gives rise to another opportunity for retail pharmacy to demonstrate the critical role it plays in public health crisis management.

(THE NEWS: Calif. health officials address ‘whooping cough’ outbreak. For the full story, click here)

As state health officials are urging Californians to be immunized in hopes of stemming the pertussis outbreak that is sweeping throughout the state, more than 4,000 cases have been reported — nine deaths have been reported of which eight were Hispanic infants. Eight fatalities were infants less than 2 months of age at the time of the disease’s onset and had not received any doses of pertussis-containing vaccine; the ninth was 2 months of age and had received the first dose of DTaP only 15 days prior to the disease onset, according to the California Department of Public Health. Most of the infant cases in 2010 have occurred in infants younger than 3 months of age. Meanwhile, the majority of adolescent cases are in 10- to 11-year-olds.

Because children are most vulnerable to this highly contagious disease, health officials are urging anyone who is in contact with children to be immunized, and for those children of proper age to be immunized.

As we’ve seen with regard to the seasonal flu, H1N1 and other public health concerns, retail pharmacies are in an ideal position to assist in such matters given their convenient locations and hours of operation. This fact once again is evident, as Walgreens has announced that its pharmacists in select California stores can administer whooping cough vaccines.

Currently, 150 Walgreens locations are offering the vaccine, but the retailer has 575 stores throughout the state and will be working to add more stores to the list. As of 2009, the number of pharmacy outlets in California stood at 1,957 independents, 2,174 traditional chains, 645 supermarkets and 557 mass merchandisers, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Once again, retail pharmacy is positioning itself along the frontlines of health care.

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HEALTH

White House continues health IT drive as CMS offers matching funds to states

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON More money is flowing from the federal stimulus coffers to states as the White House continues its push to drive the healthcare system’s massive transformation to a digital and information technology-based platform.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is releasing another $6.9 million in federal matching funds for the effort, according to a report from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The money is going to four states –– Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Ohio –– to help pay for a conversion to electronic health records by Medicaid providers in those states, according to the society’s online newsletter, Government Health IT.

 

Similar matching grant programs already have gone to some other states –– including Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia –– in line with the Obama administration’s plan to propel the nationwide adoption of health IT with some $20 billion in stimulus funds. According to the report, CMS is providing as much as 90% of the funds needed by state Medicaid administrators to provide incentive payments under the HITECH Act. States also can use some of the money to track the conversion to health IT, Government Health IT reported.

 

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Milk drinkers maintain healthy weight, study finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Milk drinkers are more likely to lose weight than those who skip drinking milk when on a diet, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested.

In a two-year study, researchers observed 300 overweight or at-risk men and women ages 40 to 65 years. The participants were put on low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carb diets for two years, but regardless of diet, those that consumed 580 mg of milk per day (about two glasses), lost about 12 lbs., compared with those with the lowest dairy calcium intake (averaging about 150 mg, or about half of a glass), in which participants lost just 7 lbs.

Beyond calcium, the researchers also found that vitamin D levels independently affected weight loss success, and, in line with previous research, milk and milk products were the top contributors to vitamin D in the diets of the study participants.

The study, "Dairy calcium intake, serum vitamin D and successful weight loss," was published in the Sept. 1 edition of the journal.

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