Posts tagged with "Healthcare"

Melvin Sampson illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Remembering Melvin Sampson

By Hannah DiPilato

Melvin Sampson was a leader throughout his life and was dedicated to fighting for the rights of indigenous people. Before his passing, he was a tribal councilman that pushed for Native American’s rights. 

Some of his most monumental efforts include helping to establish the Indian National Finals Rodeo, assisting in the improvement of health care for Native Americans across the nation, advocating for the construction of the Yakama Nation Indian Health Services clinic west of Toppenish and pushing to improve fish restoration in the Yakima and Columbia basins.

Sampson passed in his home on December 11 at 82-years-old and left behind his wife, Betty Jean and his four daughters. He will be remembered by his big family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Sampson’s full obituary can be found on Heggies Colonial Funeral Home’s website and anyone is able to leave thoughts, prayers and condolences for Sampson’s loved ones. People can also send flowers or a virtual gift and share photos and videos, a beautiful way to share remembrance amidst the pandemic. 

“He’s bigger than the Yakama Nation,” said Yakama General Council Chairman Roger Fiander, who grew up beside Sampson. “Besides that, he was my roping partner.”

Sampson’s legacy of helping to gain rights for Native Americans will live on for generations. Hopefully, many more people will follow in his footsteps to preserve tribal culture. 

Sampson was an advocate of better healthcare for Native Americans for 17 years while he served on the National Indian Health Board. He also helped form the Portland Area Indian Health Board, which monitors the federal administration of Indian health services in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. 

In Washington D.C., Sampson was at the head of an effort to gain funding for a new Indian Health Clinic. Eventually, his efforts led to an expansion of the clinic which expanded it into a facility of over 80,000 square feet. 

Sampson also wanted to improve fish rearing practices in the Yakama and Columbia basins in order to help the fish that lived there. With Sampson in charge, the Yakama Nation gained control of the Klickitat Hatchery which is found on the Klickitat river outside of Glendale. This hatchery was designed to rebuild the population of salmon by mimicking the natural habitat system that fish thrive in. 

Everyone that knew Sampson believed he was a born leader. He had a diverse understanding of tribal culture and government which allowed him to make many changes in his lifetime. George Waters, a lobbyist for the tribe in Washington, D.C., said that Sampson was just a person able to operate in different worlds. 

He was able to create many amazing things such as doing leatherwork and beginning a shop in his basement. Sampson can also be remembered for his forward-thinking ways that were ahead of his time. 

Irving Pinkham, another childhood friend of Sampson, said that Sampson cared for everyone and always wanted to help indigenous people. “In our way, nobody is better than anyone else and that’s what he believed too,” Pinkham said. “He never was a person who said ‘I, I did this, I did that.’ He was always a person who said ‘We, we did this, we did that.’ “

Sampson’s perseverance and ability to understand people helped him become a success in many aspects of his life. He was able to improve healthcare and the way of life for those around him and his legacy will be seen in all of the work he accomplished over his lifetime.

New Scientific Study by Rice University Biochemists

Michael Stern and James McNew (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Study: Early, late stages of degenerative diseases are distinct
Two-phase theory applies to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, muscle atrophy

Rice University biochemists Michael Stern and James McNew have studied how neurodegeneration kills cells. They’ve conducted countless experiments over more than a decade, and they’ve summarized all they’ve learned in a simple diagram they hope may change how doctors perceive and treat degenerative diseases as varied as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and muscle atrophy.

In a study published this month in Molecular Psychiatry, McNew and Stern propose that degeneration, at the cellular level, occurs in two distinct phases that are marked by very different activities of protein signaling pathways that regulate basic cell functions.

“We would like clinicians and other researchers to understand that the two phases of degeneration represent distinct entities, with distinct alterations in signaling pathways that have distinct effects on disease pathology,” said Stern, a professor of biosciences at Rice. “In other words, we think that patients need to be treated differently depending on which phase they are in.”

Stern and McNew’s diagram shows how the activity of key cell-signaling proteins either increases or decreases at the onset of degeneration, ultimately bringing about oxidative stress. Oxidative stress then brings about the second phase of the condition, during which degeneration occurs, where the signaling proteins implicated in the first phase behave in a completely different way.

Because cells behave quite differently in the two phases, the research suggests patients in different phases of a disease may respond differently to the same treatment.

“The two phases of degeneration haven’t been previously recognized, so it hasn’t been understood, clinically, that you have two different populations of patients,” McNew said. “Today, they’re treated like one population, and we think this has confounded clinical trials and explains why some trials on Alzheimer’s have given variable and irreproducible effects. It would be like trying to treat all meningitis patients with antibiotics without realizing that there are two types of meningitis, one bacterial and one viral.”

Stern and McNew, professors of biochemistry and cell biology in Rice’s Department of BioSciences, became interested in the cellular processes of neurodegenerative disorders when they began studying hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) in the late 2000s. A rare disorder, HSP is marked by numbness and weakness in the legs and feet due to the progressive deterioration of neurons that connect the spine and lower leg.

These are some of the longest cells in the body, and starting with clues about structural defects that could cause them to degenerate, McNew and Stern used experiments on fruit flies to systematically piece together the biochemical domino effect that caused the neurons to progressively lose more and more function and eventually die. It had been thought that nerve damage could lead to muscle atrophy, but their studies found that muscle cells attached to the neurons started degenerating from the same type of biochemical cascade before the nerve cells died.

A key player in the cascade was a protein called TOR, a master regulator of cell growth and an essential protein for all higher-order life from yeast to humans. TOR acts like a knob, dialing growth up or down to suit the conditions a cell is experiencing. In some conditions, high growth is warranted and beneficial, and in other situations, growth needs to be dialed back so energy and resources can be conserved for daily chores, like the recycling or repair that take place during a process known as autophagy.

Some cancers highjack TOR to promote aggressive cell growth, and increased TOR activity has also been implicated in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and in diseases marked by muscle atrophy. After compiling evidence about how TOR and several other signaling proteins behaved in neurodegeneration, McNew and Stern won a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in 2018 for experiments to investigate signaling pathway changes that occur in the early stages of degeneration.

“At the time, we thought there might be a late phase during which degeneration actually occurs, but we didn’t propose any experiments to test that,” Stern said. “In the new paper, we’re explicit about the existence of a late phase. We propose mechanistically why degeneration occurs only during this phase, and cite abundant research in support.”

Stern said the two-phase process described in the study “is the basic engine that drives most or even all forms of degeneration forward. However, in addition, there are also inputs whose role is to specify how fast the engine turns over.”

To understand neurodegeneration, it’s critical to understand how those inputs work, he said. For example, insulin resistance plays a well-known role in driving Alzheimer’s disease, and in the study, McNew and Stern describe how it does that by accelerating progression through the early phase.

“Similarly, our data suggests that decreases in synaptic transmission, as occurs in our HSP insect model, likewise triggers degeneration by accelerating progression through the early phase,” McNew said. “Our NIH grant was funded so that we could learn the mechanism by which that occurs.”

Now that they clearly understand that two phases of degeneration exist, Stern said he and McNew would like to carry out more experiments to see how the effects of specific genes on degeneration are altered when they are activated in the early and late phases.

“What we would like to do in the last two years of the grant is to obtain data to test some of the predictions we have made, which will help determine if the ideas we have presented are likely to be correct,” Stern said.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R01-NS102676).

Criteria to Ensure Preparedness of Federal Programs

The Strategic Stockpile Failed; Experts Propose New Approach to Emergency Preparedness

A new analysis of the United States government’s response to COVID-19 highlights myriad problems with an approach that relied, in large part, on international supply chains and the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). A panel of academic and military experts is instead calling for a more dynamic, flexible approach to emergency preparedness at the national level.

“When COVID-19 hit, the U.S. was unable to provide adequate testing supplies and equipment, unable to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and didn’t have a functioning plan,” says Rob Handfield, first author of the study and Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at North Carolina State University.

“The SNS hadn’t replenished some of its supplies since the H1N1 pandemic in 2009-10. Many of its supplies were expired. And there was no clear leadership. Federal authorities punted problems to the states, leaving states to fight each other for limited resources. And the result was chaos.

“We need to be talking about this now, because the nation needs to be better prepared next time. And there is always a next time.”

To that end, Handfield and collaborators from NC State, Arizona State University, the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force’s Contracting Career Field Management Team came together to outline the components that are necessary to ensure that there is an adequate federal response to future health crises. They determined that an effective federal program needs to address five criteria:

1). More Flexibility: In order to respond to unanticipated threats, any government system needs to have sufficient market intelligence to insure that it has lots of options, relationships and suppliers across the private sector for securing basic needs. 

“You can’t stockpile supplies for every possible contingency,” Handfield says.

2). Inventory Visibility: The government would need to know what supplies it has, where those supplies are, and when those supplies expire. Ideally, it would also know which supplies are available in what amounts in the private sector, as well as how quickly it could purchase those supplies.

“The same is true on the demand side,” Handfield says. “What do people need? Where? When?”

3). Responsiveness: The governmental institution overseeing emergency preparation needs to have leadership that can review information as it becomes available and work with experts to secure and distribute supplies efficiently. This would be an ongoing process, rather than a system that is put in place only in the event of crises.

4). Global Independence: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that the U.S. has outsourced manufacturing of critical biomedical materiel, because it was cheaper. Authorities need to consider investing in domestic manufacturing of PPE, testing supplies and equipment, pharmaceutical chemicals, syringes, and other biomedical supplies.

“The past year has really driven home the consequences of being dependent on other nations to meet basic needs during a pandemic,” Handfield says. “Relying largely on the least expensive suppliers for a given product has consequences.”

5). Equitable: The government needs to ensure that supplies get to where they are most needed in order to reduce the infighting and hoarding that we’ve seen in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A first step here is to settle on a way of determining how to prioritize needs and how we would define an equitable allocation and distribution of supplies,” Handfield says.

The last ingredient is bureaucratic: Coordinating all five of these components should be done by a permanent team that is focused solely on national preparation and ensuring that the relevant federal agencies are all on the same page.

“This is a fundamental shift away from the static approach of the SNS,” Handfield says. “We need to begin exploring each of these components in more detail – and defining what a governing structure would look like. We don’t know how long we’ll have until we face another crisis.”

The paper, “A Commons for a Supply Chain in the Post-COVID-19 Era: The Case for a Reformed Strategic National Stockpile,” is published open access in The Milbank Quarterly. The paper was co-authored by Blanton Godfrey, the Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professor in NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles; Major Daniel Finkenstadt of the Naval Postgraduate School; Eugene Schneller of Arizona State; and Peter Guinto of the Air Force’s Contracting Career Field Management Team.

Annual Fundraiser for Teen Cancer America

“TEA WITH VICTORIA SUMMER” FEATURING SHERYL CROW, ALFIE BOE AND LESLEY NICOL TO BENEFIT TEEN CANCER AMERICA 

Virtual British Tea, Presented by Lawrence Charles of Charles& Co. and First Citizens Bank, Goes Global on Saturday, Dec. 12

Actress Victoria Summer will host her third annual British Tea for Teen Cancer America on Saturday, December 12, in a virtual online setting that will feature Grammy winner Sheryl Crow, Tony Award winner Alfie Boe and actress Lesley Nicol, known for her portrayal of the manor chef Mrs. Patmore on the Emmy-winning series Downton Abbey.

“Tea with Victoria Summer,” beginning in the U.S. at 3 p.m. ET, will give guests exclusive insight to the timeless British tradition of afternoon tea. The live-streamed global event will raise critical funds for TCA, the national non-profit co-founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, providing facilities and support for adolescents and young adults with cancer.

The interactive tea party will include a master class in making vegan scones from scratch with Italian Michelin star chef Fabrizio Vaccaro. There will also be primer on proper tea etiquette with William Hanson, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and regarded as Great Britain’s most trusted authority on etiquette and civility.

This special event is presented by Lawrence Charles, founder of organic luxury tea brand Charles & Company, and TCA corporate partner First Citizens Bank. Ticket information is available at the fundraiser’s Eventbrite page.

Attendees will learn how to make a tea cocktail with Charles, a preeminent tea purveyor and international expert in the tradition of British tea. Charles is known for his collaborations with the James Beard Foundation, British Polo Day, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the British Royal family.  

The work of TCA will be highlighted in a conversation between Victoria Summer and a young cancer survivor who will share personal experiences and sing a duet with the hostess.

Summer, a global ambassador for TCA, began her career on stage before transitioning to film acting where she has achieved international stardom. She played Julie Andrews in Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, was featured in director Michael Bay’s blockbuster, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and starred opposite Chris Klein in the World War One drama, Game of Aces. Summer recently shot a supporting role in the period TV drama, Glow & Darkness, and starts shooting indie biopic Vindication Swim in the UK in January. The actress and producer also created the show Next Generation Role Model which shines the spotlight on leaders of the future. 

TCA’s mission is to improve the experience, outcomes and survival of teens and young adults with cancer by providing programs and specialized facilities designed especially for them in hospitals throughout the U.S.

For information about corporate sponsorship opportunities connected to “Tea with Victoria Summer,” please contact Michelle Aland at  Michelle@TeenCancerAmerica.org.

About Teen Cancer America

Teen Cancer America seeks to bridge the gap between pediatric and adult oncology care by helping the health providers and health systems develop specialized programs and facilities for this age group. TCA brings together physicians and allied healthcare professionals in both pediatric and adult oncology. Age-targeted care for this population is necessary for medical and appropriate psychosocial development. Outcomes associated with some cancers that target this age group have not improved in over 30 years. Teens and young adults with cancer are long overdue for an upgrade and TCA can hopefully light the fire in America’s health systems. For more information, email Michelle Aland (michelle@teencanceramerica.org) or visit www.teencanceramerica.org.

Pfizer coronavirus vaccination article illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Pfizer × BioNTech near historic vaccine

By Althea Champion

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. If approved, it could potentially be available to the public by early December, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The results came out of Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial, which involved 40,000 individuals. Of those participating, 94 contracted COVID-19. These results, like much of 2020, are historic. Vaccines have never been developed on such a fast-moving timeline. The last vaccine that was developed in such considerable haste was for mumps, and it took four years.

Pfizer says that they plan to ask the Federal Drug Administration for emergency use by the end of the month. The vaccine will require two doses administered three weeks apart. The company hopes to have enough doses for 25 million people by the end of the year, and 650 million people in 2021.

In the case that the vaccine supply is limited, the C.D.C. will first vaccinate healthcare personnel, essential workers, people who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, as well as those 65 years and older.

An expedited timeline does not mean drug companies are cutting corners. Fauci, like many of his colleagues in Washington, assures that manufacturers will stick to a process of vaccine development that ensures the safety of patients. The FDA will still make the final call.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, in Pfizer’s press release. “The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

However, a few questions remain unanswered.

“Historically, important scientific announcements about vaccines are made through peer-reviewed medical research papers that have undergone extensive scrutiny about study design, results and assumptions,” writes Arthur Allen in the Opinion section of the NYT. “Not through company press releases.”

According to Allen, it is unclear from the press release how long Pfizer’s vaccine will keep patients protected, if it is safe for high-risk populations like the elderly, or if rare side effects can arise in patients who are vaccinated. He notes that the Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur vaccines may be safer for older patients.

Novavax and Sanofi Pasteur are subunit vaccines, like the hepatitis B vaccine. They deliver only the essential antigens of the virus to the immune system, so it learns how to attack it. Because it is only a part, or a subunit, of the virus, fewer side effects are likely.

Pfizer’s is a nucleic acid vaccine that uses RNA. According to the Washington Post, “this type of vaccine contains a strip of genetic material within a fat bubble” that enters the cell. Once inside, “the RNA generates a protein found on the surface of the virus.” It can then familiarize itself with the virus and learn how to fight it.

Moderna’s vaccine is also an RNA vaccine in Phase 3 trials. Pfizer’s success bodes very well for Moderna, according to a statement Fauci made to CNN.

Furthermore, because the vaccine must be stored in extremely low temperatures—on dry ice at negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Washington Post—its roll-out becomes complicated. If left out in the sun, or just at room temperature, or even at just below freezing, the mRNA self-destructs and the vaccine becomes useless.

Shortly after Pfizer’s announcement, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation, warned of the “dark winter” ahead, and urged Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to wear a mask until the vaccine is available.

The head of the C.D.C. warned this fall, that “for the foreseeable future, a mask remains the most potent weapon against the virus,” he said from the podium. “Today’s news does not change that urgent reality.”

Loose Standards Undermined Research on COVID-19 Test Accuracy

The COVID-19 pandemic was met with a rush of research on the many factors related to the crisis, including the accuracy of different testing methods. However, many of the studies conducted in the early stages of the pandemic did not meet the usual rigorous scientific standards, according to researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine.

In “The estimation of diagnostic accuracy of tests for COVID-19: A scoping review,” which will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Infection, authors Dierdre Axell-House, Richa Lavingia, Megan Rafferty, Eva Clark, E. Susan Amirian and Elizabeth Chiao found that better-designed studies are needed to appropriately evaluate the different types of COVID-19 tests.

They reviewed 49 articles published between Dec. 31, 2019, and June 19, 2020, that evaluated the validity of different types of coronavirus testing. These studies were assessed using elements of the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2) guidelines, which are used to evaluate if bias could be playing a role in the results of studies on diagnostic test accuracy.

Amirian, an epidemiologist at Rice’s Texas Policy Lab (TPL), said when it comes to conducting studies on testing accuracy, design is critically important. She said the major limitations found in the design of most of the studies they examined could lead to erroneous or misleading results.

“Without rigorous evaluations of which tests are the most accurate, it’s hard to know which tests are more likely to lead to false negatives, which could contribute to greater spread of the virus,” said Rafferty, a health data analyst at the TPL. “Although it’s difficult to say, some of the quality issues may have resulted from these studies being streamlined in response to the immediate need for timely information.”

“COVID-19 has now been a health crisis for nearly a year,” Amirian said. “With regard to research, the academic community needs to move away from being in acute emergency mode and think about how we’re going to handle this as a chronic crisis. When researchers are in emergency mode, we tend to be more open to sacrificing a lot of the strict quality standards for conducting research that we usually uphold.”

The paper is available online here.

Four reasons why Original Medicare is too expensive

By Christian Worstell, licensed insurance agent and Senior Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com.

As the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period approaches (AEP, also called the fall Medicare Open Enrollment Period), some Medicare beneficiaries may think the enrollment period for private Medicare plans is not relevant to them because they can’t afford a private Medicare plan. I’m here to tell you otherwise. It may actually be Original Medicare that you can’t afford.

There are at least four reasons why Original Medicare — Part A and Part B — may actually be harsher on your wallet than private Medicare plans like a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan or a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

1. Original Medicare doesn’t have an annual out-of-pocket spending limit

Original Medicare offers a lot of benefits. But one thing you won’t find is an out-of-pocket spending limit for all those benefits.

Neither Medicare Part A nor Part B contain an annual out-of-pocket spending limit. That means there is no limit to the amount of money you can spend on Medicare deductibles, copayments and coinsurance over the course of the year. Depending on what types of health care services you need, these costs can add up quickly. Meanwhile, privately sold Medicare Advantage plans are required by law to include an annual out-of-pocket spending limit. For 2021, this limit is $7,550 for the year. And due to market competition, some plans may feature limits that are less than that amount. 

Once you spend $7,500 on deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for qualified care, your plan pays for 100% of your out-of-pocket costs for covered care for the remainder of the year. 

2. Many Medicare Advantage plans feature $0 premiums

90% of Medicare Advantage plans in 2020 include prescription drug coverage. These plans are called Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plans. In 2020, nearly half (49%) of all MA-PD plans came with no monthly premium. If you have a $0 premium Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, the only monthly premium you likely have to pay is your Medicare Part B premium, which you would still have to pay anyway if you stick with Original Medicare. (Most beneficiaries aren’t required to pay a Part A premium. If you are, you’d still have to pay those premiums if you have a $0 premium Medicare Advantage plan). 

So with a $0 premium MA-PD plan, there’s no extra monthly premium for you to pay. Your premiums are the same as they would be in Original Medicare.

3. Many Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits 

For as much as Original Medicare covers, it has several glaring holes: it doesn’t typically cover routine dental or vision coverage, and it doesn’t typically offer prescription drug coverage. 

But dental, vision and prescription drug coverage are three extra benefits that some Medicare Advantage plans may offer. As mentioned above, 9 in 10 Medicare Advantage plans covered prescription drugs in 2020. If you are enrolled only in Original Medicare, how — and how much — are you paying for things like routine dental care, vision care and prescriptions? 

A Medicare Advantage plan that bundles these benefits into one plan may be more cost effective for you.

4. Medicare drug coverage can help you save money

I mentioned drug coverage above, but given the skyrocketing cost of medications, it’s worth repeating. Paying for your prescription drugs entirely out of pocket can put you at a substantial financial risk. Medicare beneficiaries have two choices for Medicare drug coverage: enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage, or enroll in a standalone Medicare Part D plan. Both offer prescription drug coverage with typically low copayments for generic drugs. 

Depending on the plans available where you live, you may be able to find a plan that offers more benefits at the same monthly premium cost with annual spending protection. If you think the Annual Enrollment Period doesn’t apply to you because Original Medicare is all you can afford, you may want to think again.

Doctor, Coronavirus, Health, Vaughn Lowery, 360 Magazine,

Austin Adventure’s Essential Service Providers Contest

Austin Adventures Awards Free Vacation to Texan COVID-19 Nurse Through Essential Service Providers Contest

Top-rated travel company Austin Adventures has acknowledged a winner for their friendly Essential Service Providers contest which honored heroic workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The lucky recipient of an all-inclusive five-day vacation from Austin Adventures is Debora Ybarra, a nurse assigned to the coronavirus intensive care unit at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

To honor Ybarra’s dedicated work in the healthcare field, she was awarded a 2021 trip for four guests to Yellowstone National Park, planned and guided by Austin Adventures. The announcement was made on Oct. 16, 2020, over a live Zoom call by Dan Austin, founder and director of the decorated Austin Adventures company operating out of Billings, Mont.

“While we may never be able to thank Debora enough for her personal sacrifice and dedication, we do hope our adventure vacation into the natural beauty of Yellowstone helps her recharge and heal,” adds Austin.

Ybarra’s name was chosen from a drawing that included 24 other finalists from around the country. By working with Life is Good partners, these top nominees will receive a Life is Good High Sierra backpack full of Austin Adventures and Life is Good swag.

Like many who were nominated, Ybarra has worked tirelessly tending to patients diagnosed with the coronavirus disease. Before the pandemic spread, she dedicated over 20 years volunteering her medical skills around the country and the world assisting natural disaster victims in southern United States, Haiti and Puerto Rico. She also fulfilled needs in Mexico and South America. Ybarra recently finished work to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and is completing her doctorate degree.

Ybarra was one among a total of 156 outstanding nominations in Austin Adventures’ Essential Service Providers contest. All of these contenders, including the top 24 nominees, will receive a gift certificate for a $500 discount on a future Austin Adventures trip. This opportunity to recognize brave individuals was created by Austin Adventures in early June 2020 while the company rolled out many other consumer-focused initiatives amidst the pandemic.

“We wanted to recognize those selfless individuals who never rested or who didn’t have the luxury of sheltering in place,” said Austin. “America’s essential workers have and will continue to sacrifice their health and their family time for the rest of us. This is our way of saying thank you.”

Austin Adventures has and continues to prioritize optimism and transparency whether or not facing a difficult travel season. This year Austin Adventures offered unique additional domestic trip options to sustain travel in the United States as well as implemented safe travel procedures for guests and guides and lightened its cancelation policies. They stuck to the A, B, C’s of the business by Anticipating, Being Honest and Communicating with guests and supporting travel agents by giving 50% of commission at the time of bookings.

About Austin Adventures
Austin Adventures has spent 40 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, small group and multisport tours for adults and families of the world’s most captivating destinations. With cruises and accommodations on seven continents, they have been recognized twice by Travel + Leisure Magazine with the prestigious World’s Best Awards along with other national media accolades and distinctions. Austin Adventures has perfected the art of creating itineraries featuring exceptional regional dining, distinctive accommodations, incredible guides and exhilarating activities, all while keeping all-inclusive rates and services the norm. In addition to scheduled group departures, Austin Adventures has developed a reputation as the leader in customized trip planning and execution supported by the industry’s best money-back satisfaction guarantee. Austin Adventures is a Virtuoso Preferred Tour Operator.

Follow Austin Adventures:
Website: http://www.austinadventures.com
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Steps Linked to Reduced Medical Costs

Proactive Steps Linked To Reduced Medical Costs, Hospital Visits for Children With Asthma

A new study looking at data from tens of thousands of children with asthma finds that several widely available interventions are associated with both reduced medical costs and a reduced likelihood that the children will need to visit an emergency room or stay in the hospital.

“This work shows that you can improve the quality of life for children with asthma and you can reduce government spending by implementing these proactive interventions,” says Julie Swann, lead author of the study. Swann is the department head and A. Doug Allison Distinguished Professor of the Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University.

The researchers looked at data from 2010 and 2011 on more than 70,000 children with asthma enrolled in the Medicaid programs in New York and Michigan. The researchers focused on four interventions: asthma self-management education (ASME); flu vaccine; the use of spacers, which are low-cost plastic tubes that improve the performance of inhalers; and the use of nebulizers, which are devices that convert liquid medicine into an aerosol that patients can inhale.

Specifically, the researchers analyzed the data to understand the extent to which each of these interventions was associated with three outcomes: asthma-related visits to the emergency room; asthma-related visits to a primary-care physician; and asthma-related stays in the hospital. The researchers also assessed the extent to which each intervention influenced costs associated with each child’s asthma medication and so-called “utilization costs” – which are the costs associated with other aspects of a child’s asthma treatment, such as the cost of visiting a primary-care provider or hospital.

To address these questions, the researchers plugged the healthcare data into models that allowed them to assess the impact of each intervention separately, compared to no intervention.

“One of the key findings, which should be of interest to policymakers, is that all four interventions were associated with lower medication costs and utilization costs,” Swann says.

And while the numbers varied between states, the decreases in cost could be substantial. For example, being vaccinated against the flu was associated with a 16.4% reduction in utilization expenses and a 15.6% reduction in medication expenses for children in New York. 

“There can be significant cost reductions associated with a fairly inexpensive intervention,” Swann says.

“Our results suggest that ASME training, and the use of spacers and nebulizers, are also associated with significant decreases in both emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” says study co-author Pinar Keskinocak. “And the flu vaccine helps reduce the number of visits to a child’s primary care provider.” Keskinocak is the William W. George Chair and Professor in Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech.

“It’s important to note that we looked at the impact of these outcomes separately while accounting for other interventions,” Swann says. “You would expect that the more of these proactive interventions a child has, the greater the positive impact we would expect to see on both their health and on what Medicaid would be asked to spend on their care.”

The study, “Estimating the Impact of Self-Management Education, Influenza Vaccines, Nebulizers, and Spacers on Healthcare Utilization and Expenditures for Medicaid-Enrolled Children with Asthma,” is published in the Journal of Asthma.

The paper was co-authored by Fatma Melike Yildirim, a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech; Paul Griffin, the St. Vincent Health Chair of Healthcare Engineering at Purdue University; and Jean O’Connor of Emory University.

The work was done with support from the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems and the William W. George Endowment at Georgia Tech, and the Edward P. Fitts and the A. Doug Allison Distinguished Professorship at NC State.

Breast Cancer Illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 Magazine

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are many ways to support the cause this month. This annual campaign is held to both spread awareness and raise money for the cause. 

The website for the National Breast Cancer Foundation provides many resources to help with this cause. Although things are challenging for everyone this year, this important organization has been fighting for women since 1993 and continues to thrive thanks to its supporters. 

New this year on the foundation’s website anyone is able to designate a donation to one of four specific causes. Donations are being accepted to screening, education, support and the general fund. 

The screening fund allows the National Mammography and Patient Navigation programs to provide free cancer screenings and mammograms to those in need; this helps remove barriers in the cancer care system. By donating to education, more women will be given resources and education to detect breast cancer early and lower their risk. To help women that have been diagnosed, donating to the support services will help them gain resources and support they need to heal. This money goes to funding HOPE Kits, Metastatic Retreats and Support Groups.

If you are unsure which program you would like to donate to, giving to the general fund allows the National Breast Cancer Foundation to designate your donation to the area they believe needs it most. You can even donate in honor or memory of someone in your life that has been impacted by breast cancer. 

The National Breast Cancer Foundation is sharing stories of hope through October. They are sharing stories of hope of survivors and those impacted by breast cancer. Stories and photos can be submitted here. This is a great way to spread hope and positive messages to those struggling with breast cancer and their loved ones. 

Available for download from the foundation is the Breast Problems That Aren’t Breast Cancer ebook. This free resource will help women recognize common problems versus breast problems that need to be looked at by a professional. 

Breast cancer screenings are important for women to get regularly so they can detect problems from the start. The United States Preventive Services recommends women ages 50 to 74 get screened every two years, while women 40 to 49 should talk to their doctor about getting screened sooner if they are at higher risk. Self-examinations are recommended for all women to check that there is no concern. 

The American Cancer Society has been hosting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for over twenty years. This walk helps fundraise for research and support for breast cancer patients. Even though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has canceled many events, the walk will still be taking place virtually. Donations are still being accepted and people everywhere will be coming together virtually to support the cause. 

Ways to volunteer with the National Breast Cancer Foundation are being moved virtually as well. This is a great way to give back in October instead of donating. People everywhere are helping to pack HOPE Kits for women in treatment and write encouragement cards to put in the kits. There are many ways to help in the month of October to spread awareness about breast cancer and give hope to those in need.

The non-profit organization, Susan G. Komen for the cure, also supports women with breast cancer and their families. On their website, women can find information, resources and assistance to help them with their journey. Founded in 1982 by Nancy Brinker, is the largest breast cancer organization in America.