Friday, January 30, 2015

Health Care and Private Health Exchanges

The world is changing for healthcare in large part due to the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as it is known in the common tongue. One of the key elements currently driving the market is the concepts of health exchanges, both public and private. The public exchanges are run by several of the states, and the federal government also has one that has been historically problematic. However, this material is dedicated to private exchanges in the commercial business market.

According to MCOL, private health insurance exchanges are gaining currency as a way for employers to cut health care costs, reduce their administrative burden and increase the benefit choices they offer to covered employees. Multiple studies now indicate that U.S. employers are increasingly looking at private exchange options for both active and retired employees. Brokers, consultants, payers and other intermediaries offer private exchanges, but a mix of vested interests is at play among these service providers.

The second annual study by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC) affirms a continuing interest in private exchanges among employers. The national survey, based on the responses of 446 employers, reports heightened interest on the part of employers in private exchanges as a strategy for full-time active and retirees, but the potential transition must address a number of critical considerations. The survey is also the first national assessment that specifically captures the experience of early adopters of both private exchanges for active employees as well as retirees.

Private exchanges are flexible and can be customized to address the needs of any employer group, unlike public exchanges, which are targeted to individuals and small groups, according to Booz & Company. For instance, private exchanges can design benefits tiers specific to employer segments with robust multichannel employee decision support. Another advantage is that private exchanges can offer a broader range of retail products, such as dental and life insurance and even non-insurance products, than public exchanges can. Two private exchange models are emerging:

Single-carrier exchanges: These exchanges are promoted by a single payor and target employers that wish to maintain some role in choosing both the insurance carrier and plan design. Depending on how involved employers want to be in benefits design and negotiation, products may be customized and priced for the employee group or individuals.

Multi-carrier exchanges: These exchanges, predominantly promoted by third-party intermediaries such as brokers or benefits consultants, will provide a broad range of payor and plan design options and encourage employers to take a more hands-off role. For payors, multi-carrier exchanges that list individual prod­ucts on a menu of offerings pose com­moditization risk that could squeeze payor margins.

According to Array Health, purchasing health insurance through a private exchange will become the new normal as more and more employers move to defined contribution plans and customers become much more comfortable taking more of an active role in selecting and personalizing their health coverage. However, insured's need to educate themselves and understand how the system really works. Hopefully this technology will help, but if insured's do not have "Skin in the Game" they will continue the life habits that cause high claims.

At the end of the day it’s still a matter of premium in vs claims paid out. Exchanges are good at lowering the premium side of the equation by offering less expensive plans for the low utilizers to take advantage of. However, the exchange really doesn't impact the cost impact of the heavy utilizers who really drive the overall cost of the employer’s plan. If premium goes down and claims stay the same the outcome is obvious. To cut costs, you have to cut claims - pure and simple.

According to Forbes Magazine, a recent report by the Kaiser Foundation underscores one such lesson – the growing take up of private exchanges has the potential to be a catalyst for some major revolutions in our health care system. In 2014, about 2.5 million people across companies of all sizes will be enrolled in health insurance through so-called private exchanges. These are analogous in some ways to ObamaCare’s state and federal-based health insurance exchanges but instead are run by private consultancies like Aon Hewitt or Mercer.

The Kaiser report also notes that consultancies Accenture and Oliver Wyman both predict somewhere around 40 million enrollment by 2018. If these projections bear out, that would make the private employer exchange market about 24 percent of the total employer market, based on CBO projections. Much more detail on this info can be found at this site: .

But not all employers are wild about the private exchange approach. The National Business Coalition on Health produced a survey the organization said “resoundingly” rejects private exchanges as a way to control rising health care costs, according to Forbes Magazine. Though the language in the coalition’s release was strong, its survey showed 5 percent of more than 330 employers already use a private exchange and “8 percent are considering such a move within the next three years.”

NBCH said 55 percent of respondents will “never” stop sponsoring health coverage in favor of giving employees money to buy through a private exchange. More material on this topic is available at this website: .
According to Benefits Pro, Bruce Hentschel leads strategy development for the Specialty Benefits Division of the Principal Financial Group, and writes that private exchanges are here to stay; but for advisors and their small employer clients, questions still remain about their value. Is the opportunity they offer more myth than reality? Likely, the answer is a bit of both. If you are participating or plan to participate in one or more private exchanges, here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

·         Define your strategy first and then seek an exchange that provides the best fit. There are dozens of types of exchanges all designed to meet different types of objectives, at varying levels of sophistication, service and support. For example, some generate a quote for an employer; others don’t. Some offer ongoing benefit data management; some don’t. Some use defined contribution concepts exclusively; others don’t offer defined contribution at all.

·         Practice due diligence. Even some of the best and most successful exchanges lack the necessary infrastructure to allow for scale and administrative simplification.

·         Experiment, and don’t be afraid to switch exchanges if the one you’re working with isn’t meeting your needs. Yes, they can be time-consuming and potentially expensive to implement. But, it’s okay to “fail fast and fail cheap” versus dumping additional time, resources and/or money into an exchange that doesn’t really get the result you desire.

Private exchanges will go through tremendous change and in a relatively short period of time, and the options will eventually narrow down to a few winning models. For more details, visit this website:

Employers must review material and the value proposition for any participation in the private exchange market. Granted, more transparency and education are needed. Brokers can play a big part with those opportunities. If you are considering transferring your health care business for you and your employees into a private health exchange, it pays to do your homework and listen to trusted experts in the field. Don’t go it alone, or you could find yourself with more issues than you imagined.

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Health Care and Leukemia

One of the most dreaded diagnoses you can get from your doctor, and one that everyone fears, is the word cancer. In particular, those who are diagnosed with Leukemia have a difficult time understanding why and how they contract this disease. Children can be especially hard hit with various types of leukemia; but caught early enough, the outcome can be very positive.

Leukemia is cancer of the body's blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Many types of leukemia exist. Some forms of leukemia are more common in children. Other forms of leukemia occur mostly in adults. The disease starts in the white blood cells; in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells, which don't properly function.

According to the Leukemia Research Foundation, every four minutes, someone is diagnosed with blood cancer – more than 176,000 new cases are expected this year in the United States. More than 310,000 Americans are living with leukemia. This disease causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults under the age of 20; however, leukemia is diagnosed 10 times more often in adults than children. Every day 143 Americans are diagnosed with leukemia, and 66 lose the fight. Much more detailed material can be found at this website: .

The exact cause of leukemia is unknown. Different kinds of leukemia are believed to have different causes. Both inherited and environmental (non-inherited) factors are believed to be involved. Risk factors include smoking, ionizing radiation, some chemicals (such as benzene), prior chemotherapy, and Down syndrome. People with a family history of leukemia are also at higher risk.

There are four main types of leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), as well as a number of less common types. Leukemia is part of a broader group of neoplasms which affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphoid system, known as tumors of the hematopoietic and lymphoid tissues.

Treatment may involve some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and bone marrow transplant, in addition to supportive care and palliative care as needed. Certain types of leukemia may be managed with watchful waiting. The success of treatment depends on the type of leukemia and the age of the person.

The average five-year survival rate is 57% in the United States. In children under 15, the five-year survival is greater than 60 to 85%, depending on the type of leukemia. In people with acute leukemia who are cancer-free after five years, the cancer is unlikely to return. More details on Leukemia can be located at this site: .

According to the American Cancer Fund, leukemia symptoms can vary widely, depending on the type of leukemia you have. Common leukemia symptoms include:

·         Fever or chills 
·         Recurrent nosebleeds
·         Persistent fatigue, weakness
·         Frequent or severe infections
·         Bone pain or tenderness
·         Losing weight without trying
·         Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
·         Easy bleeding or bruising
·         Excessive sweating, especially at night

Leukemia symptoms are often vague and not specific. You may overlook early leukemia symptoms because they may resemble symptoms of the flu and other common illnesses.
Rarely, leukemia may be discovered during blood tests for some other condition. Much more info on this topic can be found at this site: .

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), also called acute lymphocytic leukemia or acute lymphoid leukemia, is a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. About 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALL each year. It is the most common type of leukemia in children under age 15. However, it can affect people of any age. The cause of ALL is unknown, according to the National Cancer Institute.

If you are diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia, or an immune system or genetic disease, a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT) may be a treatment option for you. Learning more about your disease and treatment options will help you make informed decisions about your care. A significant amount of material concerning this disease can also be found at this site:  

ALL progresses rapidly, replacing healthy cells that produce functional lymphocytes with leukemia cells that can't mature properly, according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The leukemia cells are carried in the bloodstream to other organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, lymph nodes and testes, where they continue to grow and divide. The growing, dividing and spreading of these leukemia cells may result in a number of possible symptoms. You can find options for treatment and more at this website: .

It is impossible in one short article to discuss all the ramifications about leukemia, its affect on your body, and possible outcomes. The list of websites in this information can serve as an initial guide to help with how to begin researching more options and resources to know more about leukemia. If you feel that you or someone you know may be experiencing certain health issues symptomatic to this disease, visit your health care provider or family physician for a more thorough diagnosis. The sooner you can begin treatment, the better opportunity you have for long term survival. Always consult a doctor or trained medical practitioner for any problems regarding your health.

Until next time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Health Care and Anti-Aging

Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, mankind has been looking for ways to stop the aging process. Although the life span thousands of years ago when they were around was hundreds of years, the thought lingering in the back of everyone’s mind at some point was “How do I get rid of these wrinkles?” Well, when you’re 698, likely you look like a Sharpei anyway. However, since the average life span today is typically in the 70’s for most people, looking younger is much more of an issue.

The process of turning back the clock for your skin starts when you’re young—stay out of the sun, don’t go to the tanning booth so much, and eat healthy food. Most 6 year olds aren’t that concerned about frown lines, age spots, and crowfeet around the eyes; but when people get into their twenties, the need to suppress the aging process becomes much more critical. Too much exposure to UVA and UVB rays, smoking, drinking alcohol, stress, less sleep, and bad food all start to add up to damaging your health.

At the risk of sounding vain, the need to look younger is very common among most adults. What’s the secret to great hair, pore-free complexion, or flawless teeth? Everyone wants to have the inside scoop. And, since no one has yet been able to locate the Fountain of Youth, the best way to begin the process of looking younger is going to be found in common sense and some practical application of products designed to help you do just that.

According to, “anti-inflammatories are the best anti-agers out there. From improving heart and immune functions to helping hair grow and skin look supple, they truly do wonders.” Also, another tip is to avoid processed sugar in your diet. The reason: It speeds up the aging process by binding to and eventually weakening the collagen in your skin, which can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging.

For better looking teeth, you can snack on anything with malic acid—like strawberries, apples, and grapes—which act as a natural tooth cleanser and help break down stains. Coffee has the same affect on staining teeth. Avoid drinking a lot over a long period of time at one sitting, especially if you use cream or sugar. Plus, blow drying your hair damages it over time. Put a small amount of conditioner or treatment mask into damp hair before blow-drying. The conditioner not only tames fly-aways and frizz but also provides serious hydration. 

Additionally, Q-tips and cotton balls will only get you so far—you need the right gadgets to get gorgeous. These essentials make it easy to look flawless. So, stock your beauty kit now. For many more anti-aging tips, visit this website:,,20306759,00.html .

Also, if you want an entire video library on anti-aging secrets, you can always visit Dr. Oz’s recommendations on his website: . Dr. Oz has cutting-edge information on anti-aging techniques and guidelines. Learn how to slow aging from the inside out! Plus, get pertinent information on beauty products, supplements, diet and nutrition, mental health, and fitness routines to turn back the clock.

As well, be careful not to overuse retinol based products for your skin. Vitamin-A derivatives [like retinol and the widely prescribed Retin-A] are strong molecules that focus on short-term results, over-stimulating the skin without considering the long-term consequences. This is not a sustainable approach for beauty and youth, according to Simon Erani, the founder and CEO of The Somme Institute in New York, and reported on Into The

According to information on this website: ,   “The only problem with those drugs is that women’s skin is already considerably thinner than men’s, and these medications take off the top layer—so you’ve lost the first or second layer of your skin, and though your skin looks fresh and bright and great, it can actually get worse. With repeated use, retinol products begin to thin out your skin and will eventually make you more susceptible to UVA rays. If you're not wearing adequate SPF all the time, with passing years you’ll have more melasma, more discoloration... Plus, they can be way too harsh on the skin, even if you don’t feel the redness.”

From Dr. Elizabeth Hale, vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation and a Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Langone Medical Center “…there’s two types of aging of the skin: intrinsic aging, which would happen if you lived in a vacuum or a bubble, and then there’s extrinsic, which is sun-exposure and smoking, which accelerate your skin’s break-down. I’m a believer in prevention, even in your twenties, so that you can age gracefully and naturally, versus trying to reverse the signs of UV exposure or smoking later on. The number one thing you can do is just wear sunscreen. Every single day. Ninety percent of the signs of premature aging come from UV exposure.”

According to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, around the world, people are seeking medical guidance for ways to stay healthy, active, and vital well into their older years. As a result, the principles of the anti-aging lifestyle are gaining rapid and widespread acceptance as a framework for lifelong habits for healthy living. Anti-aging medicine is the pinnacle of biotechnology joined with advanced clinical preventive medicine.

The specialty is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases. It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans. As such, anti-aging medicine is based on principles of sound and responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties.

The anti-aging medical model aims to both extend lifespan as well as prolong healthspan - the length of time that people are able to live productively and independently. Much more material about this topic is located at this site: .

For seniors, the need and desire to turn back the aging clock is even greater. According to a study on physical activities in the senior population by Humboldt University, “Running mitigates the age-related deterioration of walking economy whereas walking for exercise appears to have minimal effect on the age-related deterioration in walking economy.”  Active seniors who regularly run or walk experience a definite difference in aging over those who are sedentary. For more details, visit this website: .

Aging happens. What you can do about it to either slow down or mask the process is literally based on your lifestyle, medicine and certain products, and your genes. Inevitably, at some point, you are going to be old. Looking old and acting old are not always the same thing. Remember, the older you get, the more responsibility you have to take care of yourself so that the features you were given at birth are still recognizable when you come to the end of life.

Until next time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Health Care and Phlebitis

When individuals have medical issues with veins that get inflamed, the pain can be severe. Inflammation of veins is called phlebitis. Typically, it is not life threatening if treated right away and can be easily cured in many cases. The inflammation may cause pain and swelling.
Superficial phlebitis affects veins on the skin surface. The condition is rarely serious and is usually resolved with local treatment of the inflammation with warm compresses and anti-inflammatory medications.

However, more severe cases of inflammation in veins may be caused by a blood clot. When the inflammation is caused by a blood clot or thrombus, it is called thrombophlebitis and usually occurs in leg veins; but it may also affect the veins in the arms. There are two sets of veins in the arms and legs, 1) the superficial veins that run just under the skin, and 2) the deep veins.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, symptoms depend on the location of the inflammation. Superficial phlebitis can cause symptoms such as:

·         Redness along the path of the vein
·         Warmth, tenderness, or swelling in affected area
·         Itching or burning in affected area
·         Low-grade fever.

These symptoms may feel worse when the affected area (such as a leg) is lowered, particularly in the morning. Superficial phlebitis is uncomfortable but rarely serious. If clotting occurs, the inflamed vein will feel like a hard string or cord under the skin, and won't collapse like a normal varicose vein.

Deep vein thrombophlebitis often causes no symptoms at all. When it does, symptoms include warmth, redness, and swelling in the affected limb. Deep vein thrombophlebitis is dangerous because the blood clot lodged in the vein (called a deep venous thrombosis or DVT) can break free and travel to a person's lungs, a situation that is often fatal. Chest pain and shortness of breath are early signs that this has occurred. Much more detail on this topic can be found at this website: .

The following, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), increase your chances for thrombophlebitis:

·         Being hospitalized for a major surgery or with a major illness
·         Disorders that make you more likely to develop blood clots
·         Sitting for a long period of time (such as on a long airplane trip)

Your health care provider can usually diagnose the condition based on how the affected area looks. You may need to have your pulse, blood pressure, temperature, skin condition, and circulation frequently checked to make sure you don't have complications. If the cause cannot be easily identified, one or more of the following tests may be done:

·         Blood coagulation studies
·         Doppler ultrasound
·         Venography

Thrombophlebitis and other forms of phlebitis usually respond to prompt medical treatment, according to the NIH. More detailed material can be found by visiting this site: .

According to New York University (NYU) Medical School, some factors that increase your chance of developing superficial phlebitis include:

·         Trauma especially to the lower leg
·         Blood clotting disorder
·         Sitting for long periods of time, such as riding in a car or on an airplane
·         Prolonged bed rest
·         Prior episodes of phlebitis
·         Certain cancers
·         Paralysis, which may be caused by a stroke
·         Family history of blood clotting disorders
·         Obesity
·         Pregnancy

If you are diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis, follow your doctor's instructions. More info on this medical problem can be found at this site: .

The long-term goals of treatment of superficial phlebitis are to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Your health care provider will recommend the treatment option that is right for you, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The main goal of initial treatment is to control pain and inflammation. You will likely be prescribed pain medication and an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Rarely is anticoagulation with medications such as Coumadin or Heparin warranted. Much of this process is self-limited, with complete resolution of symptoms within a few weeks. You can find more info about phlebitis at this site: .

Superficial phlebitis inflammation generally is reduced within 7-10 days, but it may be 3-6 weeks for the problem to be entirely gone. Deep vein thrombophlebitis may require more aggressive treatment, including hospitalization, strong anticoagulants, and a variety of possible surgical procedures, according to this site: .

If you feel that you may be suffering from symptoms related to phlebitis, see your doctor or a health care provider right away. You don’t want to delay treatment as the issue may be beyond your immediate relief by self examination and care at home without medical diagnosis. The condition can quickly escalate to more severe medical issues. Although, phlebitis is a temporary problem, it pays to be careful with treatment and professional medical advice.  

Until next time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Health Care and School Lunches

Do you remember those school days in the cafeteria when you were going through the lunch line? How about the lunch ladies with their hair nets, and big metal spoons they used to slop the slop? And what about “Mystery Meat Thursday”? Do you have flashbacks when you go into a restaurant that has self serve buffet lines?

These kinds of memories are shared by millions of people who at one time or another experienced eating lunch in a school lunch room, and only the lucky kids who brought their sack lunches were fortunate enough to avoid seeing chicken spaghetti with sauce as heavy as silicon morter thrown onto their tray at least once a week.

The school lunch program in schools across the country has long been a joke that keeps on giving. However, it has suffered some changes, and is still a source of contention with school districts, parents and kids, and the federal government. This month, according to Farm Futures Magazine, the USDA has renewed efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program. The program helps schools buy more food from local farmers and ranchers in their communities, expanding access to healthy local food for school children and supporting local economies.

The Secretary of Agriculture stated: "These inspiring collaborations provide students with healthy, fresh food, while supporting healthy local economies. Through farm to school projects, community partners are coming together to ensure a bright future for students, and for local farmers and ranchers." Much more information about this initiative can be found at this website: . 

Since the 1940’s schools have been providing federally assisted school meal programs. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946, according to the USDA. More feedback about this aspect of school nutrition can be found at this site: .

According to FRAC, the Food Research and Action Center, the NSLP provides per meal cash reimbursements to schools as an entitlement to provide nutritious meals to children. This means that all eligible schools can participate and all children attending those schools can participate. Schools participating in NSLP also receive agricultural commodities (unprocessed or partially processed foods) as a supplement to the per-meal cash reimbursements, in amounts based on the number of lunches they serve. USDA research indicates that children who participate in the NSLP have superior nutritional intakes compared to those who do not participate. 

The National School Lunch Program provides school children with one-third or more of their Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for key nutrients. These lunches are required to provide no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Every school district that participates in the National School Lunch Program was required to enact a local school wellness policy, an opportunity to address obesity and promote healthy eating and physical activity through changes in school environments. More details are available at this site: . 

Additionally, the Food and Nutrition Service administers several programs that provide healthy food to children including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and the Special Milk Program. Administered by State agencies, each of these programs helps fight hunger and obesity by reimbursing organizations such as schools, child care centers, and after-school programs for providing healthy meals to children.

Details about this expanded food program is available at this website: . And, for a more exhaustive amount of background material on all school food programs administered by the government, you can see that at this site: .

According to the New America Foundation, the National School Lunch Program supports student nutrition in over 101,000 schools and residential facilities. It provides free and reduced priced meals to low-income children before school, during school, after school, and over the summer. In fiscal year 2013, federal school nutrition programs underwrote more than five billion lunches served. Total funding for all nutrition programs sums to $16.3 billion in both cash and commodity payments in fiscal year 2014. To find more detailed info on this topic, visit this website: .

However, according to Breitbart, the National School Lunch Program feeds upwards to 31 million American students a day, spending nearly $12 billion annually; but many of those children are throwing away the vegetables, fruits, and snacks forced on them by the new federal nutrition standards. The government's new school lunch requirements championed by First Lady Michelle Obama are wasting $4 million a day in discarded food that children won't eat.

A new Harvard study of the program, "shows that 60 percent of fresh vegetables and 40 percent of fresh fruit are being thrown away." And a recent study released by the National School Nutrition Association found 81.2 percent of schools surveyed indicated an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students since the new nutrition standards went into effect two years ago.
Nearly 600 school districts have already dropped out of the First Lady's lunch program. That’s a lot of food and tax dollars being wasted. More details on this issue can be found at this site: .

Is there light at the end of the checkout line? Perhaps, but innovation is slow to be adopted, unless the government mandates it. There are other options, though. One company is already making a difference— The company was created in 2006 to replace the complicated task of organizing and managing school lunch programs. Schools can now eliminate the endless hours spent managing paper processes or using other online systems that simply just don’t work. Busy parents get to pre-order their kids meals, know what they’re eating at school and get rid of the morning chaos.

Helping schools nationwide connect with local restaurants, caterers or on-site cooks to build strong partnerships that keep kids healthy & parents happy is the mission of this company. More details about this resource is available at this website: .

Do school lunch programs work? Yes, for the most part. However, figuring out the secret sauce to avoid waste and still provide nutritious food at an affordable price is a huge challenge. Kids will be kids, though. If they don’t like it, they won’t eat it. The best option is to continue to find ways to help children and teens eat healthy food. That is a big part of the education process. Perhaps schools can sneak that curriculum in somewhere between home economics and gym class. 

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Health Care and Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the time of year families get together to celebrate and give thanks. Many people go with traditions and customs handed down generation by generation. And some make up new ways to give thanks and to remember the season. Thanksgiving also traditionally begins the holidays and the Christmas Season.

As well, this holiday is a time when safety and health are paramount. According to ABC news,  here are the five top health hazards to avoid. This year, the National Safety Council predicted, there will be 418 traffic fatalities and another 44,700 injuries from car crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. More than 40 percent of holiday car accidents involve alcohol, according to the National Highway Safety Association.

Secondly, overindulging on turkey day wine, especially if you’re older and obese, can disrupt regular heart rhythms leading to “Holiday Heart Syndrome” an American Heart Journal study showed way back in 1978. Further strain on the ticker comes from digesting a massive meal. As a recent University of California study found, cheering for a losing football team resulted in a 15 percent spike in heart attacks among men and a 27 percent spike among women.

Third, More than 4,000 fires occur on Thanksgiving Day, U.S. Fire Administration statistics revealed. One culprit: Deep-fried turkeys. Each year, they cause approximately five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes and more than $15 million in property damage, the National Fire Protection Association reported.

And fourth, Americans will consume 51 million turkeys on Thursday, Food Safety News reported. And if the bird isn’t fresh or properly cooked, many of them also risk serving up a side of salmonella. Cooking to an internal temperature of 165 degrees is the best way to avoid poisoning, FSN advised. As for leftovers, store them within two hours or toss them.

And finally, because turkey bones splinter, they can may choke dogs or cats, the Veterinary Medical Association warned. Dogs should also be kept away from any dish that contains onions, leeks or garlic because they are known to damage canine red blood cells. Likewise, raisins and grapes can induce kidney failure. And chocolate, especially vast amounts of the dark variety, can lead to serious gastrointestinal symptoms and even death in dogs.

So, the need to stay safe and healthy goes beyond just celebrating good food, good drink, and good family and friends. There is a deeper meaning to the reason for Thanksgiving.

In 1789, George Washington, a freshly minted first President and Father of a new nation, proclaimed a time to be set aside for all Americans to honor God in a time to give thanks for the blessings bestowed on a country that was brand new, and that had just come through almost a decade of war with its former parent nation, Great Britain. Still searching for a new identity as the United States of America, the population of three million new citizens were looking for a cohesive way to make it in the world.

According to The Heritage Organization, following a resolution of Congress, President George Washington proclaimed Thursday the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” devoted to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

Reflecting American religious practice, Presidents and Congresses from the beginning of the republic have from time to time designated days of fasting and thanksgiving (the Thanksgiving holiday we continue to celebrate in November was established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and made into law by Congress in 1941).

In setting aside a day for Thanksgiving, Washington established a non-sectarian tone for these devotions and stressed political, moral, and intellectual blessings that make self-government possible, in addition to personal and national repentance. Although the First Amendment prevents Congress from establishing a religion or prohibiting its free exercise, Presidents, as well as Congress, have always recognized the American regard for sacred practices and beliefs.

Transcending passionate quarrels over the proper role of religion in politics, the Thanksgiving Proclamation reminds us how natural their relationship has been. While church and state are separate, religion and politics, in their American refinement, prop each other up. Here is the proclamation:  

“By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:” 

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington”

As you gather together to celebrate  your blessings this holiday, give thanks for both the tangible and intangible rewards you enjoy each day. Teach your children and grandchildren the true meaning of Thanksgiving and why it is such an important occasion. Take time to reflect on your blessings, and why you are thankful. Give thanks to God for what He has provided no matter how much or how little you have. Don’t take it for granted. After all, you could be living in a country that is totally clueless about this time of year. What a shame that they miss all the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Until next time.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Health Care and Halloween 2014

Today, Halloween, marks the annual event that millions of Americans and people around the world celebrate almost as much as Christmas. According to Wikipedia, Halloween is an international holiday celebrated on the evening of October 31; today it is often all day long with office parties and other events. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, ghost tours, bonfires, costume parties, visiting haunted attractions, carving jack-o'-lanterns, reading scary stories, and watching horror movies. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the nineteenth century.

Other western countries embraced the holiday in the late twentieth century. Halloween is celebrated in several countries of the Western world, most commonly in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, and at times in parts of New Zealand.

According to Wikipedia, Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year". Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient Celtic pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved; and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops.

The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them. The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows' Even (both "even" and "eve" are abbreviations of "evening", but "Halloween" gets its "n" from "even") as it is the eve of "All Hallows' Day", which is now also known as All Saints' Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints' Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to 1st November.

Hundreds of years later, Halloween is now the United States' second most popular holiday (after Christmas) for decorating; the sale of candy and costumes are also extremely common during the holiday, which is marketed to children and adults alike. Over eighty percent of American adults planned to give out candy to trick-or-treaters, and over 90% of children plan to go trick-or-treating tonight.

The dental section of reports how to manage all that candy that comes home with kids after trick-or-treating on Halloween night. Sugary candy can lead to tooth decay, but following these simple steps can help you and your children have a fun Halloween without the nightmare of harming their teeth in the process:

--Don’t let your kids gorge on Halloween candy all night. Teaching your kids moderation on Halloween is important.
--Monitor that your children are brushing their teeth three times a day.
--Make sure that your children use an age-appropriate fluoridated mouthwash every evening.
--Have extra disposable dental flossers laying all over the house. You’d be amazed at what kids will do when their bored.
--Avoid or limit candy such as caramels, candy corn, jelly beans, and taffy. These particular candies are extra sticky, making it hard for saliva to wash away the sugar.
--Give your kids sugar free gum to chew. Not only does sugar-free gum help prevent cavities, it also helps neutralize the effects of sugar from the candy. Therefore, it combats the bacteria in plaque that causes cavities.

Halloween is a fun holiday and you shouldn’t have to worry about things like tooth decay as indicated by By practicing good oral hygiene and using moderation, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween and still enjoy the candy! If you want to make sure your kids don't come home and gorge themselves on their Halloween candy, it can help to have a plan in place even before you go trick-or-treating. As a part of this plan, you might:

1.) Discuss how they can have a certain number of treats when they get home, but they must put the rest away for later. Unfortunately, depending on how much Halloween candy they get, 'later' can linger for days, weeks, or months, so you should also come up with a plan for this left-over Halloween candy.
2.) Allow them to keep a certain number of pieces of candy or a certain percentage of what they collect and then give the rest away to a food bank or other charity.
3.) Set a limit on how much candy they can collect on Halloween and don't let them fill up bag after bag after bag...
4.) Let them trade in their Halloween candy for something they have been wanting, like a video game, book, toy, trip to the movies, etc. or for fewer pieces of their favorite candy or treat.
5.) Prepare a healthier alternative to the Halloween candy that they will bring home, including fruits, sugar free treats, etc.
6.) Offer them alternatives to Halloween candy as a trade for their candy when they get home from trick-or-treating, which itself is a lot of the fun on Halloween for many kids, and not so much eating the candy itself. Also, make sure your kids eat dinner before going trick-or-treating so that they won't be so hungry before they get home.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers some practical safety tips for celebrating Halloween that make a lot of sense, especially for children, for a SAFE HALLOWEEN:

1. Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
2. Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
3. Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
4. Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.
5. Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.
6. Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent skin and eye irritation.
7. Look both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
8. Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
9. Only walk on sidewalks or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
10. Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
11. Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats unless you know the cook well.
12. Enter homes only if you're with a trusted adult. Otherwise, stay outside.
13. Never walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

Halloween can be a fun time for kids. It also can be a scary time. Make sure that you monitor where your child goes, and what types of treats they get in their bags. Be careful when you are going door to door, especially in neighborhoods where you are not familiar with all the homes in the area. Check out the items before your child eats it to make sure there are no problems with the candy or other foods. Keep tabs on how much they eat. You don't want a fun time to turn into a big stomach ache later.

Although Halloween is celebrated worldwide, don't let anyone pressure you into observing the event if you aren't open to celebrating it whether based on personal beliefs or other reasons. What may be perceived as harmless fun by many, may not be so much for you. Part of a healthy lifestyle, other than watching what you eat, is having a good feeling about your own mental and spiritual well-being on this day.

Until next time.