Viola Davis Spreads Awareness About Diabetes Through New Documentary

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Viola Davis sitting in broadcasting room smiling with microphone above

The racial health disparity surrounding diabetes is on the rise. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, in the U.S. Black adults are almost twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes in comparison to white adults.

Actress Viola Davis is utilizing her platform as an avenue to spread awareness about this matter in hopes of reversing this alarming trend. She recently joined forces with the pharmaceutical company Merck to narrate a documentary that captures how the disease is impacting communities across the country, PR Newswire reported.

The film—titled A Touch of Sugar—is a part of a larger initiative led by Merck called America’s Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday. For Davis, the diabetes struggle is personal. She herself has prediabetes, two of her sisters were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and one of her family members died after battling with the disease.

“I’m one of the 84 million American adults living with prediabetes and I’m sharing my story for the first time in an effort to inspire others to take action against the type 2 diabetes epidemic,” she said in a statement. “My sisters are both struggling with type 2 diabetes and my aunt also died from complications of the disease. Growing up, we just said they had ‘the sugar,’ which didn’t sound that concerning. But, when you look at the facts, there’s nothing harmless about diabetes – it’s a chronic disease that needs to be taken seriously if we’re going to get it under control.”

The film explores how culture and socio-economic issues are intertwined with the epidemic. Conrod Kelly who serves as the Executive Director of the Diabetes Franchise at Merck says the film was created to put “a much-needed spotlight on the real people affected by it firsthand,” and hopes that it inspires people to take action.

Continue on to KMOJFM to read the complete article.

9 Reasons You Should Be in Health Care

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African American nurse in uniform smiling with hands in pocket

Healthcare careers can provide the challenge, security, and salary you’re looking for in a role, while also fulfilling your humanitarian side.

Read on for nine reasons the healthcare industry can offer you the career of your dreams.

  1. Job satisfaction

By and large, healthcare workers are satisfied with their jobs and don’t regret their career choices. For example, an AMN Healthcare survey revealed that 83 percent of registered nurses are satisfied with their career choice.

  1. Job security

While legislation will continue to change the healthcare landscape, the Affordable Care Act has increased the demand for health care, thus leading to the need for more workers in the industry. Likewise, as people age, they typically require more medical care, and America’s Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age by the millions every year.

  1. Positions for all education levels

While doctors still spend several years hitting the books, health care has many other careers that require far less education. In fact, you can find many positions that pay well and don’t require a bachelor’s degree. For instance, to become a surgical technologist, you only need a postsecondary non-degree award, and the job pays $22.68 an hour.

  1. Explosive growth

Jobs in health care are projected to grow 18 percent by 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Here are the expected growth rates for a few of the fastest-growing medical professions:

  • Home health aide – 41 percent
  • Nurse practitioner – 31 percent
  • Physical therapist assistant – 30 percent
  • Dental hygienist – 20 percent
  1. Free schooling

Within the healthcare industry, you can find many programs that repay student loans in exchange for a certain number of years of service. For example, the National Health Service Corps asks medical residents to work for two or three years in an underserved area of the country in a primary care specialty. In exchange, the federal government will then repay as much as $120,000 of participants’ student loans.

  1. Generous salaries

The burgeoning demand for health care has more benefits than just job security – medical careers also pay well. The 2017 median pay for physicians and surgeons is $208,000, while nurse practitioners can make $110,930 per year, according to the BLS. As mentioned before, even healthcare careers that don’t require advanced degrees can still pay a pretty penny.

  1. Flexibility

The flexibility of healthcare careers is especially attractive to job seekers. Geographically, healthcare workers can go almost anywhere they want, provided they have the appropriate licensure. Some programs, like Doctors without Borders, send medical professionals abroad to deliver services where they are needed the most. Similarly, traveling nurses receive assignments all over the United States and receive benefits, such as relocation and housing allowances.

  1. Variety

The variety of occupations and settings in health care allows those in the field to change their environment without necessarily changing careers. For instance, medical professionals typically work in doctors’ offices or hospitals, but many also work in laboratories, public health agencies, insurance companies, universities, and other varied settings.

  1. The chance to make a difference

Although jobs in the medical field can be stressful because lives are often at stake, the profession is unquestionably rewarding. Healthcare professionals are desperately needed, and they use their education and training to better people’s lives.

Source: careerbuilder.com

The Atlanta Hawks And Prostate Cancer Foundation Team Up To Fight Prostate Cancer

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Atlanta Hawks Assist Challenge

Sports Legends and Father-Son Duo Calvin and Grant Hill will lead The Black History Month Assist Challenge to Raise Money and Awareness about prostate cancer, the disease  that affects over four million men in the U.S.

The Atlanta Hawks and Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) have joined together to launch a first-of-its-kind multi-pronged program with the goal of slamming prostate cancer. Led by Hawks Vice Chair of the Board and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Grant Hill and his father, NFL Legend Calvin Hill, the Hawks are the first team in the NBA to partner with PCF to educate and bring awareness to the disease that affects more than four million men in the U.S., with one in nine men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Those numbers skyrocket when factoring men of African descent. African-American men are 76 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and more than twice as likely to die than men of other ethnicities.

In recognition of Black History Month and to bring greater awareness to the African-American community of the disease, the team and Foundation have kicked off the Black History Month Assist Challenge in February. For every assist registered by the Hawks throughout the month, $250 will be donated by the Hawks Foundation to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The Hills filmed a special public service announcement announcing the partnership (link) and its importance. Census Bureau data from 2018 cites the Black or African-American population in the city of Atlanta at 52.3 percent.

“We couldn’t be prouder or more excited to be partnering with the Atlanta Hawks organization as they make history as the first National Basketball Association (NBA) team in the league to take on prostate cancer as an issue,” said Jonathan W. Simons, MD, PCF’s president and CEO. “It is befitting that during Black History Month, we all work to change the outcomes of the men who are most severely impacted by this disease.  Raising awareness of the risks, leading conversations that shift attitudes and making the facts about prostate cancer easily accessible will literally save lives. The Hawks are changing history by altering the course of this disease and its impact on African-American men.”

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in America and the fourth-most common tumor diagnosed worldwide. Despite its frequency, if the cancer is caught at its earliest stages, most men will not experience any symptoms and 99 percent of patients live five years or longer after diagnosis, which makes education so critically important.

On Saturday, Feb. 23rd when the Hawks play the Phoenix Suns at State Farm Arena, the Hawks and PCF partnership will be celebrated throughout the game with special videos, stories and educational pieces. The night will also serve as the team’s HBCU Night, recognizing historically black colleges and universities alumni and current students.

“As a member of the Atlanta Hawks ownership team and a black male, I am extremely proud of our partnership with PCF as I believe our work can truly make a difference in the city of Atlanta,” said Grant Hill. “With the platform we are afforded, we have a responsibility to be a community leader and this is a great opportunity to educate in a way that could potentially save lives.”

For more information, please visit Hawks.com/PCF, a custom website where life-saving information and resources can be found along with instructions on how to join the Hawks and PCF in their mission.

# TrueToAtlanta #

ABOUT THE ATLANTA HAWKS

With a bold identity and strong new ownership, the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and State Farm Arena remain committed to making Atlantans proud on the court and off. The 2014-15 Southeast Division Champions, the Hawks made the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons and reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history in 2015. Off the court, the organization has built a culture of inclusion, diversity and innovation, all with a touch of Southern Hospitality. It continues into the community where the organization builds bridges through basketball, whether by constructing and refurbishing courts in Atlanta neighborhoods, providing scholarships to our basketball camps, or surprising and delighting our fans with unique Atlanta Hawks experiences. Atlanta Hawks Membership, which includes your seat for every home game for the 2018-19 regular season, is on sale now at www.hawks.com/membership or by calling 866-715-1500! For more information on the Hawks, log on to www.hawks.com today or follow us on twitter and Instagram @ATLHawks.

Why middle-class black women dread the doctor’s office

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The anxiety of being black, female and at the mercy of the U.S. healthcare system first hit Tina Sacks when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Bette Parks Sacks, then in her 50s, intuitively knew something was wrong but, like many African American women, was afraid her doctor would give her the brush-off.

It wasn’t until a conscientious mammography technician advised Parks Sacks to follow up with her physician that her breast cancer was caught — in time. Less fortunate are untold numbers of African American women who did not aggressively advocate for their health for fear of being discounted.

In her new book “Invisible Visits: Black Middle-Class Women in the American Healthcare System” (Oxford University Press, 2019), Sacks, an assistant professor of social welfare at UC Berkeley, tells the often frightening human stories behind the statistics about delayed or denied diagnoses and/or treatment and high mortality rates among African Americans.

Invisible Visits is largely based on in-depth interviews Sacks conducted for her study “Performing Black womanhood: A qualitative study of stereotypes and the healthcare encounter,” which was published in 2017 in the journal Critical Public Health.

“When you look at inequalities in healthcare, you see a lot of studies tying the problems to race and poverty, but there’s not a lot about educated, insured black women who are not poor,” Sacks says. “Yet infant mortality rates for black women with a college degree are higher than those for white women with just a high school education. I wanted to dig deeper into the personal experiences behind this disparity.”

This spring, Sacks, a former NCAA Division 1 tennis player who is married to documentary filmmaker and photographer Carlos Javier Ortiz, will give talks on and off campus about the ongoing racial disparities brought to light in Invisible Visits. Berkeley News recently sat down with Sacks to ask about the inspiration for her book, the inequities it highlights and how to address them.

For the complete article, continue on to UC News.

It’s Cool to be Kind: 5 Cyberbullying Prevention Tips

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Here are 5 cyberbullying prevention tips. Number one is The Golden Rule.

1. The Golden Rule. It’s important to remind ourselves that behind every username and avatar there’s a real person with real feelings. The “golden rule” is just as important online as it is in real life. Kids can take the high road by applying the concept of “treat others as you would like to be treated” to their actions online, creating positive impact for others and disempowering bullying behavior.

2. Promote Kindness. It’s important to teach kindness. But it’s just as important to model the lessons of kindness that we teach. How you and your friends treat each other online can model behavior for younger generations. Respect others’ differences and use the power of the Internet to spread positivity.

3. Move from bystander to upstander. Often kids want to help out a target of bullying but don’t know what to do. According to StopBullying.gov, only 20-30 percent of students notify adults about bullying. Encourage kids to speak up against and report online bullying. If they find themselves a bystander when harassment or bullying happens, they have the power to intervene and report cruel behavior. Kids can choose to be an upstander by deciding not to support mean behavior and standing up for kindness and positivity.

4. Turn negative to positive. Kids are exposed to all kinds of online content, some of it with negative messages that promote bad behavior. Teach your kids that they can respond to negative emotions in constructive ways by rephrasing or reframing unfriendly comments and becoming more aware of tone in our online communication. Reacting to something negative with something positive can lead to a more fun and interesting conversation – which is a lot better than working to clean up a mess created by an unkind comment.

5. Mind Your Tone. Messages sent via chat and text can be interpreted differently than they would in person or over the phone. Encourage kids to think about a time that they were misunderstood in text. For example, have they ever texted a joke and their friend thought they were being serious – or even mean? It can be hard to understand how someone is really feeling when you’re reading a text. Be sure you choose the right tool for your next communication – and that you don’t read too much into things that people say to you online. If you are unsure what the other person meant, find out by talking with them in person or on the phone

Supporting teachers and their classrooms:
Google has teamed up with DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit with a web platform that is part matchmaker, part Scholastic Fairy Godmother. Teachers post their school project wishes on the platform and people like you—or companies like us—find projects we’d love to sponsor. With DonorsChoose.org, Google has built a $1 million Classroom Rewards program to encourage and celebrate classroom achievement with Be Internet Awesome. Upon completion of the program, K-6 teachers can unlock a $100 credit towards their DonorsChoose.org project. Teachers can kick off the Be Internet Awesome lessons with one called #ItsCoolToBeKind. 💚 Check out the details on DonorsChoose.

Be Internet Awesome is Google’s free, digital citizenship and online safety program that teaches kids the skills they need to be safe and smart online. Parents can find additional resources in English, Spanish and Portuguese, such as downloadable materials for the home at g.co/BeInternetAwesome.

How This Psychologist Is Making Therapy More Accessible For Black Millennial Women

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According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services, African-Americans are 20%  more likely to experience psychological distress such as depression, suicide, PTSD and anxiety than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

Meet Dr. Bradford, a licensed psychologist based in Atlanta, Georgia and founder of Therapy for Black Girls. Passionate about changing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy which often prevents black women from taking the step of seeing a therapist, Bradford aims to alleviate the process of seeking relief for mental health-related issues within the black community, by fostering a safe space to present mental health topics to black millennial women in a digestible way.

Previously a college counselor, Bradford leveraged her people person and problem solver skills to create the Therapy for Black Girls platform in 2014. The Therapy for Black Girls platform now reaches over 32,000 members with its blog, podcast, social media communities, and very own national therapist directory, that lists black women mental health providers nationally.

I spoke with Bradford about what inspired her to create Therapy for Black Girls, why there’s a stigma surrounding mental health in the black community and the challenges that isolate black women millennials from seeking mental health care.

Dominique Fluker: As a licensed psychologist, speaker and host of the wildly popular mental health podcast, Therapy for Black Girls, share why you decided to create the online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of black women and girls? 

Dr. Joy Bradford: I created the space because I really wanted Black women to have a place to go to get information about mental health that felt relevant and accessible to them. I wanted to be able to share information about recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness but also to have conversations about the kinds of things we can do to encourage mental wellness.

Fluker: How is the Therapy for Black Girls platform combating the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy for African-American women?

Bradford: I think it’s combating stigma because it is making topics that were once taboo, ok to be publicly discussed. I think that topics covered on the podcast have given people language for some of the things they may have been struggling with, and I think the directory has allowed scores of women to connect with mental health professionals across the country who are excited about providing high-quality care to them.

Fluker: What are the challenges that black women millennial face daily that might make them feel isolated from mental health care?

Bradford: I think that sometimes black millennial women worry that their issues are not “big” enough to go to therapy and so they don’t utilize the service. I also think that sadly a lot of black millennial women also don’t feel like providers will really get them and it feels really hard to go into space where you’re supposed to be very transparent but not able to be comfortable. Additionally, I think that the cost may be prohibitive for some people who may want to go to therapy. Even with insurance, it may be difficult to afford therapy, but without it, there can be a lot of hoops to jump through to find lower cost therapy that is a good fit.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What to know about the latest developments in breast cancer research, treatment and prevention

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off on Monday.

Often associated with pink ribbons and 5K walks, the movement has been wildly popular: National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding for breast cancer totaled $520 million in 2016.

The increasing breast cancer awareness comes at a time when women can find substantial improvements in breast cancer treatment.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest developments.

How common is breast cancer?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (besides skin cancer), and the second most common cause of cancer death in women.

Approximately 266,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer by the end of 2018.

In 2015, there were an estimated 3.4 million women living with breast cancer.

What you can do

We’ve known for a while that your risk of breast cancer gets lower with some lifestyle changes. Women who exercise, don’t smoke, don’t binge drink, stay a healthy weight after menopause, and use the pill for a shorter number of years have a lower risk.

Breast mammography, although imperfect, has been instrumental in detecting breast cancer when it does occur. Recommendations regarding screening are controversial: the question is the age that screening should begin.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) recommends annual screening starting at age 40, while the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) believes that you should be screened every two years starting at age 50.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends annual screening at age 45, with the option for women to be screened when they’re 40 if they prefer. The differences reflect changing opinions on what age the benefits of screening outweigh the risks.

New to the scene is breast tomosynthesis, a 3-D screening tool that received FDA approval in 2011. Research has shown better cancer detection rates with tomosynthesis, and fewer “false alarms,” when women with no disease are mistakenly called back for further testing.

In patients with dense breast tissue, screening ultrasounds can improve detection rates. In patients with the highest risk of developing breast cancer, screening breast MRIs, in combination with mammography, have been shown to improve survival.

Continue onto ABC News to read the complete article.

Taraji P. Henson Creates Foundation to Honor Her Late Father Who Battled Mental Health Issues

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Taraji Henson

Taraji P. Hensonis on a mission. In hopes of eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health in African-American communities, the actress just launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father. The organization will provide scholarships to African-American students majoring in mental health, offer mental health services to youth in urban schools and work to lower the recidivism rates of African-American men and women.

“I named the organization after my father because of his complete and unconditional love for me; his unabashed, unashamed ability to tell the truth, even if it hurt; and his strength to push through his own battles with mental health issues,” Henson said.

The Empire star chronicled her relationship with her father Boris, who died in 2006 at the age of 58 after battling liver cancer, in her 2016 memoir, Around the Way Girl. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support,” she said. “I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black.”

Continue on to PEOPLE to read the complete article.

Know Your Girls campaign encourages black women to understand breast cancer risks

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Actress and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway lends her voice to public service announcements

Actress and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway knows how important it is to get the word out about breast health.

In 2016, she shared her story of survival on Ebony.com. She caught the disease early, opted for a mastectomy and she’s been cancer-free since.

Now Calloway has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen organization and the Ad Council for a national campaign, Know Your Girls. Her role includes a voice-over for the campaign’s video public service announcements.

“I’m so happy to be a part of this important campaign because as a breast cancer survivor, I understand firsthand how important it is to know your girls literally and figuratively. Being in tuned with your girls can save your life. Know Your Girls can also mean know your real-life girlfriends and as a community of women help remind each other about the importance of breast health,” said Calloway.

The Know Your Girls announcements include singer Alicia Keys’ hit song “You Don’t Know My Name.” Other featured celebrities include celebrity stylist June Ambrose, actress and comedian Regina Hall, E! News co-anchor Zuri Hall, 2 Dope Queens co-creator and actress Jessica Williams, singer-songwriter, producer and actress Michelle Williams, and comedian and actress Kym Whitley; as well as digital creators Black Moms Blog, Ebony from Team2Moms, Glamtwinz: Kelsey and Kendra Murrell, Jade Kendle, Tianne King, Megan “Megz” Lytle and Jayla Watson.

The campaign is a response to dismal numbers concerning black women. Black women in the U.S. are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, according to the Ad Council. A recent study found that while 92 percent of black women agree breast health is important, only 25 percent have recently discussed breast health with their family, friends, or colleagues and only 17 percent have taken steps to understand their risk for breast cancer.

Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, at later stages of the disease, and with more aggressive forms of the disease, which limits the options for treatment. The Know Your Girls campaign encourages black women between the ages of 30 and 55 to treat their breasts with the same attentiveness and understanding they share with the women in their lives.

“The Know Your Girls campaign introduces breast cancer education through a celebration of the powerful sisterhood between black women,” said Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “Instead of focusing on fear, the campaign provides tools and information that can help black women feel ownership around their breast health and encourages the sharing of those resources and messages with the women who support them throughout their lives.”

Besides the digital announcements, the campaign includes TV, radio, print and out-of-home ads that direct women to KnowYourGirls.org. The website features resources that help women navigate breast cancer risk factors, recognize changes in their breasts, and how to prepare to have a conversation with a doctor.

Continue onto FastCompany to read the complete article.

Famed for “Immortal” Cells, Henrietta Lacks is Immortalized in Portraiture

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In life, Virginia-born Henrietta Lacks did not aspire to international renown—she didn’t have the luxury. The great-great-granddaughter of a slave, Lacks was left motherless at a young age and deposited at her grandpa’s log cabin by a father who felt unfit to raise her. Never a woman of great means, Lacks wound up marrying a cousin she had grown up with and tending to their children—one of whom was developmentally impaired—while he served the 1940s war effort as a Bethlehem steelworker.After the Axis fell and her husband’s work died down, Lacks delivered three additional children, for a total of five. Sadly, fate denied her the chance to watch them grow. Visiting a hospital with complaints of a “knot” inside her, Lacks received news of a cancerous tumor in her cervix, which had escaped doctors’ notice during the birth of her fifth child. Treating Lacks’s cancer with crude radium implants—standard operating procedure in 1951—doctors were unable to save her life. At the age of 31, the person known as Henrietta Lacks ceased to exist.

And yet, curiously, a small biological part of Lacks lived on. Tissue samples collected as a part of her radiation treatment proved surprisingly robust in the lab. Doctors were accustomed to tissue samples dying off quickly once removed from their hosts, and were shocked at the unflagging replication rate of the cells from Lacks’s cervix.

Physicians recognized the value of Lacks’s tissue samples, but did not feel any ethical obligation to inform her surviving family of their work. As days, weeks, months and years passed, the initial samples continued cell reproduction with no signs of faltering, opening the door to all sorts of previously impossible disease testing. As copies of Lacks’s cells—dubbed “HeLa” cells as a nod to their source—circulated among the global scientific community, paving the way for such breakthroughs as Jonas Salk’s famous polio vaccine, Lacks’s family was never notified. Not only did they not affirmatively consent to the use of Henrietta’s tissue samples for continued research, they didn’t even know about the remarkable properties of HeLa tissue until 1975, when the brother-in-law of a family friend asked offhand about the Lacks cells his National Cancer Institute coworkers had been studying. For more than two decades, the Lacks family had been kept in the dark.

Lacks’s descendants never received compensation and were never asked for input, despite the ongoing worldwide use of Lacks’s cells for biomedical research into diseases running the gamut from HIV to Ebola to Parkinson’s. Her children welcomed the addition of a donated grave marker to her unmarked plot in 2010—“Here lies Henrietta Lacks. Her immortal cells will continue to help mankind forever.”—but the public debate over her exploitation by the scientific community rages on. Her story has been the subject of a widely acclaimed 2010 book and a 2017 HBO feature film produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey.

In the lead-up to the 2017 film, African-American portraitist Kadir Nelson, commissioned by HBO, set out to capture Lacks in a richly colored, larger-than-life oil painting. That visual rendering of the woman whose cells have saved millions was just jointly acquired by the National Museum of African American History of Culture and the National Portrait Gallery, and will be on view on the first floor of the latter through November 4, 2018.

“Nelson wanted to create a portrait that told the story of her life,” says painting and sculpture curator Dorothy Moss. “He was hoping to honor Henrietta Lacks with this portrait, because there was no painted portrait that existed of her.”

Continue onto Smithsonian to read the complete article.

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible.

African-Americans at risk from unusual optometry practice

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By Joseph Hammond, Urban News Service

When Pat Raynor developed cataracts she hoped her optometrist would simply refer her to a qualified eye surgeon. But the 65-year old Virginia woman said the optometrist who handled her routine eye exams seemed more interested in business than medicine. He pressured her to accept a form of care known as co-management in which he – rather than the surgeon – would handle post-operative checkups.

“When I went home, I kept thinking about it, and I knew something was not right,” Raynor said, explaining her decision to seek successful treatment out of state. Raynor is one of the millions of Americans who develop cataracts – a common condition of aging in which a thick film that develops in part of the eye can lead to cloudy vision or in some cases a loss of vision if left untreated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. More than half of all people in the United States will have a cataract or have had cataract surgery at the age of 80.

Evidence suggests that African-Americans like her may be more prone to certain types of cataracts. A study published in the Ophthalmology edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 54% of African-American nursing home residents suffered from cataracts versus only 37% of whites.

That also makes African-Americans especially vulnerable to the ticking time bomb regarding eye care buried in the Medicare Act of 1992. Guidelines adopted then allowed a practice known as “co-management” for eye-surgery. In most surgical procedures the operating surgeon is responsible for post-operative care. Under a co-management relationship, an ophthalmologist or eye surgeon performs say a cataract operation on a patient with that patient’s optometrist performing post-operative care.

Optometrists are technicians who are specialized in preserving vision and the overall health of the eye. On average optometrists attend four years of college as well as graduate school. Though a few optometry schools allow applications from students, who didn’t complete an undergraduate degree. Some optometrists later earn doctorate degrees

The requirements for ophthalmologists are far more strenuous. After completing an undergraduate degree, they attend four years of medical school. Their medical degree complete a would be ophthalmologist then spends several years getting hands-on training. Usually, an internships which last at least one year is followed by three years of residency. Some also complete an additional fellowship year as well. Conversely, optometrists usually do not work in internships at hospitals or supervised residencies at medical facilities.

Co-management was intended for use only in limited circumstances, particularly by rural patients who might have trouble reaching an ophthalmologist. Instead, it has become a mechanism for sweetheart deals between optometrists and ophthalmologist who reward each other through mutual referrals.

Today roughly nearly one in five cataract surgeries are performed in a co-managed relationship experts say with almost all of them taking place in urban areas.

Since most elderly African-Americans live in urban areas, they stand a higher risk of being steered toward such arrangements.

Most individuals do not experience complications after eye surgery. But for those that do the consequences can be severe, especially if there follow-up care is with an optometrist, who is not a medical doctor, rather than an ophthalmologist. In 2009, a scandal at a veteran’s hospital in California revealed that many individuals treated for cataracts could have potentially had better health outcomes if they were treated by ophthalmologists.  Some individuals were blinded.

Nevertheless, many health care professional argue co-management offers safe and efficient care. “With the continued focus on patient-centered care, the co-management of surgical patients, such as those having cataracts removed or laser surgery, is the standard and optimal approach to pre- and post-operative care,” said Christopher J. Quinn. O.D., president of the American Optometric Association in a written statement to the American Media Institute, “…This is especially true in underserved areas, as it is estimated that 90% of people in the U.S. live within 15 minutes of a doctor of optometry. Co-management allows patients to receive care from a doctor they already know and trust, maintaining their patient-doctor relationship.”

Quinn also noted that optometrists and ophthalmologists have been co-managing patients for decades in many jurisdictions and that the practice is recognized in all 50 states recognize. He also said that co-management can occur in other types of medicine.

But those arrangements can be especially murky when it comes to eye care. A 2006 survey by the National Consumer League found that only 30% of consumers knew the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists.

For her part, Raynor said that it important that patients be given the information they need – regarding both medical capabilities and financial relationships among providers – in order to make informed choices about their vision.

“A lot of people can’t afford cataract surgery, and I would have probably gone through with co-management but, I didn’t have a credit card,” she said.

She is glad she had her care overseen by ophthalmologist. “After my ordeal, I am just thankful to have my eyes, and now I can see even better than before cataracts, I was having a hard time just seeing and focusing. You know there used to be a house I would drive by this beige house but, after my cataracts were removed, I noticed the house was in fact pink.”

Urban News Service

This Geriatrician Says To Do These 5 Things to Live Longer

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A healthful diet can reduce risk for disease and increase longevity

Good nutrition plays an important role in how well you age. Eating a healthful diet helps keep your body strong and can help reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis. Studies even show a link between healthful eating and longevity.

“As we age, the body becomes less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients. Appetite and taste can suffer from loss of sense of smell and taste or from side effects of medications. Bad teeth can make some foods difficult to chew or digest,” said Arthur Hayward, MD, a geriatrician and the clinical lead physician for elder care with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. “So choosing foods carefully is smart.”

Here are five tips to help you get the nutrition your body needs:

  1. Avoid empty calories.

Foods with empty calories may contain very few vitamins and minerals. “Convenience foods,” such as packaged snacks, chips and sodas, are common sources of empty calories. Avoid the “bad” carbs—foods that have white flour, refined sugar and white rice.

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods.

Eat a variety of foods. The more you vary the foods you eat, the more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you get. For example:

* Eat lots of fruits and vegetables—Choose fresh, frozen or no-salt canned vegetables and fruits in their own juice or light syrup.

* Eat foods with protein—Protein is found in lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and cheese, cooked beans, peanut butter and nuts and seeds.

* Get enough calcium and vitamin D—Calcium and vitamin D are found in milk and milk products, including yogurt and cheese. They are also in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens) and tofu.

* Include foods high in vitamin B12—After 50, the body produces less gastric acid and absorbs less B12, which helps keep blood and nerves vital. B12 is found in milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

* Eat high-fiber foods—This includes fruits, vegetables, cooked dried beans, and whole grains.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids.

Drink plenty of fluids—enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Fiber and fluids help with constipation.

  1. If your appetite is poor, eat smaller meals.

Try eating smaller meals, several times a day, instead of one or two large meals. Eating while socializing with others may help your appetite. You might also ask about changing medicines. Medication can cause appetite or taste problems.

  1. Eat soft foods.

As we approach our senior years, chewing food is sometimes difficult. Choose low-sodium canned vegetables or cooked fruits and vegetables. These are often softer. Chop or shred meat, poultry or fish. Add sauce or gravy to the meat to help keep it moist.

For healthy recipe ideas, check out Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog at https://foodforhealth.kaiserpermanente.org.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Ten-minute sessions several times a day on most days are fine. For more information, visit kp.org and everybodywalk.org. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk with your physician.

Source: NewsUSA

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