The Pulse: February 3, 2011

Photo by the California Nurses Association

The Pulse pulls together the week’s community health, healthcare, medical and health research headlines.

Community Pulse

It takes a village to keep a clinic open – at least that’s the case with Lyon-Martin Health Services, San Francisco’s Castro-based health center. The clinic was supposed to close its doors last Thursday after the Board determined its financial situation too dire, but a weekend of community fundraising has brought the clinic within $20,000 of the needed $250,000 to keep its doors open…

A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that only half of eligible Californians received food stamps in 2008 – the second-lowest rate in the nation. The USDA is urging the state government to consider easing its program requirements, which currently make recipients report their income every three months, twice that of other states…

Despite a drop in state funding, the Oakland School District is building eight school-based health centers – more than doubling the current number. The district, along with Los Angeles Unified, is drawing upon a variety of sources to fund the effort, including voter-approved bond money, fees from Medical and grants from Atlantic Philanthropies and Kaiser Permanente. The announcement comes just one month after Oakland-based non-profit Children Now gave the state a D+ for children’s health coverage…

Healthcare Pulse

After major public outcry, protests and a request for delay from California’s Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Blue Shield announced on Tuesday that it would delay its rate hike for 60 days, which was set to take effect on March 1. The insurance company followed suit with major insurers Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and PacifiCare – all of which are going to be audited by the state’s Department of Insurance…

After desegregating party lines for President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Democrats and Republicans are back in the ring, battling over healthcare reform. Republicans celebrated an early victory after voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House, but the bill didn’t fare so well in the Senate. As expected, the repeal failed to pass the Senate yesterday, 51-47. Still, members of the GOP are confident their legislative votes will resonate into the judicial branch. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson (R) ruled that Congress had violated the Constitution by requiring Americans to buy insurance as part of the healthcare overhaul. You can expect this one to go all the way to the Supreme Court…

Meanwhile, officials in the Obama administration are examining whether the new healthcare law could require insurance plans to offer free contraceptives, such as birth control, and other planning services to women free of charge. The administration already has staunch opponents in the GOP, but this move is beginning to raise objections from the Roman Catholic Church as well…

Medical Pulse

What does a cash-strapped state do when it can’t afford to store and maintain $166 million worth of emergency hospital beds and medical equipment? Sell the goods on eBay, of course! It’s not the first time California has tried its hand at creative revenue – former Governor Schwarzenegger’s leather jacket comes to mind…

The state might want to reconsider hawking medical equipment to help heal its budget. A recent analysis found that California hospitals that spend more have lower mortality rates

But more money doesn’t always mean better care. Researchers from Britain, the United States and Canada have found that governmental monetary incentives for physicians don’t translate into better health for patients with high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide…

Research Pulse

Researchers at the UCSF Medical Center recently published a study concluding that a simple blood test could identify those at risk for cognitive decline. The team found that low blood levels of beta-amyloid 42, a protein-like substance associated with Alzheimer’s disease, were associated with a risk of significant cognitive decline within nine years in a group of elders. The findings could lead to a new way of modifying the risk of dementia before its onset…

Not sure if you have colon cancer? This might be a case for Scooby Doo … or Marine the Japanese Labrador. Japanese researchers from Kyushu University are suggesting that the 8-year-old canine has detected colorectal with 98% accuracy.