Miscellaneous Health Topics

Some items of interest from the world of medicine:

1. Infant Homicide:

Infanticide (killing of a child in the first year of life) is the subject of a special article in a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The timing of the deaths, potential risk factors and prevention are discussed.

In Europe, in the early 1800s, up to a third of live-born infants were killed or abandoned by their parents. In the U.S., between 1983 and 1991, 2776 cases of infanticides are identified by the authors. The problem has not disappeared.

Studies have shown that homicide during the first week of life is usually committed by the mother. After that age, the culprit is usually a male, often the father or stepfather of the victim. In children three years and older, the perpetrator is usually unrelated to the victim.

On Friday, Nov 20th, The Medicine Hat News reported that three people in Salt Lake City are accused of murdering a three year old child-one of the accused being the child’s mother from Alberta.

So, what are the risk factors? Usually, the mother is young, has been pregnant before, has low level of education and gets late prenatal care. The infant has low birth weight, usually is a male who arrives earlier than due date.

How can we prevent infanticide? The authors of the special article feel that “…the identification of risk factors and interventions must take place during pregnancy, at the time of delivery, and in the immediate postpartum period.”

Studies have shown that child abuse can be reduced by home visits from trained nurses during pregnancy and in the first two years of life of a first-born child of an unmarried mother with low socio-economic status.

2. Do Rich People Live Longer?:

A U.S. study, on the above subject, is discussed in an editorial in one of the recent issues of the Annals of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

The study confirms the long held belief that the rich do live longer than the poor. But, this has nothing to do with the life style of the affluent. In fact, in U.S., the authors of the study found that the major factor for high death rate amongst the poor is due to inadequate access to timely and high quality health care.

3. What women don’t know could kill them:

This is the title of an article in a recent issue of The Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Most of us know that heart and blood vessel diseases are number one killer. Women make up 40 percent of these deaths. But, a recent Heart and Stroke Foundation survey shows that only 17 percent of the Canadian women are aware of this.

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Miscellaneous Health Topics

Some items of interest from the world of medicine:

1. Screening: what does it mean?

Physicians’ opinions differ on the meaning of the word “screening”. One definition used in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Oct, 20 1998) is: “Screening for disease control can be defined as the examination of asymptomatic people in order to classify them likely, or unlikely, to have the disease that is the object of screening.”

Screening is recommended for variety of diseases-malignant and non-malignant. This is based on the premise that benefit will follow if an asymptomatic person undergoes a particular test.

2. Violence against health care workers:

There is a growing trend toward violence in society at large, says Barbara Sibbald, in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Oct, 20 1998). She is an Associate Editor of the Journal.

Statistics Canada data indicate that the number of violent crimes committed annually per 100 000 Canadians increased from 865 to 1037 between 1988 and 1994.

The figures from BC Workers’ Compensation claims resulting from workplace violence indicates that BC nurses now face the same risk of workplace violence as police officers – nearly 4 times the incidence of any other profession.

Health care workers in psychiatry and emergency medicine are more exposed to violence in a hospital setting. Danger can follow physicians outside the institutions they work in. Some of the reasons given are: cutbacks in the health system, political differences and/or ideological motivation.

3.Death from recreational activities:

Drowning is the leading cause of death related to recreational activities in Canada and is exceeded only by motor vehicle crashes and drug overdose as the cause of death among young adult men, says the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Aug, 11 1998).

Nearly 40 percent of all drowning result from boating accidents, and most of these involve motorized boats used for fishing and power-boating. High use of alcohol and low use of personal flotation device is the 2 main reasons for the boating related deaths.

4. A pill for every ill?

A recent Statistics Canada survey found that 10 percent of seniors had taken 5 or more drugs during the 2 days immediately before they were surveyed (Canadian Medical Association Journal, Aug, 11 1998).

That numbers rose to 13 percent among respondents aged seventy five or older. A full 10 percent higher than for the population as a whole.

The 1994-95 National Population Health Survey found that pain relievers, high blood pressure and heart pills, water pills (diuretics), stomach remedies and laxatives were the most common prescription and nonprescription medications taken by seniors.

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Miscellaneous Health Topics

Some items of interest from the world of medicine:

1. Heart Disease:

Heart disease continues to be number one killer. This was recognized in the late 1940s. Since then several risk factors have been identified, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and cigarette smoking.

Over the past 30 years, death rate from heart disease has declined by more than 50 percent. This downward trend is continuing. Despite important advances in treatment and prevention, heart disease remains the single most common cause of death in North America.
(The New England Journal of Medicine, September 24, 1998)

2. Alcohol Problems in Canada:

In 1994, 4.1 percent of Canadians had alcohol dependence. Excessive alcohol abuse was a factor in 6701 deaths in this country in 1992. Clearly, alcohol abuse is an important public health issue that needs to be dealt with.

In a recent publication, Poulin and colleagues found that 85 percent of Canadians with alcohol dependence do not seek help, the need for screening and brief interventions is great.
(Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dec 1, 1997)

3. Teenage Girls and Smoking:

Weight control is a major reason that teenage girls take up smoking, according to a study of nearly 3000 British and Canadian school girls.

Girls who smoked were 30 percent more likely to be overweight, were prone to overeat, and were twice as likely to be worried about their body image than non-smokers.

Most smokers also wanted to be considerably thinner than they were and were twice as likely as others to induce vomiting after overeating.
(British Medical Journal, August 8, 1998)

4. Doctors and Religion:

The Medical Post 1997 National Survey of Doctors reveals that 52 percent of physicians consider religion an important part of their life. 26 percent pray outside formal religious services at least once a day. For 13 percent, religious beliefs influence birth control consultations.
(National Survey: the Medical Post 1997 National Survey of Doctors, Fall 1997)

5. Good Health and Multivitamins:

Since the mid-1970s, twenty five percent of American adults have regularly consumed a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid. The current evidence suggests that people who take such supplements and their children are healthier.

Consuming a standard multivitamin or a serving of fully fortified breakfast cereal is a convenient, effective, safe, and inexpensive way to increase consumption of folic acid by 400 micrograms of folic acid rapidly.

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