What’s New in Health Care Reform: Jan. 9

What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.

New Research Shows Sugar Substitutes Are Not Healthier Than Real Sugar

A team of European researchers, commissioned by the World Health Organization, pulled 56 individual studies into non-sugar sweeteners that involved nearly 14,000 people in total. They then checked intake of the sweeteners against changes in body weight or body mass index, oral health, eating behavior, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and mood swings, among other things. The new analysis of the studies is the most comprehensive look yet at the field of research around non-sugar sweeteners and their impact on our health. Despite that, it’s still not entirely conclusive. "No evidence was seen for health benefits from non-sugar sweeteners and potential harms could not be excluded,” the researchers wrote in the study. “The certainty of the included evidence ranged from very low to moderate, and our confidence in the reported effect estimates is accordingly limited.” Via Quartz.

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Mayo Clinic's Dr. Noseworthy Weighs in on Accomplishments, Regrets, and What's Next

John Noseworthy, M.D., who led Mayo Clinic through a tremendous period of growth, sat down with the Business Journal in December to talk about his career, the changing health care industry, and why the health care giant doesn’t have a big presence in the Twin Cities. Via Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

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How Light Therapy Helps Minnesotans over Winter

As Minnesota makes its way through the darkest part of the year, people who endure it have to get creative with ways to fight the fatigue often associated with seasonal affective disorder. Therapy lamps can help that person’s mind. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests the light boxes work in its attempt to adjust its users’ circadian rhythm. The reason why, according to Craig Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P., goes back to how seasonal affective disorder is defined. He says despite its acronym, it doesn’t necessarily make people feel sad; rather, they tend to feel unmotivated. “So, it’s more of a flattening of their aspect,” Dr. Sawchuk, with the Mayo Clinic, said. “They tend to oversleep, get a lot of carbohydrate cravings, and a lot of withdrawal, too.” Via WCCO.

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What You Must Know about Parkinson's Disease

Several studies suggest that more physically active people may be less likely to ­develop Parkinson’s disease. “The strongest evidence we have for prevention has to do with physical exercise,” says Rodolfo Savica, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. So “make sure you’re getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise (like brisk walking or cycling) five times a week.” More may be better. An analysis published in JAMA last fall found that men who added 10 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise (such as jogging and tennis) a week cut their Parkinson’s risk by 10%. Those who ­increased exercise by another 10 hours a week cut their risk by 17%. Via Consumer Reports.

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New Law Requires Hospitals Post Prices Online, but Is It Helpful?

A new rule in the new year is all about making it easier on you when it comes to your health care and how much you pay. Starting January 1 hospitals are now required to post their prices online. Some health care systems ask consumers to call in their requests, while others like Mayo Clinic have created special online estimators consumers can use to get individualized prices. Via KARE 11.

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Concussion Diagnostic Tech on Rise with FDA Clearances

Developers at Oculogica are among those who worry that baseline testing and other traditional forms of diagnosing TBIs make it too difficult to isolate cause of symptoms and remove external factors. “Eye-tracking will change the practice of emergency care for concussion and will greatly assist a large number of patients. The result will be more consistent and objective diagnoses of concussion in the emergency room and clinic, and eventually on the field,” Robert Spinner, M.D., Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Mayo Clinic commented in Oculogica's news release. The company said it's looking into expanding into other neurological conditions of the brain, such as elevated intracranial pressure. Via MedTech Guide.

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Millions of Americans Are Wrong about Having a Food Allergy, Study Suggests

Millions of Americans might be mistaken about their self-professed food allergy, suggests a new survey. It found that while nearly 20 percent of people said they had a food allergy, only half as many people reported the sort of symptoms you’d expect from eating something you’re allergic to. Researchers surveyed more than 40,000 adults via the phone and internet between October 2015 to September 2016. The volunteers were asked if they had any food allergies and about what symptoms they typically had. They were also asked if they had ever been formally tested and diagnosed with a food allergy by a doctor. All told, 19% of the nationally representative group reported having a food allergy, with the main culprits being shellfish, milk, and tree nuts. But only 10.8% said they had symptoms consistent with an allergic reaction to food, such as hives, swelling of the lips or throat, and chest pain. Those who didn’t instead reported symptoms like stomach cramps, a stuffy nose, or nausea. Via Gizmodo.

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Falling Vaccination Rates Pose a Global Health Risk

For years, measles in Europe has been in decline, thanks largely to successful vaccination campaigns. But in the first 10 months of this year the number of confirmed cases topped 54,000—more than twice the total for all of 2017 and a 20-year high, according to the World Health Organization. The vaccine has not suddenly stopped working. Instead, vaccination rates are dropping—in large part because populist politicians have wrapped “anti-vax” scepticism into their narrative of suspicion and hostility towards institutions and multinational companies, amplifying the message through social media. The health implications are profound. Anti-vaccination campaigns defy decades of evidence of the indisputable global benefits of immunization. Vaccines have eradicated or brought under control seven major human diseases—smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, whooping cough, polio, and measles. Deaths from polio worldwide have fallen 99% since 1988 and more than 16m people have been saved from paralysis, according to the WHO. Eliminating smallpox has saved an estimated 40m lives. Via Financial Times.

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Mayo Clinic Study Investigates Link between Anxiety and Obesity

Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators say there’s a link between obesity and anxiety. Using obese mice in a study, results show anxiety is a consequence of the accumulation of senescent cells in the brain. These cells are also referred to as "zombie cells" because they don’t die and don’t perform the functions of a normal cell. “We’re very close,” said James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Senior Study Author. “In fact, within probably a few days of some of the early trials being reported. That said we do not want people going out and taking these drugs. These drugs are very much in the research phase. They’re for people that have severe illnesses that we’re including in these trials.”  Via KTTC (article no longer available).

Cervical Cancer Screening Rates in Women "Unacceptably Low"

The rate of women in the Upper Midwest who underwent cervical cancer screening in 2016 was lower than nationally reported rates, and researchers said this is “unacceptable,” according to a study recently published in the Journal of Women’s Health. “Although Pap screening has reduced incidence of cervical cancer and death by more than 60% since being introduced in the 1950s, underscreened and especially never-screened women continue to be at particularly high risk,” Kathy MacLaughlin, M.D., of the Department of Family Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues wrote. Via Healio.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.