Tag Archives: health

Hepatitis-infected TN prisoners sue the state

Tennessee inmates infected with hepatitis C on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against state prison officials, asking the court to force the state to start treating all inmates who have the potentially deadly disease.

Further from the Tennessean:

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys with the ACLU and other advocates in U.S. District Court in Nashville, says the Tennessee Department of Correction officials knowingly denying inmates care for their hepatitis C, also known as HCV, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It alleges the department is denying care because the best available medication is too expensive.

“In reality, (department officials) ignore the medical needs of (inmates) and class members in order to save costs. (The department’s) written politics for HCV diagnosis, assessment and treatment utilize outdated standards of care and normalize the practice of refusing treatment for unjust and medically unsound reasons,” the lawsuit states.

Inmates Charles Graham, also known as Charles Stevenson, and Russell L. Davis are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Attorneys representing the inmates include Thomas Castelli from the Nashville office of the ACLU, Karla Campbell of Nashville-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings and Elizabeth Logsdon of advocay organization Disability Rights Tennessee.

Note: The ACLU press is below, including link to the text of the lawsuit. Continue reading

State Dept. of Health has a new chief lobbyist

News release from the state Department of Health
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jeremy Davis has been appointed assistant commissioner for legislative affairs for the Tennessee Department of Health. In this role, Davis will direct and oversee the department’s legislative efforts and initiatives. He will also coordinate with and assist legislators in public health-related issues and departmental legislative proposals. Davis comes to this new role after serving as a legislative liaison for TDH since 2011. He succeeds Valerie Nagoshiner, who has been promoted from assistant commissioner to chief of staff at TDH.

“Jeremy has extensive experience in public policy and in working with our legislators, and has served us well during his time with our legislative affairs team,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “I am excited to have him take on the additional responsibilities of leading our legislative projects.”

As assistant commissioner for legislative affairs, Davis will develop the department’s annual legislative package and work with key members of the Tennessee General Assembly to ensure passage of key departmental initiatives. He will coordinate all TDH reports mandated by the legislature and facilitate departmental advisory committee appointments.

Davis joined TDH after serving as executive assistant for policy and research for Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. He has also served as research analyst with the Tennessee General Assembly’s Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee and as an executive staff member for Sen. Ward Crutchfield.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to continue working with the Department of Health to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of Tennesseans, and look forward to advocating and promoting healthy living across the state of Tennessee,” said Davis.

Davis holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. He serves on the advisory board for Franklin Community House in Franklin. Davis resides with his wife and son in Fairview.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments.

Legislator says state going overboard in warnings against raw milk

A state legislator who pushed legalization of “cow share” raw milk marketing in Tennessee contends the state Department of Health has gone overboard in continued warnings to consumers that nonpasteurized milk can be dangerous.

“Consuming raw milk in the belief it’s healthier than pasteurized milk is a perilous risk that shakes off the possibility of a range of serious and occasionally fatal illnesses for the individuals and anyone they share it with,” said state Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner in a July 21 news release. “Our best choice for healthy, nutritious milk is the pasteurized kind. Even if one believes there are health benefits, an upside, is it worth gambling on the downside risk of a serious illness, especially in a child?”

The release (Note: posted HERE) says the department has confirmed two cases of cryptosporidiosis in the Chattanooga area that are “associated with consumption of raw milk from a dairy cow share program” and is checking to determine if others were sickened as well.

Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said there is no more risk to raw milk than pasteurized milk and probably less. Cryptosporidiosis is a parasite-caused ailment linked to animal waste and, according to Niceley, more often to beef cattle than milk cattle. In any case, he said, it involves exposure to the waste and not to the drinking of raw milk in and of itself.

“Blue Bell ice cream killed three people, and it’s made with pasteurized milk,” the senator said in an interview last week. “Why aren’t they up in arms warning about that?”

Blue Bell Creameries in April announced a nationwide recall of ice cream after reports of the product being contaminated with listeria bacteria. National media has reported that three deaths in Kansas appear linked to the contamination.
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TN Health commissioner: Don’t drink raw milk, even though it’s legal

News release from state Department of Health
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health is investigating multiple gastrointestinal disease reports among people who say they consumed raw milk prior to their illness. TDH has confirmed two cases of cryptosporidiosis in individuals in the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Region. Both cases of illness are associated with consumption of raw milk from a dairy cow share program. TDH is interviewing additional participants in the program to determine if other people have been sickened. In recent months, TDH has interviewed individuals about sporadic cases of Campylobacter and Shiga-toxin producing E. coli who also reported consuming raw milk from different sources.

“Consuming raw milk in the belief it’s healthier than pasteurized milk is a perilous risk that shakes off the possibility of a range of serious and occasionally fatal illnesses for the individuals and anyone they share it with,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Our best choice for healthy, nutritious milk is the pasteurized kind. Even if one believes there are health benefits, an upside, is it worth gambling on the downside risk of a serious illness, especially in a child?”

Cow share programs were made legal in Tennessee in 2009, allowing wider access to raw milk. Since that time TDH has had increasing reports of disease and outbreaks linked to raw milk consumption. In 2013, nine Tennessee children became extremely sick with E. coli O157 after drinking raw milk. Five of these children required hospitalization and three developed severe, life-threatening kidney problems.

“The Department of Agriculture has a thorough dairy inspection program focused on detecting potential health risks before milk reaches the consumer,” Tennessee Department of Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Legal pasteurization through a licensed dairy facility is the only way to ensure that dairy products are safe to consume. Despite a producer’s best intentions, without pasteurization, bacteria exposure is a real danger.”
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TN chief medical examiner resigns for New Mexico job

Tennessee’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Karen Cline-Parhamovich, has resigned for a job in New Mexico, reports The Johnson City Press.

Cline-Parhamovich also serves as East Tennessee State University’s forensics director and is the medical examiner for Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties. Her resignation from all positions in Tennessee is effective July 31.

In a brief phone interview Friday afternoon, Cline-Parhamovich said she loves her job here, but “it’s the right professional move.” The position she will take later this year is assistant medical examiner at the Office of the Medical Investigator of New Mexico.

In a brief phone interview Friday afternoon, Cline-Parhamovich said she loves her job here, but “it’s the right professional move.” The position she will take later this year is assistant medical examiner at the Office of the Medical Investigator of New Mexico.

“It’s considered the model system for the country,” she said. “It’s the premier center to train forensic pathologists, and it’s also integrated with the University of New Mexico.” She said she received an invitation to apply for the job, so she did.

Cline-Parhamovich began her stint as chief medical examiner for the state July 2, 2012, and was selected as Washington County’s medical examiner in September. Both entities said losing the pathologist will be difficult. Her resignation for ETSU is effective Aug. 7.

…“I am pleased Karen has found an opportunity that she will enjoy that is good for her and her family, but unfortunately Tennessee has lost a rare and very difficult-to-replace asset,” said Dr. John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Department of Health commissioner.

State’s silence on new cannabis oil law lamented

Advocates for medical use of cannabis oil are disappointed that the state and the Tennessee Medical Association have done nothing to provide guidance on a new law that took effect more than a month ago, according to the Tennessean.

There has been no advice to potential patients or doctors as to how they might follow the new law. Without that guidance, interested parents or patients are turning to the advocates who helped pass the law for help.

“We just want everybody who has the ability to use it to have access to it, and to do it the right way, and not get a product that’s going to cause more problems in the long run,” said Stacie Mathes, who’s currently administering the oil to combat the seizures suffered by her nearly 17-month-old daughter, Josie.

The Tennessee Department of Health has done nothing to educate the public or doctors specifically about the new cannabis oil law, department spokesman Woody McMillin said. McMillin noted the department’s legislative affairs office provides information about any applicable legislation to appropriate boards after each session; so far they’ve met with the Board of Osteopathic Examination this year but not the Board of Medical Examiners.

After these meetings, the state is supposed to post information about every applicable law to its website, McMillin said. But there’s no timeline as to when that might happen for cannabis oil. The legislative updates section of the department’s site is only current through July of 2014.

Advocates and lawmakers argued that research shows the oil can help treat seizures and epilepsy, in addition to other conditions. At the same time, the Tennessee Medical Association, the state’s largest professional organization for physicians, doubts that research, said spokesman Dave Chaney. The TMA doesn’t think it needs to provide information to its members about administering cannabis oil.

“We were neutral on the bill and have not provided information to our members because it really has no bearing on how physicians treat or interact with patients,” Chaney said. “It does not allow physicians to prescribe or recommend cannabis oil as treatment — patients still have to get it somewhere else outside of state lines — so the physician’s role ends with a diagnosis.”

Gov’s group wants everybody to stop smoking, eat healthy food and exercise more

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness CEO Rick Johnson, joined by representatives from nine cities and counties across the state, today launched Healthier Tennessee Communities, a coordinated initiative supporting physical activity, healthy eating and tobacco abstinence at the local level.

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness has focused on developing and introducing effective tools for individuals, workplaces and faith congregations. Healthier Tennessee Communities takes a community-wide approach to improving Tennesseans’ health by engaging the local leaders of cities, towns, counties and neighborhoods.

“Encouraging and recognizing community-led change is a critical part of improving the health and lives of Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “The foundation has worked with businesses, schools and faith organizations, and this program brings together leaders at the local level in a coordinated way to support Tennesseans making healthier choices.”

In Tennessee, one in four adults smokes, and one in five high school students uses tobacco. The rate of obesity has risen to almost 34 percent from only 10 percent in 1988. Type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure are at epidemic levels.

“Research has shown that we are much more likely to change our health-related behavior and establish healthy habits when we are encouraged and supported by others – when we are in community,” Johnson said. “That’s why making health and wellness an integral part of life where you live – and with the people who surround you – can make such a positive difference.”
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State Dept. of Health to investigate 11 TN hypothermia deaths

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has asked the Department of Health to investigate why 11 people froze to death during last month’s winter storm.

Some were found dead in their homes after being without heat. At least two were elderly people who froze outside their homes after falling down.

Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner told WPLN-FM (http://bit.ly/1wK4ej8) the homeless are most at risk for hypothermia, but people in homes can also die if their heat is out. The situation can be worse if a person is on medication or abusing alcohol.

Dreyzehner said that “neighbors checking neighbors” is the best means of preventing hypothermia deaths.

Dreyzehner said most of those who died from hypothermia probably had people who were worried about them but couldn’t get out to check on them.

Dept. of Health: 3 TN chilrden dead of flu this season; 6 in 2014 calendar year

The seasonal scourge of the flu has claimed the lives of three children in Tennessee, the state’s Department of Health has revealed, reports the News Sentinel.

Two of the deaths were reported by hospitals in Middle Tennessee and the third was in East Tennessee, according to Shelley Walker, assistant director of media relations for the department. Walker said privacy regulations prevent her from revealing even what county the deaths occurred in, but all were in December.

These bring the childhood flu death toll for calendar year 2014 to six, she said.

A sampling of local hospitals indicates flu activity has been exceptionally heavy this season, and several schools closed temporarily because of pupil absences prior to the holiday break.

The state does not require hospitals to report adult flu deaths, Walker said, only those in children and pregnant women.

“We are expecting a severe flu season” she said in a phone interview Monday. “Every flu season is different, but we typically see 2-3 child deaths a year from the flu.”

TN ranked 45th among states for overall citizen health

Tennessee is 45th among the 50 states in overall health of its citizens, according to a report called America’s Health Rankings, compiled by the United Health Foundation.

The report lists Tennessee’s problems as a high rates for physical inactivity and violent crime. Strengths are listed as a low level of binge drinking, whooping cough and a high availability of primary care physicians. (The Tennessee-specific page is HERE.)

From the overview of the report’s findings:
For the third consecutive year, Hawaii is the healthiest state in America’s Health Rankings®–2014 Edition. Vermont ranks second, also for the third consecutive year. Massachusetts improves to third after spending 2 years ranked fourth. Connecticut improves 3 places to fourth, and Utah joins the top 5 states after spending 2 years ranked sixth. Minnesota and New Hampshire drop out of the top 5.

Mississippi ranks 50th for the third consecutive year. Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma complete the bottom 5 states. Oklahoma changes from 44th to 46th, and Kentucky changes from 45th to 47th, which moves West Virginia and Alabama out of the bottom 5 states.