Via Senator Kirk Watson we wanted to provide a few articles in the news relating to health. This is not meant to be a political post, just informational.
On June 9, the Austin American-Statesman featured an op-ed from three Travis County Medical Society leaders. The Austin physicians discuss how a UT medical school would transform Austin into a center for high quality, cutting-edge health care, and bridge the gap between Central Texas’ medical needs and its resources. The authors detail how Senator Kirk Watson’s 10-in-10 initiative would boost the Austin economy and counter the argument that a UT medical school would compete with A&M’s Round Rock clinical campus, noting that the two institutions would complement one another.
Researchers from UT Austin and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) reported on June 6 about the development of the “Texas Pandemic Flu Toolkit” to assist public health officials in planning for and managing a disease outbreak. The toolkit is a web-based service that simulates the spread of pandemic flu through the state, forecasts times of peak demand, and determines where and when to place ventilators to minimize fatalities. Public health officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services are currently using the tool to test various scenarios and intervention strategies.
KXAN News featured an article and video clip on June 11 about a Ronald McDonald House initiative to develop a “family room” at a local Austin medical center. Under construction inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, the space will include a kitchen area, an office, a living area with television, and four bedrooms, saving families time and energy from traveling between hospital and home. Plans are underway to build two other family rooms in other Central Texas hospitals, to be staffed by teams of volunteers.
On June 2, Texas Border Business reported that UT-Pan American has received a $1.2 million competitive grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to aid undergraduate science education initiatives. According to Dean John Trant, program director for the grant, the funds will support high school and undergraduate research opportunities, a regional biotech laboratory, a course on bioethics, and a core research equipment lab. The HHMI award will also assist other new initiatives, including a UT System Board of Regents-backed proposal to produce more physicians in a more innovative and timely manner.
The Houston Chronicle reported on June 8 about a new primary care clinic in southeast Houston that aims to coordinate patients’ mental and physical health care. El Centro de Corazon, a social service organization, partnered with Harris County’s Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA) to open the clinic that meets the needs of a community increasingly turning to the emergency room for both physical and psychological medical symptoms. Harris County MHMRA provided funds to remodel the space, and El Centro committed to provide long-term staff for the clinic.
On June 11, Medical News Today published a report on how social stigma often limits or prevents the treatment of mental illness in adolescents. Health experts at Case Western Reserve’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing administered a self-report survey to groups of students at southern high schools measuring the emotional reaction to a person with mental illness. The data showed that teenagers worry about the social repercussions of admitting to mental illness, which makes them more likely to refrain from treatment and increases the risk that their condition may become chronic.
The Austin American-Statesman reported on June 10 about a Caribbean medical school’s proposal to send students to Texas for clinical training. Medical schools throughout the state, along with the Texas Medical Association, expressed concern that international students could occupy the scarce training positions that are needed for Texas medical students. In an April vote, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board agreed to request an opinion on the matter from Attorney General Greg Abbott, expected to be handed down in November. Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes recommended allowing the program with the added stipulation that only Texas-born students would be permitted.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on June 11 about recently announced plans by the Department of Veteran Affairs to hire hundreds of new psychologists, counselors and social workers. The personnel recruitment and retention program was unveiled after criticism for delays in providing mental health care to returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in need of services. Mary Schohn, director of Mental Health Operations for the VA, said her hope is that “follow-up times will be sooner, veterans will be satisfied with the care they’re receiving and there will be more consistent staffing across the country.”
Medical News Today reported on June 8 about a new U.S. Army program that will identify and treat soldiers at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through behavioral health screening at all primary care visits. Colonel Charles Engel, director of the RESPECT-Mil program, recently presented the Army’s integrated health care model at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, promoting the idea that soldiers would receive early help for linked mental disorders and physical problems. The program has been launched in the majority of Army primary care clinics, with the remainder expected to follow in July.
On June 12, the Hogg Foundation and the federal Office of Minority Health announced the release of a national consensus report studying methods for providing integrated health services to ethnic and racial minorities and populations with limited English proficiency. Researchers nationwide collaborated on the report, which provides a specialized framework for removing disparities in access to care by integrating primary and behavioral health services. The full report, “Enhancing the Delivery of Health Care: Eliminating Health Disparities through a Culturally & Linguistically Centered Integrated Health Care Approach”, is available here.