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Featured Story – National Immunization Awareness Month!

Vaccinating on Time is Important for Disease Protection

National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that children need vaccines right from the start.

Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. The same goes for childhood immunizations. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them from 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.

“The recommended immunization schedule is designed to offer protection early in life,” said Dr. Candice Robinson, a pediatrician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “when babies are vulnerable and before it’s likely they will be exposed to diseases.”

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.

Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years of life may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended.

Dr. Robinson cautions against parents delaying vaccination. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.”

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s NCIRD. This was the greatest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.  Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age 2.

Parents who are concerned about the number of shots given at one time can reduce the number given at a visit by using the flexibility built into the recommended immunization schedule. For example, the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age. Parents can work with their child’s health care professional to have their child get this dose at any time during that age range.

“I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician at CDC. “Getting children all the vaccines they need by age 2 is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy.”

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

This story was written and provided by the CDC. Metro does not claim ownership of this article, the opinions and views expressed, or the content in any way.

July Featured Story – National UV Safety Month!

As summer ramps up in Pittsburgh, Metro wants to honor National UV Safety Month by reminding our patients that sun safety is important during this time of the year in order to avoid sun-related skin cancers. Nothing is better than kicking back on the weekends with a cold fruity drink and soaking up the sun rays that are seemingly few and far between this summer here in Pittsburgh! We have compiled a list of sun safety tips and facts for our patients to reference this summer to help ensure that the sunshine can be enjoyed safely!

First, let’s talk about skin cancer…

There are two main types of skin cancers; melanoma and carcinoma. Melanoma develops in the cells that produce melanin (which gives our skin color), and is the deadliest of all the skin cancers. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are the most common types of skin cancers, accounting for over 5.4 million cases per year in the U.S. according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is reported that 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Skin cancer claims the lives of almost 10,000 Americans every year. The easiest way to avoid the risk is to limit your time under direct sunlight. Follow the tips below to have a fun and healthy summer!

Stay in the shade! The CDC reports that the sun is at its most dangerous between the hours of 10:00am-4:00pm. If you are out and about during these hours, do your best to stay in the shade. Whether you be out shopping around or kicking back at one of your kids’ sporting events, if there is shade available, use it!

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, and re-apply when necessary! The CDC reports that the minimum SPF that your sunscreen should carry is 15, and you should be sure that it will protect you from both UV-A and UV-B rays. By using broad-spectrum sunscreen you are protecting your skin from two different types of harmful ultraviolet rays that the sun produces. Keep in mind that applying once is not enough, especially if you are swimming or participating in activities that cause heavy perspiration. Most sunscreens recommend that users reapply every 2 hours, so keep that in mind the next time you are kicking back at the beach!

Don’t count on clouds to protect you! You may feel that a partially cloudy day at the beach means that you don’t need to take precautions against sun damage. In reality, UV rays can penetrate clouds and wreak havoc on your skin just as easy as on a clear day. Cloudy skies may cool the temperature around you, making it less likely for you to feel your skin burning. Take the same precautions on a cloudy day as you would on a clear day, including re-applying your sunscreen every two hours, in order to assure that you aren’t causing damage to your skin.

Protect your eyes, too! Did you know that UV rays can also cause damage to the cells in your eyes? Cataracts and macular degeneration can be exacerbated by sun exposure, so make sure to pop on a pair of sunglasses that block glare and protect against UV rays (many brands advertise that they protect against 99%-100% of UV rays), or wear a wide-brimmed hat if you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time.

For a complete list of sun safety tips, check out the Federal Occupational Health’s website here and take their Sun Safety Quiz!

June Featured Story – Men’s Health Week!

Metro is celebrating Men’s Health Week by hosting 5 health information days at the health center from Monday, 6/12/17 through Friday, 6/16/17.  Monday features information on Cardiovascular Disease, Tuesday on Diabetes, Wednesday on mental health and suicide, Thursday on Prostate Cancer, and Friday on HIV/AIDS and general sexual health. Stop by the health center and grab an informational flyer on 5 of the deadliest health conditions affecting American men!

Monday, 6/12/17 – Cardiovascular Disease:

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Tuesday, 6/13/17 – Diabetes

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Wednesday, 6/14/17 – Prostate Cancer:

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Thursday, 6/15/17 – Depression & Suicide:

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May Featured Story – National American Stroke Month

May 1st marks the start of National American Stroke Month. The most common cause of stroke occurs when a blood clot interrupts the flow of blood to the brain. When this occurs, the effected brain cells which rely on the oxygen in blood, begin to die. It is estimated that a stroke event occurs in the U.S. every 40 seconds, and strokes are responsible for over 133,000 deaths per year. The purpose of this month-long public health event is to help educate Americans on stroke prevention, early detection, and treatment in the hopes of joining together to end stroke in the United States.

Prevention:

According to the American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes can be prevented. High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to strokes, so managing your blood pressure is crucial to stroke prevention. Obesity is a major factor that contributes to high blood pressure, and with an estimated 70% of Americans being considered overweight or obese, the risk of stroke for those individuals is high. Regular exercise paired with a healthy and balanced diet can help keep blood pressure at normal levels, which is considered anything below 120/80. For a list of heart healthy recipes, please read Metro’s article published for National Nutrition Month in March here. Tag us in your food or exercise pictures @MetroHealthPGH on Instagram or Twitter and include the hashtag #StrokeMonth for a chance to be featured on our website for National American Stroke Month!

Early detection:

Detecting a stroke in the early stages increases your chance of limiting damage and fully recovering. The American Stroke Association reports that 91% of stroke patients who were treated within 150 minutes of their first symptoms recovered with little or no long-term effects, and patients treated within the first 90 minutes were three times more likely to fully recover. The two most common effects of stroke are memory loss and muscle weakness. If you ever experience or witness someone experiencing sudden confusion, an inability to speak, single-side face drooping, or muscle weakness follow the F.A.S.T method to treatment: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911!

Treatment:

When a person suffers and ischemic stroke, or a stroke casued by a blood clot, the treatment involves clot-busting or clot-removal techniques. Alteplase is the only FDA-approved treatment for these type of strokes. If used administered within three hours of the stroke event, patients are expected to survive. Unfortunately, many people do not get to the hospital in time to receive this non-invasive treatment. If patients miss the three hour window, they have another three hours (six hours after the stroke event) to receive a mechanical thrombectomy. In this procedure, doctors use a stent retriever to remove the blood clot through a catheter that they thread through an artery in the groin. The best way to combat the effects of stroke is to pay attention to early detection clues and get to the hospital as soon as possible after exhibiting symptoms.

 

For more information on strokes, visit the American Stroke Association’s website here.

April Featured Story – World Health Day 2017: Depression

World Health Day 2017 is on Friday, April 7th, and the theme this year is Depression: Let’s Talk. Depression is a reality for 350 million people around the world, and 16 million American adults. Depression is defined by the World Health Organization as an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities. Symptoms of depression include loss of energy, sleeping pattern changes, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Depression can and does affect people of all demographics, but the illness has the highest incidence in adolescents (or young adults), women of childbearing age (particularly after childbirth), and adults over 60. The two main treatments for depression are anti-depressants, and talking therapy. Simply speaking to someone, whether it be a friend, colleague, family member, or a licensed professional, about depression makes a world of difference in those afflicted.  That is why the Let’s Talk campaign is the main drive behind the World Health Day 2017 efforts.

The following video produced by the World Health Organization addresses how to get help if you are depressed, as well as how to properly help a person suffering from depression.

Metro Community Health Center would like to encourage any patients who are experiencing or know someone experiencing depression to stop by on April 7thbetween 1:00pm and 4:30 pm to meet with our LCSW for depression education, psychiatric referrals, or counseling. A table will be set up in the waiting room with literature on depression and suicide, as well as some tasty snacks! In addition, a private area will be available to discuss possible treatments and questions in regards to this illness.

April Featured Story – Earth Day 2017 Sustainability Tips!

Earth Day will be celebrated this year, as it is every year, on April 22nd. Now more than ever it is crucial that we pay attention to what our planet is telling us. Unfortunately, what it has to say is not pretty. The theme for Earth Day 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy. As such, Metro Community Health Center would like to help educate our community on the realities of the changes that our planet is experiencing, and provide ways to help promote sustainability to work towards restoring this beautiful planet that we call home.

Causes: The primary cause of our planet’s current severe warming pattern is the expansion of the “greenhouse effect”, which NASA defines as the warming that results when our atmosphere traps the heat (that humans are producing at an alarming rate) while it is trying to escape into space. There are four main gasses that cause this barrier that traps the heat; water vapor, which is the most abundant of the greenhouse gasses and increases as the earth warms; nitrous oxide, which is produced by soil cultivation (such as the use of commercial fertilizers), and fossil fuel and biomass burning; carbon dioxide, which is released through our own respiration, the deforestation of trees, and burning fossil fuels; and methane, which results from the decomposition of waste in landfills, rice cultivation, and the commercial livestock industry.

Effects: As the greenhouses gasses are produced, the planet warms due to being unable to expel the pent-up heat. This results in temperatures rising, changes in precipitation patterns, intense weather patterns, droughts, heat waves, and melting glaciers and ice caps resulting in raising sea levels. Historically these processes happened at a slow but steady rate during periods of global warming, but now they are occurring at rapidly high rates with no signs of slowing down. The global temperature has risen substantially over the last 35 years, with the global average reaching almost 34 degrees more than the average 100 years ago. The U.S. has experienced more extreme weather patterns (such as hurricanes) and intense rainfall events in the last 50 years than in the century before. The ocean has experienced a warming of 0.302 degrees in the top 700 meters in the last 50 years, and ice sheets are shrinking at an unprecedented rate, with 30-60 cubic miles melting per year just between 2002-2005, causing sea levels to rise across the globe. The results of these events are devastating to the global environment, and if we do not take steps to reduce our output of greenhouse gasses, our planet will not be able to sustain us.

Taking Action: There are many things that individuals can do in order to help slow the processes of climate change. Below are a few options that if done properly, can make a real difference in the fight to sustain our planet. The following list is ordered from the most expensive to consumers, to the least. There are options for people of all ages and in all socioeconomic classes. Do what you can to help preserve our planet, and remember that every little bit helps!

  1. Drive fuel-efficient vehicles: Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle can make a huge impact on the amount of carbon emissions being produced. Ove the last few years, fuel-efficient cars have become more accessible to the middle-class, with the average cost according to BankRate being $29,132, with vehicles averaging 32 city and 34 highway miles per gallon. Even Tesla, the leading producer of electric vehicles, has made their Model 3 accessible, priced at $35,000 and getting a whopping 215 miles per charge, with no gas emissions.
  1. Invest in renewable energy: Our future as a species really does depend on renewable energy. Whether it be purchasing solar panels for your home, or simply investing in energy efficient companies, we need to put renewable energy above “Big Oil” and fight for renewable energy sources to be more accessible in all forms. The average cost of solar panels is around $15,000-$29,000 according to Solar Power Now, and the average savings is about 10%-20% of annual utilities expenses. Aside from saving on your utilities bill, you are also drastically lowering your carbon footprint by switching from conventional power to solar.
  1. Weatherize your home: There are many cost effective (and some more expensive) ways to weatherize your home. Heat can leak out through improperly sealed windows and doors, as well as through your attic if your insulation is insufficient or not installed correctly. The Department of Energy estimates that an average of 20%-40% of energy bills are wasted due to heaters compensating for leakage. If your house is experiencing leakage, it means that your carbon output is unnecessarily high as well. Sealing windows and doors can be done without the help of a professional, and materials generally cost below $400 if you are doing your whole house. Having new insulation installed is a little more expensive, but The Department of Energy believes that leakage occurs most out of the attic. Many cities, including Pittsburgh, have a Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) that will provide weatherization services to low-income families at no cost to the homeowners. To find out if you are eligible, go to the benefits.gov website and search for the WAP program in your area.
  1. Purchase carbon off-sets: There are now companies that will help you reinvest into the planet by measuring your carbon footprint and calculating how much per year you would need in order to off-set your carbon output. TerraPass is one such company, and for a single-family home with two occupants and one vehicle, they calculate that you can offset your carbon footprint for only $180 a year. They allow you to calculate a deeper level if you would like, measuring how many miles a year you drive, how many flights you take, and how much energy your home is expelling. They then give you renewable energy credits and BEF water restoration certificates showing where your off-set is going and how it will make a difference in the fight for sustainability.
  1. Buy energy-efficient appliances: When looking to replace old appliances, try to choose an energy-efficient option. Purchasing Energy Star qualified appliances is a great way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your appliances. From refrigerators, to washers and dryers, to HVAC systems, you can make a difference by stocking your home with appliances that use the least amount of energy. There are many affordable options of Energy Star qualified appliances to choose from, and they can be found at most retailers. They are easy to spot as they will have the Energy Star logo.
  1. Take the train: Most people understand that car pollution is a huge contributor to the release of greenhouse gasses, but people forget that airplanes also contribute large amounts of pollution into the air. One way to cut down on your travel pollution is to take the train whenever possible. This means less cars on the road and planes in the air. Taking the train can also be more cost-effective, especially on shorter trips. A round-trip train ticket from Pittsburgh to New York City is about $120, while a round trip flight into New York, even if planned three months out, is around $250.
  1. Buy LED Lightbulbs: LED lights are great for saving on your energy output, as they use 80% less energy than run-of-the-mill incandescent bulbs. It is estimated that switching to LED’s will save up to $125 over the course of the bulb’s life. LED’s do cost a little more than a standard light bulb, but the savings will be worth it in the end, and it will also help reduce your carbon footprint.
  1. Keep up on car maintenance: Simple car maintenance can have a surprisingly big effect on greenhouse gas emissions. An easy fix like keeping tire pressure up will help save up to 1.2 billion gallons of gas each year, and that is just in the United States! You can put air in your tires for free at most gas stations, and a tire pressure gauge can be purchased for as low as $10. “Splurging” on that $20 air filter replacement that is offered when you get your oil changed can help save you an extra 10% on your miles per gallon, also lowering your output of greenhouse gasses.
  1. Eat what you buy, and buy less meat: The United States is one of the biggest contributors to food waste on the planet. An incredible amount of energy and water resources goes into the production of food in the United States, and an estimated 40% of that food ends up being thrown away rather than consumed. The food we throw away is sent to our landfills where it produces carbon dioxide as it rots. As of 2007, global food waste had produced an estimated 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide leaking into our atmosphere. One of the simplest ways for the average person to help with sustainability is by eating the food that they buy and reducing what is thrown into the garbage. The commercial livestock industry produces 7.1 tons of carbon dioxide per year, accounting for 14.5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions occurring. If consumers were to cut down on meat consumption, the industry would be forced to produce less products, in turn cutting down the carbon emissions associated with production. Try going meat-less a few days per week, and you will be making a difference!
  1. Spread the word: The easiest thing you can do to help in the fight for sustainability is talking about the realities of climate change and the ways to lower your carbon footprint with your friends, families, and colleagues. Education is one of the most important aspects of conservation, and if people are unaware of how to make a difference, no one will.

 

For information on climate change and what you can do to help, visit the National Resources Defense Council’s website at NRDC.org

March Featured Story – Women’s History Month: Health & Medicine

The month of March brings with it the celebration of Women’s History Month. The field of medicine is growing and while in the past women were drastically underrepresented, the latest numbers posted by the American Association of Medical Colleges in 2010 state that just shy of half (48.3%) of medical degrees awarded in 2009-2010 were awarded to women. The American Medical Association reported that female physicians now outnumber male physicians in Pediatrics, and female residents outnumber male residents in Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pathology, and Psychiatry.  This celebration gives us an opportunity to reflect on the amazing accomplishments of women throughout the world, and Metro Community Health Center would like to highlight the incredible historical feats of some of the women of medicine.

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Elizabeth Blackwell (2/3/1821-5/31/1910)

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in U.S. history to receive a medical degree. She vehemently fought for female representation in medicine and when she opened her own infirmary in 1857, The New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, she hired female attending physicians and filled her board of trustees and executive committee with women. She co-founded the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874 before retiring from medicine in 1877.

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Rebecca Lee Crumpler (2/8/1831-3/9/1895)

Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States. She is the only African-American woman to receive a degree from the New England Female Medical College in Boston to date, as it closed in 1873, thirteen years after Rebecca completed her degree. She worked for a time at the Freedmen’s Bureau in Virginia providing health care services to freed slaves. She eventually moved back to her native town of Boston and practiced medicine out of her home until she retired from medicine in 1833.

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Clara Barton (12/25/1821-4/12/1912)

Clara Barton was the founder of the American Red Cross. She worked passionately during the American Civil War to keep hospitals stocked full of the life-saving supplies and equipment necessary to keep the wounded soldiers alive. In 1868 during a trip to Europe she was introduced to the Red Cross in Switzerland and came back to the states with a mission to open an American branch, with the intent to help post-war America by providing aide in the event of natural disasters or subsequent wars. Today the American Red Cross continues to serve Americans by providing disaster relief as well as lifesaving blood donor services.

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Marie Curie (11/7/1867-7/4/1934)

Marie Curie was a renowned physicist and chemist who revolutionized the medical field with her research on radioactivity. Her research resulted in techniques that are still used today to treat neoplasms, or tumors. She was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, and is the only woman to win two, one in Physics and one in Chemistry, making her the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different fields. Along with her accomplishments in radiology, she discovered two elements that were added to the Periodic Table; polonium and radium. She passed away of anaplastic anemia in 1934, now known to be a direct result from her prolonged exposure to radiation over the course of her career and the fact that no protections were in place at the time of her studies.

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Henrietta Lacks (8/1/1920-10/4/1951)

Henrietta lacks was not a physician nor was she a scientist. She is however responsible for many medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine and research advances in cancer, AIDS, gene mapping, and the biological effects of radiation. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland. In less than 6 months the cancer had gotten the best of her. Physicians overseeing her treatment before her passing had taken, without her consent, cell samples of her tumor. These samples turned out to be revolutionary to the medical field, as they were able to be divided and re-divided over a long period of time without the cells dying. These “immortal calls”, known today as HeLa cells, were then divided and passed from researcher to researcher all across the country, and eventually all across the world. The story of Henrietta Lacks calls to question the ethics of consent within the medical field, and her story is being featured in an HBO film starring Oprah Winfrey on April 22nd, 2017.

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Selma Dritz (6/29/1917-9/3/2008)

Selma Dritz was a physician and epidemiologist who was hired by the city of San Francisco in 1968 as the assistant director of the CDC. In the 1980’s she was one of the first physicians to recognize the symptoms of what became known as HIV/AIDS. Paul Volberding, former president of the International AIDS Society, sang Dritz’s praises, stating that Dritz was “the most important person” involved with tracing cases of AIDS and discovering how the epidemic was spreading.

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Antonia Novello

Antonia Novello was the first woman and first Hispanic appointed to the position of Surgeon General in the United States. She served under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and during her tenure she advocated healthcare initiatives for women, children, and minorities. She also focused much of her time on the issue of underage drinking and tobacco use, openly criticizing Big Tobacco for using cartoons to market towards younger audiences.

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Mary-Claire King

Mary-Claire King is most notably known for identifying BRCA 1, the gene that is responsible for many types of breast and ovarian cancers. This discovery is what allows “at-risk” individuals the ability to be tested to see whether or not they carry the gene, and plan accordingly. Beyond her research on cancer genes, King also used genomic sequencing to help identify children in Argentina who may have been victims of human trafficking during the Dirty War of 1976-1983. By looking at the children’s mitochondrial DNA, she could definitively tell whether or not the children had been born to the families who had likely captured them, resulting in children being reunited with their birth families.

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Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama used her role as First Lady to make a difference in regards to health care in America. Her “Let’s Move!” initiative founded in 2010 focused on the child obesity epidemic effecting the country. She set a goal of decreasing childhood obesity rates to 5% by 2030, and put forth the mission of encouraging children to eat healthier foods and increase physical activity. She also fought for better food labeling so that consumers could be more aware of what they were putting into their bodies.

Biographic information in this article was paraphrased from Wikipedia articles on the subjects, and images were downloaded from google images. Use of this material is not intended as a copyright infringement on any of the artists or any other entity’s copyrighted material.