Actual patient care through the weekend prevented a timely publication of Medical Monday. Thanks for your patience !
The health care sector’s initial responses to the Trump administration’s approach to health care policy ranged from shock to anger. Now people and corporations are starting to take action, especially in the face of the administration’s disarray and impotence.
The Trump administration through the Department of Health and Human Services slashed $200 million from the Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Program. (Can anybody tell me the process that made this possible, or does the President just decide like a dictator ? ) The spokesperson of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has spoken out and disputed the administration’s position which stated that there is “ very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs. “ Experts everywhere are dismayed since the programs are believed to have produced a 41% drop in the teen pregnancy rate since 2010. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and ACOG ( American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) both credit the declining teen birth rate to these programs.
The Trump administration is bit by bit, trying to dismantle the ACA’s protections on reproductive health care. Most recently, the contraceptive mandate for employer sponsored programs is on the chopping block. ACOG has stated that the contraceptive mandate has driven the unintended pregnancy rate to a 30 year low, and eliminating this feature would be a threat to public health.
The Trump administration has indicated its support for abstinence only sex education, which has no evidence to support its efficacy. However, the CDC has produced two meta-analyses which indicate that comprehensive sex education results in reduced overall levels of sexual activity and increased levels of protection among those that are sexually active.
Indiana law classified the use of aborted fetal tissue as a felony. A group of Indiana researchers has challenged this legislation with a federal lawsuit. The group bringing the suit is from the National Institute of Health funded Alzheimers Disease Center where they do study brain tissue from aborted fetuses.
A recent article in the Dallas Morning News has highlighted the new voice of corporate American in social policy. Corporate America needs a diverse and inclusive workforce, and it understand that inclusiveness is good for business. Accordingly, it has begun to stand up for diversity. From various quarters, highly placed business leaders have spoken out and defied the current administration’s divisive policies. Recent examples of these divisive policies and positions include the President’s reaction to the Charlottesville violence, as well as recent controversy regarding LGBT rights, i.e. the so-called bathroom bill.
The writer of the Dallas Morning News editorial, Dr. Daniel Grossman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology University of California, San Francisco, has called upon the business community to begin speaking out on women’s reproductive rights as well. He cites the fact that fully 70% of Americans support women’s access to full reproductive services including abortion, and this is also the position of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association. A broad based field of research has shown time and again that access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health care for women leads to better health, higher levels of educational attainment, and improved economic stability for women, families and society at large. To learn more see https://www.ansirh.org, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Heath, a division of the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, http://bixbycenter.ucsf.edu.
As mentioned in several past posts, States are starting to take matters into their own hands. They are, on their own State legislative calendars, enacting various bills that safeguard the requirements for insurance to cover various benefits such as birth control or prenatal care. The latest is Arkansas, which has passed a law which will require insurers in the State to cover indicated mammograms.
In the good news department, we have word that there are bipartisan meetings planned in the first part of September, which will include Governors as well as State Insurance Commissioners. The goal of the meetings will be to stabilize existing insurance markets under the ACA. Things may actually start to get real.
In medical news, the truth is starting to come out, as truth eventually does. New data published in a recent study shows that yearly mammograms starting at 40 (rather than every other year at 50) would prevent the most deaths due to breast cancer. According to this study out of Cornell and New York Presbyterian, for those aged 40-80, screening at 40 reduces breast cancer deaths by 40 % beyond current protocols. Those who read this column regularly already know that a whole segment of the health care world including ACOG, the American Cancer Society and the American College of Breast Surgeons among others, have always taken this view. They have taken serious issue with the short sighted recommendations of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) which has taken the position that mammograms in the 40s confer no benefit.
All parties concerned recognize that this earlier and more frequent approach mammograms produces a higher number of false positives. However, actual clinicians ( doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who see patients) do not take the position of the USPSTF(statisticians and epidemiologists largely) that fear of mammograms, pain of mammograms, breast biopsies with benign results constituting a false positive, or even infected or bruised breast biopsies compare with a breast cancer death as a harm. In fact no number of these types of “harms” could ever add up to even one breast cancer death.
The next item is in both the good news department and the we-already-knew-this department. A recent analysis published in the journal Menopause has indicated that vaginal estrogen does NOT confer increased cardiovascular risk. Vaginal estrogen does not appreciably enter systemic circulation. It stays local to the vagina, and does its job to relieve postmenopausal vaginal dryness. Vaginal estrogen was found to NOT increase risk for breast cancer or for any of these: colon cancer, uterus cancer, stroke, clots in the lung (pulmonary embolus) or deep vein thrombosis. Sheepish gynecologists should prescribe with confidence.
A concerning new report published in the journal Pediatrics has brought to light that less than half of new moms are consistently putting their babies on their backs to sleep. Not doing so raises the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Three quarters state they “ usually" do so. Current guidelines clearly state that babies should be in their parents room, in their own bed, and on their back to sleep for the first six months of their life.
Breast and ovarian cancer patients are not getting genetic testing at adequate rates. Genetic testing for these patients informs the care of their children. Moreover, it can also provide insight into their own treatment. Finally, it may ultimately provide information that could help us screen for and treat cancer in new and better ways. I look forward to the day when disease is understood and treated at a genetic level. To get there, we must as a society, contribute our personal genetic information in a meaningful way.
That’s it for this week; Stay tuned next week for more news from the exciting world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.