Cancer survivors denied insurance coverage

Excerpted article was written by Michael Franklin, Digital Producer

CTV News Calgary

They’ve come out on top in the hardest battle they’ve ever faced, but many Canadian cancer survivors are in another fight, this time with their insurance company.

Wilhelm Weinmann beat prostate cancer four years ago and, like 90 percent of men who contract it, the disease shouldn’t give him any future problems.

That is, until Weinmann got a new job and sought health insurance through his company’s plan with Sunlife.

He was looking for dental, vision and prescription coverage for his wife and four children, but was surprised to find that the company denied his application.

The company told him that his medical history, specifically his case of prostate cancer, was not considered a standard risk for the policy.

“To me, it felt really wrong, wrong to get that answer. I dunno, it kinda felt like getting cancer again.”

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the group that Sunlife referred CTV to when asked about the issue, says the denial for cancer survivors is an ‘industry issue’.

Representatives with the Canadian Cancer Society say that it’s a common tactic for insurance agencies that isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

“As our population ages, we’re gonna have thousands of Canadians that have moved beyond their disease but have to live in a system that wasn’t designed for them, that doesn’t support them and their families as they move forward and live their lives,” said Gabriel Miller, policy director with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Miller says he’s called on the government for help with the issue.

Weinmann says he hopes that others will hear his story and be willing to help.

“I’m really hoping to shame these guys into changing their policies.”

While there are insurance policies that cater to cancer survivors, they tend to be very costly.

The Cancer Society says survivors who can’t get insurance often need to rely on financial assistance or charitable programs to fund expenses that insurance would normally cover.

Smartphone health: Apple releases software for medical apps

By Brandon Bailey, The Associated Press

CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple is edging its way a little further into health care with the release of new iPhone apps that patients can use to manage their own medical conditions — from diabetes to pregnancy and even depression.

While there are hundreds of health-related apps on the market, Apple wants to put its stamp on a new ecosystem of treatment programs. Rather than build the apps itself, the tech giant developed a set of software tools and templates, called “CareKit,” that health-care groups and health-tech startups can use to create their own programs.

Apple says it wanted to help developers build easy-to-use apps for patients to record symptoms, get useful information, track their progress and even send reports to a doctor. Experts say the CareKit program could help bring standards to a relatively new and unruly industry, while giving Apple a toehold in the growing health-tech market.

CareKit apps hitting the Apple online store this week include One Drop for diabetics; Start for people taking anti-depression drugs; and two apps from health startup Glow, aimed at women who are pregnant or caring for newborns. Apple says larger organizations, including the University of Rochester and hospitals at the Texas Medical Center, are working on CareKit apps for people with Parkinson’s disease and patients who’ve undergone heart or lung operations.

“These mobile tools can help people reach their health goals,” said Thomas Goetz of Iodine, a startup that used CareKit in the latest version of its Start app. Along with providing information about side-effects to depression medications, the app asks patients to record their symptoms and answer standardized questions to track how they’re doing. Start uses a CareKit feature that lets patients send reports to their doctors; eventually, Goetz said, doctors will be able to respond by adjusting their instructions for medication, diet or exercise.

Data stored on iPhones is encrypted, and Iodine’s app provides cautions to make sure patients understand they’re sending sensitive information to their doctors. Goetz said his company is also developing back-end software for medical offices that will comply with federal confidentiality rules.

But Goetz acknowledged that doctors and insurers “are still trying to make sense of the world of health care apps. They’re trying to understand which ones are valid tools and which aren’t necessarily useful.”

Apple’s software could help validate new apps, he said, by letting developers build on a standardized template from a well-known company whose products are used by large numbers of people.

Apple says it isn’t making money directly from CareKit, which grew from tools the company previously developed for researchers to create apps that collect iPhone users’ data for health studies. But Apple could benefit if the apps gain wide adoption, making the iPhone an even more useful tool for millions of people with medical conditions.

“Even if you can’t point to a revenue stream today, being the hub of an ecosystem related to health care could have great value in the future,” said analyst Jeff Cribbs, who studies health technology for the Gartner research firm.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has signalled he believes the iPhone and Apple smartwatch can play a bigger role in health care. But the industry is heavily regulated and Apple has not ventured into making specialized devices that would be subject to federal oversight. Instead, the company leaves it to the developers who use Apple’s software to determine if an individual app meets any health regulations.


New study suggests: These are the colours bedbugs are most drawn to

New study suggests: These are the colours bedbugs are most drawn to

Excerpted article written

Sleeping in red or black bedsheets? You may want to redecorate: a quirky new study suggests bedbugs are most drawn to these colours while they tend to avoid green and yellow.

Bedbugs are tiny biting, bloodsucking insects that multiply quickly and travel easily. It’s possible for anyone to end up with an infestation of bedbugs, regardless of income or type of dwelling, health officials warn.

They created small tent-like dwellings and placed them in Petri dishes. Then they placed the bloodsuckers into the dish and gave them 10 minutes to choose a spot.

They ran a series of experiments: bedbugs were tested at various life stages, different sexes, in groups and individually. They even compared hungry and well-fed insects.

“It was speculated that a bedbug would go to any harborage in an attempt to hide. However, these colour experiments show that bedbugs do not hide in just any harborage. Rather, they will select a harborage based on its colour when moving in the light,” lead author, Dr. Corraine McNeill, explained in a statement.

Their guess was that the insects would gravitate towards the colour red, because it’s the same shade as blood, which they feed on. They were spot on, but their reasoning changed.

“After doing the study, we think they preferred red colours is because bedbugs themselves appear red, so they go to these harborages because they want to be with other bedbugs,” McNeill explained.

They avoided yellow and green, too. The scientists say it may be because these colours resemble brightly lit areas.

These are important findings, especially to those who are developing bedbug traps, the researchers say.

Pairing red with things like pheromones and carbon dioxide – which also attract bedbugs – could be a food tactic, they suggest.

But don’t rule out red and black from your wardrobe just yet.

“I think that would be stretching the results a little too much … I don’t know how far I would go to say don’t get a red suitcase or red sheets, but the research hasn’t been done yet, so we can’t really rule that out completely,” McNeill said.

It’s the first study to consider bedbugs’ colour preferences – and it almost didn’t happen. The researchers initially joked that bedbugs don’t see or use colour.

Yet preliminary tests suggested otherwise: each time, the bedbugs – hungry, full, male, female, old, young – were specifically going to certain colours over others.

“From there, we took the idea and ran with it,” McNeill said.

The full findings were published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Read the study.

G-7, World Bank to insure poor nations against disease outbreaks

RYO NAKAMURA, Nikkei staff writer

WASHINGTON — The Group of Seven and the World Bank plan to create an insurance system to help poor countries cope with infectious diseases.

The plan calls for setting up a fund to pay insurance premiums, enabling beneficiary countries to receive up to $500 million for countermeasures over three years. The system is to be established in cooperation with the private sector.

The initiative emerged in the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 10,000 people. Funding delays have been blamed, in part, for the high death toll.

The recent outbreak of Zika virus, which started in South America, is adding to global concern about contagions.

Japan, as the current chair of the G-7, will step up efforts to coordinate an agreement on the insurance program. The U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Canada round out the group of major industrial nations.

Measures to fight diseases in destitute and other countries are on the agenda for a World Bank and International Monetary Fund development meeting in Washington on Saturday.

In May, G-7 finance ministers and central bankers will hammer out the details of the plan when they gather in the northeastern Japanese city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. That should pave the way for an agreement at the G-7 summit in Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture, later in the month.

The Japanese government wants to include the accord in the joint statement adopted at the summit.

Read More Here: 

Ontario passes legislation to give first responders WSIB coverage for PTSD

By Keith Leslie


TORONTO _ Ontario unanimously passed legislation Tuesday recognizing post traumatic stress disorder as work-related illness for police, firefighters and paramedics.

Under the old rules, first responders had to prove their PTSD was related to their job to be eligible for coverage under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn beamed as legislation that assumes PTSD is work-related for first responders passed third and final reading by a vote of 96-to-0.

“It was gratifying to look around the House and realize that by an action of this legislature, in a unanimous manner, we’re able I think to change and affect lives in a really meaningful way,” Flynn said.

“I think over the years we haven’t dealt with those issues properly and I don’t mean us as a government, I mean society just hasn’t paid enough attention to mental health issues in general.”

Flynn said first responders are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer from PTSD, and that the condition results in more suicide attempts than all other anxiety disorders.

The presumption also applies to certain workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services and emergency response teams.

Once a first responder is diagnosed with PTSD by a psychiatrist or a psychologist, the claims process to be eligible for WSIB benefits will be expedited, added Flynn.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown called the bill a step forward for first responders suffering from PTSD, and said he hopes it will save lives.

“Too many people are struggling, fighting with WSIB to get treatment,” said Brown. “It doesn’t happen often, but when it does there has to be treatment available.”

New Democrat Cheri DiNovo, who introduced five different bills trying to extend WSIB coverage to first responders with PTSD, says she’d like to see it expanded to include nurses, special constables, bailiffs and parole officers.

“We would like to see some broadening of the scope,” Di Novo told the legislature.

The Tories said they tried to expand the bill to include coverage for nurses with PTSD, but it was voted down by the Liberal government.

The bill does include nurses who work in Ontario’s jails and detention centres.

“Where a nurse is engaged in a first-responder situation, which we believe they are in corrections, we’ve extended coverage to those people,” said Flynn.

The NDP said it was “sad” that the new bill does not allow workers who have their claims rejected by the WSIB to re-open the claim.

“I think that’s truly a missed opportunity because many of the people whose stories brought us to this place had claims rejected by WSIB,” said DiNovo.

“Those are the heroes, and they are written out of this bill.”

DiNovo told the legislature the story of a suicidal firefighter who called her office in distress looking for help, but said he didn’t want them calling other first responders to deal with his situation.

“He knew what it was like to be a first responder and go to a suicide call. He didn’t want his brothers and sisters doing what he had had to do that brought on his own post traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “We phoned first responders to go to the house of a first responder to prevent that suicide.”

A group representing paramedics said the new legislation will go a long way to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and to ensuring first responders get help and treatment before it is too late.


Too much screen time damaging to the eyes

Too much screen time damaging to the eyes

Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, computer or television – spending too much time looking at a screen can damage your eyesight.

A new study by the Vision Council suggests even spending just two hours a day in front of a screen can strain the muscles in your eyes.

Donna McRae was diagnosed with digital eye strain one year ago.

“I was still a student and I noticed I was having a hard time readjusting from the board to the computer,” she said.

McRae’s eyes were always dry and sometimes they would sting.

“I was starting to get headaches, just from my eyes having to strain so much and my muscles having to work that much harder. It made doing my readings and my homework a bit harder.”

The nursing student was spending more than six hours a day looking at her tablet, cellphone, computer and television. When she received her diagnosis, she was not surprised that her electronics were negatively impacting her sight.

The Vision Council found 65 per cent of the people surveyed for the study are experiencing digital eye strain symptoms. Edmonton optometrist, Dr. Sarah Keep, thinks that number may even be low.

“It’s something that we see on a daily basis. Patients come in all the time and they have certain symptoms that are linked to computer use,” she explained. “We see anything from dry eye issues, to issues with head and neck pain, blurry vision.”

The reason too much screen time is bad has a lot to do with the type of light they give off.

“They emit different light than we are used to. Blue violet light is emitted from the digital devices. Not only can that contribute to eye strain, but we’re also thinking it can contribute to diseases in the back of the eyes as patients get older,” Dr. Keep said.

If caught early enough, the symptoms can often be treated and the condition reversed.

McRae said she put off a follow-up appointment with the optometrist for months and regrets that now.

“I think it’s important people realize how important it is for people to go to their regular eye appointments and make those appointments with your doctor for follow-ups. The longer you wait, the worse things can get.”

Her eyes are being treated with special drops and she now wears glasses with blue-light blocking lens filters.

Dr. Keep said there are a number of ways patients can protect themselves from digital eye strain, including taking frequent breaks from screens.

“We love suggesting the 20-20 rule. So for every 20 minutes you spend on a computer, take 20 seconds and glance at something 20 feet away to relax the eye muscles.”

Eye drops also help because they help lubricate the eyes. When looking at screens, Dr. Keep said people tend to blink less often.

“Computer screens, we usually recommend them being at arm’s length and digital devices, we encourage people not to hold them so close to their eyes. We want to push them away a little bit so it’s not causing as much strain on the eyes,” she said.

Reducing the brightness of electronic screens and increasing font size can also help.

This isn’t just a concern for adults. Dr. Keep said she’s seen children in elementary school experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain.

The Vision Council’s study found adults under the age of 30 have the highest rates of strain.

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