We begin last week’s health care round-up by spotlighting an op-ed published in The Hill from the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease Chairman Ken Thorpe, focusing on which health benefits are essential and should be covered under the law. Thorpe listed three vital steps in defining essential health benefits: define preventative and disease management to include evidence-based programs, maintain a strong commitment to mental health parity, and give physicians the flexibility to treat their patients effectively. To read more on this topic or check out the rest of the article click here.
Staying on the path of prevention, Kaiser Health News reported last week that more workplace clinics are expanding to include preventive care. Some large employers are offering onsite physical therapy, dental and vision exams, mental health counseling and, in some cases, acupuncture and massage. These services reduce absenteeism and also improve employee retention. In 2011, 30 percent of employers with 500 or more employees had on-site clinics, with an additional 9 percent considering adding them. Employees’ costs vary across companies and services.
Elsewhere, Fox News reported on the rising number of children being hospitalized for high blood pressure – long considered a risk factor for developing chronic diseases. The number of hospitalizations jumped from 12,661 in 1997 to 24,602 in 2006. Additionally, the average length of stay for a child with hypertension is twice as long – 8 days versus 4 – as a stay for other illnesses. The study did not conclude the cause for increased levels of hypertension in children, but researchers speculated that obesity and nutrition played a role in their findings.
And finally, the American Medical Association announced its support for legislation that would require yearly classes on childhood obesity causes and consequences for first through 12th graders. Through the measure, doctors would be encouraged to volunteer their time to these programs under the new policy. According to the AMA’s Pennsylvania delegation who drafted the measure, “excess weight is strongly linked with diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and weight loss of just 5 percent can help improve health.” On the heels of this week’s PFCD Hill briefing on “Collaborative Efforts to Address Childhood Obesity,” we applaud the American Medical Association for this innovative approach aimed at improving the health of the one in five U.S. children considered overweight or obese, as well as for future generations.