Brooklyn Health Needs Assessment In:
Listen and Share Your POV

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Kings County Hospital Center opens Cancer Center, 2010. Credit: NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation

Tomorrow and Thursday, you have your chance to hear about a Brooklyn Health Needs Assessment that analyzed opinions from more than 700 North and Central Brooklyn residents on their healthcare. Many people involved in this process are dedicated to getting the public’s point of view on what is needed in hospital and healthcare across Brooklyn and building a rational healthcare system. Is it possible? Let’s hope so.

Lately, enormous Brooklyn pride has not extended to healthcare. In fact, nearly a year ago, the New York Times reported that, according to a group appointed by Governor Cuomo, “the NYS Health Commissioner should be given sweeping new powers to replace the executives and board members of private hospitals. ” A lot has transpired since then, including the closure of Downstate’s Mental Health Hospital, departures of some executives, and tales of patients languishing in hospitals for extended periods. Hospital mergers are uncertain. Whether the scope of the city’s public hospital inpatient and outpatient programs will remain intact, become privatized, or what, worries public health advocates. How much does poverty in Brooklyn stress the system?

Judy Wessler, who is with the Commission for the Public’s Health System, which goes by the byline, “putting the public back into the public health system,” sent out news of the meeting, urging people to learn and suggest ways to reconfigure Brooklyn health care.

Brooklyn Health Needs Assessment Results

will be presented at two meetings:

In Downtown Brooklyn and Bed-Stuy.

Wednesday, October,24, 2012, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street, between 4 and 6 pm. That’s tomorrow, as I post now.

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 at the Bed-Stuy YMCA, 1121 Bedford Ave., between 5 and 7 pm.

If you use tumblr, I talk about it there  too.

Have thoughts about changes that you’d like to see in Brooklyn? Share them here. Be sure to go to one of these meetings too.

 

 

 

 

Alzheimer’s Disease Issues 2011 Fellowship Begins

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I am in Washington at the National Press Foundation’s Alzheimer’s Disease Issues 2011 Fellowship with about 15 other journalists. The program runs through Wednesday. Today’s session was a half-day, with presentations by Richard Jackson, director of the Global Aging Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Global Age Shift

Trends that struck me in Jackson’s global aging presentation were as follows:
1.    Falling fertility is near or beneath replacement in countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile. In Turkey, Iran, North Africa, and Indonesia, fertility is also falling fast.
2.    Rising life expectancy is bringing added financial burdens that few developed countries can handle.
3.    As the population ages, productivity in the workforce goes down and growth slows.
4.    Savings and investment drop.
5.    As a result, families get smaller and people become more risk averse. Smaller families may find it more difficult to socialize their children to care for elders as they did traditionally.
6.    A rising share of the population does not have a child to look after them, which in my mind, puts more elders at risk of poverty in old age.
7.    Right now, Germany and Sweden look the best in terms of funded retirement savings. Germany and Japan both have mandatory long term care insurance deducted from income.
8.    There have been Draconian cuts in pensions worldwide.
9.    However, Germany stands out as one country where you don’t have to become poor to get old age/long term care.

Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease Burden in the United States

Turning to the United States, Johns compared the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s to where cancer was in 1961, when many doctors did not tell patients about a diagnosis of cancer. He pointed out that available treatments are at best “”symptom improvers’ that don’t work for everyone and when they work, they may not work for long.”

Legislative changes at the federal level are promising, including the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), which passed in December, as part of the lame duck session in Congress. It requires developing a strategic plan for Alzheimer’s in America, according to Johns. As part of the “Welcome to Medicare exam,” including an annual cognitive measure will be added to the annual physical.

The HOPE (Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education) for Alzheimer’s Act (H.R.5926), sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, is currently making the rounds in Washington. It is endorsed broadly, with bipartisan support. Change.org has a petition on the web  urging the public to sign it and “Stand with the Alzheimer’s Association and urge members of Congress to support” it.

According to Johns, the Hope for Alzheimer’s Act will encourage discussion about Alzheimer’s, promote charting in the medical record, and advance discussion about Alzheimer’s and care.

The change.org petition states: “Too many of America’s baby boomers will spend their retirement years either living with Alzheimer’s disease or caring for someone who has it. Even worse, many of the estimated 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease do not have access to a formal diagnosis or care planning services preventing them from planning for the future. As we work for Alzheimer’s research, we must ensure individuals living with the disease have access to services that can improve their quality of life today.”

This is the second time that the Foundation has run this event, which is underwritten by Pfizer,the Lawrence B. Taishoff Endowment, and the National Press Foundation Program Fund. A few journalists and bloggers have criticized the program in the past because of Pfizer money. Pfizer is in the Alzheimer’s market so anyone could argue that in supporting an educational program on Alzheimer’s, journalists who cover Alzheimer’s information gained at the meeting, could use that information to enhance Pfizer’s market share. That’s why I am being up front about this here. According to NPF President Bob Meyers, Pfizer has absolutely no editorial impact on the program, but before the program, Pfizer receives a proposed agenda and budget.

I don’t know whether I’ll have the energy to blog every day of this meeting (it’s Alzheimer’s all day for 2.5 days ahead), but if you have any concerns about Alzheimer’s patient care, caregiver issues, or funding, please point them out in the comments.