October has been observed as Talk About Your Medicines Month (TAYMM) for 35 years. Started by the BeMedWise Program at NeedyMeds (formerly known as the National Council on Patient Information [NCPIE]), the awareness month is an annual opportunity to spotlight safe medicine use with the goal of improved health outcomes. This year’s theme is Medication Adherence – On Track With Your Meds and Your Health. Medication adherence is a vital part of maintaining your health. Our goal is to empower patients to maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks of the medications they are taking, and provide the tools they need to talk about their medicines.

Medication adherence has been called America’s “other drug problem.” Nonadherence can lead to illness progression, severe complications, and preventable deaths. Nonadherence includes anything from delaying or not filling a prescription, skipping doses, splitting pills, to stopping a medication early. Not taking medication as directed can lead to poor health outcomes which then increases healthcare service utilization and overall healthcare costs.

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Photo by Ahmed Hasan

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year over 45,000 people in America kill themselves — a rate that has increased 41% since 1999. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but 54% of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental illness

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, and is also affected by personal relationships, substance use, physical health, and stress from jobs, money, legal issues, and/or housing. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic injustices have also had a chilling effect on Americans’ mental wellbeing. Awareness is important to end the stigma of suicidal feelings and help more people access life-saving help in dark times. 

Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, but it is important to know they are not permanent. Having suicidal thoughts is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a symptom of profound distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be very damaging and dangerous, and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. 

Other than mental illness, there are a number of risk factors for suicide:

  • A family history of suicide;
  • Substance abuse — using drugs and alcohol results in mental/emotional highs and lows that can exacerbate suicidal thoughts;
  • Intoxication — more than a third of people who die from suicide are under the influence at the time;
  • Access to firearms;
  • A serious or chronic medical illness;
  • A history of trauma or abuse;
  • Prolonged stress;
  • Isolation;
  • A recent tragedy or loss;
  • Agitation; and/or
  • Sleep deprivation.

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The effects COVID-19 has had on healthcare have been a significant part of nearly every article written here since March. The last time we looked into the costs associated with coronavirus infections, things were very different. We didn’t know what the summer would look like or how schools would reopen. Daily briefings from the White House were still happening.

The first U.S. case of COVID-19 was discovered in late January. By the end of February, there were 24 cases and one American death. In the first few weeks of the outbreak testing was very limited, sometimes as few as 300 for an entire state. It then took time for health officials to realize that the tests they received were flawed, lacking critical components, and delivering faulty results

In late February, a Seattle team researching the flu found they could test for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19, but were running into bureaucratic red tape. When the doctors

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Vaccines are a vital part of healthcare at all stages of life and offer the best protection available against many potentially devastating illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages parents to follow an immunization schedule for babies and young children, protecting them from 14 life-affecting diseases. Pre-teens and teenagers should begin to innoculate against meningococcal diseases (meningitis or septicemia) and HPV (Human Papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer). Adults should continue to protect themselves with a yearly flu shot, tetanus updates, and later in life the shingles vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine.

An important element of immunization awareness is to protect our populations through “herd immunity” — when a high percentage of a population is vaccinated to protect individuals who have not developed an immunity. Babies are protected by their mother’s immune system at birth and continue to be passed antibodies from their mother’s

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Black lives are being lost to COVID-19 at twice the rate of others. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared white women. Black children are more than three times more likely to die after surgery than white children. Black people are 3.23 times more likely to die at the hands of the police than white people. The Black Lives Matter movement protests against the destructive devaluing of Black lives at the hands of law enforcement and other racially-motivated violence; it is equally clear that Black lives need to be more valued in terms of the healthcare they have access to and receive.

By nearly any measure, Black people suffer disproportionately in America. They face countless challenges to good health, among them food, transportation, and income. Healthcare services are often more expensive, with over 30% of medical expenses faced by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) being associated with health inequities. The stress of living life inescapably affected by racism has very real effects on a person’s physical and mental health

Black

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