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Health & Science

About one in three Arkansas residents is obese, and doctors say it’s leading to people dying much younger than they need to, and leading unhealthier lives in the meantime.

“They have more co-morbidities, which means they have other disease processes that basically can shorten their lifespans, such as diabetes and hypertension and heart disease,” said Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the New York Institute of Technology's College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University.  He said since the human body is not meant to carry hundreds of extra pounds, morbidly obese humans may suffer severe hip, joint, knee or ankle pain.

A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count data center finds that heart disease is the fifth-highest cause of death for children and teenagers in Arkansas. 

At five-percent, heart disease is dwarfed by other causes, such as accidents, which account for 34 percent of childhood deaths. But doctors say heart disease can still endanger kids and put many others at risk for problems in adulthood and lead to heart attacks under the age of 40.

Summer vacation season is heating up with residents venturing into woodlands to hike and camp, but danger may be lurking in the forest, in the form of infected ticks.

Arkansas has some of the highest rates of tick-borne illness in the country. And this summer a new disease has been confirmed by state health officials: the Heartland virus, so-named because it’s spreading across America’s heartland.

The Heartland virus was first detected eight years ago, in Missouri, after two farmers were hospitalized with a mysterious debilitating illness.

The Arkansas Department of Health will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana patient cards at the end of the month, according to an agency news release. The cards will be distributed to qualifying patients and caregivers in order to allow the purchase of medicine from licensed dispensaries. The Health Department says it will distribute the cards approximately 30 days before medical marijuana is available for sale in the state. That could be next year.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin in early June pronounced the American veterans health care system to be in “critical condition.” 
 
One northwest Arkansas VA hospital, however, appears to be thriving, and that prompted U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-3rd District) to invite Shulkin to take a look.

After an early morning tour of the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville Monday, Shulkin, at a press conference on the grounds, characterized the forested campus facility as extraordinary.

 
 “It is a five-star facility. That means it is the very top of performance across the country in VA’s.”
 

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas will soon begin taking applications from those who hope to grow and dispense medical marijuana, though the state's strong religious heritage and restrictions imposed by the Legislature will limit where greenhouses and distributors can operate.

The 3rd Annual Tracking Report from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds that the state is having success with a new health care business model that puts the focus on improved outcomes and cost savings.  

Unlike fee-for-service, the model used by the vast majority of health care providers, the Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative offers no financial incentive for ordering unnecessary tests.  Providers instead earn bonuses for improved outcomes for patients and for reducing costs.

It’s already saved the state some $54 million in Medicaid costs, according to Mike Motley, assistant policy director at ACHI.  The tracking report found that total Medicaid costs predicted at $660.9 million came in at $606.5 million in 2015, due to cost avoidance.  The savings were then shared between the state and the providers who helped avoid unnecessary costs.

Motley said the value-based model benefits patients as well by emphasizing outcomes and putting them in closer contact with their caregivers.

The U.S. Senate plans to spend the summer writing health care legislation to repeal, replace, or tweak the Affordable Care Act. The House has passed a bill that congressional analysts say would reduce the deficit and cut 23 million people from their insurance. Arkansas Public Media’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek spoke with Senator John Boozman about his goals for health care.

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JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas food distributor has recalled nearly 100,000 pounds of precooked sausage products that might contain metal.

The recall was announced Wednesday by Armour Eckrich Meats in Junction City.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service says the recall includes more than 8,000 cases of 16.6 ounce packages of "Eckrich Smok-y Cheddar Breakfast sausage, Naturally Hardwood Smoked." The labels have the case or UPC code and a "27815 17984" with a use-by date of Aug. 17. The products also have the number "EST. 3JC" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Board of Health has unanimously approved rules that govern the issuance of marijuana-user registration cards, and the labeling and testing of the drug.

Robert Brech, the Department of Health's chief attorney, tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2ptmqy5) the department's staff made a few technical revisions since receiving board approval in January before submitting the final version of the rules Thursday.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say 54 cases of mumps have been confirmed among students at Southeast Missouri State University.

KFVS-TV (http://bit.ly/2oR3hD5) reports that there also are another 23 probable cases among students at the Cape Girardeau school. School leaders believe the peak of the mumps outbreak has passed, but expect to see more positive cases on campus and in the community. Students are being urged to receive a booster dose of the vaccine that protects against mumps, as well as measles and rubella.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a Memphis meat packer has recalled some ready-to-eat ham products due to possible bacterial contamination.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Health officials say the state's first human case of West Nile virus this year has been found in west Tennessee.

The health department in Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said Friday the virus was recently confirmed in a person who lives in the county. Officials did not identify the patient.

Officials said there were six human cases of the virus in Tennessee in 2016. One case was fatal.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas health panel has recommended limiting coverage of opioid prescriptions in health plans that cover tens of thousands of state employees and teachers.

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Encouraging lawmakers to make informed policy decisions when it comes to legislation about science…that is the goal of a march that occurs this month at the state capitol in Little Rock.  The theme for the event is “Stand Up for Science.” Dr. Michele Merritt is assistant professor of philosophy at Arkansas State University.  She came up with the idea of a March for Science. 

"You don't have to be a scientist to appreciate science," says Merritt.  "I am not a science professor, but I rely on science and I wanted to protect what I see is valuable research that is going on."

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