Health

Health and health care news

Elizabeth Weller / Flickr/Creative Commons

Vermont’s so-called GMO Labeling Law will go into effect July 1. It requires manufacturers to label foods made with genetic engineering. It’s the first law of its kind in the nation, and it has started a trend.

Maine and Connecticut have passed similar laws, but only require labels if nearby states join the labeling bandwagon. New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are also considering labeling legislation.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine state agencies now have a purchasing preference for gasoline blended with 5 percent or less of ethanol, thanks to an executive order signed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
 
The preference is effective when such fuel costs about the same as gasoline blended with a higher concentration of ethanol.
 
LePage's order says "federal mandates'' have increased domestic ethanol production and use, and that vehicle emissions affect Maine's air quality.

Four health centers across Maine are sharing more than $1.5 million in federal dollars to expand oral health services.

The four are among 19 health centers in Maine that receive funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The facilities are designed to serve medically underserved populations.

HRSA Communications Director Martin Kramer says there’s a variety of things the centers can do with the money.

Public health officials in the U.S. have discovered so-called superbugs — antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which the World Health Organization is calling a “global health crisis.”

Keith Shortall spoke with two Maine experts about the issue: Dr. Meghan May, associate professor of microbiology and infectious diseases with the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Dr. August Valenti, an infectious disease specialist with Intermed.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Health advocates are asking grocery store chains Shaw’s and Hannaford to stop carrying food products packaged in containers that contain the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA. They say eliminating it from the linings in canned food would go a long way toward protecting public health.

There’s power in being a part of a large grocery store chain. That’s why Emma Halas O’Connor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center wants Hannaford and Shaw’s to leverage their market power to eliminate BPA from food packaging.

PORTLAND, Maine - The Portland City Council is set to vote Monday on a resolution to remove the exclusion for trangender health care services from the municipal employee health plan. 

The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings and co-sponsored by the  entire City Council. 

Strimling says the resolution makes clear that the city supports health care services for trangender people in order to protect the health, safety and quality of life for all Portland residents.

The Maine State Housing Authority has been awarded $3.4 million in federal dollars for lead abatement efforts.

With the money, the authority says it will address lead hazards in housing units for low- and very-low-income families with children.

MaineHousing spokesperson Deborah Turcotte says that, in addition to getting the lead paint out of homes, the authority will be providing ways to remove lead dust.

PORTLAND, Maine — Several hundred more schoolchildren have received vaccinations for measles in the past year, boosting the state’s protection against a measles outbreak.

The Portland Press Herald reports that up to 400 more grade school children received the measles vaccination in the past school year. Maine’s voluntary opt-out rate remains among the nation’s highest, so health officials are cheering the improvement.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

One of the many challenges of Maine’s opioid epidemic is getting people into effective drug treatment as quickly as possible. A shortage of treatment providers means that some patients can wait weeks or months to be seen.

But in Brunswick, the Addiction Resource Center at Mid Coast Hospital has figured out how to cut those wait times to just a few days, and the effort appears to be paying off.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A philanthropic foundation is giving The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor more than $8 million to improve cancer diagnostics and treatments.

The money is coming from the Harold Alfond Foundation. Jackson Laboratory was one of the first cancer genetics research institutions in the world.

The laboratory has a cancer center at its Bar Harbor headquarters and at its genomic medicine lab in Farmington, Connecticut.

Maine’s three largest cities are among others across the U.S. identified in a recent British newspaper for using testing protocols that could hide lead contamination. But water district officials in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor say the newspaper investigation unfairly compares past testing practices to new federal recommendations released just months ago.

Riverview Psychiatric Center has let go its director of nursing, following the resignation of the hospital’s superintendent and clinical director earlier this year.

But Dan Wathen, the court master who oversees a consent decree that protects the rights of Riverview patients, says the director of nursing was a contract position that was not renewed.

“I would prefer that always the employment situation was stable and happy, but every instability doesn’t mean that the hospital is in serious difficulty,” he says.

Courtesy photo

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat opiate addiction called Probuphine. Its manufacturer calls it a game-changer, because it’s an implant that releases medication over months. But some Maine physicians who treat those with opiate addiction are more skeptical about the drug’s potential promise.

LEWISTON, Maine - Maine is seeing a spike in sexually-transmitted diseases. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett says when comparing the number of STDs year-to-date to the five year median year-to-date, "syphilis has more than doubled, gonorrhea has more than doubled, and chlamydia is probably about 25 percent higher this year than the median over the last five years." 

Bennett says the spike in Maine mirrors a national trend.  A number of factors are likely the cause, she says, including the fact that many people who have STDs don't show immediate symptoms.

The smoking rate among American adults is declining, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2015, 15 percent of U.S. adults were smokers, a 2 percent reduction from the previous year. Lance Boucher of the American Lung Association of the Northeast says Maine’s adult smoking rate is also declining, but trends higher than the national average.

“We’ve been stuck in the 19 or 20 percent range for the last couple of years, through 2014 data,” he says.

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