Heard you missed me, well I’m back (again).MITEFEvent

For the last few months, I’ve been working with a stellar all-volunteer team who has put together a great event that brings together innovators in Health Information Technology.

Won’t you join us?! Learn more here!

When: Wed, 03/14/2012 – 5:00pm – 8:30pm

Where: Washington Museum of History and Industry
2700 24th Avenue East
Seattle, WA


Health IT is transforming our healthcare system. Healthcare reform, industry consolidation, and demographic changes have spurred a significant increase in the U.S. healthcare industry’s use of technology to improve health and enhance the patient experience while trying to help control the ever-increasing cost of care. New players are emerging and cloud computing, social media, and mobile technology solutions targeting patients and healthcare providers are creating new opportunities.

Join us for our March 14 MIT Enterprise Forum and discover how NW technology entrepreneurs can identify these opportunities and succeed in the health IT market. Our panel of industry thought-leaders moderated by Rob Coppedge, Vice President of Business and Corporate Development at Cambia Health Systems, includes:

  • Sailesh Chutani, CEO, Mobisante
  • Peter Gelpi, CEO, Clarity Health
  • Luis Machuca, President & CEO, Kryptiq Corporation
  • Gwen O’Keefe, MD, Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Group Health

Our panel will provide an overview of major health IT trends, the new opportunities technology presents for both patients and healthcare providers, as well as explain how this may enable change in the traditional healthcare industry cost structure. Most importantly, our speakers will identify business opportunities and what regulatory restrictions such as HIPAA really mean for the NW technology entrepreneur community.

Audience Takeaways

During this event, you will learn:

  • How the health IT market has changed in the wake of healthcare reform and government investment incentives
  • What different types of care and cost models might look like, and what opportunities those present for entrepreneurs
  • Potential sources of funding for innovative health IT technologies
  • Approaches entrepreneurs can take to handle barriers presented by government regulations such as HIPAA

Ditch your scale - for this!The health-related study of the week that’s making the mainstream press (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR Blog, yadda, yadda) was released in the Archives of Internal Medicine that correlates waist size to all-cause mortality. What do you know, waist size correlates better than the ubiquitous body mass index (BMI). Forward-thinking researchers and clinicians have been saying this for *years* and the cookie-cutter articles that have been popping out in response to this most recent paper are all acting as thought this should be treated at a surprise!

Look, I get that not everybody is as geeky as I am on these issues, but if you’re writing on health for a national newspaper, these findings should in no way be a surprise to you. Representing it as such to your readers really demonstrates how little attention you’ve been paying to your chosen profession.

An article on the NPR blog caught my eye today:

Americans Exercise More, But Still Get Fatter

Well, the headline got it right, but when you read the post, you get the same yadda, yadda about ‘lowering caloric input,’ ‘avoiding fat,’ and ‘exercising more.’

Just another reminder to look the other way when you hear the conventional wisdom. There is a new wave coming. Stick with me and I’ll keep you right out front on the leading edge.

Interestingly, the article does not appear with the link above any more. Here’s the article I coped from my

Our workouts aren’t keeping up with our pig-outs.

That fitness routine is soooo not working. More Americans are spending some of their leisure time exercising, yet folks just keeps piling on the pounds.

Here are the cold, hard facts. About 35 percent of adults engage regularly in physical activity when they’re not working, according to estimates based on a 2009 nationwide survey. That’s up from 32 percent in 2008.

Now, what’s the scale tell us? Not good. More people in the U.S. are obese than ever. In 2009, about 28 percent of people in the U.S. were obese, up a fraction of a percent from 2008.

But hop in the Wayback Machine and check the weights in 1997. Nineteen percent of people in the U.S. were considered obese then.

There’s not a moment to lose in doing something to reverse the weight trend. A recent study found that a substantial decline in the rate of heart attacks could be fleeting as obesity and diabetes become more prevalent.

Exercise can only burn so many calories. Eating better is crucial. Recommendations for new nutritional guidelines would cut saturated fats even more than in the past and promote healthier foods, like fruits and vegetables.

But maybe you want to try some more reps of that time-honored weight-loss exercise move — pushing back from the dinner table.

What you *really* need to do to be healthy (which, by the way, will lead to healthy weight) is drastically reduce carbohydrate consumption (eliminate sweets and processed carbs), get your inflammation down (principally by upping your Omega-3 and reducing your Omega-6), getting your Vitamin D in a good range (50ng/ml, remember?) and lifting heavy things on a regular basis (see my BBS posts).

None of this aerobics and calorie restriction, OK?

Just completed a book I’ve been meaning to get to for some weeks

The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It

While it’s gotten to be pretty easy to pick on the pharmaceutical industry of late, this laser-focused book does more than just lob a few broadsides. It pretty much eviscerates every one of the major arguments put forth by the pharmaceutical industry for their practices.

The author is Dr. Marcia Angell, who has had a front-row seat having worked on the staff of the New England Journal of Medicine for 20 years – winding up her career there as Editor In Chief in the late ‘90s. It’s hard to over emphasize the gravity of someone of Dr. Angell’s experience and stature writing a book like this that, as far as I can tell, doesn’t pull a single punch. I suppose it shouldn’t be an enormous surprise, She is married to Dr. Arnold Relman whose book A Second Opinion does much of the same for the entire practice of medicine in the US.

A Second Opinion: Rescuing America’s Health Care

Though this book is kinds long-in-the-tooth by medical policy issues standards (having been published in 2004) it’s not just a little depressing to note that the fundamentals haven’t changed (although, I should be fair and note that there have been some changes in the margins – will get to those in a bit)

So, what are the big takeaways, just in case you don’t read the book :). Well, here are a few:

  • By any objective measure, pharmaceutical companies pay *at least* twice as much for marketing and promotion of their products as they do for research and development of products. It might do well for you to really take that in. An industry that constantly bombards you with the holier-than-thou pronouncement of the centrality of their products to life itself, spends at least twice as much in marketing and promotions than it does for the actual science.
  • ‘Education’ to physicians and other care providers, is actually nothing more than a form of marketing. Everyone knows this but most choose to remain silent and play along
  • ‘Research’ (i.e. many of the clinical trials used to tout the capabilities of drugs) are nothing more than marketing in disguise. This is especially the case for the ‘Phase IV’ trials that take place after a drug has come to market. These trials are almost exclusively biased towards enabling the results to be used as marketing and promotions fodder – not for the purpose of actually determining the effectiveness of the drug or comparing its effectiveness with other treatments.
  • The price-fixing of the cost of drugs in the US (brought to you by millions of dollars in lobbing might heaped on your local legislators) is a putrid, steaming pile of excrement that is hard to believe those in charge sit in every day without expiring from the fumes.

Now, to be clear, I’m clearly not against pharmaceuticals, per se. We are able to live longer, healthier lives because of the breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals. There is a point at which one has to ask: are the benefits that are accruing to us now worth the cost?

Not only does Dr. Angell lay it on pharma, she also makes a few, common-sense suggestions for you, the consumer, to consider when encountering the medical care system:

When your doctor prescribes something, ask:

  • Where’s the evidence this works at all, or better than another, older, drug?
  • Are you getting your ‘evidence’ from the pharma rep, or was there an independently-funded, well-designed clinical trial that proved it was better?
  • Do you have any financial ties related to the prescription?

Other tidbits:

  • Ask your elected representatives if they receive contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Ignore direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs.

Starting a recurring post: the DBT (Don’t Believe This) Files. You know, the stuff that’s out there that may (or may not) be commonly believed, but is so not to be believed it warrants its own little corner of the world.

In this installment, I highlight Obesity Myths dot com (by the way, I’ll typically refrain from actually linking to the sites – I know it’s silly). Came across this site after doing a little reading in connection with my recent post on corn syrup. Here are a few whoppers:

  • Myth: High Fructose Corn Syrup Uniquely Contributes to Obesity
  • Myth: Soda Causes Childhood Obesity
  • Myth: Obesity Has Made Diabetes Epidemic

Turns out our friends at Obesity Myths are an offshoot of The Center for Consumer Freedom. Here’s what CCF say about their funding sources:

Who funds you guys? How about some "full disclosure"?
The Center for Consumer Freedom is supported by over 100 companies and thousands of individual consumers. From farm to fork, from urban to rural, our friends and supporters include businesses, their employees, and their customers.
The Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. We file regular statements with the Internal Revenue Service, which are open to public inspection.
Many of the companies and individuals who support the Center financially have indicated that they want anonymity as contributors. They are reasonably apprehensive about privacy and safety in light of the violence and other forms of aggression some activists have adopted as a "game plan" to impose their views, so we respect their wishes.

It would be funny but it’s hard to laugh while fighting the gag reflex.

Another perspective given to us by the crowd can be found at SourceWatch.org:

The Center for Consumer Freedom (formerly called the "Guest Choice Network") is a front group for the restaurant, alcohol, tobacco and other industries. It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them "the Nanny Culture — the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who ‘know what’s best for you.’"

Starting out smoking

Rick Berman launched the Guest Choice Network in 1995. Its initial funding came entirely from the Philip Morris tobacco company. Guest Choice Network was formed so as to appear not to be "owned" by Philip Morris; address restaurant owners lack of interest in Philip Morris’ "Accommodation Program" and broaden industry appeal. According to a September of 1995 letter from Mr. Berman to Barbara Trach, PM’s Sr. Program Manager for Public Affairs, GCN was designed to:

"Create an aggressive mentality by (restaurant) operators (to oppose) government smoking bans."


Well, it was probably already obvious to most readers that these people are just shillin’, but I thought I’d drive the point home here since it passed my field of view.

Stay tuned for more on the DBT front. I’ve got a few more queued up for you. These next ones might not be such a slam dunk for some of you.

See "King Corn" - Movie Finding reports that demand for high-fructose corn syrup is declining precipitously around the world. Just one look at this Forbes article (Sourced from Associated Press) and they appear to be doomed, I tell you, doomed!

While I’m all for less consumption of corn  syrup in all its form (high-fructose or otherwise), I wonder if we’re just going back to the good ol’ ‘natural’ sugar. That the fructose/glucose mix of sugars (whether cane or beet) is virtually equivalent to corn syrup is still lost on most people. The encouraging sign is the whole Sweet Surprise campaign (can’t bring myself to link to it … do a search if you want to find it) might possibly wind up backfiring on the whole lot of sweeteners given that the one accurate claim of the campaign – that corn syrup is not that different from sugar – is one that is likely to stick.

If you’re interested in an eye-opening look at the whole corn shtick, check out the movie King Corn. Two college buddies from the east coast find out sets of their respective grandparents came from the same little town in Iowa and they set out to discover their roots and learn all you never wanted to know about the brave new agribusiness world of corn production. You’ll be interested (but, perhaps, not surprised) to find that corn functions more like a raw material used in the production of other things that it functions like a ‘food.’ Available on demand at Amazon, Netflix and other places, I’m sure. Perhaps even at your local library?

Who needs to see yet another vitamin D post from me? Seems like I covered it all before. You may be saying ‘I get it already.’ Well, this time, the focus is a little more specific – it’s about giving our mothers and children their best shot at a healthy delivery.

In the April journal of the Obstetrics and Gynecological Survey, there was an alert put out to all Obstetricians, Gynecologists and Family Physicians regarding the mounting evidence of a a strong association between some common complications related to pregnancy and child birth (preeclampsia, spontaneous preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and fetal growth restriction) and the mother’s vitamin D levels.

In fact, they highlight the “significant, intractable disparities” that exist in rates of major pregnancy outcomes between black and white women. Given, as I have noted before, that only THREE PERCENT (3%) of black people in the US have sufficient levels of circulating Vitamin D, it should not be surprising that these scientists believe there may be a connection. You may recall that this ‘sufficiently’ level is 30 ng/mL which is still not optimal (50 ng/mL). While we do not have broadly-collected data on this statistic, one would expect the percentage of black people in the optimal range to be very close to –0-.

There is a summary of this report available on PubMed. Also, our just slightly offbeat, but always on point Dr. Joseph Mercola has a very comprehensive write up on the topic entitled "How Sunshine Can Prevent Birth Defects". Here’s just a sample of the things Dr. Mercola covers in this eye-opening article:

  • Birth Defects
  • Vitamin D Deficiency and Brain Damage
  • Maternal Vitamin d Deficiency Causes Learning Disabilities
  • Dyslexia, Poor School Attendance, Low Apgar Scores And Low Birth Weight
  • African-Americans Are at a Much Higher Risk
  • Severe Vitamin D Deficiency More Than 20 Times More Common in Young Black Women

You don’t have to wait for all the studies to come in. Hopefully I’ve convinced you to alert all those who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant need to get their Vitamin D in to the optimal range (remember, 50ng/mL).