Health News



Free Clinic Summit
Medical professionals, community groups and individuals interested in establishing free medical and dental care services for the poor can get a wealth of pointers at a one-day conference Sept. 22 at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The Louisiana Free Clinic Association (LFCA) is hosting the conference, which covers areas such as setting up and preserving the function of a non-profit board; recruiting, retaining and managing volunteers; exploring funding options; and setting up and maintaining data collection systems. Glenn Pierce, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Free Clinics, will speak, as well as a variety of non-profit professionals.

The LFCA hopes to attract participants from the dental and medical professions, staff from those groups' professional associations, community leaders, and church groups interested in organizing care for those not covered by insurance. "There are only four clinics open at this time," says Janette Alcorn, executive director of the Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic and LFCA. Clinic sites have been established in Lafayette, Alexandria and Lake Charles. Baton Rouge operates a "virtual clinic" in which patients are referred to doctors' private offices. LFCA helped establish the four clinics with the aid of a small seed grant from Volunteers in Health Care, an organization dedicated to providing health care to the uninsured and underinsured working poor.

"[The conference] is a great way to share information, resources," Alcorn says. "There are funding opportunities out there. [The LFCA] opens up doors to funding for the free clinics through an association. We want to keep it going."

Cost of the conference is $50 per person and includes lunch and materials. Pre-registration is required; for information, call Alcorn at (337) 593-9208 or Pat Alford at (225) 927-9272.

Better Safe Than Sick
The Department of Health and Hospitals and state health officials last week issued another warning to residents to protect themselves from mosquitoes that could carry the virus responsible for an outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis. To date, more than three dozen cases of the disease have been reported in the state.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Raoult Ratard says people should use insect repellent and wear long sleeves outside to avoid mosquito bites and should eliminate any standing water, high grass and weeds to impede breeding. He also says people need to keep mosquitoes from getting inside by repairing torn screens or broken glass.

Local health officials and mosquito control agencies have stepped up abatement programs statewide. State health officials also have asked the Centers for Disease Control for help, asking for experts and technical assistance to combat what officials call an "outbreak" of encephalitis caused by arboviruses. The problem came to light as residents began to find dead birds that health officials believe died from the disease. To date, the Office of Public Health has collected 95 dead birds to be tested, and reports of dead birds number more than 280. Most of those reports have come from Orleans, Ouachita, Franklin and East Baton Rouge parishes, the OPH says.

The state also has taken measures to guard the equine population from another arbovirus that causes West Nile encephalitis in horses. Authorities say veterinarians should have a vaccination against the disease in their offices by Sept. 4.

Clubbing Cancer
You can swing a club on a lovely golf course, bid on fun items at a silent auction, and enjoy food and entertainment while raising money for cancer services at the Fifth Annual Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Stanley S. Scott Center Golf Classic Sept. 14 at the Golf Club of New Orleans.

In addition to honing their skills on the Eastover course, golfers who plug a hole-in-one can win a car from Royal Honda and the Lamarque Motor Co., as well as door prizes and competitions for longest drive and putting accuracy.

Proceeds will be used for community education, early detection screenings, outreach programs, health care services, and research into cures and treatments for cancer.

Entry fees are $175 for individuals or $700 for a foursome. The fee includes green fee, range balls, golf cart, lunch, an awards ceremony honoring the efforts of Castano Tobacco Litigation Group, a closing party and dinner. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. and tee times start at 1 p.m. For more information, call 568-3712.

Kudos for Caring
A state mental health advocacy group has selected Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Assistant Secretary Warren Price to receive its prestigious Fred Henderson Memorial Award.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Louisiana chapter gave Price the award -- established by the parents of Fred Henderson, who committed suicide after years of battling depression -- for his service in the cause of mental health.

"This is a man who has dedicated himself to serving our mentally ill loved ones and their families," says Della Trahan, vice president of NAMI Louisiana. "He has truly given exemplary service and direction in the cause of mental illness throughout Louisiana."

Earlier this year, the Mental Health Association of Louisiana gave Price the Vision of Hope Award in recognition of positive changes he has achieved for the state's mental health community.

During his career, Price has worked within the state's mental health system in various capacities and has been an effective advocate for patients, their families and consumers, says DHH Secretary David Hood.

Age-old Dilemma
With Americans living longer lives, there is an increased need for health plans and living spaces that accommodate the special needs of the elderly. To provide easy access to information about the options available, the Louisiana American Association of Retired People and Louisiana Assisted Living Association have scheduled a free two-hour seminar Sept. 10.

Parade of Choices -- Louisiana Style will detail the local living choices available to senior citizens. The seminar is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 am. at Jefferson Parish Library (4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie).

A panel of experts will tell participants how to make the right choice when searching for a place for elderly people to live, how to fund the choice, and exactly what options are available locally in terms of adult residential care centers, retirement housing, assisted living complexes, nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities and services available for patients with Alzheimer's or dementia. Participants also will be able to meet panel members personally at an informal reception following the program.

The seminar is sponsored by Louisiana AARP, LALA, Senior Health Insurance Information Services and Mobility Specialists. For more information and to make reservations, call Jaime Taliancich at 738-1060.

Aetna's Gone
Employers who have provided Aetna's HMO/POS group health plans must now seek out another carrier to provide insurance following Aetna's decision this month to pull those products out of Louisiana.

Aetna officials say the withdrawal in Louisiana and other "unprofitable" markets does not signal a demise of the company but rather is a response to $48 million in losses it has suffered already this year. They have attributed part of the losses to poor claims processing, which is being corrected.

The national insurance firm will give Coventry exclusive access to information about its HMO customers, but plans will be underwritten on a case-by-case basis. Group Health Plans of Louisiana (4323 Division St., Metairie, 456-1858; will convert existing Aetna HMO plans to Coventry, Blue Cross, The Oath, Starmark, Pacific Life, Ochsner, AmCare, John Alden and more than a dozen others.

Ride for Children's Health
Bicycle through historic areas of old Gretna and raise money for pediatric medical research during a Wheels for Life bike-a-thon in Gretna Oct. 7. The 5.5-mile bike-a-thon, being held in conjunction with the annual Gretna Heritage Festival, begins at 10 a.m. on the corner of First Street and Huey P. Long Avenue.

Proceeds go to St. Jude Research Hospital, an international leader in the fight against life-threatening diseases such as sickle cell anemia, cancer and AIDS in children. Services at the hospital, founded by actor/singer Danny Thomas, are provided free and information about diseases is shared with other doctors around the world.

For information or to register, call Debbie Dickerson at 392-7348 or Donna Bain at 689-7411.

Overcoming Addictions
Effective treatments for addictions is the focus of the third annual conference for professionals to be held Sept. 19 at the Holiday Inn Superdome.

Addiction Treatment Works: Evidence Based Practices in the 21st Century features a host of leaders in the substance abuse treatment field who will share effective treatments, pharmacology and ways to evaluate substance abuse services. The conference also allows professionals who deal with substance abusers a chance to re-evaluate current practices and discuss new ways to treat patients.

The conference is presented by the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse of Greater New Orleans' Substance Abuse Services Alliance's Practice Research Collaborative, created to promote effective, accessible community-based treatment through partnerships between researchers, policy makers and others.

Cost of the conference is $30 (before Sept. 12) and includes lunch. For more information, call Monica Magee at 821-5200.

Good Choices
Healthy Lifestyle Choices (HLC), a new non-profit, is working with the Louisiana Children's Museum and schools in Jefferson and Orleans parishes to teach children how to avoid violence and make healthy lifestyle choices.

HLC President Dee Fuchs says the program was established in response to statistics that show local young people are being harmed and even killed because of risky and bad behaviors, which also are impeding children's educational potential. "A community task force found that local youth are engaging in risky behaviors that contribute to early disability and death, often at a rate higher than the national average," Fuchs says. "These behaviors, including violence, substance abuse, poor diet, and a lack of safety precautions on the street and in the home, lead children to serious injury or even death."

A Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control shows that among students in the eighth through 12 grades in New Orleans, 43.4 percent had been in a fight at least once during a period of 30 days, and 21.3 percent had been in a fight on school property during the past year and 59.4 percent were sexually active. In Jefferson Parish, a Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals survey showed that 21 percent of students in the sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades had attacked another person and 27 percent had been suspended from school.

Initially, the program will work with 24 public schools in Orleans and Jefferson parishes and will reach about 9,042 children in preschool through sixth grade. The program will teach the children about healthy choices, how to avoid violence, eat a healthy diet, manage their weight and more. HLC also is sponsoring parenting programs. Fuchs says the program focuses on the "entire child -- emotionally, socially, and intellectually."

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