ISIS, Ebola, and Stocks, Oh my!

Please do not misunderstand:  I am not making light of three very serious crises besetting the world at this moment, the first two, especially, being public health crises of the most tragic order.  But the total dominance of these stories, in what feels like endless news cycles at this point, is striking.  Confusion and high emotions bordering on hysteria are becoming ever more prominent elements of these stories, and this is most unfortunate.  Acknowledging that tragedies are occurring and feeling empathy for the victims is one thing.  Following this with an appropriate – and helpful – response can be quite another.  Achieving peace in the Middle East, especially in light of the U.S involvement of the past 50 years, is a great discussion topic, but not really appropriate to this space.  Ebola as a public health issue has been mentioned here before, but this story continues to develop along lines whereby fear and hysteria seem to predominate – especially in the media – while sober, rational, even compassionate elements play a secondary role.  It feels like too many people’s survival circuits – fight or flight, precognitive responses centered in the amygdala (also known as the “reptile brain”) – are working overtime here.  The ebola crisis has deep roots in failed public health systems, which nowhere near describes the situation in this country, or any developed nation, for all the criticisms one may wish to make.  At least lately, more is being said about the moral failure of the developed nations in not doing a better job of promoting modern and effective public health safety nets in all countries, even those in which we may not have economic or strategic interests.  Appropriate action, here, would be one good consequence of the current tragedy.  In contrast to all this, please note the recent timely and effective response, right here in Boston, to the unexpected closing of homeless shelters and drug recovery programs on Long Island (that bridge had looked pretty shaky for a long time already).  People were placed elsewhere in short order;  the director of the Pine Street Inn credits this success to contingency planning by Public Health officials.   So, as Dorothy and the scarecrow and the tin man approached the spooky woods, the question of what dangers might lurk there got raised, which elicited the famous entertaining and quite hysterical response.    And they were right!   There was a lion!  Only he was…cowardly.   So much for hysteria.  

John Dabrowski,  LICSW
Neponset Health Center
&Geiger Gibson Community Health Center

Food Day 2014

food day2

A national campaign for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food is being celebrated by Neponset Health Center on October 23rd 2014

Food Day, the nationwide celebration and movement toward more healthy, affordable, sustainable food and a better food system, takes place in all 50 states and  Massachusetts organizers are planning over 600 hundred activities across the state to celebrate.  This is Neponset Health Center’s second year organizing events to celebrate food day.  Last year staff, patients and community member took part in the State’s first Apple Crunch, with apples provided by the Boston Area Gleaners, an organization that recues surplus farm crops.

This year the WOW team (Working on Wellness – a worksite wellness initiative), has several excited events planned.  The Fresh Truck, a mobile farmers market where staff, patients, community members and WIC participants can buy fresh produce will stop at the Health Center at 10am. The State’s second Apple Crunch will take place at 12:15pm, where staff will be joined by kids from Pope John Paul Academy.  An information booth will provide nutrition information, healthy recipes as well as blood pressure screening.  Film screening which include Ted Talks on Food Justice as well as “The Weight of the Nation” documentary (HBO) which is intended to increase people’s awareness of the health risks of being obese will take place at the Health Center throughout day.

The WOW team at Neponset Health Center is working to spread the message of choosing healthy locally produced food and advocating for policies that support productive and respectful food systems.

National Depression Screening Day

website images 003October 9th is National Depression Screening Day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 10 adults report experiencing depression.  Help Yourself. Help Others. offers a free, anonymous online screening tool for college students, military and their family and members of the public. Click here to take the free depression screening.

If you would like to make an appointment with a behavioral health specialist at one of Harbor Health Services, Inc.’s health centers please call: 617-282-3200 (Boston) or 508-778-0300 (Hyannis).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number is 1-800-273-8255

First Case of Ebola in US; Mass DPH Releases Advisory

In response to the first case of Ebola in the United States, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Released the advisory below:

“MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY
October 1, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services on
Tuesday, Sept. 30, confirmed the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed in the United States.
There are no Ebola cases in Massachusetts, and the possibility of an Ebola case in the
Commonwealth remains very low. Out of an abundance of caution, the Massachusetts
Department of Public Health has worked closely over the past several months with health care
facilities, doctors and EMS providers to be fully prepared should such a case occur. This is in
addition to the Department’s ongoing work regarding emergency preparedness and disease
prevention.

Massachusetts is well prepared to handle an incidence of Ebola, in the unlikely event that a case
should occur in the Commonwealth. The public can have full confidence that our hospitals have
the expertise, preparedness and capacity to handle such a situation. The infectious disease
controls in Massachusetts and the United States are world class. Should a patient present Ebola
symptoms, the patient would be quickly isolated and treated to prevent the spread of this disease.
Ebola is not spread easily. It is not spread through casual contact or the air. Ebola is transmitted
through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, including exposure to contaminated
objects, such as needles.

DPH infectious disease, laboratory and emergency preparedness specialists are closely
monitoring the ongoing response to Ebola in Africa – just as we do for any other outbreak of
illness or disease. Here are some of the activities which are currently underway:

 DPH has established a website at mass.gov/dph/ebola to provide clinical advisories and
guidance to public health and healthcare organizations and information for the general
public.

 DPH, in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission, has developed
Screening Tools for Evaluating Risk of Ebola Virus Exposure for use by colleges and
universities as well as other settings to assess risks of individuals who have traveled in
the affected countries.

 DPH is in routine contact with health officials at CDC, who in turn partner with the
World Health Organization and other global health organizations to ensure that the latest
and most up-to-date information about the Ebola outbreak is available to health agencies
around the world.

 The Department has been proactively communicating with doctors, EMS providers, local
boards of health, colleges and universities, hospitals and other health care facilities in
Massachusetts to share the latest information on the status of the outbreak.
 DPH provided clinical guidance to hospitals and health care providers on identifying
suspected cases of Ebola virus, safely handling lab specimens, and appropriate protocols
of care for patients.

 DPH is committed to working with our local public health and healthcare partners so that
our healthcare system is prepared to effectively respond in the extremely unlikely event
that a person with symptoms of Ebola virus arrives here.”
###

Seraphina’s Story: Fast and Reliable Communication

In January 2014, Seraphina, a 29-year-old patient, used her Harbor Health Services, Inc. Patient Portal account to contact her care team. Though Seraphina had been enrolled in the Portal for almost six months, she had used her account only to check her lab work and review visit summaries until now. But on this day, Seraphina had concerns regarding her birth control method and sought out answers in a timely fashion. She needed to know the last time she had received a birth control shot and whether or not she could change its dosage. For a woman of childbearing age, these questions are integral to the family planning process. Further, Seraphina had concerns regarding other medical issues and hoped to see a specialist, which would require a referral from her provider. With the composition of one quick message, Seraphina was able to use her Portal account to contact her care team with all of these matters. In less than 24 hours, her care team’s nurse responded to her.

When handling the request, the nurse informed Seraphina of the date of her last Depo-Provera shot, adding in the date by which she would be due for another one. She informed Seraphina that she had forwarded the specific message content that required a provider answer to her nurse practitioner along with the referral request. Shortly thereafter, Seraphina’s provider directly contacted her through her Patient Portal account with the necessary follow-up questions about her medication and referral requests. Seraphina responded, thus able to remain in close contact with her care team through this process, becoming a part of the conversation regarding her own care. Seraphina’s Medical Home staff took care of her needs and left very little for her to worry about.

Seraphina was impressed by the prompt responses she received from her care team’s nurse and provider throughout the conversation chain. The online interaction saved Seraphina from the usual process of back and forth calls to the health center and offered her the comfort she needed with immediate answers to her various concerns. Each member of her care team worked to the top of their license to help Seraphina in a timely manner. “The Patient Portal positively impacted my ability to reach my provider when I needed to and allowed me to receive a direct answer without playing a game of phone tag.” said Seraphina.

Ultimately, Seraphina received the referral she had requested, successfully arranged a follow-up appointment for a family planning visit, all without picking up her telephone. She continues to use her Patient Portal to manage appointments, request referrals, and track her medication prescriptions, feeling engaged in the management of her health and medical care.

Seraphina’s experience with her Patient Portal exemplifies Patient-Centered Care. Life in a Medical Home includes worry-free, convenient communication and care planning that fit the needs of the patient, providing comfort, support, and reassurance to each individual served.

If you are a Harbor Health Services, Inc. patient and would like to enroll in the Patient Portal, please talk to your provider at your next appointment.