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Newsbites – February 2016
The University of New Mexico’s Center for Life
The UNM Center for Life (CFL) treats people with a wide range of health issues, using a vast array of ancient and modern techniques. This nonprofit, state-of-the-art integrative, intercultural center emphasizes prevention and wellness along with disease management. In addition to clinical services, the CFL provides medical education, research and community services.
Integrative medicine is a healing-oriented practice that takes account of the whole person—mind, body and spirit—including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies. When a pediatric patient is fighting cancer and going through chemotherapy or radiation, there are components, such as chronic pain and nausea, that are not always addressed by conventional medical care. That’s where the CFL and integrative medicine come in. Through acupuncture, massage, healing touch and other CAM (complementary and alternative medicines) services, the center’s care providers are able to assist in supporting the whole person in his or her healing process.
Unfortunately, these integrative services are often not covered by patients’ insurance benefits. That is why UNM pediatric oncologist Dr. Linda Butros and CFL director of advanced manual therapies David Lang created Kids Supporting Kids, an initiative to raise funds for integrative oncology services for children fighting cancer.
The annual Kids Supporting Kids gala benefit fundraiser facilitates community engagement and allows young people to help support their peers fighting and thriving through cancer, especially through the sharing of performing and visual arts. This year’s event, which featured performances from more than 400 Albuquerque youth and adult artists, was held at the Hiland Theater, in Albuquerque, on Jan. 30. The CFL also receives support from UNM’s Department of Internal Medicine, Health Sciences Center, the New Mexico State Legislature and individual donors.
For more information on the UNM CFL, call 505.925.7464, email CenterforLife@unmmg.org or visit www.unmcfl.org
Southwestern College Counseling Center
Southwestern College recently opened Tierra Nueva Counseling Center, on Santa Fe’s south side, to serve individuals, couples, families and children. The center is currently serving as the training arm of Southwestern’s master’s-degree programs in counseling and art therapy/counseling. Services are provided on a sliding scale, and more than 75 percent of the clientele qualify as low-income. Southwestern is also planning to become a community mental-health center, which will accept insurance/third-party payments including Medicaid. The process of getting fully credentialed could take up to a year. The center has already been drawing a lot of new clients, many of them Spanish speaking.
Southwestern College has offered graduate degrees since 1979 and provides training in holistic, integrative mental and behavioral health and art therapy. The college is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. For more information, visit swc.edu
Northern NM College Awarded National Institutes of Health Grant
Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) BUILD grant, part of a $31-million nationwide initiative to increase the diversity of the workforce in the biomedical sciences. The college will partner with the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) in the spring of 2016 to offer students a new research course and biomedical research opportunities in the field of neurophysiology—the study of how the nervous system functions. The funding will allow for laboratory training, mentoring and professional development, as well as housing and travel to study with fellow students and faculty at UTEP.
NNMC biology professor and grant director Ulises Ricoy said, “This project will allow our students to work closely with their counterparts at UTEP, exposing them to graduate school opportunities.” Students will learn core concepts using hands-on techniques in a rich science environment and gain the critical-thinking and scientific-reasoning skills required to solve advanced problems and prepare for independent research projects.
In 2014, NNMC received support from the Grass Foundation to acquire the virtual software tutorial and basic equipment, Neurons in Action and Backyard Brains. The NIH BUILD award further will expand on students’ abilities to study and explore the inner workings of the brain and nervous system.
New Mexico State University’s Nursing Program: One of the Best
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at New Mexico State University’s School of Nursing has been named one of the nation’s three best by Best Medical Degrees, an online resource guide. The others were Clarion University of Pennsylvania and East Carolina University, College of Nursing in Greenville, N.C. The 50 best programs were ranked by cost, length of program, curricula and accreditation, using information provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, U.S. News and World Report and Forbes Magazine.
The DNP is a doctoral degree for nurses at the highest level of nursing practice. The changing demands of today’s complex healthcare environment require that nurses serving in specialty positions have the highest level of scientific knowledge and practice expertise possible. Recent research has established a clear link between higher levels of nursing education and better patient outcomes. The DNP should not be confused with a Ph.D. in nursing, which is a research-focused degree for those wishing to pursue an academic or research career.
Burrell Institute for Health Policy & Research Unveiled
The Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Burrell Institute of Health Policy and Research was recently unveiled to an audience of regional business and healthcare leaders. The institute will offer a multi-disciplinary approach to the analysis of determinants of health and health disparities, health care delivery, health policies, public health and health education programs. The goal is to aid in improving the health status of the United States-Mexico border population through research, education, policy analysis and outreach.
The institute, a division of the newly formed Southwest Osteopathic Foundation for Education and Research, is based at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM), at New Mexico State University.
“There is a huge need for population health research that will assist decision- and policy-makers in facilitating health policy changes for improving the health status of our population,” said Dan Burrell, chairman of BCOM. “New Mexico now will be a laboratory for dealing with the health population issues that face us over the next 50 years. It’s perfect to be in Las Cruces, because the population of the area is exactly how the U.S. population will look in the future.”
The institute will sponsor a permanent physician Fellow to work with his or her counterpart from Mexico. Mexico’s Ministry of Health will likewise place a permanent Fellow at the institute. The institute will also collaborate with local, regional, national and international researchers to analyze health conditions, evaluate programs and health care practices and conduct programs to improve local capacity.
Trees Benefit Human Health
The journal Scientific Reports published a paper last year that makes a case for the impact of trees in neighborhoods on human health. Building on earlier research, the study used detailed data compiled by the city of Toronto, Canada, which categorized urban trees by species, location and tree diameter, supplemented by high-resolution satellite measurements that quantified the amount of green space in residential areas. Researchers analyzed health records for Toronto residents, as well as a survey of peoples’ self-perception of their health, which, while subjective, did correlate strongly with objective health measures.
The study took into consideration factors that could affect health such as age, family income, education and diet. The conclusion? Even though affluent families are often healthier, “living in a greener area can compensate.” For cardio-metabolic conditions (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and more), an increase of 11 trees per city block was comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or even being seven years younger.
The study’s results cannot definitively identify the exact mechanism by which the trees seem to enhance human health and quality of life, besides adding beauty, shade and sound absorption. One possibility is that they improve air quality by pulling ozone, particulates and other pollutants into their leaves, thus protecting people from them. Another possible benefit is that people seem to experience some degree of stress reduction when they are around greenery—a psychological effect that may inspire exercise and have physical benefits.
EPA Study: Fracking Impacts Drinking Water
Preliminary findings released in June of a landmark Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study were repudiated last month by the agency’s own science advisors. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board, a panel of 31 scientists that ensures the integrity of major studies by the agency, says that the main conclusion—that there is no evidence fracking has led to “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water” —requires clarification. Taking the entire water cycle around fracking into consideration—from obtaining water supplies to disposing of wastewater—the agency documented instances of failed wells and above-ground spills that may have affected drinking water.
The board’s recommendations will likely reignite the debate over the need for more regulation of fracking, a commonly used method of releasing oil and gas from dense rock formations by pumping water, sand and chemicals through underground fissures. Industry lobbyists and trade groups are disputing the science panel’s assertions. The EPA is not required to correct the report’s findings to reflect the panel’s recommendations, but a spokesman said that the agency will “evaluate” possible changes to the report.
New Mexico’s Teen Birthrate Drops
New Mexico dropped from many years of being the state with the highest teen birthrate to fourth place—tying with Texas—in 2014, according to the state’s Department of Health. New Mexico had more than 50 percent fewer births by teens than in 2000.
Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward credits the lower teen birthrate to giving teens access to free or low-cost birth control and the impact of medical providers and educators informing teens about intentional parenthood. There are 73 family-planning services across the state. They include public health offices, primary-care clinics and school clinics, as well as the state’s outreach program for youths in grades six to 12. The state also offers a text-messaging program, BrdsNBz, which teens and their parents can use to get medically accurate answers to sexual health questions.
Ward cites teen parenthood as a “primary driver of generational poverty” and a contributor to poorer health and lower educational attainment for teen mothers and their children. She says that children born to teen parents are more likely to become teen parents themselves.
Teen parents cost taxpayers $103 million in New Mexico in 2010, according to information reported by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Algae Foundation Collaborates with SFCC to Offer Degree Program
The Algae Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the biology, ecology, cultivation and commercial potential of algae, has been awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a college degree in algal biology, technology and cultivation, as well as an aquaculture training program.
The foundation has formed the Algae Technology Educational Consortium (ATEC), a partnership between universities, community colleges, national research laboratories and industry leaders charged with the development of a two-year college degree and the implementation of a comprehensive algal-focused curriculum. The consortium’s programs are designed to strengthen the industry’s workforce capabilities by focusing on the skills needed to support the commercialization of micro- and macro-algae.
The initial community college partner institution is Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). The ATEC curriculum, developed in partnership with SFCC faculty, will be offered for the first time in Sept. 2016. The new effort is centered on the development of courses covering biology, biotechnology, inoculation, cultivation, harvesting and processing skills and led by SFCC’s Luke Spangenburg and Stephen Gómez. Additionally, significant collaborative efforts have been led by Thomas Dempster of Arizona State University and Wendy Stegman of the University of California at San Diego.
New Mexico Joins Lawsuit Against EPA’s New Ozone Rule
The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has joined four states in a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging that the federal government’s new ozone rule is unfair. “Our state has background ozone conditions, which are not effectively and equally addressed by the EPA’s autocratic ozone standards,” NMED secretary Ryan Flynn said in a statement.
States with higher elevations have more difficulty attaining standards because air monitors can detect ozone pollution that drifts in from other states or—in the case of New Mexico—from México, a country that produces relatively high levels of emissions. New Mexico officials also argue that the new ozone rule will hurt the economy of the state, which relies heavily on oil and gas revenues.
The Clean Air Act statute is intended to protect public health. “High ozone levels pose a serious risk for New Mexicans in the form of lung disease,” said Steve Michel, chief counsel for the clean-energy program for Western Resource Advocates. “The health impacts do not vary based on geography, so neither should the standards.”
EPA officials say the new rule for ozone, which essentially covers smog coming from tailpipes and smokestacks, gives individual states plenty of time to comply to avoid facing potential fines. Nationally, from 1980 to 2014, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent, while the economy has continued to grow. By 2025, the EPA projects that existing rules and programs will bring the vast majority of remaining states into compliance.
Excerpt from New Mexico 2050 (2015, UNM Press)
Health Care Services and Social Assistance
Health care and social assistance have continued to grow in New Mexico in good times and bad, and today the industry employs over 140,000 people, most of them working within the private sector and including doctors, nurses and other health practitioners; health technologists and technicians (practical nurses, lab techs, dental hygienists); and home health aides and others in health support occupations. There are growing numbers of New Mexico jobs in community and social service assistance occupations and in related management occupations, as well as in office and administrative support and other non-health occupations in the industry.
Editor’s note: Fifty-six percent of all new jobs in New Mexico from July 2014 to July 2015 were health care related, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions. The health care sector of the state’s economy continues to see broad-based growth in 2016. A portion of the jobs is related to newly insured patients under the federal Affordable Care Act. A shift in consumer focus from emergency to preventive care is also helping.
Harvard Study Links Air Pollution to Autism
Harvard School of Public Health researchers say that women exposed to high levels of air pollution during their third trimester of pregnancy may be twice as likely to have an autistic child. The researchers’ study, started in 1989 and involving more than 100,000 nurses from across the United States, provides strong evidence for a causal effect. The study was published in the December 2015 Environmental Health Perspectives.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, now affecting one in 68 children in the United States. Recent studies suggest that it may begin when genes are corrupted as a result of a gene-environment interaction, and brain cells fail to properly mature in the womb. Autism is often diagnosed after behavioral changes start to develop before the age of 5.
Eleven NM Community Colleges Collaborate on Workforce Education
Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) is the state’s lead institution on a nearly $15-million grant aimed at putting more New Mexicans to work in healthcare careers. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor has been distributed among 11 of the state’s community colleges to provide education and training directly to unemployed or underemployed workers.
SFCC is serving as grant coordinator. “Working in concert with our college partners, SFCC developed a winning proposal to focus squarely on curriculum development and job training where it matters most,” said Randy Grissom, SFCC’s president. “We are all deeply committed to helping students get what they need to succeed in today’s economy.”
Grissom noted that partnerships with employers such as CHRISTUS St. Vincent Hospital and other providers have been strengthened through the initiative. “We at SFCC have been able to approach employers with strategies to match their needs in training workers specifically for careers, health information technology or emergency medical services. We are focusing on accelerated pathways to reduce the time to completion and increase the completion success rate. We want to put students in the field as soon as possible.”
The education and training grant is particularly timely. New Mexico is expected to be fourth in the nation with a population of 65 or older by 2030. The Health Services and Resources Administration has designated almost the entire state of New Mexico as a health professional shortage area and medically underserved area.
In addition to SFCC, the following colleges are participating in the initiative:
· Central New Mexico Community College
· San Juan Community College
· Eastern New Mexico University, Roswell
· Eastern New Mexico University, Ruidoso
· New Mexico State University, Alamogordo
· University of New Mexico, Taos
· University of New Mexico, Valencia
· University of New Mexico, Los Alamos
· University of New Mexico, Gallup
· Mesalands Community College
About the author
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