Health & Medicine

Vaccinations rise when parents chat with other parents

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Photo illustration Sacramento Bee file

Every two weeks, we gather some of the most interesting and intriguing studies from health researchers around the world. Here are the latest:

When it comes to promoting vaccine use, day care chatter could be the key.

A new pilot program in Washington hopes to boost vaccination rates by having parents who support vaccines talk to parents in the neighborhood who might be unsure. A study released this week by Kaiser Permanente and published in the journal Health Promotion Practice shows the model is already working.

Over a three-year period, parents involved in the Immunity Community program in two towns in Washington had positive conversations about vaccines with other parents at their kids’ child care centers, preschools and schools and through social media, according to a news release about the study.

After that time, the percentage of parents identifying as “vaccine hesitant” fell from 23 percent to 14 percent, and the percentage of parents concerned about others not vaccinating their children rose from 81 percent to 89 percent.

Vaccines work best at preventing disease when most people in a community are immunized, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Telemedicine saves patients miles, dollars

In a long-term look at the impact of virtual medicine, the UC Davis Health System found that the practice saves time, money and the environment.

Telemedicine, or the use of photo exchanges and video conferences between patients and doctors, has become a popular way to treat patients in rural areas without making them trek to the hospital. UC Davis looked at data from roughly 19,000 patients who used telemedicine between 1996 and 2013. The health system has been offering telemedicine since 1992.

The study, published last month in the journal Value in Health, found that the patients on average avoided 278 miles and four hours driving and $156 in direct travel costs for every doctor’s consultation they received on video instead of in person. The entire study population skipped a total of 5 million miles and saved about $3 million.

Telemedicine is most helpful for specialties where treatment revolves around talking or looking at lab results, such as mental health and endocrinology, and least beneficial for orthopedics and other fields that require physical examination, according to a news release about the study.

Hot flashes in younger women may mean they’re at risk for heart disease

Hot flashes occurring during a woman’s 40s and 50s could be an early sign of heart disease, according to a new report from the North American Menopause Society.

Researchers looked at the inner lining of the blood vessels of 272 nonsmoking women between ages 40 and 60. The blood vessels of women ages 40 to 54 who were experiencing hot flashes couldn’t dilate as well as those of older women experiencing hot flashes or younger women not experiencing hot flashes, the study found.

Poor blood vessel dilation is a predictor of heart disease, the leading cause of death for women. Hot flashes are reported by 70 percent of women, with approximately one-third of them describing them as frequent or severe, according to a news release about the study.

“Hot flashes are not just a nuisance,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, in the release. “They have been linked to cardiovascular, bone, and brain health. In this study, physiologically measured hot flashes appear linked to cardiovascular changes occurring early during the menopause transition.”

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola

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