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Expert perspective: Who delivers babies in rural hospitals?

Photo: Shanna Riley/CC 2.0/

Since late January, when the story broke about the upcoming closure of the maternity ward at the Grand Marais hospital, I’ve been thinking a lot about pregnant women, clinicians, and hospital administrators in Grand Marais, and in other rural communities in Minnesota and beyond.  For pregnant women in rural areas and for all individuals seeking care, both access and patient safety are necessary components of effective health care systems. They are not negotiable. In order to better understand how to ensure both access and safety, we need to start with relevant information for understanding both capacity and need for care in rural communities.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s physicians are practicing in rural areas. Of the 2,050 rural U.S. counties, 77 percent are designated as health professional shortage areas.  A report from the Minnesota Department of Health highlights the workforce challenges and clinician shortages in Greater Minnesota.  And this is important, because rural Americans suffer worse health outcomes than those in urban areas, having higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease.

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How relationships affect health and wellbeing

Photo: CC,, Harold Navarro

Valentine’s Day puts love on the brain. Throughout the world, people dedicate the day to celebrating relationships. But we ought to be paying more attention to them, researchers say. Relationships are important to our health and wellbeing every day of the year – not just February 14th.

“Healthy relationships enable us to be who we are,” says Mary Jo Kreitzer, Ph.D., RN, Director of the Center for Spirituality & Healing. “They nurture us and they help us grow. They help us become better people.”

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Cervical cancer screening: Is a Pap smear or HPV test better?

Photo: Ed Uthman via Flickr

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, approximately 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States alone. To detect those cases, physicians use a Pap smear as the primary cervical cancer screening method.. However, a recent study published in the journal of Gynecologic Oncology, advocates for routine Human Papillomavirus (HPV) screening instead.

The study, authored by an expert panel from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found that testing for HPV is more beneficial for cervical cancer screening than a Pap smear alone. The authors claim that routine Pap testing, performed every three years, isn’t as beneficial and accurate as routine HPV testing.

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Commentary: School of Public Health associate professor reflects on the importance of physical education in our school systems

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The following commentary was presented in December 2014 to the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education by Toben Nelson, Sc.D., associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota regarding graduation requirements for physical education.

“Developing minds and bodies need to be active in order to function at their best. I am here to urge you to reconsider the decision to reduce the number of physical education (PE) credits that students must take in order to graduate from a Minneapolis public school.

In my view, reducing physical education requirements is actually counter-productive to educational goals. Physical activity is critical for physical health. But it has a wide range of other benefits. Regular activity promotes mental health, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves mood. When schools provide structured time for physical activity through physical education, students respond with improved academic performance in the classroom and on standardized test scores.

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Middle-aged men most likely to die from alcohol poisoning

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In a study released last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found an average of six Americans die each day from alcohol poisoning, and the majority are middle-aged men between 35-64 years old. Alcohol poisoning is caused by consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.

The study analyzed National Vital Statistics System data, and found that three-quarters of the more than 2,200 people aged 15 and older who died of alcohol poisoning between 2010 and 2012 were between 35-64 years old.

Health Talk spoke with Toben Nelson, Sc.D., associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota about his reactions to the CDC study.

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Players pass more than the puck as mumps spreads through the NHL

Photo: Rowan Peter/CC 2.0/

A fever is spreading through hockey nation, but this one isn’t about fan frenzy. It’s mumps, and at least a dozen National Hockey League (NHL) players have been diagnosed.

According to the Associated Press, mumps has spread through the locker rooms of the Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and Minnesota Wild – where five players are reportedly ill. It isn’t clear if the teams passed the disease along with the puck during matchups or caught it in other ways.

Mumps is a disease most common among children. It is highly contagious and symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, and swelling in the salivary glands. In some cases, it can have serious effects, including encephalitis, hearing loss, or even sterility in young men.

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