A national ad campaign promoting milk consumption as a means of combating osteoporosis is getting a sour response from the Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group, which has filed a complaint with the feds contending the ads are deceptive, finds nothing attractive about the "milk mustaches" sported by actresses in the ads.
Says a mustachioed Vanna White in one ad: "Sure I worry about osteoporosis. Who wouldn't with over 20 million women suffering from it? Which is why I love skim milk. All the calcium helps keep my bones real strong."
Bunk, responds the PCRM. "The dairy ads give women a dangerously false sense of security, suggesting that if they drink milk their bones will be protected," said Neal Barnard, M.D., the PCRM's president. The group contends calcium loss is the issue, not calcium gain, so drinking milk is one of the weakest strategies for avoiding osteoporosis. It says factors such as smoking and high intake of sodium and animal protein-which includes milk-along with a sedentary lifestyle promote calcium loss, and those are the real issues that need to be addressed.
David McCarron, M.D., a member of the physicians advisory committee to the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board, which sponsored the ad campaign, scoffed at the attacks, saying much of the criticism lacked scientific basis. In the ads' defense he cited a report in the Dec. 28, 1994, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that women need a high daily calcium intake and promoting milk and other dairy products as a primary calcium source. He also questioned the constituency of the PCRM, calling it "an activist animal rights group, not a physicians group." (A PCRM spokesman said 3,000 of the group's 60,000 members are physicians.)
Sounds like it's time for a third opinion.
Web world.Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, the Northwest's largest HMO, has become the first managed-care organization to go on line with its own World Wide Web "home page."
Anyone with software linkup to the Internet, plus viewer software such as Mosaic, can access Group Health's home page. The page now has written, audio and visual information ranging from articles on prevention, exercise, nutrition and spotting symptoms of common diseases to a glossary of healthcare terminology for consumers.
Eventually, Group Health's home page will provide interactive services such as an on-line consulting nurse, said a spokesman for the Seattle-based HMO, which serves more than half a million people in Washington and northern Idaho. "The possibilities are limitless," a spokesman for Group Health said.
The home page complements the $100 million Group Health recently invested in new automated information systems that computerize and link patient records, claims processing, medical databases and nonclinical functions. "Along with the web, they help us provide true managed care, not episodic, interventionist care," the spokesman said.
It cost $30,000 to set up the home page. Associated costs will result from gathering information and putting it on the home page, he said.
Curious? Group Health's web address can be accessed by typing http: \\www.ghc.org.
Hang up.Taking a cue from the airline industry, which found that cellular phones and similar devices interfere with electrical signals, a number of hospitals across the country are banning the use of such devices.
Two hospitals to join the trend recently were Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pa., and Bryn Mawr (Pa.) Hospital. They say portable phones and two-way radios could affect a variety of medical equipment at ranges from one to 20 feet. Affected equipment includes ventilators and incubators. False fire alarms also have been reported.
Radio waves play a vital part in the wireless monitoring of heart surgery patients. These monitors, which are worn around the neck, broadcast signals to the nursing station through ceiling units. Radio waves from cellular phones can interfere with the signals.
Zdrav consultant.Over the last five years, James A. Rice has consulted on healthcare policy in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now, he's off to tackle the biggest problem of all: Russia's tattered socialized medicine system.
The U.S. State Department has asked Rice, 47, of Plymouth, Minn., to head a two-year U.S. mission to help the Moscow Zdrav (Health) Reform effort, with a $26 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Rice, until recently a senior vice president at Allina Health System in Minnetonka, Minn., and a principal at two consulting firms, acknowledges it seems ironic that the Russians would seek U.S. help to fix their healthcare problems after the collapse of reform here last year.
But, he said, "every single country is dissatisfied with the performance of their healthcare system now. Everyone is going through reform efforts. With everybody casting about looking for answers, we're all trying to learn from each other." Russians believe they can learn a lot from the West about efficiency and customer service, as well as improving health, he said.
"They're not trying to adopt our insurance system, but they do want to adopt the way we pay doctors and pay hospitals," he said.