Health and Science

Mental health advocates protest lack of care in poorest neighborhoods

By Meg Anderson

Just weeks before the April 7 run-off election, mental health activists rally at the mayor’s office Tuesday to denounce the shortage of clinics in high-need areas. Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed six of Chicago’s 12 mental health clinics in 2012 to consolidate care and balance the budget. Although the City says it is now better serving those with psychological disorders, activists say many in the affected neighborhoods are going without care rather than traveling to other clinics.

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Illinois remains lethargic on medical marijuana

By Ezra Kaplan

Marla Levi is a 52-year-old Chicagoan with multiple sclerosis. With the support of her doctor, she applied and was accepted into the state-funded Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. This means that she qualifies and has a medical need for medical marijuana. It has been nearly three months since she got her papers but she has yet to fill the prescription.

The law that allows medical marijuana also stipulates that it must come from the state. But Illinois hasn’t grown any marijuana.

Sound like a Catch-22?

It is.

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Bipartisan drug proposal garners praise from drug professionals

By Dani Anguiano

Drug policy experts and substance abuse professionals have called for strong action to tackle heroin abuse as well as expressed optimism about a $25 million legislative package to be proposed by Illinois lawmakers.

House Democratic Assistant Majority Leader Lou Lang, (D-Skokie), and state Rep. John Anthony, (R-Morris), recently announced their plan to propose legislation that will address what health-care professionals describe as a heroin epidemic. The legislation would require, among other things, the development of a drug prevention program for schools, the establishment of a medication take-back program, and increased access to drugs that fight heroin overdoses.
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GMOs: The scarlet letters of the grocery aisle?

By Shanley Chien

You walk down the aisles at Whole Foods spotting milk, cookies, pasta, and a variety of other products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. The label tells you the foods don’t contain genetically modified organisms  – GMOs.

But the image of a butterfly sitting on a blade of grass shaped like a check mark subconsciously reassures you that this product is “safe.” After all, if it’s safe enough for a butterfly, it’s safe enough for you and your family. You put it in your basket, perhaps because people like Dr. Oz and food blogger Vani Hari of Food Babe tell you GMOs are unhealthy.

GMOs add to the nutritional value and preservation of foods and most scientists vouch for their safety. But critics abound.

“We have the whole government working against us,” Hari said in an interview on the Carolina Connection Talk Radio. “They don’t want Americans to figure out that these could be causing health issues, that they haven’t been tested, and they are increasing pesticide and herbicide use.”

Organizations and advocacy groups such as the Non-GMO Project, Dr. Oz, Food Babe, and other anti-GMO crusaders say GMOs are unnatural and unhealthy, according to their websites. Continue reading

Weight loss surgery leads to longer life

By Jamie Friedlander

Tony Gambee, the CEO of a software company in Boulder, Colorado, used to be able to eat an entire slab of ribs in one sitting at his favorite barbecue joint.

Now, it’s two ribs and he’s full. His secret is gastric bypass, a type of weight loss surgery that promises dramatic results, but often involves a lot of maintenance afterward and some difficult side effects at first, such as vomiting.

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Indiana HIV Outbreak Continues to Grow

By Jamie Friedlander

Southeastern Indiana health officials confirmed today an HIV outbreak there continues unabated. As of March 6 there are 44 confirmed and 11 preliminary cases of HIV. The outbreak is connected to injection of the prescription drug Opana, an opioid painkiller that contains oxymorphone, a narcotic pain reliever.

State officials first reported the outbreak Feb. 25, after identifying  26 confirmed and 4 preliminary HIV positive cases since mid-December. These cases have been reported in Scott, Clark, Jackson, Perry and Washington counties. Continue reading

Social media creates solidarity for those affected by eating disorders

By Lucy Vernasco

Tweets lit up the emotional landscape for people affected by eating disorders. The messages surged through an hour session Sunday to kick off National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

Social media outlets have become conversation spaces for providing support and a community oasis for those who the know the toll disordered eating can take on people’s lives. So on Sunday night, Adios Barbie, a media outlet celebrating healthy body image, hosted a party – the third annual #AdiosED twitter party. Body-image activists served as  “panelists” participating from their laptops included Sharon Haywood, Melanie Klein, Melissa A. Fabello, Dagan VanDemark and Gloria Tepiliuelia.

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VIDEO: Chicago’s food deserts still a problem

By Janel Forte

Imagine having to go further than 2 miles from your home to get fresh produce, and even then it’s not guaranteed that it’ll be affordable. That’s a reality for many people throughout the Chicagoland area.

Despite efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cut the number of food deserts, many Chicago neighborhoods still don’t have accessibility to fresh produce, fruits and vegetables. Continue reading