Health Briefs: USDA invests more than $1B to improve health care in rural areas; $98.3 million in Colorado |

Health Briefs: USDA invests more than $1B to improve health care in rural areas; $98.3 million in Colorado

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced the USDA provided more than $1 billion in the fiscal year 2017 to help improve access to health care services in rural communities.

“USDA invests in a wide range of health care facilities – such as hospitals, clinics and treatment centers – to help ensure that rural residents have access to the same state-of-the-art care available in urban and metropolitan areas,” Perdue said. “I understand that building a prosperous rural America begins with healthy people. Ensuring that rural communities have access to quality medical care is a top priority for USDA.”

USDA invested more than $1 billion in rural health care in Fiscal Year 2017 through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The loans can be used to fund essential community services. For health care, this includes construction, expansion or improvement of health care facilities, such as hospitals, medical clinics, dental clinics and assisted-living facilities, as well as purchase equipment. Public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized tribes in rural areas and towns with up to 20,000 people are eligible for the loans.

In Fiscal Year 2017, Colorado Rural Development invested $98.3 million for health care services. Additional health care projects funded in Fiscal Year 2017 were located in Brush, Craig, Del Norte and Leadville.

“These investments would not be possible without public-private partnerships that help improve the economic stability of small rural communities. In addition, the increased access to capital for health care initiatives is crucial to growing the economy and improving the quality of life for Colorado’s rural residents,” said Sallie Clark, Colorado state director for USDA Rural Development.

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Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

While the animals’ brains experience dramatically reduced blood flow during hibernation, just like human patients after a certain type of stroke, the squirrels emerge from their extended naps suffering no ill effects. Now, a team of NIH-funded scientists has identified a potential drug that could grant the same resilience to the brains of ischemic stroke patients by mimicking the cellular changes that protect the brains of those animals. The study was published in The FASEB Journal, the official journal of the Foundation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

“For decades, scientists have been searching for an effective brain-protecting stroke therapy to no avail. If the compound identified in this study successfully reduces tissue death and improves recovery in further experiments; it could lead to new approaches for preserving brain cells after an ischemic stroke,” said Francesca Bosetti, Ph.D., Pharm.D., program director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Currently, the only way to minimize stroke-induced cell death is to remove the clot as soon as possible. A treatment to help brain cells survive a stroke-induced lack of oxygen and glucose could dramatically improve patient outcomes, but no such neuroprotective agents for stroke patients exist.

Recently, researchers led by John Hallenbeck, M.D., an NINDS senior investigator and co-senior author of the study, found that a cellular process called SUMOylation goes into overdrive in a certain species of ground squirrel during hibernation. Hallenbeck suspected this was how the animals’ brains survived the reduced blood flow caused by hibernation, and subsequent experiments in cells and mice confirmed his suspicions.

“If we could only turn on the process hibernators appear to use to protect their brains, we could help protect the brain during a stroke and ultimately help people recover,” said Joshua Bernstock, a graduate student in Hallenbeck’s lab and the study’s first author.

Flu season activity increases in the lead up to National Influenza Week

According to weekly reporting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of seasonal influenza increased Nov. 4 through 11.

There is still time to obtain a flu vaccine. Flu vaccination coverage estimates from past seasons have shown that few people get vaccinated against influenza after the end of November. Last season, only about 40 percent of the U.S. population recommended to receive a flu vaccine reported having been vaccinated by the end of November.

To encourage people to get vaccinated, the CDC will hold National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 3 through 9 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. CDC and its partners choose December for NIVW to remind people that, even though the holiday season has begun, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.

As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season to protect as many people as possible against the flu.

Those who have not been vaccinated or who have already contracted flu can still benefit from vaccination, since the vaccine protects against three or four different flu viruses.

Another goal of NIVW is to communicate the importance of flu vaccination for people who are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease and people age 65 years and older.

For people at high risk, the flu can be more serious than in other people. Flu is more likely to lead to hospitalization or death for people at high risk.

Flu vaccine uptake estimates among adults 50 years and older fell by 3 percentage points last year. That means many more adults were left vulnerable to flu and its complications.

Anyone who gets flu can pass it to someone at high risk of severe illness, including infants younger than 6 months who are too young to get the vaccine.

CDC offers tips for coping with epilepsy

Having epilepsy, or caring for someone with epilepsy, can sometimes be a challenge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent and its partners have resources to offer support.

People with epilepsy can:

  • Learn to manage epilepsy and find programs that can help.
  • Look for a health care provider that specializes in epilepsy.
  • Talk with heath care providers to ensure seizures are controlled as much as possible.
  • Learn about treatment options, including clinical trials.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.

Parents of a child with epilepsy can:

  • Look for a health care provider that specializes in epilepsy.
  • Learn more about treatment options for children with epilepsy, including clinical trials.
  • Find ways to help teens live well with epilepsy and support other parents with CDC’s “You are Not Alone” toolkit for parents.

Friends of someone with epilepsy can:

  • Learn about epilepsy.
  • Know what to do when a seizure happens by learning seizure first aid.
  • Listen; sometimes this is the best form of support.
  • Ask your friend what you can do to help.

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