Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia Urges Seniors to Get Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines

/PRNewswire/ -- The seasonal flu can be very serious for everybody. So serious, in fact, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that nearly everyone get a flu vaccine. This is particularly true for seniors (adults 65 and older).

As people age, it becomes more difficult for them to fight illness. As a result, older adults are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization and even death. According to, a website collaboration of several government agencies, 90 percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. Fortunately, seniors can take measures to protect themselves by being vaccinated against both the flu and pneumonia. With the flu season under way, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGa) is urging those 65 and older to get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.

"With few exceptions, there really is no reason for seniors not to get their vaccines, including their flu and pneumonia vaccines," said Dr. Robert McCormack, BCBSGa medical director. "Studies have shown that these vaccines are generally safe and effective. They are also easy to get and typically paid for by Medicare. Yet statistics show us that about a third of seniors don't get these much-needed vaccines. That's something we've got to change."

Following are some things BCBSGa wants seniors to know about vaccines and cold and flu season:

Double Dose: Even some people who get the flu vaccine forget to get the pneumonia vaccine. According to the CDC, seniors should really get both, and the good news is they can get them at the same time. However, there are some differences between the vaccines. The flu shot needs to be administered annually. This year's version includes protection against the 2009 H1N1 virus and two other flu viruses: Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B. In contrast, most people will need to get the pneumonia vaccine only once, although under some circumstances a second dose may be given, according to the CDC.

Easy Does It: Getting vaccinated is easy for Medicare beneficiaries and their pocketbooks. Most people get the vaccines at their primary care physician's office. Additionally, many flu vaccine clinics open to the public are offered across the country. The costs of both vaccines and their administration are generally covered by Medicare Part B, as long as the provider accepts assignment.

Safety First: Flu shots are inactivated vaccines containing killed viruses — they aren't live so they can't cause infection, according to, Manufacturers kill the viruses while making the vaccine and batches are tested to ensure safety. Similarly, the pneumonia vaccine is made from a bacterial component that is not infectious. A flu mist made from a weakened form of the virus, is also available but not recommended for seniors, according to the CDC.

"Many people fear they will get the flu or pneumonia from the vaccine and that just isn't the case, according to the CDC," said McCormack.

Never Too Late: It's a good idea to get the flu vaccine as soon as it's available, which is in the fall. However, since influenza activity typically doesn't peak until January or February, it's still a good idea to get the vaccine now. National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) was established to highlight the importance of continuing vaccination later into the season. This year's NIVW was held Dec. 5-11, 2010. For its part, the pneumonia vaccine is offered year round. Health plans like BCBSGa send reminders to their members about the importance of being vaccinated.

Follow Doctor's Orders: Even though flu and pneumonia vaccines are recommended for seniors – and many others – there are some exceptions so be sure to follow your doctor's orders. For example, flu vaccines are not recommended for people severely allergic to chicken eggs or those who had a bad reaction in the past.

Everyday Precautions: According to the CDC, the flu spreads mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. For that reason, it's a good idea to avoid close contact with infected people and to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Other good flu-fighting tips, according to the CDC, include maintaining healthy habits, such as washing hands with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids and eating nutritious foods.

For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of vaccinations, talk to a health care provider or visit A list of flu clinics is available by going to and plugging in a zip code.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Everyone Can Help Make Breastfeeding Easier, Surgeon General Says in “Call to Action”

Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin today issued a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” outlining steps that can be taken to remove some of the obstacles faced by women who want to breastfeed their babies.

“Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed,” Dr. Benjamin said. “They shouldn’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.”

“Of course, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one,” she added, “no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”

While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. The rates are particularly low among African-American infants.

Many mothers who attempt to breastfeed say several factors impede their efforts, such as a lack of support at home; absence of family members who have experience with breastfeeding; a lack of breastfeeding information from health care clinicians; a lack of time and privacy to breastfeed or express milk at the workplace; and an inability to connect with other breastfeeding mothers in their communities.

Dr. Benjamin’s “Call to Action” identifies ways that families, communities, employers and health care professionals can improve breastfeeding rates and increase support for breastfeeding:

· Communities should expand and improve programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.

· Health care systems should ensure that maternity care practices provide education and counseling on breastfeeding. Hospitals should become more “baby-friendly,” by taking steps like those recommended by the UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

· Clinicians should ensure that they are trained to properly care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. They should promote breastfeeding to their pregnant patients and make sure that mothers receive the best advice on how to breastfeed.

· Employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave and high-quality lactation support programs. Employers should expand the use of programs that allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day. They should also provide women with break time and private space to express breast milk.

· Families should give mothers the support and encouragement they need to breastfeed.

Family members can help mother’s prepare for breastfeeding and support their continued breastfeeding, including after her return to work or school.

According to the “Call to Action,” breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, and those who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Mothers themselves who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that the nation would save $13 billion per year in health care and other costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months. Dr. Benjamin added that, by providing accommodations for nursing mothers, employers can reduce their company’s health care costs and lower their absenteeism and turnover rates.

“I believe that we as a nation are beginning to see a shift in how we think and talk about breastfeeding,” said Dr. Benjamin. “With this ‘Call to Action,’ I am urging everyone to help make breastfeeding easier.”

To order printed copies of the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” and other materials, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO or email and reference the publication title.

For more information on breastfeeding, go to or To speak with a breastfeeding counselor call 1-800-994-9662 Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM ET.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Study Says Eat More Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Heart

/PRNewswire/ -- New research indicates that eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease. According to a new study from the University of Oxford and published in the European Heart Journal, people who consumed eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day were 22 percent less likely to die from ischemic heart disease than those who consumed three or fewer servings a day.

Even among those who didn't eat a full eight servings each day, the more fruits and vegetables consumed consistently indicated a lower heart disease risk. For every additional serving above two per day, researchers found a four percent decrease in the rate of heart disease deaths.

"The CDC says that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.," said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation, the nonprofit entity behind Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® national public health initiative. "Here is a scientific study that gives everyone another good reason to add at least one more serving of fruits and veggies every day."

An ABC News report noted that, "in the U.S., the recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables has often been promoted as 'five a day.' The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved away from that recommendation in 2007, to a more flexible approach, dubbed Fruits & Veggies—More Matters."

Pivonka says that Fruits & Veggies—More Matters is all about showing how easy it can be to add more nutritious, delicious fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks.

"It can be remarkably easy to fit eight servings of fruits and vegetables into your day," said Pivonka. "Start the day with two servings at breakfast by having one small banana and a four-ounce glass of 100 percent fruit or veggie juice. At lunch, have a salad with one cup of your favorite leafy greens and toss in a cup of your favorite fruit or vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garbanzo or kidney beans, sliced pears, or canned pineapple. Now you're up another three servings! Toss a quarter cup of raisins or dried cranberries on top and make it four. That's a total of six servings so far. At dinner, quickly microwave a frozen mixed vegetable side-dish, have your favorite fruit for dessert and you're there."

While most people realize that eating fruits and vegetables is important to a healthy diet, they still don't eat enough. According to PBH's 2010 State of the Plate report, the average person consumes about 1.8 cups of fruit and vegetables each day. Only eight percent of us eat the recommended amount of fruit each day and just six percent eat the recommended amount of vegetables in an average day.

Pivonka points out that if increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you're currently eating up to eight servings per day seems daunting, the study shows that adding even one serving per day can provide extra heart protection.

"Simply make a promise to yourself that you will add one additional fruit or vegetable serving every day this week. You'll find it's easier than you think. When this week is over, promise to continue with the added serving next week too. Pretty soon you're eating more nutritious, real foods and less empty-calorie foods that provide little real nutrition. To help keep you focused on eating more fruits and veggies for better health, Fruits & Veggies—More Matters has developed the America's More Matters Pledge: Fruits & Veggies . . . Today and Every Day !"

The America's More Matters Pledge can be found at, and it's easy to pledge online. Over 2,000 pledges have already been made! The Fruits & Veggies—More Matters website also has the tools you need to follow through with your pledge. Tips and advice on the website make it easy to add more fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks including; a recipe database with over 1,000 recipes, many of which can be made in 30 minutes or less, and a video center loaded with informational and entertaining short clips that offer fruit and veggie selection and storage advice, varietal comparisons, as well as fun facts and preparation ideas.

Need more help? The Fruits &Veggies—More Matters Menu Plan of the Week offers a full day's eating plan that includes, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and either two or three snacks that total less than 2,000 calories and less then 2,300 mg of sodium. The Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Recipe of the Week is a great way to add new recipes to your collection. Each is low in total fat, sodium, and added sugar, while being high in fiber.

For this new study, researchers from the University of Oxford in England analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) heart study, in which more than 300,000 participants, age 40 to 85, provided information about dietary intake. The EPIC study started in 1992 gathered data until 2000. For more information about the study and its findings, read the article in the European Heart Journal online at The State of the Plate report can be found online at

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Maximum Potential Offers Affordable Training Course for Parents of Children with Autism

/PRNewswire/ -- Parents of children with autism often face a daunting task of paying for the prescribed hours of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy for their children. With the rate of autism listed at 1 in every 110 children, and the average yearly cost of ABA therapy between $10,000 and $30,000, more families than ever are facing an uphill battle to pay for services. Only a handful of states mandate insurance companies to pay for ABA and for those that can't afford therapy, there is little available.

Maximum Potential Group ( seeks to help families in their search for affordable ABA training. ABA therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, has been recognized as one of the best educational strategies for children with autism. According to the executive director of the Princeton Child Development Institute, ABA therapy is the only system that has systematically documented effectiveness. This means that ABA therapy is an ideal option for parents that are seeking an effective educational method for children with autism.

Garrett Butch, founder of Maximum Potential Group, sees the challenges that parents face on a daily basis. Butch is the parent of a child with autism and his main goal is to provide a program that is not only affordable, but also efficient and effective. "There are too many families in the United States who do not live near a qualified therapist, or do not have the financial resources to pay for 20 to 30 hours a week for intensive ABA therapy. They deserve the same opportunity to treat their children as those who can afford these services."

Maximum Potential's ABA course is taught by two PhD BCBA's with over 25 years of combined experience. The program contains 17 modules that allows family members to understand all of the principles of ABA and then work with a child throughout the day. In each of the modules are examples of ABA sessions with children on all levels of the autism spectrum.

"Our vision was to provide an affordable alternative for families who so desperately need help working with their children," Butch said. "Learning how to set up an ABA program as well as learning skills such as data collection, behavior management and social skills programming can really make a difference in the lives of both a parent and a child."

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Saturday, January 08, 2011 Powering 'Dr. Oz's 11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It,' a Revolutionary Free Online Diet and Exercise Program from America's Doctor and Nike SPARQ Elite Coaches

/PRNewswire/ --, the health and wellness website, has newly launched its personal profile page functionality to power the incredibly popular "Dr. Oz's 11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It" program. The program, launched on "The Dr. Oz Show" on January 3, already has attracted more than 200,000 participants and thousands of people continue to register each day. It is a free, one-of-a-kind, online weight-loss initiative from America's doctor, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Nike SPARQ Elite Coaches.'s expert social Q&A platform enables people to create individually-tailored weight-loss programs and to interact with Nike SPARQ Elite Coaches and leading health and nutrition experts, including Dr. Oz. Participants can also track their progress in real-time with customizable online weight-loss tools such as food logging, an individualized calendar, and an online weight-loss community.

To sign up, participants are registering online at and select either the "lose weight" or "improve health" option. Participants then complete an interactive health assessment to identify their current fitness level and define what fitness goals they want to achieve. Based on the assessment, participants receive a custom program with information to help them achieve their objectives. Participants can also "Challenge a Friend" during the program to encourage others to join.

"Sharecare is excited to be working with these innovative industry leaders in creating and launching 'Dr. Oz's 11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It' program," said Jeff Arnold, chairman and chief architect of Sharecare. "The program represents Sharecare's evolution, taking searching for health advice to a new level. Program participants interact with Nike SPARQ Elite Coaches, as well as health and nutrition experts, using the power of social networking combined with expert Q&A."

"Since its launch, Sharecare has become a robust online hub for leading health and wellness experts, including everyone from the American Red Cross to the Cleveland Clinic to the AARP. The Sharecare platform allows these experts to share their collective wisdom directly with the public," said Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show." "My '11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It' program furthers Sharecare's aim by harnessing the power of the Internet to give people greater control of their own health destiny. We want to provide these tools to as many people as we possibly can."

"I am very excited to be part of this massive opportunity to positively impact the lives of millions through the power of fitness coaching. We know that 80% of people who work with a coach stick with a weight-loss program and 'Dr. Oz's 11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It' is a great way to share the benefits of personal coaching that leverages the Internet," said Dr. Mike Clark, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and one of the Nike SPARQ Elite Coaches in the program.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Callaway Gardens Announces 2011 Fitness Series Event Schedule

Each year Callaway Gardens hosts a variety of fitness events that have come to be nationally renowned for both their competitiveness and the beauty of the setting.

The Callaway Gardens Fitness Series includes:

· Marathon – Half-Marathon and 5K on January 30 (US Track & Field certified and qualifier for the Boston Marathon)

· Duathlon and 5K on May 15;

· Sprint Triathlon June 19;

· Triathlon and 5K September 4 (The oldest triathlon in the South, the fifth oldest in the nation, and traditionally ranks as one of the top 10 triathlons by the sport’s governing body, the U.S. Triathlon Federation)

· Twilight 10K race November 5: (US Track and Field certified and qualifier for Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Race); and

· Mountain bike races November 6.

Individual athletes and teams can register for these events at For more information, contact Dave Johnson Enterprises at 770-565-5208.

A special rate for Fitness Series participants is available upon request. The rate includes one night in the Mountain Creek Inn, admission to Callaway Gardens and its many attractions, and use of the Callaway Fitness Center.

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain, Ga., 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta and 30 minutes north of Columbus. For additional information, simply visit or call 1-800-CALLAWAY (225-5292).

* Rate is per room, per night based on double occupancy in the Mountain Creek Inn. Cottage, Villa and Lodge rates also available. Based on availability. Some restrictions may apply.


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FDA to Require Substantial Equivalence Reviews for New Tobacco Products

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that certain tobacco products introduced or changed after Feb. 15, 2007 must be reviewed by the agency. In FDA guidance published today, the agency outlines a pathway for marketing a product whereby the company marketing the product must prove that it is "substantially equivalent" to products commercially available on Feb. 15, 2007.

"Substantially equivalent" means the products must be the same in terms of ingredients, design, composition, heating source and other characteristics to an existing, single predicate product or have different characteristics, but not raise different questions of public health.

"This specific part of the law is meant to ensure that new tobacco products are evaluated by the FDA before they are cleared to enter the marketplace. The law requires FDA to carefully examine the impact those products may have on the public health," said Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D., director of the agency's Center for Tobacco Products. "Products that are equivalent to those which were on the market on February 15, 2007, may be cleared to go to market; those that are not may be prohibited from the market, or withdrawn if they are already available, if the changes raise different questions of public health."

"This piece of the Tobacco Control Act protects the health of all Americans," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "It does this by setting a clear deadline for tobacco companies to provide important product information to the FDA so the agency can then begin evaluating tobacco products for any potential new risks to public health."

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which became law Jun. 22, 2009, granted the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco products. Generally, the law allows the FDA to deny applications for new products if marketing the product poses a harm to public health. FDA may deny applications for substantial equivalence if the marketing of that modified product would raise different questions of public health. An example would be a product that poses an increased health risk to users of the product or to nonusers by causing more of them to start smoking.

In general, in order to continue to market these products, manufacturers of tobacco products that were introduced or changed after Feb. 15, 2007, which include cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and all smokeless products must apply for equivalency by Mar. 22, 2011. Manufacturers intending to introduce new products into the market after that date must submit an application for the new product and obtain a marketing order from the FDA before introducing the product to market.

"No known existing tobacco product is safe, and a market order issued by the FDA for these products should never be interpreted as such," said Deyton. "One of the FDA's missions required by this new law is to ensure new products do not pose an increased threat to the American public. These products will not be safer, but we are required by this law to not allow even more dangerous products to cause further harm to those Americans who use tobacco products."

FDA also intends to issue guidance on materials the agency believes would show that a tobacco product was on the market on Feb. 15, 2007, as well as hold a Webinar Series in order to provide more assistance to manufacturers.

Information on the Webinar Series (available soon) and application process details and answers to questions can be found here:

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

American Cancer Society's Choose You Movement Launches 'New Year, Choose You!' to Help Women Keep Their New Year's Health Resolutions

/PRNewswire/ -- As part of its Choose You Movement , the American Cancer Society is launching 'New Year, Choose You!' -- an initiative on that helps women transform their health-related New Year's resolutions into long-term behavior change that can have a powerful impact on cancer prevention.

'New Year, Choose You!' is part of the Choose You Movement which was created to draw national attention to the fact that one in three women will get cancer in her lifetime, yet about half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if women maintained a healthy weight through diet and regular exercise, avoided tobacco products and got recommended cancer screening tests. Through the 'New Year, Choose You!' initiative, the Society wants to help women stay on track and meet their health goals throughout the year.

"Despite the best intentions, we know that most women are not successful in achieving their New Year's resolutions. 'New Year, Choose You!' wants to help women stick to their health goals year round," said Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. "By providing women with the necessary support system, incentives and online tools, Choose You helps women develop long-term healthy behavior changes in order to achieve success and reduce their cancer risk."

Making New Year's Resolutions Stick

Past surveys indicate that anywhere from 80 to 92 percent* of New Year's resolutions will fail. This January, through the Choose You Movement, the American Cancer Society wants to help women transform their health-related resolutions into long-term behavior change to help them stay well and help reduce their risk for cancer.

'New Year, Choose You!' invites women to visit to share their health-related New Year's resolutions and create a community of support and encourage loved ones to participate. Participants in the 'New Year, Choose You!' initiative are encouraged to take their healthy resolution to the next level by making a Choose You Commitment, an online pledge to reach a specific, individual health goal, in order to stick to their resolutions and ultimately achieve long-term behavior change. At, women can choose from different health categories, including: Eat Right; Get Active; Get Recommended Health Screenings; Protect Your Skin; and Quit Smoking. As part of the Choose You Commitment process, participants also have the option to make a monetary pledge and ask friends and family for support in order to incentivize them to stay on track. Extensive academic research conducted by Yale economists on these types of "commitment contracts" has shown that combining incentives and accountability can make you up to three times more likely to achieve your goal.

At, women can access a variety of valuable tools and resources to support overall personal health goals, including: a calorie calculator, virtual dietitian, nutrition and activity quiz, smoking cost calculator, prevention and early detection videos and a desktop helper with daily health tips. The site also provides great articles on healthy habits, meals and exercising, among other available resources.

'New Year, Choose You!' Sweepstakes

As an additional incentive for women to join 'New Year, Choose You!' in 2011, women who make a new Commitment via between December 27, 2010 and January 31, 2011 will be eligible to enter the 'New Year, Choose You!' sweepstakes for a chance to win a series of health-related prizes. One Grand Prize Winner and a guest will win a trip for two to fly to Los Angeles, CA to train with celebrity fitness trainer, Holly Perkins of Exercise TV. The Grand Prize package includes two nights in Los Angeles and two days of one-on-one fitness and nutrition training with Holly. Plus, the Grand Prize winner will receive a take-home workout plan and $300 in spending money! In addition to the Grand Prize package, five first prize winners will each receive a $250 gift certificate to, five second prize winners will each receive a $100 gift card to Walgreens, and 25 third prize winners will receive a Choose You water bottle.

For more information about the Choose You movement and to be part of 'New Year, Choose You!', please log on to

*University of Minnesota New Year's Psychology Study and "Goal Free Living" by Stephen Shapiro

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