Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Rural Americans PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:28
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights Benefits of the Affordable Care Act to Rural Americans

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today discussed how the Affordable Care Act is building a stronger health system in rural communities and providing better care for farm families and the agricultural community.

"No one should have to go without health care because of where they live, and for too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick." said Vilsack. "The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of young people access health care, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new doctors to serve rural areas to give middle-class families the health security they deserve."

Two years ago, President Obama signed the Act into law and today the law is giving Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act:

  • 2.5 million more young adults have health insurance on their parent's plan.
  • 3.6 million seniors with Medicare in 2011 alone saved an average of $600 on the cost of their prescription drugs. And everyone on Medicare can get preventive services like mammograms for free.
  • Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of your premium dollars on health care and quality improvements and not overhead, and cannot raise your premiums by 10% or more with no accountability.
  • It's illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. And in 2014, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal.

As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is working to ensure that rural Americans are aware of the many ways the new health care law helps them. Specifically, rural families will see improved access to care, new options for those with pre-existing conditions, coverage for young adults so they can take local jobs and contribute to their rural economies, and reduced insurance barriers to emergency services.

Here are a few components of how the law is helping rural families:

  • Encourages thousands of new primary care doctors and nurses to practice in rural communities and increases payments to rural health providers.
  • Removes insurance barriers to emergency services. Rural citizens can seek care from a hospital outside their health plan's network when there is no time to travel to a hospital that is farther away.
  • Gives options for those with pre-existing conditions and forbids insurers from using an unintentional error in your application to cancel your coverage when you get sick.
  • Gives seniors freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs, and Medicare they can count on.
  • Gives farm families the flexibility to keep children on their parent's health insurance until they are 26. Having health insurance allows young people to remain locally and contribute to their rural economies.

This FACT SHEET has more about how the Affordable Care Act helps Rural America.

In 2012, as part of a series of recommendations from the White House Rural Council, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by 2016.

Also due to efforts by the White House Rural Council, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between USDA Rural Development and Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve collaboration and strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in rural communities. This MOU will connect rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware to implement HIT.

Over the last three years, USDA has worked within existing programs to invest in rural healthcare, providing funding to improve nearly 600 rural health facilities serving more than 11 million Americans. Our programs have funded equipment – like CT scans, MRIs, ultra sound and lab equipment. Since 1974, more than 40% of USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Programs' portfolio has been invested in rural health care facilities. Over 3 years, USDA has also awarded grants and loans to help rural health facilities serving 730 counties expand opportunities – though telemedicine – to provide advanced diagnosis for patients or to consult with colleagues at other hospitals.

The Affordable Care Act is giving rural Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care. Learn more about the new law and how to take advantage of these benefits by visiting


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


The One Ingredient Label You Have Never Read… And Should! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:06
You Probably Know What’s In Your Kids’ Peanut Butter, But Do You
Know What’s In Their Toothpaste?

Most parents are careful about learning what’s in the stuff their kids eat and drink. They avoid artificial dyes, preservatives, chemicals, and sweeteners. Yet ask just about any of those same folks if they have ever looked at what is in their toothpaste and you’ll likely get blank stares.

Considering the fact that children – and adults -- ingest toothpaste twice a day every day, it’s probably the most frequent thing we put in our mouths other than water or other beverages. And still, most people have never looked at what is in their toothpaste.

Dentist and national oral health care expert Harold Katz, (, suggests that needs to change. Many ingredients in some commercial toothpastes are of questionable benefit and some are just plain bad for you.

Consumers have become increasingly aware of the hidden toxins in foods, beverages and eating and drinking utensils, he says. They avoid high fat and high sodium foods, sulfates in their personal care products, aerosol sprays, and toxic chemicals in their household cleaners.

“They’re taking no chances, and rightfully so. Remember the rush to replace plastic baby bottles with glass ones after the BPA scare in 2008?” he asked.

However there has been a surprising lack of attention to toothpaste, Katz says. The dentist suggests that all consumers – but especially parents – take the time to read their toothpaste tubes today. Effects of potentially unhealthy toothpaste ingredients are multiplied in the smaller bodies of children.

Here are a few ingredients to stay away from:

• FD&C blue dye No. 2: This commonly used toothpaste dye is one of several on the list of additives to avoid, maintained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It’s said to be linked to learning, behavioral and health problems, severe allergic reactions, and headaches, among other problems.

• Sodium lauryl sulfate: The American College of Toxicology reports this ingredient in cosmetics and industrial cleaning agents can cause skin corrosion and irritation. Doses of .8 to 110 grams/kilogram in lab rats caused depression, labored breathing, diarrhea and death in 4 out of 20 animals.

• Triclosan: An anti-microbial ingredient, the federal Environmental Protection Agency lists triclosan as a pesticide and regulates its use in over-the-counter toothpastes and hand soaps. According to the agency’s fact sheet, “Studies on the thyroid and estrogen effects led EPA to determine that more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted. … Because of the amount of research being planned and currently in progress, it will undertake another comprehensive review of triclosan beginning in 2013.”

• Saccharin and aspartame: Both of these artificial sweeteners are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of additives to avoid.

Toothpaste buyers should look for natural ingredients, such as aloe vera juice, which cleans and soothes teeth and gums and helps fight cavities, according to the May/June 2009 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's clinical, peer-reviewed journal. Aloe vera tooth gel is said to kill disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, Katz says.

Also, avoid all toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a harsh detergent that has been linked to canker sores. Toothpastes that are free of sulfates include Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste, TheraBreath and Tom’s of Maine.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and get children into the habit from a young age, Katz says. You’ll have fresh breath, avoid painful dental problems, and be far more likely to have your teeth in your mouth when you go to sleep at night as you age.

Just be sure to check what’s in your family’s toothpaste and avoid buying anything with problematic ingredients. And when it comes to brushing kids teeth use a pea-sized drop of paste on the brush – no more – and oversee brushing to ensure young children don’t swallow their toothpaste, says Dr Katz.

About Dr. Harold Katz

Dr. Harold Katz received his degree in bacteriology from UCLA and is the founder of The California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible. He has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “Early Show” and “The View” with Barbara Walters and countless other TV shows. Dr. Katz’s formulated the TheraBreath oral care program in 1994 and has continued to update products in order to make use of the most effective and most natural ingredients.

Q&A on Medical Device Safety PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Sen. Chuck Grassley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 11:48

with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley


Q:        What needs to be done to improve the oversight of medical device safety?

A:        Post-market surveillance of medical devices should be as effective as possible in order to preserve the fast-track approval process that gets new and innovative medical products on the market for consumers.  There’s an opportunity this year to pass legislation to strengthen the ability of the Food and Drug Administration to run a robust post-market surveillance operation and to act quickly when a medical device safety problem is discovered.  By September 30, Congress must renew a program that collects fees from the medical device industry to help pay for safety reviews by the Food and Drug Administration.  Along with Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, I introduced a bipartisan bill (S.1995) late last year that would let the Food and Drug Administration require post-market clinical studies for medical devices that pose potential safety risks if those devices were first approved through a fast-track process that’s allowed for moderate risk devices.  These changes should be passed along with renewal of the medical device user fee program.  Our bill also would allow the Food and Drug Administration to implement a routine assessment of device recalls, develop enhanced procedures and criteria for assessing the effectiveness of recalls, and document the agency’s basis for terminating individual recalls.  These changes were recommended in a 2011 report of the Government Accountability Office.  The report showed that such gaps in the system today limit the ability of manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration to make sure recalls are implemented in a timely and effective manner.  In addition to requesting the report and seeking legislative reform, Senator Kohl, Senator Blumenthal and I also have asked five companies that have recalled faulty medical devices for detailed information about how they conduct post-market surveillance and how the companies have managed recalls of hip implants, surgical mesh, heart defibrillators, knee replacements, and spinal fusion products.


Q:        What about other efforts to track defective medical devices?

A:        As part of a law enacted in 2007, a tracking system for medical devices was created to enhance post-market surveillance of medical devices, improve data collection on medical devices, and allow companies and the FDA to track faulty devices when problems occur.  This Unique Device Identifier (UDI) system would require implantable devices to carry a unique numerical identifier so products can be tracked through the distribution chain and after they’ve been used with patients.  Even so, the UDI system has yet to be implemented.  At this point, the plan is stuck at the Office of Management and Budget, which must approve what the Food and Drug Administration submitted last summer.  The sooner this system is in place, the better for patients who have received medical devices.  Senator Kohl, Senator Blumenthal and I have urged the Office of Management and Budget to act and, this month, I joined Senator Jeff Merkley in introducing a bill (S.2193) that would require a final UDI rule by the end of 2012.  The legislation also would add medical devices to a post-market surveillance initiative launched in 2008.  This Sentinel system is an integrated electronic system that tracks prescription drug safety nationwide.  The post-market surveillance work of the Food and Drug Administration must be empowered to use the valuable information about drugs and devices available when millions of people start using products, compared to what can be known before a drug or device goes on the market.


March 19, 2012

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Rural Health Care Provider to Hold Media Conference Call on 2nd Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 23 March 2012 11:47

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2012 – Tomorrow, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host a media conference call on the 2nd anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.  He will be joined by Carolyn Sheridan, a rural health care provider from Spencer, Iowa. Sheridan also serves as the Clinical Director of AgriSafe, a non-profit organization representing health professionals who provide health care services to farm families.


The President's health law gives hard working, middle-class families the security they deserve.  The Affordable Care Act forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy through annual or lifetime limits, and, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.


As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is working to ensure that rural Americans are aware of the many ways the Affordable Care Act impacts them.  Specifically, rural families will see improved access to care, new options for those with pre-existing conditions, coverage for young adults so they can remain locally and contribute to their rural economies, and reduced insurance barriers to emergency services.

Upcoming American Red Cross blood drives April 1-15 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Ben Corey   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:14

Feel Good about Giving Back by Donating Blood

The American Red Cross reminds eligible, volunteer blood donors that in about an hour, they can help save lives by donating blood. As Americans become increasingly mobile, eligible donors can feel good knowing that when donating blood through the Red Cross, they may be helping patients not only in their local community, but also their family and friends across the nation.

Approximately 21,000 times a day, patients receive blood from Red Cross blood donors. All blood types are currently needed to help maintain a sufficient and stable blood supply. Feel good about giving back to those in need by donating blood today.

How to Donate Blood
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross
Governed by volunteers and supported by giving individuals and communities, the American Red Cross is the single largest supplier of blood products to hospitals throughout the United States. While local hospital needs are always met first, the Red  Cross also helps ensure no patient goes without blood no matter where or when they need it. In addition to providing nearly half of the nation’s blood supply, the Red Cross provides relief to victims of disaster, trains millions in lifesaving skills, serves as a communication link between U.S. military members and their families, and assists victims of international disasters or conflicts.

Blood Donation Opportunities


  • 4/5/2012, 12:00 pm- 5:00 pm, Chadwick Fire Department, 210 Calvert Street, Chadwick, IL


  • 4/9/2012, 2:00 pm- 6:00 pm, Sacred Heart Church, 108 N. Main, Annawan, IL
  • 4/11/2012, 2:00 pm- 6:00 pm, First Christian Church, 105 Dwight St., Kewanee, IL


  • 4/10/2012, 1:00 pm- 6:30 pm, Calvary Lutheran Church, Box 97/121 N. Meridian St., New Windsor, IL


  • 4/6/2012, 10:00 am- 1:00 pm, Hy-Vee, 2200 W. Kimberly Rd., Davenport, IA


  • 4/3/2012, 8:00 am-11:00 am, Old Fulton Fire Station, 912 4th Street, Fulton, IL
  • 4/3/2012, 10:00 am- 3:00 pm, Morrison Institute of Technology, 701 Portland, Morrison, IL
  • 4/4/2012, 2:00 pm- 6:00 pm, Rock Falls Blood Donation Center, 112 W. Second St., Rock Falls, IL
  • 4/5/2012, 10:00 am- 4:00 pm, CGH Medical Center, 100 E. LeFevre Road, Sterling, IL
  • 4/9/2012, 11:30 am- 5:30 pm, Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico CUSD #3, 79 Grove St., Prophetstown, IL
  • 4/10/2012, 1:00 pm- 5:15 pm, Old Fulton Fire Station, 912 4th Street, Fulton, IL
  • 4/11/2012, 9:00 am- 2:00 pm, Sterling High School, 1608 4th Ave., Sterling, IL
  • 4/11/2012, 10:00 am- 2:00 pm, Rock Falls Blood Donation Center, 112 W. Second St., Rock Falls, IL

The need is constant. The gratification is instant. Give blood.™

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