Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Participate in the National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Month with TOPS PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Kimberly Greene   
Tuesday, 01 November 2011 10:11

MILWAUKEE, WI – With the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity and other health problems, it’s important that parents encourage and teach kids about nutritious food options and physical activity.  The National PTA’s (Parent Teacher Association) Healthy Lifestyles Month this November is an opportunity to use creative events and activities to show that living healthfully can be fun.  TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, provides advice to promote wellness at home and get involved with the PTA Healthy Lifestyles initiative.

The facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day.  Today, there are more video games, less homemade meals, and a reduction of physical education and sports programs at school – trends that have contributed to a growing problem of decreased physical activity among children.  One in three children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and according to the American Diabetes Association, one in every 400 children has diabetes.

Although there has been an increase in childhood obesity, there has also been a rise in initiatives to temper this trend.  Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, a program that TOPS supports, is one such plan that ties into the goals and message of Healthy Lifestyles Month.

It starts at home

It’s important to develop healthy habits at home, so children can go to school, friends’ houses, and other places, ready to make sensible, healthy choices.

1. Physical activity – Get moving as a family and demonstrate to kids the necessity of exercise, which can also boost self-esteem and confidence and reduce stress.

• Take a group walk or bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner.
• Find free or low-cost physical activity areas in your community, such as a playground, bike trail, tennis court, or park.
• Take on active chores as a family, like raking leaves or shoveling snow.
• Use pedometers and have a contest to see who takes the most steps in a given week.
• Go to the gym as a family.  Many fitness centers offer discounted memberships.

2. Nutrition – While parents typically decide what their children eat, kids will often eat what is available to them.  Surround kids with healthy snacks and homemade meals to ensure that they’re making good choices.

• Serve fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables.  Consider more unique snack ideas like homemade smoothies, a fruit salad, or vegetables and hummus dip.
• Offer water, fat-free milk, or 100 percent fruit juice with no sugar added.
• Since nuts and trail mix are often high in calories, serve them in small portions along with another healthy snack.
• Don’t force kids to clean their plates if they are full.

3. Grocery shopping – Before going to the store, make a list of groceries your family needs.  Explain to the kids that you will only buy what’s on the list to avoid unhealthy options slipping into the cart.  When making your way through the store, focus on the perimeters.  These areas contain healthier options, such as produce and dairy.  Also, never shop with an empty stomach, so you aren’t vulnerable to buying extra foods.

Get involved at school

There are numerous ways to become engaged at your child’s school.  Joining your local PTA can help you and other parents impact what’s served at lunch, emphasize the importance of physical activity during the school day, and plan activities to promote health and wellness.  Here are some PTA program and activity ideas that will keep families moving and promote wellness:

• Create a document for parents about physical activity areas and resources within the community.
• Host a fundraiser for new fitness equipment.  Skip the candy bars and cookies and sell services, magazines, candles, cookbooks, or other alternatives to sweets.
• Plan a 5K run/walk or walk-a-thon event for the school district and encourage families to participate. 
• Hang up posters and other educational materials in the cafeteria to make students aware of the importance of a nutritious meal.
• Hold a seminar for parents with a health and wellness expert.
• Organize a healthy Family Fun Night with nutritious snacks, games in the gymnasium, such as basketball or kick ball, a dance, food trivia, and more.

It’s also important to find out if your local school district has a wellness policy.  This should include nutrition education goals, physical activity objectives, guidelines for food available at school, opportunities for parents and students to get involved with the policy development, and plans for evaluation.  The best place to begin inquiring about a school wellness policy is at the district office.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) is the original weight-loss support and wellness education organization.  Founded more than 63 years ago, TOPS is the only nonprofit, noncommercial weight-loss organization of its kind.  TOPS promotes successful weight management with a “Real People. Real Weight Loss.” philosophy that combines support from others at weekly chapter meetings, healthy eating, regular exercise, and wellness information.  TOPS has about 170,000 members - male and female, age seven and older - in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge.  Membership is affordable at just $26 per year, plus nominal chapter fees.  To find a local chapter, view or call (800) 932-8677.


NARI supports National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 23-29, 2011) PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Morgan Zenner   
Monday, 31 October 2011 14:38

Learn how your remodel can impact a child’s health during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Survey results reveal homeowner attitudes about lead hazards during a renovation


Des Plaines, Illinois, October 26, 2011—The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is raising awareness of the dangers of lead exposure by observing National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week on October 23-29, 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule requires certification and lead-safe work practices for any renovation, repair or painting projects in homes and child care facilities built before 1978. For more background on the EPA’s RRP rule, please click here.


“Through awareness and education, NARI is hoping to motivate every remodeler and homeowner to abide by the RRP rule when renovating their homes for the safety of the vulnerable populations who could potentially be impacted by lead exposure,” says NARI National President Michael Hydeck, MCR, CKBR, of Hydeck Design Build in Telford, Pa.


The RRP rule is designed to protect pregnant women and children under 6 from toxic lead exposure by requiring contractors to complete an eight-hour training course outlining lead-safe work practices that contain and minimize lead dust. Those who complete the course must supervise the renovation of pre-1978 homes, and the contracting firm must be a Certified Firm with the EPA. NARI is concerned that lack of awareness of RRP and additional costs to comply with this rule is actually putting this target audience at higher risk for lead exposure.


NARI’s June 2011 consumer survey proved this, revealing an opposite effect from the rule’s intended purpose based on consumer behaviors and buying habits for renovations in older homes. The survey, which used Meredith Corporation’s Home Enthusiast Panel to gauge homeowner attitudes and knowledge of RRP, found 53 percent of respondents had not heard about this rule prior to the survey. Fifty-nine percent of homeowners responded they would do demolition work themselves in order to save money—an activity that can create significant lead hazards. Twenty-nine percent would likely hire a non-certified contractor to work on their home in order to save money. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to request a copy of the Consumer RRP survey from NARI.


“These results indicate that homeowners are largely unaware of the dangers of lead—so much so, that they are willing to put their families at risk in order to reduce remodeling costs,” Hydeck says.


That was not the case with Dan and Michelle Neifert, homeowners from Boise, Idaho, whose 75-year-old home recently went through a complete renovation. “I knew that I had to find a lead certified renovator to work on my home because every contactor we talked to said we needed to test the home and that it was against the law not to,” Dan Neifert says.


The RRP rule became even more important to the Neifert’s after discovering they were expecting their first child. Though they did not live in the home while the gut-rehab took place, it was still important that lead-safe work practices and clean-up processes were implemented and followed to protect their child from lead exposure.


“We figured lead was in the home, and we wanted to have everything done correctly and safely for our new child, regardless of added costs and time,” Dan Neifert says. They conducted lead testing before demolition to identify exactly which areas required lead-safe work practices.


Lead was found in the exterior and interior of the home. The exterior windows, tiles, stucco siding of the home and detached garage tested positive, and the interior bathroom tile floor, utility room ceiling and crawlspace access were positive as well. Since the remodeling project involved replacement of all windows, renovation of the main floor and conversion of a garage into living space, all work was done within RRP guidelines.


The Neiferts said that lead testing, labor and materials added cost to the project, and they say the demolition added an additional week to their project.


“The lead-safe work practices I witnessed from visiting the home was the worksite was surrounded by cautionary tape, the entire exterior of the home was covered in plastic, and those working inside wore respirators and suits,” Dan Neifert says. He adds that because he was located in a historic district, he had to notify neighbors of his remodeling plans and inform them of the RRP renovation that was taking place.


NARI member Joe Levitch, CR, EPA Lead Certified Renovator and Lead Paint Inspector and Risk Assessor, of Boise, Idaho’s Levco Builders completed the Neifert’s renovation and lead testing. “It’s a win-win for the homeowners to keep their families safe and have proof that their home is safe for anyone to live in for years to come.”


NARI, along with week organizers Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the EPA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are assisting in promotion of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, According to the CDC, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet an estimated 250,000 U.S. children have elevated blood-lead levels.



In honor of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 23-29, 2011), NARI is providing this checklist to minimize lead exposure for homeowners living in pre-1978 homes:


  • Verify that your contractor’s firm is registered with the EPA unless your state has taken over with its own lead safety program, in which case the certification process may be slightly different. To find out if your state is working under its own lead program, visit
  • Verify at least one person is a Certified Renovator and has documented the training of the work crew and is supervising the work being completed in the home.
  • Know that these certifications must be accessible at the work site at all times.
  • Firms must post signs before renovation begins, clearly defining the work area and warning occupants and other persons not involved in renovation activities to remain outside of the work area.
  • Make sure you understand and sign the EPA’s “Renovate Right” brochure.
  • Remove all belongings from the immediate area of the renovation.
  • Notice if your contractor is using plastic sheeting that is taped 6 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation; reusable cloth coverings are not acceptable.
  • Renovators should be cleaning up and mopping daily to minimize dust contamination.
  • Contractors must use HEPA vacuums and/or wet mopping to remove lead particles.
  • All contaminated materials should be placed in heavy duty plastic bags before your contractor disposes of them.


To learn more about testing your child’s lead levels, testing your home for lead for lead or preventing health effects related to lead exposure visit To find a NARI remodeler in your area who is a Lead Certified Renovators, visit For green remodeling information, please visit


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Pay-for-Delay Deal making Continues between Brand Name and Generic Drug Companies PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 31 October 2011 13:37
October, 25, 2011

Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley made the following statement after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a staff report that found drug companies entered into 28 potential pay-for-delay deals between October 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011.

Grassley, along with Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, is the author of legislation that would end these settlements between generic and brand name drug companies that keep more affordable generics off the market.  The senators also sent a letter to the Deficit Reduction Committee encouraging them to use their legislation as a cost-saving measure.   The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Grassley-Kohl bill will save the federal government – which pays approximately one-third of all prescription costs – $2.68 billion over ten years.  The Federal Trade Commission estimates that ending these settlements would save consumers who pay for prescription drugs through private insurance or on their own $3.5 billion per year.   The Washington Post also editorialized about the issue today.

Here’s Grassley’s comment.

“The pay-for-delay tactics employed by brand name and generic drug companies only benefit those companies that engage in such settlements.  It hurts consumers who don’t have access to affordable medications, and it hurts taxpayers who pay for prescription drugs in both Medicare and Medicaid.  The FTC’s study shows a remarkable continuation of a practice that puts the interests of drug companies above the interests of consumers.  No one has to engage in such deal making at the expense of consumers, and it’s time to put an end to it.”

According to the FTC staff report, companies reached 156 final patent settlements in fiscal 2011, and 28 of those settlements contained a payment to a generic manufacturer which restricted the generic company’s ability to market its product. The FTC went on to say that “Of those 28 settlements, 18 involved generics that were so-called ‘first filers,’ meaning that they were the first to seek FDA approval to market a generic version of the branded drug, and, at the time of the settlement, were eligible to exclusively market the generic product for period of time.” The FTC press release explains that “Because of the regulatory framework, when first filers delay entering the market, other generic manufacturers can also be blocked from entering the market, which makes such patent settlement deals particularly harmful to consumers.”


Braley Introduces Bill to Keep Doctors in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:58

Bill would stop a scheduled end-of-year Medicare reimbursement cut to Iowa doctors


Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today introduced a bill to make sure Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians in Iowa and other rural states don’t drop precipitously at the end of the year and endanger Iowans’ access to doctors and high-quality medicine.

Legislation written by Braley and passed in 2010 ensures that doctors in Iowa and other rural states get paid by Medicare at rates closer to those of doctors in larger, more urban states.  The law is set to expire on December 31st, 2011.

Braley’s Medicare Equity Extension Act, introduced today, extends the current reimbursement rates for an additional two years.  The legislation would help Iowa retain doctors and improve patient access to quality healthcare.

“It’s funny math.  Medicare pays doctors based on geography, not quality of care,” Braley said.  “Iowa doctors rank near the top in quality of care, but get penalized for their success since Medicare pays doctors more money in big states even if quality is lower.


“Doctors should have an incentive to provide good care.  Instead, there’s an incentive to leave states like Iowa for bigger states with higher payment rates.


“The Medicare Equity Extension Act will stop Medicare from cutting payments to Iowa doctors, preventing a potential exodus of good physicians to other states and providing an incentive to doctors to provide the best care possible.”

Medicare calculates reimbursements to physicians using two indexes that factor in the cost of doctors’ labor and the cost of doctors’ physical expenses like office space and equipment.  Because Medicare considers the cost of doing business in Iowa and other rural states to be low, this negatively impacts the amount doctors are reimbursed for their services.

Current law sets a floor on the indexes, and thus a floor on reimbursements, ensuring rural states’ reimbursement rates more closely match large states’.  Those floors would expire on December 31st unless legislation is passed to extend them.  The Iowa Medical Society, among other groups, has urged an extension.

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News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:49
In Letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius, Senators ask why CMS is not utilizing tools in new health law to safeguard program

WASHINGTON –In a letter today, the top Republicans on the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is not utilizing some of the tools provided within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to safeguard the Medicare program from waste, fraud and abuse.

Under PPACA, CMS can impose a temporary enrollment moratorium on new Medicare providers and suppliers when the agency determines that there is a significant potential for waste, fraud, or abuse by the applicant type or geographic area. While the final rule for this regulation was published more than eight months ago, CMS has failed to impose a single temporary moratorium. Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the HHS-OIG are operating strike force initiatives in seven States (California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas), including Miami, Florida.  All of these areas, particularly Miami, have historically been vulnerable to Medicare fraud and are high risk areas for programmatic vulnerability. However, to date, CMS has failed to exercise its authority to protect against fraud. The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association has estimated that as much as $60 billion is lost to fraud, waste and abuse across the Federal health care programs.

“It is deeply disconcerting that CMS has failed to act in the best interest of the American taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries and prevent fraud before it occurs by exercising its moratoria authority,” wrote the Senators.  “It is not reasonable to suggest that CMS needs more time to study whether there is need to impose a temporary moratoria in certain geographical areas for certain provider and supplier types when ample evidence exists from the strike force activities to justify moratoria in these high fraud areas.”

The text of the letter to Secretary Sebelius is below and a signed copy can be found HERE:

October 25, 2011

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As the Ranking Members of the Senate Finance and Judiciary Committees, we are writing to request that as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), you exercise the discretionary authority granted to you through Section 6401(a)(6) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) regarding the imposition of temporary moratorium on the enrollment of new providers and suppliers.  Specifically, we urge you to determine why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is failing to use this tool provided in PPACA to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.

On February 2, 2011, CMS published a final rule with comment entitled, “Medicare, Medicaid, and Children's Health insurance Programs (CHIP); Additional Screening Requirements, Application Fees, Temporary Enrollment Moratoria, Payment Suspensions and Compliance Plans for Providers and Suppliers" in the Federal Register. In part, this regulation allows CMS to impose a temporary enrollment moratorium on new Medicare providers and suppliers when CMS determines that there is a significant potential for fraud, waste or abuse with respect to a particular provider or supplier type, geographic area or both.

Today, more than year after the publication of a proposed rule and more than 8 months after publishing the aforementioned final rule with comment, CMS has still not imposed a single temporary moratorium.  In addition, despite a specific recommendation by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) to impose a temporary moratorium on independent diagnostic testing facilities in Los Angeles, California, CMS refused.

Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the HHS-OIG are operating strike force initiatives in seven States (California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Texas), including Miami, Florida.  All of these areas, particularly Miami, have historically been vulnerable to Medicare fraud and are high risk areas for programmatic vulnerability.  Therefore, it is deeply disconcerting that CMS has failed to act in the best interest of the American taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries and prevent fraud before it occurs by exercising its moratoria authority in some of these areas.  It is not reasonable to suggest that CMS needs more time to study whether there is need to impose a temporary moratoria in certain geographical areas for certain provider and supplier types when ample evidence exists from the strike force activities to justify moratoria in these high fraud areas.  To better understand CMS’s failure to act, please:

1.      Explain why CMS decided not to impose a temporary moratorium on independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs) in Los Angeles, California despite the OIG recent recommendation and previous work by the OIG that indicated $71.5 million in improper payments to IDTFs.

2.      Explain what steps CMS is taking to address the concerns raised by the OIG with respect to IDTFs in Los Angeles, California.  Please include a detailed timeline.

3.      Explain why CMS has not imposed a temporary moratorium of “high” or “moderate” categorical risk providers/suppliers in HHS-OIG strike force cities or other high-risk areas.

4.      Explain why CMS decided not to impose a temporary moratorium for durable medical equipment suppliers in south Florida when Daniel R. Levinson, the Inspector General for HHS-OIG, stated in his March 9, 2011 Congressional Testimony that there is “rampant fraud” among durable medical equipment suppliers in south Florida.

5.      Describe the program changes that CMS is considering to strengthen the provider enrollment process for “moderate” and “high” screening risk providers and suppliers, such as IDTFs, home health agencies, and suppliers of durable medical equipment, orthotics, prosthetics, and supplies.

6.      Provide all materials used to develop and finalize the temporary moratorium provisions found in CMS-6028-P and CMS-6028-IFC.

7.      Consistent with 42 CFR 424.570(a)(2)(i)(A), provide a list of providers and suppliers with a highly disproportionate number of providers and suppliers in a category relative to the number of beneficiaries for each State.

8.      Consistent with 42 CFR 424.570(a)(2)(i)(B), provide a list of providers and suppliers and location (city and state) where a rapid increase in the number of enrollment applications has occurred within the past twelve months.

9.      Consistent with 42 CFR 424.570(a)(2)(ii), provide a list of State Medicaid programs who have imposed a moratorium on a group of Medicaid providers or suppliers that are also eligible to enroll in Medicare.

10.  Consistent with 42 CFR 424.570(a)(2)(iii), provide a list of State-imposed moratoria on enrollment in particular geographic areas or on a particular providers, supplier types, or both.

We understand that we are requesting a substantial amount of information, but appreciate your understanding Congress’ role in overseeing that taxpayer dollars are carefully spent. Thank you for your timely attention to this matter and we request a response by December 2, 2011.



cc: Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Operating Officer Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


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