Massachusetts Medical Society's Physician Focus



Emergency Preparedness: Mass Responds
Responding to public health emergencies quickly and efficiently is a challenge facing public officials and private citizens alike. The Medical Reserve Corps, established after 9/11 by the Federal government, enlists volunteers to help their communities in emergencies and to provide outreach and services throughout the year. Additionally, the Massachusetts System for Advanced Registration, or MSAR, is a program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and has created a statewide corps of health care professionals who will volunteer in a public health emergency. Now, a new entity is emerging, Massachusetts Responds, to promote regional partnerships and emergency response planning and assistance across Massachusetts.

Common Digestive Disorders
Irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal reflux disease, celiac disease, Crohn’s and colitis, ulcers, and diverticular conditions are just some of the digestive diseases affecting millions of Americans each year and costing billions of dollars annually. What are some of the more common conditions? What causes them? Who are most susceptible? Are any curable? And what steps can patients take to reduce their symptoms and effects?
Common Skin Disorders
The skin is the largest organ in the human body and is susceptible to scores of diseases and disorders. Skin conditions are so prevalent, in fact, that their incidence exceeds those of obesity, hypertension and cancer. One in three people in the United States suffer from some kind of skin disease or condition that results in disfigurement, pain, disability and even death. What are some of the most common skin diseases?  What causes them, how can patients protect against them, and how they can be treated?

Foodborne Illness
Food borne disease is caused by consuming contaminated food or beverages and is a widespread problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 76 million cases of food borne illnesses occur every year, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. How does food become contaminated? What kinds of diseases do they bring? Who is most at risk? What is the role of public health officials in preventing and tracking these outbreaks? And what can the public do as consumers to protect themselves?

Autism is one of three ‘autism spectrum disorders’ (along with Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder), a group of developmental disabilities that cause social, behavioral, and communication challenges for those affected. It can occur in all racial, ethnic and social groups, but is four times more likely to affect boys than girls. What may cause these conditions? What are the risk factors? How is the condition recognized and diagnosed? And what treatments are available?
The New England states have the highest rates of asthma in the nation, with one in ten adults and children suffering from the condition. More than two million in New England and nearly 24 million nationwide are afflicted with this condition. This chronic disease of the lungs affects breathing and can impair quality of life and lead to disability or even death. What causes this condition? How can patients recognize the symptoms and ‘triggers’ of this disease?

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans, and the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. More than 33,000 people take their own lives each year. But deaths are only part of the problem: nearly 400,000 are treated for self-inflicted wounds each year in emergency departments. And the implications and effects of taking one’s life go far beyond a single individual. What are the risk factors for suicide? What causes people, especially young people, to take such a step? Are there signs and symptoms that provide clues? How do health professionals recognize them?  And what actions can be taken to address the issue?

Women’s Health
Women in their 30s and beyond begin to face new challenges to their health, as physical changes to their bodies take place with age. What are some of the common health risks adult women face? How should they prepare for and cope with them? How can they reduce the risk of such diseases as osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer? And what are the best preventive steps women can take to maintain good physical and mental health into their senior years.

Energy, Pollution, and Health
The kinds of energy we use in our daily lives have a direct impact on the quality of the air we breathe. Air pollution is a constant concern, and directly affects our health. Where does air pollution come from? Why and how is it dangerous to our health? And what can we do to reduce pollution and improve our health?

Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer affects 1 in 6 men and is the most common cancer in American men other than skin cancer. Screening with a digital rectal exam and PSA test should begin at age 50; for those at increased risk, screening should begin at age 40. Genetics plays a key role; men with a father or brother who have had prostate cancer are four times more likely to get the disease. African American men with family histories are eight times more likely.

Diabetes: Chronic Epidemic
The numbers testify to the epidemic nature of diabetes, making this chronic disease a major public health crisis as much as a personal medical condition. By one estimate, the incidence of diabetes will nearly double in the next 25 years, reaching more than 44 million people.
Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is endemic to our state, and residents are at high risk. Exactly what is Lyme disease? How is it transmitted? How can we protect ourselves from this infectious disease? And what treatments are available for those who do get the disease?
Health in the Schools
The incidence of such conditions as asthma, bullying and violence, and sexually transmitted diseases among school children is high and increasing. Seasonal and swine flu add to the burdens of medical directors and school nurses who provide front-line care for students. Yet budgets are strained and school nurses are in short supply across the state and the nation. Nationally, only 45 percent of public schools have their own full-time nurse, another 30 percent have a part-time nurse, and a quarter don't have any nurses at all. What challenges face those responsible for student health? What does the shortage of nurses mean for students? And what can be done to improve health care in the schools?