Smoked Fish

March 27, 2007
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When Dr. Mark Farre, associate medical director for clinical programs at Priority Health, moved to Grand Rapids four years ago, his wife needed medical attention. Like everyone else, the Farres picked a doctor close to their new home.

“My wife had a medical problem that cropped up during the moving process,” Farre recalled. “We went to a provider fairly close to our house. It looked like a nice place. I was new to Michigan; that’s how I chose my physician. But our first choice wasn’t a good experience.”

Then Farre had an “aha” moment, realizing that he could check Priority Health’s Web site for detailed information on local doctors, including an “apple” rating that tracks quality of care according to the health plan’s standards. The service is available to anyone with Internet access, although Priority Health members can log on for more details. See www.priorityhealth.com and click on “Find a Doctor.”

  • The tobacco ban for employees at nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield and its HMO, Blue Care Network, has left the building. Since 1990, smoking has been banned inside the Blues’ buildings. Starting April 1, workers statewide are prohibited from using tobacco on all company property, including entrances, walkways, sidewalks within 20 feet of the property line or building entrance, parking lots, parking structures and company-owned vehicles.

Employees can use the health insurer’s “Quit the Nic” smoking cessation program at no charge to cope with the tobacco-free workplace.

  • Tendercare Health Centers, a 37-facility nursing home chain based in Sault Ste. Marie, fielded about 700 inquiries from prospective job applicants in two February job fairs for a new home opening this month, said senior administrator Michelle Coberly. The company is looking to staff more than 100 positions for a new $5 million, 80-bed nursing home on 56th Street SW in Wyoming, near Metro Health Village, she said.

This is the same nursing home that burned last July while under construction.

Meanwhile, Tendercare is building its 39th nursing home on 16th Street in Holland, which will employ about another 100. That one is expected to open in the fall.

  • Is it possible that fish from the Grand River could help stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

Research about to get underway at Saint Mary’s Health Care may shed some light on whether docosahexenoic acid, or DHA, can buy time for those suffering from the memory-stealing disorder, said Dr. Kevin Foley, medical director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Program.

The 18-month clinical trial, in conjunction with the University of California at San Diego, is expected to involve 400 people at 50 sites across the country, Foley said. Long popular for heart health, fish oil now will be looked at for its ability to slow down changes in the brain that accompany Alzheimer’s disease. Results have been positive in studies on mice, WebMD reported.

Foley said some companies are already hawking fish oil as a DHA supplement, in anticipation that announcement of the trial will send people flocking to stores for the over-the-counter product.

“They’re mostly fish oil pills. It’s hard to find straight DHA,” Foley said. But what a boon it would be to discover that a treatment for Alzheimer’s is no farther away than the salmon that leap up the Grand River’s Fish Ladder in the fall. Other good sources for the omega-3 fatty acid include halibut, mackerel, sardines, almonds, walnuts and soy, according to WebMD.

  • Your grandmother might slap the moniker “stomach flu” on the nasty norovirus that attacked hundreds of Kent County residents in 2006 and early this year. But “flu” is short for “influenza,” which is actually a respiratory illness. “It’s gastroenteritis,” Kent County Health Department spokeswoman Amy Morris said of the norovirus, which has ghastly symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and fever. “I’m not sure where the misnomer started. Any time anyone in the public health industry hears that, we grit our teeth a little.”

Let Granny know.

  • The Alliance for Health drew several hundred people to its March fund-raiser “Once in a Blue Moon” at the Van Andel Museum Center. Honored with the third annual Hillman Award were Dr. James B. Fahner, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at DeVos Children’s Hospital, and David Van Andel, chairman and CEO, Van Andel Institute.

The award is named after the late U.S. District Judge Douglas Hillman, who died at age 84 in February. Hillman was a community health care advocate and was instrumental in corralling Grand Rapids’ care providers into one room to sort out common issues as far back as the 1970s.

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