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Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
With 90% of U.S. Influenza Deaths in Elderly, New High Dose Vaccine Seeks Lower Mortality, Morbidity Rates
The elderly suffer disproportionately from seasonal influenza, with nearly 90% of all deaths occurring in those older than 65. One explanation is that the standard flu vaccine does not increase antibody levels for older recipients at the same rate as younger recipients. To address that issue, a high-dose flu vaccine was introduced for use in the 2010-2011 influenza season in an effort to decrease the rate of serious illness and/or mortality.
Once called the “disease of kings” because of its association with consumption of rich food and alcohol, gout actually affects far more than royalty. Three million Americans suffer from the painful affliction, and the VHA treats a disproportionate share of those, since gout is more common in older men and post-menopausal women, especially those who use alcohol. Still, quality indicators for treating gout have been available less than 10 years and only more recently has the VA begun looking at how those best practices could be applied in its system.
The high rate of mental health conditions not only can make it difficult for HCV-infected veterans to manage their own illnesses. Those psychiatric issues also can be barriers to interferon treatment and liver transplants. In response, VA resource centers are employing a multi-disciplinary approach to HCV disease management.
Lack of treatment adherence is one of the biggest difficulties for health providers trying to manage HIV patients. Now, a new computerized assessment tool being rolled out by the VHA helps identify patients who are not taking their drugs as well as reasons for noncompliance.
Menopause once was a barrier to women reaching the top ranks of the military because of concerns it could cause “irrational decisions.” Those attitudes have changed, with more than 200,000 women in active duty and more than 50 of them serving as generals and admirals. To better serve their needs, military medicine and VA are taking a close look at women’s health services, including menopause, as the female cohort grows older.
Nearly everything about multiple sclerosis remains a mystery—its pathology, its unpredictable severity in some patients and its myriad symptoms. In an effort to provide as much information as possible to sufferers, VA’s MS Centers of Excellence research the best use of current medications while searching for new treatment methods.
Rates of herpes zoster have nearly doubled among veterans seeking care through the VA since 2000. The disease, also known as shingles, creates significant morbidity, especially when herpetic neuralgia, a painful complication, is involved. Yet, use of the vaccine, introduced in 2007, remains low at about 2% in both the VA and general populations.
Of the three-fourths of homeless veterans that suffer from alcohol, drug or mental health problems, those who are schizophrenic are among the most difficult to treat. Not only does lack of housing complicate medical care, but many of the patients lack insight about their situation. Now, VA is fine-tuning programs to find homes for these troubled veterans, improve their medical care and keep them out of legal trouble.
WASHINGTON, DC—Returning servicemembers are among the some 40 million Americans who suffer from chronic long term sleep disorders, and, for reasons ranging from disrupted sleep during deployment, battlefield stress or even hyper vigilance, their sleep problems can be especially challenging to treat. That is even more the case when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, pain and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are involved.
WASHINGTON, DC—Military health care beneficiaries currently can access their own health data by choosing the web-based “Blue Button” feature on TRICARE Online (TOL). In an upgrade that will be available before the end of the year, they also will be able to use the site for secure, two-way communication with providers.
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