augusta free press news

Health Desk: Wednesday, Feb. 10

– RMH lifts visitor restrictions
– Home Instead announces CAREGiver of the Year
– Free, not fee, the way to go in obesity, smoking cessation counseling
– Study reveals a need to evaluate and regulate ‘electronic cigarettes’
– Nutrition initiative

Edited by Chris Graham

RMH lifts restrictions on visitors under age 18: Due to the decrease in the incidence of H1N1 influenza, RMH has lifted its restriction on visitors age 18 and under.

Healthy children and youth are now allowed to visit in the hospital. However, if there is an increase in the incidence of H1N1 or other influenza, the restriction will be reinstated.

Visitors are still limited to two per patient. Exceptions may be granted for those visiting patients who have life-threatening conditions.

RMH continues to screen visitors at hospital entrances for flu-like symptoms. Protective face masks and hand sanitizer are available at hospital entrances as well.


Home Instead announces CAREGiver of the Year: Home Instead Senior Care, which serves clients in the communities of Augusta, Rockingham and Rockbridge counties, has announced that Carolyn Swartz was named CAREGiver of the Year for 2009.

Swartz was selected from the nearly 200 CAREGivers providing in home care for seniors in our local area. She has worked for Home Instead for three and a half years, and during that time has spent more than 7,000 hours caring for 39 clients.

Swartz is often recognized by family members for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their loved one is happy, safe and as independent as possible in their home environment.

Home Instead Senior Care opened in 2001 and is locally owned by Patricia Wells. The company’s purpose is to provide loving in-home care available 24/7 to help seniors stay independent as long as possible.

They can be contacted at 800.797.8518 or


Free, not fee, the way to go in obesity, smoking cessation counseling: Free counseling services for obesity and smoking cessation generate an overwhelmingly positive response, but a significant drop in participation occurs when there is a charge, according to a study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and the Urban Institute.

Research has shown that intensive counseling can positively impact both health concerns, however, the cost for the services is not typically covered by health insurance.

A study published in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, indicates that “policymakers and payers should support clinical–community partnerships and eliminate cost as a barrier to intensive smoking cessation and weight loss counseling.”

“Modifying health behaviors is daunting enough for patients and clinicians – cost can be the tipping point in their decision to forego the effort,” writes Alex H. Krist, M.D., assistant professor in the VCU Department of Family Medicine.

The article is “Patient Costs As a Barrier to Intensive Health Behavior Counseling” by Krist, Steven H Woolf, M.D., Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., Stephen F Rothemich, M.D., Tina D Cunningham, Resa M. Jones, Ph.D., Diane B. Wilson, Ed.D., and Kelly J Devers, Ph.D. Read the journal’s news release here.


Study reveals a need to evaluate and regulate ‘electronic cigarettes’: Electronic cigarettes should be evaluated, regulated, labeled and packaged in a manner consistent with cartridge content and product effect – even if that effect is a total failure to deliver nicotine as demonstrated in a study supported by the National Cancer Institute and led by a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher.

The research was published in the Online First issue of the journal Tobacco Control. The article will appear in the February print issue of the journal.

Electronic cigarettes consist of a battery, heater and cartridge containing a solution of nicotine, propylene glycol and other chemicals and have been marketed to deliver nicotine without tobacco toxicants. Despite no published data concerning safety or efficacy, these products are sold in shopping malls and online. Further, “electronic cigarettes” currently are unregulated in the U.S., unlike other products intended to deliver nicotine to smokers such as lozenges, gum and patches.

“Consumers have a right to expect that products marketed to deliver a drug will work safely and as promised. Our findings demonstrate that the ‘electronic cigarettes’ that we tested do not deliver the drug they are supposed to deliver. It’s not just that they delivered less nicotine than a cigarette. Rather, they delivered no measurable nicotine at all. In terms of nicotine delivery, these products were as effective as puffing from an unlit cigarette,” said principal investigator Thomas Eissenberg, Ph.D., professor in the VCU Department of Psychology.

According to Eissenberg, these findings are important because they demonstrate why regulation of these products is essential for protecting the welfare and rights of consumers. With regulation, consumers can expect that these and similar products will be evaluated objectively and then labeled and packaged in a manner that is consistent with the drug they contain and the effects they produce, he said.

“Regulation can protect consumers from unsafe and ineffective products, but these products have somehow avoided regulation thus far. Our results suggest that consumers interested in safe and effective nicotine delivery need to be very wary of unregulated “electronic cigarettes,” said Eissenberg.

In Eissenberg’s study, 16 participants engaged in four different sessions – each separated by 48 hours – which included smoking their preferred brand of cigarettes, puffing an unlit cigarette, or using one of two different brands of “electronic cigarettes” loaded with “high” strength, which is 16 mg, nicotine cartridges. Eissenberg and his team measured the level of nicotine in the participants’ blood and also their heart rate and craving for a cigarette/nicotine.

They observed that when participants used the two brands of “electronic cigarettes,” there was no significant increase in nicotine levels or heart rate, and little reduction in craving. However, when participants smoked their own brand of cigarettes, substantial and significant increases in plasma nicotine and heart rate, and decreases in craving were observed.

Eissenberg, who is director of the VCU Clinical Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory and a researcher with the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies, has completed a series of studies demonstrating how clinical laboratory methods can be used to evaluate the toxicant exposure and other effects of novel products for tobacco users.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute.


Nutrition initiative: Virginia Cooperative Extension has launched a new initiative to help educate the commonwealth’s citizens about the importance of good nutrition. The Master Food Volunteer program uses trained volunteers to teach nutrition concepts within their communities.

“We brought the Master Food Volunteer program to Virginia after studying a similar program in Kentucky,” said Karen Gehrt, Extension’s associate director for family and consumer sciences. “By training and organizing volunteers, our agent faculty multiply the number of people they can reach with educational programs and have a greater impact than if they were teaching the classes themselves.”

The “master volunteer” concept has been successfully used for many years by the Virginia Master Gardener program. By using a similar approach – training volunteers who then pass along the education to the public – the Master Food Volunteer program teaches citizens about nutrition and healthy eating.

Volunteers pay a small fee to undergo 30 hours of training over the course of four weeks where they learn about basic nutrition, meal planning, cooking techniques, food safety, and how to work with diverse audiences. At the completion of the training, the volunteers pledge to give back at least 30 hours of service to their communities by teaching others.

After successful completion of the training program, volunteers are able to select the venues at which they will share their newfound expertise. “Our volunteers can choose to go into the school system and teach youth about eating healthy. Or, they can choose to do health fairs, in which case they would maintain an educational exhibit with nutritional information set up to help the public,” said Beverly Samuel, a family and consumer sciences senior Extension agent for Loudoun County.

Doris Ross of Manassas completed the training and is says she excited about the volunteer possibilities ahead of her. She said, “I enjoy cooking, and I’m a frequent visitor to our local farmers market. I’ve always wondered why people pass up some of the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables offered. I’ve thought that perhaps that was because they don’t know how to prepare them. When I saw this class advertised, I thought it would be a great way for me to volunteer my time.”

Ross is particularly interested in teaching healthy eating habits to students heading off to college. “I have two sons in college and one on his way,” she explained. “I realized that they could benefit from some information on how to use the typical dorm-room microwave and hotpot to prepare snacks and quick meals that are healthy. Hopefully, that might help them avoid the ‘freshman 15’ – the weight gain that many students experience in their first year of college.”

The program began in the northern area of the commonwealth, where Extension agents recently trained 29 volunteers. The agents are planning a second round of training for those volunteers this spring and summer that will cover additional topics and include a module on food preservation. Plans are also underway to expand the program from the northern region to other areas across the state.

Both Samuel and Gehrt say they agree that the well-being of Virginians has been one of the primary motivators in creating this program. “We are hoping to combat the rising risk of obesity and chronic diseases in Virginia,” Samuel said. “We want to educate on nutrition, and we use our volunteers to reach more people.”

“If we can equip volunteers to help the people in their communities develop healthy food habits, we are ultimately going to impact the health of Virginia residents,” added Gehrt.

Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based agents, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 13 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.

augusta free press
augusta free press