Tag Archives: health

Using Intelligence in ePCR Database Design

The intelligence of a database design begins with the intelligent approach in which the developer focuses on the particular need the database is to fulfill. It is especially important to constrain, or specialize, a database used in health care, else the database can quickly grow beyond the bounds of efficiency. Efficiency can be found directly from table design, and it can be further achieved with business rules and logic. Designing a database for storing patients’ medical records also has some risk of increasing the likelihood of medical errors and statistical incongruities if done improperly; therefore, a qualified database administrator should be consulted (Campbell, 2004; McGlynn, Damberg, Kerr, & Brook, 1998). However, a preliminary needs assessment can be accomplished by asking a few simple questions: Who? What? Where? Why?

Who needs to use the database? For whom is the data useful? By identifying the scope, or domain, of each database user, the developer can gain a sense of which data points are important (McGlynn et al., 1998; Thede, 2002). For instance, in health care, a purely diagnostic database should efficiently offer comparative differential diagnoses to aid a physician in caring for patients; however, a database of this type will not offer much to the administrative arm of the practice. By understanding the relationship between physician diagnosis and billing, relational techniques can serve to ensure greater accuracy in billing procedures.

What data needs to be stored and retrieved? By listing the specific data to be stored, the developer has an opportunity to optimize the storage methods by creating an efficient and normal relational table foundation (Kent, 1983; Sen, 2009). A patient care reporting database, for instance, must be able to store patient identifying information, or demographics. Depending on the specific needs of the practice, demographic data can usually be stored in a single table. Other relational tables could be used to store references between the patient demographic record and pertinent medical information, thereby minimizing duplication (Thede, 2002).

From where does the data need to be accessed? Does this database require authentication for use on a local area network or a complex security policy for wide area network access (Campbell, 2004; McGlynn et al., 1998)? More importantly, however, is portability of the data. If the data is going to be replicated in a large composite database, the data needs to meet the specifications of the repository. This is often achieved by the publication of a template, or a clear set of directives on how data is to be formatted before transmitting data to the repository. An example of this is the Medicare electronic records requirements set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. By accounting for common templates in the design phase, the developer can avoid having to parse data prior to transmitting the data over the network.

Why are we storing the data? Today, it is very common to store data if merely for purposes of recording an interaction, such as a patient contact. However, it is important to understand how the data will be used in the future. Will the data need to be immediately accessible, such as in emergency or critical care areas, or could the data be compiled and batch processed during times of off-peak network load, such as in billing or logistics. Could paper reporting fulfill the immediate need better? If so, should the data on the paper report be entered in a database later? Regarding transcription, it is important to be knowledgeable about the available technology for creating scanned images, portable electronic documents, and the use of optical character recognition in order to properly prepare for the storage of each.

By answering the who, what, where, and why of the database needs assessment, we ultimately answer the question of how to design and implement the database. As an example, in order to design an ambulance run form, we must take into consideration demographics, the history of present illness (or, the reason for the ambulance request), past and pertinent medical history, including, but not limited to: medications, past medical problems and surgeries, and allergies to medications and environment. It is also important to store the assessment, care, and outcome, as well as the disposition of the incident and the destination facility. Additionally, medical standards, such as diagnostic codes, medications, protocols, and algorithms, could be stored in reference tables for preventing redundancy within the data model (Kent, 1983; McGlynn et al., 1988; Sen, 2009, Thede, 2002). Ambulances are mobile; therefore, network access is an important consideration when designing an electronic ambulance patient care reporting database. For this type of database schema, I would recommend using a small, efficient database locally with a mechanism in place to replicate the data to the larger repository when the network is accessible.

Another challenge in creating a database is learning how not to store information. Information is made of of data, but only data should be stored (Collins, 2009). Programming logic can be used to synthesize data into information and, further, into knowledge. Many database designers mistakenly store information, or even knowledge, quickly inflating the size of the database and decreasing its efficiency and normalcy (Kent, 1983; Sen, 2009).

In conclusion, developing an electronic patient care reporting database for a physician practice has some inherent risk if done poorly; however, a knowledgeable member of the office team can highlight the project requirements by performing the needs analysis.


Campbell, R. J. (2004). Database design: What HIM professionals need to know. Perspectives in Health Information Management, 1(6), 1-15. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Collins, K. (2009). Managing information technology. Exploring Business (pp. 122-130). Retrieved from http://www.web-books.com/

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, P.L.104-191. (1996).

Kent, W. (1983). A simple guide to five normal forms in relational database theory. Communications of the ACM, 26(2), 120-125. Retrieved from http://www.bkent.net/Doc/ simple5.htm

McGlynn, E. A., Damberg, C. L., Kerr, E. A., & Brook, R. H. (1998). Health information systems: design issues and analytical applications. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/2007/MR967.pdf

Sen, A. (2009, May 7). Facts and fallacies about first normal form. Retrieved from http://www.simple-talk.com/sql/learn-sql-server/facts-and-fallacies-about-first-normal-form/

Thede, L. Q. (2002). Understanding databases. In S. P. Englebardt & R. Nelson, Health care informatics: an interdisciplinary approach (pp. 55-80). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Information Theory in Health Informatics

Contemporary information theory has its roots in the development of telephony. During the middle of last century, an engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Dr. Claude E. Shannon, innovated information theory by extending the mathematical observations of Boltzmann, Szilard, von Neumann, and Wiener in the area of physics, quantum mechanics, and particle physics (Weaver, 1949). Dr. Shannon, however, applied the theory to communication technology, introducing entropy to the theory (Nelson, 2002; Weaver, 1949).

Weaver, who worked at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, adopted Shannon’s technical message transmission observations and adapted them with his understanding of the semantics of a messages meaning (as cited in Nelson, 2002). Shannon and Weaver’s Information and Communication Model details both the components of a message and the requirements of delivery. An example, as it would relate to health care informatics, would be when a nurse charts a patient’s medical history by encoding it via a desktop client application and the same data is viewable by the same nurse at other computer terminals, other nurses, and the treating physician. The data is also stored along the communication pathway for future retrieval and delivery when the patient presented again. Though this example satisfies Shannon, if the intended recipient were blind, the information shown on a computer screen would be meaningless, according to Weaver, and would indicate a limitation to overcome.

Evaluating hospital information systems developed, in part, from the Shannon and Weaver model, Bruce I. Blum (1986) conducted analysis of object (data, information, and knowledge) processing in both hospital and ambulatory care settings. He concluded that system designs should reflect the artificial delineation between these three types of objects and that these systems will benefit practitioners and patients by improving the overall health care process. Blum (1986) called for the “integration of existing systems with medical knowledge and knowledge-based paradigms” (p. 797) in order to have a positive impact on health care delivery in the coming decades.

Information theory is concerned with the adaptability of a message through a particular channel for optimum transmission. In health informatics, as Blum (1986) points out, information theory can be a benefit by improving “[1)] structure — the capacity of the facilities and the capacity and qualification of the personnel and organization, [2)] process — the changes in the volume, cost and appropriateness of activities, [and 3)] outcome — the change in health care status attributed to the object being evaluated” (p. 794). The major challenges, however, would be initial implementation and acceptance (Blum, 1986).


Blum, B. I. (1986). Clinical information systems. The Western Journal of Medicine, 145(6), 791-797. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1307152/pdf/ westjmed00160-0055.pdf

Nelson, R. (2002). Major theories supporting health care informatics. In S. P. Englebardt & R. Nelson (Eds.), Health care informatics: An interdisciplinary approach (pp. 3-27). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.

Weaver, W. (1949, September). Recent contributions to the mathematical theory of communication. Retrieved from http://academic.evergreen.edu/a/arunc/compmusic/ weaver/weaver.pdf

Implementing an EMR system

Electronic records streamline the flow of many of the components of patient care. EMRs and ePCRs are very useful in lowering costs, simplifying business processes, and increasing patient safety, as well as overall efficiency, if implemented correctly (Smith, 2003).

Currently, I work as a critical care paramedic providing patient care in acute settings, whether prehospital of interfacility. Within this capacity, I also teach classes to other health care providers, including first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses, physicians, and allied health personnel. I am familiar with the concepts of electronic patient care reporting (ePCR) and the importance and utility of electronic medical records (EMR); however, the only means of electronic reporting available in my capacity as a paramedic is poorly developed ePCR software coupled with intermittent network connectivity, so I still choose to utilize paper reporting. My part-time job with a local municipal ambulance provider relies on a widely available third-party ePCR system that seems to work well. I do utilize this ePCR system when working for this provider.

I have also gained experience with information technology and object-oriented programming concepts while developing platform-independent, client-server distributive applications designed for the internet and intranets. I also have experience with Windows and Unix/Linux platforms.


Smith, P. D. (2003). Implementing an EMR system: One clinic’s experience. Family Practice Management, 10(5), 37-42. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/fpm/2003/0500/p37.html

Physician-assisted Suicide

I have always maintained that the best thing that I have ever done for a patient was to hold their hand as they died; however, there are few scenarios that I can posit where I would ever cause the death of another, and I would never do it in my capacity as a medical professional. In the State of Connecticut, assisting a patient in their suicide is illegal (Kasprak, 2003; Saunders & Smith, 2010). Saunders and Smith (2010) describe the use of “semantic ploys” (para. 3) in arguing for physician-assisted suicide and how the court deemed the “issue rests with the legislature, not with the court” (para 4).

Two states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington (Death with Dignity Act, 1997; Death with Dignity Act, 2008). The other 48 states either have laws forbidding assisted suicide, such as Connecticut, rely on common law, or have no laws permitting or forbidding the practice (Kasprak, 2003). Personally, my thoughts on the matter are clearly reflected in my opening statement. More compelling, however, is a recent discussion on the discontinuation of implanted cardiac devices in patients with a desire to “refuse continued life-sustaining therapy” (Kapa, Mueller, Hayes, & Asirvatham, 2010, p. 989). Many of the respondants to this study viewed the discontinuation of pacemakers akin to physician-assisted suicide, whereas less felt the termination of cardioverter-defibrillator therapy was an ethical issue. Oddly, lawyers indicated less problems discontinuing therapy than did physicians.

There are conditions that are so intractably painful and wrought with suffering that I would not even consider thinking less of a person suffering such a malady who took their own life. Death, for many people, is a fear beyond fear, and for a person (of considerable sound mind) to choose death as a viable alternative to such suffering, I commend their bravery and choose not to judge them negatively. No physician or other health care provider should cause the death of a person directly, but acknowledging the patient’s will to die is another matter. In lieu of providing a chemical means of ending life, a physician could, in my mind, counsel a patient on the means and methods that might be viewed as more effective and humane than other means which might result in unwanted suffering. I do believe that a person has the right to choose an alternative to a surely painful and agonizing death, regardless of the presence of depression. If a person is suffering from depression because of a terminal illness that is causing physical suffering, it is hard to imagine this person will resolve the depression before succumbing to the causal disease process. In these cases, the person has the right to choose a more dignified death. For those cases where the person is incapacitated and cannot make health care decisions, I feel that any friend or family member, or a consensus of available friends and family members, should be able to make the decision to continue or discontinue life-sustaining measures. Even if the decision is wrong for the patient, most of the time the decision is for the benefit of the family and friends and lacks medical relevance aside from resource management, though there are spiritual, emotional, and moral considerations that the next of kin may face which are no less relevant.

Personally, I grant any person permission to end my life if they see me engulfed in flame or if taken on the battlefield by an enemy known for public torture. Beyond these two circumstances, I will always choose to live so long as I have my thoughts. I have heard some people intimate that they would wish to die if they were conscious but perpetually paralyzed (i.e. locked-in syndrome); however, I am not so sure that I would want to die just for lacking the ability to communicate with others. I would want to view the world, though, perhaps by television or radio. I am too curious as to what comes next for the world. As we interfere with the dying process, it does make sense that we address the morality in which we do this. It does not seem right to have brain dead patients connected to ventilators and feeding tubes forever. It’s Orwellian.


Death with Dignity Act of 1997, O.R.S. 127.800 et seq. (1997).

Death with Dignity Act of 2009, R.C.W. 70.245 (2008).

Kapa, S., Mueller, P. S., Hayes, D. L., & Asirvatham, S. J. (2010). Perspectives on withdrawing pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapies at end of life: Results of a survey of medical and legal professionals and patients. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(11), 981-990. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0431

Kasprak, J. (2003, July 9). Assisted suicide (OLR Research Report No. 2003-R-0515). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/ph/rpt/2003-R-0515.htm

Saunders, W. L. & Smith, M. R. (2010, June 21). Assisted-suicide advocates fail in Connecticut. National Review Online. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com

Community Health Centers

Community health centers increase availability of (i.e. access to) health care and is shown by some to improve health outcomes (Taylor, 2009). Improving access to health care is achieved by placing these community health centers geographically proximate to underserved and at-risk populations. Taylor (2009) boasts improvements in health outcomes due to the number and placement of community health centers, but she provides no compelling evidence to say that any improved outcome is not directly caused by the improved access. Forrest and Whelan (2000) discuss a need to improve access to physician offices more than community health centers to improve follow-up care which continues to lack in the community health center model, though the point may be moot if the community health centers can improve the delivery of service to allow for proper follow-up. Forrest and Whelan do, however, acknowledge the value of community health centers in providing increased access to health care to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Dieleman et al. (2004) offers collaboration of health care providers in the primary care setting as a means of improving efficiency and thereby improving health outcomes. The testing instrument used during this study indicates an overall improvement of the attitudes towards role recognition, provider satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and patient health status, as well as the quality of patient care provided. In my experience with many community-based health clinics, they tend to be less than spectacular as far as quality of care, cleanliness, and patient-provider attitudes. By adding other providers into the patient-provider relationship, it would allow others to comment within the team where improvements can be made in relation to each patient-provider relationship and in a more general sense.

A collaborative holistic approach to patient care, whether in primary care, emergency care, or in critical care, will foster a sense of partnership within the team, including the patient and family, that will allow the team to truly care for the patient, will allow the patient to be invested in his or her care, and will promote a complete view of the whole patient both when sick and when well. Collaboration will, hopefully, allow improved efficiency in the provision of care while maintaining a trustworthy and committed relationship with the patient. Forging these relationships will, hopefully, help to overcome any challenges faced within our continually changing health care landscape.


Dieleman, S. L., Farris, K. B., Feeny, D., Johnson, J. A., Tsuyuki, R. T., & Brilliant, S. (2004). Primary health care teams: team members’
perceptions of the collaborative process. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 18(1), 75-78. doi:10.1080/13561820410001639370

Forrest, C. B. & Whelan, E. (2000). Primary care safety-net delivery sites in the United States: A comparison of community health centers, hospital outpatient departments, and physicians’ offices. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(16), 2077-2083. doi:10.1001/jama.284.16.2077

Taylor, T. (2009, October). The role of community-based public health programs in ensuring access to care under universal coverage [Issue brief]. American Public Health Association. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/courses/53027/CRS-WUPSYC6205-4570539/CommunityBasedReformupdtd.pdf

Henrietta Lacks

Grady (2010) offers the circumstances of Henrietta Lacks for discussion as it pertains to medical ethics. Henrietta Lacks was a young woman who succumbed to cervical cancer in the early 1950s at Johns Hopkins Hospital (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Grady describes Henrietta Lacks and her family as “poor, with little education and no health insurance” (para. 10), yet she was cared for and her cancer was treated with radium, the standard treatment of the day. Despite treatment, Henrietta passed away. During the course of her treatment, however, a small sample of cancer cells were removed from her cervix for testing, and they continue to be tested to this day (Grady, 2010; Sorrell, 2010). Additionally, this line of cells, now known as the HeLa cells, has become commercialized, as they are bought and sold for millions on the biomedical research market (Grady, 2010).

Assuming no consent was given by Henrietta or her family, this raises a few questions. Did the physicians at Johns Hopkins have a right to these cancer cells? Did they have a right to transfer ownership to third parties? Does the estate of Henrietta Lacks require royalties be paid when others profit from what amounts to a donation to the public domain?

No person can own another person (or, a part thereof). This is consistent with the moral society of the United States. However, Henrietta Lacks presented herself to Johns Hopkins hospital with the express desire to rid herself of the cancer cells causing her illness. This alone could mean that the cells are refuse and able to be salvaged, and according to Fost (2010), this is agreed to be the law of the land. Fost describes the circumstances surrounding the HeLa cells as normal course of medical business, and I agree for the most part: “If tissue removed during an operation is about to be thrown out with the garbage and has no identifying information, it should be permissible to use it for research without the patient’s consent” (2010, para. 1). In this case, however, the researchers later approach the Lacks family to obtain DNA samples to discriminate between HeLa cell cultures and non-HeLa cell cultures. This mere fact offers evidence that the tissue is identifiable with Henrietta Lacks and her lineage, and I feel, as does Fost, that this is where the researchers erred, in asking for continued support of the cells by obtaining further comparative specimens for analysis yet not clarifying the misconceptions of the family. The researchers should not have requested further tissue (i.e. blood) donation without obtaining informed consent from the donors. Further, the cell line were given a name representative of Henrietta Lacks, HeLa, and she was named as the donor and widely known as such throughout the biomedical research community. Ergo, there were certainly identifying data linking Henrietta Lacks to the specimen.


Certainly under normal circumstances the cells should be made available for research purposes, but they should not be sold for profit, only for the costs of storage and maintenance. Any tissue freely used for medical science should be in the public domain. Further, if a specimen is found to have financial worth, I feel that the custodial researchers should set aside a royalty account allowing a small percentage of the proceeds to be returned to the donor’s estate. I also feel that if researchers have any special interest in further donation, then those donors should be offered remuneration for their donation which should be commensurate to the gains assumed to be made by their donation.

I find no issue with how the cancer cells were used initially, however, the sample should not have been attached in name to the donor. Though not required, it would have been nice if the researchers provided a royalty to the estate of Ms. Lacks, however, to thank her for her contribution to medicine and science.


Fost, N. (2010). A cell’s life: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Issues in Science and Technology, 26(4), 87+. Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org

Grady, G. (2010, February 1). Second opinion: A lasting gift to medicine that wasn’t really a gift. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

Sorrell, J. M. (2010). First do no harm: Looking Back to the Future [Editorial]. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 48(9), 2-3. doi:10.3928/02793695-20100730-07

Quality in Interdisciplinary Critical Care Medicine

To improve the overall quality of care provided in critical care medicine, Curtis et al. (2006) promote a framework, as well as some key concepts, for measuring performance improvement outcomes within the critical care or intensive care setting. Curtis et al. introduce the reader to Donabedian’s (as cited in Curtis et al., 2006) model of improving the quality of healthcare, which focuses on “structure, process, and outcome” (p. 212). With quality improvement the focus of this article, Curtis et al. approaches the dynamics of interdisciplinary teams in the context of the multitudes of ICU variations available throughout the United States. Additionally, Curtis et al. recognize that high-quality care is dependant on both clinical and non-clinical processes, citing organizational management as a key requirement that has significant impact on overall patient care.

“Successful quality improvement programs require interdisciplinary teamwork that is incremental and continuous” (Curtis et al, 2006, p. 216).

In reading Curtis et al. (2006), I find that approaching patient care with a team approach addresses all of the available topics and more. Improving patient satisfaction requires improving performance which, in turn, creates efficiency and can improve reimbursement (especially under pay-for-performance models). On the other hand, addressing a requirement to increase reimbursement under a pay-for-performance model can ultimately lead to increases in patient satisfaction by improving inefficient processes. Overall, one of the largest benefits of operating within a team environment is the access to a larger knowledge-base, increasing the application of knowledge for all team members.


Curtis, J. R., Cook, D. J., Wall, R. J., Angus, D. C., Bion, J., Kacmarek, R., … & Puntillo, K.(2006). Intensive care unit quality improvement: A “how-to” guide for the interdisciplinary team. Critical Care Medicine, 34(1), 211-218. doi:10.1097/01.CCM.0000190617.76104.AC

Understanding Cultural Disparities

Social programs are just that… social. In fact, the basis of any social program is to take part in society, both philanthropists and recipients. I think that we have forgotten what it means to be social. I like to think of a well-designed social program as an invitation extended to a marginalized community to partake in society as an equal member. Only when we see ourselves as equal in title and domain can we ever think to overcome racial and ethnical biases (not to mention other more generic stereotypes).

The Lakota Nation has certainly met with strife, both on and off the various reservations. I have always understood that they have unique problems stemming from our early misunderstandings and stereotypes of savage people. In fact, not all of us were victim to this view. It was the Iroquis, after all, after whom we modelled our constitutional governement, and it was a majority of the tribes of every Nation that have assisted us in battle even when feeling oppressed.

The Cheyenne River Sioux are affected by a poor economy, including poverty, elevated rates of unemployment, and a stagnant workforce. In addition, many Native Americans living on reservations are also prone to mental disorders, such as depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Native Americans certainly have it tough, and though many are able to find their way within and without the majority culture, whether through acculturation or community-wide boons such as gaming and resource development, many falter.

The fact that Native Americans are genetically prone to alcoholism, are sociologically prone to depression, and are overall prone to health disparities, suicide, and homicide reveals that there needs to be a solid and comprehensive approach to their problems. The Cheyenne River Sioux, however proud they might be of their culture, are not immune.

So, how do I help? First, examining the cultural and genetic aspects of Native Americans in the context of substance abuse allows me to educate myself on cultural specifics that may assist me in treating a Native American patient. Also, understanding their plight allows me to consider them politically, even from afar.

As much as I would like to hop on a plane (actually, I would probably drive, anyway) and assist the Cheyenne River Sioux hands-on, it is not practical. I do believe in charity, but I certainly do not have the resources to make a meaningful contribution. I will, however, remain a proponent from within the majority culture. I believe awareness of the problems that they face will be a key in allowing others to offer them the assistance to rise above their plights to seek happiness.

Addressing Health Disparities

It is troubling to many people to see any person suffering in our society. It is even more troubling to see inequality extend to whole ethnic and racial groups within our society. We certainly do not want to be an unjust society, and we certainly want every member of our society to benefit from the technological gains made in the last century.

One of the more troublesome areas that many view as unjust is health and health care. It is unfortunate that some members of our society suffer from disparities in health. For instance, immunizations and vaccines for most of the common deadly pathogens are readily available, yet many people fail to immunize themselves or their family.

Immunization and vaccination programs have eradicated smallpox and polio and have all but eliminated the threat of measles in the United States (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2000). With influenza and pneumonia causing 30,000 to 41,000 deaths in the U. S., annually, the importance of vaccinating against these diseases is quite evident. Obviously, lacking immunity to a deadly pathogen is a disparate condition of health status, and Hispanic and African American populations are vaccinated with less frequency than Whites. How are these issues being addressed?

On the international level, the United Nations (2009) is addressing health disparities by attempting to eradicate poverty on a global scale. Unfortunately, many of these global initiatives have created an environment rife with economic turmoil that we are just now starting to see and understand. Though the premise of helping people out of poverty is very noble, the reality seems to be that we can only offer means for people to help themselves. Otherwise, we risk thrusting whole populations into a world they know nothing about, setting them up for failure. Poverty is based on local economy, and I believe that these interrelated problems are best addressed on the local levels with assistance from states, nations, and global endeavors. The people must direct their own path for a successful transition. They must take responsibility for their own successes and failures.

The United States addresses these concerns on a federal level, offering guidance to states and municipalities in ways to address them. One of these methods is a report from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010 (DHHS, 2000) has two stated major goals: 1) to increase quality and years of healthy life, and 2) to eliminate major health disparities. There are also 467 objectives in 28 focus areas designed to further these two major goals. Immunization is one of these focus areas.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Disease Statistics (2010), the goal of achieving a 90% immunization rate for children 19-35 months of age is close to being reached. The combination diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP) vaccine (85%) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (75%) are the only two recommended childhood vaccines that are not being administered at least 90% of the time. According to DHHS (2000), the goal for DTP vaccination was 80% in 2000. It appears that this goal has been reached and exceeded.

Conversely, older adults, age 65 and greater, are at an increased risk of contracting illnesses that could be prevented by vaccination. “In 1999 approximately 90 percent of all influenza and pneumonia-related deaths occurred in individuals aged 65 and older” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, 2007, para. 2). DHHS (2000) does not state a quantitative goal for vaccinating noninstitutionalized older adults, though it does mention a need to “increase the proportion of noninstitutionalized adults who are vaccinated annually against influenza and ever vaccinated against pneumococcal disease” (p. 42). In 2000, 46% of the population in the U. S. were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, and 64% were vaccinated against influenza (DHHS, 2000). In 2009, pneumococcal disease vaccinations increased by 15%, whereas influenza vaccinations increased by only 3% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2010).

Striving to eliminating health disparities is a noble endeavor; however, the mere fact of attaining this goal contributes to the increase of health care disparity. By increasing the health care delivery model for one at-risk population, we must accept negative gains in the delivery of health care for all other populations. This is an example of the law of conservation describing the divisional nature of finite resources: when an isolated system undergoes change, its change in entropy will be zero or greater than zero (Negi & Anand, 1985). This concept is better stated as it applies to the zero-sum game of our economics today. Kathleen Madigan (2010), in a Wall Street Journal blog post, stated, “More spending in one area has to be financed by less purchases elsewhere” (para. 5).

Two conclusions can be drawn from observing this phenomena in health care. First, if people are spending their health care dollars on other staples, such as food, clothing, and shelter, then we should see a decline in the health of individuals that are making these choices. Second, within health care, in order to increase a focus on one population, an equal negative effect will be seen in all other population groups.

In all aspects of health care delivery, care should be taken to ensure just and equitable delivery of care regardless of socioeconomic factors, race, gender, religion, or creed. All people should have access to the minimum required care in order to maintain a healthy and productive life. We can counsel and educate our patients and clients to best health practices, but we cannot, however, force people to choose health over other facets of their lives.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2010). Immunization. FastStats. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/immunize.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. (2007). Eliminate disparities in adult & child immunization rates. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/AMH/factsheets/immunization.htm

Madigan, K. (2010, August 3). With wallets thin, consumers face zero-sum game. Real time economics: Economic insight and analysis from the Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2010/08/03/with-wallets-thin-consumers-face-zero-sum-game/

Negi, A. S. & Anand, S. C. (1985). The second law of thermodynamics. A textbook of physical chemistry (pp. 241-289). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/

United Nations. (2009). The millenium development goals report: 2009. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG_Report_2009_ENG.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000, November). Healthy People 2010: Understanding and improving health (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Cognitive Development

“Children are naturally curious” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2010, p. 98), and that is a good thing. The authors are describing a premise of Piagets theory of childhood cognition development. Piaget’s theory is based stages of adaptive learning and identifies stages associated with key development: infancy, school age, preteen, and adolescence. According to Piaget, in infancy, cognition is very basic and focused on sensorimotor schemes that the child forms based on experiences. As the child ages, Piaget claimed, these schemes become more complex. During school age, children start to form schemes based less on function and more on appearance. Preteens, on the other hand, start to understand emotion, individualism, and relative constructs. Adolescents build upon these relative constructs adding abstract thought processes which continues to build their problem solving skills well into adulthood. Vygotsky’s theory of cultural impact on cognitive development stresses that the individual and the environment are interactive, and this interaction has an impact on learning. Scaffolding, or building on information already known, effectively identifies where instruction is needed. Coupling Piaget’s understanding of cognition development with Vygotsky’s understanding of learning environments, a focused efficiency in teaching could be attained.

As we age, though, physiologic neural processing slows and the brain atrophies (Thibault, Gant, & Landfield, 2007). These changes cause information processing to slow bidirectionally, that is as input and output, and accelerates a functional decline in brain activity as we age. This is not a reversal of development but a systematic failure of physiologic processes. The effects of aging on brain tissue directly effect cognition as neural networks of synapses breakdown. Though this process is inevitable, researchers suggest certain diets and moderate exercise that can mediate the damaging effects of aging on cognition (Bugg & Head, 2009; Gómez-Pinilla, 2008).


Bugg, J. M. & Head, D. (2009). Exercise moderates age-related atrophy of the medial temporal lobe. Neurobiology of Aging. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2009.03.008

Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: The effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 568-578. doi:10.1038/nrn2421

Kail, R. V. & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2010) Aging: A lifespan view (Laureate custom ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Thibault, O., Gant, J. C., & Landfield, P. W. (2007). Expansion of the calcium hypothesis of brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease: Minding the store. Aging Cell, 6(3), 307-317. doi:10.1111/j.1474-9726.2007.00295.x