Category Archives: Health care

Got Patience? There’s an App for That!

Rin Tin Zen

I’ve been meditating off and on since 2008 but recently committed to making it a daily habit.  A month into this new behavior I can already feel the benefits of meditating 15 minutes twice daily: more patience. The good news is that neuroscientific studies show meditation also lowers blood pressure and helps combat illness, depression, and insomnia.

In experimenting with various forms of meditation, variety keeps me motivated. Meditation is simple and easy to learn, but it takes time, patience and practice.  Here are some ways to kickstart your meditation using your iPhone, iPad, or iTouch:

1.    Mindfulness Meditation: Well worth the $1.99,  these meditations are written and narrated by Stephan Bodian, a respected teacher and author of Meditation for Dummies.  Using mindfulness-based techniques for stress-reduction, this app provides 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40-minute guided meditations.  There’s an audio guide on the basics of meditation, a checklist for optimal practice, and 10-minute deep relaxation exercise to prepare for meditation or to unwind at the end of a stressful day.

2.    Yoga Nidhra Lite:  According to Yoga Journal, nidhra or “yogic sleep” is an ancient practice for creating full-body relaxation and deep meditative states of consciousness. This free app offers nidhra meditation by Madhav, a yoga teacher trained in the Satyananda/Bihar tradition.  It’s another way to vary your practice because you can do it right before falling asleep.

I’ll be posting more as my practice strengthens.  Whether you’re just starting to meditate or have been doing it for years, I’d love to hear from you!


Brain Bugs, Behavior & Boehner

In his book Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives neuroscientist Dean Buonomano gives some fascinating reasons for why our memory, beliefs and behavior are subject to serious flaws…even if we’re unaware of it.  Simply put, our brain evolved for a different time and place.  He uses the example of a skunk’s effective defense mechanism: When attacked they turn around, lift their tails and spray.  Very effective for scaring off a coyote, not so much against an oncoming car.

It’s somewhat comforting to know that there’s an evolutionary bias (i.e. I can’t help it) for eating naughty food and blowing my budget when I know these behaviors aren’t helpful.  So my brain’s operating system is outdated. Is there an upgrade?

Luckily there is: behavioral priming.  Buonomano cites an NYU study using word puzzles to illustrate how we create “behavior nodes”.  In the study,  subjects were asked to complete word puzzles.  Some had to come up with words associated with kindness while others had puzzles with words biased toward being rude.  After finishing this task, subjects were told to talk to a research assistance pretending to be on the phone.  In measuring how long each subject waited before interrupting the on-going phone conversation, it was found that those who completed puzzles using more rude words waited less time to interrupt the phone conversation.

If the words, images, and sounds surrounding us constantly influence our thoughts and actions,  what are we subjecting ourselves to on a regular basis?

How often are we bombarded with images of war, famine and Beohner?

More importantly, how do we prime our brains to turn it off without turning away?

Medicaid pediatric hospice fails dying children

The Denver Post reported an audit of Colorado’s Health Care Policy and Financing Department found it egregiously failed to comfort dying children and their families by denying services, failing to provide access to providers and delivering shoddy case management.  Included in the audit findings were the following:

  • More than 25% of the kids enrolled in the “pediatric hospice” program received no services during a 16-month audit period.
  • Only 9 of the 130 kids who needed palliative care (pain management) got services.
  • Case mangers failed to document care plans.
  • There’s no record of bereavement services provided.

HCPF launched this program in 2008 and since then has spent $240,000 on services.  So where did this money go? More importantly, what is HCPF doing now to make sure vulnerable families with dying children get the hospice care they need?

Bighorn Brain Dump

Just started my year-long fellowship with Colorado State University‘s Bighorn Leadership Development Program.  Bighorn Fellows focus on improving the quality of health care in Colorado through leadership in public policy.  Past Bighorn initiatives have successfully advanced new health policies into law.

Chris Adams, Brenda Morrison and Kelly Shanahan Marshall, super-savvy policy strategists from Engaged Public, facilitated our group and helped us to coalesce around long sessions, delicious meals and fireside chats at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort.  A huge shout out to Kristen Petty who organized the weekend beautifully and created a Bighorn Yearbook to put names with faces.

2011 Bighorn Fellows will also implement a “boots on the ground” project to address a need or issue in our community.  While all of us will pitch an idea, we’ll come to a consensus on one project.  Should be interesting to see what we narrow it down to given the complexities of health care reform, the myriad issues impacting Colorado Springs and the diversity of organizations at the table including health/wellness, education, small business, non-profit, foundation, public health, hospital, military, communication/PR and legal sectors.

We spent this first weekend getting up to speed on the health care landscape; topics included:

  • Role of public leadership, policy and politics in the context of Colorado’s health care space
  • Updates on  federal, state, and local healthcare policy and initiatives
  • Exploration of healthcare data and needs for El Paso County
  • Identification of projects and policies that positively influence health and healthy living

I’m in the process of researching the project I’ll pitch.  Leaning toward the issue of healthcare  information technology relative to the digital divide…

Healthcare Reform 101 – Changes Coming Our Way

Are you aware of the healthcare issues the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seeks to address and how it plans to do it?  Do you know how this will affect you and what the timing for roll-out is?

Health Care Reform Hits Main Street

For a simplified way to get up to speed, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s video.  If you’d like to get a sense of timing, check out their Implementation Timeline.

What neither tells you is that for those of us who have private insurance right now, our premiums are already going up despite the fact that most of us, strapped with higher gas and food prices, are using our health care services less.  Huh?

According to the NYT, insurance companies keep jacking up premiums “even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits”.  Eventually laws require insurers to adopt changes, like forcing them to cover expensive pre-existing conditions and provide free preventive care.

Gosh, maybe they’re ahead of schedule on that last one because I feel like I’m already getting a colonoscopy.