- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

The federal government yesterday said it will give $100 million to state and local governments to accelerate their efforts to prepare for an influenza pandemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services will give at least $500,000 each to all states, territories, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

“Pandemics happen globally but must be managed at the state and local level, and these funds will help communities meet that responsibility,” said HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.

The funding, part of $350 million that Congress approved in December to prepare for a pandemic, must be used to speed up the establishment and testing of pandemic-preparedness plans, the federal health agency said.

The funds come as the current strain of avian influenza, known as H5N1, continues to spread in Turkey, with 18 persons infected and three dead thus far, according to the World Health Organization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which posted the current bird-flu situation on its Web site, has not issued any health advisories for travel to Turkey or other affected countries such as China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam, said spokesman Thomas Skinner.

Health issues assessed

Health care advocates this week urged the government to give higher priority to health conditions such as obesity, infertility, asthma and attention-deficit disorder.

HHS is collecting public comment to decide which health problems may receive more focus in terms of research and funding for federal health insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The health agency on Wednesday collected about 25 opinions on conditions during a 90-minute meeting. Obesity, asthma and bipolar disorder were a few of the popular choices during the meeting.

HHS will pick a certain number of health issues this year and conduct research on the effectiveness of drugs or treatments for those illnesses.

The department then will choose more specific topics within those illnesses and research the best treatments.

The public can suggest priorities at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov until March 15.

Boozing on the job

About 15 percent of the U.S. work force, or 19.2 million workers, have at least one alcoholic drink in their bloodstream while they work, according to a medical report released this week.

“Of all the psychoactive substances with the potential to impair cognitive and behavioral performance, alcohol is the most widely used and misused substance in the general population and in the work force,” said lead author Michael Frone, with the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions.

The national survey, a first of its kind, did not calculate how much alcohol workers had in their bloodstream.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a federal agency, interviewed 2,805 employees about their alcohol use from January 2002 to June 2003.

Most employees, an estimated 11.6 million, were working through hangovers.

But an estimated 2.1 million workers consumed an undisclosed amount of alcohol before coming to work, during the workday or on break.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes .com.

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