Giving sight to homeless LGBTQ youth

For the homeless it is a luxury to have glasses to see properly. Usually they are burdened with more immediate needs such as food, shelter, and personal hygiene. But not having glasses can mean not being able to see, which is a large problem, especially when you depend on shelters to survive. Just ask Clay Ferguson. The twenty-three year old recently got jumped in a New York City coffee shop. In addition to taking his identification, and cell phone, they also broke his glasses.

“I can’t see the street signs. I can’t barely see nothin,” Clay recounts.

But, there is a program that is trying to change that. ChildSight is a program of Helen Keller International that provides free glasses to underserved youth in need, like Clay. This initiative is not new. ChildSight has historically served children from low-income public schools. But last July it branched out to help another underserved community, the Ali Forney Center. The center is a Harlem-based LGBTQ youth homeless shelter that served 1,200 young people last year and directly housed 440 of them — including Clay Ferguson.

Homelessness is an epidemic within the LGBTQ youth community.  Estimations of homeless youth find as many as 40 percent identifying as part of the queer community. Compare that statistic to the 4 percent of the general population, which includes more than just youth, that identify as LGBTQ. One reason for the increased rate of homelessness is that about 40% of the young people the Ali Forney Center are kicked out of their home after coming out.

As a result, the majority of youth from the Ali Forney Center that are referred to ChildSight have had blurry vision for  years.

“We’re really interested in finding other populations that are vulnerable and have difficulties accessing health services,” Nick Kourgialis, VP of Eye Health at Helen Keller International. “Certainly this is a population that faces these challenges…When you are young, you see the world the way you see it and assume everyone else sees it the same way,” Kourgialis says. “But when someone puts lenses before their eyes, the look on these kids’ faces is like, ‘What the hell?’

ChildSight has been working with the Ali Forney Center for less than a year, through a grant from New York Community Trust. The group has examined 122 young people and their program has delivered 88 pairs of free eyeglasses to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to improved sight.

Article via Mashable, 25 April 2016

Photo Glasses by Kate Brady [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


New medical testing: affordable and quick

Kanav Kahol, a biomedical engineer and researcher at Arizona State University, realized that physicians and engineers were doing little to make diagnostic testing more affordable. As a result, billions of people receive inadequate preventative healthcare. Intent on creating a solution, Kahol moved back to New Delhi in 2011 where he developed the Swasthya Slate.

The Swasthya Slate is a mobile medical device that performs 33 medical tests covering a broad range of assessments, including blood pressure, heart rate, heamoglobin, HIV, malaria, and typhoid. The device is roughly the size of a large textbook and costs $600. Each test takes one to two minutes, and results are automatically stored on the patient’s cloud-based medical records.

After finishing the slate in Jan. 2013, Kahol introduced it to 2.1 million people served by medical clinics in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Swasthya Slate is now used in six continents, and the next generation of the device—HealthCube—was tested last month in Clinica Internacional, Peru’s most prestigious hospital. Alvaro Chavez Tori, Clinica’s general manager, is optimistic about the integration of the HealthCube in Peru and Latin America as the “acceptance of the technology was amazingly high.”

HealthCube has great potential in the United States as well. Over 10 percent of the U.S. population still lacks health insurance, and thus receives less preventative care and experiences greater serious illness. Basic tests provided by Swasthya Slate and HealthCube would alert Americans to health issues early and affordably, cutting costs for citizens and for the government.

Article via The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

Photo: Infant patients get a checkup via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Analyzing health data to change the way doctors practice medicine

Global security company Northrop Grumman is collaborating with the University of Maryland Baltimore County to analyze health data as part of a five-year program, as announced earlier this year. The program’s goal is to utilize health trends found in large populations to create specific and effective treatments for those suffering from widespread ailments such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

The National Science Foundation, which funds big data-analytics science and technology projects, is offering $600,000 in grants to the project. Northrop and UMBC already have a cybersecurity partnership; the tools previously used to investigate cyberthreats will now be used to study decades’ worth of medical information stored on electronic health records.

Yelena Yesha, the leader of the project and a professor of computer science at the university, says that information will be pulled from both public and private databases. Records will be used to help doctors practice precision medicine, which is the treatment of people based on their specific genetic makeups. In order to gather such large quantities of genetic data, the project will use a Google-designed cloud-computing platform. Both Northrop and the defense contractor Lockheed Martin foresee precision medicine to be widely practiced in the future.

Article via The Washington Post, April 14, 2015

Photo: Over 500 doctors have completed a three year specialization in family medicine via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Hackings in healthcare, education, and government

Recent hackings have been found to especially target three main platforms: healthcare, education, and government. This has compromised the security of healthcare provider Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the Cal State University System, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

It was discovered last week that over 10 million people are at risk due to a Excellus computer system hacking that’s been occurring since December of 2013. It doesn’t appear that the hackers stole or utilized any important personal information, though they were able to access and view customer names, birth dates, social security numbers, and financial claims. The attack was one of the worst 20 breaches in healthcare of all time. The hacking also parallels recent incidences at Anthem, Office of personnel Management, Sony and Ashley Madison. In all cases, the attacks were committed by people disguised as employees, using stolen credentials to gain access to corporate networks.

Roughly 80,000 students from the Cal State University System lost general information after enrolling in a class on sexual harassment. Their names, numbers, emails, gender, race, and relationship status were provided to a contractor as part of a program on sexual harassment. The contractor, “We End Violence” was hacked, as reported in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s computer systems were attacked 159 times between 2010 and 2014. Officials declined to comment, however, on the nature of what was accessed by hackers or whether any foreign governments were responsible.

Article via ECT News NetworkSeptember 16, 2015

Photo: Longmont Power and Communications-3 via You Belong in Longmont [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Insurance startup uses data to offer personalized healthcare

Clover Health, a San Francisco insurance startup, is using data to change the landscape of modern healthcare. The company examines insurance claims from a person’s medical history to offer directed care to high-risk patients, especially seniors.

In an equity round led by First Round Capital, Clover raised over $100 million in funding. The company looks to replace the larger, more conventional Medicare health insurance companies that don’t currently analyze data to offer targeted healthcare.

Clover accesses medical information only available to insurance providers who collect claims, like lab tests and radiology results. Using this information, Clover’s software models identify patient issues and trends, allowing the company’s staff of nurses and social workers the opportunity to intervene. This falls in line with one of the company’s Health goals to reduce the number of visits customers take in hospitals.

Clover Health’s CTO, Kris Gale, describes the company model: “At the core we’re using data and software to build clinical profiles of people, identify gaps in care, and fill those gaps in care. We have a small team that will do targeted interventions to drive improved health outcomes of people. Every in-patient hospital admission we can prevent by filling these gaps in care, this ends up being a positive for us.”

Article via TechCrunch; September 19, 2015

Photo: Child receives ear exam via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Data hack exposes 10 million health records from insurer

Health insurer Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and a partner company experienced a data breach of their health care records. The sophisticated cyber attack on more than 10 million records was disclosed by the company last wednesday, September 9th 2015. This comes just a couple of months after a similar hack at UCLA’s health system in July in which 4.5 million records were accessed.

Excellus claims that this hack exposed social security numbers, medical claims, as well as other identifying information. The FBI is investigating the crime. In a statement by Excellus CEO Christopher Booth he says, “protecting personal information is one of our top priorities and we take this issue very seriously…”. The frequency of data breaches in health care is alarming and is causing some to say that health records in the US are not safe. Why?

Health records are extremely attractive to data hackers. The information is valued over credit card information when sold on the black market. The records are attractive simply because the data is so rich. Personal information like social security numbers, identification information and medical history can allow an attacker to use the data in a variety of ways. These uses range from opening a bogus account, committing income tax fraud, to getting health insurance under someone else’s name.

The possibilities are plentiful, and therefore the health care industry remains a primary target.

 

Article via CNET, 10 September 2015

Photo: A Doctor Looks Over Patient Medical Records via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]