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Healthful Act The state Legislature last month passed a bill making it easier and less expensive for Louisiana residents to receive help with physical movement problems by going directly to a physical therapist without referral from a primary care provider.

HB 982, sponsored by Rep. Yvonne Welch, D-Baton Rouge, passed both houses of the Legislature in July, ending a 20-year battle to obtain direct access rights for patients in this state. Louisiana became the 38th state to enact such a measure.

Louisiana Physical Therapy Association (LAPTA), a not-for-profit professional organization of physical therapists and their assistants, and the national American Physical Therapy Association have for years supported direct access legislation as a means of helping patients overcoming cumbersome and expensive obstacles in receiving therapy. They were joined in their efforts by other patient advocate organizations, including the Chiropractic Association of Louisiana, the Louisiana Geriatric Society and the Louisiana Chapter of Easter Seals.

Advocates of the measure say physical therapists are more accessible than medical clinics in some parts of the state and are part of the traditional medical arsenal of health care providers. The therapists are trained in helping prevent, diagnose and treat movement dysfunctions to improve overall health.

Foods for Life

Northshore residents now have a place where they can enjoy cuisine based on the LifeFood concept, a diet with celebrity followers such as fashion designer Donna Karan and actresses Darryl Hannah and Shalom Harlow.

Garrison's Global Bar (4900 Hwy. 22, Suite 5, Mandeville, 985-792-5263), owned by Neill Corp. of Hammond, opened in late July and offers LifeFood items including smoothies, sandwiches, pizza, soups, beverages and desserts. The basis of LifeFood Nutrition, on which the cafe is based, is eating only so-called live foods, fresh, raw produce consumed as close to its natural state as possible. The diet plan reportedly helps cleanse, nourish and beautify the body while diners lose weight but have their hunger satisfied with tasty foods. All produce used at Garrison's Global bar is organic.

In addition to LifeFood choices, the new eatery also offers croissant sandwiches, decadent desserts and delicious pastries as well as organic choices in coffee, tea, sandwiches, soups, salads, freshly baked breads and fresh-squeezed juices.

Heartfelt Research

The Tulane Center for Gene Therapy is undertaking a four-year research project to determine whether adult stem cells can help tissue damaged by heart attacks.

The National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in mid-July gave the Tulane center a $1.75 million four-year grant for the study. With the grant, center director Darwin Prockop and a team of researchers from Tulane and LSU first will inject stem cells into rats that have suffered heart damage similar to that of a human patient who has had a heart attack. They then will place the stem cells into rats that have prolonged reduction of blood flow that would be similar to humans with more extensive heart damage.

The Tulane center already has developed techniques to extract stem cells from the bone marrow of adults and grow large numbers of them in the laboratory. A couple of months ago, the NIH National Center for Research Resources chose Tulane as a center for the preparation, quality control and distribution of adult stem cells to researchers worldwide.

The NIH says about 5 million Americans have chronic heart failure. It estimates that 650,000 Americans will suffer a first heart attack this year and another 450,000 will have a "recurrent" attack.

Free Shots

The Greater New Orleans Immunization Network Mobile Unit has scheduled several clinics during August where parents can obtain free immunizations for children ages birth to 18. Parents should bring each child's immunization record to the clinic. For more information, call 733-3268.

The mobile unit will set up in Metairie from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 4, Aug. 25 and Aug. 30, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Clearview Mall.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 5 and Aug. 26 and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 9 and Aug. 19, the unit will be at Walgreen's (1203 Hwy. 190, Covington). Slidell parents can get the free shots for their children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 6, Aug. 23 and Aug. 27 or from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 12 at Walgreen's (1260 Front St.).

It will stop from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 7, Aug. 14 and Aug. 21 at Toys-R-Us (4800 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero); from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 13 at Robert's Fresh Market (4001 Canal St.); 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 16 at the New Orleans Health Fair (1515 Caffin Ave.); 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 18 at Walgreen's (801 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner); 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20 at Toys-R-Us (Bullard and I-10 in New Orleans East); and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 29 at Balestra's (7902 Hwy. 23, Belle Chasse).

State Urged to Pool Resources

U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) says a survey of prescription drug prices in 19 major cities across the country illustrates the need for states to step in and help residents who lack prescription drug insurance coverage.

On average, Americans without such coverage pay about 72 percent more for 10 common prescription medications than the federal government, according the survey. U.S. and state PIRGs joined together to conduct the survey, which checked prices in 500 pharmacies in 19 cities to determine how much more uninsured consumers pay for the medications than the government, which buys in bulk and thus gets hefty discounts. Some 41 million Americans must purchase prescription medications without insurance coverage.

There was some quasi-good news in the survey. Of the 19 cities surveyed, New Orleans had the least expensive prices, although uninsured residents, on average, still pay 56 percent more than the federal government. The most expensive cities were Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.

To help consumers who don't have prescription drug insurance coverage, U.S. PIRG urges state governments to form prescription drug-buying pools that could drive down the cost of medicines by providing stronger buying power and increased price-negotiating leverage. It also says the government should reform policies and close loopholes that allow companies to keep generic versions of drugs out of the marketplace and suggests agencies release reliable "preferred drug" lists to better inform uninsured consumers about their options.

Continuing His Service

New Orleans businessman and former state Lt. Gov. James E. Fitzmorris Jr. has been elected to a new term as a vice president of the national Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

Fitzmorris, president and CEO of Fitzmorris & Associates Inc., was elected to his 15th one-year term during a recent annual meeting in Los Angeles. He will act as a volunteer leader who will provide advice, counsel and support to the MDA and its programs.

"[Fitzmorris'] leadership has proved vital to the Association's battle against devastating neuromuscular diseases and our progress toward treatments and cures," MDA President Robert Ross said in thanking Fitzmorris for more than a decade of support.

The national health organization is focused on treatments and cures for more than three dozen neuromuscular diseases, seeking out research worldwide, offering comprehensive services and public health education programs. It also maintains 230 clinics across the country, including New Orleans clinics at Children's Hospital and Louisiana State University Medical Center. One of the group's main fundraisers is the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which will be broadcast Aug. 31 through Sept. 1 on WNOL-TV (channel 38).

Good Sport Award

Fitness and performance enhancement expert Mackie Shilstone has received the 2003 Dwight David Eisenhower Fitness Award by the United States Sports Academy (USSA) in Alabama for his achievements in fitness and his contributions to the growth and development of sport fitness through leadership.

Shilstone, a regular columnist in Gambit Weekly's health section, received the award July 25 during the USSA's 31st annual graduation ceremonies. For more than a quarter century, he has trained athletes and helped them to achieve better performance, including heavyweight boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., former world heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, baseball shortstop and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith and dozens of others. Shilstone is considered a world leader in the field of fitness and performance enhancement and a pioneer in sports conditioning and nutrition.

The USSA is a private graduate school that offers sport-specific programs to students, teachers and administrators from more than 60 countries around the world. It also offers master's and doctoral degrees in sports science and sports management.

click to enlarge A newly passed bill gives Louisiana citizens direct - access to physical therapy.
  • A newly passed bill gives Louisiana citizens direct access to physical therapy.


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