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Bill would expand VA mental health services

A group of senators is seeking to increase access to mental health services for military veterans. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray (D, Wash.) has introduced legislation that would require more oversight of federal suicide prevention programs. The bill also would expand mental health coverage to family members of servicemen and women to help them cope with deployments. “The Dept. of Defense and the [Dept. of Veterans Affairs] are losing the battle against the mental and behavioral wounds of these wars,” she said. “To see that, you don’t need to look any further than the tragic fact that already this year over 150 active duty service members have taken their own lives, or the fact that one veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.” The committee held a June 27 hearing to discuss the Mental Health Access to Continued Care and Enhancement of Support Services and several other pieces of legislation. The VA has taken steps to improve access, said Madhu ...

Residents willing to work when they’re sick

Resident physicians who come to work sick risk passing their illness to colleagues and patients, yet many doctors-in-training take the gamble. A survey of 150 Illinois medical residents found that 51% reported coming to work with flu-like symptoms in the past year, and 16% said they had done so at least three times, says an article published online June 18 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Medical educators and residency program leaders should educate residents that sometimes staying home is the most professional thing to do, said Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, lead author and an assistant professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Working while sick may demonstrate an admirable sense of responsibility to patients and colleagues, but clinicians also need to worry about the real danger of infecting vulnerable patients as well as colleagues and staff,” Deborah Grady, MD, MPH, the journal’s deputy editor, said in an accompanying editor ...

Older women are advised against taking supplements to prevent fractures

Physicians should advise postmenopausal women against taking low doses of vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent fractures, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Such supplements often are recommended for older women to help strengthen bones, but evidence shows that the risks outweigh the benefits, says a task force draft recommendation, which is open for public comment through July 10. Specifically, the group advises against postmenopausal women taking daily supplements of 400 international units or less of vitamin D3 and 1,000 milligrams of calcium to prevent fractures. “The evidence is clear that [the dosage] is really not effective and is associated with a small but measurable harm,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, task force member and associate professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. About 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures occur in the U.S. each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate ...