Category Archives: Health

Mayor Parker reduces health insurance premiums for city workers

Mayor Annise Parker has approved a reduction in health insurance premiums for city workers, reversing last spring’s increased rates from 14.9 percent to 8.7 percent. The premium reduction is in addition to lower copays and reduced prescription drug costs.
The Mayor hopes that the combined cost reductions will provide some financial relief for employees while also ensuring they stay engaged in wellness activities.

“We budgeted very conservatively and have been transparent in reporting where we are at every step along the way,” said Mayor Parker. “I make no apologies for that. It is the same fiscally-responsible approach we apply to all matters related to city finances.”

Parker’s competition for the mayoral race, Ben Hall, believes it is no coincidence that there is a reform to the health insurance premium.

“It’s an election year and a lot of good policies are suddenly appearing because of the challenge of an election and that’s the good thing about our democracy that once an incumbent is made to justify policy positions during an election cycle that there is some reformation that takes place,” said Hall. “So I applaud this exercise of an election because it has causing the ship to right itself on some of the bad policies on healthcare coverage issues before.”

The city began to focus on employee wellness after an increase in claims which also was the alleged reason for the increase in premium contributions and copayments last spring. The city also moved an extra $14 million into the health benefits account to ensure minimum balances would be available to meet all claims, according to the Mayor’s office.

“In April, HOPE members spoke before City Council rallying around the issue of affordable healthcare,” said Melvin Hughes, President of the Houston Organization of Public Employees. “After detailed analysis we were able to provide the city with recommendations that found several opportunities for cost savings. This decision makes healthcare affordable for the workers that help make this city run. I am proud of our members for making this possible and thankful to Mayor Parker for being willing to listen.”

September 1, 2013 the lower cost will go into effect and remain until April 30, 2014.

Ben Hall commented at about it his press conference that he is confident there was a catalyst for the reduction but whatever it was the reduction is the right thing to do for city employees.

Many are pleased to see the reform to the health insurance premiums as healthcare is necessary but becoming such a tedious and hard to come by commodity in the country. The city is in the third year of a self-insured employee health benefits plan, where it pays only when employees submit claims rather than having to pay set monthly costs.

What African Americans can do to decrease their risk of high blood pressure

Hypertension also known as “High Blood Pressure” is most often referred to as the “Silent Killer”.

According to WebMD, over 60 million Americans have high blood pressure which is about 1 in 3 adults. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports 69% of people who have a heart attack, 77% of stroke patients, and 74% of heart failure patients also have hypertension. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure as compared to men and African Americans develop high blood pressure more often at an earlier age. In the United States, 41% of African Americans compared to 27% of whites and other races are diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Why is it more common in African Americans and is a silent killer?

Most research has no definitive idea but what is known is that it must be addressed.

Here are some suggestions for decreasing your risk of developing high blood pressure:

• Talk with your doctor about high blood pressure and try to get a clear understanding about what it means. You can research your family history to see if any family members have or had high blood pressure. If they have, this might put you at risk of developing high blood pressure.

• If you take medications, take them daily as prescribed by your doctor. Try avoiding missing any doses of medications.

• Follow a diet that is low in fat, salt, and cholesterol. Eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

• Be mindful of your weight as being overweight can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure.

• Avoid inactivity and get involved in some sort of exercise program. Walking can help lower and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. It is suggested to exercise 10 to 20 minutes most days of the week.

• Know and monitor your blood pressure. According to the Joint National Committee on the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of high blood pressure (JNC), normal blood pressure values should be less than 120/80. The top number (120) represents the systolic blood pressure which is the force of blood pressure through your blood vessels during your heartbeat. The bottom number (80) represents the diastolic blood pressure and it is the force of the blood through your blood vessels in between heartbeats or when your heart is resting.

• Avoid smoking because smoking can elevate blood pressure and damage your heart and blood vessels. Ask for recommendations from your doctor on ways to help you quit.

• Limit your alcohol intake. It is recommended that men consume no more than 2 drinks a day and women no more than 1 drink a day.

Your knowledge about high blood pressure is critical in decreasing your risk of developing this disease.


Linda Ratliff Davis, RPh has been practicing Pharmacy for more than 30 years. She is a Clinical Pharmacist at the Michel E. DeBakey VAMC and is part owner of the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Houston, Texas.
She is also the Chairman of the Board of “Keeping Abreast of Your Health” which is a nonprofit breast cancer awareness organization. Breast Cancer Awareness month is in October.

Houston VA offers extended clinic hours

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently began offering Veterans evening and weekend mental health appointments as part of an initiative to improve access and convenience for area Veterans. MEDVAMC’s Mental Health Care Line now provides after-hours therapy groups, individual assessments and follow-up appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays.

“The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is committed to increasing health care access for our Veterans,” said Adam C. Walmus, M.H.A., M.A., F.A.C.H.E., MEDVAMC director. “The new extended hours will help us in that goal by offering more convenient clinic hours for those who are unable to make appointments during our normal business hours.”

In addition, the VA’s Beaumont Outpatient clinic recently began offering extended hours for Primary Care and Behavioral Medicine appointments on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays.

The extended VA clinic hours are for Veterans who have scheduled appointments. Veterans should contact their respective clinic facility at the numbers below to schedule an appointment.

Deadline for low-income Texans to qualify for help on energy bills looming

Via State Senator Rodney Ellis

(Austin, Texas) – Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today joined Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) and advocates urging low-income Texans to sign up for LITE-UP Texas energy bill assistance before the August 10, 2013 deadline.

The LITE-UP Texas program is designed to help qualified low-income individuals who live in areas where they can choose their own electricity provider to reduce their monthly cost of electric service. During this year’s regular session, the 83rd Texas Legislature made profound changes to this program, increasing the discount from 16.5 percent to 82 percent. The 82 percent discount will be effective for this September and also for May, June, July and August of 2014.

“Time is running out for low-income and elderly Texans to get the help they need to keep the power on in late summer,” said Ellis. “We are here to spread the word to make sure that Texans know there is help on the way.”

In 1999 the legislature created the System Benefit Fund to help low-income Texans pay summer energy bills when Texas deregulated electric utility companies. The Fund’s goal was to assist the least fortunate Texans in braving the summer heat, and as temperatures across the state soar to increasingly high levels, that mission is more critical than ever. Unfortunately, this session, the legislature ended the surcharge on customers’ electricity bills but took steps to provide a discount on customers’ September electricity bills for 2013 and May through August bills for 2014. According to the Public Utility Commission, about 500,000 Texans received aid from the System Benefit Fund to help pay their summer bills.

Since the creation of the System Benefit Fund, the legislature has often neglected to use the full balance to help Texans pay their summer electric bills, instead redirecting the balance to shore up budget shortfalls. For instance, in 2011 $650 million was left in the Fund instead of distributed to senior and needy Texans.

“I opposed the reverse Robin Hood plan to take from the poor,” said Ellis. “The System Benefit Fund was created for the explicit purpose of helping low-income Texans pay rising energy bills after electric deregulation. That’s where the money should be going and where Texans want it to go. Unfortunately, our side did not prevail, but at least there is the silver lining that Texans will receive a bigger discount this summer and in 2014, so Texans need to take advantage of it while they can.”

City of Houston helps train communities in bystander CPR

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services and the local chapter of the American Heart Association along with Rice University teamed up to do research about the air quality and cardiac arrest in Houston and found a bigger issue of Houstonians failing to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as a bystanders in predominately African American communities in Houston.

Mayor Parker introduced Dr. David Persse, EMS director and the health authority for the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, and his team as she spoke about the collaboration between the city and the American Heart Association to do neighborhood sessions to teach CPR to the communities that their research has told them is at higher risk for cardiac arrest without the help of bystander CPR.

“It’s hard to see someone suffering and you don’t know what to do. Each of us has the ability with our own hands to save lives. Houston has an outstanding EMS system and been on the cutting edge of research with our public EMS system,” said Parker. “Recently the public health authority, Dr. David Persse and statisticians from Rice University examined health outcome data that’s related to Houston’s air quality. We noticed an unequal distribution of cardiac arrest and with further evaluation we also noted a disparity in bystander CPR.”

The disparity was found in Sunnyside, South Park, Riverside, Magnolia, Denver Harbor, 5th Ward and Acres Homes. Since June there has been 4,520 people trained in those neighborhoods on how to do bystander CPR.
“Due to the work of our emergency responders the local cardiac arrest survival rates are the best among the nation however the chances of survival are even better when a bystander can step in with CPR in those critical moments before emergency help arrives,” said Persse. “The Houston Health Department has initiated a partnership with the American Heart Association to provide hands only CPR training specifically in high risk neighborhoods that they identified.”

With CPR being reintroduced without the mouth to mouth component it should appeal to a much larger base. The lack of knowledge about cardiac arrest and the benefits of CPR have resulted in loss of life to many although Houston has one of the best rates in the country for surviving cardiac problems.

“There are certain things that make people hesitant to do bystander CPR like for instance we have taken out the mouth to mouth part because for many years people were afraid to do mouth to mouth and that’s no longer a part of CPR and people need to know that,” said Persse. “Its hands only CPR and actually its very easily done and not terribly strenuous but it is the bridge between when somebody collapses and when professional rescuers get there and we also know from our data that when someone performs bystander CPR it more than doubles that persons chance of survival.

The place that cardiac arrest happen the most are at home around family which is why it is an incentive that people learn CPR to save family. There have been thousands trained in the city and it is simple enough for a child to learn how to do.

Donna Travis, division manager of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services started the outreach education of CPR from the beginning. Her hopes is to continue the neighborhood training and encourages Houstonians to participate in individual sessions or organizations or churches can join in a partnership to teach and train individuals in CPR to save lives and communities.

Travis or anyone on her team can be reached at 713-527-4000 for any information.


Arial Coates
The Houston Sun

It’s that time of the year again! The weather feels just right and what better time than now to get your house into tip-top shape. Just in time for mother’s day, spring-cleaning is an old time favorite. To add on to your own tips, but here are some that are guaranteed to spruce up your home.

Clean Your Gutters
Over the long winter holidays your gutters are sure to collect all kinds of leaves and rainwater. Grab yourself a ladder to climb and a shovel to thoroughly clean gutters and downspouts with. A properly working gutter directs water away from your home. If you happen to see any leaks or damage drainpipes, replacing your gutters would be highly recommended. Also, using covered gutter systems such as Leafguard can help keep your gutters clean and cut down on maintenance

Service your heating and cooling system
Make sure you have your heating and AC system checked on once spring starts. This is to ensure it will work properly through spring into the summer.

Apply fresh paint
Your house’s paint job can withstand a lot but not everything is weather resistant. If you detect any part of the house a few shades lighter than before, a fresh coat of paint is the answer. The freshly applied paint will be a refreshing sight to look at.

Do a spring- cleaning of your pet’s stuff
Spring-cleaning should be extended to all members of the families including the furry ones! Go through your pet’s things to find the items that are damaged or dirty beyond repair. If you must throw something away be sure to replace it quickly

Examine all your fire extinguishers
If you don’t have one, now would be a great time get one. And for those who already have one make sure you check the expiration date on them (yes the really do expire). If they have, don’t delay on replacing it.

Do a switcheroo!
Pick a room and try changing it as much as possible. Take that old bookcase out and try putting in a new chair. A new room can bring about new, wonderful feelings. Also try maximizing your space.
Give your property a brand, spanking new look!
During the winter months your lawn can take a beating. Have a refreshed lawn for spring by getting rid of any debris or trash that may be lying around. Also cut down any trees or bushes that have grown since the fall.

Give your draperies a bath!
Drapes collect more dirt and dust then we would like to believe. If possible, put them in the washing machine. You’ll be surprised at how much cleaner they’ll look (they’ll smell better too!)

Check your roof for possible damage
It’s easy to forget about your roof (like who really goes up there?). But after the winter months a check up is needed. Grab your ladder and look for cracked, broken, and missing shingles. Note any serious issues and get in contact with a local roofing specialist.

Inspect siding and windows for leaks
Be sure to look at your windows and the siding all around your house. If you see a crack, address it now! Do so before the problem gets worse and you can save yourself a lot of time and money.

Don’t let spring shock you!
If you have any failing sockets or flickering lights call an electrician immediately! Waiting could be detrimental to your house- and your wallet.


The Houston Ministers Against Crime held a faith based health ministry initiative training conference September 21, 2012 at the Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center promoting wellness and recovery for the community in various areas of health related issues.
Reverend Carl Matthews and Dr. Robert McKinley Gilmore hosted the health seminar bringing in a variety of organizations to teach and guide community leaders and members in the plight to build a healthy community. Organizations such as the Texas Health Institute (Benefit Banking), American Diabetes Association, Health and Human Services and the National Association Mental Institute all gave presentations about awareness, prevention and recovery.
“I brought this conference together to help empower pastors to create innovative approaches to dis-proportionality and health disparities,” Rev. Matthews said. “I realize that our communities suffer in many areas of illnesses such as chronic diseases, heart attack, stroke, hyper-tension, obesity, diabetes etc., and my message to the church is that the message doesn’t change but the methods must change. We must coordinate a community with appropriate partnerships so we can create a community that has access to health care.”
The CEO of Texas Health Institute, Camille Miller, did a co-presentation with their State Director and former State Representative, Diana Maldonado about the Benefit Bank of Texas. This program is a web based portal and counselor assisted program that helps low to moderate income individuals connect with support and benefits. The Benefit Bank serves as a tool to support workers, stabilize families and strengthen communities through programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Federal Taxes, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Voter Registration and Veteran’s Education(November 2012).
“The Texas Benefit Bank served as a refresher course for the workers in the community,” said Carolyn DeVaughn, Manager of Outreach, Children Defense Fund. “If the ministers could get their congregations to just put their information online it would be such a help. The older generations don’t really trust in doing that but it would be helpful if we could get our community to get involved and just trust it.”
Jennifer Williams of the American Diabetes Association followed the Benefit Bank presentation. Williams educated the audience on one of the most debilitating diseases that plague the African-American community, diabetes. Discussion followed on how to have power over diabetes, education on the symptoms, prevention and how to fight to survive diabetes through wellness and recovery.
The National Association Mental Institute (NAMI) informed attendees of the many mental illnesses that disrupt the promise of a happy life in many because of misdiagnosis, stigma, and fear. Rev. Gary Eagleton and Program Director, Angelina Hudson, spoke on the platform that mental illness is real, diagnosis is necessary for appropriate treatment and recovery is possible. Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder(ADHD), Autism and Bi-Polar Disorder were all explored and personal stories revealed to give light on how it affects communities and families.
The State of Texas Health and Human Resources also delved into the community and family aspect as Mia Williams represented them under the umbrella of dis-proportionality and disparities. Williams drilled the audience on subjects such as why people are poor, and why young Black and Hispanic children are coming into the system faster and staying longer. Education, health, location, and assistance became the target for review. Williams urged the audience to open their minds and put away their biases to find a solution to help out their communities while pointing out why many minorities suffer from certain diseases, financial and educational problems.
Judge Michael Schneider of the 315 District Juvenile Court and Henry Gonzales, the Assistant Executive Director of the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, spoke in conjunction about families, drug usage amongst juveniles and support systems that bridge between families and the courts. Both informed the crowd that the solutions they are seeking do not involve locking up the youth but finding alternatives such as community services that make the youth become involved in their community. Therapy services is offered to families and are even set up to where the counselors will come out to the home to service the family if they do not have transportation, which is a major issue for many Houstonians. The latest innovations in drug court for juveniles was also presented to the audience as well as the rationality of Judge Schneider, who emphatically expressed that he does not want to lock up the youth but rehabilitate them in their home setting and not just the child but the family around them as well.
The last presenter was First Priority. This organizations purpose is to keep Houstonians in health, body and mind. With the access to clinics and community services communities can flourish. First Priority gave the information for community leaders to spread the word about where people can access the information to find these services. Healthy food, low income clinics, and community centers in your area are accessible through their website
These health based initiative seminars will be a monthly re-occurring event. It is mobile and will be in different churches and community centers. It will go on until December and will start again in January.