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slides: 12 Biggest Healthcare Stories in RI in 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012


With Obamacare court decisions and Rhode Island's own healthcare exchange in the works in 2012, it was a big year for health news in Rhode Island. From intriguing research out of Brown University to rankings of nursing homes, what were the biggest health stories of 2012?


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#12 Brown Discoveries

Several intriguing findings out of the Brown University labs in 2012 advanced medical news and caught the attention of thousands of readers. Two stories--about cigarettes and about Lyme Disease--generated the most news.

Cigarette smoke has long been considered the main risk factor for heart disease. But Brown's research showed that nicotine itself, a component of cigarette smoke, can contribute to the disease in insidious ways. Which means nicotine gum and patches may be threatening to heart health. For the full story, go here.

Meanwhile, a biostatistician at Brown found that certain treatments for Lyme Disease have been unjustly dismissed and defunded. For the full story, go here.

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#11 RI's Best Hospitals

The annual rankings of Rhode Island's hospitals by US News and World Report is always big news. This year's Best Hospitals 2013 rankings put The Miriam Hospital at the top of the list, followed by #2 Rhode Island Hospital, and #3 Women and Infants Hospital. Newport Hospital tied with nearby Southcoast Hospital for the #4 ranking in the state.

For the whole story on the rankings, go here.

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#10 Obesity + Kids

A study in January of 2012 shook the conventional wisdom regarding the dangers of junk food. The research showed that while the percentage of obese children in the United States tripled between the early 1970s and the late 2000s, weight gain has nothing to do with the candy, soda, chips, and other junk food they can purchase at school. The study suggests that those habits were created well before middle school, for example.

Hasbro Hospital's Pediatric Nutrition Specialist, Barbara Robinson, said that she didn't take the view that "the damage is done and therefore we don't need to continue efforts to keep unhealthy foods and beverages out of schools." We should be concerned about childhood obesity, Robinson said, "but we should also be concerned with whether our children are well nourished."

For the complete story, go here.

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#9 Wellness

Wellness, particularly in the workplace, was a hot news topic in Rhode Island in 2012, and GoLocal Health/Business Expert Amy Gallagher covered benefits of corporate wellness as well as the latest tools for assessment and motivation.

Gallagher also looked at what may happen to wellness programs when Obamacare kicks in and the number of employers offering such programs may dwindle. For her analysis, go here.

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#8 Doctors Behaving Badly

The Rhode Island Department of Health regularly informs the public when a medical professional of any kind--doctor, nurse, nurse's assistant, even pharmacist--violates RI statute and has their license suspended or is otherwide reprimanded.

2012's biggest violators included an East Side physician whose behavior was found to be excessively erratic and distracted, a Warwick MD who was reprimanded in the 1990s for having sexual relations with a patient and was now in trouble for improper prescribing of opioids, and a registered nurses suspended for having sexual relations with a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis.

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#7 Marijuana

While medical marijuana made news on the national landscape as several states passed referenda regarding the use of the drug, here in Rhode Island, the mismanagement of a local medical marijuana authorization business was shut down by the Dept. of Health for actually dispensing the drug.

Another story that captured GoLocal's headlines this year involved a study that showed that marijuana was less damaging to the lungs than tobacco. Douglas W. Martin, MD, department of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Disorder Medicine at Rhode Island Hospital, weighed in on the findings. For more on Dr. Martin's reactions, go here

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#6 Suicide In RI

After a winter of sobering news of youth suicide increases in Rhode Island as well as the state leading the nation in percentage of residents who attempt suicide, new initiatives on behalf of teens as well as Rhode Islanders of all ages, announced in March of 2012, promised advancements in support as well as intervention.

For the full story on youth, suicide, mental illness, and measures underway in Rhode Island, go here.

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#5 Nursing Home Ranking

GoLocalProv used the latest data from Medicare to assess and rank the state's 84 nursing homes, highlighting the best and worst facilities for seniors requiring care.

The city of Warwick had the most five-star facilities as determined by medicare.gov--four in total--followed by Providence with 3 top-ranked facilities,  and then Pawtucket and Middletown, tied with 2 five-star facilities each.

For the whole story, go here.

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#4 Birth Control

Women's sexual health was a major newsmaker this year on the national level, and an outcome of Obamacare--free contraception for women--became a major story right here in Rhode Island.

Business/Health expert Amy Gallagher's "Smart Benefits" column on what RI could expect regarding free contraception when it became available August 1st was one of the most widely read GoLocal health stories of the year. For the entire story on free contraception, go here.

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#3 Salt + Blood Pressure

Salt has largely been considered the culprit when it comes to high blood pressure. But Mary Flynn, research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital, examined the intricate relationship between salt and the body's regulation.

Her findings? We have been focusing on the wrong culprit. Or rather, we could be lowering our blood pressure by making other adjustments. Flynn's no-nonsense nutritional expertise as featured on GoLocal remained among the most popular in 2012.

See what Mary Flynn had to say about salt and blood pressure, here.

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#2 RI's Top 10 Killers

What diseases kill the most Rhode Islanders every year? GoLocal's slideshow on the state's 10 biggest threats to health and well-being was the highest-read single article in Health coverage this year (the #1 story of the year was covered numerous times in a variety of articles).

From #10 suicide to #1 heart disease, see what does the most damage to our bodies, year-in and year-out. For the entire slideshow, start here.

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#1 Obamacare

It was the biggest health story of the year, from national debate throughout a presidential campaign and election, to local conversations about Rhode Island's development of its own healthcare exchange.

GoLocal's Business/Health Expert Amy Gallagher kept her ear to the ground throughout the year, and her pieces on everything from Obama versus Romney on healthcare (read it here) to 14 things to know about Obamacare (read it here) drew thousands of readers. In RI, she followed the developments of the state's health exchange and its potential costs and benefits, and how RI employers can prepare.

As RI moves toward launching its exchange in 2014, expect even more coverage from Gallagher and GoLocal in the year to come.


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