Legislature poised to create ‘all claims’ database

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Colorado might soon join 10 other states in creating its own health care data base — a compilation of all health care claims and information throughout the state.

House Bill 1330 will create the database as part of Gov. Bill Ritter’s health care initiative package.

Maine, Minnesota, Maryland, Tennessee, Vermont, New Hampshire, Florida, Oregon, Utah and Arizona are also working on state databases.

Proponents of the bill said the database will create transparency in cost and quality. The state will be able to easily evaluate its programs and make sure money is being allocated where it is most needed.

The database might also be able to compare effectiveness of programs, and act as a launching pad for health policy.

The National Association of Health Data Organizations will help states create the database, while national other groups will arrange the data so it can be compared with other states and other regions.

Consumers will be able to access the database, and compare patient outcomes at local hospitals.

Consumer advocates are in favor of the proposition, while hospitals have some concerns.

“We are in favor of transparency,” said John Suits, vice president of government relations at Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs. “We want to make sure they are comparing apples to apples — but often in these databases, the information is sent in differently, and you can’t really compare results from system to system.”

New campaign highlights need for colon screenings

The folks at the Gastroenterology Associates of Colorado Springs don’t mean to be rude, but they do want to get your attention.

And that’s why they’ve launched the “Up Yours” campaign to highlight colon cancer and the need for cancer screenings during the month of March.

“Our message is not meant to offend people,” said Richard Folan, one of the practices’ founding doctors. “We want to get their attention then tell them of the importance of getting regular colon screenings. Colonoscopies do save lives.”

Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S., with 147,000 new cases diagnosed last year. Both men and women get colon cancer — but it is the most treatable of all cancers.

McDonalds kid-healthy meals

A new program at the state health department seeks to encourage kids to make healthy choices — even at McDonalds.

The Smart Meal for Kids program was developed to help consumers identify balanced meal choices for children.

McDonald’s kids meals are designated healthy when they substitute low-fat milk for soda and apples for French fries.

And even those small changes will benefit children, said Jackie Berning, associate professor of biology and a registered dietician at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

“I go by the 80-20 rule,” she said. “Eighty percent of the time you want to eat whole foods, home cooked foods, no additives, no preservatives. But 20 percent of the time, you want that fun food — there’s a social-psychological tie with food.”

Berning is working on a grant proposal to maintain the healthy weight of the state’s fifth graders by engaging companies like McDonald’s and Chipotle.

“Maybe McDonald’s could offer a fifth grade meal that has the appropriate calories,” she said. “Or maybe Chipotle could offer a fifth-grade-sized burrito. Encouraging children to make the right choices — no matter where they are — will definitely keep the weight down.”

McDonald’s has seen some bad publicity with movies like “Super Size Me,” and books like “Fast Food Nation,” she said.

“But we eat that way everywhere,” she said. “We simply overeat. You don’t have to be at McDonald’s. We overeat in our own kitchens.”

So any attempt to make the nation’s fast food restaurants healthier is a good attempt, she said.

“These places aren’t going anywhere,” she said. “People eat at them. For my 17 year old, fast food restaurants are part of his social life. The best I can do is teach him to make the right choices when he’s there.”

And denying food is never a good idea, she said. She points to a Vermont prison study in which the officials took away all the “fun food” — cakes, cookies, sweets.

“And the prisoners were thinking about that piece of chocolate cake,” she said. “It seems when you deny something, it becomes the thing you think about. So when they added them back in — they overate.”

Smart Meals must contain two servings of beans or whole grains, fruits or vegetables, or one serving of low-fat milk. They must be no more than 600 calories with no more than 30 percent total fat. No more than 10 percent of the total calories can come from saturated fat and no more than .5 grams of trans fat. Sodium levels should be between 600 and 800 milligrams.

More than 189 restaurants in Colorado are participating in the Smart Meal program, including the Olive Branch on Tejon St. in Colorado Springs, which was one of the first restaurants included in the program.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at amy.gillentine@csbj.com or 719-329-5205.