November 25, 2009

United States Preventive Services Task Force --Just doing their job

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) was established as an independent scientific review body for the express purpose of reviewing the scientific evidence and making recommendations based on that evidence, independently and without political influence.  Their recent recommendations regarding routine screening for mammograms has erupted into a huge political maelstrom that is continuing with hearings in the House, distancing by the White House, and calls for the abolishment of the USPSTF--with the intent to replace it with an "advisory" panel that would have more accountability and oversight by the Federal Government.

The USPSTF provides a valuable service through their extensive review and analysis of existing scientific evidence and their recommendations are meant to help inform and guide our decision-making--they are recommendations, afterall.

Whether a person agrees or disagrees with the recent mammogram recommendations released by the USPSTF, or indeed with any of their recommendations, and chooses to act on it, is entirely an individual decision that is best made in collaboraboration with a primary care physician; but it is important that we remain informed of what the scientific evidence is telling us when it comes to health care, preventive services and treatment.  This information should not be colored by the prevailing political opinions of the day, nor by diverse opinions on either side of  the issue.  

I believe the USPSTF should be allowed to continue as an independent, scientific review committee--objective evidence may not always be what we expect or want to hear, but we need to be informed of it nonetheless. 

What are your thoughts?

November 18, 2009

The Mammogram Controversy--What you need to know...

I think our new Secretary of Health and Human Services has said it best:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued the following statement today on new breast cancer screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

"There is no question that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations have caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women and their families across this country. I want to address that
confusion head on. The U.S. Preventive Task Force is an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations.

They do not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the federal government.

"There has been debate in this country for years about the age at which routine screening mammograms should begin, and how often they should be given. The Task Force has presented some new evidence for consideration but our policies remain unchanged. Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.

"What is clear is that there is a great need for more evidence, more research and more scientific innovation to help women prevent, detect, and fight breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among

"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today. Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your
doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you."

# # #
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are
available at

This is the straight scoop!

November 16, 2009

Salmon en Croute with Spinach and Gruyere (adapted from Rocco DiSpirito)


2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp Amore garlic paste, or 6 garlic cloves chopped
2, 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour for rolling pastry
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
20 ounce salmon filet (approximately)
8, 1-ounce slices Gruyere cheese (or substitute a light swiss)
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes.  Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid boils off, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cool slightly.

On a lighly floured surface, roll first pastry sheet to a size about 1.5 inches larger than the salmon filet all around.  Lightly spray oil on a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and lay the pastry in the pan.  Top the pastry sheet with the rinsed & dried salmon filet.  Top the filet with the spinach mixture.  Top the spinach mixture with the cheese slices.  Roll out the second pastry sheet in the same way and place it on top of the cheese/spinach/salmon filet.  Roll the edges of the pastry together and press the edges with a fork to seal the salmon package.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush pastry with egg wash.  Bake until pastry is puffed and golden and salmon is cooked through, about 30 minutes.  Slices best with a serrated bread knife.

This recipe easily feeds a family of five with some leftovers for lunch.  Enjoy!

November 10, 2009

Food Inc--A must see!

I just attended the 2009 American Public Health Conference held in Philadelphia.  Fabulous conference--more than 10,000 public health professionals in attendance! 

On the last day, I attended a screening of the documentary FOOD INC and if you haven't yet seen it as yet, I encourage you to.  For those of you who have read the book, Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser--many of the topics will be familiar, and he does make a cameo appearance in the film.  Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and other books about our food system, is the primary narrator.  This moving documentary will introduce you to our current food system, the growing industrialization of agriculture and describe some of the unintended consequences of these changes from traditional farming practices.  It's available on DVD or on Netflix.  Check it out and let me know your thoughts: