*Health matters most interest those seeking public information*

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February 21, 2015 23:00
3 minute read.
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Computer keyboard [illustrative].. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

Although the state unit for freedom of information was established almost three years ago, until its website accepting requests for data online was established a year later, it was rarely used. Only 53 requests were made during the first year. But then the fee was reduced by 80 percent, and filing the queries has become easier. The unit reported recently that the most frequent subject on which information was requested was health – from the Health Ministry, four public health funds and government-owned hospitals.

A total of 600 formal requests have been made through the online form at www.foi.gov.il, and the numbers are increasing.

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Some 1,000 public agencies are required by law to provide (non-classified) information to the public.

Of the 600 requests so far, 90 (or 15%) were addressed to the Health Ministry, followed by the Israel Lands Authority, the Justice Ministry and the Education Ministry. Thus health seems to be the top subject that interests the public, the unit said. No fee need to paid for personal queries.

HEALTH WITH BLUEBERRIES

Blueberries are expensive and hard to find in this country. Native to the US, they require acidic and well-watered soil to be successfully cultivated. But consuming the berries is healthful. New research from Florida State University has found that just one cup of blueberries daily could be the key to reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk,” said Dr. Sarah Johnson, assistant director of the university’s center for advancing exercise and nutrition research on aging. Her team recently published a study on the lowering of blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with the first stages of high blood pressure, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Johnson said she is interested in looking at how functional foods – foods that have a positive impact on health beyond basic nutrition – can prevent and reverse negative health outcomes, particularly for postmenopausal women. Over an eight-week period, 48 postmenopausal women with pre- and stage-1 hypertension were randomly assigned to receive either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder (the equivalent to one cup of fresh blueberries) or 22 grams of a placebo powder.

Participants, meanwhile, continued their normal diet and exercise routines. At the beginning of the study, the team took participants’ blood pressure and measured their arterial stiffness and select blood biomarkers.

At the end of the eight weeks, participants receiving the blueberry powder on average had a 5.1 percent drop in systolic blood pressure and a 6.3% reduction in diastolic blood pressure. The blueberry- treated group also had an average 6.5% reduction in arterial stiffness. They also found that nitric oxide, a blood biomarker known to be involved in the widening of blood vessels, increased by 68.5%.

INTEGRATED SCAR TREATMENT

Scars from surgery, injuries or acne may fade, but they can last for life and cause not only aesthetic but also functional damage.

Treating them is the challenge of plastic surgeons, who not only treat scars but may also conduct research into the problem.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center now offers a “special” integrated technique that combines both the use of lasers and the injection of a patient’s own fat cells. Dr Yoav Gronovitz, a senior plastic surgeon, injects the fat cells into the scar area to fill it out and improve the way the skin looks in the long term.

“The fat contains stem cells that differentiate into skin cells that blur the scar,” he maintains. “The laser warms the excites the collagen cells, reorganizes them and softens the scar, improving its elasticity and appearance.”

SZMC is the only medical center in Israel that brings together the two techniques.

“In the past two years, we have accumulated much experience in dealing with all kinds of difficult scars. There is, as yet, no technique that completely erases scars, but the combined technique is the most effective and satisfactory for our patients,” he concluded.


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