Health Scan: Tel Aviv's uneasy riders

New study shows proportion of motorcyclists in city who are injured is double that in other parts of country.

Tel Aviv, whose rush-hour traffic and parking problems induce many to travel by motorcycle ? a risky business. A new study by the Sheba Medical Center, Sourasky Medical Center and the Israel Trauma Group has found that the proportion of motorcyclists in Tel Aviv who are injured is double that in other parts of the country. Dr. Kobi Peleg and colleagues write in the latest issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal (IMAJ) that riding a motorcycle is much more dangerous than driving a car. They looked at National Trauma Registry data on motorcycle accidents between 1997 and 2003. Of nearly 11,000 patients involved in accidents during that period, 28% were motorcyclists and the rest drivers of cars and trucks. Those in Tel Aviv were much more likely to be hurt than in other areas, and men ? especially those who work using their motorcycle, such as deliverymen ? are in even more danger. A fifth of injured motorcyclists in Tel Aviv were hurt while working. Seven percent of the accidents involved brain injuries, while arm and leg fractures were the most frequent result. More than 80,000 motorcycles are licensed in Israel. They comprise 4% of all registered vehicles, but were involved in 8% of all road accidents. Over a six-year period, 19,350 were inured an 217 killed. However, the authors note that motorcycle injuries in Tel Aviv were on average less severe than in other regions; perhaps traffic jams force them to ride more slowly. The researchers call on the Tel Aviv Municipality and transportation authorities to adopt policies to reduce injuries among motorcyclists, which are very costly to individuals, society and the health system. Road signs that draw attention to motorcycles should be posted, and special routes for motorcycles established. In addition, messengers and deliverymen, they wrote, should be discouraged from working against the clock and not punished for driving safely and more slowly. Publishing the names of companies whose motorcyclists have high injury rates might also help. A FREE FEED An estimated 30,000 Israeli babies and children suffer from some type of feeding problem, but most go untreated, according to Alyn Hospital, the pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center in Jerusalem. The hospital therefore decided to open a clinic for such patients, and is offering free treatment to all comers for the next few months. This was made possible by a foreign donation; assessment of feeding problems is not included in the basket of health services. Alyn?s interdisciplinary clinic has pediatricians, psychologists, physiotherapists, clinical communications specialists, dietitians and occupational therapists, and they treat anyone from the age of infancy. "Feeding an infant is the first task of a mother after delivery," says Dr. Morit Be?eri, an Alyn expert in eating problems. "When the baby or small child doesn?t eat properly, his immediate and future health are in danger." GOING TO WORK Twenty new immigrants from Ethiopia and members of the Menashe tribe ? all young students at the MaTaN Institute for Women in Jerusalem ? recently completed a special program to work as nurses? aides at Herzog Hospital. The program is intended to find suitable work for the young women so they can be absorbed into Israeli society, and to provide trained manpower for geriatric services. This is the second year of the program at the Jerusalem geriatric and psychogeriatric hospital. Some of the trainees are teenagers and some are adult mothers. They have been studying the basics of nursing, geriatrics, ethics, safety, shiatsu and patients? rights ? and Hebrew ? for six months, working under the supervision of nurses and paraprofessionals. Nine will remain at Herzog to work there, while the others will be employed at various nursing homes and institutions for disabled children. LOSING CONTACT One-third of nursing home residents who have Alzheimer?s miss out on stimulation because their poor vision is not corrected, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association written by researchers at Saint Louis University. As a result, they can?t watch TV, read books or interact appropriately, wrote Dr. James Koch of the university?s department of internal medicine, who headed the study. The research is among the first to examine the effect of visual impairment on Alzheimer?s patients in nursing homes. Those who lacked proper eyewear had either lost their glasses, broken them or had prescriptions that were no longer suitable. Several were too cognitively impaired to ask for help. The loss of visual stimulation may cause disorientation, limit a patient?s mobility and increase the risk of falls, said Koch. These patients may become so sensory deprived that they are virtually shut off from the outside world. The research recommends labeling eyewear so it can be returned to its owner if misplaced, having a spare pair of glasses, and ensuring all nursing home residents receive annual or biannual eye exams. "If adequate steps are taken to prevent unnecessary visual impairment in Alzheimer?s patients, it would limit their dependence on others, reduce the burden on nursing staff, and improve the patients? overall quality of life," Koch said. STUDYING THE DREADED BUG Bacteriology Prof. Emanuel Hanski of The Hebrew University?s Faculty of Medicine is one of 42 biomedical scientists from 20 countries who will receive a total of $17.5 million in research grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US. Nearly 500 scientists from 62 countries applied for the awards, which will provide each researcher with funds for his or her work over a five-year period. Hanski?s grant is for $400,000. The research being funded by the Hughes Institute focuses on the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying infectious and parasitic diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, hemorrhagic fevers and anthrax. Hanski?s work involves study of invasive strains of group A streptococcus, which devour flesh. He will focus on the identification of factors related to bacterial virulence and their mode of regulation, with the ultimate aim of better prevention and treatment of this life-threatening disease.