Tommy Thompson on Partisan Politics and Health Care

Topic: Tommy Thompson on Health Care and Partisan Politics

Tommy Thompson: You’ll look at this past election in November, both candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain had this as central part of their healthcare plans, wellness and prevention and trying to do something about chronic illness. So, I’m really, I’m really optimistic that on wellness and prevention there’s bipartisan support, and I think that is absolutely excellent. And that’s why I think next year, 2009, starting in January, a couple of [months] from now, we’re going to see tremendous action and around this particular subject, and I’m very happy about that because Republicans and Democrats both recognize. This is the cornerstone for transforming healthcare in America and making it a more affordable and accessible. The second big area that there’s really bipartisan agreement on is Information Technology, and under that platform, I put under that [rubic] electronic medical record and e-prescribing. And both political parties, Democrats and Republicans support that as well. I mean, they’re going to be, they’re going to have different versions, but the subject, the subject matter both political parties recognize the importance of doing something about a disease system and change it to a wellness system, most individuals that are elected recognized chronic illnesses are going to be dealt with and they can be dealt with in a bipartisan basis, the same way with Information Technology. So, I think we’re well down the field towards a healthcare transformation touchdown if we keep our eye on the ball and take it up next year. If we do nothing else but fix wellness and prevention and disease management and chronic illnesses and IT, I will be happy because that’s, those are huge items and we can have bipartisan support on all of those.

Recorded On: 10/30/08

Tommy Thompson sees bipartisan cooperation on information technology and chronic disease starting in January 2009.

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An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
Surprising Science
  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
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Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.