Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lack Of Grocery Stores Causes Food Deserts by Ira Riklis

Grocery stores are retail stores that sell food in bulk. As part of the healthy eating initiatives groups of major food retailers in 2011 promised to open and expand grocery stores to increase access to fresh foods.

Food stores that sell fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, are reducing, and others are closing, creating
Assortment of different vegetables
food deserts. In St. Louis Schnucks, a supermarket that was supplying food and groceries closed. The officials said they were losing money on the store. Residents in the area say this has affected them a lot since the closest supermarket is miles away and the food they get can't even last them a month.
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, controlled access to super centers, supermarkets, and grocery stores, or other sources of affordable and healthy food may make it difficult for some Americans to have a healthy diet.

The Food Desert Inventory

The USDA came up with a national food desert inventory that considers a variety of factors that measure food store access for individuals and neighborhoods. These Measures constitute:
  1. How accessible are sources of healthy food, in relation to the distance and the number of stores in a given resident. Low access can be can be defined as "being far from a supermarket or large grocery store".
  2. How does a family or individual resources affect food accessibility, including household income?
  3. What resources in the neighborhood can affect access, including average income or access to public transport? The Department of Treasury defines a low-income neighborhood as an area where the tract's poverty rate is 20% or greater.
Access to groceries and food stores has also reduced in rural areas. For example in Ohio some of the challenges of accessing healthy foods are;
  1. Physical barriers-the distance from where residents live to the grocery stores is miles away
  2. Economic barriers - the residents have low income thus they are not able to buy fresh foods and vegetables.
  3. Health barriers- most of the people living in the rural areas face nutritional challenges.

 Health Problems Related To Food Accessibility

According to the American nutrition association lack of access to health food contributes to health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Proximity to a supermarket with groceries can make a big difference in what people eat.

Small grocers and corner stores carry an adequate supply of healthy, nutritiously dense foods. However large chain supermarkets have much greater leverage and economies of scale to bring a wider variety of products and at cheaper prices. Access to nutritious food is scarce according to United States Department of Agriculture , economic research service. Further, to improve healthy food access, in the county, for example, focus is on developing larger supermarkets throughout the county. This reduces the distance residents travel to get a supermarket.

In Cleveland, residents travel almost five times further to reach a grocer or a supermarket than a fast-food joint. As a result, low-income and inner-city residents are at risk of diet-related health challenges or malnutrition.

Improving Food Access

Some alternatives for improving food access are;
Three Apples
  • Shifting consumer demands through nutritional education.
  • Encouraging corner stores to carry a mix of healthier foods.
  • Farmers' markets or other local food distribution efforts can be located in food desert areas.
  • More farmer markets to be located in urban neighborhoods.
Access to fresh food is a key mission of the partnership for a healthier America which promotes good nutrition and exercise to reduce obesity.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Economic Impact by Ira Riklis

Major Economic Impact of Black Friday and the main drivers as well as the ways on how they are indicated.


Black Friday is traditionally one of the busiest days, and it's a day after Thanksgiving on which retail stores draw in many shoppers by offering discounts on their sales items. Black Friday economic impact is often intense because of the people's impetus to spend during the holiday season with their lovely family and friends. Interestingly, National Retail Federation (NRF) statistics shows that 30 percent of retailers' annual sales are recorded between Black Friday and Christmas. Additionally, NRF statistics shows that 2.5 percent increase in annual sales during this period over the past ten years. Retail stores, as well as the stock market, records a black.

What Are The Black Friday Economic Impacts?


Retail stores issue discounts in various forms to avail cheaper items to shoppers through various
forms such as cash discount or in-store sales concepts like coupons and other models. Additionally, retail stores can as well make more profits by filtering their customers according to status or preferences such as taste and sell their items at different higher prices to different consumers. For instance, a coupon or discount can be issued according to one's social status or seniority. Also, retail stores get the opportunity to extend their relationship in future with their consumers through warranties, replacement plans or brand affinity with other attractive and quality brands in the store.
Black Friday has major economic impact that includes:
  • Employment increment opportunity: with a higher expectation of receiving more consumers, retail stores employ thousands of seasonal employees to render their service to the expected high number of consumers. It is estimated that over 700,000 seasonal employees are employed during this period.
  • Increased consumer spending: In 2014 alone, the average consumer spending was about $802. Consumers are driven to spend more during this period because of the discounts offered as well as the Christmas spirit that drives them to spend more than any other time of the year.
  • Abnormal sales experienced by retail stores: there is a potential by retail stores to make between 30 to 40 percent of their annual sales on a Black Friday. This is usually an opportunity for the retail stores to make more sales and is an economic period that is often planned earlier by the stores.
  • The upsurge in online sales and relationship for many businesses: most shoppers visit websites for clues and choosing the preferred brand. This is a great opportunity for businesses to improve their online presences for better sales and economic benefits.
  • The upsurge in stock trade: stock markets experience a high number of trading activities on Black Friday. Black Friday is the leading indicator because of the consumers' willingness to spend and that enables investors and stock traders to gain more confidence. A thriving and profitable shopping season drives the investors to invest as well because of the higher sales made by the company and increased impetus by consumers to spend.

Other Probable Role of Black Friday On The Economy


Black Friday acts as an indicator of how stable the economy is. When consumers withhold their spending than other periods, economic experts advise that it indicates the economic state of the nation. Higher spending level indicates a good economy or a potential economic standpoint in the coming period. That is because consumers' willingness to spend instead of saving indicates a stable economy or expected future economic prosperity.

Black Friday is, therefore, an important day not only for retail stores owners and consumers but in economic aspect as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your Health Data Can Be Hacked by Ira Riklis

Advancement in technology used to store health data has led to health data breaches through cybercrimes, connected devices and personal and home devices.

Even in the profoundly privacy-regulated medical care sector, few individuals know how susceptible most of our systems- from connected medical devices to Electronic Health Records (EHR)- are to cyber hacks. With the current headlines on Washington Post highlighting how hackers can benefit here.
A you have been hacked warning sign
greatly by breaching your heath data, read the report

Most medical organizations don't perceive themselves as targets for complex cyber attacks. Sadly, this is not the plain truth. It shouldn't be perplexing that larceny of patient information is on the rise since this data is greatly more valuable. Financial services firms have become very vigilant at fighting credit card theft, especially by promptly recognizing and revoking compromised credit cards. However, medical data contains birth dates, social security numbers, as well as physical descriptions, but steps towards protecting this information are lacking.

 

Causes Of Health Data Breach


Certainly, a contributing aspect to the augmenting rate of healthcare breaches is the technological advancements of the health record. Even though there are many clinical benefits of shifting from paper record systems, it has caused patient breaches to a big extent. The pursuit of rolling out EHRs has not constantly been coupled with adequate investment in the protection infrastructure to enhance this milieu, leaving some medical systems unduly at risk.

The anthem hack, just like other top-profile breaches we have heard about in past years- is not a denunciation of any specific organization or yet technological resolution. Hackers plus their tools are becoming increasingly refined while most of our systems, in medical care and somewhere else simply aren't vigilant.

 

To What Extent Are You Exposed?

 

As healthcare providers rethink their safety strategies against advanced threats, they have to consider three major methods that hackers can apply in hacking your health data.
  • Conventional cyber attacks- Trojans, phishing schemes, ransomware, and malware are some types of cybercrimes that occur to all parties, although some are riskier than others. There are minimal built-in protection and essential security mindset in the healthcare industry compared to other industries, therefore, more vulnerable to cybercrimes. Malicious software that is deployed via spam, targeted attacks, infected mobile devices, compromised websites or others, expose sensitive data and create costly IT headaches.
  • Connected devices- nowadays, all from heart monitors to IV pumps can be networked and virtually interfaced with EMR systems, offering concurrent alerts to healthcare institutions. This is a noble thing given operational efficiency and patient care, but a possible nightmare
    Person going under a CT Scan
    from a security standpoint. Several diagnostic machines such as MRI machines and CT Scanners were designed without security in mind. They use outdated Microsoft Windows while other devices basically use software meant to collect but not protect data. Needless to say these devices are easy to hack and, once one of it is hacked and infringed, it can offer hackers with free access to extra clinical data systems.
  • Personal and home medical devices- If you have health devices and apps, those apps and medical devices in your home are collecting and transferring personal health information increasingly. They often link directly with clinical data systems and EHRs, escalating risks in case those systems are attacked. Whether it is a home glucose monitor or that iPhone app, it can be an attack platform.

Bottom Line


Your health data can be hacked since medical data lies in several devices, medical practices, systems in hospitals, insurance companies or even your HR databases. Today, IT is not an add-on service for the medical care sector; it has become key to efficient, successful care of you. Reuters reports that healthcare providers and even medical insurers should invest in updated, developed protection, wireless access and application security, and high-speed firewalls to safeguard people's medical data.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chipotle Shares Affected By E. Coli Outbreak by Ira Riklis

Ira Riklis looks at the health outbreaks like the E. Coli outbreak that has caused the restaurant chain to close some restaurants causing its shares to drop.

Chipotle is a Mexican grill restaurant that specializes in Burritos and Tacos. It has branches all over
Chipotle Mexican Grill Sign
the United States of America, Canada Germany and the United Kingdom. It has been operating for a little over two decades now. In the recently however, you might have read about outbreaks that have threatened the continued operations of these restaurant chains.

Health Scares Under Investigations


In September 2015, there was an outbreak of Salmonella in Minnesota. The outbreak was linked to victims who had had a meal at some of the Chipotle restaurants that are in Minnesota. According to reports, there were at least 45 people who had fallen ill after they had consumed some food from the Chipotle food outlet. Further investigations revealed that 32 out of 34 of those who fell sick had eaten at Chipotles in Rochester or St. Cloud.

 Investigators with the Minnesota Health Department believed strongly that the source of the outbreak could have been in one of the products that were used to prepare meals at Chipotle. That was later confirmed when they found out that the tomatoes that were served at the restaurants were responsible for the outbreak.

Recent E. Coli Outbreaks
E-Coli


For the third time this year, Chipotle is on the receiving end of criticism after an E. Coli outbreak that has been linked to them again. Several news outlets have reported that some of the Chipotle Restaurants in Washington and Oregon were shut down pending investigations as to the cause of the E. Coli outbreak in these restaurants. The number of those who have fallen ill due to the E. Coli in Western Washington was at 19 with about 7 of those having been hospitalized in the past few days. The number is expected to rise even further according to health officials in these regions.

 Investigations are still going on, and everyone who has the symptoms of E. Coli is being urged to go to the health officials to get tested. That is going to help in gathering more clues as to what might be causing this outbreak. If you know someone who has some of the following symptoms severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, vomiting and slight fever if present at all, you better advise them to visit the nearest hospital to get tested for the E. Coli bacteria.

Shares Facing A Downward Spiral


As you can expect from such a scenario, the shares of this franchise have fallen following the outbreaks and the subsequent closure of some of the branches.

To put it into perspective, here are some figures; from a recent week, Chipotle dropped by 2.5% to close at $624 which meant that they have lost about half a billion dollars of their market value. And before that, they had dropped by 6.5% throughout the year. This is a blow that is bound to make even the mightiest of corporations to shutter a little bit.

This Mexican food restaurant is experiencing slow growth at the moment, and the company spokesperson has been reported saying that the turnover in the recent past has been "choppy". Now with about 47 of their restaurants closed until further notice, you can only imagine what is going to happen to the shares if the situation persists for long.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What are medical homes and are they useful? By Ira Riklis

 Ira Riklis gives insight to the importance of medical homes and what they stand for. Also he includes a list of characteristics that were given by the AAP.

A Medical home also known as the patient-centered medical home (PCMH), is a team-based health care delivery model led by a health care provider that is intended to provide comprehensive and continuous medical care to patients with the goal of obtaining maximized health outcomes. The medical home concept first introduced itself in 1967 by the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In the original version, the AAP defined the medical home as the center of a child's medical records. At the time the care of children with special medical needs was the main focus and concept of the home. Over time, however, the meaning of a medical home has changed to reflect the ever changing needs and perspectives of health care.

Modern Medical Home

The modern medical home has expanded on its original foundation, becoming not only a home base
for a child's medical care, but also non-medical care. The modern medical home's focus has also shifted to include not just children with special medical needs, but also to adults. Today's home is a partnership between family, patient, and primary provider. Cooperation from specialist and the community is also a major feat. The patient and family is the focal point of this model, and the medical home is built around this center.

In 2002, the AAP stated an explanation of what the home's characteristics were. These characteristics or guidelines stress that care under the medical home must be accessible, family-centered, continuous, comprehensive, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective. In 2007, the AAP joined with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Physicians (ACP), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) to form the Joint Principles of the Patient Centered Medical Home. Under the collaborative effort, the characteristics of the medical home have been defined within seven major principles.

1. Personal Physician:

  • Each patient has an ongoing relationship with a personal physician who has been trained to provide first contact, continuous and comprehensive care.

2. Whole person orientation:

  • The personal physician is responsible for providing for all the patient's needs or taking responsibility for arranging care with other qualified professionals. This can include care for all stages of life from acute care to chronic care, to preventive services and even the end of life care.

3. Care is coordinated and integrated:

  • Across all spectrum of the complex health care system and patients community, care is facilitated by registries, information technology, health information exchange, and other means to assure that the patient gets the exact care when and where they need and want it in an appropriate manner.

4. Quality and Safety:

  • Evidence-based medicine and clinical decision-support tools guide decision making.
  • Physicians accept accountability for continuous quality improvement through voluntary involvement in performance measures and improvement.
  • Patients participate in giving feedback to help improve quality of the medical home and to reassure that all of their needs are being met.
  • Information technology is utilized appropriately to support optimal patient care, performance measurement, patient education, and enhanced communication.
  • Practices go through a voluntary recognition process by a non-governmental representative to demonstrate that they have the ability to provide patient centered services with the specific medical home model.
  • Patients and families participate in improvement activities at the practice level

5. Enhanced care access:

  • Available through systems that allow open scheduling, extended or extra hours, and new
    options for communication between patients, their person physician or specialists, and practice staff.

7. Payment:

Appropriately recognizing the value provided to patients who have a patient-centered medical home, the payment structure should be based on the following framework:
  • A reflection of the physician and the non-physician staff work that falls outside of the face-to-face visit.
  • It should pay for services in coordination of care within a given practice and between consultants, ancillary providers, and community resources.
  • Support for adoption and use of health information technology for improvement.
  • Support for provision of enhanced communication access such as secure email and over the phone consultation.
  • Recognizes the value of physician work associated with remote monitoring of clinical data using technology.
  • It should allow for separate fee-for-service payments for face-to-face visits.
  • It should recognize differences in the patient population being treated within the practice.
  • Allow physicians to share in savings from reduced hospitalizations associated with physician-guided care management.
  • Allow for additional payments for achieving continuous quality improvements.
A medical home is an important mechanism for unifying the many segments of health care. Not only is it important for children with special needs but also adults. Medical homes are crucial for many people and without them a great amount of people could and would go untreated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

VW Scandal Affecting Employment by Ira Riklis

Customers are not the only people affected by the VW scandal as employees fear for their jobs and the company issues a hiring freeze. Read more of this issue below.

The Fallout

The fallout from the VW scandal continues as the effects are being felt in production plants all over the world. According to USA Today, VW finally surpassed Toyota as the number one auto maker in the world by volume in July 2015. But, by the middle of September, VW had started a tumble from the top that is taking its employees along for the ride. The company faces a scandal that a recall of millions of vehicles may not help resolve, and now it is also starting to make cuts in the personnel department that are affecting employees all over the world.

Hiring Freezes And Shift Reductions


It was recently reported by NBC News that the VW engine plant in Salzgitter, Germany has eliminated what it referred to as a "special shift" that was supposedly put together to meet high demand. In the wake of VW's record-setting pace of production leading up to its unseating of Toyota as the top car maker in the world, it is understandable that the company would add shifts to meet demand.

While it makes sense that any shifts created because of the increase in demand would be eliminated in the wake of the scandal, what is telling is the fact that VW has frozen all hiring until the end of the  year. The company is apparently bracing for a scandal that could include fines of $18 billion in the United States alone.

New CEO To Attack New Problems


In the wake of the scandal, VW has seen some immediate changes such as:
  • The sudden resignation of long-time CEO Martin Winterkorn
  • The ascension of former Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller
  • The news that nearly three million cars in Germany alone could be affected
  • An order from the European Union that all VW vehicles be checked for issues
New CEO Matthias Mueller takes on a company that is hearing negative comments from customers, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and even its own German government.

Will Jobs At Dealerships Be Affected?


As employees working at the German VW production facilities wonder if they will lose their jobs as the company restructures its workforce to accommodate the scandal, some industry observers are wondering how long it will take for dealerships to start laying off technicians and sales people due to the scandal.

According to the IB Times, this sort of scandal may not affect American dealership employment at all. The German diesel market is not as prominent in the United States as it is in other countries, which means that few dealerships will feel a financial pinch due to a drop in VW diesel sales.
However, the Telegraph points out that countries such as India and South Africa have opened up their own investigations into the VW scandal, and German diesel vehicles are very popular in those countries. Dealership employment in those countries could see a significant drop as the scandal continues.

The Future Of VW Employment


This scandal will have long-reaching effects that could cause more jobs to be lost in the future. CNN reports that VW has lost nearly 33 percent of its market share in the short time since the company admitted to fraud earlier in the summer. While the company has not announced any plans for further layoffs at this point, it has said that there could be personnel restructuring plans put into effect at some point.

With VW not giving many details about the future of its employees, it is difficult to speculate on what will happen. But with the company's market share dwindling and its reputation on the rocks, VW employees could be in for a very rough ride.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Has Holiday Shopping Started Already? by Ira Riklis

This article clearly explains how to start shopping for the holidays and the means you have to use for the shopping.

Has Holiday Shopping Started?

Have you started shopping for the holidays? Does that feature anywhere near your to-do list? You may think that it's too early to start shopping for the holidays but there are those who decided to get it done and over with much earlier.

Creditcard.com conducted a scientific poll of 1,004 U.S adults and found out that 14 percent of consumers, which is approximately 32 million adults, have their holiday shopping already underway. More surprisingly is that there were early birds who formed about 4.6 million American shoppers who are already done with their shopping. This is about 2 percent of the consumers. Most of these early birds are parents with children and they form the greater majority of this group in comparison to those parents without kids.

From the same survey, they found out that 15 percent of consumers would prefer to start their
shopping earlier and cross a few things off their to-do list. Just 4 percent preferred to start their shopping later. Those who preferred earlier shopping were millennials. Those between the age of 18 and 29 who preferred to start earlier formed about 22 percent of the consumers and only 5 percent of those who are 50 years and older would join the bandwagon of early shoppers.

A huge number, 55 percent of holiday shoppers, are not thinking of shopping anytime soon and would probably be still buying gifts in December. They did not want holiday shopping anywhere near their summer period.

Reasons To Shop Early

Here is what would most likely prompt you to be among those who start their shopping earlier,
  • Shop at your own pace
  • Saving time and money.
  • Advertisements
  • Budgets
Shop At Your Own Pace

Whenever you do anything in a rush, you're most likely to forget a thing to two. This is why you may want to start your shopping much earlier and get everything you need. It's therefore no wonder that those of 65 years and older would normally have more gifts in comparison to their kids since they have more leisure time which is utilized in buying gifts earlier.

Saving Time And Money

Unlike last minute shoppers who may not have the time to compare prices between different stores, as an early shopper you have this privilege. This was pointed out by the CEO of Financial Psychology Corp, Kathleen Gurney.

Those who want to save time and money are most likely the early shoppers. The poll found out that white respondents nearly doubled nonwhite respondents as they were 16 percent of the shoppers in comparison to 9 percent.

Advertisements

Early adverts could have prompted some of those who went for early shopping. The poll by Creditcard.com shows that 23 percent of consumers will have finished their shopping by end of November and it could have been prompted by those early adverts. Centro Inc. found out that retail promotions had a trend of starting two weeks earlier over the last 5 years and would come to an end by Thanksgiving.

The communications manager for GreenPath Debt Solution, Andrew Johnson said that Black Friday or Cyber Monday was being held two weeks earlier, and sometimes months, before the holidays.

Better Budget

By spreading out your cost over several months is bound to have less of a pinch in your wallet. You can therefore manage to buy gifts for everyone without feeling the financial burden of shopping all at once.
This has therefore prompted, 22 percent, those between 18 and 29 to stop procrastinating and shop earlier.
The wealthy who have an annual income of $50,000 and above are not stressed about their budgets or shopping earlier this year because they have wider options. They also don't have to compare prices.

Medium Of Shopping

Creditcard.com showed that majority of shoppers, 60 percent, would be shopping in person while in the retail stores followed a close second, 23 percent, by online buyers who purchase through their laptops and only 7 percent shopping through mobile devices and tablets.
2 percent still rely on catalogs from the mail box and 7 percent either didn't know or refused to participate in the poll.