Health Highlights: June 21, 2007

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Many Parents Can't Leave Work to Care for Sick Child

Greater access to federal and employer-provided job leave can help working American parents better care for chronically ill children, says a RAND Corporation study in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers surveyed 574 full-time parents of chronically ill children in order to examine the availability of paid and unpaid work leaves, how often parents missed work to care for ill children, and the length of time the parents were away from work. The survey was conducted between November 2003 and January 2004.

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Less than half the parents qualified for benefits under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for ill family members without the risk of being fired.

The study also found:

  • Only 30 percent of parents reported having employer-provided leave that could be used to care for ill family members, and only 15 percent said they had access to paid leave.
  • Most of the parents reported missing some work in the past year to care for their ill children. Of those, 40 percent said they returned to work before their child's health improved. Of that group, 60 percent said they returned to work because they needed the pay.
  • Nearly half the parents said that at least once in the previous year they could not take time off work even though their children needed them. Of those, 70 percent said they would have taken time off work if they would have received at least some pay during the time off.
  • Parents were more likely to miss work to care for their children if they were aware of their eligibility for Family and Medical Leave benefits; had access to employer-provided leave; or had access to paid leave.

Among the study authors' recommendations:

  • Evaluate the potential impact of expanding eligibility for the Family and Medical Leave Act and educate more employees about these benefits.
  • Examine the likely effects on families and businesses when access to employer-provided or government-provided leave benefits is increased.

RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

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FDA Approves 'Computerized Medication Box'

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a programmable medication box that stores and dispenses prescription drugs for patients in their homes.

The Electronic Medication Management Assistant (EMMA), which is designed to be used under the supervision of a licensed health care provider, can reduce drug dosing and identification errors and help health care professionals monitor whether patients are adhering to medication regimens, said manufacturer INRange Systems of Altoona, Pa.

The company said EMMA may prove especially useful for older patients and for others, such as HIV/AIDS patients, with complex medication regimens.

EMMA includes a medication storage/delivery unit that's about the size of a bread box. Two-way communication software enables health care professionals to remotely schedule or adjust medication use. The unit emits an audible alert when it's time for a patient to take medications.

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