Wed07302014

News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Books untangle complex health-care questions

As the election looms, the debate over health care rages on. Questions about our right to health care, access, costs, fairness and quality fuel the fire.

The United States may be the world leader in health technology, but we also spend more on health care per capita ($7,146), and more on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product (15.2 percent), than any other nation (World Health Organization, 2008).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. also trails other wealthy nations in important measures, including infant mortality and life expectancy. And as many as 50 million Americans are without any kind of health insurance.

Health-care reform is clearly a controversial and highly complex subject. Opinions about how to fix our problems are not in short supply, but real solutions are hard to find. It behooves us to learn as much as we can about the topic, not only before we cast our votes in November, but also to know how best to advocate for the health of our families and ourselves.

Three provocative books that attempt to explain health-care system woes have similar names and premises: “Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health” (Beacon Press, 2011); “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer” (Bloomsbury, 2007); and “Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America” (University of North Carolina Press, 2012).

“Overdiagnosed” protests the current system’s focus on disease rather than health. Author H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., a professor of medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, believes that our ability to detect abnormalities has become almost too good, that there are too many tests on people who have no symptoms, leading to too much treatment. People used to go to the doctor only when they were sick. Now we go for annual checkups, even when we are healthy. We just want to be sure that nothing is wrong.

Arguments can be made that early screening can prevent or aid control of many conditions, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension, and that advances in technology have saved many lives. Welch, however, believes that overdiagnosis is the “biggest problem caused by modern medicine,” adding “staggering costs to our already overburdened health care system.”

Whether you agree with the premise of this book or not, Welch provides a thought-provoking case, worthy of a reader’s consideration. He is able to make complex scientific concepts understandable and weaves them into well-told patient stories. Readers will learn how to make their own risk-benefit decisions to determine just how much health care is right for them.

“Overtreated” attempts to explain, from an economic viewpoint, how and why American medicine is out of control. Author Shannon Brownlee offers a simple premise: the health-care system in this country delivers a lot of care that we don’t need. In fact, she asserts that as much as one-third of the care people receive may actually be unnecessary.

Brownlee blames backward economic incentives in what she calls the “medical-industrial complex.” More spending, drugs and technology do not equal better care, according to Brownlee. Nor does increasing specialization, where it has become commonplace for a patient to have a number of physicians, none of whom talk to each other.

Brownlee, an economist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, makes an argument for coordination of care among providers and for patients to advocate for themselves. As a culture, we have come to believe that we deserve, even need, more health care. Brownlee makes a convincing argument for careful, considerate, but limited care, with decisions based on knowledge and understanding of personal values.

In “Worried Sick,” author Nortin M. Hadler, M.D., presents a carefully reasoned case to help health-care providers assess the value and benefit of potential therapies to better treat their patients. He also calls for consumers to learn more about their own health so that they can differentiate between evidence and hype to make better decisions about their care.

Hadler clearly believes that there are many important medical developments, including diagnostic tests, drugs, surgeries and more, that can improve the quality of life and extend longevity for many people. He advocates judicious use of such services, believing that not everyone needs to become a patient.

Many of us are conditioned to view every unusual symptom we experience as a harbinger of an insidious disease. Hadler, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, urges readers to relax and worry less about the disease lurking around the corner. His solution to health care is not in more care, but in better, more considered care for those who are truly sick and suffering.

All three books are available at Stanford Health Library, along with others that examine American health care and health-care reform.

Research help is free at Stanford Health Library. Phone, email or visit one of the library’s branches for evidence-based answers to health-related questions. Admission to the library, for 23 years a community service of Stanford Hospital, is free and open to the public.

The library is open in four locations: Stanford Shopping Center near Bloomingdale’s; the Stanford Cancer Center; Stanford Hospital (third-floor lobby); and the Ravenswood Family Health Center, 1807 Bay Road in East Palo Alto.

Nancy Dickenson is head librarian at Stanford Health Library. For more information, call 725-8400 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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