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Best Buy is buying a health tech company that caters to the elderly and analysts are gushing

Best Buy Co Inc. shares rose Thursday as analysts cheered the news of its acquisition of San Diego-based GreatCall, a health technology company that focuses on the elderly.

The electronics retailer

BBY, +2.04%

 said late Wednesday it is paying $800 million in cash to acquire the company, which provides connected health and emergency response services to more than 900,000 paying subscribers. GreatCall offers mobile products and wearables that connect users to agents who can hook them up with family caregivers or send emergency medical help.

“The health space is a large, growing market where technology can help in particular address the needs of aging consumers, their caregivers, payers and providers,” Best Buy said in a release.

“It gives Best Buy a relevant service, driven by technology, that it can offer to consumers. In our view, it also helps counterbalance the pressure on both sales growth and margins of electronics products.”

Neil Saunders, managing director, GlobalData Retail

Analysts said the move was smart, given the challenges facing the retail sector as it grapples with competition from Inc.

AMZN, -0.23%

 and changing tastes and shopping habits.

“When you consider that Best Buy is facing the same big box obsolescence threat that many others have lost to Amazon, it’s interesting to see Best Buy shifting their strategy from pure retail, to services and devices,” said Danny Silverman, chief marketing officer at Clavis Insight, an e-commerce analytics company.

See: Best Buy’s online sales have slowed, but should that cause concern?

Best Buy said the deal is part of its Best Buy 2020 strategy that aims to help customers use technology to address key human needs. That are about 50 million Americans today who are older than 65 and the number is expected to grow by more than 50% in the next 20 years amid a demographic shift. That group is widely viewed as underserved by the technology giants.

Also in retail: Walmart stock surge drives up retailers, negates J.C. Penney’s largest-ever plunge

GreatCall has annual revenue of more than $300 million and was owned by private-equity firm GTCR LLC. The deal is expected to close in Best Buy’s fiscal 2019 third quarter and to boost earnings by fiscal 2021.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the deal is a “logical evolution.”

“It gives Best Buy a relevant service, driven by technology, that it can offer to consumers. In our view, it also helps counterbalance the pressure on both sales growth and margins of electronics products,” he said.

See now: Best Buy to shut all of its mobile-phone stores

The focus on health services aimed at the elderly puts Best Buy “squarely into a market with high demand and strong growth. Moreover, we see this as a good fit as Best Buy is a known and trusted brand name among older shoppers. This should enable the company to grow the GreatCall service.”

The aging baby boomer generation is creating new opportunities across the health care sector to address their needs at a scale that was not previously required, said Silverman.

The deal comes at a time when other companies are attempting to enter and shake up the health care space, which continues to be bogged down by high costs and inefficiencies. It comes after Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack as a way to enter the online pharmacy space. It also comes after the health care partnership announced by JP Morgan Chase Co.

JPM, +0.00%

, Amazon and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway

BRK.B, +0.28%

 earlier this year.

Read now: Here’s what we actually know about the Amazon, Berkshire and J.P. Morgan health initiative (hint: very little)

Also: U.S. health care is changing in a big way. The CVS-Aetna deal shows how

“They are chasing other retailers, such as CVS

CVS, +0.66%

who saw this trend years ago when they acquired PBM Caremark in 2007,” said Silverman.

Don’t miss: Why big media companies are branching into health care

Raymond James analysts said the deal is “a great strategic fit” for Best Buy.

“Potential synergies from the acquisition could be driven by combining GreatCall’s know-how and customer base along with Best Buy’s industry-leading go-to-market adverting, supply chain, and service capabilities, in order to generate leverage off economies of scale,” they wrote in a note.

The assured living market is estimated to be worth about $28 billion and is growing at a roughly 20% pace annually, they wrote.

Raymond James rates Best Buy a strong buy.

Shares were up 0.7% in midmorning trade and have gained 12% in 2018. The SPDR SP Retail ETF

XRT, +1.15%

 has gained 12% in 2018, while the SP 500

SPX, +0.33%

 has gained 6.4% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.43%

 has climbed 3.2%.

Ciara Linnane is MarketWatch’s investing- and corporate-news editor. She is based in New York.

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Taking Mental Health Seriously Is How the Best Business Leaders Protect Their Teams

I live with general anxiety disorder.

Two years ago, I wrote publicly about my struggle with this disorder for the first time. Some of the reactions were tough to swallow. People reached out to me to say, “I thought you had it together.” I was offended because I do have it together, probably better than those people who don’t have to fight against this problem every day. All of the success I’ve earned in my life — starting Alley, speaking on national stages and television shows, building community and entrepreneurship initiatives — happened despite my anxiety disorder.

I’m not the only one. After the article was published, I also received thousands of emails from seasoned entrepreneurs who had built several companies telling me that what I shared resonated with them. They knew the struggle too. Those entrepreneurs and I are living proof that success and mental illness are not mutually exclusive. You have to work a little harder than most to get to your goals, but it’s possible.

Related: Mental Illness May Plague Enterpreneurs More Than Other People. Here’s Why (and How to Get Help).

Accomplishing those goals isn’t the end of the battle, though. This past June, just three days apart, designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain both lost their lives to suicide. Many people were shocked. These were two successful individuals living seemingly great lives, and yet depression pushed them to their limits.

Here’s the thing about mental illness: it doesn’t discriminate. No matter how glamorous someone’s life appears from the outside, there’s no way to know what they’re dealing with behind closed doors. As CEOs, that’s a reality we can’t ignore. Not just for ourselves, but for our staff. One in five Americans are living with mental illness – that’s 20 percent. There’s no doubt that some of your employees are a part of that statistic. This is real, and we need to talk about it.

I believe that mental health awareness and education should be mandatory in any workplace. Good business leaders are the ones who hire the best talent and give them the support they need to be great, and part of that support has to include their mental health. As leaders, we need to take the time to be empathetic to what our employees are going through, on and off the job, and be prepared to help them be their greatest in spite of those challenges. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to build that kind of support system for my team at Alley. Here are four things you can do to get that ball rolling in your company.

1. Make transparency the norm.

You cannot develop awareness around mental health in the workplace and implement effective policies and procedures to address it if your staff is afraid to raise the conversation. So, build your company to be transparent. Create a culture that allows the subject of mental health to be shared and not buried. Hold focus sessions, and open the dialogue with your team. You have to foster an environment that encourages your employees to speak freely if they are struggling and to trust that they won’t be punished for it.

Related: Maintaining A Healthy Mind and Body Is Key to Finding Balance As An Entrepreneur

2. Really have your employees’ backs.

With mental health issues so common, it’s not a matter of if your employees will ever need support, it’s a matter of when. Your team needs to know that when they open up about their mental health, you will have their backs. So, once the conversation has been started, listen, understand what they’re going through, learn what they need, and reverse engineer how you can help them when the time comes. If people need time off, create an open policy on requesting leave. If they need doctors or therapy, ensure that your health plan is designed to help them access those resources. If they’re looking for work-life balance, hold events and get-togethers that are fun and supportive. Put the processes and policies in place to support your employees when they need it most.

3. Don’t let your office be a trigger.

Employees spend anywhere from a quarter to a third of their lives at work. That time shouldn’t have to feel like torture. Some jobs are stressful, and that can’t be avoided, but that does not mean that the work environment has to be challenging too. Create the kind of workplace where your employees will actually like coming into the office. Of course, cool perks like events and get-togethers and free stuff are great, but it’s also as simple as being nice. It matters so much when you’re kind to people, so make that a part of your company culture on every level.

Related: Do Wellness Programs Make Employees More Productive? The Obvious Answer Is Yes.

4. Don’t feel like you have to do it all yourself.

Because I suffer from mental illness, I am naturally more empathetic to the mental health needs of my staff. But that doesn’t mean I’m equipped to address them all. At Alley, we’ve established partnerships with other brands and companies for resources like meditation facilities and yoga instruction that our staff can take advantage of. If you’re looking for ways to support your staff in their mental wellness, reach out to other businesses in your network for tools, spaces and resources your staff could benefit from.

In business, a good staff can be your best asset. Your company runs because they commit their time and energy to it. So, give them back something more than a paycheck. Get to know your employees beyond their job descriptions, prioritize their mental well-being, and create a system of support they can count on when they need it.

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Why stress causes people to overeat

Stress eating can ruin your weight loss goals – the key is to find ways to relieve stress without overeating


There is much truth behind the phrase “stress eating.” Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. Researchers have linked weight gain to stress, and according to an American Psychological Association survey, about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.

In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. The nervous system sends messages to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys to pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine helps trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, a revved-up physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold.

But if stress persists, it’s a different story. The adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay elevated.

Stress eating, hormones and hunger

Stress also seems to affect food preferences. Numerous studies — granted, many of them in animals — have shown that physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. High cortisol levels, in combination with high insulin levels, may be responsible. Other research suggests that ghrelin, a “hunger hormone,” may have a role.

Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that dampens stress related responses and emotions. These foods really are “comfort” foods in that they seem to counteract stress — and this may contribute to people’s stress-induced craving for those foods.

Of course, overeating isn’t the only stress-related behavior that can add pounds. Stressed people also lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to excess weight.

Why do people stress eat?

Some research suggests a gender difference in stress-coping behavior, with women being more likely to turn to food and men to alcohol or smoking. And a Finnish study that included over 5,000 men and women showed that obesity was associated with stress-related eating in women but not in men.

Harvard researchers have reported that stress from work and other sorts of problems correlates with weight gain, but only in those who were overweight at the beginning of the study period. One theory is that overweight people have elevated insulin levels, and stress-related weight gain is more likely to occur in the presence of high insulin.

How much cortisol people produce in response to stress may also factor into the stress–weight gain equation. In 2007, British researchers designed an ingenious study that showed that people who responded to stress with high cortisol levels in an experimental setting were more likely to snack in response to daily hassles in their regular lives than low-cortisol responders.

How to relieve stress without overeating

When stress affects someone’s appetite and waistline, the individual can forestall further weight gain by ridding the refrigerator and cupboards of high-fat, sugary foods. Keeping those “comfort foods” handy is just inviting trouble.

Here are some other suggestions for countering stress:

Meditation. Countless studies show that meditation reduces stress, although much of the research has focused on high blood pressure and heart disease. Meditation may also help people become more mindful of food choices. With practice, a person may be able to pay better attention to the impulse to grab a fat- and sugar-loaded comfort food and inhibit the impulse.

Exercise. While cortisol levels vary depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, overall exercise can blunt some of the negative effects of stress. Some activities, such as yoga and tai chi, have elements of both exercise and meditation.

Social support. Friends, family, and other sources of social support seem to have a buffering effect on the stress that people experience. For example, research suggests that people working in stressful situations, like hospital emergency departments, have better mental health if they have adequate social support. But even people who live and work in situations where the stakes aren’t as high need help from time to time from friends and family.

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Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis

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Alex Jones’ Top 10 Health Claims And Why They Are Wrong

Picture showing a computer screen displaying the Twitter account of Alex Jones. Jones, who has been called a Far-right conspiracy theorist, said his Twitter account had been suspended for a week, the latest online platform to take action against the activist. Twitter suspended the personal account of Jones, who operates the Infowars website.  (Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Now that Alex Jones has been booted off major social media platforms, are you wondering where you are going to get your health and science news ? Well, if he and his website have been your main sources, then you may want to rethink your drink, so to speak.

Because, to my knowledge, Jones has no real training or experience as a health professional or scientist. That certainly has not prevented Jones and his platforms from advancing a variety of science and health-related conspiracy theories. It also has not prevented him from selling a variety of “health” products and becoming a “QVC for conspiracy” as John Oliver describes here:

However, real health and science knowledge aren’t just like saliva. Your mouth can’t simply produce and spit it. You have to learn from others who do real science first and then immerse yourself in the appropriate fields long enough to begin to understand the complexities.

Spreading incorrect scientific information certainly wasn’t the stated reason that Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify recently banned Jones’ material from their platforms and Twitter suspended his account for 7 days. Otherwise, you’d see a lot of more people’s websites, videos, and articles being pulled because the Internet is a toilet bowl of false health claims. No, the social media giants’ expressed rationale was that he was violating their policies against inciting violence and hate speech.

Nevertheless, Jones does seem to have a sizable following, which means that a number of people may have been listening to what he has said about science and health. For example, his YouTube channel has had over 2.4 million subscribers. Therefore, it may be helpful to review some of the most outrageous health-related claims that he had made. 

Coming up with a Top 10 list was not easy, because it involved sifting through a smorgasbord of Jones’ yelling, gesticulating, and grunting like someone was putting a blender to his privates, dressing as the Joker, wearing a lizard head mask, and advancing all kinds of theories. But here they are:

10. The government is employing weather weapons

Have you ever seen the character Storm, played by Halle Berry on the X-Men movies, who can manipulate the weather? Well, apparently, according to Jones’ InfoWars, the government may be a bit like Halle Berry. Infowars didn’t actually say that the government is Halle Berry but it did say that the government and the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) have been using electromagnetic waves to manipulate the weather and generate weather phenomena like Hurricane Sandy. Why on Earth would the government create a devastating hurricane? As the theory goes, they wanted to kill people and test out the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) concentration camps, because why wouldn’t an underfunded and understaffed federal relief organization be secretly organizing concentration camps. 

Why this claim is ridiculous: The government is not Halle Berry. The weather is not like a ceiling fan. The weather is extremely complex and difficult to control. Science has not yet advanced to the degree that creating a real hurricane that is too much larger than your toilet is possible. If the government could somehow control the weather, wouldn’t you think that Washington, DC, would have nicer weather year round?  

On a side note, Jones’ Infowars online store sells lots of “outdoor survival gear,” “survival accessories”, and “emergency survival foods.” Hmmm.

9. The government is using chemicals to turn people and frogs gay.

What do frogs and people have in common besides occasionally wearing top hats? As Jones has claimed, both are supposedly the victims of so-called “estrogen mimickers” being placed in juice boxes, water bottles, and tap water to “feminize” people. Writing for Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald quoted Jones as saying, “The reason there are so many gay people now is because it’s a chemical warfare operation. I have the government documents where they said they’re going to encourage homosexuality with chemicals so people don’t have children.” Jones has described tap water as a “gay bomb” and has said “I don’t like ‘em putting chemicals in the water that TURN THE FREAKIN’ FROGS GAY! Do you understand that? I’m sick of being social engineered, it’s not funny!”

Why this claim is ridiculous: Indeed, socially engineering Jones would not be funny and probably would not be the best use of limited government resources. I don’t know what government documents Jones is referring to, but drinking lots of tap or bottled water may make you pee but it will not “turn you gay.” Not that there is anything wrong with that.

And why exactly did Jones mention “gay frogs”? Perhaps Jones was referring to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, which suggested that exposure to atrazine, a widely used pesticide, may cause gender-switching among frogs. But then he would be misinterpreting the results of that study. Gender switching is not the same as sexual preference. Exposing frogs to atrazine is not the same as giving them drinking water. And frogs usually don’t drink juice boxes.

Oh, and by the way, Jones’ Infowars site is selling water filtration devices.

8. The fluoride in drinking water is making people dumb.

Jones has stated, “I grew up in Dallas, Texas, drinking sodium fluoridated water. All the scientific studies show my IQ has been reduced by at least 20 points.”

Why this claim is ridiculous: OK, if you enter “Alex Jones” and “IQ” into a PubMed search you get the following: ”Search results, Items: 0.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that Jones’ IQ is zero but it does suggest that no scientific studies have been done specifically on his IQ. Furthermore, in a Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summarized numerous studies that have shown the benefits (preventing cavities) and safety of putting fluoride in community drinking water. This still leaves open the possibility that Jones’ IQ has gone down by 20 points but there’s no real evidence that fluoride is the culprit.

Did I mention that Jones sells water filtration devices?

7. The life-ruining Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine is being pushed on young women around the world.  

Jones’ Infowars site claims that the HPV vaccine has been causing paralysis and seizures among little girls all around the world. The site doesn’t offer specific numbers or scientific studies but presents a story of a 12-year-old girl, whose family claims that “she has suffered an alleged reaction to the controversial HPV vaccine.”

Why this claim is ridiculous: Anecdotes are not scientific studies. And why exactly would public health officials and the medical community knowingly push“life-ruining” vaccine? As I have written previously for Forbes, the HPV vaccine has real benefits, such as preventing cervical cancer which can result from HPV infection. Of course, nothing is 100% safe. As the CDC reports, HPV vaccination can have side effects, but most are relatively mild and temporary such pain, redness, or swelling in the injection area, fever, headache, nausea, or muscle pain. Only 6% of all reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) following administration of the HPV vaccine were considered “serious.” 

Moreover, without the HPV vaccine, what specifically is going to prevent HPV infections? The supplements that Jones’ Infowars is selling?

6. Bill Gates’ philanthropic work is part of a mass eugenics effort.

Jones has called billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Gates a “modern-day Stalin,” blasting his “continued efforts to sterilize and destroy the third world through vaccinations and his attempts to cull the world population.” As Eric Killelea wrote for Rolling Stone, Jones has claimed that the company IBM, with Gates as just a “front”, is actually a eugenics trust that has “the expressed mission of creating a world-wide race-based system and funded Adolf Hitler.” Wow, wonder what that news would do to IBM’s stock price. Eugenics is pronounced like “you” and “genics” and is the controlled selective breeding of the human population.  

Why this claim is ridiculous: So Jones is attacking a billionaire who is actually encouraging and supporting real science and has been using his wealth and platform for good. Meanwhile, Jones calls nerds ”one of the most dangerous groups in this country” and uses his platform to wear tin foil on his head and sell nutriceuticals. Many real scientists whom I know have received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct independent research. To date, I have not yet met a real scientist who has received an Infowars grant. Where exactly is the evidence that vaccination programs are being used to sterilize people and are part of a eugenics program? If Gates were indeed trying to run a eugenics program, why would his Foundation be trying to prevent and control infectious diseases rather than letting them run amok?  

Incidentally, Infowars is selling a LifeStraw that supposedly can remove bacteria and protozoa.

5. The government created the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) epidemic. 

An article on the Infowars site claims that HIV was manufactured by the government to target gay men for a eugenics experiment.

Why this claim is ridiculous: This is not the movie Resident Evil. And why would the government be trying to at the same time make people gay with the drinking water and then wiping people who are gay out with a manufactured virus? This would be like running the air conditioner and the heater at the same time. If you are going to advance conspiracy theories, please make sure they sync together.

Nevertheless, both conspiracy theories kind of sync with the Infowars claim that “there’s a war on for your body,” which accompanies advertisements for its supplements. 

4. Government climate change data is fabricated.

This made the 4th spot because the climate change denial has been such a big part of the national discussion over the past year.  An Infowars piece entitled “Exposed: Government Climate Change Data 100% Fabricated By NOAA” questioned the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) finding that there has been a 1.5 F increase in global temperatures since the 1800’s.

Why this claim is ridiculous: Again, when you are advancing conspiracy theories, make sure that they sync. Number 4 doesn’t quite mesh with number 10. If the government has figured out a way to control the weather, why couldn’t pollution and chemicals from companies also cause climate change? Humans can either affect the weather and climate or not. Please choose. 

3. Vaccines cause autism and this has been covered up by the government, and the pharmaceutical industry.

This one ranked even higher because vaccine refusal rates have been increasing and measles outbreaks have been occurring, suggesting that people are listen to anti-vaccination bluster. Jones hosted on his show Andrew Wakefield, the U.K. doctor who has continued to push theories about vaccines causing autism. Jones called Wakefield “admirable”, “a true trailblazer”, “a hero” and a”pioneer.” Jones also claimed that Wakefield has been vindicated. Infowars has also suggested that the children’s show Sesame Street introduced Julia, an autistic muppet, in an attempt to normalize vaccine-caused autism, as reported by Julia Belluz writing for Vox.  Oh, those agenda-driven muppets. Who knows what Oscar the Grouch is trying to sell you?

Why this claim is ridiculous: Maybe you admire Wakefield for dating a supermodel but his original research and theories have long been discredited and a BMJ publication entitled “Wakefield admits fabricating events when he took children’s blood samples“ mentioned that Wakefield had “extensive financial ties to lawyers and families who were pursuing the manufacturers of the vaccine in the courts and that most of his research participants were litigants.” Here John Oliver describes how Wakefield’s claimed link between the measles vaccine and autism has been repeatedly debunked:  

2. The Sandy Hook shooting was staged to promote gun control.

This made number 2 because it is utter poop. As this NBC News segment shows, Jones caused quite a stir and prompted lawsuits when he claimed that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 28 people and 2 injured was a hoax:

Why this claim is ridiculous: Yes, this is exactly what you want to hear after your child, your classmate, or your friend has been shot and killed. Someone sitting in the comfort of a studio, wearing a Rolex watch, and claiming that the blood and the tears were all part of a massive hoax. Mass shootings and gun violence are real problems that require real solutions.  

Did I mention that Infowars is selling a bunch of protective, survival, and disaster preparedness products?

1. Many health claims about the supplements and health products that Alex Jones is selling.

As mentioned previously, Jones and his Infowars website sells “health” products, lots of them. Examples include the “all new and advanced Super Male Vitality formula,” just in case you are trying to dodge those “gay bombs” and the “Super Female Vitality formula,” just in case you are female and have a credit card. You may have heard that there is no silver bullet for anything, but how about the Infowars Life Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver, which the website urges you to add “to your preparedness supply or kitchen cabinet today and support the operation while looking out for your health — because there’s a war on for your body”? Or what about Prostaguard, which includes a “ Powerful Blend of Antioxidants Plant Based Nutrients. All Hand Selected!,” as opposed to feet selected? Then there is the Real Red Pill, which I guess is really red and supposedly helps “support the heart, support the brain, and support healthy aging.” The website claims that “over one million peer reviewed scientific articles have been published about the ingredients used in this formula,” which may be true if one of the ingredients is water or air. You’re also in luck if you are looking for something to wipe the area between your genitals and your anus. That would be the Combat One Tactical Bath, because you’ve got to be tactical and it can be combat cleaning there.

Keep in mind that many of the products have the following disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” The site’s standard ”Supplement Food Product Disclaimer” states that “it is important to do your own research and consult with a qualified healthcare provider or doctor to decide what is best for you. We also know that everyone’s bodies are different, and it is essential to consult with a qualified health care professional before taking products offered on this website.” So in other words, don’t say that we didn’t warn you that this product may do nothing.

Oh, and the disclaimer concludes by saying “Infowars Life is not held responsible for the irresponsible use of this product.” Wonder if “irresponsible use of this product” includes buying it and using it.

Why these claims are ridiculous: Read the fine print. The disclaimer, “this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease” says it all. Whenever someone tries to criticize real scientific and medical principles and efforts, follow the money. Check what the person is actually trying to sell. See if you can you draw a link between each of Jones’ claims 10 through 2 with a product that Infowars is selling. 

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Health Insurer Shuns Amniotic-Tissue Product From MiMedx

The updated policy at United Healthcare goes into effect Oct. 1.

United Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies, has determined that amniotic tissue products made by

MiMedx Group

MDXG -9.80%

and other manufacturers are “unproven and/or not medically necessary for any indication,” and won’t reimburse patients for their use, according to the insurer’s most recent medical policy update bulletin.

The updated policy at United Healthcare, which goes into effect Oct. 1, came about because of “insufficient clinical evidence of safety and/or efficacy in published peer-reviewed medical literature” about the products, the bulletin said.

“Due to limited studies, small sample sizes, and weak study designs, there is insufficient clinical evidence to conclude that these skin substitutes have an improved health outcome over standard therapies; well-designed, randomized comparative clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of these products,” United Healthcare said.

“Unlike many other insurers, UnitedHealthcare has not covered MiMedx products, so this does not represent a change in coverage,” said a MiMedx spokesman. “We look forward to continuing to build on our compendium of clinical studies to help gain coverage in the future.”

The products, which include wound patches and injectable products made of amniotic tissue, have been aggressively promoted to treat a variety of ailments, including erectile dysfunction, osteoarthritis and hair loss.

The decision by the giant insurer, whose parent company is

UnitedHealth Group

UNH 0.99%

hasn’t been publicly reported and coincides with a similar policy change by Health Care Services Corp., the parent of Blue Cross/Blue Shield operations in five states.

On Aug. 1, Health Care Services said it wouldn’t reimburse patients for injectable amniotic-tissue products, saying they are experimental and investigational. It also said it would limit reimbursement for wound patches made from the material.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on that change, MiMedx issued a news release Wednesday saying the company “continues to build its compendium of clinical studies, including numerous randomized controlled studies, to support the use of EpiFix,” an amniotic skin graft.

Once a highflying health-care company, MiMedx is facing an array of woes. It is in the process of restating its financial results back to 2012, and its founder, Parker H. “Pete” Petit, has been removed as chief executive, although he remains on the board. Its shares, which peaked at nearly $18 earlier this year, have fallen to below $4.

The company prospered after it acquired a seller of treatments in 2011 meant to heal wounds more quickly. The products, made from placentas from women who have given birth by caesarean section, were lightly regulated and relatively inexpensive to make.

MiMedx takes the amniotic membrane—thin, moist tissue that protects the fetus—and processes it into wound patches or grinds it into a powder that can be applied topically or by injection.

A recent Wall Street Journal investigation detailed allegations by former employees that MiMedx improperly booked revenue when it shipped goods, rather than when the products were used. Its practices are under investigation by the Justice Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Marietta, Ga.-based company has said its board’s audit committee is conducting an independent investigation into “certain sales and distribution practices and other matters” and that it is cooperating fully with regulatory agencies, but didn’t elaborate.

Write to Gretchen Morgenson at

Appeared in the August 16, 2018, print edition as ‘Big Insurer Shuns Tissue Product.’

Article source:

Crossover Health, a buzzy startup that got a big boost when Apple took a chance on it, is ramping up big time

From in-house chefs to cold brew to bikes on campus, tech companies have always been looking for perks to give them a competitive edge. One perk Apple landed on back in 2011: on-site health clinics.

The world’s biggest tech company chose to work with a little-known startup called Crossover Health to operate its medical clinics in its Cupertino headquarters which would give employees access to healthcare without having to leave the Apple campus.

Fast forward eight years later and Southern California-based Crossover has grown to operate 13 on-site clinics and five near-sight clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Texas. The company now works with other large companies like Facebook, Comcast-NBCUniversal, and LinkedIn.

While Apple decided earlier this year to build its own clinic in Cupertino, Crossover still works with other Apple employees in locations outside headquarters.

Crossover has been gaining traction. In July, the company had its 1 millionth patient visit, with plans for another 500,000 visits over the 12 months for its 175,000 employee members. It’s also picked up $113.5 million from investors including Gurnet Point Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.

For many Americans, their employers are the ones picking up the tab for their healthcare. More than half of the non-elderly population is covered by an employer-sponsored healthcare plan, and almost 80% of large companies are self-insured. As healthcare costs go up, employers are the ones feeling the pressure. Some are starting to get fed up and looking for new ideas. That’s where Crossover comes in.

The hope with on-site or near-site clinics is to make healthcare more convenient for employees, and along the way ideally cheaper by cutting down on visits. Crossover says it can save as much as $970 per member compared to what employers would be paying if that employee went through the traditional healthcare system. That savings can add up for a company with thousands of employees.

It makes Crossover CEO Scott Shreeve’s pitch simple.

“Employers, you’re already paying for this,” Shreeve told Business Insider. “You’re paying a big check, but you don’t really know what you’re getting. What we advocate for is, learn how you’re spending your money.”

Crossover’s clinics

Crossover Health CEO Scott Shreeve

Courtesy Crossover Health

On-site clinics aren’t anything new. Their history dates back to the 1800s, and they rose again to prominence between 1930-1960, around the time employers started covering healthcare as a way to convince people to work for factories that were ramping up production during the war economy.

After that, the popularity of on-site clinics waned, though there’s now a renewed interest as employers look for new ways to tackle rising healthcare costs. Besides Apple, Amazon is also considering operating its own clinics for employees. Independent doctors practicing under a model known as direct primary care have been setting up on or near-site clinics paid based on a per-member, per-month model as well.

Here’s how it works: Employers opt into the program and pay on a per-member-per-month basis. Those who opt in still use their insurance, with co-pays set by the employer. The employer and Crossover work to recruit employees to join. From there, the members have access to primary care appointments, as well as physical therapy, behavioral health visits, eye doctors, and health coaching sessions.

By paying on a per-member basis, Crossover doesn’t have as much of a motivation to pack in as many visits as possible. Instead of interacting with patients only when they’re sick, Shreeve said, the hope is to reach members in other ways.

“We just think that’s wrong we think healthcare should have other touchpoints that help keep you healthy,” Shreeve said.

Because they’re all part of the same clinic, the primary care doctors are able to chat about their patients with the on-staff therapists and other physicians who are interacting with that same patient. That provides for a more holistic healthcare experience.

Crossover’s appeal to employers

For employers looking for ways to cut down on their healthcare costs as well as come up with a benefit employees want, Crossover’s model can be a good fit.

Cyber security company Symantec chose to work with Crossover as it looked for ways to mitigate the trend of increased healthcare costs.

“It’s an ongoing battle for us to stay ahead of the game and try to come up with innovative ways where employees feel like they’re getting a best in class benefit,” Jennifer Lepird, Senior Director of Rewards HRIM at Symantec told Business Insider.

Symantec and the other clients Crossover works with aren’t alone in looking for new ways to get a more direct grip on the healthcare their employees consume. In 2019, General Motors will offer its salaried employees in Southeast Michigan a plan that works directly with Henry Ford Health System, covering about 24,000 employees and their families, lessening the company’s use of its health insurance company. And in January, JPMorgan, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway formed an independent venture aimed at lowering healthcare costs for their employees.

“Healthcare’s waiting for its ‘Uber’ moment and employers have realized that they can’t sit on the sidelines,” Renya Spak, a partner at health benefits firm Mercer and head of the company’s Healthcare Innovation Center told Business Insider in May. “They need to drive and shape the direction of that change in order to have greater influence and better business results.”

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Home Health Article Weed-killing poison found in popular cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) — Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars were found to come with a large dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, a Monsanto pesticide.

The Environmental Working Group commissioned independent laboratory tests for glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer, on more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods.

Glyphosate was found in 43 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Some of the products with the highest concentrations of the herbicide include Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Cereal and Back to Nature Classic Granola.

The herbicide was also found in smaller concentrations in five samples of organic oat products.

The Environmental Protection Agency has calculated that 1-to-2-year old children are likely to have the highest exposure to glyphosate, at a level two times greater than California’s No Significant Risk Level and 230 times EWG’s health benchmark.

Roundup is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. More than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops each year. It is also sprayed just before harvest on wheat, barley, oats and beans to kill the crop and allow earlier harvest.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration released documents that say the agency has found “a fair amount” of glyphosate in several processed foods. The results could be made public later this year or in early 2019.

Last week, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a school groundskeeper dying of cancer, who says his cancer was caused by repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup. Thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto brought by farm workers and others also allege that they developed cancer from long-term exposure to Roundup.

View the original story on WKYT’s website.

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Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and other tech giants want to fix one of the most broken things about health care

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There are many broken things about the U.S. health care system. But one of the biggest and most overlooked problems is that patients still find it too hard to share their medical information between doctors, especially those working in different hospitals.

It’s a huge problem for many reasons: It makes it harder for consumers to access the highest-quality care, and new patients who walk into a hospital are like strangers — care-givers won’t know if they have an allergy or a chronic disease.

Some of the largest technology companies in the world are undertaking a new effort to fix that. And they have a good reason to do it, as the lack of open standards around health data is a huge barrier for them to get into the $3 trillion health system.

On Monday, Alphabet, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce spoke out at an event in Washington D.C. called the Blue Button 2.0 Developer conference. These companies are rivals in some important ways, so it’s a strong signal that they came together on this issue.

Here’s the joint statement:

We are jointly committed to removing barriers for the adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI. We share the common quest to unlock the potential in healthcare data, to deliver better outcomes at lower costs.

To address the problem, these tech companies are proposing to build tools for the health community around a set of common standards for exchanging health information electronically, called “FHIR.”

Resistant to change

The government and the private sector have tried to fix this problem for decades, spending billions in the process. Unfortunately, the bulk of that funding was spent on moving doctor’s offices from paper-based systems to electronic ones, and not on data sharing.

There are strong economic incentives to keep things the same. The creators of market-leading medical records software, like Epic and Cerner, have no reason to open the door to deeper-pocketed tech giants. For providers, keeping information trapped within a hospital or health system makes it harder for unsatisfied patients to shop around and potentially leave. But in health care, unlike in most other sectors, that kills vulnerable patients.

“These fee-for-service hospitals are fighting tooth and nail to retain patients — and the vendors are responding to these needs,” Dr. Bob Kocher, one of the key architects of the Affordable Care Act and a health tech investor with Venrock previously told KQED in 2015. “They [some hospitals] have not wanted features that make it easier to share information.”

Ultimately, health insiders say, today’s announcement is a recognition that that something needs to change.

“Today’s announcement is both a big deal, and just a start,” said Aneesh Chopra, the former chief technology officer of the United States, in an interview with CNBC. “The big deal is that the major cloud platforms, like Apple earlier this year, understand that a sector as complicated as healthcare benefits greatly from open standards.” (Apple has its own plans around medical records, which it made available on the Health app earlier this year.)

“However, it is a start, as we have so much more work to do to standardize the entire health record, with the capacity for applications to read and write back to the patient’s record without special effort,” Chopra explained.

Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed the publication to which Bob Kocher spoke. He was speaking to KQED.

Subs: Tim Cook with Apple logo


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Here’s a mental health workout that’s as simple as ABC

While we take physical workouts very seriously, there is much less said about the “workouts” that help us remain mentally agile and healthy. But just as with physical health, there are simple and practical ways that can help everyone to enjoy good mental health.

Our research has led us to a method for promoting mental health and wellbeing within communities, which follows a simple model that can be adopted by anyone.

An earlier study showed that people intuitively know what enhances their mental health, but they don’t think about it on a daily basis. Unlike their physical health, people rarely consider what they could or should be doing for their mental health.

At present, the focus in mental health campaigns is on treatment for mental disorders, the removal of stigma from talking about mental health problems, early intervention and the reduction of risk factors which lead to illness.

But the burden of mental illness continues to rise – it is thought that an estimated 50% of people in OECD countries will experience mental illness in their lifetime, so there is a need to raise awareness in communities and to promote simple and practical steps to achieving and maintaining good mental health.

By building on research into what people can do to improve their mental health, we have developed an “ABC” model that can be easily adopted in everyday life. Known as “Act-Belong-Commit”, the approach promotes keeping active, building stronger relationships with friends, family and community groups, and committing to hobbies, challenges and meaningful causes. Together they constitute a simple “do-it-yourself” approach to enhancing mental health.

By encouraging people to follow these principles, as well as collaborating with community groups that offer activities and opportunities for social participation, the method – currently implemented in Australia and Denmark – seeks to bring about long-term benefits to mental health in populations.

Research suggests people intuitively know the activities which enhance their mental health, but don’t treat them as routines to repeat like physical exercise.


Keep alert and engaged by keeping mentally, socially, spiritually and physically active.

Research has credited a lifestyle with plenty of activities outside work as fostering positive emotions and protecting our brains from decline. An active mind and body, particularly in the company of others, can be naturally rewarding and a healthy alternative to worrying, overthinking or engaging in substance use.

Keeping active and working in teams are good outlets for maintaining good mental health.


Develop a strong sense of belonging by keeping up friendships, joining groups, and participating in community activities.

Research has shown that our relationships with one another are fundamental to mental health in terms of providing a sense of identity, acting as a source of support, and being an important coping resource for dealing with pain, stress and difficult life events.

Being part of a community offers support networks and opportunities to be involved in social activities.


Do things that provide meaning and purpose in life like taking up challenges, supporting a good cause and helping others.

A sense of meaning and purpose is vital to our well-being and has been shown to help extend our lives and maintain a healthy brain. Committing to a hobby, a challenge, a good cause or helping others can all boost feelings of self-worth and protect against feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

Participating socially and contributing to the community can preserve brain function, promote thoughts of “making a difference” and reduce feelings which aren’t helpful for well-being, such as self-centredness.

Committing to hobby, goal, or a meaningful cause can offer long-term fulfilment.

To show that these principles promote and protect mental health, we recently completed a series of observational studies on a nationally representative sample of adults in Ireland. People were interviewed at the start of the survey and then re-interviewed two years later.

We categorised the activities of participants into indicators of acting, belonging and committing. Engaging in various social and recreational activities, such as sport, going to films, eating out or travelling for pleasure were indicators of Act. Staying in touch with friends, family and community groups served as an indicator of Belong and the frequency of engaging in social and recreational activities was an indicator of Commit.

The results of these studies together demonstrate that higher levels of all three measures enhance quality of life, life satisfaction, and self-rated mental health, protect people against developing depression, anxiety and brain function decline, and lower the risk of people becoming dependent on alcohol.

Our research has also shown that the approach is helping patients with mental illnesses and is now being used as a tool for recovery by mental health professionals.

The campaign

The Act-Belong-Commit campaign aims to harness resources already present in communities – because the behaviours that promote mental health and well-being are everyday activities that most people are already doing or are readily available. Hence the campaign’s focus is on raising awareness of this fact and validating the belief that these behaviours are good for mental health.

In both Australia and Denmark the campaign connects academics who can advise on the ABC method with a diverse range of community groups, including theatres, women’s health groups and sport teams.

These partners are provided with training and resources such as self-help guides while advertising and event sponsorship help spread the campaign’s message. Particular targets include schools, workplaces and people recovering from mental illness.

In Australia, an annual survey asks people if they have heard of the campaign and, if so, how their beliefs and actions around mental health have changed.
Twice a year, surveys ask partners how the campaign has affected their activities. Similar approaches are being used in Denmark. In this way, the campaign stays in touch with communities to constantly improve its methods.

By encouraging people to follow and prioritise this ABC approach, the campaign’s simple messages could resonate in communities worldwide and sustain the mental health and well-being of people well into the future.

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