Spotlight on research
Depression and electronic medical records
Patients who have three or more chronic medical conditions are half as likely to receive depression treatment in primary care practices that use electronic medical records as they are in practices that use paper-based records, a new UF study has found. Electronic medical records, or EMRs, are generally thought to improve health care by allowing better coordination of care and increased accuracy in diagnosis and treatment. But the UF study raises questions about how computerized records systems could affect mental health care. “While we don’t know why EMRs are associated with lower odds of depression treatment in patients with multiple conditions, we think that either they reduce the amount of interaction between patients and physicians or they focus a physician’s attention on physical health issues, pushing mental health issues off the radar screen,” said lead investigator Jeffrey Harman, Ph.D., of the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
Gene linked to adult muscular dystrophy
UF researchers have identified a gene responsible for brain-related symptoms of the most common form of adult-onset muscular dystrophy. Disruption in the gene’s function is linked to memory loss, learning difficulties and extreme daytime sleepiness. The gene produces a brain protein previously thought to be of no importance in the disease myotonic dystrophy, which causes muscle weakness and disturbs electrical signals in the heart. The findings appeared in the journal Neuron in August. “Now we understand one of the major events that occurs in the brain of someone with myotonic dystrophy,” said senior author Maurice Swanson, Ph.D., a member of the UF Genetics Institute. “We know that the same patterns of gene expression activity that occur in skeletal muscle and the heart are also happening in the brain, and we have a disease model that we can study to understand more.”
Helping Floridians get Health Smart
UF researcher Carolyn M. Tucker, Ph.D., has received $75,000 from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation to expand a program geared toward improving the health of Florida’s African American population, who face increased risks for heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. The statewide African Methodist Episcopal Health-Smart Church Model Program is designed to combat obesity in families, children and adults by promoting healthy eating and physical activity. The program, originally tested at churches in Gainesville, Fla., and Bronx, N.Y., will slowly expand across Florida in the next two years.