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January 27, 2006, Issue No. 189

AHRQ News and Numbers

Hospitals billed State Medicaid agencies more than $683 million in 2003 for treating children born with heart defects. This sum represents roughly half of the $1.4 billion charged for all hospital patients treated for disorders resulting from congenital heart defects. [Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, HCUPnet.]

Today's Headlines:

  1. New AHRQ-funded study in JAMA finds diet high in omega-3 fatty acids unlikely to reduce risk of cancer
  2. New AHRQ-funded study in JAMA highlights watchful waiting for men who have inguinal hernias
  3. New AHRQ-funded journal supplement features articles on informing pay for performance
  4. Listen to audio newscast on AHRQ's new surgery brochure
  5. Archives of AHRQ Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Webcasts available
  6. Call for abstracts for AHRQ's Translating Research Into Practice and Policy Conference in July
  7. Register for Webcast on evidence-based screening for cancer in women
  8. Highlights of our most recent monthly newsletter
  9. AHRQ reprints available
  10. AHRQ in the professional literature

1.  New AHRQ-Funded Study in JAMA Finds Diet High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids Unlikely to Reduce Risk of Cancer

Taking dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids or regularly consuming fish does not appear to reduce a person's risk of developing cancer, according to the findings of an in-depth analysis of large-scale U.S. and foreign population studies, which was supported by AHRQ and the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements. Although some lines of research have suggested that people who consume diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are less likely than others to develop some types of cancer, researchers from AHRQ's Southern California Evidence-based Practice Center in Santa Monica found very little evidence that omega-3 fatty acids reduce any one of 11 different types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, prostate, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, stomach, skin, bladder, aerodigestive, and lymphoma.

The study, "Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review," was in the January 25 issue of JAMA. Select to read our press release, to read the abstract in PubMed®, and to listen to an audio newscast that includes an interview with AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., about the study.

2.  New AHRQ-Funded Study in JAMA Highlights Watchful Waiting for Men Who Have Inguinal Hernias

Watchful waiting seems to be safe for men who have inguinal hernias with minimal or no symptoms, according to a new AHRQ-funded study. The study, "Watchful Waiting vs. Repair of Inguinal Hernia in Minimally Symptomatic Men," was led by Robert J. Fitzgibbons, Jr., M.D., of Creighton University and published in the January 18 issue of JAMA. After 2 years, similar low proportions of patients in the watchful waiting and surgical repair groups were in enough pain to limit usual activities, and their levels of physical functioning were similar.

Overall, the rate of complications was similar among those who were assigned to and received surgical repair (21.7 percent) and those assigned to watchful waiting who crossed over to receive surgical repair (27.9 percent), showing that they suffered no penalty for waiting to have the operation until they had developed symptoms. Select to read the abstract in PubMed® and to listen to an audio newscast that includes an interview with AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., about the study.

3.  New AHRQ-Funded Journal Supplement Features Articles on Informing Pay for Performance

A supplement to the February 2006 issue of Medical Care Research and Review, supported by AHRQ, includes five articles addressing the research gap in pay for performance as well as the research on how best to address the dueling challenges of providing both timely and rigorous evidence. The issue features a set of findings contributed by five research teams. Three commentaries provide perspectives from employers, providers, and policymakers. You can obtain a copy of the supplement by sending an E-mail to

4.  Listen to Audio Newscast on AHRQ's New Surgery Brochure

AHRQ recently released a new booklet to help patients make informed decisions when their treatment plans may include a surgical procedure. The booklet, called Having Surgery? What You Need to Know, suggests questions for patients to ask their primary care doctors and surgeons about alternatives to surgery as well as preparation for and recovery after surgery. To provide additional information about the booklet and the topic, AHRQ recorded an interview with AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., about the questions to ask and why they are important. If your computer has a sound card and speakers and can play MP3 audio files, you will be able to listen to the audio on your computer—whenever you have 10 or 15 minutes. If you want to receive all AHRQ newscasts automatically, you will need subscription software. The AHRQ subscription is free. Select Healthcare 411 for more details. You can listen to the 11-minute audio newscast. A transcript also is available from that site. Select to read the booklet.

5.  Archives of AHRQ Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Webcasts Available

AHRQ's Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Research Program has sponsored an ongoing series of distance-learning Webcasts on nearly a dozen emergency preparedness issues, including pediatric preparedness, surge capacity, and mass casualty care, since 2003. These 90-minute Web conferences are designed to share the latest health services research findings, promising practices and other important information with State and local health officials and health systems decisionmakers. Overall, these sessions have reached more than 14,000 participants around the country. Select to listen to or view transcripts of these Web conferences.

6.  Call for Abstracts for AHRQ's Translating Research Into Practice and Policy Conference in July

A call for abstracts has been issued for AHRQ's Translating Research into Practice and Policy Conference. The conference will be held on July 10-12 in Washington, DC. Researchers, practitioners, and others are invited to share the results of their work with other conference participants. Both quantitative and qualitative research will be considered; however, all abstracts should clearly address the translation/implementation or adaptation of research findings into health care practice and/or policy. The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 3.

7.  Register for Webcast on Evidence-based Screening for Cancer in Women

Tracy Wolff, M.D., M.P.H., from AHRQ's Center for Primary Care, Prevention and Clinical Partnerships, will present a Webcast on Evidence-based screening for Cancer in Women, on February 6, 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. ET. The Webcast is being presented in partnership with Clinical Directors Network, Inc. The Webcast has been reviewed and may be accredited for up to either 1.0 prescribed credit hours or 1.0 elective hours each by the American Academy of Family Physicians and by the Academy of General Dentistry. Select to register for the Webcast and click on "Upcoming Webcasts."

8.  Highlights of Our Most Recent Monthly Newsletter

Among the key articles in the online issue of Research Activities:

Donepezil has a small effect in the treatment of dementia from Parkinson's disease.  More than 30 percent of patients with Parkinson's disease, which is characterized by motor tremors, develop dementia. Although dementia is associated with loss of independence and increased mortality, it is a largely untreated symptom of Parkinson's disease. The drug donepezil, which has been shown to improve cognition and daily functioning of patients with Alzheimer's disease, may also improve cognitive function in patients with Parkinson's disease.

Other articles include:

  • Studies examine barriers to self-management for patients with chronic illness and interventions that improve care.
  • Neither patient HMO membership nor physician HMO participation is greatly associated with racial disparities in primary care.
  • Cytokine genotypes may identify pregnant women who are at high risk of developing preeclampsia.
  • Hospital admissions of patients with HIV have fallen by more than half since 1995.

Select to read these articles and more.

9.  AHRQ Reprints Available

Copies of these reprints are available by sending an E-mail to

  1. The FIBROID Registry: Report of Structure, Methods, and Initial Results, by Correa-de-Araujo, R.
  2. Burden of Illness for Children and Where We Stand in Measuring the Quality of This Health Care, by Miller MR, Gergen P, Honour M, et al.
  3. Relationship Between Performance Measurement and Accreditation: Implications for Quality of Care and Patient Safety, by Miller MR, Pronovost P, Donithan M, et al.
  4. Training Health Care Professionals for Patient Safety, by Clancy CM.
  5. Lost In Translation: The Value of Qualitative Data, by Lanier D.
  6. The Adoption Gap: Health Information Technology In Small Physician Practices, by Cain C, Young S, Burstin H.
  7. Evaluating the Patient Safety Indicators: How Well Do They Perform on Veterans Health Administration Data?, by Rosen AK, Rivard P, Zhao S, et al.

10.  AHRQ in the Professional Literature

We are providing the following hyperlinks to journal abstracts through PubMed® for your convenience. Unfortunately, some of you may not be able to access the abstracts because of firewalls or specific settings on your individual computer systems. If you are having problems, you should ask your technical support staff for possible remedies.

Street RL Jr, Gordon HS, Ward MM, et al. Patient participation in medical consultations: why some patients are more involved than others. Med Care 2005 Oct;43(10):960-9. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Mitchell JM, Gaskin DJ. Factors affecting plan choice and unmet need among supplemental security income eligible children with disabilities. Health Serv Res 2005 Oct;40(5 Pt 1):1379-99. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Newsome BB, Warnock DG, Kiefe CI, et al. Delay in time to receipt of thrombolytic medication among Medicare patients with kidney disease. Am J Kidney Dis 2005 Oct;46(4):595-602. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Kushel MB, Hahn JA, Evans JL, et al. Revolving doors: imprisonment among the homeless and marginally housed population. Am J Public Health 2005 Oct; 95(10):1747-52. Select to read the abstract in PubMed®.

Contact Information

Please address comments and questions regarding the AHRQ Electronic Newsletter to Nancy Comfort at or (301) 427-1866.

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Current as of January 2006


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