Free webinar: Improving communication between patients and health care professionals

Dr. Ira Wilson of Brown University will lead webinar "Medication Adherence in Practice" on November 19.

Dr. Ira Wilson of Brown University will lead the webinar “Medication Adherence in Practice” on November 19.

Three out of 4 four Americans do not take their medications as prescribed. Open communication between health care professionals and their patients can be a powerful tool for improving rates of medication adherence. Health care professionals including nurses, doctors, and pharmacists can inform patients about the importance of taking their medicines as directed in order to improve overall health outcomes. Often, it is difficult to know the right questions to ask for both the patient and health care professional.

NCL’s Script Your Future campaign is holding its first-ever free webinar for health care professionals to learn how to talk with patients about taking medication as directed.  This webinar, on November 19 at 12noon Eastern, is a part of ongoing efforts to provide resources to both patients and health care professionals about medication adherence and how to improve communication in the health care setting. There are many reasons why people don’t take their medicine as directed, including forgetfulness, side effects, not sure they need medicine, and cost. Having that conversation to understand the patients’ concerns can help health care professionals provide better care.

Featuring Dr. Ira Wilson from Brown University, the webinar will present health care professionals with tools to communicate effectively with patients. Dr. Wilson will include real-world examples and solutions that he has developed over the years to establish trust with his patients and improve care.

This webinar is a must-attend for any professional who is looking to improve their skills. Join this free webinar today by registering here. Bring your questions to this exciting and interactive event!

What: Webinar for health care professionals – doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, etc.

When: Tuesday, November 19, 12noon – 1 pm Eastern

Contact Ayanna Johnson at with any questions.

For more information about the Script Your Future campaign, visit


November is Family Caregivers Month and a time to reexamine the role of the caregiver

By Sarah Hijaz, Health Policy Intern

Sarah is a recent graduate of The George Washington University Trachtenberg of Public Policy and Public Administration, where she received a Master of Public Policy (MPP). Her main background is in public health, having worked in clinical trial protocol development and cancer health disparity research and outreach efforts. Sarah plans to pursue a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree, concentrating on health policy. During the interim period before starting a DrPH program, an internship at NCL is a great opportunity to gain exposure to the advocacy side of public health and health policy. 

November is Family Caregivers Month, and as President Obama describes it’s meant to “recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.” Family caregivers are individuals, including friends or neighbors that dedicate unpaid time and resources towards caring for the physical and/or mental health of a loved one. The Caregiver Action Network, a non-profit organization that provides support, education, and resources to family caregivers across the United States, has identified the theme for this year’s Family Caregivers Month as “Now More Than Ever.” Family caregiver advocates are increasingly calling for a shift in the focus of national conversation away from the concept that family caregivers are simply providers of care to a more relationship in which these caregivers are also integral members of loved ones’ healthcare teams.

There are 90 million family caregivers in this country; that’s two out of every five adults who care for one or more family members. Certain patient populations that depend heavily on family caregiving support are rising, such as those suffering from Alzheimer’s, children with special needs, as well as wounded veterans. The overall population of adult caregivers has correspondingly risen from 30% to 39% in the past 3 years.

Often, many caregivers find themselves in this challenging and complex role suddenly and with little warning or time for preparation. Patient health issues can be purely physical, emphasizing family care activities that focus on duties such as administration of medications or household help. However, other loved ones may suffer from psychological ailments that leave them unable to take part in their care planning, transforming the family caregiver into a healthcare decision maker. Because of the many different roles that a family caregiver can play, there are rising calls for a more formal recognition of family caregivers as key members of patient-centered teams.

This past Friday, I attended a conference at The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington, DC. The focus of the event was “Identifying Family Caregivers in Electronic Health Records (EHRs).” Technology is beginning to play a larger role in healthcare, especially technology aimed at compiling and organizing patient information. Proponents of EHRs claim that computerizing patient health records can have many benefits, such as reducing unnecessary testing and prescribing. The push towards expanding EHRs to all healthcare settings is gaining traction; the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act even includes elements to support this drive. While EHRs can expand patient-provider communication and improve health care, there are concerns that family caregivers might not have equal access to electronic records. Especially since family caregivers have so far been under-recognized as valid healthcare team members.

There was no doubt in the room that supporting patients/loved ones requires expanding the healthcare team to include family caregivers. However, while this concept may seem straightforward, there are plenty of questions that need to be addressed in order to incorporate this goal into EHRs. For example, are family caregivers’ formally identified in the EHR? Does the patient identify family caregivers? If so, what if the patient is suffering from dementia? At what point do caregiver demands and the seriousness of a patient’s conditions warrant the designation of someone who is “helping out” to be an official family caregiver?  There is a great deal that needs to be clarified as the healthcare system in this country continues it push towards expanded EHR systems.

Family caregiving is not only an evolving role, but also is an evolving concept. The nature of what constitutes a family caregiver is being discussed and debated. The increasing conversation on this topic can only improve our understanding and will hopefully improve care for patients under the attention of family caregivers as well as ease the burden associated with caring for a loved one. For more than 90 million Americans, Family Caregivers Month is not the only time of the year that family caregiving is recognized and reflected upon. Patients and their professional healthcare providers have long asserted the important nature of family caregiving.

Air travel insurance big bucks, little protection

planeskyIn a new report, NCL took a close look at travel insurance associated with airline tickets and found a string of disturbing trends in the industry.  Among the finds in the report are rising cancellations fees, the four U.S. legacy airlines just increased cancellation/change fees to $200 per ticket; an increase in revenue from travel insurance, in 2010 travel insurance was a $1.8 billion industry and between 2006-2010 travel insurance sales increased 39%; and the widespread use of misleading language and dense policy descriptions in airline insurance policies increasing consumer confusion over what these policies actually cover. We urge consumers to inform themselves about these policies before paying extra money for insurance.

Tips for consumers:

  1. Be sure to read over the exclusions and fine print of any travel insurance policy before you buy.
  2. Some travel insurance policies include a cooling off period during which you can cancel and receive a refund on your premium. Check you certificate of insurance for details.
  3. Before purchasing travel insurance, check to see if you’re already covered by other policies. For example, many credit card companies offer travel insurance protection to their cardholders.
  4. Check out an airline or online travel agencies’ cancellation fee policy before your buy. Some airlines charge low or no fees and instead bank the value of the ticket for a future flight.

Find out more about these travel insurance policies and check out our Facebook page to find out what your insurance actually covers.

The Faces of LifeSmarts — Lois Johnson

Lois Johnson

Lois Johnson, the 2013 LifeSmarts Coach of the Year with LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg.

Lois Johnson has six kids, seven grandkids, and 100’s of LifeSmarts kids. She has been coaching for 16 years, continually expanding her LifeSmarts family. Johnson has now entered her last year coaching the program. Retirement lies ahead, but first she aims to lead Willow River High School to a seventh consecutive Minnesota state championship and a trip to Orlando for the 2014 national championship.

Throughout her years participating in LifeSmarts, Johnson has had her fair share of laughs, tears, and heart palpitations.

“I get really nervous during competitions,” says Johnson. “I just put my head down on the table; I can’t even look.”

A few years ago, Dougie, a special education student from Willow River, a K-12 school with fewer than 500 students, enrolled in Johnson’s LifeSmarts class. Initially, Johnson was skeptical that he could beat out many of his fellow students and earn a spot on the 5-person team, which was headed to the state competition, but through hard work and hours of studying, he did. During the competition, Johnson assumed her position—head down on the table, eyes closed— as she tried to suppress her nerves.

“Suddenly everyone gasped,” said Johnson. “I looked up, it was a crucial point in the match, and Dougie had just buzzed in. He got the question right and then proceeded to get two or three more questions right. It was something from a movie, he was so excited. This little special education student was so shy, and here he was answering questions, and you could see his confidence growing. The whole experience was…” after a long pause, “life changing.”

LifeSmarts is a program designed to prepare all students, not just straight-A students, for the basics skills they need to navigate life’s pitfalls and obstacles.

“The information is so practical,” Johnson explains. “You can take algebra or geometry and learn some stuff, but I tell my students I’m going to teach you things you’ll actually be using. It’s survival.”

The lessons learned through the LifeSmarts curriculum will be valuable throughout life; avoiding identity theft, learning how to deal with insurance policies, and renting your first apartment. But the relationships formed in LifeSmarts can also last a lifetime.

“I’m proud to be a part of the first-ever LifeSmarts wedding,” says Johnson. “One of my former LifeSmarts kids is marrying a boy from Alabama, someone she met at the LifeSmarts national competition. I was invited to the wedding, and they told me they were going to have LifeSmarts questions on every table.”

At this LifeSmarts event Johnson will have no need to assume her all-to-familiar competition position. Head held high, she will proudly welcome this new addition to her LifeSmarts family.

Store your medicine up and away and out of sight

nick blog


By Nikola Sirovica, Communications Intern

Nikola Sirovica is a recent graduate of McGill University with a double major in Political Science and History. He is interested in the growth of social media and how the abundance of information influences the way individuals operate in a market economy. In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball, reading up on Eastern European history, and writing.  

Medications bear a striking resemblance to candy. And while most adults can easily distinguish between an Advil and a Jelly Bean, young children probably cannot. This makes it vitally important to know exactly where you store your medication. Over 60,000 young children end up in the emergency room each year because they accidentally swallow their parent’s medicine thinking it is candy. Never tell your child that medicine is candy to get them to take it.  Improper storage of medicine can lead to fatal accidents. Don’t let this happen to your child; make sure your home and medicine cabinet are childproof and safe. Here are some guidelines on how to keep your kids safe from your meds:

  1. Keep medicine and vitamins in an area out of reach and out of sight. This can include the top shelf to a closet, a high cabinet, or above the fridge. Make sure the area is cool and dry. If you have a medicine cabinet, invest in a lock so that kids can’t open the door without a password.
  2. Keep your medicine in their original containers. Not only is there important information such as dosage instructions, expiration dates, and disposal methods, medical containers typically have child resistant casing and safety caps. Should your child accidently ingest the wrong medicine, the information on the bottle can help emergency personnel assess the risk and danger your child is in.
  3. Memorize the poison control hotline 1-800-222-1222. Keep it in your phone in your emergency contact list and don’t hesitate to contact the number if you think your child has consumed the wrong medicine.

Travelling can be an even bigger issue. When staying in a hotel keep your meds in the safe. Even when you’re visiting your relative’s house inquire about where they keep their medicine and make sure your friends keep them in a place safely tucked away from your children. Always remember that children are curious creatures, and a brightly colored pill bears a striking resemblance to brightly colored candy. Don’t let them get their hands on those meds without your supervision.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is encouraging consumers to share pictures of where they put their meds to make sure they are up and away and out of sight of children. If you think you have a good spot to keep your medicine share it online, and submit a picture of your safe medicine storage place. Safety should be everyone’s top priority, especially when it involves your children and your medication.

Meet NCL’s public policy summer interns

samSam Hamer – Yale University, ‘14

I am a senior at Yale University majoring in History. When not playing on the Yale Club Baseball team, I devote much of my time outside of the classroom to organizing a student-run clinic that prepares income tax returns for low-income individuals in New Haven. I am also a Yale Urban Fellow, part of a cohort of students interested in issues of poverty and urban development. From September – December 2012, I served as a White House Intern in the Office of Public Engagement. I’m originally from Chicago and am an avid White Sox fan.

I come to NCL this summer via a partnership with the Google Policy Fellowship, a program that matches students interested in technology policy with leading nonprofit organizations in that field. I have a passion for social justice and I’m eager to learn how NCL is leading the charge to support consumers in the realm of telecommunications and technology policy. To that end, I will be spending my time abetting NCL’s efforts to stem phone bill cramming, expand access to telecommunications services for low-income consumers, and combat ID theft and fraud. With an eye toward a career in public service, I am excited to immerse myself in an organization that champions progressive causes. In addition to getting my feet wet in consumer advocacy work, I am looking forward to taking full advantage of the summer intern Mecca that is Washington, DC.

rjRobert “RJ” Smith – Indiana University of Pennsylvania ‘14

Originally, I am from a town right outside of Philadelphia, called Pottstown. I am a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, or IUP for short. At IUP, I am pursuing a double major in both International Studies and History as well as a minor in Economics. Being a History major, I was immediately drawn the NCL because the historic legislation and importance the League has played since its founding in 1899. During my American History Studies I developed a fascination with the early 1900’s and the Progressive Era. The fact that I am now working with an organization that was and continues to be so influential in passing legislation that helps and protects the average American, is a dream come true.

During my internship at NCL, besides developing an understanding of the internal workings of a non-profit organization and Washington policy making, I am looking forward to representing and protecting consumers. There are many public policy issues that I feel strongly about and would love to work on, but if I had to pick one, it would be workers’ rights, not only in the United States, but also in the factories used by American-run companies around the globe. I am passionate about this topic because I am a firm believer that the relationship between a company and its employees should be mutually beneficial.

heatherHeather Yoon – Brandeis ‘15

I am a rising junior at Brandeis University majoring in International & Global Studies and Politics with minors in Legal Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and East Asian Studies. I love to travel and dream of visiting Africa, Dubai, and Egypt in the near future. Service has been at the heart of many of my previous travels abroad. After the devastating earthquake broke out in Haiti, I spent two summers there and in the Dominican Republic implementing the “Relief for Haiti Project.” Through this effort, my team members and I provided victims with medical aid, emotional support, and basic necessities. My growing concern for poverty, human rights, and gendered violence inspired me to join the National Consumers League this summer as a public policy intern to address international consumer and worker issues to a wider audience.

During the past three years, I had the honor of interning for Mayor Steven Choi in Irvine, California. Shadowing Mayor Choi’s position helped me to adopt a very important philosophy for serving the community – “Listen, Learn, Respond.” With this philosophy, I will effectively help represent and respond to public interests and concerns of constituents on a daily basis at the League.

I admire the League’s commitment to assisting consumers and workers on issues of fair labor standards. I am excited to be part of the team that continues to engage with a wide community of leaders and influencers. My goal is to use my international experiences and leadership skills to learn how to accentuate the rights of consumers and workers using public policies relating to consumer fraud.