Doctors’ offices under-equipped to meet health IT needs; Sen. Harkin champions public health and prevention bill; study finds Twitter a tool for early disease detection. Those stories and more topping public health news today, Wednesday, January 23, 2013.

Public Health Matters Blog – Special Needs and Tornadoes: A Joplin Story
It’s been almost two years since a devastating tornado ripped through the town of Joplin, Missouri, and the community continues to rebuild.  Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to visit Joplin to learn more about The Independent Living Center -Joplin (TILC), one of seven programs chosen as a promising example of FEMA’s Whole Community Approach to emergency management.  TILC is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of services and resources to help individuals with disabilities live independently in their own homes.  Some of these services include advocacy and support, in-home care, medical equipment provision, and development of emergency preparedness plans to meet their clients’ special needs. – Flu Risks for Seniors
As you age, your immune system weakens. This weakening makes seniors—adults 65 years and older— more susceptible to the flu. For seniors, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older. – The White House: Opportunities for a Conversation Using New Media
New media allows us to connect and engage in a conversation. According to Pew Internet & American Life’s Health Online 2013 Report , “78% of those who posted a comment, story, or question about their health say that they did so to reach a general audience of friends or other internet users.” For many, it’s this conversation that draws them to online spaces and allows the opportunity to connect with larger networks.

Modern Healthcare – Harkin offers sweeping public health bill again
For the sixth time, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee introduced sweeping legislation to strengthen the nation’s public health with provisions that aim to combat chronic disease and encourage healthier lifestyles in schools, businesses and communities.

Kaiser Health News – Despite Incentives, Doctors’ Offices Lag On Digital Records
The good news: Colorado is working to help kids stay current with their immunizations and has a computerized registry where any provider who gives a child a vaccine can report that information. The bad news:  The state’s computer system is not compatible with most of the computer systems doctors use, so many practices don’t update the central database because it’s just too much extra work, according to Dr. Allison Kempe, a researcher at the University of Colorado. That means doctors and researchers, who try to keep childhood immunizations on track, can’t rely on the database to make sure a vaccine isn’t missed or given twice.

Science Blog – Disease outbreaks trackable with Twitter, study says
This flu season you’ve probably seen a number of friends on social media talking about symptoms. New research from Brigham Young University says such posts on Twitter could actually be helpful to health officials looking for a head start on outbreaks. The study sampled 24 million tweets from 10 million unique users. They determined that accurate location information is available for about 15 percent of tweets (gathered from user profiles and tweets that contain GPS data). That’s likely a critical mass for an early-warning system that could monitor terms like “fever,” “flu” and “coughing” in a city or state.