Educated Guesses 2014

For the 33rd consecutive year, faculty experts at The University of Alabama offer predictions for the coming year. While these “educated guesses” don’t always come true, the track record over the years has been good. 

James Robinson, MD, endowed chair of sports medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences, Sheena Quizon Gregg, MS, RD, LD, assistant director of health education and prevention and dietician at the Student Health Center, and Lea Yerby, MD, an assistant professor in the College’s Department of Community and Rural Medicine, share their predictions on federal legislation for sports concussions, diet trends and the impact of health reform on physician shortages for 2014.

Sports Concussions to Prompt Federal Legislation
Concerns over children suffering concussions while playing sports, particularly football, will prompt federal legislation in 2014, a University of Alabama expert predicts. Laws to prevent children from returning to a game or practice after showing signs of concussion already exist in 49 of 50 states, and the federal government soon will try to unify those rules, says Dr. James Robinson, endowed chair of sports medicine in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences. “If children show signs of a concussion, they should not go back into practice or a game until they’re cleared by a medical professional,” Robinson says. Robinson notes that most experts recommend limiting hitting in football practice for young athletes to two days a week, out of concern for children’s maturing brains, particularly among those younger than 13 or 14.

Plant-Based Diet Trends to Strengthen
Next year will prove to be another year of trendy eating that avoids certain food groups in aims of better health, says one University of Alabama registered dietitian. The Paleo diet will continue to be popular, but a large focus of 2014 will center on plant-based diets that are gluten-free and non-GMO, says Sheena Quizon Gregg, assistant director of health education and prevention for Health Promotion and Wellness at UA. Food manufacturers will pick up on this trend and provide anything from almond-based yogurts to meat-free barbecue options. This “natural” focus will also include food products made with natural, low calorie sweeteners versus their artificial counterparts, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. “But don’t worry,” Gregg says. “These new plant-based diet trends will not affect the bacon industry.” 

Health Reform-Exacerbated Physician Shortages Milder in Alabama than Elsewhere
Rural Alabamians may not be as impacted by primary care physician shortages in 2014 as other medically-underserved states dealing with the impact of health reform, says Dr. Lea Yerby, a University of Alabama rural medicine expert. Yerby, an assistant professor in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences’ department of community and rural medicine, says the population of people newly insured under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will exacerbate the state’s primary care physician shortage; however, this stress may not be as dramatic in Alabama as in other areas. Since the state is not expanding Medicaid Enrollment, a large portion of uninsured Alabamians will not have options for insurance coverage and, therefore, will not be seeking a new primary care home.  Economically, more residents in rural Alabama will qualify for tax subsidies to purchase insurance in the state marketplace given their lower median income. Nationally, utilizing mid-level or non-physician providers will address the workforce shortage, but legislative changes would be required to facilitate this in Alabama, and that will not happen for a few more years, she says.

Read the complete article here for more faculty expert predictions.