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Letter: Dementia study inconclusive

Newsday's article about a possible blood test to predict Alzheimer's failed to note three significant facts ["Test predicts dementia risk," News, March 10].

First, there were only 40 test subjects involved in the lipids phase of this study. Second, the ApoE4 gene, the most research-validated genetic marker of Alzheimer's, was not present in all cases to verify the accuracy of the new blood test. That alone makes me question the study.

And finally, the story failed to mention that, at present, there is no effective means to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer's. So knowing one may be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's only has so much value.

Perhaps that would change if our country spent as much money on Alzheimer's research each year as on HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Alzheimer's research receives only one-sixth the funding from the National Institutes of Health as does HIV-AIDS, despite killing more people each year.

Allan Vann, Commack

Editor's note: The writer is a retired public school principal and a caregiver to his wife, Clare, a retired high school teacher who has Alzheimer's disease.

Unions were a path to middle class

"Blocking off our roads to success" [Opinion, March 16] was a good start, but columnist Peter Goldmark left out the strongest ladder to the middle class: a collective bargaining agent that empowers workers by seeking a greater share of productivity gains.

The decline of unions has not been an accident. A concerted effort was started in 1947, after veterans returned home from saving the world for democracy, with an act passed over the veto of then-President Harry Truman, who called it an assault on free speech.

The Taft-Hartley Act diminished the power of unions. From the allegiance clause, to the ban on secondary boycotts, to the right to work for less laws, the legs were cut out from under the working class. That assault saw unions decline from a high of 35 percent of the private-sector workforce to 6 percent in a continuing onslaught.

The attack continues, now focused on public-sector workers and their unions and pensions. Teachers and their unions have become public enemy No. 1.

Yes, they, not the plutocrats, are responsible for the dismal test results of impoverished students, even though studies show the correlation between test scores and income. Yes, they will be replaced by privately owned, yet taxpayer-funded charter schools, employing low-paid, non-union inexperienced teachers until they burn out.

Joel Herman, Melville

E-cigs become new fad for teens

In the article "E-cig pitch under fire" [News, March 10], Sen. Charles Schumer said e-cigarette sellers were using questionable marketing tactics clearly aimed at youngsters by offering bubble gum and cotton candy flavors.

I am aware that smokers turn to e-cigarettes to quit or cut down on real cigarettes, which are more harmful to their health. However, the flair of having an e-cigarette is appealing to many and has caught the specific attention of those in middle and high school. It has become the new fad.

Truth be told, e-cigs are addicting. Adding special, cool, new flavors to them may increase their sales, but at the same time could lure children, teens and adults who may never have smoked a day in their life if not for e-cigs.

As Schumer said, "We've made so much progress in getting kids not to smoke." Why should we risk all of that for the benefit of a few companies trying to keep up on the latest trends?

Catherine Hartel, Hicksville

NYS mental health overhaul is mediocre

Since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, society has been discussing mental health, specifically eradicating stigma and ensuring ready access to quality community-based care ["Newtown's mental health needs," News, March 17].

Seventy-five percent of serious mental illness occurs before the age of 24, and half before the age of 14. Yet, only one out of five children who has an emotional disturbance receives treatment from a mental-health specialist.

In New York, continued access to care is assured only to children and families with Medicaid coverage, because reimbursement from commercial insurance is far lower and many providers will simply not accept it. The state Office of Mental Health has established a multi-year vision for the mental health system called Regional Centers of Excellence, which does not change the reimbursement formula. This will continue to marginalize community-based care for middle-class or working-poor families that have commercial health insurance.

Community clinics are the last bastion in addressing the needs of children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances. Private psychotherapists and child psychiatrists, with some exceptions, will not accept commercial health insurance or will not provide the costly, labor-intensive work necessary to properly serve children and families struggling with serious emotional disturbances.

Andrew Malekoff, Long Beach

Editor's note: The writer is the executive director of the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center in Roslyn Heights.