Governor Hickenlooper Signs Voluntary Cancer Award Program Bill

On May 3, Governor Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 17-214 during a ceremony in his office. The bill, which had passed the House and Senate unanimously, was the result of more than two years of meetings, discussions, and legislative crafting by a multitude of partners. This new statute will enable the CFH Trust to create a first of its kind program to deliver rapid cancer benefits to firefighters suffering from one of five covered types of cancer: brain, digestive, genitourinary, hematological, and skin.

This program will allow participating fire departments to opt in to the Trust’s new Cancer Program and releases them from the 2007 presumptive cancer statute. This will allow fire departments to reign in workers’ compensation costs while delivering more timely payments to firefighters. In every regard, this is a win for firefighters and fire departments alike. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all contributors for their tireless work and spirit of cooperation in this historic accomplishment.

Going Forward

This news raises a lot of questions regarding how the Trust’s program will operate, and how workers’ compensation providers will respond. Here are a few fast facts to consider for now:

  • The program’s target start date is July 1, 2017, which mirrors the existing Heart Program’s coverage term.
  • Each program will work independently with no requirement to join both.
  • The Trust’s official name will be changed to the Colorado Firefighter Heart and Cancer Benefits Trust (CFHC Trust).
  • While it is not yet known what other workers’ compensation providers will do, the Colorado Special Districts Property and Liability Pool (CSD Pool) will be offsetting 100% of the cost of this coverage for members of its Workers’ Compensation program. For more information regarding this, contact the CSD Pool.
  • Visit this page for additional updates as they become available.
  • Please visit the FAQ for further information

Mediterranean Diet Believed to Drastically Reduce Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

It’s been known for some time now that the Mediterranean diet offers a whole host of health benefits. The food mostly consists of whole-grain bread, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts with fish as the primary source of protein. The diet strays away from red meats and processed foods, and several studies in the past decade have produced results suggesting lowered levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), decreased risk of metabolic syndrome and unhealthy weight gain.1

It is important to note that some of these studies focused on the firefighter population specifically, and this is due to the reported high prevalence of cardiovascular disease with that profession. In October 2016, in collaboration with Tufts University, the National Institute of Public Safety Health, and the US Department of Homeland Security, the Harvard School of Public Health is conducting a study with the purpose of “[lowering] firefighters’ risks for [cardiovascular disease] and cancer by successfully getting more firefighters and their families to adopt and incorporate the healthy eating principles behind the Mediterranean diet.” The estimated completion date is set for October of 2018, and the study is still open to volunteers who wish to participate. You can view the full eligibility requirements and further details on the study itself here. It is interesting to note that the Harvard Public School of Health conducted a similar study with firefighters back in 2014. The results were generally positive and suggest adherence to the diet may be in our firefighters’ best interests.

Sources: 1.

Calcium Supplements Potentially Increase Risk of Heart Disease

According to a recent study conducted by researchers from John Hopkins University, Indiana University, UCLA Medical Center, and other institutions, people who take calcium supplements may be at greater risk of heart disease. Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study suggests that calcium supplements contribute to plaque build up in the aorta and arteries, essentially obstructing blood flow 1. This particular build-up is known to cause heart attacks.

The exigency behind this particular study came from previous research on the effects of calcium supplements on the human body. Researchers have found mounting evidence that the body metabolizes calcium supplements differently than calcium-rich foods such as dairy products or vegetables; instead of accumulating in bones, calcium supplements seem to accumulate in muscle and soft tissue 2. Based on their findings, researchers highly recommend people seeking to supplement their calcium intake to discuss it with their physicians first.

You can view the study in its entirety here.


Sudden Cardiac Deaths Amongst Firefighters

Doctor Denise Smith, a Professor of Health and Exercise Sciences at Skidmore College, details findings involving sudden cardiac deaths among firefighters to underscore the work-related factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease in the community. Doctor Smith asserts that those in the medical field who assess the fitness of firefighters may not understand the physiological and psychological strains unique to the profession, and may be green-lighting firefighters for service to their own detriment. We encourage you to read her thorough and informative take on this important issue, and in turn, raise awareness among your own peers, co-workers, or employees. This article was originally featured on the TargetSolutions website and authored by Greg Baldwin.

The dangers of the firefighting profession are never in short supply. Smoke inhalation, burn injuries, car accidents, collapses – just a few of the perils that routinely handcuff themselves to the day-to-day operations of the job.

But there’s another hazard that’s quietly lurking below the radar causing more damage but receiving substantially less attention: sudden cardiac events. With a staggering 51 percent of all firefighting line of duty deaths caused by sudden cardiac events, the epidemic presents itself as the No. 1 firefighting fatality, more than any other fire-related danger combined.

Denise Smith, professor for health and exercise science at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is leading the crusade against fire service-related cardiovascular diseases. Citing studies that suggest the cardiovascular disease risk factors in firefighting are similar to those of the general population, Smith poses the question: If a firefighter’s basic cardiovascular disease risk isn’t greater than the rest of the population, why are they so much more likely to die at work?

The answer may lie in the magnitude of the cardiovascular strain they experience during their jobs.

For example, a person not involved with the fire service may harness a similar cardiovascular risk but is unlikely to do work that is as strenuous as a firefighter. More importantly, Smith asks, “are we doing enough to prevent sudden cardiac events in firefighters?”

Smith believes there is an abundance of cases where firefighters are being cleared for duty following a medical evaluation that includes findings of cardiovascular risk. This is due in large part because of the physician’s lack of understanding of the physiological and psychological strain of the job.

Therein lies the problem: Firefighters are being cleared for duty despite the detection of early signs of cardiovascular diseases.

“The firefighter hears ‘I’m cleared for duty, therefore everything is OK,’ but very often those medical evaluations are doing exactly what they should be by detecting early signs of cardiovascular disease or risk factors but the firefighter is failing to follow up because he’s cleared,” said Smith.

Further complicating the issue of medical evaluations are departments that operate in a very black and white manner when it comes to firefighters being cleared for duty. Because of this, physicians are reluctant to take a firefighter off the job because of something like high blood pressure. This results in leaving treatment in the hands of the firefighter and puts them at greater risk if something is not done.

Simply put: Firefighters should receive appropriate medical evaluations and aggressively address risk factors – and departments should provide a comprehensive wellness and fitness program to help them do so, Smith believes.

In some cases, firefighters should be placed on light duty until health issues can be properly addressed. But what constitutes justifiable risk to remove a firefighter from active duty?

Smith suggests that a proper annual medical evaluation is a great place to start, but emphasizes that findings of hypertension, obesity, or diabetes/prediabetes must be taken seriously with accompanied steps to reduce the risk of further progression. Sudden cardiac events account for half of duty-related deaths and close to 1,000 non-fatal events every year.

Ignoring the risk makes no sense, she said.

“I think the possibility of a guy coming off active duty in order to rehabilitate to get those risk factors down to do the job more effectively and safely is a very reasonable approach,” said Smith.

As for what initial health risk factors should take priority, Smith suggests that elevated or borderline cardiovascular levels, especially prehypertension and prediabetes, should be taken more seriously. Too often are these issues seen as minor when, in fact, they’re constituting an exuberant medical risk.

While some may be intimidated by mandated health programs that place greater emphasis on managing a wide array of cardiovascular issues, Smith says the goal should be to turn these programs into a positive message as a way to avoid devastating health incidents.

“Prevention is the most powerful thing that’s largely within a firefighter’s own control,” Smith said. “A firefighter who has good overall health and is exercising, maintaining a normal body weight and eating healthy is the one who’s most protected from cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

“These are largely solvable issues and can be addressed and mitigated by the actions of firefighters to keep themselves healthier.”

  • This article was written by Greg Baldwin of TargetSolutions after an in-depth interview with featured contributor Denise L. Smith.

For the National Fire Protection Association’s report on firefighter fatalities, you can visit here.

Important Trust Reminders

The deadline to submit your district’s proxy form for the CFH Trust membership conference is fast approaching, and we cannot stress how important it is to get your signed and completed forms in before October 10 if you can’t attend this year.

Click here for the official proxy form. Bear in mind that we need at least 30% of our membership and/or proxies in order to establish a quorum and conduct business.

Also, don’t forget to submit your payments for reimbursement! A considerable sum went unclaimed last year due to members forgetting.

Here is a current breakdown of the DOLA reimbursement numbers, as of October 3, 2016:

State Fiscal Year Allocation Total: $939,053

Amount Requested by FFB Employers: $684,839
This amount contains the total of all reimbursement requests that have been received and fully reviewed.

Amount Approved: $657,889
This amount contains the total of all reimbursement requests that have been approved for payment or are pending payment.

Remaining Balance: $281,163