Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Health Headlines - March 11

Diarrhea Kills 2 Million Children Each Year: WHO

Although relatively simple to treat, diarrhea kills nearly 2 million children worldwide each year, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

The agency noted that research into childhood diarrhea has declined since the 1980s, Agence France Presse reported.

"Funds available for research into diarrhea are much lower than those devoted to other diseases that cause comparatively few deaths," the WHO said in a statement.

It's essential that all children with diarrhea have access to treatment consisting of zinc tablets and a mixture called Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), said Dr. Olivier Fontaine, a WHO medical officer specializing in child health, AFP reported.

"ORS is essentially a pinch of salt and a handful of sugar mixed with clean water," Fontaine explained.

The mixture, which costs about 30 cents per child, has saved about 50 million children over the years, the WHO estimates.


Well-Being Highest in U.S. West: Survey

States in the West tend to have the highest levels of well-being, while those in the South and Midwest tend to have the lowest levels, according to a survey that included more than 350,000 adults.

Utah, Hawaii and Wyoming topped the United States in well-being, while West Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi were at the bottom, United Press International reported.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Tuesday, asked respondents about six categories of well-being, including health behaviors, physical health, emotional health, work environment, and access to basic necessities.

According to the survey, the economic crisis caused the lives of more than 24 million Americans to shift from "thriving" to "struggling" in 2008.


Minorities Have Higher End-of-Life Costs

Dying Hispanics and black Americans have much higher treatment costs than whites, because they get more costly, intensive treatments as they near death, say researchers who analyzed data from the last six months of life of almost 160,000 Medicare patients.

The average cost for Hispanic patients in those final months of life was $31,702, compared with $26,704 for blacks and $20,166 for whites. Compared to white patients, costs were about 30 percent higher for blacks and almost 60 percent more for Hispanics, the Associated Press reported.

The study was published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers noted that throughout their lives, minorities are less likely than whites to get aggressive medical care. So these findings suggest medical resources for minority patients may be "misallocated over a lifetime," with minority patients receiving more treatment when there's little chance of improving or extending their lives, the AP reported.

The study didn't look at why minorities receive more expensive end-of-life care.


Daytime Naps May Boost Diabetes Risk

Regular daytime naps may increase a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study of more than 16,000 people.

The Chinese and U.K. researchers found that people who took daytime naps were 26 percent more likely to develop the disease than those who didn't have regular siestas, BBC News reported.

Napping during the day may cause nighttime sleep disruption, which has been shown to be associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers said.

They also noted that waking up from a nap activates hormones and mechanisms in the body that prevent insulin from working effectively, which could predispose people to type 2 diabetes, BBC News reported.

The study was expected to be presented at Diabetes U.K.'s annual professional conference in Glasgow.


Rise in Women's Smoking May Cause Global Health Disaster: Study

Increasing rates of smoking by women around the world could lead to a "global public health disaster," according to the third edition of the Tobacco Atlas, released Monday by the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation.

About six million people will die from tobacco-related diseases in 2010, and that toll will rise to seven million by 2020 and to eight million by 2030, said the study. Death rates are rising fastest in developing countries. In 2007, almost 72 percent of global tobacco-related deaths will be in low- and middle-income nations, and that figure will rise to 83 percent in 2030, Agence France Presse reported.

Experts are particularly concerned about increased smoking among women in developing countries.

"If the women of the world begin smoking at the same rate as men, it will be an unmitigated global public health disaster," the study authors wrote. "Preventing increases in smoking prevalence among women, especially in low- and middle-income resourced countries, will have a greater impact on global health than any other single intervention."

Worldwide, an estimated one billion men and 250 million women use tobacco every day, said the study. China (311 million men and 14 million women) and India (229 million men and 12 million women) are the world's biggest tobacco users, AFP reported.

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