Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Health Headlines - June 16

Obama Calls U.S. Health-Care System a 'Time Bomb'

The United States' health-care system is "a ticking time bomb" that could seriously damage the nation financially unless major changes are made, President Barack Obama said Monday in a speech to the American Medical Association.

He compared America's situation to that of big U.S. automakers, the Associated Press reported.

"A big part of what led General Motors and Chrysler into trouble were the huge costs they racked up providing health care for their workers -- costs that made them less profitable and less competitive with automakers around the world," Obama said.

"If we do not fix our health-care system, America may go the way of GM -- paying more, getting less and going broke," he warned delegates at the AMA's annual meeting.

The president said the current health-care system leaves too many people uninsured and forces doctors into "excessive defensive medicine" due to worries about malpractice suits. This leads to a high number of unnecessary medical tests or procedures, the AP reported.

The speech was part of Obama's efforts to overhaul the U.S. health-care system. Broader insurance coverage and targeted spending cuts are among the proposals being pushed by the president.


Proper Training, Guidelines Lacking at Many VA Clinics: Report

Surprise inspections at 42 Veterans Affairs clinics across the United States revealed that fewer than half had proper training and guidelines for colonoscopies and other endoscopic procedures, says a report by the VA inspector general.

The findings suggest that problems with colonoscopies and other minimally invasive procedures may not be limited to three facilities implicated earlier this year, the Associated Press reported.

In February, the VA started advising 10,000 patients who underwent procedures at clinics in Miami, and Murfreesboro, Tenn., and August, Ga., to get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis.

The surprise inspections conducted in May found that just 18 (43 percent) of the 42 clinics were able to prove that they'd properly trained their staffs and that they had standard operating guidelines in place for the procedures, the AP reported.

The VA inspector general's report is to be released Tuesday at a hearing before a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee.


Weight Loss Surgery Increases Fracture Risk: Study

Weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass or banding may double a person's risk of fractures, according to U.S. researchers who reviewed data from nearly 100 patients.

The Mayo Clinic team found that about 20 percent of patients suffered fractures within seven years of their weight loss surgery, twice the normal rate for their age group, BBC News reported.

Most of the fractures occurred in the hands and feet, but the patients also suffered fractures of the hip, spine and upper arm. The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Lead author Dr. Elizabeth Haglind said more research is needed to confirm the findings and to understand more about the specific risk factors and mechanisms involved, BBC News reported.


Breast-Feeding May Improve Academic Achievement: Study

Breast-fed children may get better high school grade point averages and be more likely to attend college, suggests a U.S. study that looked at 126 siblings from 59 families.

Some of the siblings were breast-fed while others were not. Among those who were breast-fed, an additional month of breast-feeding was associated with an increase in high school GPA of 0.019 points and an increase of 0.014 in the likelihood of going to college, United Press International reported.

The findings were published in the Journal of Human Capital.

"The results of our study suggest that the cognitive and health benefits of breast-feeding may lead to important long-run educational benefits for children," American University professor Joseph Sabia said in a news release, UPI reported.


Asian-American Parents May Favor Boys: Report

Some Asian-American parents may be using sex-selection techniques to have boys instead of girls, suggest analyses of U.S. Census data, The New York Times reported. The sex-selection techniques include in vitro fertilization, sperm sorting and abortion.

Researchers found that among Americans of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent, if the first child was a girl, it was more likely the second child would be a boy. If the first two children were girls, it was even more likely that the third child would be a boy, the newspaper reported.

"That this is going on in the United States, people were blown away by this," Prof. Lena Edlund, of Columbia University, told the Times. She and a colleague analyzed year 2000 Census data and published their findings last year.

In the United States, the ratio of male to female births is 1.05 to 1. However, among American families of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent, the probability of having a boy increased to 1.17 to 1 if the first child was a girl, the Columbia researchers found. If the first two children were girls, it was 50 percent more likely the third child would be a boy (1.51 to 1).

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