Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Health Headlines - July 14

Rural Alabama Doctor Picked For U.S. Surgeon General

A rural Alabama family physician was nominated Monday to be the United States' next surgeon general. President Barack Obama made the announcement.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, the nominee, made headlines for her resolve to rebuild her nonprofit medical clinic after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the Associated Press reported. A few months after it was rebuilt, it burned down. She started rebuilding it again.

Benjamin, 51, the first black woman and youngest doctor elected to the American Medical Association's board, received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights in 1998. She was also awarded the distinguished service medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope Benedict XVI.

The Senate must confirm Benjamin's nomination for surgeon general, who acts as the people's health advocate, the AP reported.

The American Medical Association said it is "delighted" with Benjamin's nomination.

"Dr. Benjamin's most important qualification for surgeon general is her deep commitment to her patients. We are particularly gratified to see her recognized for her work caring for patients in rural Alabama, and for her commitment to rebuilding her rural health clinic in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She is a true professional who puts her patients first," the AMA said in a news release.


1918 Flu Pandemic Survivors Immune to Swine Flu: Study

Many survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic appear to be immune to the current swine flu, but not to seasonal flu, says a University of Wisconsin researcher.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka also found that swine flu multiplies more severely in the respiratory system than seasonal flu, the Associated Press reported. In tests on mice, ferrets and monkeys, he found that the swine flu is present in greater numbers throughout the respiratory system instead of staying in the head, like common winter flu.

Kawaoka said the findings make him more concerned about the potential threat posed by swine flu, the AP reported.

The research was published Monday in the journal Nature.


Congress Won't Finish Health-Care Reform by Summer Recess

The massive overhaul of the U.S. health-care system will be put on hold when members of Congress leave for their August recess, lawmakers say.

While that's likely to disappoint President Barack Obama, who made health-care reform a key part of his presidential campaign, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the White House should be pleased with the progress so far. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said "there really is plenty of time," the Associated Press reported.

"Well, we don't expect (a bill) to be signed into law by the August recess. But we expect the House and Senate to have passed bills, yes," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the AP reported.

But it's unlikely it would be the same bill because the House of Representatives and the Senate have been working on sometimes contradictory versions. House Democrats have proposed raising taxes on wealthy Americans to pay for the plan. Democratic leaders, meanwhile, have tried to calm moderate and conservative lawmakers about a proposal that could guarantee tough re-election bids, AP reported.


Family Obesity Follows Gender Lines: Study

Obesity appears to follow gender lines in families, say British researchers who found that obese mothers were 10 times more likely to have obese daughters and obese fathers were six times more likely to have obese sons.

But the study of 226 families found that obese mothers and fathers didn't have an effect on children of the opposite sex, BBC News reported.

The findings suggest that the link is behavioral rather than genetic, which means that policies on fighting obesity may need to be reconsidered, the researchers said.

"It is the reverse of what we have thought and this has fundamental implications for policy," said study leader Professor Terry Wilkin of the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, BBC News reported. "We should be targeting the parents and that is not something we have really done to date."

The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity.

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