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Public Health

New York approves tougher legislation on circumcision

Public Health • • Sexual HealthSep 16 12

New York City’s Jewish ritual circumcisers who use their mouths to draw away blood from the wound on a baby’s penis must now get the parents to sign a consent form, health officials said on Thursday.

The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously in favor the new regulation, citing the risk that infants could catch a potentially deadly herpes infection through the ancient ritual.

The decision to amend the city’s health code has angered some members of the city’s Orthodox Jewish communities, who say it is an unwarranted intrusion by the government on religious freedom.

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Planned Parenthood asks court to reconsider Texas health ruling

Public HealthSep 04 12

Planned Parenthood asked a federal appeals court on Tuesday to reconsider a ruling that would allow Texas to exclude it from a health program for low-income women, as opponents of the rule packed a public hearing to express their outrage.

A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled last month that Texas may exclude groups affiliated with abortion providers from the Medicaid Women’s Health Program, which provides cancer screenings, birth control and other health services to more than 100,000 Texas women.

In a filing with the court, Planned Parenthood asked the full court to rehear the matter, saying the rule violates its First Amendment rights to speech and association by barring it from participating in the program because it uses non-government money to engage in constitutionally protected conduct.

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MMV develops framework to assess risk of resistance for antimalarial compounds

Infections • • Public HealthAug 21 12

Medicines for Malaria Venture has developed a framework to evaluate the risk of resistance for the antimalarial compounds in its portfolio. A paper based on this work: A framework for assessing the risk of resistance for antimalarials in development has been published in the Malaria Journal today.

Resistance defines the longevity of every anti-infective drug, so it is important when developing new medicines for malaria, to check how easily promising antimalarial compounds will select for resistance. Once this is known, it facilitates the prioritization of not only the most efficacious compounds but also the most robust ones.

“By profiling our portfolio as early as possible in terms of resistance liabilities, be they pre-existing or acquired, we are attempting to ensure that none of the compounds will fall to potential resistance,” said Tim Wells, Chief Scientific Officer, MMV, and one of the authors of the paper. “This will also help us cost-effectively accelerate the drug development process, and be prepared in advance with a full resistance profile which is required by regulatory authorities before a new drug can be approved.”

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‘DNA wires’ could help physicians diagnose disease

Public HealthAug 19 12

In a discovery that defies the popular meaning of the word “wire,” scientists have found that Mother Nature uses DNA as a wire to detect the constantly occurring genetic damage and mistakes that - if left unrepaired - can result in diseases like cancer and underpin the physical and mental decline of aging.

That topic - DNA wires and their potential use in identifying people at risk for certain diseases - is the focus of a plenary talk here today during the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. The meeting, which features about 8,600 reports with an anticipated attendance of 14,000 scientists and others continues here through Thursday.

“DNA is a very fragile and special wire,” said Jacqueline K. Barton, Ph.D., who delivered the talk. “You’re never going to wire a house with it, and it isn’t sturdy enough to use in popular electronic devices. But that fragile state is exactly what makes DNA so good as an electrical biosensor to identify DNA damage.”

Barton won the U.S. National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor for scientific achievement, for discovering that cells use the double strands of the DNA helix like a wire for signaling, which is critical to detecting and repairing genetic damage. She is a professor of chemistry and is chair of the division of chemistry and chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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Japanese women lose longevity crown after 2011 disaster

Public HealthJul 26 12

Japanese women lost their longevity crown last year after 26 years at the top of world life expectancy rankings, the government said on Thursday, blaming the 2011 earthquake and tsunami for the drop.

The health and labor ministry said the disaster, which left nearly 20,000 dead or missing, was mainly behind a decline in average lifespan by 0.4 years to 85.90 years. That put Japanese women behind Hong Kong, in the top spot with 86.7 years.

The ministry said a rise in the number of suicides last year also contributed to the decline.

For men, average life expectancy fell 0.11 years to 79.44, leaving them tied for 7th place with Italians. Switzerland led male longevity rankings with average expectancy of 80.2 years.

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Physical inactivity causes 1 in 10 deaths worldwide, study says

Public HealthJul 18 12

Physical inactivity causes 1 in 10 deaths worldwide, according to a series of studies released in British medical journal The Lancet, putting it on par with the dangers of smoking and obesity. The results also suggest that public health officials treat this situation as a pandemic.

Specifically, Harvard researchers say, inactivity caused an increase in deaths from coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancers and caused more than 5.3 million deaths in 2008 worldwide.

If physical inactivity rates were to go down by even 10% to 20% worldwide, they say, it could save between a half-million and 1.3 million lives each year. This could also raise global life expectancy by almost a year.

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Radioactive medicine without the nuclear headache

Headaches • • Public HealthJun 17 12

A made-in-Canada solution to our medical-isotope problem could come from a machine with a name that could have been pulled straight from the pages of a science fiction novel: the cyclotron.

“It was really pooh-poohed, this idea of using cyclotrons; they said there was no way we could produce enough in a commercially meaningful way,” says John Wilson, the cyclotron facilities manager at the University of Alberta’s Cross Cancer Institute.

In mid-2010, scientists at the University of Sherbrooke and the University of Alberta made technetium-99m, the most commonly used medical isotope, without a nuclear reactor. Last fall, the Alberta scientists began putting the cyclotron-produced technetium-99m through its paces, testing it in animals and humans, and found that the medical scans looked the same as those done using the regular stuff.

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Valeant to buy private dental company for $312 million

Public HealthJun 15 12

Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc will buy privately held drugmaker OraPharma for about $312 million, to enter the dental market.

The company, which has been on a buying spree across various geographies since Michael Pearson took over as its chief executive four years ago, said it will also pay $114 million in potential contingent payments based on certain milestones.

The deal, which is expected to close in June, will add to Valeant’s earnings in 2012, the company said in a statement.

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Researchers urge EU not to cut stem cell funding

Public HealthJun 15 12

Leading scientists, biomedical research bodies and patient groups urged the European Parliament on Friday to maintain vital European Union funding for studies using embryonic stem cells.

Hailing the field as “one of the most exciting and promising” in modern biomedical research, the group said they feared research grants currently under review may be under threat from pro-life European parliamentarians who say public funds should not be spent on embryonic stem cell work.

“(EU) Commission funding must be available to continue to support scientists investigating all types of stem cells - including human embryonic stem cells - with potential to make advances in regenerative medicine,” they wrote in an open letter released by the Wellcome Trust, a charitable health foundation.

The European Parliament is currently debating the future outline of Horizon 2020, the EU’s program for research and innovation which will run from 2014 to 2020.

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Why are female doctors paid less than male counterparts?

Public HealthJun 13 12

Male doctors earn more than their female counterparts, even if they have similar hours, titles and specialties, according to new American research.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and Duke University conducted an analysis that found male doctors earn about $12,000 more a year than female physicians. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The gender pay disparity we found in this highly talented and select group of physicians was sobering,” Reshma Jagsi, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School and lead author of the study said in a press release.

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Development of prosthetic hands stagnated for twenty years

Public Health • • TraumaJun 12 12

The development of body-powered prosthetic hands has stagnated for over twenty years. That is the main conclusion of a study by researchers from TU Delft and the University of Groningen into this type of prosthesis, which is published in the American Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development.

High operating force
The study, which was carried out by researchers from TU Delft and the University of Groningen, measured the force required to operate a number of contemporary body-powered prosthetic hands. The researchers compared the results to earlier measurements from 1987 and came up with remarkable results: today’s prosthetic hands perform equally or less well than those from 1987. The grip strength of the hands is insufficient and a very high operating force is required. Another remarkable result: a prosthetic hand developed in 1945 performed better in the test than the newer prosthetic hands.

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Soccer players often recover from fractures: study

Public HealthJun 07 12

Most soccer players who break a bone will return to the playing field and compete at the same level as before their injury, a new study from Scotland suggests.

On average, it took injured players in the study 15 weeks to get back to their full playing ability, with leg fractures requiring more time away from the sport than broken arms, the researchers found.

“Soccer players, managers and coaches now have a realistic picture of what to expect following a fracture during soccer,” said Dr. Gregory Robertson, an orthopedic trauma resident at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, who worked on the study.

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Older Adults May Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Mobility Difficulties

Gender: Male • • Public HealthMay 29 12

Older adults who don’t get enough vitamin D - either from diet, supplements or sun exposure - may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability, according to new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“This is one of the first studies to look at the association of vitamin D and the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults,” said lead author Denise Houston, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition epidemiologist in the Wake Forest Baptist Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology. Houston researches vitamin D and its effects on physical function.

The study, published online this month in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, analyzed the association between vitamin D and onset of mobility limitation and disability over six years of follow-up using data from the National Institute on Aging’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. Mobility limitation and disability are defined as any difficulty or inability to walk several blocks or climb a flight of stairs, respectively.

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Kids’ friends influence physical activity levels

Children's Health • • Public HealthMay 28 12

Children may be more physically active when their friends run and jump more, too, say U.S. researchers looking for ways to prevent obesity.

Kids in peer groups that included others who were physically active were six times more likely to change their activity levels, said Sabina Gesell of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and her co-authors, in study published in today’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“Friendship ties may play a critical role in setting physical activity patterns in children as young as 5 to 12 years,” the researchers concluded.

In the study, 81 racially diverse public school students who went to after-school programs were interviewed to find out the names of their friends during three week-long periods during the spring of 2010.

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Clock ticking on Illinois Medicaid, pension reforms

Public HealthMay 27 12

Facing a May 31 deadline, the Illinois General Assembly on Friday raced to pass legislation to stop the state from sinking under pension and Medicaid payments, which account for 39 percent of general fund spending.

Both chambers of the Democratic-controlled legislature on Thursday sent Governor Pat Quinn a bill that would slice spending on Medicaid, the joint federal-state healthcare program for the poor, by $1.6 billion by reducing eligibility and provider rates and cutting or eliminating programs.

“The status quo would have led to Medicaid’s collapse, and I am pleased to see the General Assembly take strong action to put our Medicaid system and our state on the path to sound fiscal footing,” Quinn, a Democrat, said in a statement.

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