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Bird flu outbreak in Romania, near Ukraine

Flu • • Public HealthMar 17 10

Romania has identified an outbreak of bird flu at a poultry farm close to Ukraine and enforced a 20 kilometre-wide surveillance zone around it, the European Union’s executive said on Tuesday.

The outbreak of the H5N1 virus in the commune of Letea near the Ukrainian border is the first detected in Europe since it was found in a wild duck in Germany a year ago.

“Romania’s national laboratory confirmed yesterday that the outbreak concerns the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza,” the European Commission said in a statement.

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Childhood obesity gains, losses

Children's Health • • ObesityMar 16 10

Fewer Chicago kids entering kindergarten and first grade were obese in 2008 vs. five years earlier. But children in Chicago are still more likely to be fatter than kids nationwide and, by sixth grade, more than one in four kids here is obese.

Those are the key findings of a new study by the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children that suggests that efforts to fight childhood obesity in Chicago might be starting to have an effect but also reflects how daunting the problem is.

Efforts here to attack early childhood obesity “seem to be making a difference,” said Adam Becker, executive director of the Chicago consortium, based at Children’s Memorial Hospital. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”

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Fighting Child Obesity: States Lead The Way

Obesity • • Public HealthMar 16 10

The March issue of Health Affairs is a thematic issue focusing on the child obesity epidemic and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Two days after the issue and an accompanying series of policy briefs was released at a March 2 Washington DC briefing, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the first of a planned series of hearings on child obesity. Today, the Health Affairs Blog offers posts from Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the ranking member of the HELP Committee (below) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the panel.

Our nation faces an epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the lives, health, and financial independence of our children and grandchildren. As a result of growing rates of obesity, millions of American children and adolescents will develop heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other serious medical conditions. Obesity-related health care costs, particularly for programs like Medicare and Medicaid, will continue to increase—well beyond their already unsustainable levels.

To save lives, improve health, and prevent rising costs, we must work together—federal, state, and local governments; schools and teachers; parents and children—to fight childhood obesity. The problem we face is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years. Today, 20 percent of children struggle with obesity, and in thirty states, childhood obesity rates have topped 30 percent. For most of these children, their struggles with obesity will follow them into adulthood, as 80 percent of severely overweight teenagers remain obese into their late twenties and beyond.

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Obesity Prevention is Focus of Global Nutrition Transition Conference

Obesity • • Public HealthMar 16 10

Physicians and nutrition scientists from around the world gathered today in Orlando for the opening of the Global Nutrition Transition Conference in order to discuss emerging trends and grass roots solutions to the global obesity epidemic employing balanced nutrition and teaching healthy active lifestyles.

The conference is addressing what is termed the Nutrition Transition—the effect of the globalization of the Western diet which is changing dietary patterns and the incidence of overweight and obesity throughout the world. Conference presenters focused on the dramatic increases in the incidence of overweight and obesity in countries where, until recently, obesity was virtually unknown.

Today’s speakers included Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, Seattle; Dr. Anoop Misra, director of the Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases department of the Fortis Group of Hospitals in New Delhi, India; Dr. Nataniel Viuniski of Unimed Hospital, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; Dr. Linong Ji of Peking University in China; and Dr. Marion Flechtner-Mors of the University of Ulm, Germany.

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Sleep apnea as common as asthma in German kids

Children's Health • • Allergies • • Asthma • • Sleep AidMar 15 10

A new German study suggests that about 3 percent of school-age children may have the nighttime breathing disorder sleep apnea—similar to the country’s rate of childhood asthma.

The findings suggest that there needs to be greater awareness of sleep apnea as a problem among children, researchers report in the European Respiratory Journal.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, occurs when the soft tissues at the back of the throat temporarily collapse during sleep, causing repeated breathing interruptions. The major symptoms include loud snoring and daytime sleepiness owing to a lack of deep sleep at night.

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U.S. stem cell expert is “hottest” researcher

Public HealthMar 15 10

Rudolf Jaenisch, whose stem cell lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has consistently broken new barriers in the field, is the world’s “hottest” researcher, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The annual hot list from Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch also names four genome experts at MIT and Harvard University’s Broad Institute - Mark Daly, David Altshuler, and Paul I.W. de Bakker and Eric Lander.

Biostatistician Goncalo Abecasis of the University of Michigan, who has worked with the Broad team, also makes the top 12 list, as do Manchester University materials professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who discovered graphene, the two-dimensional form of carbon and who also worked on a new adhesive known commonly as gecko tape.

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Childhood Obesity Rates Driven by Snacking

Obesity • • Public HealthMar 15 10

Childhood obesity rates have increased due to constant snacking by kids, according to a new study.

Today’s kids are a generation of snackers. But, the types of foods they’re choosing is driving childhood obesity rates sky high, according to a new study.

Snacking on junk food accounts for more than 27 percent of the daily calories children take in, an increase of 168 calories per day between 1977 and 2006, according to a new report in the journal Health Affairs.

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Play a role in helping to end childhood obesity

Children's Health • • ObesityMar 15 10

First Lady Michelle Obama recently launched a new campaign, Let’s Move, designed to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.

“It’s an ambitious goal, but we don’t have time to wait,” said Mrs. Obama.

Combating childhood obesity will be quite an undertaking, considering that the number of obese children in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1960. Most obese adolescents become obese adults, setting the stage for dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Currently, some 32 percent of America’s children are overweight or obese.

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Homeopathy is useless and unethical

Alternative MedicineMar 13 10

Homeopaths are evoking grand conspiracies to explain the Science and Technology Committee’s brutal report, but in reality they were undone by their own bizarre pronouncements

Today the Science and Technology Select Committee delivered its verdict on homeopathy and it was devastating. The committee has called for the complete withdrawal of NHS funding and official licensing of homeopathy.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the almost farcical nature of the proceedings, with the elite of homeopathy mocked by their own testimony. Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, spewed forth the sort of dialogue that wouldn’t look out of place in a Terry Pratchett novel. As the report drily observes:

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Big first trimester weight gain ups diabetes risk

Diabetes • • Gender: Female • • PregnancyMar 12 10

Women who gain weight too quickly during the first three months of pregnancy are more prone to develop pregnancy-related diabetes, new research shows.

“We found the association was stronger among women who were overweight at the start of pregnancy,” Dr. Monique M. Hedderson of Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Oakland, California, noted in an email to Reuters Health.

This study, she added, suggests that weight gain in early pregnancy may be a modifiable risk factor for pregnancy-related, or “gestational,” diabetes.

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Rates of food sensitivity vary by country

Allergies • • Food & NutritionMar 12 10

People in Portland are more likely than those in Iceland to be sensitive to certain foods, but reactions to fish, eggs and cow’s milk appear rare in both places, new research suggests.

The study, of more than 4,500 adults from 13 Western countries, found that nations varied in the rate of people who were sensitive to at least one food—ranging from about 25 percent of those in Portland, Oregon, to just under 8 percent of those in Reykjavik, Iceland.

However, countries tended to be similar in the specific culprit foods.

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Obama: Time for talk is over on healthcare bill

Public HealthMar 11 10

President Barack Obama declared on Wednesday the “time for talk is over” and urged the U.S. Congress to vote on healthcare as his health secretary directly challenged insurers to forgo profits to make coverage more affordable.

Visiting America’s heartland, Obama tried to rally support for his healthcare legislation among wavering Democrats. He urged them to set aside their worries about a political backlash and support the legislation.

“Folks in Washington, they like to talk. So Washington is doing right now what Washington does,” he told a crowd at a high school in St. Charles, Missouri. “They’re speculating breathlessly day or night. Every columnist. Every pundit. Every talking head. Is this proposal going to help the Republicans or is this proposal going to help the Democrats?”

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“Personal” study shows gene maps can spot disease

Genetics • • Public HealthMar 11 10

Two studies published on Wednesday show it is possible to sequence the entire gene maps of families with inherited diseases and pinpoint the offending bit of DNA.

The studies, which would not have been possible a year or two ago, are the first real delivery of the promised transformation of medical science from the Human Genome Project’s mapping of the human genetic code.

One was also made possible by some of the $5 billion that U.S. President Barack Obama directed to the National Institutes of Health in September from the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

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Conquering obesity improves lives

Obesity • • Public HealthMar 11 10

I’ve written many times that we are the fattest society the world has ever seen, and we are getting fatter year by year, and at a faster rate. We lead the world in obesity, but, unfortunately, many parts of the world seem determined to catch us.

The World Health Organization projects that from 2005 to 2015, the incidence of overweight adults worldwide will increase from 1.6 billion to 2.3 billion, and the incidence of obesity will increase from 300 million to 700 million. These trends, if ignored, foreshadow severe implications for the future, both human and economic.

The human cost in terms of compromised and ruined lives from chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes is obvious.

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Obesity and Colon Cancer a Deadly Combination

Cancer • • Colorectal cancer • • ObesityMar 11 10

Obese patients with colon cancer may have a greater chance of dying from the disease compared to those at a normal weight.

Every year in the United States, roughly 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer. A new study involved 4,381 patients with stage II or II colon cancer who were treated with chemotherapy, 20 percent of whom were obese.

“Obesity has long been established as a risk factor for cancer, but our study in colon cancer patients shows that obesity predicts a poorer prognosis after the cancer is surgically removed,” Frank A. Sinicrope, M.D., a professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, N.Y., was quoted as saying.

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