Health Updates 19 September 2011

  • Using Facebook may change our brains: Researchers “discovered a strong connection between the number of Facebook friends and the amount of ‘grey matter’ in the amygdala, the right superior temporal sulcus, the left middle temporal gyrus and the right entorhinal cortex.  Grey matter is the layer of  brain tissue where mental processing occurs.  The thickness of grey matter in the amygdala was also linked to the number of real-world friends people had, but the size of the other three regions appeared to be correlated only to online connections.”  (Reuters)
  • US healthcare gets bad grades on scorecard: “The US healthcare system is not improving much despite the fact that the cost of care is higher than ever, according to a national healthcare scorecard released by the Commonwealth Fund on Tuesday….The scorecard measures the US healthcare system across 42 indicators of healthcare quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives, and compares US averages to rates achieved by the top 10% of states, regions, health plans, hospitals, other providers and other top-performing countries.  The US had more preventable deaths that could have been prevented by timely and effective medical care than any of the other 15 industrialized countries included in the report.  The report also found that the average US infant mortality rate is 35% higher than rates in top-performing states in the US.  Other high-income countries still have infant mortality rates that are significantly lower than the best-performing states in the US.” (Emily P. Walker, MedPage Today)
  • Annual cervical cancer screenings are seen as overdone: “New guidelines out Wednesday for cervical cancer screening have experts at odds over some things, but they are united in the view that the common practice of getting a Pap test every year is too often and probably doing more harm than good.  A Pap smear once every three years is the best way to detect cervical cancer, the US Preventative Services Task Force says.  Last week, it recommended against prostate cancer screening with PSA tests, which many men get every year.” (Associated Press)
  • Sharp drop in heart failure admissions, first ever: Heart failure hospitalizations dropped 29.5% nationally over the past decade, largely because fewer patients were admitted rather than fewer admissions per patient, researchers found….That decline – the first ever documented in the US – likely saved $4.1 billion in Medicare costs since 1998….The main reason for the drop in hospitalizations was fewer unique patients hospitalized for heart failure” – plenty of reason for hope, but with plenty of room for improvement. (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)

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