Health Updates 5 December 2011

  • More parents skip childhood vaccines: “Health officials have struggled for years to reassure parents that childhood vaccinations are safe, but the number of parents who skip the shots continues to grow, according to a new analysis by the Associated Press.  In more than half of the states, the number of parents opting to skip some or all childhood vaccines is rising….And in eight states, more than 1 in 20 public school children do not get the vaccines that are required for kindergarten attendance.”  According to the report, the overall vaccination rates remain high, but they worry about states with exemption rates above 5 percent.  “Even more troubling are pockets in some states where exemption rates are much higher.  In some rural counties in northeast Washington, for example, vaccination exemption rates in recent years have been above 20 percent and even as high as 50 percent.  ‘Vaccine refusers tend to cluster’, said Saad Omer, an Emory University epidemiologist who has done extensive research on the issue.” (NY Times)
  • Stem cells show promise for damaged hearts: “For the first time, stem cells were injected into the hearts of humans who had suffered serious heart damage, and patients improved dramatically.  It appears that, as everyone hoped, the stem cells grew into new heart cells to replace the damaged ones.  This is the promise of all stem cell research: to repair or replace damaged organs that otherwise would never recover.  In principle, we can someday use the same technique to replace damaged livers, kidneys, spinal cords, cartilage, and virtually all other tissues in the human body”. (Forbes)
  • Insurance agents’ commissions ruled as part of ‘administrative costs’ in the medical loss ratio: “Brokers had lobbied hard to have their fees included on the medical care side and not counted as administrative costs, which also includes such expenses as marketing and executive salaries.  Brokers argued commissions would be cut and agents could lose their jobs, if the fees were counted as  expenses.  That would leave consumers without as much access to brokers, who help them choose health insurance.  But consumer advocates fought the move, saying commissions are clearly administrative costs and removing them would make it easier for insurers to avoid paying the required rebates to consumers.” (NPR Shots)
  • ‘Sexting’ not very widespread among kids, teens: “Sexting does not appear to be a common behavior in children and teens, and usually does not result in legal trouble when only minors are involved, two studies showed….Although the results are somewhat reassuring, [Dr. Kimberly] Mitchell and colleagues wrote ‘receiving and thus possession of potentially illegal images among young people is widespread enough that education about this and its consequences is strongly warranted’.” (Todd Neale, MedPage Today)

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