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Health Updates 20 January 2012

  • Appendicitis racial disparities mostly unexplained: “Poverty and unfavorable health insurance account for only a small portion of the gap in the number of white versus Hispanic or black children who end up with a burst appendix, according to a new study.  Some previous research has explained the fact that black and Hispanic children are more like to have their appendix rupture by pointing to signs of poor health care access, including being uninsured, having public assistance insurance or having a low socioeconomic status.  But the latest report finds that the main reasons for these disparities ‘are anybody’s guess’ said lead author Dr. Edward Livingston.”  Further,  a pediatric surgeon not involved in the study, Dr. Benedict Nwomeh, observed  that the ”useful contribution of this paper is to say we have this disparity, and if we’re trying to solve this, we shouldn’t be looking at only correcting disparities in insurance and income”. (Reuters)
  • Nurses’ miscarriages linked to chemicals at work: “Nurses who worked with chemotherapy drugs or sterilizing chemicals were twice as like to have a miscarriage as their colleagues who didn’t handle these materials,” a new study found.  “Lead author Christina Lawson, a researcher at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), said she was not too surprised that exposure to certain chemicals would be tied to lost pregnancies.  ‘What surprised me the most was the [chemotherapy] drugs are something we’ve been trying to educate nurses on, about the hazards, and we’re still finding exposures during the first trimester,’ Lawson told Reuters Health.  Because chemotherapy drugs typically target rapidly dividing cells, such as those in a tumor – or a fetus, they have been a concern for pregnant women who come in contact with them…”.  (MedlinePlus/Reuters)
  • Hungry families admit to ‘formula stretching’: “Some families that can’t afford enough infant formula resort to risky ‘formula stretching’, watering down infant formula or skipping feedings, researchers say.  This can have significant health consequences on an infant’s developing brain, increasing the risk for learning, behavioral and psychological problems, according to two new studies from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  In one study, the researchers studied families treated at two pediatric clinics in Cincinnati…despite receiving public assistance, about 30 percent of these families could not afford to  meet their basic nutritional needs”.  This in turn leads to food insecurity, an almost invisible problem that forces families to make difficult choices between nutrition and other essential needs.  Such hungry families need to be better identified by doctors and helped.  (HealthDay)
  • New definition of autism will exclude many, study suggests: “Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests….The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis”.  At present, about one child in 100 is diagnosed as meeting the criteria for autism or related disorders. (NY Times)
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