Review Category : Health

WHO Urges Action to Curb Deaths Caused By Noncommunicable Diseases

ALAIN GROSCLAUDE/AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization urged action Monday, noting that noncommunicable diseases — such as cancer, diabetes, heart and lung diseases and stroke — claim millions of lives each year.

A new WHO report found that of the 38 million lives lost to noncommunicable diseases in 2012, 16 million were premature and avoidable.

“By investing just $1 to $3 per person per year, countries can dramatically reduce illness and death from NCDs,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

Deaths caused by NCDs are especially high in low- and middle-income countries, the WHO said, with 82 percent of the 16 million premature deaths occurring in those nations.

Among the high-impact recommendations made by the WHO are the banning of tobacco advertising, replacing trans fats with polyunsaturated fats, restricting or banning alcohol advertising, preventing heart attacks and strokes, promoting breastfeeding, implementing public awareness programs on diet and physical activity, and implementing cervical cancer screening.

“In 2015, every country needs to set national targets and implement cost-effective actions,” Chan added. “If they do not, millions of lives will continue to be lost too soon.”

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When You Quit Worrying About Sleep, You Might Get More of It

BernardaSv/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Are you frequently worried that you don’t get enough sleep?

A major reason for all that worrying may be due to the fact you’re not getting enough sleep.

Confused? Binghamton University psychologist Jacob A. Nota explains that a lack of sleep affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is associated with attention. As a result, when people are tired, they tend to worry more.

Nota figured this out by surveying undergrads about their sleep habits and invariably, those who spent less time in bed turned out to be the biggest worriers.

The researcher says that it can turn into a vicious circle — that is, people who sleep less, worry more and because they worry more, it causes them to sleep less.

Experts on sleep deprivation recommend that one way to possibly overcome fatigue and worry is by getting the most difficult tasks of the day out of the way first, while you feel more energetic and alert.

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Having a Nightcap May Hinder Sleep, Study Says

Peter Högström/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Having a stiff drink before bedtime may not help you get to sleep, researchers say.

According to a study published in the journal Alcohol, researchers in Melbourne, Australia, studied the brain waves of 24 young adults who were given either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink before sleep on three non-consecutive nights. Participants were given either a screwdriver — orange juice and vodka — or plain orange juice shortly before bed.

Researchers said that the participants who had the alcoholic drink were more likely to have sleep disturbances based on brain wave changes. Those changes, they say, could result in interruption of sleep.

The study was a small one, and further research is needed to determine differences between age groups, alternate doses of alcohol, and the impact on potential habitual drinkers. Researchers also looked only at brain waves and not how participants functioned the following day or how the subjects felt they slept.

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Boy, 4, Reunites With Firefighters Who Saved His Life

Courtesy UCSF Benioff Childrens Hospital Oakland(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Three months after 4-year-old Sebastian Johnson’s fall off a 225-foot cliff, he has reunited with the hero firefighters who saved his life.

“Thank you for saving my life,” he told the Bodega Head Firefighters on Thursday in northern California.

Sebastian was with his family at Bodega Head, a rocky beach area north of San Francisco, Nov. 10 when the ground beneath his feet gave way and he tumbled out of sight, his father, Daryl Johnson, told ABC News Affiliate KGO-TV.

“The incident that happened was my worst nightmare,” he told the television station of a fall that exceeded the height of a 20-story building.

Sebastian injured his skull and broke many of the bones on his right side, prompting doctors at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, to put him in an induced coma for 10 days.

Speaking to ABC News during Sebastian’s recovery, his mother Jamie Guglielmino described her little boy’s difficult recovery.

“He’s definitely in the arms of angels right now,” Guglielmino told ABC News. “It’s been real touch and go, but he’s on the road to recovery.”

Sebastian has been living at the hospital since his fall in November and will probably remain there for another few weeks, a hospital spokesman told ABC News. But overall, he is in good health.

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Millions Lost Yearly to Ambulance Companies Acting Like a ‘Taxi Service’

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Every year, $350 million in ambulance services is lost to or ripped off by companies, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Ron Kerr, assistant special agent in charge in the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the businesses ran the ambulances like a “glorified taxi service.”

“Ambulances are transporting patients that are healthy enough to travel by other means. It is a very lucrative business because each patient that is transported three times a week — [for example,] a typical dialysis patient — is worth, bills Medicare $60,000 per patient,” said Ron Kerr, assistant special agent in charge in the Office of Inspector General, US Department of Health and Human Services.

ABC News went on patrol with federal agents in Huntington Valley, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Huntington Valley is an area where there are more ambulance companies than taxi companies. The Philadelphia area is one of five cities that include New York, Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta that are considered high risk for ambulance fraud.

One undercover video showed patients — Medicare beneficiaries — riding in the front seat of an ambulance as they were taken to a doctor’s appointment.

What should have been a $20 cab ride now skyrocketing to more than $400 roundtrip, all paid for by Medicare.

Kerr said that ambulance companies meet a state’s requirements to operate and then drivers search for customers in lobbies or waiting rooms. He said the drivers sometimes paid patients with cash or gifts to ride in the ambulance so the company could then bill Medicare.

“It is simple math: If they are able to recruit 20 patients, they are grossing over 1 million dollars a year,” he said. “They are making a tremendous amount of money.”

In another undercover video, a patient climbed into the front seat of an ambulance as a second patient rode in the back.

Though an ambulance is approved for medical needs — for example, a patient who can’t walk – Kerr’s office said the case of the ambulance transporting two patients at one time was double billing. In a third video, an ambulance even stopped so a patient could pick up takeout food.

“Some of the fraudsters that enter into the ambulance fraud may have been drug dealers at one point but it is just more lucrative to get involved in health-care fraud,” Kerr said. “Medicare is over a 600-billion-dollar program. It is where the money is.”

Shantanu Agrawal, a deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and director of the Center for Program Integrity, said the agency took some responsibility for the fraud but was making progress on stopping it.

“We know it’s an area of abuse that in some ways outstrips other areas,” Agrawal said. “We are working as quickly as we can to get it behind us but that is going to take time.”

He said he did not think it was a war his agency was losing, though.

“I think with all of the new tools we have, we are doing a lot to safeguard the program on the front end to make sure bad actors aren’t getting in in the first place,” Agrawal said. “And if they’re already in the program because of, you know, historic rules that existed before, we’re working very hard to get them out.”

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No Charges Against Teen Who Pretended to Be Florida Doctor, Police Say

DragonImages/iStock/Thinkstock(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — Hospital staff and police have opted not to pursue charges against a teenager who, they say, masqueraded as a doctor for a month at a West Palm Beach, Florida, facility before being found out.

According to police documents, authorities were called to St. Mary’s Medical Center on Tuesday by the staff after a patient reported that “a child was dressed as a doctor.”

The patient said the 17-year-old was dressed in a white lab coat with a St. Mary’s logo and the word “anesthesiology” embroidered on the front.

The report said the young man, whose name was not released, was wearing a “stethoscope around his neck and a face mask.”

Dr. Sebastian Kent, an ob-gyn, said he encountered the teen as he tended to a patient that the teen had called “his wife.”

“He was wearing a lab coat, a white coat very similar to a doctor’s coat,” Kent told ABC News on Friday. “Initially and certainly looking back retrospectively, I thought you know this person looks so young. … And I just [thought]: ‘Boy, they’re getting out of med school really quickly now.”

Kent said that they did not talk medicine and that at no point did he see the teen administer to any patients.

An hour later, he said the teen left him a Post-It note asking that the ob-gyn give him a call. Kent said that when he did reach him over the phone, the teen asked to follow him as an “intern” in the office and hospital.

When Kent sought details about the teen’s schooling, he said the teen was ambiguous.

“Every minute there was a different school. He was from one place, then he was from someplace else,” Kent said. “The story started to get a little more vague. … He did remind me of the kids that I tutor in high school. Just the kind of language he used. … Just his way of expressing himself.”

Kent said he did not call the police but a while after that conversation, he saw the teen outside surrounded by three or four police officers.

The police report said the teen said that he’d been a doctor for “years” and that his family knew about it.

In a statement, the hospital said: “On January 13, an individual was detained by security at St. Mary’s Medical Center after falsely presenting himself as a physician. The individual never had contact with any hospital patients and did not gain access to any patient care areas of the hospital at any time. The hospital immediately notified local authorities, who took the individual into custody, and we are cooperating with their ongoing investigation. The safety and security of patients is our highest priority.”

The child was released into the custody of his mother, who told police that the child was under the care of a doctor but refused to take medication.

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Fighting Flu: When You Should Go to the Hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A 26-year-old newlywed’s death from a flu complication is a sobering reminder that the flu can kill even healthy people with no underlying medical conditions.

Katie McQuestion started feeling sick on Monday, and she died on Friday of sepsis, her mother told ABC News. She was just married in September.

“Someone can look good one day and not look good the next day,” said Dr. Frank Esper an infectious diseases expert at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. “Anyone can get really sick from the flu and anyone can die from the flu.”

As the flu season goes into full swing, emergency departments across the country expect “a huge volume” of patients with the flu and other viruses, Esper said. Most of the time, they have nothing to worry about, but “a very small percentage” come down with severe or life-threatening illnesses and complications.

In Nevada, hospitals are so full of flu patients that public health officials are asking people without emergencies to seek care somewhere else, according to several news outlets in the state.

Most people who die from complications of the flu tend to die of pneumonia, an infection in the lungs, Esper noted.

“Influenza basically opens the back door for other germs to cause really bad diseases,” he said. “Your immune system is all focused on fighting off influenza that a germ like staph or strep sneaks in through the back door and causes really, really bad pneumonia or can get into the blood and cause sepsis.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53,826 people died from the flu and pneumonia in 2010.

If you have an underlying condition that makes you more likely to get severe influenza — such being immuno-compromised, having asthma or being very young or very old — you should call your doctor as soon as you start experiencing flu symptoms, Esper said. Your doctor can prescribe an antiviral medication that will keep your illness from worsening, he said.

If you don’t have the above conditions, here’s when you or your family should call your doctor or take you to the hospital:

  • If you can’t catch your breath or breathing is painful.
  • If you can’t keep fluids down.
  • If there’s blood in the phlegm you’re coughing up.
  • If you can’t think clearly and your speech is slurred.
  • If you’re too weak to stand.

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Why Raven-Symone Used to Tan ‘Three or Four Times a Week’

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Raven-Symone has revealed a former habit she had while filming That’s So Raven, her hit Disney series that ended in 2007.

“When I had my own show, I used to tan three or four times a week in a tanning bed to get darker,” she says in a new OWN documentary, Light Girls. “I did.”

The sequel to Dark Girls, this new documentary highlights light-skinned African-American women, who detail personal struggles with their skin color. Director Bill Duke also spoke to R&B singer Chante Moore and actress Essence Atkins, among others.

Raven-Symone said she eventually stopped tanning because it was affecting her show’s production.

“It’s funny, one of the lighting guys came up — I love him to death. I love him. Oh my goodness — he goes, ‘Raven, I need you to stop tanning. You’re getting too dark, and we have to re-light the whole entire show,'” Raven recalls in the documentary. “I was like, ‘Sorry. I was just trying to be pretty.'”

Light Girls premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.

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Why Some Schools Have ‘Cupcake Amnesty’, Others Have Cupcake Bans

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cupcakes are at the center of a growing national debate on school snacks.

In some states, public health and school officials would like to ban the miniature cakes from schools entirely, along with all other sugar-laden goodies.

This week, the Iowa City School district proposed prohibiting all homemade treats from school celebrations, allowing only fruits, vegetables and packaged foods with pre-approved ingredients.

Yet, also earlier this week, the new secretary of agriculture of Texas, Sid Miller, declared a “cupcake amnesty” that abolished all rules and guidelines that prevent parents from bringing cupcakes to school.

At the heart of this cupcake war is a burgeoning childhood obesity rate. Nearly 20 percent of children 18 and younger are obese, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — quadruple the number compared to 30 years ago.

“Along with allergies, childhood obesity is one of the things we are trying to address with our new policies,” explained Susie Poulton, the director of health services for the Iowa City School District. “We want to make sure there are always healthy options available for our kids and we’re really working towards making that happen.”

As for Texas, food blogger and school nutrition activist, Bettina Elias Siegel pointed out that the call for cupcake amnesty was unnecessary since the ban on junk food in Texas public schools was lifted more than a decade ago. However, if the rules were reinstated, she said she would support them.

“What I take issue with is bringing treats to school and the kids eating them without their parents’ knowledge and consent,” Siegel said.

Outside of school, Siegel said she is unabashedly pro-cupcake. When her two kids first started school, she was one of the moms who baked cupcakes for their class celebrations. But then she noticed how often they were coming home with blue frosting on their faces.

“I wanted more control over what my kids ate and when,” she said.

James O. Hill, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado, applauded the idea of taking nutrition in schools more seriously but said he thinks cupcake bans go too far.

“We have to have some common sense here. If your kid is physically active they can afford a cupcake now and then,” he said.

Hill said he’s never seen a food ban work. Perhaps a middle ground where there are some limitations are best, he said.

With so many opinions, schools are struggling to strike the right balance.

In Iowa, Poulton acknowledged that cupcakes can be a polarizing issue.

“While I received a lot of positive feedback from parents I spoke with, we received over 800 comments to our proposal in the first 24 hours,” she said. “Many of them were not exactly on board.”

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Pet Therapy Compels Cancer Patients to Stick with Other Therapies

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy and radiation to treat their disease are more likely to continue treatments when they’re supplemented with pet therapy.

Stewart B. Fleishman, principal investigator for the study at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, says that quality of life improved significantly in a trial of more than 40 patients.

Over the course of several weeks, when patients interacted with therapy dogs following chemo and radiation, there was a noticeable boost in emotional well-being.

What’s more, even when patients who suffered from aggressive cancers in the head and neck experienced physical decline, Fleishman said having the dogs around compelled the patients to continue their treatments.

The researcher added, “There isn’t much joy in these months, and we were able to bring some relief in this terrible time.”

The study lasted six weeks with pets visiting the patients between 15-20 minutes daily.

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