3.15.16:  More doctors are prescribing exercise instead of medication



BOSTON (AP) — Doctors treating chronic health problems increasingly are prescribing exercise instead of medicines for their patients.

At a health center in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, primary care physicians, internists and psychologists are prescribing access to a gym for $10 a month.

Advocates say low-cost access to a gym is important. Many residents’ income is low, and 70 percent of patients suffer from chronic problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

Monisha Long suffers from morbid obesity and hypertension. She credits her doctor’s exercise prescription for helping her shed 150 pounds over the past few years.


2.16.16:  USDA rules would increase food stamp access to healthy foods



WASHINGTON (AP) — Retailers that accept food stamps would have to start stocking a wider variety of healthy foods or face the loss of consumers under proposed rules expected to be announced by the Agriculture Department today.

The rules are designed to ensure people who use food stamps have better access to healthy foods. But they don’t dictate what people buy or eat. A person using food stamp dollars could still purchase as much junk food as they wanted, but they would at least have more options in the store to buy fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats and bread.

The rules would require stores to stock at least 168 items that the Agriculture Department considers healthy.


2.4.16:  Concerns on the rise over Zika Virus



PARIS (AP) — The head of the Pan American Health Organization says more resources are needed quickly if the region is to fight the Zika outbreak. It’s spread in the Americas and has been liked to a birth defect that causes infants to have unusually small heads. Health ministers from Latin America held an emergency meeting in Uruguay on Wednesday. Every nation in the region was encouraged to devote more money to expand mosquito control campaigns, bolster health services and educate the public on the dangers.


Meanwhile, health emergencies have been declared in four Florida counties because of the Zika virus. That’s because there have been at least nine cases of the mosquito-borne illness. The counties are Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Santa Rosa. Health officials believe all of the cases are from people who contracted the disease while traveling to affected countries.

2.4.16:  Johnson & Johnson, ViaCyte testing possible diabetes cure



UNDATED (AP) — Johnson & Johnson, continuing its long quest for a Type 1 diabetes cure, is joining forces with biotech company ViaCyte to speed development of the first stem cell treatment that could cure the life-threatening hormonal disorder.

They’ve already begun testing it in a small number of diabetic patients, a first. If it works as well in patients as it has in animals, it would amount to a cure, ending the need for frequent insulin injections and blood sugar testing.

The companies have agreed to combine patents covering their research under ViaCyte.

Their therapy involves inducing embryonic stem cells to turn into insulin-producing cells while inside a small capsule that is implanted under the skin. The capsule protects the cells from the immune system, which otherwise would attack them as invaders.


1.27.16:  Judge OKs reworked NCAA concussions settlement



CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge in Chicago has given preliminary approval to a reworked head-injury settlement between former college athletes and the NCAA.

U.S. District Judge John Lee said Tuesday his is giving his OK to a deal hammered out after he rejected the initial agreement in 2014. Lee praised the new deal for expanding plaintiffs to athletes from sports beyond football, hockey and other contact sports.

He also suggested some changes before he can give final approval. That includes modifying what would have been a blanket protection for the NCAA from class-action concussion suits.

The core of the new agreement is the same. That includes the NCAA creating a multimillion-dollar fund to test current and former athletes for brain trauma.


1-26-15 Flint in Danger of Running Out of Cash

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Flint official says the city’s water utility could run out of money by year’s end as more people skip paying bills amid the crisis with lead-tainted water.

City Administrator Natasha Henderson told city council members at a meeting Monday that the public health emergency is driving down collections on water bills. She says it’s an “imminent concern” and it is leaving the city in a “very precarious situation.”

The Flint Journal reports ( ) Henderson says conservative estimates indicate the water fund will be out of cash by December. Henderson says she and other city leaders have met with state officials about the utility’s financial problems.

On Monday, dozens of people protested in front of City Hall. Some say they shouldn’t have to pay for the water.


1.19.16:  Effort to curb overuse of antibiotics amid cold, flu seasons



UNDATED (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Physicians are telling doctors to avoid using antibiotics when treating even severe colds. And they’ve issued new guidelines, which have been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The experts say don’t prescribe antibiotics for acute bronchitis unless pneumonia is suspected.

And they suggest over-the-counter remedies for pain.

They say overuse of antibiotics leads to drug-resistant germs.


1.7.16:  New dietary guidelines: lean meat OK, cut the added sugars



WASHINGTON (AP) — New dietary guidelines released by the government say that some Americans may not have to cut back on eggs and salt as much as they once thought. And eating lean meat is still OK. But watch the sugary drinks.

The guidelines released Thursday back off the strictest sodium rules included in the last version, though Americans still consume too much salt. It reverses guidance on the dangers of dietary cholesterol and adds new advice on sugars.

Released every five years, the guidelines are intended to help Americans prevent disease and obesity. They inform everything from package labels to subsidized school lunches to doctors’ advice. The main message is similar to previous years: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and seafood, too. And keep sugar, fats and salt in moderation.


12.28.15:  Kids’ asthma rates quiet down after earlier increase: Study



CHICAGO (AP) — Experts are cautiously welcoming the results of the latest government study on childhood asthma.

The study published online in the journal Pediatrics finds that after going up for decades, asthma rates in U.S. children have quieted down.

The 2001-13 study suggests that a possible plateau in childhood obesity rates and declines in air pollution are possible factors.

Overall, average asthma rates among kids aged 17 and younger increased slightly, then leveled off and declined by the study’s end.

Declines in the most recent years were in children younger than 5, Mexican kids, those in the Midwest and those from families that weren’t poor. Rates plateaued among whites and those living in the Northeast and West, but increased in those aged 10 to 17, kids from poor families and those living in the South.

Rates increased but then plateaued among blacks.



10.26.15:  WHO: Processed meat linked to cancer; red meat is risky too



PARIS (AP) — The World Health Organization’s cancer agency says that processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon and other cancers, and red meat is probably cancer-causing as well.

Researchers from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, released an evaluation of more than 800 studies from several continents about meat and cancer.

Based on that evaluation, they classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” — in the same category as cigarettes — and red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Meat industry groups protest the classification, arguing that cancer is not caused by specific foods but by several factors.

Doctors and many government agencies have long warned that a diet loaded with red meat is linked to cancers, including of the colon and pancreas.