Health Highlights: July 9, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

WHO Approves 2nd Cervical Cancer Vaccine

A second cervical cancer vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization, a decision that opens the way for United Nations agencies and partners to purchase millions of doses of the vaccine, Cervarix, for use in developing nations, where most deaths from cervical cancer occur.

Cervarix is made by GlaxoSmithKline. The WHO had previously approved the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Health officials say the availability of two vaccines could save tens of thousands of lives a year, the Associated Press reported.

Of the estimated 280,000 cervical cancer deaths worldwide each year, more than 80 percent occur in developing countries. Early diagnosis and treatment have greatly reduced the disease's impact in Western nations.

Cervarix is available in 97 countries but has not been approved for use in the United States or Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision on Cervarix in the next few months.

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Kolcraft Recalls Children's Play Yards

About a million play yards distributed by Kolcraft Enterprises of Chicago have been recalled because a side rail with a faulty latch can open if a child pushes against it, resulting in a fall.

The company says it has received 347 reports of side rail collapses, resulting in 21 injuries from falls, including one concussion, as well as bumps, scrapes and bruises, MSNBC.com reported.

The recalled play yards -- under the brand names of Kolcraft, Carter's, Sesame Street, Jeep, Contours, Care Bear and Eric Carle -- were sold online and at Babies R Us, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Target and other stores across the United States between January 2000 and January 2009. Prices ranged from $49 to $160.

According to the company, retrofit kits are available.

For details on the recall, call 866-594-4208 or go to www.kolcraft.com.

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U.S. Hospitals Agree to Help Defray Health Reform Costs

To help pay for the health-care reform plan put forth by the Obama administration, hospitals across the country have agreed to a cut in Medicare and Medicaid payments, Vice President Joseph Biden announced Wednesday.

Terms of the agreement, which should save an estimated $155 billion in federal spending, include reducing payments for treating uninsured and low-income patients and slowing scheduled increases in Medicare payments, the Associated Press reported.

In return, hospitals would be reimbursed at rates higher than now allowed by Medicare and Medicaid if a public health insurance plan becomes part of the reform legislation, according to the AP.

Although Biden repeated the administration's vow to have health-care reform bills passed by Congress by the end of August and signed into law by October, the legislation remains mired on Capitol Hill. Partisan discussion and debate this week has centered on a proposed tax on certain health insurance benefits provided by employers.

Appearing with the vice president for announcement of the hospital deal were representatives of the American Hospital Association, Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems and the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the AP said.

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Report Contends Lack of Oversight for Bottled Water

The water in your tap is more rigorously regulated than the bottled water you buy in a store, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report delivered Wednesday to Congress.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee heard that Environmental Protection Agency rules governing tap water are more thorough and require more disclosure than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules that govern bottled water, CBS News reported.

The GAO's John Stephenson said Americans spend more than $11 billion a year on bottled water -- equaling an estimated 200 bottles annually for every "man, woman and child." But the oversight of bottled water is "less stringent" than for tap water. For instance, there are no rules for a potentially dangerous chemical used in plastics, DEHP, that could seep from the bottles, Stephenson said.

Joseph Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, said bottled water is a "safe, healthy convenient food product that is comprehensively regulated." He suggested that consumers who want to know where the water comes from just call the manufacturer.

But Jane Houlihan, of the Environmental Working Group, said that information should be printed on the label. According to CBS News, she said that consumers have a "right to know where their bottled water comes from, how or if it's treated and the pollutants it contains."

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Wednesday Darkest Day for Suicides: Study

Forget what you've heard about the Monday morning blues. A new study shows that Americans are most likely to commit suicide on Wednesdays.

A five-year study, published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, found that nearly 25 percent of suicides take place on Wednesdays, followed by Mondays or Saturdays, which were tied with 14 percent, MSNBC reported.

Researchers had typically considered Monday the day of despair. But now they theorize that the Internet's ability to keep people feeling connected over the weekend may be responsible for the shift, making mid-week job stress more of a problem than weekend solitude.

"By Wednesday, the traffic has gotten to be too much, their co-workers are getting on their nerves and they can't figure out how they're going to make it to the end of the week," the report's lead author, Augustine J. Kposowa, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, told MSNBC.

Also, contrary to earlier research that showed more suicides in winter and spring, the new study found almost no seasonal differences -- a change that Kposowa also attributes to technological connectedness. Winter doesn't isolate folks the way it once did, he said.

He and his colleagues studied deaths among people age 18 and older from all 50 states from 2000 through 2004. About 30,000 people in that group took their lives each year on average, they found.

Posted: July 2009


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