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Health Highlights: Dec. 3, 2010

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

Campaign Seeks to Reduce Patient Radiation Exposure

A nationwide campaign to stop the overuse of radiation during patient medical exams was launched this week at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting in Chicago.

The Image Wisely campaign includes a pledge to use the lowest necessary level of radiation during a procedure. So far, nearly 700 health-care providers have signed the pledge, the Associated Press reported.

High levels of radiation exposure can cause cancer. In recent decades, increase use of imaging tests, such as CT scans, have contributed to an increase in the average American's total radiation exposure.

Experts said the Image Wisely campaign may encourage a closer look at protocols, increased accreditation of imaging facilities, and more widely shared standards on appropriate radiation doses, the AP reported.


Child Nutrition Bill Approved by Congress

A child nutrition bill that sets new health standards for school meals and expands the school lunch program has received final approval from Congress.

The House of Representatives passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 264 to 157. The Senate gave unanimous consent to the bill in August. It will now go to President Barack Obama, who intends to sign it, The New York Times reported.

Under the bill, the secretary of agriculture has the power to set nutrition standards for foods sold in schools during the school day, including products in vending machines. Schools will be told to serve more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

To cover the cost of more nutritional meals, the bill also increases federal reimbursement for school lunches beyond inflation. It also regulates prices for lunches served to children from families with incomes over 185 percent of the poverty level (more than $40,793 a year for a family of four) and will provide automatic qualification for more than 100,000 children on Medicaid to receive free school meals, the Times reported.


This Year Among Warmest on Record: U.N.

It's "almost certain" that 2010 will be one of the three warmest years worldwide on record, and the past decade was the warmest 10-year period since the first weather records were recorded in 1850, says the World Meteorological Organization.

The United National agency data released at the U.N. climate negotiations in Mexico confirmed that a global warming trend has been occurring for decades, the Associated Press reported.

The two other warmest years were 1998 and 2005. The average temperatures of all three of the warmest years were within 0.02 degrees Celsius (0.036 Fahrenheit) of each other, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told reporters.

He also said that natural temperature variation cannot explain the record warmth that occurred between 2001 and 2010, the AP reported.

Without taking man-made air pollution into account "you cannot reproduce what you observe," in rising global temperatures, Jarraud said.


Lap-Band Works for Patients Not Severely Obese: FDA Report

The Lap-Band weight-loss device is safe and effective in patients who aren't as obese as current users, according to a report released this week by U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewers.

Currenty, Lap-Band is approved for severely obese patients but Allergan Inc. is seeking FDA approval to sell the device to people who are less obese, Bloomberg news reported.

The surgically-implanted device is an adjustable band that reduces the amount of food that can be held by the stomach. The FDA reviewers said clinical trials showed the Lap-Band helped non-severely obese patients lose weight and improved their quality of life.

They also noted that there were no deaths and "only" 2.3 percent of side effects were severe, Bloomberg reported.

An FDA panel of outside advisers will meet Friday to decide whether to recommend FDA approval of expanded use of the Lap-Band.

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Posted: December 2010