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Health Highlights: June 13, 2018

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

AMA Adopts Several Gun Violence Prevention Policies

A ban on assault weapons and opposition to arming teachers are among several gun violence prevention policies adopted by the American Medical Association at its annual policymaking meeting.

The nation's largest physicians group says gun violence is a public health crisis that poses the same level of threat as a deadly infectious disease, but the issue is being ignored by politicians, the Associated Press reported.

"We as physicians are the witnesses to the human toll of this disease," Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency-medicine specialist at Brown University, said at the meeting.

Other gun-related policies adopted by the AMA include supporting bans on the purchase or possession of guns and ammunition by people under 21, and backing laws requiring licensing and safety courses for gun owners and registration of all firearms, the AP reported.

The delegates also voted to lobby for closure of loopholes in laws meant to prevent people found guilty of domestic violence from buying or possessing guns, and to expand such laws to cover convicted stalkers, the AP reported.

Other policies adopted by the AMA include: pushing for laws to allow relatives of suicidal people or those who have threatened imminent violence to seek court-ordered removal of guns from the home, and better training for doctors in how to identify patients at risk for suicide.

The Parkland, Florida school shooting, the Las Vegas massacre, and other recent cases of gun violence "spurred a new sense of urgency ... while Congress fails to act," said Dr. David Barbe, whose one-year term as AMA president ended Tuesday, the AP reported.

"It has been frustrating that we have seen so little action from either state or federal legislators," he said. "The most important audience for our message right now is our legislators, and second most important is the public, because sometimes it requires public pressure on the legislators."


Crisis Hotline Activity Jumps After Spade and Bourdain Suicides

There was a sharp rise in calls and texts to U.S. mental health crisis hotlines after the suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a 65 percent increase in calls to counselors at more than 150 crisis centers nationwide after the deaths of the two celebrities, Frances Gonzalez, director of communications, told CNN.

There was a 116 percent increase in messages to the Crisis Text Line, spokeswoman Liz Eddy said.

Rises in activity are normal after famous people take their own lives, Eddy told CNN.

Crisis hotlines are crucial, but there are many other aspects of suicide prevention, experts say.

"Hotlines and crisis intervention are essential, but too many people never share their risk -- let alone ask for help," Tony Salvatore, director of suicide prevention at Montgomery County Emergency Service, a nonprofit mental health crisis service in Norristown, Pennsylvania, told CNN.

He added that "suicide prevention is more than talking somebody out of taking their life."

Suicide prevention should be approached like heart disease prevention, Dr. Christine Moutier, a psychiatrist who is chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told CNN.

Heart disease prevention doesn't focus solely on people who are about to suffer a massive heart attack, and suicide prevention efforts need to include helping people before they're on the verge of ending their lives, according to Moutier.

She called for increased suicide prevention education, improved health care coordination, and increased federal spending on research and programs, CNN reported.

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Posted: June 2018