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Health Highlights: June 15, 2009

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

Obama Seeks AMA Support for Health-Care Reform

In a speech Monday, President Barack Obama will ask American Medical Association members to support his efforts to overhaul the U.S. health care system, the Associated Press reported.

Broader insurance coverage and targeted spending cuts are among the proposals being pushed by the president.

Health-care reform can't wait and reducing health costs is the most important factor in ensuring the nation's long-term fiscal health, Obama will tell delegates at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago, a White House official told the AP.

The speech is part of Obama's ongoing effort to gather support for his goal to provide health care to all Americans, a program that's expected to cost $1 trillion during its first decade.

In his address to the AMA, Obama will say that the United States spends too much on health care and gets too little in return, the White House official told the AP.


Breast-feeding May Improve Academic Achievement: Study

Breast-fed children may get better high school grade point averages and be more likely to attend college, suggests a U.S. study that looked at 126 siblings from 59 families.

Some of the siblings were breast-fed while others were not. Among those who were breast-fed, an additional month of breast-feeding was associated with an increase in high school GPA of 0.019 points and an increase of 0.014 in the likelihood of going to college, United Press International reported.

The findings were published in the Journal of Human Capital.

"The results of our study suggest that the cognitive and health benefits of breast-feeding may lead to important long-run educational benefits for children," American University professor Joseph Sabia said in a news release, UPI reported.


VA Hospital Mistakes Subject of Hearing

U.S. lawmakers want to know whether there's a nationwide problem with non-sterile endoscopic equipment at VA hospitals that could expose patients to HIV and other infections.

Since February, the Department of Veteran's Affairs has recommended blood tests for HIV and hepatitis for about 10,000 patients who underwent colonoscopies and other procedures at VA hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga.

At a hearing Tuesday, the oversight and investigation subcommittee of the House Committee on Veteran's Affairs will discuss the mistakes made at the three VA hospitals and receive a report by the VA's inspector general, who conducted a random check on 42 VA locations, the Associated Press reported.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said he wants to know whether the problems with non-sterile endoscopic equipment were limited to the three hospitals or were more widespread.

"I think this was an institutional breakdown," said Roe, the AP reported.


Asian-American Parents May Favor Boys: Report

Some Asian-American parents may be using sex-selection techniques to have boys instead of girls, suggest analyses of U.S. Census data, The New York Times reported. The sex-selection techniques include in vitro fertilization, sperm sorting and abortion.

Researchers found that among Americans of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent, if the first child was a girl, it was more likely the second child would be a boy. If the first two children were girls, it was even more likely that the third child would be a boy, the newspaper reported.

"That this is going on in the United States, people were blown away by this," Prof. Lena Edlund, of Columbia University, told the Times. She and a colleague analyzed year 2000 Census data and published their findings last year.

In the United States, the ratio of male to female births is 1.05 to 1. However, among American families of Chinese, Indian and Korean descent, the probability of having a boy increased to 1.17 to 1 if the first child was a girl, the Columbia researchers found. If the first two children were girls, it was 50 percent more likely the third child would be a boy (1.51 to 1).

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Posted: June 2009