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Health Highlights: Oct. 31, 2017

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

'Potentially Irreversible' Effects of Climate Change Could Threaten Human Health Worldwide: Report

Heat waves, disease-spreading mosquitoes and weather disasters are among the many "unequivocal and potentially irreversible" effects of climate change already harming human health worldwide, a new report says.

It described climate change as a "threat multiplier" that does the greatest harm to the most vulnerable people, including those afflicted by poverty, inadequate housing, water scarcity and other serious challenges, according to the Washington Post.

The report published Monday in The Lancet medical journal was authored by 63 researchers from two dozen institutions around the world. The authors included climate scientists, ecologists, geographers, economists, engineers, mathematicians, political scientists and food, transportation and energy experts.

"We've been quite shocked and surprised by some of the results," said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London's Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, a project studying the association between climate change and public health, the Post reported.

The researchers described a number of health threats from climate change. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of vulnerable adults exposed to heat waves increased by 125 million. In 2015, the worst year on record, 175 million people faced heat waves.

Deaths from weather disasters such as floods storms are on the rise. Each year between 2007 and 2016 had an average of 300 weather disasters, a 46 percent increase from the years 1990 to 1999. Since 1990, weather disasters have caused more than 500,000 deaths, the Post reported.

Since the 1950s, there has been a 9 percent increase in the number of people who received potentially infectious bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, which spreads viruses such as Zika and dengue fever, according to The Lancet study.

It also said the number of people moving due to climate change has increased. For example, more than 3,500 Alaskan residents have been forced to relocate due to coastal erosion and melting permafrost, the Post reported.

The researchers also looked at how well the world is responding to climate change.

"The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction," according to Watts, the Post reported.

"Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk . . . The impacts we're experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we're talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic," he said.

"If governments and the global health community do not learn from the past experiences of HIV/AIDS and the recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika viruses, another slow response will result in an irreversible and unacceptable cost to human health," the authors of the report wrote.

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Obese People and Smokers Can't Have Non-Urgent Surgery: U.K. Health Committee

A U.K. health committee's proposal to ban obese people and smokers from non-urgent surgery for an indefinite amount of time is causing controversy.

The health committee for the county of Hertfordshire says the policy is to "to support patients whose health is at risk from smoking or being very overweight," CNN reported.

These patients will not be eligible for non-urgent surgery under the National Health Service until they "improve their health."

In order to qualify for surgery, patients with a body mass index (BMI -- an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) over 40 must reduce that number by 15 percent over nine months, while those with a BMI over 30 must achieve a 10 percent reduction over that that time, CNN reported.

Smokers will have to undergo testing to prove that they've gone eight weeks or more without a cigarette.

While other areas in the U.K. have implemented similar policies, patients can eventually get surgery if they are unable to lose weight or stop smoking. That's not the case in Hertfordshire, which is why the policy is opposed by the Royal College of Surgeons and other groups.

"Singling out patients in this way goes against the principles of the NHS," said Ian Eardley, senior vice president at the Royal College of Surgeons, CNN reported.

"This goes against clinical guidance and leaves patients waiting long periods of time in pain and discomfort. It can even lead to worse outcomes following surgery in some cases," he said.

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Posted: October 2017


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