Health Buzz: A $500 million Antismoking Campaign and Other Health News

More statins news, the Wii loses to real athletics, and a move to better judge psychiatric hospitals


Gates, Bloomberg Pledge $500 Million in Antismoking Effort

Billionaires Bill Gates and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday that they'll contribute a combined $500 million to a worldwide antismoking campaign, the New York Times reports. The new campaign, dubbed Mpower, will receive $250 million from Bloomberg's foundation during the next four years, in addition to $125 million already donated. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to give $125 million during a five-year period. Bloomberg has spoken out against smoking for years, but this is a new effort by the Gates Foundation, the Times reports. The campaign will encourage governments to raise tobacco taxes, ban smoking in public places, outlaw cigarette giveaways and kid-directed advertising, start advertising campaigns against smoking, and offer people help in quitting.

U.S. News's Sarah Baldauf reported in 2006 that cutting back on smoking isn't good enough. U.S. News's Lindsay Chura explored in June whether hypnosis can snuff out a smokers cigarette habit.

7 Reasons Not to Dismiss Statin-Linked Pain

Most people who take statins to lower cholesterol suffer no side effects. A small but significant number, however, develop mild to crushing muscle pain, as Adam Voiland reports. In rare cases, the drugs can lead to permanent muscle damage, kidney problems, and death. British researchers published a study today that shows a genetic variant is to blame for muscle weakness, called myopathy, found in some people taking statins. The variant affects the transport of statins into the liver. The side effect affects fewer than one in every 1,000 people taking statins. The new research was published online today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Are you a statin patient affected to some degree? Voiland lists seven reasons not to dismiss statin-caused pain.

Wii Sports Games Lose to Real Athletics

The American Council on Exercise released a small study suggesting that the Wii Sports video games are better than sitting on your butt but not as beneficial as participating in the real sports themselves, Katherine Hobson reports. In descending order of caloric burn, the Wii version of boxing burned an average of 7.2 calories a minute, tennis burned 5.3 calories a minute, baseball about 4.5, bowling about 3.9, and golf about 3.1. (That means 30-minute workouts burn 216, 159, 135, 117, and 93 calories, respectively.) That's less than the real-life activity in all cases. For example, real bowling burns about twice as much as the Wii version. And only the Wii version of boxing was determined to be strenuous enough to meet the ACE's guidelines for endurance-building exercise.

In May, Hobson reported on getting in shape with video games.

A Move to Judge Psychiatric Hospitals

The Joint Commission, the country's major healthcare accrediting organization, released a list of seven core measures that it wants to apply to free-standing psychiatric hospitals and acute-care hospitals with psychiatric units, Avery Comarow reports. The list includes hours of physical restraint use, the percentage of patients discharged on two or more antipsychotic medications, and the percentage of patients discharged on multiple medications with adequate justification. The seven-measure set will probably be part of the accreditation process by next April. At least nine months of data must be collected before anything is made public, so the first results probably won't be out until 2010. The Joint Commission has wanted for a long time to judge psychiatric facilities on more than patient safety, Comarow reports.

U.S. News's Americas Best Hospitals provides rankings in specialties that include psychiatry.

—January W. Payne