U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Remains High
The U.S. infant mortality rate seems to be dropping, although the country still ranks 29th in the world, tied with Poland and Slovakia. The main reason for that poor showing is the rise in premature births, Deborah Kotz reports. From 2000 to 2005, the share of preterm births increased 9 percent, to 12.7 percent. Babies born at 34 to 36 weeks were three times as likely to die as were full-term babies, who are born at 37 to 41 weeks of gestation. Kotz also reports that the U.S. maternal mortality rate in childbirth is surprisingly high.
Earlier this month, Kotz described a blood test for Down syndrome that may be on the horizon.
Economic Crisis May Affect HIV/AIDS Research Funding
The worldwide economic crisis is likely to affect funding for research into an HIV/AIDS vaccine, public-health experts said this week. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Associated Press that while he doesn't think that the United States will cut back on research funding in this area, the budget increases that researchers expected most likely will not happen. He also said it would be a mistake to divert vaccine research funding into paying for the cost of male circumcision, which a recent study found may or may not help prevent HIV transmission.
Your iPod and BlackBerry Can Hurt Your Health
The way you use your personal electronics may be hazardous to your health, as a couple of recent reports remind us. The European Union warned this week that users of MP3 players risk permanent hearing loss if they listen to these devices for too long at maximum volume levels. National Transportation Safety Board investigators found that an engineer operating a Metrolink train that crashed in California on September 12 was sending and receiving text messages while on duty that day, including seconds before the crash. To try to prevent short- or long-term health problems, consumers should avoid texting or talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving, keep iPods turned to reasonable volume levels, and avoid walking, biking, or rollerblading while texting.
Your Doctor May Be Clueless About Costs
Figuring out how to get the best care at a reasonable cost through a consumer-driven health plan takes practice, and doctors are often just as confused as their patients, Michelle Andrews reports. If you're accustomed to simply deferring to your doctor's medical expertise, you may need to be more assertive about managing your care if you want to keep costs under control, new research suggests.
In a survey of 1,500 primary-care physicians, researchers found that 43 percent knew only a little or nothing at all about CDHPs, and an identical percentage said they had little knowledge of out-of-pocket costs faced by patients enrolled in these plans. The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, was published in the October issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.
Earlier this year, Andrews explained that high-deductible health plans are too costly for many people.
—January W. Payne