Health Highlights: Dec. 19, 2009

HealthDay + More
  • Senate Democrats Reach Agreement on Health-Care Reform Bill
  • Louisiana Residents Happiest in U.S
  • African, Asian Orphanages Provide Good Care: Study
  • CDC Failed to Screen Vaccine Panel Experts: Report
  • Eleven Infant Deaths Linked to Simplicity Cribs: CPSC
  • Early Treatment for Tinnitus May Be Possible: Researchers

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

Senate Democrats Reach Agreement on Health- Care Reform Bill

Moving the ambitious plan to overhaul the nation's health-care system ever closer to reality, Senate Democrats announced on Saturday that they have reached agreement on a bill that is still on track to be approved by Christmas.

Although Senate Republicans staunchly oppose the bill, the Senate Democrats said they now have the 60 votes needed to overcome any potential filibusters on the Senate floor, according to the New York Times.

The critical 60th vote finally came after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), gave his backing following 13 hours of intense negotiation Friday, the Times reported.

"Change is never easy, but change is what's necessary in America," Mr. Nelson said during a Saturday morning news conference. "And that's why I intend to vote for health care reform."

If the bill passes the Senate, it will still have to be reconciled with a House version of the bill that was adopted last month, and Nelson stressed that if any changes were not to his liking, he would withdraw his backing, the Times reported.

The highly ambitious bill would extend health benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicaid and by providing subsidies to help moderate-income people purchase private insurance.

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Louisiana Residents Happiest in U.S.

People in Louisiana are the happiest Americans, while those in New York are the least cheery, according to researchers who analyzed four years of data from 1.3 million people surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other sunny, outdoorsy states -- Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona -- rounded out the top five happiest places, which also tend to score well on rankings of crime rates, climate, air quality and schools, the Associated Press reported.

Long commutes, congestion and high prices around New York City may help explain why New York ranked at the bottom of happiness, said study co-author Andrew J. Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick in England, the AP reported.

Rounding out the bottom five were Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana and New Jersey. The study was published Friday in the journal Science.

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African, Asian Orphanages Provide Good Care: Study

Orphanages in Africa and South Asia provide care that's at least as good as that given by families who take in orphaned or abandoned children, says a study that challenges the common belief that orphanages in these countries should be regarded as a last resort.

"We are seeing children thriving in institutions" in these countries, said study first author Dr. Kathryn Whetten, director of the Center for Health Policy at Duke University, The New York Times reported. "Institutions are not so bad. Community life can be very hard."

She and her colleagues looked at 83 institutions in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Tanzania. They compared the health, behavior, physical growth, intellectual functioning and emotional state of 1,357 orphans ages 6 to 12 in the institutions and 1,480 who lived in homes in the community. The results showed that children in the orphanages generally fared as well as those in the community, or even better.

On average, the orphanages had 63 children each -- 28 percent had 20 or fewer children, and 17 percent had 100 or more, The Times reported.

The study was published online in the journal PLoS One.

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CDC Failed to Screen Vaccine Panel Experts: Report

Medical experts weren't properly screened for financial conflicts when they were hired in 2007 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide advice about safety of flu and cervical cancer vaccines, says a report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.