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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Health and Fitness

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3 African countries chosen to test 1st malaria vaccine

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:39:32 UT

Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person. "The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations," Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. The malaria vaccine has been developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and the $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.



Medical tech firm Becton Dickinson to buy C.R. Bard for $24B

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 22:50:53 UT

FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J. (AP) — Medical technology firm Becton, Dickinson and Co. says it has reached an agreement to buy competitor C.R. Bard Inc. in a cash-and-stock deal worth $24 billion. The deal announced Sunday was approved by both companies' boards but still needs regulatory and Bard shareholder approvals.



Possible shutdown, health care quagmire awaiting Congress

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 00:45:05 UT

Trump's GOP allies control Congress, but they've been unable to send him a single major bill as his presidency faces the symbolic 100-day mark on April 29 — the very day when the government, in a worst-case scenario, could shut down. Feeling pressure to deliver results, Trump wants to revive a troubled health care measure from House Republicans to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Trump also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities. Rank-and-file Republicans received few answers on a Saturday conference call by top House GOP leaders, who offered little detail and said deals remained elusive on both health care and the catchall spending measure, with no votes scheduled yet. Pelosi wants the spending bill to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico help with its Medicaid obligations, and Democrats are pressing for money for overseas famine relief, treatment for opioid abuse, and the extension of health benefits for 22,000 retired Appalachian coal miners and their families. An additional Democratic demand is for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under Obama's health law.



APNewsBreak: Problems remain at troubled Washington hospital

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 18:51:28 UT

SEATTLE (AP) — Inspectors who visited Washington state's largest psychiatric hospital found that safety problems that thrust the facility into the national spotlight after the escape of two dangerous patients a year ago persist, including neglected patients. [...] a survey of Western State Hospital staff, conducted as part of federal oversight in December and January, found that administrators make decisions that "adversely affect patient safety" and there was a lack of trained or qualified staff, fear of retaliation from managers and too much focus on bureaucracy over staff safety. After the 2016 escape, which led to a statewide manhunt, the hospital was hit with a series of health and safety violations that put it at risk of losing the millions it receives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state Department of Social and Health Services entered into an agreement with federal officials in June that required it to fix the problems by July 2017 or face losing its funding and accreditation. Besides noting that they've hired additional staffers, the state did not cite the number of new violations they've had or the number of overtime hours worked by staff. The state health agency inspected the hospital in late March and reported a patient safety violation involving nursing staff and a patient's treatment plan.



Trump Health Dept. dismisses Obama appointed surgeon general

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 15:14:59 UT

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services says Murthy was asked to resign after "assisting in a smooth transition" under President Donald Trump. Health department spokeswoman Alleigh Marre says Murthy will remain a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.



After Ebola, Liberians slowly embrace mental health care

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 10:37:58 UT

[...] Liberia, one of the world's poorest countries and with just one psychiatrist, has announced the ambitious goal of expanding access to mental health care to 70 percent of its population in the next few years. The World Health Organization declared an end to the Ebola outbreak in June, estimating that more than 10,000 people who had been infected have survived in the three West African countries, including more than 4,000 in Liberia. Liberia is still struggling to rebuild its basic health services after more than a decade of back-to-back civil wars that left a quarter-million people dead, with many killings carried out by drugged, under-age fighters notorious for hacking off survivors' limbs. [...] Liberia's government has announced its ambition to expand mental health care access to its more than 4.2 million people, with help from the U.S.-based The Carter Center. Ebola survivors often have hearing and vision problems, joint pain or chronic fatigue, according to the medical aid charity Doctors Without Borders. Some of Liberia's newly trained mental health workers have been placed in schools and orphanages to lessen the chances of stigma, said The Carter Center's mental health program director, Eve Byrd. In March, an Ebola survivor who made the cover of Time magazine for her work as a nurse during the outbreak died when she experienced complications after childbirth and the nurses on duty were too afraid to touch her.



Coal-state lawmakers push to extend retired miners' benefits

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 06:47:05 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers from coal-mining states are pushing to extend health benefits for more than 22,000 retired miners and widows whose medical coverage is set to expire at the end of April. At least a dozen Senate Republicans are willing to join Democrats in support of a more complete plan that addresses health benefits and a related issue over failing pension plans for nearly 100,000 unionized miners, Manchin said. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell supports legislation to protect and permanently extend the health benefits, but had no word on the progress of talks related to the spending bill. Trump and Republicans have decried what they describe as a "war on coal" waged by the Obama administration, and have taken a series of actions since Trump took office to boost coal production and reduce regulations, including a rule to protect streams from coal-mining debris. Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told reporters that the White House is "happy to talk ... about pieces and parts of the miners' programs" as part of negotiations on a bill to keep the government open. Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, said he is hopeful a compromise can be reached on health benefits, but he complained that Republicans appear unwilling to address the far more costly pension issue. Account balances have dwindled amid the coal's industry steep decline, including continued layoffs and a rash of bankruptcy filings that have spread to the industry's largest companies.