Health Highlights: April 8, 2011

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

No New Heart Warnings for ADHD Drugs: FDA

No changes in safety instructions or in the use of medicines to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are being recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after receiving preliminary findings from an analysis of a huge amount of data, National Public Radio reported.

Currently, labeling for the drugs warns that misuse “may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events.”

The analysis, funded by the FDA and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, included data from more than 500,000 people taking ADHD medicines and one million people who weren’t taking the stimulant drugs, NPR reported.

There have been concerns about the safety of ADHD medicines since the release of a 2009 federal study that suggested a link between the drugs and sudden cardiac death in otherwise healthy young people. The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

At the time, the FDA pointed out a number of limitations with the study and said parents should not stop their children’s use of the drugs. But the agency also promised further investigation into the issue, NPR reported.

The preliminary findings were originally due in late 2009 but the analysis took far longer than expected.

“At this time, FDA is not recommending any changes to the drug labels and/or the use of these medications,” the agency said in a statement. “FDA will update the public after the results of the final analyses are evaluated.”


Knoxville, Tenn. Worst for Spring Allergies: Survey

Knoxville, Tenn. is the worst city for spring allergies in the United States, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 2011 ranking of the worst 100 cities in the nation.

The system grades cities based on three factors: tree pollen prevalence; the number of allergy medications used by residents; and the number of allergy specialists in the area, ABC News reported.

The other cities among the 10 worst for spring allergies are: Louisville; Charlotte, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Dayton, Ohio, Richmond, Va.; McAllen, Texas; and Madison, Wisc.

“Allergic symptoms in the spring are caused by a significant increase in the tree and grass pollen. Other environmental conditions, such as pollution, can then exacerbate the person’s symptoms,” Dr. William Burks, professor and chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center, told ABC News.

“The climate in these cities is good for a long and heavy pollen season,” he added.


New U.S. Plan Seeks to Improve Health of Minorities

Increasing the number of poor children who receive dental care and hiring trusted local people to act as community health workers are among the steps included in a U.S. government plan to improve the health care and well-being of minorities.

Compared to whites, racial and ethnic minorities lag in many areas of health. For example, they have higher infant death rates, lower overall life expectancy and are more likely to suffer from a number of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and kidney disease, according to the Associated Press.

Lack of access to health care is part of the problem, but many other factors play a role in health disparities.

“It’s also a product of where people live, labor, learn, play and pray,” Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, told the AP. “We really need a full commitment from the country to achieve these goals,” of giving everyone an equal opportunity to live a healthy life, he said.

The cost of the new federal government plan released Friday may be an issue, but “we’ll never be a healthy nation unless we address these inequities,” Dr. Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told the AP.

The new plan includes:

  • A 10 percent increase in the number of poor children who receive preventive dental care.
  • An online national registry of interpreters that hospitals or doctors can use when dealing with patients who don’t speak English.
  • Reimbursement incentives to improve the quality of care of minorities.
  • New research to determine which treatments are most effective for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and asthma in minority populations.
  • Recruiting trusted local people to act as community health workers who can help people with diabetes understand and adhere to their treatment plans.


Uninsured Hospital Stays Increasing: Report

Hospital stays for uninsured people in the United States increased 21 percent between 2003 and 2008, while the overall number of hospital stays rose just 4 percent, says a federal government report.

There were 2.1 million uninsured hospital admissions in 2008, compared to 1.8 million in both 2003 and 1998. The average cost of a hospital stay by an uninsured patient in 2008 was $7,300, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The percentage of uninsured stays in 2008 was higher at public hospitals (8.3 percent) than at for-profit hospitals (5.5 percent) or non-profit hospitals (4.7 percent). Hospitals in the South had more than twice as many uninsured stays (7.6 percent) than hospitals in the Midwest (4.9 percent) and West (3.6 percent).

The number of uninsured hospital stays for skin infections increased 55 percent between 2003 and 2008, and increased 43 percent for gall bladder disease, 40 percent for diabetes complications, 35 percent for alcohol-related disorders, and 20 percent for heart attacks.


Most Americans Skeptical About Readiness for Nuke Emergency

Only about one-fourth of Americans are highly confident the federal government is prepared to respond to a nuclear emergency, while nearly three-fourths are somewhat or not confident, a new survey finds.

However, many of the participants in the Associated Press-GfK poll doubt that an emergency like the one at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan could happen in the United States.

About 70 percent of respondents believe such an emergency is only somewhat or not likely, while 30 percent believe it is extremely or very likely. Among those who think such a disaster is highly likely, nearly 80 percent doubt the federal government would be prepared to deal with such an event.

The poll also found that 60 percent of respondents oppose building more nuclear power plants in the United States, an increase from 48 percent in an AP-Stanford University survey conducted in November 2009.


Study Finds Increase in Self-Centered Lyrics in Pop Songs

The increase in “me me me” lyrics in modern pop songs reflects a rise in self-centered behavior in the United States, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed lyrics of the 10 most popular songs for the years 1980 to 2007 and found that older songs were more likely to use more first-person plural pronouns (we, our, us) while newer songs had more first-person singular pronouns (me, my, mine), reported.

The study also found an increase in angry, antisocial words in pop songs, said C. Nathan DeWall, of the University of Kentucky, and colleagues.

They noted that “music serves as a cultural product that documents chan
ge in U.S. culture across time,” reported.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.