Health Highlights: Sept. 23, 2011

By on September 23, 2011

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

Obese Now Outnumber Hungry Worldwide: Report

There are now more obese people than hungry people in the world, but a growing food crisis is increasing the hardship for those who don’t have enough to eat, the International Federation of the Red Cross says.

In 2010, there were 1.5 billion obese people and 925 million undernourished people worldwide, the humanitarian group noted in its annual World Disasters Report released Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The figures highlight the disparity between rich and poor, as well as problems caused by recent increases in food prices, according to the Geneva-based organization.

“If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 percent of humanity are hungry while 20 percent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere,” IFRC secretary general Bekele Geleta said in a news release, AFP reported.


U.S. Ranks Last in Preventable Deaths: Report

The United States ranks last among 16 high-income nations on preventable deaths and could save as many as 84,000 lives a year if it lowered its preventable death rate to that of the top three nations, a new study says.

Between 1997-98 and 2006-07, other nations lowered their preventable death rates an average of 31 percent. The U.S. rate declined only 20 percent, from 120 to 96 per 100,000.

By the end of those 10 years, the preventable death rate in the United States was nearly twice that of France, which had the lowest rate (55 per 100,000), according to the Commonwealth Fund-supported study. Australia and Italy had the second and third lowest rates.

The United States’ poor ranking may be due to “the lack of universal [health insurance] coverage and high costs of care,” said the study authors, who analyzed deaths before age 75 from causes such as treatable cancer, diabetes, childhood infections/respiratory diseases, and complications from surgery.

The study appears in the November print issue of the journal Health Policy.

“This study points to substantial opportunity to prevent premature death in the United States. We spend far more than any of the comparison countries — up to twice as much — yet are improving less rapidly,” Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said in a Commonwealth news release.

“The good news is we know lower death rates are achievable if we enhance access and ensure high-quality care regardless of where you live. Looking forward, reforms under the Affordable Care Act have the potential to reduce the number of preventable deaths in the U.S. We have the potential to join the leaders among high-income countries,” she added.


California Nurses Stage One-Day Strike

Dozens of northern and central California hospitals were hit Thursday with a one-day strike by nurses.

The nurses at 33 not-for-profit hospitals operated by Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health and the independent Children’s Hospital Oakland were protesting benefit cuts and other concessions sought by management, the Associated Press reported.

The strike was organized by the California Nurses Association, which expected nearly 23,000 nurses to participate. Actual numbers weren’t available from the union and hospital officials said many nurses crossed the picket lines.

The hospitals had made preparations to minimize any possible patient disruptions caused by the walkout, the AP reported.

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