Donate

Health

From KQED

San Jose Police Crack Down On Violence

The San Jose Police Department is cracking down on violent crime after the city's 25th homicide this year.

KQED Launches Affordable Care Act Guide

Are you confused about Obamacare? KQED and The California Report created a guide to help answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Proposed California Law Would Regulate E-Cigarettes as Tobacco

A bill introduced Monday by State Senator Mark Leno would ban electronic cigarettes in the same places that traditional cigarettes are banned, including restaurants, bars and workplaces. A recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that users of e-cigarettes can be exposed to high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde. Supporters of e-cigarettes say they are far safer than regular tobacco products and help users kick their cigarette habits.

California Revisits Right-to-Die Legislation

After the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard, the California woman who moved to Oregon to end her life legally, California lawmakers have unveiled a bill to allow physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients. The bill legalizes the prescription of fatal medications to mentally competent patients with less than six months to live. We look at what this latest bill means for California and the debate over the right to die.

PBS NewsHour

Nearly 500 people in England hospitilized for female genital mutilation in November

In November, 466 people were treated in English hospitals for the effects of female genital mutilation, according to a recent analysis by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

These numbers are similar to September’s, when hospitals identified 467 new cases, and October’s, when 455 new cases appeared.

John Cameron, head of childhood protection operations at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, has called for an end to the practice.

“It is vital all health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM and that girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve,” Cameron told The Sunday Times.

According to the World Health Organization, over 125 million people have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), a term which covers “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The UK outlawed FGM in 1985, and in 2003 also passed a law that forbade transporting women out of the country to receive the procedure. No one has been prosecuted for FGM, though Dr. Dhanuson Dharmasena and Hasan Mohamed are undergoing the first FGM trial in the UK for allegedly performing it in London.

As many as 60,000 women in the UK are estimated to have received FGM, and 20,000 are at risk each year, according to the National Health Service.

The practice of FGM is mainly concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, though cases have been documented nearly worldwide. Somalia has the highest known rate of female genital mutilation in the world, with 95 to 98 percent of women undergoing the practice, and in seven countries, FGM is inflicted on over 85 percent of women.

FGM has no medical purpose and can cause infections, infertility and cysts, among other health concerns.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to outlaw FGM “for everyone within this generation” at the Girl Summit in London last July.

The post Nearly 500 people in England hospitilized for female genital mutilation in November appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

‘Completely avoidable’: Vaccination could have prevented Disneyland measles outbreak

A health worker prepares a vaccine against measles at the Benito Juarez international airport in Mexico
         City

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. health officials say the recent measles outbreak that began at Disneyland in Southern California continues to ripple across the nation. Approximately 100 cases have been reported so far.

How great a risk does it pose? And what can be done to stop its spread?

I spoke about this yesterday with Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Washington.

So, Dr. Fauci, we know that there are, what, 20 million measles cases around the world every year. But what does a theme park like a Disneyland do to make sure that the parents and children that are visiting from the United States or from other countries are safe?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: You know, it really relates to the fact that this happens because children are not vaccinated.

The overwhelming number of people who have gotten infected, particularly among the children, are children that have not been vaccinated, because parents, for reasons that are really not based on any scientific data, just don’t want their children to be vaccinated.

And it’s really unfortunate, because vaccination can prevent all of this.

One of the things we do know about measles is that the vaccine that we have is one of the most effective vaccines we have for any viral disease or for any microbe.

So this all could have been shut down if people had gotten vaccinated. That is the real critical issue.

HARI SREENIVASAN: I mean, in 2000, we declared measles was eliminated. I mean, that means not active disease transmissions.

And when you look at the numbers, between 2001 and 2013, we had an average of about 88 cases a year.

And, last year, we had 644. I mean, that is an enormous leap.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: That is. And that’s very unfortunate.

There were 23 separate outbreaks during the year 2014, which, as you mentioned correctly, 644 cases.

That just shouldn’t have happened. People don’t fully appreciate that measles is not a trivial disease. It can be truly a very serious disease.

Prior to the availability of vaccinations, we had about 500,000 cases in the United States and an average of about 500 deaths per year.

That was essentially — as you mentioned, again correctly, essentially eliminated because we were measles-free.

And then, because of the movement of — anti-vaccination movement and children not getting vaccinated, particularly when it is concentrated in certain areas, where there are a higher percentage in certain parts of the country.

That really leads to that group and cluster, so that when you have an introduction of measles, wherever it may be, it could be in a recreational park or someplace else where people congregate, if you have a certain percentage of the children or of anyone who are not protected against measles, that’s how you get these outbreaks, which, unfortunately, could really have been completely avoided and prevented.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, as you mentioned these clusters, I mean, epidemiologists have studied these patterns.

And this is something that cuts across, whether it’s conservative or liberal, rich or poor.

So, how do you design a health policy that tackles these little clusters?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, what we have to do is continue to underscore and emphasize the importance of vaccination, but also to underscore the fact that the reason for not vaccinating, they — this issue that the risk of a measles vaccine is so great that it overrides the benefit that you could get from protecting your child, is just not true.

Because the evidence that was put forth years ago about various adverse events associated with measles vaccination, from different types of disease to autism, have been completely disproven by a number of scientific bodies, independent bodies, that have shown that.

And yet they still cling and reinforce each other that, in fact, measles vaccines and other vaccines really shouldn’t be given because they’re dangerous.

That’s just unfortunate and leads to the kind of thing that we’re dealing with right now.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, let me preface this question with saying, I’m not trying to scare my audience.

But I have got to ask that some part of us is due to the fact that a lot of us don’t have firsthand experience with measles, right?

So what is the vaccine protecting a child from? What are the effects of this disease?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, measles is one of those diseases that, in and of itself, is serious, but can lead to serious complications.

The kind of clinical manifestation, you get a fever, you get a cough, you get running nose, you get conjunctivitis or what we call red eye.

And it really debilitates the child during that period of time. A certain percentage of children go on to complications like middle ear infections, pneumonia, and even encephalitis, and even death.

That is the — why the development of the measles vaccination and the elimination of measles from this country several years ago, until it bounced back now with these outbreaks, was really a triumph in medical public health endeavor.

Good vaccinations, in some respects paradoxically, are victims of their own success.

Now that we don’t see a lot of measles, that scare of the difficulty and the seriousness of it is not on people’s radar screen.

It gets back on their radar screen when you see what is going on right now throughout the country, which could be completely avoidable if people had vaccinated their children.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, thanks so much.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: You’re quite welcome.

The post ‘Completely avoidable’: Vaccination could have prevented Disneyland measles outbreak appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

WHO contemplates reforms after admitting missteps on Ebola

World
         Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola in Geneva on
         Jan. 25, 2015. Photo by Pierre Albouy/REUTERS.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola in Geneva on Jan. 25, 2015. Photo by Pierre Albouy/REUTERS.

In a special session on Sunday, the World Health Organization debated how to reform itself after acknowledging the organization had botched its response to the 2014 Ebola emergency.

“The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings in this organization’s administrative, managerial, and technical infrastructures,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.

At its headquarters in Geneva, Chan presented a series of proposals aimed at ending the current outbreak, as well as reinforcing preparedness globally and guaranteeing the WHO’s ability to address future large-scale outbreaks.

She stressed the need to streamline recruitment for emergencies, as the current process is “too slow” and emphasized the need for a “one WHO” approach that employs universal operating procedures and tools for responding to emergencies.

According to Chan, the current rules for reporting outbreaks – International Health Regulations (IHR) – created to prevent national health emergencies from becoming global crises, are too thin. But the largest lesson she and others at WHO learned during the outbreak fight was that well-trained, and appropriately paid health care workers, are essential to stemming the spread of disease.

To date there have been more than 21,000 Ebola cases and over 8,400 deaths.

“The volatile microbial world will always deliver surprises, Chan said. “Never again should the world be caught by surprise, unprepared.”

The post WHO contemplates reforms after admitting missteps on Ebola appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Advocates seek greater privacy protections for HealthCare.gov

WASHINGTON — Privacy advocates say the Obama administration needs to make more changes to protect consumer privacy on the government’s health insurance website.

The administration reversed course Friday and scaled back the release of personal information from HealthCare.gov, after The Associated Press reported that such details as consumers’ income and tobacco use were going to private companies with a commercial interest in the data.

The episode could become a blemish on what’s otherwise shaping up as a successful open enrollment season for the second year of expanded coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Lawmakers continue to insist on a full explanation.

HealthCare.gov is used by millions to sign up for subsidized private coverage under the law, or to merely browse for insurance plans in their communities.

The latest changes by the administration mean that the website is no longer explicitly sending out such details as age, income, ZIP code, tobacco use and whether a woman is pregnant.

But HealthCare.gov still has embedded connections to a number of outside commercial websites, and it’s not clear how or if the administration intends to address that.

An administration spokesman had no comment Friday on the changes, which were verified by the AP’s analysis. Earlier, officials had said the sole purpose of the embedded connections to private firms was to monitor the health insurance website and improve performance for consumers.

The AP previously reported that HealthCare.gov was quietly sending consumers’ personal data to companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing.

Cooper Quintin, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the government’s changes are “a great first step,” but more needs to be done.

For example, the health site should disable third-party tracking for people who enable the “do not track” feature on their web browsers.

“HealthCare.gov should meet good privacy standards for all its users,” he said. The foundation is a civil liberties group.

Quintin had verified the AP’s initial findings and added more detail, showing that HealthCare.gov was sending personal health information to at least 14 third-part Internet domains.

Privacy advocates say the mere presence of connections to private companies on the government’s website -even if they don’t explicitly receive personal data- should be examined because of their ability to reveal sensitive information about a user.

Third-party outfits that track website performance are a standard part of e-commerce. It’s a lucrative business, helping Google, Facebook and others tailor ads to customers’ interests. Because your computer and mobile devices can be assigned an individual signature, profiles of Internet users can be pieced together, generating lists that have commercial value.

The third-parties embedded on HealthCare.gov can’t see your name, birth date or Social Security number. But they may be able to correlate the fact that your computer accessed the government website with your other Internet activities.

Have you been researching a chronic illness like coronary artery blockage? Do you shop online for smoking-cessation aids? Are you investigating genetic markers for a certain type of breast cancer? Are you seeking help for financial problems, or for an addiction?

Google told the AP it doesn’t allow its systems to target ads based on medical information.

Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called the situation “extremely concerning” for consumers. Grassley said Friday it’s still unclear how consumers’ information is being used and he wants a full explanation.

“People using HealthCare.gov should have the confidence that their information is secure and not being used for sales pitches by outside firms,” he said in a statement.

Officials of the Health and Human Services Department had at first defended their information-sharing practices. There is no evidence that consumers’ personal information was misused, they said.

The website’s privacy policy says in boldface type that no “personally identifiable information” is collected by outside Web measurement tools. That is a term defined in government regulations, but other personal details were being allowed through.

HealthCare.gov is the online gateway to government-subsidized private insurance for people who lack coverage on the job. It serves 37 states, while the remaining states operate their own insurance markets. The privacy concerns surfaced just as the president was calling for stronger Internet safeguards for consumers, in his State of the Union speech.

The website was crippled by serious technical problems when it made its debut in the fall of 2013. This year it has worked much better, a marked contrast. The administration is aiming to have more than 9 million people signed up by Feb. 15, the last day of open enrollment.

But the privacy issues were a reminder that the website remains a work in progress, like the underlying law that created it.

The post Advocates seek greater privacy protections for HealthCare.gov appeared first on PBS NewsHour.