Health Highlights: Feb. 4, 2010

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

Program Offers Free Health Text Messages To New Moms

A free program that texts pregnancy and baby health tips to the cell phones of expectant and new mothers is expected to be announced Thursday by U.S. health officials.

Under the text4baby campaign, mothers-to-be who text "BABY" to 511411 will receive weekly text messages that are timed to the mother's due date or their baby's birth date, the Associated Press reported. The text messages will continue until the baby is one year old.

The messages used in the program have been checked by government and nonprofit health experts and offer advice about a number of topics, including birth defect prevention, nutrition and immunization.

This is the first free health education campaign in the U.S. to use mobile phones. Organizers say texting is an effective way to conduct this type of program because 90 percent of people in the U.S. have cell phones, the AP reported.


Ground Pepper Could Be Culprit in Salmonella Outbreak

A strain of salmonella that's sickened hundreds of people in the United States in the last seven months has been found in closed containers of imported ground black pepper used by a meat company in Rhode Island.

Last month, Daniele Inc. recalled more than 1 million pounds of salami after at least 203 people in 42 states and the District of Columbia became ill. Many of those who got sick said they'd eaten the salami, the Associated Press reported.

However, about half of those who got sick didn't eat any salami, said state health department spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth.

"That maybe tells you that we're not done looking for a source of the outbreak yet," she told the AP.

Two suppliers provided the pepper to Daniele and federal investigators are tracing the origin of the pepper in order to determine if it's been distributed elsewhere in the U.S.


40 Percent of Cancers Preventable: Report

Lifestyle changes and vaccines could prevent about 40 percent of all cancers, according to a new report by the International Union Against Cancer.

The document said rates of many leading types of cancers -- such as lung, breast and colon -- could be reduced if people quit smoking, limited alcohol intake, avoided too much sun, and maintained a healthy weight through diet and exercise, the Associated Press reported.

The report authors also noted that about 21 percent of all cancers are the result of infections, such as those caused by human papillomavirus (cervical cancer) and hepatitis (stomach and liver cancer). Vaccines to prevent these infections and cancers are widely available in developed nations but almost unobtainable in poor countries.

"Policymakers around the world have the opportunity and obligation to use these vaccines to save people's lives and educate their communities towards lifestyle choices and control measures that reduce their risk of cancer," Cary Adams, chief executive officer of the International Union Against Cancer, said in a news release, the AP reported.

The document was released to mark World Cancer Day on Thursday.

Cancer causes one out of every eight deaths worldwide -- more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, according to the World Health Organization. If major prevention action is not taken, the number of cancer deaths worldwide will rise from about 7.6 million this year to 17 million by 2030, the AP said.


Child Abuse Decreases in U.S.: Study

Incidents of serious child abuse in the United States decreased by 26 percent between 1993 and 2006, and other forms of physical abuse dropped by 15 percent, a federal government study says.

Experts say the findings are proof that public awareness campaigns and stricter law enforcement are having an effect, the Associated Press reported.

Researchers analyzed information from thousands of child-welfare workers, doctors, teachers, police officers and other professionals from across the country.

The study was commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, the AP reported.


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