Health Highlights: April 19, 2012

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

1 in 4 U.S. Adults Lacked Health Insurance Last Year: Survey

More than a quarter of U.S. adults ages 19-64 did not have health insurance for at least some time in 2011 and nearly 70 percent of those people had been without coverage for more than a year, a new survey says.

The Commonwealth Fund survey and other research shows that people without health insurance often forego needed medical care and do not get important preventive health services such as cancer screening, the Los Angeles Times reported.

For example, the new survey found that nearly three-quarters of women ages 40-64 with health insurance had a mammogram in the previous two years, compared with 28 percent of women in that age group who had been without insurance for a year or more.

Gaps in insurance coverage would be reduced as a result of President Barack Obama's new healthcare law, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a leading authority on health policy, the Times reported.


Study Raises Hopes for Cerebral Palsy Breakthrough

Rabbits born with cerebral palsy regained near-normal mobility within five days of receiving a new treatment that delivered an anti-inflammatory drug directly into damaged parts of the brain, according to researchers.

The results offer hope of a potential breakthrough in treating people with the incurable neurological disorder that affects movement and muscle coordination, Agence France-Presse reported.

The rabbits were born immobile due to cerebral palsy and began treatment within six hours of birth. The drug they received was N-acetyl-L-cystine, which is commonly used to treat people who overdose on acetaminophen.

"The importance of this work is that it indicates that there is a window in time, immediately after birth, when neuroinflammation can be identified and when treatment with a nanodevice can reverse the features of cerebral palsy," said co-author Roberto Romero, an obstetrician at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, AFP reported.

The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.


Veterans Affairs Increases Mental Health Staffing

About 1,600 more psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health clinicians will be hired in an attempt to shorten long wait times for mental health services at U.S. veterans medical centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs says.

The new clinical employees, augmented by the addition of 300 clerical workers, will boost the department's mental health staff by nearly 10 percent, The New York Times reported.

The veterans health system is being swamped by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and aging veterans of the Vietnam War, and is under fire for delays in providing mental health services at some of its major medical centers.

"History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended," Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, said in a statement to be released Thursday, The Times reported. "As more veterans return home, we must ensure that all veterans have access to quality mental health care."


Entertainment Legend Dick Clark Dies at 82

Dick Clark, best known as the longtime host of "American Bandstand" and "Dick Clark's NewYear's Rockin' Eve" passed away Wednesday, his agent Paul Shefrin said in a statement.

Shefrin said that Clark, 82, died Wednesday morning of a "massive heart attack," ABC News reported.

Clark, whose full name was Richard Wagstaff Clark, was born in 1929 in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and got his start as a teenager working in the mailroom in an upstate New York radio station. He quickly made his way onto the air, and later hosted his own radio show at a station in Philadelphia before taking over as host of "Bandstand."

"Bandstand" and Clark became synonymous with the promotion of rock'n'roll music and his Dick Clark Productions produced such TV hits as "Pyramid" and the "American Music Awards," ABC News said.

Clark's ever-youthful demeanor gained him the nickname "America's Oldest Teenager," but in 2004 a stroke left him partially paralyzed. He recovered and within a year was back hosting "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve."


Breast Cancer 10 Different Diseases: Study

A "landmark" international study says breast cancer should be regarded as 10 completely separate diseases and that this type of categorization could improve treatment by tailoring drugs for a patient's exact type of breast cancer.

The researchers analyzed breast cancers from 2,000 women and their findings appear in the journal Nature. It will take at least three years for their findings to be used in hospitals, BBC News reported.

The study authors compared breast cancer to a map of the world and said current tests for the disease are quite broad and split breast cancer up into the equivalent of continents instead of countries. These new findings allow doctors to identify individual "countries."

"Breast cancer is not one disease, but 10 different diseases," said lead researcher Prof Carlos Caldas, BBC News reported. "Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work and those that won't, in a much more precise way than is currently possible."


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