Health Highlights: Nov. 10, 2009

  • Access to Care: Nearly two-thirds of respondents said veterans and their families endure long delays to get initial appointments for crisis situations and have excessive waits between appointments.
  • Long Distances: Many veterans must travel long distances to the VA or a military base. For those in rural areas, travel times can be as long as five hours. Others lack access to a vehicle or public transportation, or may be unable to drive or take public transportation because of physical and mental limitations.
  • Stigma: Many veterans believe that seeking treatment from the VA or military will be noted in their personnel records, harm their careers and label them as "weak" or "crazy."
  • Lack of Family Involvement: The Act includes marriage and family counseling, but few veterans' family members are involved in treatment. These services are either not being provided or haven't been widely promoted.
  • "We don't fault the VA for these problems, but we are concerned that veterans and their families are not receiving the services they need in a timely manner," Jeannie Campbell, the National Councils executive vice president and a veteran, said in a news release. "We hope the VA sees our community behavioral health organizations as resources to extend and supplement their mental health and substance use treatment services."

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    Scientists Weigh Boundaries for Human-Animal DNA Trials

    The controversial use of human DNA in animal experiments is the focus of a study by scientists with the Academy of Medical Sciences in England who plan to examine the issue and recommend boundaries.

    This type of research -- such as growing human organs in animals or swapping animal genes with human genes -- has gone on for years, but rules about how much human DNA can be put into an animal are vague, the Associated Press reported.

    "It sounds yucky, but it may be well worth doing if it's going to lead to a cure for something horrible," study group member Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell expert at Britain's National Institute for Medical Research, said at a media briefing in London.

    "We are trying to work out what is reasonable," said study group chairman Martin Bobrow, who added that he and his colleagues recognize that experiments where animals are given human features or brain cells would upset some people.

    "This is a classic example of science going too fast," David King, director of the independent watchdog group Human Genetics Alert, told the AP. "If you cannot firmly say exactly what it is you're creating, you should not do it."

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    Basketball Legend Abdul-Jabbar Treated for Leukemia

    Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is being treated for chronic myeloid leukemia and has been given an encouraging prognosis.

    While doctors haven't given him any guarantees, the NBA's all-time leading scorer said they told him: "You have a very good chance to live your life out and not have to make any drastic changes to your lifestyle," the Associated Press reported.

    Abdul-Jabbar, 62, is taking an oral medication for the blood cancer. At the time of diagnosis last December, doctors told him the disease was treatable with proper medication and monitoring.

    Now a special assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar has been able to maintain his normal level of activity of coaching, as well as his usual regimen and diet. He says he wants to raise awareness of chronic myeloid leukemia and its treatment, the AP reported.

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