Health Highlights: Sept. 16, 2009

35 Percent Of Iraq War Vets Will Seek Treatment for PTSD: Study

As many as 35 percent of U.S. military personnel who serve in Iraq will seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the Veterans Affairs Department needs to boost its mental health resources to deal with the demand, say Stanford University researchers.

They said the tempo of deployment cycles to Iraq is higher than for any war since World War II, United Press International reported.

The researchers combined a mathematical operations research model with deployment and PTSD data from the Iraq War and came up with the 35 percent estimate. The study appears in the journal Management Science.

There are already long waits for people seeking PTSD treatment in the VA system, which must increase its ability to deal with the expected high demand, the researchers said, UPI reported.

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Increases Forecast for Employer-Based Health Premiums

Another modest rise in employer-sponsored health insurance premiums this year likely will be followed by larger increases in coming years, says a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

For the third straight year, there was a 5 percent increase in the average annual premium for family coverage, which now stands at more than $13,000, the Associated Press reported. About 74 percent of the premium is paid by employers, while workers cover the rest of the cost.

The average annual premium for single coverage remained relatively flat at $4,824, with employers paying 84 percent.

From 2000 to 2004, premiums increased between 10 percent to 13 percent a year, the AP reported. The smaller premium increases in recent years may be due to the recession and the push for public health reform. Both factors discourage insurance companies from introducing large rate hikes, the report said.

But, the lower premium increases likely won't last, according to Kaiser CEO Drew Altman. "We've historically seen these peaks and valleys before, and we always have a bounce back effect," he told the AP.

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Doctors' Groups Urge Climate Change Action

Failure to tackle climate change could have "catastrophic" health consequences, the heads of 18 doctors' associations warned Wednesday in a joint appeal published in the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.

The doctors urged governments to take decisive action at a U.N. climate change conference scheduled to take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in early December, Agence France Presse reported.

The letter said doctors must take a lead in speaking out about the urgency of taking action against climate change.

"There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these," the letter stated, AFP reported. "Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic."

The many health threats posed by climate change include malnutrition caused by drought, the spread of mosquito-borne diseases to temperate regions, and the risk of cholera caused by flooding, the scientists warned.

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