Health Highlights: May 14, 2007

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

Gender Disparity Found in Heart Disease and Diabetes Care

In the United States, women with heart disease and diabetes are less likely than men to receive several kinds of routine outpatient medical care, a new study says.

The study of more than 50,000 people enrolled in both commercial and Medicare managed care plans in 1999 looked at 11 different screening tests, treatments or measurements of health status important to people with diabetes or heart disease.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Gender Disparity Found in Heart Disease and Diabetes Care
    • Country Walks Boost Mental Health: Study
    • HIV/AIDS Programs Fail to Reach Drug Users
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Among people enrolled in commercial health plans, women were much less likely than men to receive care in six of the 11 measures, while women in Medicare plans were less likely than men to receive care in four of the 11 measures.

The greatest gender disparity was in cholesterol control. Women with diabetes were 19 percent less likely than men to have their cholesterol within recommended ranges if they were in Medicare plans and 16 percent less likely if they were in commercial plans.

Women were also less likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitor drugs for chronic heart failure or to be prescribed beta blocker drugs after a heart attack, the study said.

The RAND Corporation study is published in the May/June issue of the journal Women's Health Issues.

"These were all insured people. They all had access to medical care and they were all diagnosed with these diseases. The disparities cannot be explained by a lack of patient reporting or not recognizing the symptoms of a disease," study lead author Chloe Bird, a sociologist at RAND, said in a prepared statement.

More research needs to be done to determine why there are gender differences in outpatient care for people with heart disease and diabetes, Bird said. RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

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Country Walks Boost Mental Health: Study

A walk in the country can help ease depression and boost self-esteem, according to a study released Monday by Mind, a mental health charity in England and Wales.

The group said the findings support the idea that this kind of "ecotherapy" should become a recognized treatment for people with mental health problems.

The University of Essex study looked at 20 people who went for a 30-minute stroll in a country park, and then did another walk in a shopping center, The Independent newspaper reported.

After the country stroll, 71 percent of the participants reported reduced levels of depression and tension, and 90 percent reported a boost in self-esteem. In contrast, only 45 percent said they felt reduced levels of depression after walking in the shopping center, and 22 percent said they actually felt more depressed.

Ecotherapy will someday play an important role in mental health treatments, said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind.

"It is a credible, clinically valid treatment option and needs to be prescribed by GPs, especially when for many people access to treatments other than antidepressants is extremely limited," Farmer said. "We're not saying that ecotherapy can replace drugs but that the debate needs to be broadened."

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HIV/AIDS Programs Fail to Reach Drug Users

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