Health Highlights: Aug. 12, 2007

It's obesity, say University of Pennsylvania and Temple University researchers in a study released Aug. 10, the Associated Press reports. In fact, obesity is the best predictor of school absenteeism, the scientists say.

According to Andrew B. Geier, the study's lead author and a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, obese elementary school children, on average, miss a couple more school days each year, and that's a prediction for possible major problems down the road. "It's clear in all the literature that the more days of school you miss, it really sets you up for such negative outcomes: drugs and AIDS and (teen) pregnancy," Geier told the wire service.

"At this early age to show that already they're missing school, and missing school is such a major setup for big-time problems, that's something school policy people have to know," Geier said. The study was confined to the schools in the poorest areas of Philadelphia in order to keep the test group as homogeneous as possible, the A.P. reports.

The study didn't examine physical health issues associated with being overweight, the wire service reports. Rather, it dealt with emotional or psychological reasons behind the absenteeism. "They're missing school because they don't want to be bullied and called names," the A.P. quotes Geier as saying.

The study can be found in the latest issue of the journal Obesity.

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Don't Eat Certain Raw Oysters From Washington State, FDA Says

Consumers should not eat raw oysters harvested from the southern tip of Hood Canal in Washington state, because they may be contaminated with Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Friday.

Raw oysters harvested from "growing area 6" in Hood Canal since July 3 have caused at least six people to become sick in California and in Washington state, the agency said. Records indicate the oysters were shipped to California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, New York, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus bacteria can cause an illness called vibriosis, with symptoms including watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills. Symptoms usually begin within 24 hours of eating the tainted food and normally last no more than three days.

The most severe symptoms are rare and most frequently affect people with weakened immune systems, including young children, the elderly, and people with AIDS or other conditions that compromise the immune system, the FDA said.

Washington state has closed the area associated with the contaminated oysters and has asked harvesters and distributors to recall any raw oysters obtained from the area.

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L.A. Hospital Loses Federal Funding, Closes Emergency Room and Inpatient Care

A Los Angeles hospital built after the 1965 Watts riots to bring better health care to the poor has lost its federal funding and has already eliminated some of its most essential services.

Regulators who oversee Medicare payments announced at a news conference Friday that L.A. county-run Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital failed two federal inspections and would no longer be eligible for $200 million in federal funding, according to the Associated Press.

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