Health Highlights: Dec. 3, 2008

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

Americans' Health May Decline: Report

Americans' health improved by 18 percent between 1990 and 2000, but has leveled off over the past four years and may be about to decline, according to the 2008 America's Health Rankings report released Wednesday.

Weight gain, tobacco addiction and rising rates of chronic diseases are the most serious threats to previous advances in the nation's health, USA Today reported.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Americans' Health May Decline: Report
    • Cleveland Clinic to Disclose Doctors' Business Ties
    • Report Urges Further Measures to Help Medical Residents
    • Gene May Protect Against Lung Cancer
    • 5 Distinct Types of Ovarian Cancer: Study

"This is a perfect storm," said Reed Tuckson, of the United Health Foundation, one of the report sponsors, along with the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.

Researchers analyzed 22 health measures, including access to medical care, immunizations, prenatal care, infant mortality, heart disease deaths, infectious disease deaths, smoking cessation, violent crime, and occupational fatalities.

Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Utah were the healthiest states while Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana were the least healthy, said the health rankings report, USA Today reported.

Vermont, the healthiest state, had a lower smoking rate than the national average (17.6 percent vs. 20 percent), a slower increase in obesity than the national rate, and a higher percentage of people with health insurance. Louisiana, the least healthy state, had a high infant death rate, high cancer death rates, and high rates of racial disparities in health care, according to the report.

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Cleveland Clinic to Disclose Doctors' Business Ties

In what's believed to be a first for a major U.S. medical center, the Cleveland Clinic this week started to publicly report business ties between its 1,800 staff doctors and scientists and drug and medical device makers.

Disclousure of such financial links are posted on the Web site of the clinic, one of the nation's leading medical research centers.

"They are breaking a new path here," Dr. David J. Rothman, president of the nonprofit Institute on Medicine as a Profession, told The New York Times. The Columbia University-based group studies potential conflicts of interest.

In the United States, doctors' and scientists' connections to industry are often kept secret, a practice that can harm the integrity of medical research and patient care, according to critics.

The Cleveland Clinic's move was praised by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R- Iowa), who's introduced legislation to force drug and medical device makers to disclose payments they make to doctors.

"Patients deserve easy access to information about their doctors' relationships with drug companies and the Cleveland Clinic is making that possible," Grassley said in a statement, the Times reported.

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Report Urges Further Measures to Help Medical Residents

More needs to be done to ease the workload of doctors-in-training in the United States, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Tuesday.

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