Health Highlights: May 21, 2009

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

No Decline in Pregnant Women's Alcohol Use: CDC

The number of American women who drink alcohol while pregnant didn't decrease between 1991 and 2005, despite warnings from the Surgeon General about the dangers of drinking while pregnant, says a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Thursday.

During that 15-year period, about 1 in 8 women drank any amount of alcohol while pregnant and about 1 in 50 pregnant women engaged in binge drinking. Rates of alcohol use and binge drinking among women of childbearing age remained steady.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • No Decline in Pregnant Women's Alcohol Use: CDC
    • Japanese Women Have Longest Life Expectancy: WHO
    • Chronic Ills Common Among Adults With Public Insurance: Study
    • Many U.S. College Students Feel Stressed: Survey
    • Costly Hospital Care Doesn't Guarantee Better-Quality Care: Study
    • Young Children's Deaths Decline 27%: WHO

The study was published Thursday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Alcohol use during pregnancy continues to be an important public health concern, said the study authors. They added that health care professionals play an important role in education women about this issue and should routinely ask all women who are pregnant or of childbearing age about their alcohol use, inform them of the risks of alcohol use while pregnant, and advise them not to consume alcohol while pregnant.

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Japanese Women Have Longest Life Expectancy: WHO

Women in Japan and men in San Marino have the longest life expectancies in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Life expectancies are 86 years for Japanese women and 81 years for men in San Marino. On the other end of the scale, men in Sierra Leone are expected to live only 39 years, while women in Afghanistan live to an average age of 42 years, the Associated Press reported.

The figures are based on statistics from 2007. While some countries, such as Angola, Eritrea and Liberia have made great progress in increasing life expectancy, countries such as Botswana, Kenya and Lesotho have experienced a decrease in life expectancy since 1990, the WHO said.

The life expectancy statistics were among more than 100 health trends released Thursday by the Geneva-based body, the AP reported.

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Chronic Ills Common Among Adults With Public Insurance: Study

Nearly two-thirds of adult Americans under age 65 covered by public insurance in 2005-06 had at least one chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease, says a U.S. government study.

About 57 percent of people with private insurance and 36 percent of those without insurance had at least one chronic condition, said the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings:

  • 45 percent of the those with public insurance, 32 percent of those with private insurance, and 17 percent of the uninsured had at least two chronic illnesses.
  • Health expenditures for treatment of adults with two or more chronic illnesses averaged $6,455 for those with public insurance, $1,987 for the uninsured, and $3,598 for people with private insurance.
  • People with public insurance with two or more chronic illnesses had lower average annual out-of-pocket expenses than those without insurance -- $708 vs. $1,040.
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