Health Highlights: March 24, 2017

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

‘Sea of Despair’ Engulfs White Working Class Americans: Study

Low levels of education and employment are likely the root causes of rising rates of sickness and early death among white working class Americans, according to a new study.

The researchers said that young adults who face those two challenges are at increased long-term risk for family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other health issues that form a “sea of despair,” the Washington Post reported.

In 2015, a study by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton said the death rate of middle-aged white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in comparison with the death rates among blacks and Hispanic Americans, and Europeans.

In their new study, the Princeton professors analyzed two more years of data and found that the death rate among white Americans is still on the rise nearly everywhere in the nation, the Post reported.

Education is a major factor, according to the new study. Americans with a college degree are happier and healthier than those with only some college, who in turn are much better off than those without any college education.

Less-educated white Americans who struggle to find a job in early adulthood are likely to face a “cumulative disadvantage” over time, experiencing health and personal struggles that often lead to drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease and suicide, the researchers suggested.

“Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high-school-educated working class after its heyday in the early 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” the study authors wrote, the Post reported.

The study points to a “sea of despair” across America, Case said in a teleconference with reporters this week.

The researchers will present their study on Friday at the Brookings Institution, the Post reported.


New Rotavirus Vaccine Shows Promise

A new vaccine that protects against a diarrhea-causing virus shows promise and could save millions of children worldwide, researchers say.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of death from diarrhea in children under age 5 and kills about 600 children a day, or about 215,000 a year.

The new vaccine against the virus worked well in a large trial conducted in Niger by Doctors Without Borders. The vaccine is made by an Indian company and is expected to be as cheap or cheaper than current vaccines, The New York Times reported.

Another advantage is that the new vaccine can last for months without refrigeration, making it far easier to use in remote locations without electricity.

The vaccine must be approved by the World Health Organization before it can be widely used. That approval process is underway, The Times reported.


Creator of Term Homophobia Dies at Age 86

The American psychotherapist who created the term homophobia died Monday at age 86 from cancer.

George Weinberg invented the word in the mid-1960s after noting the extreme discomfort some of his colleagues showed around gay men and women, The New York Times reported.

“I coined the word homophobia to mean it was a phobia about homosexuals,” Weinberg told Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, in 1998.

“It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear, and it had led to great brutality, as fear always does,” Weinberg said.

Homophobia first appeared in print in Screw magazine on May 5, 1969 and was used in a Time magazine cover article a few months later, The Times reported.

The creation of the term was “a milestone,” Herek wrote in the journal Sexuality Research & Social Policy in 2004. “It crystallized the experiences of rejection, hostility and invisibility that homosexual men and women in mid-20th-century North America had experienced throughout their lives.”


AMA Urges Congress to Defeat Trump Health Bill

Congress should oppose Donald Trump’s health care bill because it will lead to millions of Americans losing health insurance, the American Medical Association says.

“Health insurance coverage is critically important. Without it, millions of American families could be just one serious illness or accident away from losing their home, business, or life savings,” the AMA said in a letter to members of Congress.

“The AMA has long supported the availability of advanceable and refundable tax credits, inversely related to income, as a means to assist individuals and families to purchase health insurance,” the group added. “The credits proposed under the AHCA (American Health Care Act) are significantly less generous for those with the greatest need than provided under current law. The reduced purchasing power with the AHCA tax credits will put insurance coverage out of reach for millions of Americans.”

“We also remain deeply concerned with the reduction of federal support for the Medicaid program and the resulting significant loss of coverage. Medicaid expansion has provided access to critical services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, for millions. Not only will the AHCA force many states to roll back coverage to these millions of previously ineligible individuals, but the significant reduction in federal support for the program will inevitably have serious implications for all Medicaid beneficiaries, including the elderly, disabled, children, and pregnant women, as well,” the letter stated.

The AMA said it wants to “work with Congress on proposals that will increase the number of Americans with quality, affordable health insurance coverage but, for the reasons cited above, urge members to oppose the American Health Care Act.”


‘Gong Show’ Creator Chuck Barris Dies at Age 87

The creator of “The Gong Show” and many other game shows has died.

Chuck Barris died at his home in Palisades. N.Y. at age 87, according to his spokesman Paul Shefrin, The New York Times reported.

Barris also created “The Dating Game” and “The Newylwed Game” and was also a novelist and songwriter.

He wrote the pop song “Palisades Park,” which became a hit for Freddy Cannon in 1962, The Times reported.


Compounding Center Co-Founder Not Guilty of Murder in Deadly Meningitis Outbreak

A co-founder and pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center was acquitted of murder charges linked to the deaths of patients who received injected steroids at the Framingham, Mass. lab.

But Barry Cadden was found guilty of racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud charges by the jury in Boston and could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison, USA Today reported.

In 2012, 751 patients in 20 states developed fungal meningitis infections after being injected with steroids from the compounding center, and 64 of them died.

Cadden’s defense lawyer said there was no evidence that his client was responsible for the deaths. Cadden is the first defendant to be tried in the case. Supervisory pharmacist Glenn Chin also faces second-degree murder charges, USA Today reported.

Twelve other people were initially charged with lesser crimes. Some pleaded guilty and others have had their charges dropped.

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