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Sunday, Apr 20th

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U.S. calls emergency preparedness an "urgent public health issue"

HHS emergency plansEmergency preparedness is described as an “urgent public health issue” in a proposal issued by the Department of Health and Human Services which aims to regulate disaster plans.

The proposed rule would impose readiness requirements on 17 different types of facilities -- from hospitals to hospices, nursing homes to kidney dialysis centers -- intended to prevent interruptions to healthcare during an emergency scenario like those that occurred during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

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U.S. administration pulls back on Medicare drug benefit proposals

US Medicare drugs proposalThe Obama administration on Monday pulled back from possible changes to the popular Medicare Part D prescription drug program, saying it would not finalize proposals that have spawned fierce opposition from a broad coalition of interests.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a letter to members of Congress that her agency had decided not to move forward at present. She said it would instead seek further input from stakeholders with the prospect of revisiting changes "in future years."

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BPA-free plastics may be less safe than those with chemical

BPA free plasticsIn 2008, the news burst on the media everywhere: common plastics contained potentially dangerous levels of bisphenol a (BPA) an additive that could be hazardous to consumer health. It leached into food and drinks, especially when plastics were warmed, posing a risk in baby bottles, water bottles, plastic storage containers and more. The plastics industry was reluctant to face the truth on BPA, but under pressure, it gave in — now, many plastic products are proudly labeled BPA-free.

So that means you’re safe, right? Your plastics have been guaranteed free of the nasty chemical everyone was so worried about, and you can go back to business as usual.

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Blood test predicts Alzheimer's disease

blood testIn a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have developed a blood test for Alzheimer's disease that predicts with astonishing accuracy whether a healthy person will develop the disease.

Though much work still needs to be done, it is hoped the test will someday be available in doctors' offices, since the only methods for predicting Alzheimer's right now, such as PET scans and spinal taps, are expensive, impractical, often unreliable and sometimes risky.

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Big Food defies First Lady with own nutrition label

Nutritional labelsLast week, with an assist from first lady Michelle Obama, the Food and Drug Administration announced a set of proposed improvements — the first in 20 years — to the nutrition facts label found on most food packages.

The most striking change would be the huge increase in font size for the calorie count; even for those with poor eyesight, the number would be hard to miss. (You can compare the current and proposed versions here.) This, combined with more realistic serving sizes, which the FDA has also proposed, might help. After all, who eats only 3/4 of a cup of Frosted Flakes? Food companies try to make their hyperprocessed foods look nutritionally palatable by, in the case of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, listing only 11 grams of sugar per serving per 3/4 cup. Under the new rules, serving sizes will be more realistic. As the agency explains, “By law, serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.”

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New laws permanently close 3 abortion clinics in Texas

Abortion ban TexasThree Texas abortion clinics — including both facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and the sole clinic in Beaumont — have permanently shut their doors in the face of strict state laws currently being challenged in federal court.

Whole Women's Health, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging a sweeping package of abortion restriction passed by the Legislature last summer, has closed its clinics in McAllen and Beaumont, company CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said Wednesday night.

“It may have taken me a little too long to accept it ... because the need is still here,” Miller said. “That's what's so heartbreaking.”

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The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics

BPA plastics): After this story went to press, the US Food and Drug Administration published a paper finding that BPA was safe in low doses. However, the underlying testing was done on a strain of lab rat known as the Charles River Sprague Dawley, which doesn't readily respond to synthetic estrogens, such as BPA.

And, due to laboratory contamination, all of the animals—including the control group—were exposed to this chemical. Academic scientists say this raises serious questions about the study's credibility. Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on the shortcomings of the FDA's most recent study.

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