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health matters

Don't Supersize NYC: The War on Soda and Fries Continues

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 10, 2012 04:54 PM

New York City’s health department does not want fries with that. Or with anything else. In fact, the agency would prefer that its residents don’t bother with fast food and soda altogether — and certainly not in bigger sizes.

A new set of subway posters, printed in both English and Spanish, illustrate “the steady increase in sizes of soda cups and sleeves of French fries against backdrops of unhealthy people, including a diabetic man who is missing most of one leg," as the New York Times notes. The image, as seen at right, draws attention to the amputated leg.

The objective of the city's latest public health campaign is to show how obesity and diabetes have grown as issues at the same time that serving sizes have increased, and their devastating consequences. 

“The portion sizes that are marketed are often much more than humans need,” stated Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, taking a cue from his boss — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration is a veteran of shockvertising to grab the public's attention.Continue reading...

health matters

Label Food, Not Kids: U.S. States Grapple with Obesity

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 3, 2012 11:49 AM

With the new year comes new resolve to tighten belts, literally, by shedding unwanted pounds accumulated over the holiday (if not earlier). But what about childhood obesity?

A TV and print campaign introduced in August by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is now being criticized for calling out overweight children to appeal to their adult caregivers, with the goal of shocking them into action and reversing Georgia's title as the American state with the second-hightest rate of childhood obesity. In one commercial, for example, a mother sighs when asked by her son why he's overweight.

Georgia isn't the only state grappling with the obesity epidemic. As America’s waistlines keep growing larger, many states now have laws in place that require restaurants to provide calorie information on its menus. That way, the thinking goes, consumers might stop themselves from chowing down on a 500-calorie double-chocolate brownie. Of course, a calorie count lising on a menu isn't going to deter diners from high-cal choices, but public health advocates argue that consumers have the right to know.Continue reading...

health matters

Big Tobacco Sees Anti-Smoking Programs Go Up in Smoke

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 2, 2011 11:31 AM

Big-tobacco companies have been losing battles for years as smokers have been run out of bars and restaurants across America as well as heavy taxes that help fund anti-smoking programs. The anti-tobacco marketing appear to have helped make smoking uncool, with less than 20% of American adults smoking last year, part of a "decades-long decline" as the Wall Street Journal puts it.

So tobacco companies cheered the recent blocking by a U.S. judge blocking the U.S. government's move forcing tobacco companies to put nasty imagery on its packaging to show smokers what might happen to them if they continue inhaling their nicotine.

Now the Associated Press reports that the tobacco companies have another reason to pass around cigars: “States have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs 12 percent this year, to the lowest level since 1999,” according to a new report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society and other groups.Continue reading...

health matters

Avastin Breast Cancer Decision Leaves Questions

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 21, 2011 01:01 PM

As CBS News notes, breast cancer patients are "dismayed" at the FDA's decision to pull Roche's Avastin drug for breast cancer treatment in the U.S.

The blockbuster drug will no longer be available for treatment of advanced breast cancer, a blow to women with the disease who have been lobbying to keep the drug available as an option when all others have failed. The drug remains on the market to treat colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancers.

"I did not come to this decision lightly," stated FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. "Sometimes despite the hopes of investigators, patients, industry and even the FDA itself, the results of rigorous testing can be disappointing."

“We are disappointed with the outcome. We remain committed to the many women with this incurable disease and will continue to provide help through our patient support programs to those who may be facing obstacles to receiving their treatment in the United States,” commented Hal Barron, M.D., chief medical officer and head, Global Product Development at Roche, which makes the cancer drug through its Genentech division. “Despite today’s action, we will start a new Phase III study of Avastin in combination with paclitaxel in previously untreated metastatic breast cancer and will evaluate a potential biomarker that may help identify which people might derive a more substantial benefit from Avastin.” Continue reading...

health matters

Strong Medicine: Walmart Aims to Boost Its Health Care Services, Not Become a Major Health Care Provider

Posted by Dale Buss on November 14, 2011 02:02 PM

It sure sounded like Walmart wanted to dominate yet another part of the U.S. economy when it sent out an RFI, or request for information — as NPR reported last week — laying out its plan to become "the largest provider of primary health-care services in the nation."

But it turns out that the country's largest retailer only wants to make more money by expanding its in-store consumer health-care offering — not dominate the industry.

Rebutting NPR's report, Dr. John Agwunobi, SVP & President of Walmart U.S. Health & Wellness, issued this denial: "The RFI statement of intent is overwritten and incorrect. We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform."

Al Norman calls it a corporate "Oops." Maybe it was just a case of muscle memory underlying Walmart's ambitions, which always tend toward being the world's biggest (or perceived as such). Just recently came word, for instance, that Walmart is expanding its financial services such as check-cashing to "unbanked" Americans.Continue reading...

health matters

Big Tobacco Wins FDA Injunction Against Graphic Cigarette Packs

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 8, 2011 12:28 PM

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon yesterday blocked the new FDA Graphic Warnings Rule mandated by Congress in June under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

The controversial ruling forces tobacco companies (already on the hook for a public education campaign) to show graphic images on cigarette packs, including rotting and diseased teeth and gums; a man with a tracheotomy smoking; the corpse of a smoker; diseased lungs; and a mother holding her baby with smoke swirling around them.

Six tobacco companies — R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Commonwealth Brands Inc., Liggett Group and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. — filed the suit, which Leon said it’s likely they would win.Continue reading...

health matters

Blue Shield Opens First Retail Health Insurance Store in California

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 1, 2011 02:55 PM

If you want to get an American enraged, get them talking about health insurance. Whether they have or they don’t, they tend to have a story somewhere in there, often not buried very far, about some kind of insurance situation gone awry or another.

As health care becomes more and more a political battling point, Blue Shield of California is looking to try and help make things a little clearer to consumers and has taken the bold step of opening a store in San Francisco to aid that effort.

The non-profit organization isn’t afraid to go bold when it wants to make a point. In 2008 it hosted had an exhibition of 40 nude statues in “vulnerable positions” to showcase the large number of uninsured Californians. It also made headlines last month when it was announced it was returning money to its customers, making good on a pledge "to help policyholders cope with rising healthcare costs by making good on a pledge to return money when its net income exceeds 2% of its revenue."

Now it's reaching out directly to customers (current and potential) with a 500-square-foot store that will open Nov. 7 within a Lucky supermarket store in San Francisco.Continue reading...

health matters

"Liquid Candy": Health Advocates Line Up Against Sugary Drinks

Posted by Sheila Shayon on October 10, 2011 10:58 AM

France is the latest nation to impose a so-called fat tax on sugary beverages (except for zero-calorie diet drinks), while American campaigns to curb the consumption of non-diet sugary beverages continues.

Los Angeles county just launched a public awareness campaign, its first aimed at 'sugar-loaded' beverages.

LA's move follows a high-profile campaign earlier this year by New York City targeting soda consumption, citing statistics such as few sugary drinks a day adds up to 93 packets of sugar and leads to serious health issues and disease.

Sugary drinks are the number one source of calories in the average American diet and health advocates are still reeling from the recent rejection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of a pilot proposal banning soda from New York food stamp purchases proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Despite such efforts, more than 50% of Americans still drink too much soda with the highest consumption among minorities, the poor and the young, according to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.Continue reading...

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