KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Getting To Delivery Room A Harrowing Journey For Some Amid Rural Hospital Crisis

Because of financial strain, many rural hospitals are shutting down their labor and delivery services. Women in those areas are then faced with long drives to get to a safe place to deliver their babies. In other public health news: infectious diseases, strokes, young blood, genetic testing, fertility treatments, trauma care and more.

Stat: A Crisis In Rural Health Care Puts Mothers-To-Be On A Risky Road
Financial pressures, insurance problems, and doctor shortages forced more than 200 hospitals to close their birthing units between 2004 and 2014, according to the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center. That’s left millions women of reproductive age facing longer drives to deliver babies — who sometimes arrive en route. The long drives, understandably, increase anxiety. They also make mothers and babies less safe; studies show these distances bring with them increased rates of complications and infant deaths, as well as longer stays in neonatal intensive care units. (Ross, 4/17)

Stat: Former CDC Head: Outbreaks ‘Tremendous Threats To Business’
The world has faced a string of infectious disease threats in the past dozen or so years, with SARS, bird flu, swine flu, MERS, and Ebola wreaking havoc. Yet despite the abundance of evidence that microbes pose major threats, both to human health and economies, global preparedness is not where it needs to be, Dr. Julie Gerberding warned this week. Gerberding was a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — a post she held during the 2003 SARS outbreak. She is now Merck’s executive vice-president for strategic communications, global health policy and population health. (Branswell, 4/14)

The Washington Post: Giving Young Blood To Older Animals Raises Tantalizing Possibilities For People
Dracula may have been onto something. It wasn’t just blood, but the blood of youth that was the secret to staying alive for centuries. The rejuvenating effect of young blood has been demonstrated in strange, draculoid experiments first done 150 years ago. Two genetically compatible animals, one young and one old, are sewn together. With their circulatory systems connected, the old animal gains access not only to the younger animal’s blood but also to the detoxifying and metabolizing function of its organs. The state is known as heterochronic parabiosis. (Brown, 4/14)

Los Angeles Times: What The New, FDA-Approved 23andMe Genetic Health Risk Reports Can, And Can't, Tell You
Genetic testing firm 23andMe got approval from the Food and Drug Administration last week to sell reports that show customers whether they have an increased genetic risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. The go-ahead is the first time the federal agency has approved such direct-to-consumer genetic tests and comes about three years after the FDA warned Mountain View, Calif.-based 23andMe to stop marketing its health reports because they lacked agency authorization. (Masunaga, 4/14)

Tampa Bay Times: Here's Why Two Doctors Who Treated Pulse Victims Oppose A Plan For More Trauma Centers
But many trauma doctors, including some who treated the Pulse shooting victims, say that's a bad idea. They say caps on the number of trauma centers ensure each is filled with highly trained specialists, in densely populated areas where they get plenty of practice treating everything from bullet wounds to car crash injuries. Critical lawmakers say Republicans are trying to fix something that already works. (Auslen, 4/17)

Dallas Morning News: Are Heartburn Medicines Linked To A Serious Gut Infection?
The pills you take to control heartburn and suppress stomach acid may be linked to increased risk of a serious gut infection. A study published late last month in JAMA Internal Medicine reports that people who take commonly used prescription and over-the-counter indigestion medicines such as Prilosec and Zantac are at risk of repeat infection with the bacteria Clostridium difficile. (Yasmin, 4/15)

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