KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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This Obscure Task Force Dictates Preventive Services In U.S.

The group of physicians has recently come out with guidelines that have created a firestorm of debate over preventive care, and since the health law granted it the power to determine what screenings should be covered by insurers, it's unlikely the task force will continue to fly under the radar. Meanwhile, a report finds that too many older people continue to receive treatments that don’t meet established guidelines.

The Washington Post: You've Never Heard Of The Powerful Doctors Making Decisions About Your Health
They are the most powerful group of doctors no one has ever heard of — 16 physicians who decide which checkups and tests Americans need to stay healthy. But increasingly, their work is more controversial than obscure. The doctors sit on the national task force that told most women to forget about yearly mammograms until they turn 50, raising an uproar that had barely quieted by the time the group then decided most men shouldn’t be screened for prostate cancer. (Sun, 3/7)

Kaiser Health News: Report Details Senior Health Care That Misses The Mark
Quality over quantity. As people get older, their health care goals may shift away from living as long as possible to maintaining a good quality of life. In key areas, however, the medical treatment older people receive often doesn’t reflect this change, according to a new study. The wide-ranging report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project uses Medicare claims data to examine aging Americans’ health care. Among other things, it identified five key areas where too many older people continue to receive treatments that don’t meet established guidelines or, often, their own goals and preferences. (Andrews, 3/8)

In other public health news, researchers say even with the "moonshot" initiative cancer remains underfunded, scientists are studying what effects cinnamon and other common substances have on lifespan using fruit flies and studies undercut the reliability of BMI to determine health —

The Tampa Bay Times: Speakers At Moffitt Forum Say Cancer 'Moonshot' Will Require More Money
Cancer researchers are on the verge of making significant advances that could reduce the mortality rate for people with the disease, National Cancer Institute Acting Director Douglas Lowy said Monday during a visit to Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. "What we've been able to do for HIV — to take a death sentence and turn it into a disease where people who have HIV can look forward to a normal life expectancy — I think with cancer, we'll have the same opportunity," Lowy told a group of doctors, scientists and patients gathered for a panel discussion on cancer research. (McGrory, 3/7)

The Wall Street Journal: Seeking Elixir Of Life, A Scientist Studies Fruit Flies
A research lab at a University of California campus has a big ambition—to extend the number of years people live disease-free. The animal model it uses for its experiments is decidedly smaller: the tiny fruit fly. The Jafari Lab, located at UC Irvine, has run tests on substances as diverse as green tea, cinnamon and an Arctic plant called Rhodiola rosea, looking for an elixir of life. To pass muster, each experimental compound must help the fruit flies live longer and not have adverse effects. (Chen, 3/7)

Los Angeles Times: As Measures Of Health, Fitness And Fatness Matter More Than Weight
Researchers are nurturing a growing suspicion that body mass index, the height-weight calculation that distinguishes those with "normal healthy weight" from the overweight and obese, is not the whole picture when it comes to telling who is healthy and who is not. Two new studies drive that point home and underscore that BMI offers an incomplete picture of an individual's health. Fitness matters, as does fatness. And the BMI is an imperfect measure of both. (Healy, 3/7)

Meanwhile, advocates are frustrated that fewer kids are getting the HPV vaccine —

And what really are the health effects of children drinking lead-contaminated water —

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.