KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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In Era Where Almost Every Ailment Is Treated With A Pill, A Simple Diet Change May Save Lives

Researchers are trying to introduce a clean diet to children with a rare kidney disorder called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis because treatment with medication doesn't help them. In other public health news: colon cancer, sleeping and memories, workers' health, tai chi and more.

Stat: Can A Simple Diet Help Change These Children's Lives?
Like every other meal Cecily would be sharing with 19 other children and their parents this month, this one was freshly cooked and served by the crack staff of kitchen professionals who were working under strict orders: Give the kids anything they want, as long as it’s all organic, and free of gluten, dairy, salt, and processed sugar. It was a grand medical — and, in ways, social — experiment. The children are all living with a rare kidney disorder called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or FSGS, in which their kidneys leak proteins into the bloodstream. The disease strikes 5,000 people in the United States each year, and for a subset of pediatric patients, like most of those here, treatments like steroids and immunosuppresants don’t help. They face painful symptoms and, eventually, the prospect of kidney failure. (Tedeschi, 8/9)

The Washington Post: Death Rates From Colon Cancer Are Increasing For White Americans Under 55
Earlier this year, researcher Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society published a startling report showing that colon and rectal cancer incidence is rising among Gen X and millennials while falling in older generations. On Tuesday, after delving further into the data, she and her co-authors identified “a true and perplexing escalation in disease occurrence.” In a paper in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, they report that deaths from colorectal cancer are increasing for young and middle-aged Americans — though the increase appears, at least so far, to be confined to white men and women. (Cha, 8/8)

The Washington Post: Your Brain Can Form New Memories While You Are Asleep, Neuroscientists Show
A sleeping brain can form fresh memories, according to a team of neuroscientists. The researchers played complex sounds to people while they were sleeping, and afterward the sleepers could recognize those sounds when they were awake. The idea that humans can learn while asleep, a concept sometimes called hypnopedia, has a long and odd history. It hit a particularly strange note in 1927, when New York inventor A. B. Saliger debuted the Psycho-phone. (Guarino, 8/8)

The Wall Street Journal: Healthier Workers Are More Productive, Study Finds
Healthy employees are more productive employees, according to new research bolstering the case for corporate wellness programs. While that might seem like an obvious conclusion, the connection has been tough to establish with data to link workers’ job performance and their personal health information. (Weber, 8/8)

The New York Times: Tai Chi May Help Prevent Falls
Practicing tai chi helps older people improve their balance and avoid falls, a review of studies has found. Tai chi is a form of Chinese martial arts now practiced as exercise. It involves a specific program of graceful movements, accompanied by deep breathing and mental focus, that slowly move the center of balance from one leg to the other. (Bakalar, 8/8)

Kaiser Health News: Lag In Brain Donation Hampers Understanding Of Dementia In Blacks
The question came as a shock to Dorothy Reeves: Would she be willing to donate her husband’s brain for research? She knew dementia would steadily take Levi Reeves’ memories of their 57-year marriage, his remaining lucidity and, eventually, his life. But to let scientists take his brain after he died? That seemed too much to ask. “I didn’t want to deal with the idea of his death,” said Reeves, 79. “I certainly didn’t want to deal with brain donation.” (Hancock, 8/9)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/ Penn Study: Insurance Policies Should Be Revised To Cover Costly Proton Therapy For Pediatric Cancer
Health insurers almost always agree to pay for proton therapy for pediatric cancer patients, either initially or on appeal, suggesting that policies should be revised to explicitly allow the expensive treatment, a University of Pennsylvania study concludes. Because protons stop within a target, the particles can kill a tumor while sparing healthy tissue. That’s particularly important for growing children. But proton therapy is more expensive than conventional radiation and has not been proven superior by definitive studies, so insurance policies generally reject or restrict it for pediatric cancer. (McCullough, 8/8)

The Washington Post: A Woman Had Stomach Pains. Doctors Discovered It Was Something She Swallowed — A Decade Ago.
Doctors at a hospital in Australia were bewildered when a 30-year-old woman showed up with intense stomach pains. Her heart rate was faster than normal, and the membrane lining her abdominal wall was inflamed, one of her doctors wrote in a medical article published Monday by BMJ Case Reports. But her vital signs, laboratory tests, ultrasound and a scan of her liver, gallbladder and bile ducts were all normal. (Phillips, 8/8)

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