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Michigan squashes infections, saves thousands of lives
January 31st, 2011
07:30 PM ET

Michigan squashes infections, saves thousands of lives

By using an intensive system of training and safety reminders, hospitals in Michigan have eliminated about one in five patient deaths, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.

The pilot program in Michigan started in 2003, an effort to reduce infections among elderly patients in intensive care. In 95 participating hospitals, doctors and staff took part in regular safety meetings and held consultations with infection-prevention experts at Johns Hopkins University. The hospitals also followed formal, five-point checklists of infection control measures – some as simple as remembering to wash hands before a procedure. Other checklist items include frequent adjustments to the position of patients on respirators, and removing catheters that are not absolutely necessary.

“We wanted it to be simple,” said Dr. Allison Lipitz-Snyderman of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the study’s lead author. “These aren’t new ideas. They were already proven to work. They just weren’t disseminated as widely as you’d think.”

Previous studies found the program did reduce infections, but the new analysis goes further, showing it cut the number of actual deaths. While death rates fell in surrounding states as well, the difference was larger in Michigan. There’s no way to calculate the precise number of lives saved, but Dr. Peter Pronovost, the Hopkins physician who led the project, says it’s likely a few thousand Michigan deaths were prevented each year.

Intriguingly, the death rate for elderly ICU patients started to fall during the study period in hospitals throughout the Midwest, not just the Michigan hospitals that implemented the program. After the end of the study period, the death rate continued to drop – even faster than before – in the Michigan hospitals, only.

To Pronovost, this suggests that a shift in hospital culture, rather than specific infection-control measures, was the crucial factor. “I’m convinced that changing the mindset, from thinking these infections were inevitable, to seeing them as preventable, is what made the big difference,” Pronovost told CNN. “Culture takes a while to change.”

Infections acquired in hospitals and other medical settings cause 1.7 million infections and 99,000 deaths each year, according to federal statistics. The Hopkins researchers, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association are now overseeing a project to expand the infection-control program to all 50 states. So far all but three have signed on, with California the big holdout.


Dog detects bowel cancer
January 31st, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Dog detects bowel cancer

A dog in Japan is able to detect bowel cancer using its sense of smell, according to new research.

"We used the excellent ability of dogs to distinguish between different scents to examine whether odor materials can be used in the diagnosis of colorectal cancer," writes Dr. Hideto Sonodo in his study published this week in the medical journal Gut.

In other studies, dogs have been able to distinguish the smell of bladder cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.

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Study: Older adults improve memory through exercise
January 31st, 2011
03:33 PM ET

Study: Older adults improve memory through exercise

Need more motivation to make exercise a priority? Aside from the well-known physical benefits, a moderate amount of exercise can increase the size of the brain's hippocampus and reverse memory loss in older adults, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"What's really amazing is that exercise seems to be incredibly powerful and it's not the first thing that comes to mind when we think of exercising our brains. We think of crossword puzzles, sudoku or reading a newspaper. We don't think of going for a walk," said lead author Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. FULL POST


Obesity a big barrier for getting a mammogram
January 31st, 2011
02:06 PM ET

Obesity a big barrier for getting a mammogram

Women are less likely to be screened for breast cancer if they are obese, according to a new study in the Journal of Women's Health. Despite having insurance and receiving reminders to get screened, "...a significant portion of the population is not getting screened," according to the study.

The reasons women gave for skipping mammograms are clear-cut, but the solutions are not. Among obese patients, the main reason cited for skipping mammograms was that the test is too painful, yet many women who are not obese also cite pain as a reason for avoiding the test.

Addressing the issue of obese women skipping mammograms has a special sense of urgency, according to the study: "Given the obesity epidemic, the higher incidence and mortality from breast cancer among the obese, and the need for patients to participate in regular screening to achieve desired reductions in mortality, obesity is an exceedingly common and important barrier to mammography."

FULL POST


January 31st, 2011
08:53 AM ET

Does traveling increase your chance of illness?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Tom of Greensboro, Georgia:

Recently, more than 70 people from the same retirement neighborhood went on a five-day cruise. By the end of the cruise and right afterward, at least half of the people had colds and respiratory problems, with one person needing to be hospitalized with pneumonia. Could this illness be from the air conditioning or close quarters? What is the best way to notify the authorities to prevent others from contracting this illness?

FULL POST


Flu and You: Virus widespread in half the states
January 28th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Flu and You: Virus widespread in half the states

Half of the states have widespread flu activity, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From January 16 to 22, flu activity increased and three flu-related deaths were reported in children, according to the CDC. During this flu season, which started in October, there have been 13 confirmed pediatric deaths.

The highest levels of flu-like activities were reported in the South and Southeast, including Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina. FULL POST


January 28th, 2011
03:46 PM ET

FitFriday: Foods to make you full, heated obesity theory and death of a fitness legend

Scientists for a major food company are designing foods  to make you stop eating. And speaking of man-made inventions, indoor heating could be making us a little too warm and fat, hypothesizes one study.

Last but not least, fitness guru and a man before his time, Jack  LaLanne died Sunday at the age of 96.

Foods that make you feel fuller

One of the world's largest food companies is engineering products to make people feel fuller longer, reports the Wall Street Journal. FULL POST


What the Yuck: Should my breasts get bigger during PMS?
January 28th, 2011
02:30 PM ET

What the Yuck: Should my breasts get bigger during PMS?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: Is it normal for my boobs to get a whole cup-size bigger during PMS? It's such a dramatic change that I need two different sets of bras!

FULL POST


January 28th, 2011
09:34 AM ET

Friday fun: How much do you know?

Diabetes, the State of the Union, life expectancy...Have you paid attention to health news this week? Take our quiz and see how much you know. We've thrown in a little health trivia too. Happy Friday.


Filed under: Health Quiz

In defense of crunch:  What we use (and don’t)
January 28th, 2011
09:29 AM ET

In defense of crunch: What we use (and don’t)

Last week, writer, cancer survivor and mother of two young children,  Amanda Enayati wrote about pursuing a healthy life for her family by cutting excessive sugars, bad fats, dyes, preservatives and pesticides from their diet. Today she tells of reducing her household's "toxic burden."

“Crunchy” is what we used to call our handful of friends who seemed to live on the outer edges of reality when it came to healthy foods and personal products. We loved our friends, of course, tolerated their quirks, but mostly passed on using their homemade patchouli bath products or eating their tofu scramble served on a bed of raw zucchini noodles.

In the days when I first began considering how to lower my family’s household toxic burden, I thought of my crunchy friends often—how I had once found them so extreme, so eccentric, perhaps even rolled my eyes inwardly at some of their practices. But here I was all these years later, knee-deep in scientific journals, and suddenly the Mad Hatter seemed … not so mad.

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Filed under: Children's Health • Toxic America

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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