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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Hearing on migrant children’s mental health and other D.C. events

Now that Congress is back from its August recess, things are picking back up in Washington. Here’s what’s happening: 

  • Mental health: A House subcommittee is meeting this morning to discuss the mental health needs of children — often undocumented immigrants — who are in the custody of HHS. Various department officials, including the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, will be testifying. 

  • Gun violence: A Senate committee is holding a hearing this afternoon on preventing firearm deaths and injuries. Representatives from different gun control advocacy organizations will be speaking at the hearing, as will a survivor of a Texas mass shooting. The hearing will be broadcast here

  • Rally for Medical Research: Today and tomorrow, NIH Director Francis Collins and representatives from nearly 350 medical organizations will be advocating for funding support for medical research.

Major health groups weigh in on what young children should drink

Four leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, just released their first consensus recommendations for what children under the age of 5 should drink. The groups suggest that young children only be given breast milk, infant formula, water, or plain milk. At the same time, they advocate against any kind of beverage that includes added sugars, including chocolate or strawberry milk, as well as low-calorie or caffeinated beverages. Plant- or nut-based milks also aren’t part of the new guidelines, as these drinks don’t offer any unique nutritional value over regular milk, the groups say. Children as young as 9 months can learn their preferences for flavors, preferences that can last a lifetime. “That’s why it’s important to set them on a healthy course,” AAP expert Dr. Natalie Muth said in a statement. 

OB-GYN shortage could hurt millennial women the most

A new report outlines the extent of the ongoing shortage of OB-GYNs, and millennial women are likely to be hit hard from not having access to services. Here’s more from the report, which looked at data from 43,000 OB-GYNs across the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S.: 

  • Shortages: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City are at the highest risk of OB-GYN shortages, while Portland, Ore., and San Jose, Calif., are at the lowest risk. 

  • Physician age: 35% of physicians included in the report were older than 55, while only 19% were younger than 40, and the difference could explain the shortages. 

  • Doctors’ workload: Physicians in cities with a high shortage risk also had a heavy workload. A Las Vegas physician, for instance, delivered an average of 145 babies a year compared to a Portland doctor, who delivered around 62 babies on average. 

Inside STAT: For dementia caregivers, a place to share with strangers — and be honest


(HYACINTH EMPINADO/STAT)

“It was living hell.” That’s how Barbara Metcalf described her experience being a caregiver for her husband, who has dementia. And even though much didn’t change with her daily routine, something did change when Metcalf found Mary Smallwood. Smallwood, whose husband also has dementia, seemed to truly understand the daily struggles and frustrations of caring for a dementia patient, from being blamed for the condition to being accused of having an affair with the mailman. But theirs wasn’t a chance meeting in person. Instead the women — who live nearly 1,000 miles apart and have never met offline — met through caregiver groups on Facebook. And more are starting to do the same. Through reporting the story, it became clear “how much some caregivers need that space to be honest and open,” STAT’s Megan Thielking tells me. Read more here.

New cancer progress report highlights record number of survivors and new treatments

The FDA approved 27 new cancer treatments in the past year, the highest such number in a single-year period, according to the latest progress report from the American Association for Cancer Research. Here’s what else you need to know: 

  • Improved survival: As of January, there were a record 16.9 million cancer survivors. Death rates among African American men also improved: In 1990, the rate was 47% higher than white men, but that decreased to 19% in 2016. 

  • New treatments: Among the 27 approvals were the first immunotherapy for breast cancer patients, as well as the first treatment targeted for a specific genetic biomarker. 

  • New cases: Owing to a growing — and aging — population, the report predicts the number of new cancer cases will rise from 1.7 million this year to more than 2.3 million in 2040. 

Heart infections tied to opioid drug use doubled in the past 14 years

Those who abuse drugs are at an increased risk of an infection of the heart, known as infective endocarditis, and new research finds that the ongoing opioid epidemic in the U.S. may have led to a doubling in the condition’s prevalence. Looking at data from 2002-2016 and nearly 1 million people who were hospitalized with infective endocarditis, researchers found that the prevalence of the condition in drug abusers increased from 8% at the beginning of the study period to 16% in 2016. These increases happened around the U.S., although states in the Midwest saw the highest jumps. Those with infective endocarditis related to drug abuse were also predominantly younger, white men who were from poorer backgrounds. “We believe these findings are alarming from a public health standpoint and outline the need for an immediate tailored action plan,” the study authors write. 

What to read around the web today

  • Millions of Americans’ medical images and data are available on the internet. Anyone can take a peek. ProPublica
  • Trump’s top scientist outlines plan to reduce foreign influence on US research. Nature
  • Alex Trebek says he is undergoing chemotherapy again after "numbers went sky high." Good Morning America
  • Health insurance that doesn’t cover the bills has flooded the market under Trump. Bloomberg Businessweek
  • It's not just insulin: Diabetes patients struggle to get crucial supplies. NPR

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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