Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Morning Rounds by Megan Thielking

Welcome to August! I'm here to get you ahead of the day's health and medicine news — but first, we're doing a quick survey of Morning Rounds readers to get your thoughts on the newsletter and what you'd like to see more of. Please take two minutes to fill it out here.

Surgeon General nominee heads before Senate

President Trump’s nominee to take over the post of Surgeon General goes before the Senate health committee this afternoon for a nomination hearing. Dr. Jerome Adams — who was nominated after Trump fired former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in April — previously served as the head of Indiana’s health department during Vice President Mike Pence's tenure as Indiana governor. Adams trained as an anesthesiologist and has advocated for the importance of addressing the opioid epidemic.

Also on the agenda today: the nomination of Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Trump’s pick to run the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The federal agency has a budget of about $3.6 billion a year that goes toward grants that help states pay for mental health and addiction treatment. You can watch the hearing live here starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. 

The escalating emergency of the opioid crisis

The White House’s commission to combat the opioid crisis is urging President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency to address the epidemic. It would be a significant step for the administration, which has repeatedly pledged to take steps to ease the epidemic. A number of states, including Florida, Arizona, and Maryland, have already declared a state of emergency over the crisis. 

Just last week, officials on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota — home to the Red Lake Band of the Chippewa — declared a public health emergency as the tribe’s opioid epidemic continues to worsen. Tribal leaders say that overdoses are on the rise as heroin use, increasingly laced with fentanyl, becomes more common.  This morning, tribal leaders are meeting to discuss how best to begin curbing opioid overdoses and misuse. 

Breastfeeding isn't as common as experts would like

Just 40 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, according to a new report just released by UNICEF and the WHO. Breastfeeding has been tied to both cognitive and health benefits, and health experts recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months if possible to prevent diarrhea and pneumonia in infants. A new analysis released this morning in tandem with the report finds that it would cost countries $4.70 per newborn each year to increase the global rate of breastfeeding to 50 percent. Officials say if the global community could hit that target, it could save the lives of an estimated 520,000 kids under age five in the next decade.

Inside STAT: Tom Price promises to protect doctors


(Mike reddy for stat)

Earlier this summer, HHS Secretary Tom Price corralled a small group of doctors in a conference room in downtown Dallas. It seemed to be another one of his many meetings with the "victims" of Obamacare — in this case, conservative physicians who felt the law was hurting both patients and their bottom line. But Price also signaled to doctors during the meeting that he'd protect them from regulations set in place by the Obama administration. And while he didn't address any specific regulations, he made it clear he was tuned into their complaints about Medicare payment rules and other requirements. STAT's Erin Mershon has the story — read here

New push to train more docs to provide in-home care

A new program to train doctors to provide primary care right in a patient’s home launches today. There are only about 1,000 physicians in the U.S. who work as home-based primary care docs, according to the Home Centered Care Institute. But home care experts say that providing care in the home, particularly to elderly and medically complex patients, can reduce health care costs and improve the experience for those patients. Eight medical centers and schools — including the Cleveland Clinic, University of California San Francisco, and Northwestern — are participating in the program, which aims to grow the workforce by 5,000 clinicians in five years. 

Scientists pinpoint the brain cells that help babies cry


The neurons responsible for helping babies vocalize are shown in red. (Luis Hernandez-Miranda / MDC)

Scientists have pinpointed the part of the brain that’s responsible for helping newborn mice cry to find their moms — which points to genes scientists could probe to study human speech disorders. Researchers zoomed in on a group of neuronal cells in the brain stems of mouse fetuses. They found that those cells are responsible for coordinating both exhalation and the muscles in the larynx that tense up to make noise. They’re also tied to another group of cells that control the tension of the abdominal muscles and, together with the vocal cords, they work to produce enough of an exhale to let out a loud cry.

The scientists also found that if they muted the genes for two transcription factors in those nerve cells, the newborn mice can’t cry after they’re born. The authors say that might point to genes involved in speech disorders that develop early in life.

What to read around the web today

More reads from STAT

The latest from STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! I'll be away the rest of this week, but look out for your daily dose of news from some of my colleagues. More tomorrow,


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