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Sasakawa Health Prize

26 May 2017

The 2017 Sasakawa Health Prize of US$30 000 for outstanding innovative work in health development, has been awarded to Dr Rinchin Arslan for his remarkable lifelong contribution to the advancement of primary health care in Mongolia and specifically his work in fighting viral hepatitis.

As a young doctor, graduated from Szeged Medial University in Hungary in 1967, Arslan was confronted with viral hepatitis as a growing – but then unconfirmed – health concern.

“Viral hepatitis emerged in the 1960–1970s and was declared the number one health issue causing considerable sickness and death. Children under 4 years of age made up half of the cases. Many of them had a history of life-saving intravenous blood plasma or fluid therapy and injections. My analysis indicated the possibility of hepatitis B infection, but that hypothesis needed to be proven. At that time we did not know much about hepatitis viruses, including hepatitis C, or their mode of transmission. We had no idea that the younger the person exposed to hepatitis B or C virus infection, the higher was the risk of developing chronic hepatitis that could lead to deadly liver cancer.”

Through his research in the hepatitis B surface antigen, Arslan was able to demonstrate that hepatitis B was indeed endemic in Mongolia, and affected mainly children.

Arslan then devoted the next years to tackling viral hepatitis, advocating for improvements in injection and blood safety, and increases in hepatitis B vaccination. He designed the Mongolia National immunization programme which was crucial in significantly reducing viral hepatitis transmission at birth and acute viral hepatitis infection in young children.

Arslan was influential in expanding this programme in the 1990s, with the support of JICA,WHO, UNICEF and later GAVI, to sustain other much needed childhood vaccines – polio, DTP, measles and etc., during a difficult period of transition to democratic reforms in the country.

“Mongolia has made significant progress in fighting hepatitis B, but much more needs to be done if we are to end hepatitis C and B in the near future.”

The constantly changing economic, political, and development environment in Mongolia, as in many countries, determines the evolving health challenges.

In addition, Mongolia is prone to natural disasters – extreme cold – called “dzud“ – flooding, earthquakes, and disease outbreaks (such as influenza).

“Our preparedness for relief operations to protect young children, women and the most vulnerable, as well as our counseling services and psychosocial support, has always been a central concern. In my life-time I would love to see a quality health service which is accessible and affordable to all, with improved health education and training of our medical doctors, public health specialists, and health staff in remote areas of our country.”

In 2017, the Mongolian government included hepatitis C medicine into the national health insurance program, which today covers a large proportion of its population. In addition, Mongolia has been a model country in its implementation of the hepatitis B birth dose and infant immunizations, as highlighted especially today by the Sasakawa Award presented to Dr Rinchin Arslan.

The Sasakawa Health Prize was established in 1984 by Mr Ryoichi, Chairman of the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation and President of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation for outstanding accomplishments in health development.

Funds from the prize will be used to support the Ministry of Health to implement Government programmes on the control and reduction of hepatitis B. They will also be used for activities to increase advocacy for better health services and laboratory testing in remote facilities, implement best practices to avoid infection, and reduce possible stigma in families, workplaces, and schools. Funds will also be dedicated to co-organizing, with non-State actors, World Hepatitis Day (28 July) and to provide financial support to young researchers in hepatitis B.

“I am proud and happy to become a laureate of the prestigious Sasakawa award in recognition of my contribution to tackling viral hepatitis and the immunization of children as part of primary health care in my country. I would also like to stress the importance of contributions of the specialists of the former USSR to fighting infectious diseases, including viral hepatitis in Mongolia, and recognize the exclusive leadership and role of WHO, particularly under Dr Chan, in raising awareness of viral hepatitis in member countries.“

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Sana Health aims to stop insomnia with smart goggles

When Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard set out to fly around the world in a plane that uses no fuel, he knew he wasn’t going to get much rest. During the journey, he would be able to sleep, at a maximum, three hours per day with rest meted out in twenty-minute intervals. The plane, which could only accommodate one aviator, required a human systems check every twenty minutes.

For part of the journey, Piccard used Sana Health technology to put him to sleep in flight, and to sleep as deeply as possible during those scant moments.

The Sana Sleep “smart goggles,” will be available to the too-tired public starting in the second quarter of 2018, according to Sana Health founder and CEO Richard Hanbury. The company recently closed a $1.3 million round of seed funding from Founders Fund, Maveron and SOSV, among others. The goggles will sell for about $400 a pair, Hanbury said.

The entrepreneur began working on this technology as a solution to his own chronic pain and related sleep issues. He suffered from chronic nerve damage pain, after surviving a disabling Jeep accident in Yemen in 1992. However, the technology has broad-based appeal. Not including defiant toddlers, everyone wants a good night’s rest.

Sana Health founder and CEO Richard Hanbury.

Still, one in three adults in the U.S. doesn’t get enough sleep, according to the most recent available data from the CDC. Insomniacs suffer mood and memory impairments, among other undesirable corollaries, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have verified.

Sniffing a major market opportunity in the restless masses, a number of tech companies have begun trying to allay insomnia in recent years. They’re making mattresses of novel materials, a wide variety of wearables, sleep tracking apps and other IoT devices to encourage better sleep.

Venture investors are falling for the promise of a good night’s rest, too. According to deal tracker Crunchbase (which is owned by TechCrunch’s parent company) at least 30 sleep-related tech startups, including 6 hardware companies, landed seed or venture rounds since the start of last year.

For its part, the Sana Sleep looks like padded goggles, or a pared down and comfy version of a VR headset. It is being tested currently with athletes in training who want the most restorative sleep they can get while traveling extensively.

Hanbury explained this is how the device works: “It uses audio-visual stimulation to trigger specific patterns in the brain. In the same way that when you go into a nightclub, and hear fast music and see strobed lights, this produces an excited state in your brain, this device produces the patterns your brain needs in order to produce deep states of relaxation.”

The goggles emit pulses of light and sound. The wearer is conscious of the lights and sounds at the outset of each use, but becomes less aware of these as they drift off to sleep. The goggles measure things like a users’s pulse and breathing, and customizes the signals in response to the individual’s biometrics.

The goggles must be trained, initially. After about 4 uses wearers (even those dealing with chronic pain issues) can get to sleep within ten minutes, and more importantly can sleep through the night.

Prior to closing their seed round, Sana Health had raised $450,000 including from the HAX hardware accelerator run by SOSV. The firm reupped its investment in Sana’s seed round, according to General Partner Cyril Ebersweiler, because its technology solves the hardest sleep cases.

Sana is based on 24 years of sleep research and has gone through extensive subject trials. While bringing continuous improvement to the experience, the company will need to now spend some time understanding which distribution channels are the most adapted for its offering,” he said.

The efficacy of the company’s goggles in early tests have led Sana Health to pursue a classification as a medical device from the FDA in the US.

Featured Image: Sana Health

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GOP health care bill: Premiums may decline, but many will pay more for care

Winners and losers of the Republican health care bill

House Republicans boast that their health care bill would reduce average premiums, but that’s because the insurance policies will generally cover less.

That might be fine for those who never see the doctor, but it would mean those who actually use the coverage will pay more to get treatment. Those additional out-of-pocket costs could total thousands of dollars more, in some cases, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill.

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Much of the debate surrounding Obamacare has focused on how much people pay each month for coverage. Republicans have repeatedly touted their bill as lowering premiums, but they’ve said less about how it would affect what consumers have to shell out for care.

Obamacare put in place an array of protections that pushed up premiums, but shielded Americans from big health care bills. It required insurers to sell comprehensive policies that cover 10 essential health benefits, including hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health and maternity care. It mandated carriers shoulder a certain share of the costs of covered benefits.

Also, the law capped how much consumers have to pay out-of-pocket each year for the essential health benefits — $7,150 in 2017 — and it prevented insurers from settling annual or lifetime limits on these benefits.

Related: 23 million fewer Americans insured under House GOP bill, says CBO

The GOP’s American Health Care Act would weaken many of those provisions. Most notably, it would allow states to waive the federal essential health benefits mandate and set their own rules on what carriers must cover.

(On top of this, the legislation would also allow states to waive the requirement that insurers charge healthy and sick consumers the same premiums. Instead, carriers would be allowed to set rates based on enrollees’ medical history — meaning older policyholders and those with pre-existing conditions would face higher premiums, while the healthy would enjoy lower rates, the CBO found.)

About half of Americans live in states that would opt out of the essential health benefits mandate, estimated the CBO report, which came out Wednesday.

Not all of them would feel a change since not everyone uses a lot of health services every year, said Dave Dillon, fellow with the Society of Actuaries. But those that do could find themselves paying more for care that’s no longer mandated.

The CBO report put it more bluntly: “As a result of the narrower scope of benefits included in many plans, however, enrollees who would use services that were not covered by the available plans would face substantial increases in their out-of-pocket costs under the act … Some people would have increases of thousands of dollars in a year.”

What would likely be on the chopping block? Maternity care, mental health, substance abuse, rehab services and pediatric dental care, the analysis found. Prescription drug coverage would likely be limited as well. Prior to Obamacare these services typically were not covered.

Related: Who gets hurt and who gets helped if Obamacare is repealed

Even if insurers decide to offer additional services, they’d be free to place annual or lifetime limits on that coverage, and policyholders would not be protected by an annual cap on out-of-pocket costs. That’s because these Obamacare protections only apply to essential health benefits.

In some states, policies would cover so little that those enrolled in them would be considered uninsured under the CBO’s definition.

Republicans have often knocked Obamacare for having such high deductibles that enrollees don’t really have coverage even though they have an insurance card. The CBO notes that under the GOP bill, many older Americans and those who use services that were no longer covered would find themselves in the same boat.

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Freeways kill: Expert to reveal the latest science on health and tailpipe exhaust – The Courier

It’s easy to take aim at the region’s coal-fired power plants or chemical manufacturing facilities when it comes to climate change.

Their imposing industrial structures and history of large scale emissions make them the traditional targets for the public and regulators alike.

But cars and trucks driven by you and me are also part of the Louisville area’s pollution mix that produces our air quality alerts. And even as overall air quality continues to improve, there is renewed focus nationally on pollution “hot spots,” or parts of communities with more localized problems.

Like along freeways, which can kill in more ways that one.

More: EPA delays chemical safety regulations

More: Kentucky, Indiana are at ground zero in the national political battle over climate change

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that children, older adults, people with a preexisting cardiopulmonary illness, and people of low socioeconomic status are among those at higher risk for health impacts from air pollution near roadways, including premature death.

People who want to learn more about pollution risks from freeways will have an opportunity to do so on June 6, when an expert on air pollution and transportation will be speaking in Louisville.

Doug Brugge has a doctorate degree in biology from Harvard University and a master’s degree in industrial hygiene from the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

The talk will be at 6:30 p.m. at Jefferson Community and Technical College in the Health Sciences Hall, 110 West Chestnut. The Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation is the sponsor.

I asked Brugge four questions as a way to preview his talk:

More: Kentucky ranks poorly in new water quality study

Question: Researchers have for some time found that living near freeways can be harmful to people’s lungs and health due to diesel and other tailpipe emissions. What new findings will you be talking about in Louisville?

Answer: You are correct that roadway proximity is well established as a risk factor for a range of adverse health outcomes. Our research started with that premise and has sought evidence for whether ultrafine particles that are elevated near major roadways might be a factor that is responsible for these associations.  I will present very recent findings from our work that support the ultrafine hypothesis.

Q: Please put health risks of living near a freeway in some sort of perspective that a typical person might understand?

A: A recent study, that I will include in my talk, estimated near roadway risk for Los Angeles and found a couple of thousand deaths per year in the city may be from this exposure.  And that the number of deaths will increase in the coming decades.

More: Save $9,000 a year by changing this one habit

Q: If you live or work near a freeway, or you send your child to a school near a freeway, is there anything you can do to protect yourself?

A: I will also present our appraisal of community-level tactics that can be used to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution.  Among the better tactics in our estimation are improved filtration in ventilation systems, barriers between the road and housing or schools, and building housing, schools, active transportation paths and recreational areas at a distance from roadways.

Q: What should cities or states do to mitigate these risks?

A: We have developed a zoning ordinance that is under consideration in a city adjacent to Boston that is one possible model for what could be done. We also have legislation filed in the state of Massachusetts. Los Angeles and California are ahead as they have a new city ordinance that requires better filtration for near highway housing and a state law restricting siting schools near freeways.

Reporter James Bruggers writes this Watchdog Earth blog. Reach him at 502-582-4645 and at

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3 Health Care Trends That Don’t Hinge on the ACA

In early May 2017 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare). Subsequently, Republicans in the U.S. Senate began working on their version of a law to do the same. The House bill is flawed, leaving many uncertainties that the Senate has promised to address. While the fate of the bill is in flux, there are three immutable trends in the U.S. health care system that won’t change. As a result, regardless of how the law evolves, tremendous opportunities will remain for consumers, medical providers, health care payers, and investors to shape and improve the health care system.

The first trend is demographic: The U.S. population is continuing to age. In 1960 the median age for men and women in the U.S. was 29.5; it is now 37.9, and in the next 12 years will exceed 40. Per capita annual health care costs are roughly $4,500 for people age 19 to 44; they double for people age 45 to 64; and they double once again for those 65 and older. Thus, as the population ages, health care services will naturally expand, as will the pressure to find efficient ways to deliver those services.

Second, technology has become a pervasive element across the health care system, with a major impact on diagnosis, treatment, and communications. In 2004 one in 5 practicing physicians used an electronic health record (EHR) in the U.S. Today nearly nine in 10 physicians regularly employ EHRs. There’s a tremendous amount of information and structured data now available to guide treatment, assess outcomes, and measure quality of care. Beyond EHRs, digital health tools — apps, wearable devices, and other hardware and software that measures and monitors health — are becoming common in consumers’ lives. From 2015 to 2016, investors poured more than $8 billion into funding these tools. More than 3,000 apps are now available to help manage diabetes alone. Clearly, most of these tools won’t survive. But technology has become rooted firmly in U.S. health care and, as elsewhere, consumers will choose many of the winners.

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Third, irrespective of revisions to the ACA, discoveries in the life sciences that enhance the quality and extend the length of life will continue to flow from research laboratories. These are being driven by two major trends: the availability of personal health data, and the plummeting cost of integrating massive health data sets in the cloud. Based on these two foundations, we’ll begin to see the emergence of personalized medicine.

The pipeline for new drugs is bursting, and new devices and tools in the rapidly emerging digital health space will come to market more quickly. According to QuintilesIMS, there are more than 2,000 drugs in the late-stage approval process, and they will yield an estimated 45 new active substances annually over the next five years. This therapeutic deluge will make decision making more complex for clinicians, who must understand efficacy and risk, and for payers, who must choose which treatments to favor through preferred pricing. Indeed, the profusion of new treatments may present a serious challenge to the current payer strategy of negotiating favorable pricing with drug and device companies.

Taken together, these three trends will drive dramatic changes in health care, regardless of government policies. We see several areas where patients and care providers, as well as entrepreneurs and investors, will likely benefit.

First, businesses that help patients understand, access, and use the health care system will be rewarded. Patient engagement has been a mantra for those seeking to reform health care, as it’s widely accepted that patients who are engaged in their own health care have better outcomes. Technology plays a crucial role in promoting engagement, in part by customizing medical information for each patient, and digital platforms — whether websites, apps, or EHRs — that promote health and help patients understand their medical conditions and their options for treatment and prevention will grow in importance.

Investors are already keenly focused on this area, with many startups competing for a slice of the market. In 2011 81 digital health startups received venture funding; with consistent year-over-year increases, 296 startups were venture backed in 2016. The venture industry is betting big on digital health, with $4–$5 billion invested annually. But traditional business models focused on and serving third-party reimbursement continue to struggle with how to monetize digital health tools. We believe models will emerge that capture value from the growing consumer demand for effective digital health-promotion support. Solutions that drive patient engagement and improve outcomes will succeed in the marketplace.

Second, we expect to see growth in businesses that make it easier for consumers to access affordable health care while living where they want to live, in a setting that they can afford. In the U.S., the two key drivers of this trend are the aging of the population and the need for cost control. Telemedicine is increasingly becoming an adjunct to care that addresses these trends. Today’s technology enables practitioners to scale their services, seeing more patients in less time, and it embeds analytics that can help focus clinicians’ time on the cases where they can have the greatest effect. From the patients’ perspective, telemedicine is appealing because it allows them to engage more frequently with doctors than they could through in-person visits — a particular aid for older patients with chronic conditions, who benefit from the frequent contact and care coordination that telemedicine can provide.

The market for services tailored to the elderly, helping them age in place, will expand in many directions. Stanley Healthcare, a division of Stanley Black Decker Corporation, which sells products to over 17,000 hospitals and senior living facilities, offers a good example. One product helps reduce falls; another, Wander Guard, helps seniors with early stages of dementia live semi-independently. Stanley and others have quickly gained market share by serving the needs of this population and addressing patients’ and caregivers’ eagerness to adopt assistive technologies.

A third growth area is in EHRs and digital health applications. While new EHR offerings continue to emerge, the market has consolidated around a few large players, which has held back innovation and interoperability. The proprietary nature and standards for EHRs are likely to diminish, however, as industry pressure opens up data repositories and personal data become more accessible. Two initiatives deserve particular attention, because both will accelerate data liberation, punish companies that resist, and reward vendors that get onboard early: the Human API platform and the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specification. While they are different from each other, both are significant attempts at retrieving, aggregating, and contextualizing patient wellness and medical data. With the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt among its investors, Human API has the audacious objective of creating a consumer-controlled digital repository, where health data is securely shared with just those parties selected by the consumer. FHIR is a standard crafted by Health Level Seven, a health data sharing nonprofit, to provide interoperability among health systems. Rather than passing entire health documents among providers, FHIR allows the transfer of clinical and administrative data between software applications used by different health care providers, enabling them to access the specific data needed from medical records across systems.

We’re convinced that these trends will ultimately drive mainstream adoption for proven digital health solutions. Where clinical trials demonstrate efficacy, and the solutions allow for improved cost management, we’ll begin to see multiple models emerge: insurance reimbursement, employer subsidies, and even consumer purchases. As adoption increases, companies that today provide therapeutics — principally pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers — will begin to add digital health solutions to their portfolios.

Uncertainty surrounding the health care bill shouldn’t have a material effect on the success of various solutions. Indeed, with the current government gridlock, the rapid development of and growing demand for new health care technologies may help policy makers chart the course forward.

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Patient, Doctor Groups Say New CBO Score Reveals Health Care Bill’s Flaws

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, (from left) with Vice President Pence and and Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., on Capitol Hill, noted that the CBO analysis confirms that the House GOP health care bill will cut the deficit.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, (from left) with Vice President Pence and and Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., on Capitol Hill, noted that the CBO analysis confirms that the House GOP health care bill will cut the deficit.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Health care groups that represent doctors and patients are warning members of Congress that the House Republicans’ plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act would hurt people who need insurance most.

The groups are responding to the latest assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that the proposed American Health Care Act would leave 23 million more people without health insurance than under current law and would cut the deficit by $119 billion over 10 years.

The latest CBO analysis came after House Republicans made changes to the bill earlier this month to try to ensure that people with pre-existing medical conditions can still get insurance.

“Last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements,” said Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement. “Millions of Americans will become uninsured —with low-income families on Medicaid being hit the hardest.”

Those concerns were echoed by group after group, including AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the March of Dimes.

The Republican plan would roll back the requirement under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that everybody has to have insurance. It also would replace the ACA’s income-based tax credits and subsidies with age-based credits that most analysts say are less generous.

Older, low-income people would be hit hardest by the changes, the CBO says, because the proposed tax credits are less generous than those in Obamacare, while insurance for those older than 50 is the most expensive.

As NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reported, a 64-year-old making $26,500 would pay $1,700 in premiums annually under Obamacare. In a state making those “moderate” changes to its market under the proposed law, that 64-year-old would pay $13,600, and in a state with no waivers, the cost would be $16,100.

But premiums would fall overall, the report said, because policies would offer fewer benefits and sicker people would leave the market because they wouldn’t be able to afford insurance.

The bill also would roll back the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. As a result, the CBO analysis estimates that 14 million people would lose Medicaid coverage, which accounts for most of the savings under the bill, $834 billion over 10 years.

“The CBO confirmed the American Health Care Act will further lower premiums, deliver more immediate tax relief for individuals and families, and decrease the deficit,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the bill “dangerous, deadly and deeply flawed.”

He said the proposal, which is now in the hands of the Senate, would eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which helps promote immunization, smoking cessation and other public health initiatives and makes up 12 percent of the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CBO reports that the bill could destabilize individual insurance markets in some states, leaving unhealthy Americans unable to buy insurance.

But the CBO also acknowledges that its analysis includes some uncertainty, in part because the AHCA would allow states to get waivers that would exempt their insurers from many Obamacare coverage rules. This includes what are called essential health benefits, a list of medical services, such as mental health care or prescription drugs, that plans are required to cover under the current law.

The CBO estimated how many states might accept those waivers and what they might put in place of the current rules. It figures that states comprising about half the population would apply for a waiver of some sort, reducing the benefits that insurers in those state will offer.

“Services or benefits likely to be excluded from [essential health benefits] in some states include maternity care, mental health and substance abuse benefits, rehabilitative and habilitative services, and pediatric dental benefits,” the report said.

States could also get waivers that would allow insurers to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions, a practice banned under the ACA.

“Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with pre-existing medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly,” the CBO wrote.

Republicans argue that by allowing insurers to sell less comprehensive insurance, premiums will fall and more people will buy basic coverage. And their bill includes money for states to create so-called high-risk pools in which people with medical conditions can buy coverage if commercial insurers refuse them.

GOP Health Plan Would Leave 23 Million More Uninsured, Budget Office Says

But two small-business groups, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority, said the bill could hurt their members, many of whom rely on the individual insurance market for their coverage.

“Many solo entrepreneurs would likely be forced out of the insurance market entirely. This means many small firms would close up shop while others would never get off the ground,” said John Arensmeyer, founder of Small Business Majority, which represents 55,000 small businesses.

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A new health benefit of chocolate: reduced risk of AFib?

While so-called “chocoholics” may have gotten a bad rap over the years, a new study has found that eating a small amount of chocolate every week or so may decrease your risk of developing a serious type of irregular heart rhythm.

The study, published in the journal Heart, used data collected for a long-term study of about  55,500 people in Denmark. The participants were between 50 and 64 years old when the study began, and provided information about their diets when they entered the study between 1993 and 1997. Researchers then linked the diet data to Denmark’s national health registries to see who was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib).


AFib is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. In the United States, at least 2.7 million people have been diagnosed with it, according to the American Heart Association.

Based on their data, about 3,346 cases of AFib occurred in study participants over an average of 13.5 years. Those who ate one serving, which is about 1 ounce of chocolate per week, were 17 percent less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation by the end of the study than those who reported eating chocolate less than once a month.

Those who ate 2 to 6 ounces per week were less likely to be diagnosed with AFib, while those who ate more than an ounce of chocolate per day were 16 percent less likely to have the condition. For women, the biggest risk reduction was linked to eating one serving of chocolate per week. For men, the biggest risk reduction was associated with eating two to six servings per week.

“I think our message here is that moderate chocolate intake as part of a healthy diet is an option,” lead author Elizabeth Mostofsky, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters.


Mostofsky’s team said that while they cannot definitively conclude that chocolate prevents AFib, eating cocoa and cocoa-containing foods may help heart health because of they contain a high volume of flavanols, which are compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, blood vessel-relaxing and anti-oxidant properties.

“As part of a healthy diet, moderate intake of chocolate is a healthy snack choice,” Mostofsky said. 

Researchers cautioned that they were not able to measure for things like kidney disease or sleep apnea among participants, which could also influence risk of AFib. The data also suggested those who ate the most chocolate consumed more calories but had a lower body mass index.

“It’s very likely — if I had to bet — that these people were more physically active,” Alice Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, told Reuters. Lichtenstein was not involved in the study.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Five Accused of Trading Illegally on Health Policy Leaks

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New WHO head seeks US bipartisan support for global health

GENEVA The new head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced hope on Wednesday that bipartisan support would prevail in the U.S. Congress to fund global health initiatives, despite deep budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian health and foreign minister elected as the first African WHO director-general on Tuesday, also said the United Nations agency would be seeking new donors.

U.S. President Donald Trump proposed cuts on Tuesday of about 32 percent from U.S. diplomacy and aid budgets, or nearly $19 billion. His fellow Republicans in Congress assailed his plan, making it unlikely the cutbacks will take effect.

Tedros, asked about the proposed cuts to U.S. and multilateral aid agencies, told a news conference that donors should not suddenly pull out of existing programmes.

“I am a strong believer that there should be an exit strategy, that means a gradual exit that avoids any shocks,” he said. “When there are finance cuts like this, the most affected are the poor.”

But he added: “I don’t take it as a closed issue, and I will continue to engage and use that bipartisan position that I have already experienced while working as minister of health in my own country, but also when I was chairing the Global Fund (to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria).”

The United States currently provides nearly $835 million to WHO’s budget of $5.8 billion for 2016-2017, WHO figures show, combining both U.S. assessed and voluntary contributions.

Tedros said he preferred to see global agencies including WHO, the World Bank, GAVI vaccine alliance and Global Fund as part of one “big envelope”.

“We need to expand the donor base … If we have as many countries as possible who can contribute, it could be any amount, I think that will help,” he said.

“By expanding the donor base, we help the health financing to have a kind of shock absorber.”

U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Tom Price, in a speech to the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly on Monday, did not refer to U.S. contributions while voicing support for WHO.

“But it also means taking a clear-eyed view of what needs to change for it to fulfil that most important mission – ensuring a rapid and focused response to potential global health crises,” Price said.

    “Reform with this focus must be this organisation’s number one priority,” he said. “The United States wants and we all need a strong WHO.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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Universal health care cost in California $400 billion a year | The …

The price tag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal heath care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.

California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations Committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag.

The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to creating a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

It remains a long-shot bid. Steep projected costs have derailed efforts over the past two decades to establish such a health care system in California. The cost is higher than the $180 billion in proposed general fund and special fund spending for the budget year beginning July 1.

Employers currently spend between $100 billion to $150 billion per year, which could be available to help offset total costs, according to the analysis. Under that scenario, total new spending to implement the system would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year.

“Health care spending is growing faster than the overall economy … yet we do not have better health outcomes and we cover fewer people,” Lara said at Monday’s appropriations hearing. “Given this picture of increasing costs, health care inefficiencies and the uncertainty created by Congress, it is critical that California chart our own path.”

The idea behind Senate Bill 562 is to overhaul California’s insurance marketplace, reduce overall health care costs and expand coverage to everyone in the state regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Instead of private insurers, state government would be the “single payer” for everyone’s health care through a new payroll taxing structure, similar to the way Medicare operates.

Lara and Atkins say they are driven by the belief that health care is a human right and should be guaranteed to everyone, similar to public services like safe roads and clean drinking water. They seek to rein in rising health care costs by lowering administrative expenses, reducing expensive emergency room visits, and eliminating insurance company profits and executive salaries.

In addition to covering undocumented people, Lara said the goal is to expand health access to people who, even with insurance, may skip doctor visits or stretch out medications due to high copays and deductibles.

“Doctors and hospitals would no longer need to negotiate rates and deal with insurance companies to seek reimbursement,” Lara said.

Insurance groups, health plans and Kaiser Permanente are against the bill. Industry representatives say California should focus on improving the Affordable Care Act. Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, have deemed the bill a “job-killer.”

“A single-payer system is massively, if not prohibitively expensive,” said Nick Louizos, vice president of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans.

“It will cost employers and taxpayers billions of dollars and result in significant loss of jobs in the state,” the Chamber of Commerce said in its opposition letter.

Underlying the debate is uncertainty at the federal level over what President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will do with Obamacare. The House Republican bill advanced earlier this month would dismantle it by removing its foundation – the individual mandate that requires everyone to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare is fueling political support for the bill, Atkins said at a universal health care rally this past weekend in Sacramento hosted by the California Nurses Association, a co-sponsor.

“This is a high-ticket expense … We have to figure out how to cover everyone and work on addressing the costs in the long-term – that’s our challenge,” Atkins said. “I’m optimistic.”

The bill has to get approval on the Senate floor by June 2 to advance to the Assembly. A financing plan is underway, which could suggest diverting money employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance to a state-run coverage system.

Lara said he believes California can and should play a prominent role in improving people’s lives.

“We can do better,” he said.

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‘Don’t wait for them. You lead’ on health care, nurses’ leader tells rally

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, told hundreds of nurses and health care advocates gathered for a rally at the Capitol that Democrats need to support a public-funded universal health care system in California.

Angela Hart


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