Tuesday, 08 November 2011 10:07

Health Highlights: Nov. 8, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Health Care Law Upheld by Appeals Court

The Obama administration's health care law is constitutional, a panel of federal appellate judges ruled Tuesday.

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a Christian legal group's lawsuit alleging the health care law's requirement that all Americans have health insurance is unconstitutional and violates religious freedom, the Associated Press reported.

The mandatory insurance requirement has been the subject of a number of lawsuits and some judges have upheld it while others have ruled it unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court will likely have the final say. The high court is expected to decide soon whether it will accept appeals from some of the earlier rulings, the AP reported.


U.S. Provides New AIDS Funding to Africa

Additional funding of $60 million to fight HIV/AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa was announced Tuesday by the Obama administration, which also appointed actress and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as special envoy to boost worldwide awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the new money will be used to scale up and assess new strategies to prevent HIV/AIDS, the Associated Press reported.

She noted that more effective prevention methods are decreasing infection rates and making it possible to treat more people.

Clinton also said DeGeneres will "bring her sharp wit and big heart, and her impressive TV audience and 8 million followers on Twitter" to support American efforts to save the lives of HIV/AIDS patients, the AP reported.


Mississippi Amendment Would Outlaw Abortion

Mississippi residents were voting Tuesday on an amendment that says life begins at the moment of conception.

The wording of the so-called "Personhood Amendment" declares that "the term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization," the New York Daily News reported.

If it is passed, the amendment would eliminate abortion in Mississippi.

Similar legal measures are being considered for other state ballots next November, the newspaper reported.


Boxing Great Joe Frazier Dies

Former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier, 67, died Monday night in a Philadelphia hospice after losing his battle with liver cancer.

Smokin' Joe was one of the best known champions of the latter part of the 20th century and was famous for his knockout punch, the Washington Post reported.

Frazier was born in Beaufort, S.C. in 1944 and began his professional boxing career 21 years later. He became the heavyweight boxing champion in 1970.

In a 1971 fight at Madison Square Garden, Frazier became the first to defeat Muhammad Ali. They had three other fights, including the legendary "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975, which was won by Ali.


Large Infants at Increased Risk for Obesity: Study

Checking infants to see if they've passed two milestones on doctors' growth charts by age 2 is a way to predict their future risk for obesity, according to a new study that included 45,000 U.S. infants and children.

It found that babies who surpassed those markers were twice as likely to be obese at ages 5 and 10 than those who grew more slowly. Infants with the highest growth rates were at greatest risk for obesity later in life, the Associated Press reported.

The study, published online Monday in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, provides further evidence that "bigger is not better" in infants, said lead author Dr. Elsie Taveras, a pediatrician and obesity researcher at Harvard Medical School.

She said rapid infant growth should concern doctors because it may be a sign that babies are eating too much or spending too much time in strollers and not enough time crawling around, the AP reported.


Hospital Funding Linked to Patient Satisfaction

Some hospitals are worried about a new Medicare rule that will take patient satisfaction into account when reimbursing hospitals.

The rule, mandated in the Affordable Care Act, will take effect in the coming months. Hospitals with the best patient satisfaction scores will receive more money, The New York Times reported.

There's concern that patient assessments of hospitals will be influenced not just by quality of care, but also by amenities such as tasty food and single rooms.

"Hospitals are going be punished financially by the federal government for things they can't control," Dr. James Merlino, chief experience officer at the Cleveland Clinic, told the Times.

The patient satisfaction ratings are based on Medicare-approved surveys that ask questions such as: Was pain well controlled? Did the doctors and nurses communicate well? Was the room clean and the hospital quiet at night?