News for Healthier Living

Health Highlights: Feb. 12, 2019

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

Counseling Can Prevent Pregnancy-Related Depression: Task Force

Women at risk for depression during and after pregnancy should receive certain types of counseling in order to prevent it, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says.

In a recommendation published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the task force said its review of available evidence showed that women who received one of two forms of counseling were 39 percent less likely than those who didn't to develop perinatal depression, The New York Times reported.

One type is cognitive behavioral therapy that helps women manage their feelings and expectations to create healthy, supportive settings for their children. The other type is interpersonal therapy that includes coping skills and role-playing exercises to help deal with stress and relationship conflicts.

The government panel of health experts gave this recommendation a "B" rating, meaning that under the Affordable Care Act, this counseling should be covered without co-payments, The Times reported.

Perinatal depression is the most common complication of pregnancy, estimated to affect between 180,000 and 800,000 American mothers each year and up to 13 percent of women worldwide.

This is the first time that any method has been scientifically recommended to prevent perinatal depression, which occurs in as many as one in seven women during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.

"We really need to find these women before they get depressed," said task force member Karina Davidson, senior vice president for research for Northwell Health, The Times reported.

"We're so excited to be the first to have this recommendation on preventing a really devastating, prevalent disease that causes such harm to the parent, the child and the family, both psychologically and physiologically," Davidson said. "All those consequences of this very very prevalent, stigmatizing disease can be averted by effective behavioral counseling."

Perinatal depression increases a woman's risk of becoming suicidal or harming her infant, increases the risk of premature birth or low birth weight, and can impair a mother's ability to bond with or care for her baby, according to the task force.

It also said that children of mothers who had perinatal depression have more behavior problems, cognitive difficulties and mental illness, The Times reported.

The task force said at-risk women who should receive counseling include those with: a personal or family history of depression; recent stresses like divorce or economic strain; traumatic experiences like domestic violence; and depressive symptoms that don't constitute full-blown depression.

Other risk factors include being a single mother, a teenager, low-income, not having graduated high school, and having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, The Times reported.

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Teen Defies Mother, Gets Vaccinations

An Ohio teen went against his mother's wishes and got vaccinated against the flu, hepatitis, tetanus and HPV.

High school senior Ethan Lindenberger said his parents' misguided anti-vaccine beliefs put him, and his younger siblings, at risk, CBS News reported.

In November, the 18-year-old went on the online message board Reddit to ask where he could get up to date with his vaccinations. "My parents are kind of stupid," he wrote. "God knows how I'm still alive."

Despite Lindenberger showing his parents scientific studies proving that vaccines were safe and effective, his mother remained unconvinced. Lindenberger got his vaccinations in December, CBS News reported.

There is no federal law requiring children to be immunized, but only seven states and Washington D.C. allow minors to get vaccinations without parental consent. At age 18, Lindenberger was old enough to get the vaccinations without his parents' permission.

Lindenberger's 16-year-old brother is now considering also getting his shots, but will have to wait until he's older, CBS News reported.

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A.I. May Help Diagnose Patients

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) could help doctors pinpoint patients' health problems, researchers report.

The American/Chinese team created an A.I. system that diagnoses common childhood conditions based on information such as symptoms, history and lab results, The New York Times reported Monday.

The system is highly accurate and could eventually help doctors diagnose complex or rare conditions, according to the authors of the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The A.I. system was created using the medical records of nearly 600,000 young patients who were seen at a pediatric hospital over 18 months.

Each year, millions of Americans are misdiagnosed, according to the Times.

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Out-of-Pocket Costs for Employer Health Insurance on the Rise

Out-of-pocket costs for Americans with employer health insurance averaged nearly $1,200 in 2017, a 15 percent increase from five years earlier, a new study shows.

That spending includes deductibles, copays and co-insurance, CNN reported.

The study from the Health Care Cost Institute also said that total spending for people with employer health insurance reached an average all-time high of $5,641 per person in 2017, which includes payments by employers and insurance companies.

"Working Americans and their families are using the same or fewer health care services, yet the costs of those services keep increasing," said institute CEO Niall Brennan, CNN reported.

In related news, a study released last week by the Commonwealth Fund, a health care think tank, said that about 28 percent of American adults with employer health insurance were underinsured in 2018, compared with 20 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2003.

Underinsured is defined as having deductibles that are at least 5 percent of household income or when annual out-of-pocket costs, excluding premiums, are at least 10 percent of household income, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

Low-income people are considered underinsured if either their deductibles or their out-of-pocket costs are more than 5 percent of their income.

The average deductible was $1,350 in 2018, an increase of 212 percent since 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundations' Employer Health Benefits Survey. That's eight times faster than wage growth, CNN reported.

February 12, 2019
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