Health Highlights: April 11, 2013

French Study Casts Doubt on Bras' Benefits Steady Decline in Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Report China Bird Flu Death Toll Rises to 10 Large Rise in U.S. Nursing Home Costs: Survey Parents of Infants in Study Not Warned About Dangers

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

French Study Casts Doubt on Bras' Benefits

Women may be better off without bras, a French researcher suggests.

Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon spent 15 years assessing the anatomy of 330 women, ages 18 to 35, and concluded that "medically, physiologically and anatomically" breasts gained no benefit from having their weight supported by bras, The New York Times reported.

In fact, bras could be harmful in terms of posture and muscle tone, the sports scientist warned. He explained that wearing a bra means "supporting tissues will not grow and even they will wither and the breast will gradually degrade."

However, Rouillon noted that these are preliminary findings and it is too early to advise all women to stop wearing their bras, The Times reported.


Steady Decline in Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage: Report

A 10 percent decline in employer-sponsored health insurance over the past decade has contributed to the increase in the overall number of Americans without health coverage, a new report says.

Employer-sponsored health insurance dropped from 69 percent in 1999 to 60 percent in 2010. During that period, the amount a worker paid annually for insurance more than doubled, from $435 to $1,056 for an individual and from $1,526 to $3,842 for a family, USA Today reported.

Coverage across the country varied from state to state, based on state law, average employer size and regional employment rates, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report.

The steady decrease in employer-sponsored health insurance has occurred in spite of changes in the economy and employment rates, Andrew Hyman, director of the foundation's health care coverage team, told USA Today. It's not clear how the 2010 health care law will affect the situation, he added.


China Bird Flu Death Toll Rises to 10

Ten people in China have now died from the H7N9 bird flu virus and the number of human infections has increased to 38.

The latest death was a 74-year-old man who died Thursday in Shanghai, city officials said. He was one of three new infections confirmed in Shanghai today. Two other new cases were reported in the neighboring province of Jiangsu, Bloomberg News reported.

The official state news agency Xinhua said that China has enough flu medication to fight the H7N9 outbreak and is also working on a vaccine that it expects will be ready within seven months.

Xinhua also said that police detained eight people in a number of provinces for spreading rumors on the Internet about the bird flu outbreak. The news agency said they are being detained for up to 10 days for fabricating posts and causing panic, Bloomberg reported.


Large Rise in U.S. Nursing Home Costs: Survey

The median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home in the United States rose 24 percent over the past five years, from $67,527 to $83,950, a new survey says.

The price climbed 4 percent from last year to this year, according to Genworth's 2013 Cost of Care Survey, which is based on data from nearly 15,000 long-term care providers, CNN reported.

The cost of a semi-private room at a nursing home has increased 23 percent over the past five years to a median of $75,405 a year. The cost of being in an assisted living facility also rose 23 percent and is now $41,400 a year.

Prices are being pushed up by a number of factors, including food, building maintenance, insurance and labor costs, Bob Bua, vice president of Genworth, told CNN.


Parents of Infants in Study Not Warned About Dangers

The parents of premature babies involved in a study examining how the babies were affected by different levels of oxygen were not warned that participating in the study could increase their infants' risk of blindness or death, according to the U.S. Office for Human Research Protections.

In a letter to the University of Alabama, the office outlines what it said were violations of patients' rights. The university was the lead site for the study conducted between 2004 and 2009, The New York Times reported.

Government officials said the university did not detail the risks in consent forms given to parents. Specifically, infants in the high-oxygen group had an increased risk of blindness and those in the low-oxygen group had a greater risk of death than if they had not taken part in the study.

In the study, 91 of 509 infants in the high-oxygen group became blind and 130 of the 654 babies in the low-oxygen group died, The Times reported.

A University of Alabama spokesman said the consent forms were written by researchers at another university participating in the study, but that they were approved by all 23 academic institutions involved in the study, which was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

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