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Health Highlights: April 24, 2018

Committee Investigating Allegations Against Trump Nominee to Lead VA George H.W. Bush Hospitalized Due to Blood Infection New CDC Director's Salary Nearly Twice That of Predecessor New HHS Funding Rules for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs Emphasize Abstinence

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

Committee Investigating Allegations Against Trump Nominee to Lead VA

Allegations that President Trump's nominee to head the Veterans Affairs Department allowed overprescribing of drugs, drank too much on the job, and oversaw a hostile work environment while leading the White House medical staff are being examined by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The allegations against Dr. Ronny Jackson have been under investigation since last week and led to postponement of his confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for this Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

A new date for the hearing has not been announced by the committee.

While they didn't offer precise details, officials familiar with the allegations said they suggest a pattern of behavior and are not a few isolated incidents, The Times reported.

Even before the allegations, it was expected that Jackson -- a rear admiral in the Navy who serves as the White House physician -- would face tough questioning by the committee.

Trump nominated Jackson to lead the VA after firing former VA secretary David Shulkin last month.


George H.W. Bush Hospitalized Due to Blood Infection

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush is being treated for a blood infection in a Houston hospital.

Bush, 93, was admitted Sunday morning to Houston Methodist Hospital after an infection spread to his blood, spokesman Jim McGrath said on Twitter Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The former president and vice president is "responding to treatments and appears to be recovering," according to McGrath.

On Saturday, Bush attended the funeral of his wife, Barbara, who died at age 92. They were married for 73 years, the longest presidential marriage in U.S. history.

Bush has a form of Parkinson's disease and uses a wheelchair and electric scooter. In recent years, he has been hospitalized several times for respiratory problems, the AP reported.

McGrath provided no details about Bush's condition and said further updates would be provided "as events warrant."

In his eulogy for his mother Saturday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his father was in the hospital at the same time Barbara Bush was in the hospital just before her death. At the time, those hospitalizations were not made public, the AP reported.

"I think Dad got sick on purpose so that he could be with her," Jeb Bush said.

A year ago, Bush was hospitalized for two weeks due to pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. In January 2017, Bush spent 16 days in hospital for pneumonia. During that hospital stay, he spent time in intensive care and doctors inserted a breathing tube and connected him to a ventilator, the AP reported.

Bush also was hospitalized in 2015 after falling and breaking a bone in his neck, in December 2014 for shortness of breath, and at Christmas 2012 for bronchitis-related cough and other problems.

People in their 90s with Parkinson's disease can be at higher risk for pneumonia and other infections due to swallowing problems, Dr. David Reuben, professor of geriatric medicine at the UCLA medical school in Los Angeles, told the AP.

"And the stress of losing a loved one can weaken the immune system," he noted.


New CDC Director's Salary Nearly Twice That of Predecessor

The new director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being paid nearly twice as much as the previous director and much more than other past directors.

Dr. Robert Redfield Jr. is receiving $375,000 a year, compared with the annual salary of $197,300 for Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who held the post for six months before resigning in January, the Associated Press reported.

Redfield's salary is at least $150,000 higher than any other previous CDC director, and he's making more than his boss, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who earns $199,700 a year, an HHS spokesman said.

Redfield also makes more than National Institutes of Health head Dr. Francis Collins and more than double the $155,500 paid to Food and Drug Administration chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the AP reported.

Taking the CDC job meant a large pay cut for Redfield, whose base salary at the University of Maryland about a year ago was about $650,000, publicly available information shows. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Redfield made about $757,000 between January 2017 and March 2018, plus a $70,000 bonus.

While Redfield is a leading HIV researcher, he has no prior experience working in public health or managing a public health agency, the AP reported.

For a person with Redfield's background, his CDC salary is modest by private industry measures, but high for a government public health position.

"It is an exceptional amount of money for what we've seen in the past for (CDC) directors," Angela Beck, a University of Michigan researcher who studies public health workforce issues, told the AP.

Redfield is being paid under a salary program meant to attract highly-qualified health scientists to government work. The heads of the HHS, NIH and FDA are not eligible for the program, and their salaries are set by law.


New HHS Funding Rules for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs Emphasize Abstinence

Abstinence is a focal point of new Trump administration rules for funding programs to prevent teen pregnancy.

A Health and Human Services Department funding announcement released Friday doesn't exclude programs that offer teens information about birth control and protected sex, but does encourage programs that emphasize abstinence or "sexual risk avoidance," The New York Times reported.

While the announcement said other programs that promote "sexual risk reduction" will be considered for funding, it noted that an emphasis will be placed on "cessation support," which many involved in teen pregnancy programs believe means trying to get sexually active teenagers to stop having sex.

"What's noticeably absent in those things you must talk about is that if the young person continues having sex, here is the information you must have about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases," Andrea Kane, vice president of policy and strategic partnerships for Power to Decide, a group that seeks to prevent unplanned pregnancies, told The Times.

"They talk about skills to avoid sex and return to not having sex. It doesn't really leave any opening for those young people who continue having sex and how we help them prepare for their futures," Kane said.

The Health and Human Services Department refused a request to discuss the announcement, The Times reported.

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