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Health Highlights: Jan. 12, 2011

WHO Targets Drug-Resistant Malaria Twenty Percent of Americans Don't Have Usual Source of Health Care DNA Blood Test Offers Safer Screen for Down Syndrome: Study Make High School Students Learn CPR: Heart Experts

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

WHO Targets Drug-Resistant Malaria

A global plan to fight drug-resistant malaria was launched Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

It said failure to combat the spread of resistance to artemisinin -- a key component of new malaria drugs -- would be "catastrophic," Agence France-Presse reported.

Drug-resistant malaria has appeared in areas on the Cambodia-Thailand border and may have spread to other areas in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. More than $175 million will be required for research and to contain resistance is these regions, the WHO said.

It also called for increased surveillance of drug resistant malaria, noting that in 2010 only 31 of 75 countries routinely conducted tests on the effectiveness of malaria drugs, AFP reported.

"The emergence of artemisinin resistance has been a wake-up call. It gives us another compelling reason to step up existing control measures with the greatest sense of urgency," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

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Twenty Percent of Americans Don't Have Usual Source of Health Care

One in five Americans, about 60 million people, do not have a doctor or other usual source of health care, says a federal government report released Wednesday.

The main reasons cited by people for not having a usual source of care was that they seldom or ever got sick (two-thirds) and the high cost of care (14 percent), according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The analysis of 2007 data also found that 29 percent of people with no health insurance said the high cost of health care was their main reason for not having a usual source of care, compared to 16 percent of those with public insurance and four percent of those with private insurance.

About 67 percent of people with private insurance said they had no usual source of care because they never got sick, compared with 59 percent of those without insurance and 53 percent of those with public insurance.

Among the other findings about reasons for not having a usual source of care:

  • Blacks were most likely to say they seldom or never got sick (69 percent), compared with Hispanics (62 percent), whites (61 percent) and Asians (58 percent).
  • Hispanics were more likely to cite high cost as the main reason (22 percent), compared to 12 percent of other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Asians were most likely to say they didn't like or trust doctors (12 percent) than other groups as a whole (4 percent).

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DNA Blood Test Offers Safer Screen for Down Syndrome: Study

A DNA blood test for Down syndrome could reduce by about 98 percent the number of pregnant women who need to undergo invasive tests such as amniocentesis, according to a new study.

About one percent of pregnant women who have an invasive test suffer a miscarriage, BBC News reported.

The new DNA blood test was tested on 753 pregnant women in Hong Kong, the U.K. and the Netherlands. The findings appear in the British Medical Journal.

The test is still too expensive and requires further study before it could be introduced for routine clinical use. That could take 10 years, said study leader Professor Kypros Nicolaides of King's College London, BBC News reported.

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Make High School Students Learn CPR: Heart Experts

All states should require high school students to learn CPR and how to use automated external defibrillators before they graduate, says an American Heart Association advisory released Monday.

This type of rule would "create a generation that could be trained, ready and willing to act," said advisory co-author Mary Fran Hazinski, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tenn., the Associated Press reported.

The AHA developed the advisory with the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Currently, at least 36 states either mandate or promote CPR training in schools, according to the AHA. But this training ranges from suggesting students know the steps of CPR to requiring them to be certified in the potentially life-saving skill, the AP reported.

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