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Health Highlights: Oct. 11, 2006

U.S. Doctors Slow to Embrace Electronic Medical Records R.J. Reynolds Agrees to Halt Flavored Cigarette Sales 153 Million Worldwide Have Vision Problems: WHO Study to Focus on School Role in Diabetes Fight Men Delay Going to ER During Sports Broadcasts Egypt Reports New Human Bird Flu Case

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

U.S. Doctors Slow to Embrace Electronic Medical Records

Electronic health records (EHRs) are still not a routine part of medical practice in the United States, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Researchers found that 24.9 percent of doctors do use EHRs to improve patient care but only 10 percent use a "fully operational" system that collects patient information, displays test results, allows caregivers to enter medical records and prescriptions, and helps doctors make treatment decisions.

"We are pitifully behind where we should be. We must find ways to get more physicians to embrace this technology if we are to make major strides in improving healthcare quality," report co-author Dr. David Blumenthal, director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

The report also noted that only about 5 percent of America's 6,000 hospitals use computerized physician order entry, a component of EHRs, to help reduce medical errors and make delivery of patient care easier.

The report is a joint project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the U.S. government's National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. An article outlining the report's findings was published in the online edition of the journal Health Affairs.


R.J. Reynolds Agrees to Halt Flavored Cigarette Sales

Tobacco company R.J. Reynolds has agreed to stop selling flavored cigarettes in the United States.

Critics said the flavored cigarettes, with names such as "Mocha Tobacco" and Twista Lime" were meant to entice young people to smoke.

The company will stop identifying cigarettes with candy, fruit, desserts, or alcoholic beverage names, imagery or ads, said a statement from New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who led an investigation into flavored cigarettes, the Associated Press reported.

The investigation included officials from 38 states and the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas. As part of settling the investigation, Reynolds also agreed to stop using scented promotional material, such as scratch and sniff samples.


153 Million Worldwide Have Vision Problems: WHO

Being given a simple eye test and glasses or contact lenses could dramatically improve the lives of about 153 million people in the world who have easily correctable vision problems, says a World Health Organization (WHO) report released Wednesday.

The majority of those people live in low- and middle-income countries. The report was released in advance of World Sight Day on Thursday.

These vision problems -- such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism -- cause children to fail at school and prevent adults from working. The report said correcting these problems could help these people live more productive lives, CBC News reported.

"Individuals and families are frequently pushed into a cycle of deepening poverty because of their inability to see well," the WHO said.


Study to Focus on School Role in Diabetes Fight

U.S. researchers will study students at dozens of middle schools across the nation to determine whether schools can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in youngsters by making changes to gym classes and offering healthier cafeteria food.

The HEALTHY study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will follow students currently in sixth grade for 2 1/2 years. It's expected the results will be available in 2009, the Associated Press reported.

The study will include students in California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Texas. One group of students will carry on as normal while a second group will be offered healthier choices in the cafeteria, along with more challenging gym classes and guidance about healthy behaviors.


Men Delay Going to ER During Sports Broadcasts

American men delay seeking emergency medical help if they're watching sports on TV, suggests research by a doctor at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

Emergency physician Dr. David Jerrard found that the number of men going to hospital emergency rooms dropped during TV sports broadcasts and surged when the sports shows were over, the Associated Press reported.

A study he did two years ago found that there was about a 30 percent decline in the number of men checking into the ER during sports broadcasts.

In the new study, Jerrard analyzed the four-hour period starting 30 minutes after the end of TV broadcasts of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the University of Maryland basketball and football teams. There were about 40 percent more ER visits made by men during this time frame than the average for the same time and day of the week when there wasn't a sportscast, the AP reported.

The largest surge occurred after televised college football games. On those days, an average of 15 male patients came to the ER in the hours after a game, compared to eight during the same time period on non-game days.

The latest study was released Wednesday at a meeting of emergency physicians.


Egypt Reports New Human Bird Flu Case

A new human case of H5N1 bird flu virus has been reported in Egypt. It's the first one in that country since May

A 39-year-old woman from the northern delta province of Gharbiya tested positive for the virus after she complained of high fever and shortness of breath, Agence France Presse reported.

Including this case, 15 people in Egypt have been infected with bird flu since the virus was first detected in the country in February. Six of those patients died.

Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and is located on a major route for migratory birds. Outside of Asia, Egypt has been hardest hit by bird flu since the start of the outbreak in 2003, AFP reported.

In China, officials in Beijing said the city will boost bird-flu monitoring after two recent outbreaks in the north of the country that killed about 2,000 domestic poultry.

The 86 bird-flu monitoring stations in Beijing will provide daily reports, officials said. More than 100,000 migratory birds from northeast China, Mongolia and Russia will fly over Beijing in October alone, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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