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Health Highlights: Sept. 22, 2016

U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Rise While Global Rates Drop Blue Bell Cookie Dough Ice Cream Recalled Facebook's Zuckerberg to Spend $3B to Fight Disease

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

U.S. Maternal Mortality Rates Rise While Global Rates Drop

While maternal mortality rates have dropped worldwide, the United States is one of the few developed nations to witness the opposite, a new report shows.

As those rates in America have increased by more than half since 1990, the global rate fell by more than a third since 2000. Those sobering statistics come from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research group funded by the Gates Foundation, The New York Times reported.

In 2013, the U.S. rate of maternal deaths -- when a woman dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth -- was 28 per 100,000 births. The rate was triple that of Canada, the report showed, although the same researchers estimated that the U.S. rate dropped to 25 per 100,000 births by 2015.

The United States was one of the few rich nations to see an increase; some of the 24 other countries that saw an increase included South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And countries like Russia, Iran, Vietnam and Romania saw declines in maternal mortality rates, according to the Times.

This is not the first report to show troubling trends in U.S. maternal mortality rates. An analysis published last summer found the rate had increased by 27 percent for 48 states and the District of Columbia in recent years. Black women seemed to be hit the hardest, the newspaper reported.

Researchers have suggested that the obesity epidemic, and accompanying chronic health conditions like heart disease, fueled the increase, the Times said. Poor black women have shown sharply higher rates of maternal mortality than white women, as they have simultaneously also shown the greatest increases in obesity rates.

"The really scary thing to us is all the deaths from cardiovascular disease and heart failure," Dr. William Callaghan, head of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the newspaper. "It's a quarter of all deaths. There were almost none in the remote past."


Blue Bell Cookie Dough Ice Cream Recalled

Blue Bell Ice Cream Co. says it is recalling select lots of its ice cream containing cookie dough, due to potential listeria contamination from a third-party supplier of the dough.

According to documents posted Sept. 20 on the Blue Bell website, the supplier, Aspen Hills, issued a voluntary recall of three lots of its No Egg Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Aspen Hills says there are "concerns of possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination" linked to the dough, although no actual cases of illness have been reported.

The cookie dough was used in certain lots of Blue Bell Ice cream under recall, which include:

Half-gallons of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, code date 082618226; Cookie Two Step code dates 080418222, 081818224; and pints of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream code dates 081518242, 082418242.

Code dates can be found on the bottom of the carton. Ice cream shipped to 10 states is thought to be affected: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. No illnesses have been reported so far, Blue Bell said.

Consumers with questions can contact Blue Bell at 979-836-7977, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Most healthy people infected with L. monocytogenes only suffer short-term symptoms that include high fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. But the bacteria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, the company said.

Last year, Blue Bell halted its sales and issued a voluntary recall of all products due to contamination tied to listeria in four states that included three deaths.


Facebook's Zuckerberg to Spend $3B to Fight Disease

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, say they will spend $3 billion over 10 years to help cure disease.

The aim of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is to "work together to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children's lifetime," Chan said during an event in San Francisco Wednesday, USA Today reported.

Zuckerberg spoke after his wife and said the initiative's goal is to "make a better future for our children."

According to the couple, the project will fund a $600 million research center in San Francisco called the Biohub, in a partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, Stanford University and Berkeley.

The announcement comes after a pledge made by the couple last December to disperse 99 percent of their fortune in their lifetime to "advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation."

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