Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
U.S. Senate Supports Controversial Policy on Contraceptives
The U.S. Senate on Thursday struck down a Republican-led
proposal that would have allowed employers and health insurers to
deny coverage of women's contraceptives for religious reasons.
"The Senate will not allow women's health care choices to be taken away from them," Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, told The New York Times after the 51-to-48 vote.
The proposal challenged a controversial provision of President
Obama's health care plan requiring health insurers and employers to
cover the cost of women's contraceptives, including sterilization
procedures. After an outcry from Roman Catholics and other
religious organizations, the White House modified the requirement,
demanding full payment by health insurers but not religious
employers such as churches.
Over four days of often heated debate, Republicans accused
Democrats of violating the Constitution and trampling on religious
freedom, while Democrats argued that the Republican measure would
violate women's rights.
"The president's health care law empowers bureaucrats here in Washington to decide which tenets religious institutions can and cannot adhere to. If they don't get in line, they'll be penalized," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
But Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
encouraged lawmakers to fight the Republicans' effort. "The Obama
administration believes that decisions about medical care should be
made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss," Sebelius
The Times reported.
Door Closes on Disney's Childhood Obesity Exhibit
A new Epcot exhibit targeting childhood obesity is closing
before its official opening because of complaints that it makes fat
children feel bad, its Walt Disney World creators said.
The interactive Habit Heroes exhibit was scheduled to open at
the Orlando theme park March 5, but feedback from preview visitors
led Disney to delay the opening while it rethinks the attraction,
Associated Press reported. Blue Cross and Blue Shield are
co-partners with Disney in the venture, designed to fight bad
Within the attraction, characters such as Will Power and Lead
Bottom weighed in on the side of good health habits, fighting off
villains such as Lead Bottom and Snacker.
According to the
AP, the National Association of Fat Acceptance criticized the creators for using "the tool of shame" to deliver their message.
Blue Cross and Disney spokesmen said the early unofficial
opening was intended to collect feedback and that they will improve
the exhibit. The opening is postponed indefinitely.
USDA Adds Nutrition Labels to Raw Meats
As of March 1, packages of raw meat sold to Americans consumers
will now have to come with nutrition labeling, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture said in a statement released Thursday.
The new rule includes whole, ground or chopped meats,
CBS News reported, and will apply to meat bought at
supermarkets or butcher shops. The labeling will include
information similar to that seen on many other food products, such
as levels of sodium and fat, as well as calorie counts.
According Dr. Elisabeth A. Hagen, Under Secretary for Food
Safety at the USDA, the new labeling is aimed at helping people get
a better understanding of how much lean protein they are taking in
each day. "You can't make the best choices if you don't have the
right information," Hagen told
FDA Approves Four-Strain Flu Vaccine
A new nasal-spray flu vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration protects against four strains of common flu, adding
one more barrier to infection.
Okayed for people 2 to 49 years old, the FluMist Quadrivalent
vaccine from AstraZeneca guards against two strains of influenza A
and two strains of influenza B, the
Associate Press reported. Previous vaccines protected against
two influenza A strains but only one influenza B strain.
"Illness caused by Influenza B virus affects children, particularly young and school-aged, more than any other population," Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA biologics center, said in an agency news release.
Flu sickens millions of people a year. Annual deaths from flu
vary widely, with FDA figures showing a low of 3,000 and a high of
49,000 over the past 30 or so years, the
The new vaccine, much like the existing FluMist vaccine, carries
a weakened strain of the virus.