Cuba Selects Former FARC Rebels to Train as Doctor

In order to attend the medical school in Cuba, aspiring students must commit to one promise: that they return to their local communities to practice medicine there.

This week marked the first selection of 200, primarily former FARC guerrillas, as well as young campesinos in Colombia, to study medicine in Cuba.

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A committee of medical professionals from Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine and officials from the Cuban embassy in Colombia completed the selection process.

Between July 19 and Aug. 16, according to Colombia Informa, the student beneficiaries — residing in Transitional Standardization Zones or in the countryside — were chosen to begin medical study in September.

Student doctors will be trained in accordance with the Cuban family medicine model so that they may return to Colombia once they've graduated to improve and fortify primary health care for the underserved.

"Today, in our country, we work to build peace. To reach this, we are in constant war against the cruelest enemy called inequality. From every mountain, every millimeter of Colombian soil, we give you infinite thanks for performing such an important and great work," said Ignacio Cabrera, a member of the ELAM Foundation.

Zulan Popa, Charge d'affaires of the Cuban Embassy in Colombia, stated, "This is another tangible gesture by the Cuban government to continue strengthening bilateral relations with Colombia and expressing the support it has presented for the construction of the peace agreement."

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However, full implementation of the peace accord faces ongoing violence perpetrated against demobilized, unarmed FARC members as well as social and human rights activists.

Since the signing of the peace agreement in November, nine former FARC members have been killed and since the start of the year, 52 human rights activists and social leaders have been murdered in Colombia.

Founded in 1999 to train young students from poor communities who would never have a chance to go to medical school, Cuba's ELAM is committed to training 100 medics — free of charge — every year from Latin American and Caribbean countries and even the United States. Students from various African countries also make up the student body.

In order to attend, aspiring students must commit to one promise: that they return to their local communities to practice medicine there.

  • Published in Cuba

Drinking coffee could reduce chance of early death, scientists say

Drinking around three cups of coffee a day has been linked to a lower risk of death “from any cause” in two new large-scale studies.

The habits of coffee-lovers were shown to add years to their life – with high coffee consumption shown to reduce the risk of death from diseases related to circulation and digestion in particular.

While scientists say more research is needed to prove coffee is definitely behind the effects observed in the studies, experts believe the antioxidant plant compounds found in the drink, rather than its caffeine, are responsible for its potentially life-extending effect.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) analysed data on the health and coffee-drinking habits of more than half a million people from 10 European countries, including the UK.

They found men who drank at least three cups of coffee a day were 18 per cent less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers, with women experiencing an eight per cent reduction in mortality over the same period.

Meanwhile, American scientists conducted a separate investigation into the effect of coffee on the health of more than 185,000 participants from different ethnic backgrounds.

People who drank one cup of coffee daily were 12 per cent less likely to die than those who drank no coffee, irrespective of ethnicity, while drinking two to three cups of coffee appeared to reduce the chances of death by 18 per cent.

Experts praised the robust nature of the studies, but warned that further research was needed to prove that the effects observed were caused by the coffee itself, and not other factors.

The US study’s lead author, Dr Veronica Setiawan, from the University of Southern California, said the chemical make-up of the popular beverage was a possible explanation for the findings.

“Coffee contains a lot of antioxidants and phenolic compounds that play an important role in cancer prevention,” she said.

“We cannot say drinking coffee will prolong your life, but we see an association. If you like to drink coffee, drink up! If you’re not a coffee drinker, then you need to consider if you should start.”

Whether the coffee contained caffeine or was decaffeinated did not appear to make a difference in the two studies, both published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The studies were adjusted for a number of lifestyle factors, such as smoking and diet, to try and isolate and analyse the effects of coffee drinking on health and mortality rates.

Commenting on the research, statistics expert Professor Kevin McConway, from The Open University, said both papers were “well-conducted and large, and show similar results across several different populations and ethnic groups”.

“As a coffee drinker myself, they do reassure me that my habit probably isn’t bad for me,” he said. “However, if I didn’t already drink coffee, I’m not sure that they would persuade me to take it up for the good of my health.  

“That’s because the size of the potential protective effect of coffee, in these studies, is not very large; because we can’t be sure what is causing what; and because, even if coffee drinking is somehow directly improving people’s health on average, neither study throws much light on exactly how it might do that.”

Antonio Banderas Gives an Update on His Health After Heart Attack: 'It Wasn't Serious'

Nothing to worry about. Antonio Banderas gave an update on his health during a press conference on Saturday, March 25, telling journalists that he suffered a heart attack two months ago.

“I suffered a heart attack on January 26, but it wasn’t serious and hasn’t caused any damage,” the 56-year-old actor told members of the Spanish media in Madrid, according to the Associated Press. He added that at the time, he assumed that he simply had a heart “episode” and didn’t think too much of it, though he was hospitalized briefly.

“It hasn’t been as dramatic as some have written,” he told reporters. Banderas explained that his hospitalization involved a procedure to place three stents in his arteries to help keep them clear and blood flowing through them.

The Zorro star caused fans to speculate that he may have health issues after he was spotted leaving a Swiss clinic in recent days.

In response to the rumblings, Banderas took to Facebook to clarify that he was doing just fine. “It seems like some media suffered a Heart Press Attack,” he wrote, referring to the name for celebrity gossip media in Spanish.

The actor will is currently filming Life Itself, a movie about the lives of people from New York to Spain, and how their paths have crossed through generations. It stars an A-list cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde and Mandy Patinkin.

  • Published in Culture

Antibiotics not effective for clinically infected eczema in children

Estimates suggest that 40 percent of eczema flares are treated with topical antibiotics, but findings from a study led by Cardiff University suggest there is no meaningful benefit from the use of either oral or topical antibiotics for milder clinically infected eczema in children.

Eczema is a common condition, especially in young children, and affects around 1 in 5 children in the UK. Eczema sometimes gets worse, or 'flares', and having particular bacteria on the skin may contribute to causing some of these flares. Quite often eczema flares are treated with antibiotics, although there was very little research to show whether antibiotics are helpful or not.

The CREAM study was designed to find out if oral (taken by mouth) or topical (creams and ointments applied to the skin) antibiotics help improve eczema severity in children with infected eczema. All children also received standard eczema treatment with steroid creams and emollients (moisturiser) from their doctor.

Results from the analysis of data from 113 children with non-severely infected eczema, published in the Annals of Family Medicine journal, showed no significant difference between the groups in the resolution of eczema symptoms at two weeks, four weeks or three months.

Researchers found rapid resolution in response to mild-to-moderate strength topical corticosteroids and emollient treatment, and ruled out a clinically meaningful benefit from the addition of either oral or topical antibiotics.

Dr Nick Francis, Clinical Reader at Cardiff University and practicing GP, who led the study said: "Topical antibiotics, often in combination products with topical corticosteroids, are frequently used to treat eczema flares. Our research shows that even if there are signs of infection, children with milder eczema are unlikely to benefit from antibiotics, and their use can promote resistance and allergy or skin sensitization."

"Providing or stepping up the potency of topical corticosteroids and emollients should be the main focus in the care of milder clinically infected eczema flares."

Health Law’s Repeal Could Raise Costs and Number of Uninsured, New Report Says

WASHINGTON — Repealing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving other parts in place, would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year, a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday. A repeal could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 32 million in 10 years, the report said, while causing individual insurance premiums to double over that time.

The budget office analyzed the probable effects of a Republican bill repealing the law like the one approved in Congress, but vetoed early last year by President Obama.

The C.B.O. report, released after a weekend of protests against repeal, will only add to the headaches that President-elect Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans face in their rush to gut President Obama’s signature domestic achievement as they try to replace it with a health insurance law more to their liking.

Republicans cautioned that the report painted only part of the picture — the impact of a fast repeal without the Republican replacement. They said the numbers in the report represented a one-sided hypothetical scenario.

“Today’s report shows only part of the equation — a repeal of Obamacare without any transitional policies or reforms to address costs and empower patients,” said the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. “Republicans support repealing Obamacare and implementing step-by-step reforms so that Americans have access to affordable health care.”

But that replacement bill has yet to be produced, and existing Republican plans, such as one drafted by Representative Tom Price of Georgia, now selected to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services, have yet to be scrutinized by the budget office, the official scorekeeper of legislation.

The bill that the budget office analyzed would have eliminated tax penalties for people who go without insurance. It would also have eliminated spending for the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies that help lower-income people buy private insurance. But the bill preserved requirements for insurers to provide coverage, at standard rates, to any applicant, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

“Eliminating the mandate penalties and the subsidies while retaining the market reforms would destabilize the nongroup market, and the effect would worsen over time,” the budget office said.

The office said the estimated increase of 32 million people without coverage in 2026 resulted from three changes: about 23 million fewer people would have coverage in the individual insurance market, roughly 19 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage, and there would be an increase in the number of people with employment-based insurance that would partially offset those losses.

The estimates by the budget office are generally consistent with projections by the Obama administration and by insurance companies.

In its report, the budget office said that repealing selected parts of the health care law — as specified in the earlier Republican bill — would have adverse effect on insurance markets.

In the first full year after enactment of such a bill, it said, premiums would be 20 to 25 percent higher than under current law.

Repealing the penalties that enforce the “individual mandate” would “both reduce the number of people purchasing health insurance and change the mix of people with insurance,” as younger and healthier people with low health costs would be more likely to go without insurance, the budget office said.

The Republican bill would have eliminated the expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the subsidies for insurance purchased through Affordable Care Act marketplaces, after a transition period of about two years.

Those changes could have immediately increased the number of uninsured by 27 million, a number that would gradually increase to 32 million in 2026, the budget office said.

Without subsidies, the budget office said, enrollment in health plans would shrink, and the people who remained in the individual insurance market would be sicker, with higher average health costs. These trends, it said, would accelerate the exodus of insurers from the individual market and from the public marketplaces.

As a result, it said, about half of the nation’s population would be living in areas that had no insurer participating in the individual market in the first year after the repeal of marketplace subsidies took effect. And by 2026, it estimated, about three-quarters of the population would be living in such areas.

Republicans have complained bitterly about the reduction in health plan choices for consumers under the Affordable Care Act. But the effects projected by the budget office would be much more severe.

While writing the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, lawmakers continually consulted the Congressional Budget Office to understand the possible effects on spending, revenue and insurance coverage. The current director of the budget office, Keith Hall, who signed the report issued on Tuesday, was selected and appointed by Republican leaders of Congress in 2015.

Chris Jacobs, a conservative health policy analyst who once worked for Republicans on Capitol Hill, said the Trump administration could, by regulation, mitigate some of the effects on insurance markets and premiums described by the budget office.

  • Published in World

The price of a puff — National Cancer Society

JANUARY 10 — James Bond isn’t the only one with a licence to kill.

Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that smoking costs the global economy RM4.5 trillion a year, and will take eight million lives annually by 2030. For a species that has invented fire, travelled to space, and split the atom, but is still paying an industry to kill us, mankind is indeed strange.

Decades of research show that smoking is fatal. So in our education, advocacy and policy efforts in curbing smoking, we are often asked: if cigarettes cause such harm, why are they allowed to exist?

One challenge is the separation of the problem: the health industry sees tobacco as a health issue, but certain businesses and governments see it as an economic driver, or a business. Now, the same report by WHO states that the cost of smoking far outweighs revenues from tobacco taxes.

Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death and many related illnesses. Apart from resulting in lung cancer, heart diseases and emphysema, it also worsens diabetes, mental illnesses, and substance abuse.

Treating these diseases, many of which are non-communicable, drives up the cost of healthcare: if nothing is done, non-communicable diseases will cost the global economy RM210 trillion — 75 per cent of the global GDP. Smoking specifically accounts for 0.7 per cent of China’s GDP, and around 1 per cent of U.S. GDP. In 2005, the Malaysian Ministry of Health spent 26 per cent of its budget on smoking related diseases, which accounted for 0.74 per cent of its GDP.

There’s also the environment, productivity and human development: smoke and toxic cigarette butts pollute our air and water; smokers are 30 per cent more likely than non-smokers to miss work (and for longer periods). For some families, money spent on cigarettes is money taken away from household essentials.

No other industry causes as much damage to its users and non-users alike — and remains legal, considered a ‘stakeholder’, and allowed to line its pockets. Apart from cigarettes, no other consumer product kills when they are used as intended.

Instead of protecting this industry and giving it business or trade privileges, we urge the nation to support the tobacco control efforts of Malaysia. Tobacco control can work: a study in the U.S., also published this month, reports that its efforts since 1964 have resulted in eight million fewer premature smoking related deaths.

We should want the same for our fellow Malaysians.

Let us use fire, one of man’s oldest discoveries, as intended: to ward off danger, rather than to light up a product that brings permanent and irreversible damage.

There’s still time to stop.

JANUARY 10 — James Bond isn’t the only one with a licence to kill.

Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that smoking costs the global economy RM4.5 trillion a year, and will take eight million lives annually by 2030. For a species that has invented fire, travelled to space, and split the atom, but is still paying an industry to kill us, mankind is indeed strange.

Decades of research show that smoking is fatal. So in our education, advocacy and policy efforts in curbing smoking, we are often asked: if cigarettes cause such harm, why are they allowed to exist?

One challenge is the separation of the problem: the health industry sees tobacco as a health issue, but certain businesses and governments see it as an economic driver, or a business. Now, the same report by WHO states that the cost of smoking far outweighs revenues from tobacco taxes.

Smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death and many related illnesses. Apart from resulting in lung cancer, heart diseases and emphysema, it also worsens diabetes, mental illnesses, and substance abuse.

Treating these diseases, many of which are non-communicable, drives up the cost of healthcare: if nothing is done, non-communicable diseases will cost the global economy RM210 trillion — 75 per cent of the global GDP. Smoking specifically accounts for 0.7 per cent of China’s GDP, and around 1 per cent of U.S. GDP. In 2005, the Malaysian Ministry of Health spent 26 per cent of its budget on smoking related diseases, which accounted for 0.74 per cent of its GDP.

There’s also the environment, productivity and human development: smoke and toxic cigarette butts pollute our air and water; smokers are 30 per cent more likely than non-smokers to miss work (and for longer periods). For some families, money spent on cigarettes is money taken away from household essentials.

No other industry causes as much damage to its users and non-users alike — and remains legal, considered a ‘stakeholder’, and allowed to line its pockets. Apart from cigarettes, no other consumer product kills when they are used as intended.

Instead of protecting this industry and giving it business or trade privileges, we urge the nation to support the tobacco control efforts of Malaysia. Tobacco control can work: a study in the U.S., also published this month, reports that its efforts since 1964 have resulted in eight million fewer premature smoking related deaths.

We should want the same for our fellow Malaysians.

Let us use fire, one of man’s oldest discoveries, as intended: to ward off danger, rather than to light up a product that brings permanent and irreversible damage.

There’s still time to stop.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/the-price-of-a-puff-national-cancer-society#sthash.vMRmpbwJ.dpuf
  • Published in World

Deaths from 9/11-related illness are set to exceed initial toll

Fifteen years have passed, and the agony goes on for those who survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. More than 1000 people may have died from health problems linked to the terrorist incidents – and the number is rising every year.

The latest official data released by the World Trade Center Health Programset up in 2010 to offer healthcare to those still in ill health as a result of the 2001 attacks – reveals a sharp rise in the number of people diagnosed with cancers that have been linked to dust generated when New York’s Twin Towers collapsed.

The data shows that 50,000 people have been certified sick as a probable consequence of the attacks and 1140 have died – which is more than a third of the 2977 deaths on 9/11 itself.

Cancer rising

Respiratory and digestive disorders account for the highest number of cases, which reached 32,291 as of 30 June 2016. But cancer cases are rising fastest, tripling from 1822 in January 2014 to 5441 in June 2016.

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Given typical survival profiles for cancer patients, some health professionals are now predicting that by 2020, more people will have died through fallout from the attacks than died on 9/11.

“It’s not based on hard numbers, but on the growing number of people who are going down with cancers,” says Ben Chevat, a spokesman for the support group, 9/11 Health Watch.

People searching through the dustMany survivors of the 9/11 attacks have developed dust-related illnesses / Rex Shutterstock

According to Chevat, it is difficult to say with certainty that individuals have died through exposure to fallout from 9/11. But he says that in 50 years’ time, an excess of cancer deaths in New Yorkers may be much more obvious, and people will doubtless link it to the carcinogen-filled dust that blanketed parts of New York in September 2001. Some 150 chemicals in the fallout dust have already been identified as cancer-causing, he says.

Gap in the data

If anything, the current figure of 1140 deaths probably fails to capture all 9/11-linked fatalities – particularly because cases only began to be recorded five years ago. “We wouldn’t have data for deaths before 2011,” says Christy Spring, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Research last year comparing the health of New York firefighters before and after the event revealed a rise in cases of autoimmune disease. More spikes in disease may be found as health data increases in the wake of the disaster.

Aside from respiratory disease and cancer, the other major disease area linked to 9/11 has been mental health, with 12,500 certified cases so far in the health programme.

Cuba Elected as Head of Continental Medical Organization

Cuba was elected by acclamation as president and secretary general of the Alliance of Public Health Associations in the Americas (AASPAL), in the framework of the first International Conference of the sector that concludes today in this capital.

Interviewed by the news agency Prensa Latina, Doctor Alcides Ochoa, elected as president, said this election was acknowledgment to the contribution and collaboration by the Caribbean country in this field, in personnel training and stating the need to create an organization as AASPAL.

About this historic alliance, the secretary general, Doctor Juan Manuel Diego Cobelo, asserted that apart from the ideological diversity and the different governmental systems, Latin America achieved an unprecedented unity, motivated by progress of public health for its people.

Ochoa highlighted the role played by the American Public Health Association, with traditional friendship with its Cuban counterpart, for Cuba to occupy this post, adding the support from the Pan-American Health Organization, among others.

He explained that this support answered to the respect from members of that association for the Cuban health system.

The executive committee is also composed of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

  • Published in Now
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