Top Health News Stories of 2011
The year 2011 might be well remembered as the year of the revolt with millions around the world protesting dictators, Americans rebelling against corporations and young adults protesting against high tuition costs in Europe. But 2011, can also be remembered as a year of advancements – and set backs – in the health and well being of the world.
The world welcomed the 7 billionth person in October, according to the United Nations. Its just 12 years ago when the world population reached 6 billion. In 1960, the population was at 3 billion. It is unclear which baby holds the record for 7 billionth person but scientist believe the lucky kid was likely born in India.
The Food and Drug Administration reported a shortage of more than 200 prescription drugs in the United States. This isn't the first time the U.S. has been in short supply of medication – a FDA report released in October found the country was also in short supply in 2010. The report also found the number of drug shortages annually has tripled from 61 in 2005 to 178 in 2010. In November, President Obama signed an executive order expanding the FDA's authority to require drugmakers to report situations that could lead to shortages.
The Food and Drug Administration took a hard stance against smoking when it released nine new graphic images depicting the dangers of smoking cigarettes and required cigarette companies to use them. A federal judge halted the use of the images, but the Obama administration is appealing the decision.
After two decades of referring to a food pyramid to decide what is best to eat the United States Department of Agriculture scrapped the pyramid for a food plate. First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the plate in May. The agency said the plate would be easier for families to understand since its divided like a plate – a section for grain, a section for protein, a section for fruits, a section for vegetables and a glass of dairy on the side.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent agency that advises the government on health, issued new guidelines for prostate cancer screening. In October the group decided men should not get routine screening for prostate cancer because the PSA test causes more harm than good. The group found the test didn't save more lives but had serious side effects including incontinence and impotence.
The vaccine to prevent against the human papillomavirus was approved to use on girls in 2006. In October, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory board recommended the vaccine also be given to boys as young as 11 to prevent against the disease. HPV has been found to cause genital warts and some forms of cancer.
The United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS announced in December the number of new HIV infections in 2010 was down 21 percent from the apex of the disease in 1997. There were 2.7 million new infections worldwide in 2010 – with 390,000 children infected with the disease. But this is significantly lower than the rate of new infections even 10 years ago. HIV incidences is also down in 33 countries – 22 in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the AIDS epidemic.
The United States isn't the only place grappling with obesity. A study published in the journal The Lancet found worldwide the obesity rate has doubled in the last three decades. In 1980, about 8 percent of women and 5 percent of men worldwide were obese. By 2008, the rates were nearly 14 percent for women and 10 percent for men.
After almost two years of legal challenges within states, the Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments on the constitutionality of the health care reform law signed by President Obama in March 2010. The high court agreed to hear two major questions – whether the law's key provision is unconstitutional and whether the entire law must be thrown out.
This isn't an anniversary most people want to celebrate but in June the world acknowledged that the AIDS virus has been apart of the culture for 30 years. Though there is not a cure yet, researchers have found methods to improve quality of life and longevity for HIV/AIDS patients, and fewer people are at risk for contracting the disease.