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The Top Health Stories of 2009


Health headlines are what the news is made of and in 2009 there were a variety of health stories that topped the headlines. The biggest headline in health news this year was the H1N1 flu. This flu began in It began in April, and by this fall, one in six Americans had caught H1N1, and it is estimated that over 10,000 Americans had died from the virus. To top this news story off, there was a shortage in vaccines that could prevent the virus.

Health care reform was big news this year and on Christmas Eve congress passed the health care reform bill. It would extend insurance coverage to an estimated 30 million additional Americans. The bill still seems unclear to the public, but promise Americans health coverage, even if the government has to fine you for not having it.

The government task force recommended that women in their 40s not get routine annual mammograms. American women were shocked to find out that mammograms, which are the diagnostic tool for early detection of breast cancer, are no longer required as an annual screening until a woman is 50. The American Cancer Society is sticking to its screening recommendations: women ages 40 and older should have annual mammograms.

Celebrity deaths and drug misuse made big news this year as well with the death of Michael Jackson and Brittany Murphy. Jackson’s toxology reported that he had OxyContin, hydrocodone, diazepam temazepam, Xanax, and doxylamine in his system. In Murphy’s room, paramedics found Topamax, Methylprednisolone, Fluoxetine, Klonopin, Carbamazepine, Ativan Vicoprofen, Propranolol, Biaxin and Hydrocodone. Billy Mays autopsy cites cocaine as a contributing factor in the death of the TV pitchman.

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Actress Natasha Richardson died after what was initially dismissed as a minor ski accident. The death has helped renew an awareness about the importance of taking head injuries seriously. Farrah Fawcett and Patrick Swayze’s cancer fight battle helped Americans become more aware of certain cancer as they took us upfront and personal with their battle.

Drug manufacturers who spend billions each year promoting their products to doctors now have new rules regulations to slow down the flow of gifts (all those logo-emblazoned pads and pens), free meals, and payments to physicians. The changes were made in response to criticism that industry largesse was creating conflicts of interest. Too often, there was a risk that the doctor-industry relationship would taint the doctor-patient one.

Obama signed an executive order this year repealing a Bush-era policy that limited federal dollars for human stem cell research, permitting the National Institutes of Health to conduct and fund studies on controversial embryonic stem cells.

Other headline news included type II Diabetes has become a preventable epidemic in our nation. Both women and men are urged to cut added sugar intake. The American Heart Association issued new sugar intake recommendations to help reduce obesity and diabetes.

Salmonella-tainted peanut butter was found in crackers, cookies, ice cream and snack items. More that 600 people became ill and 9 died in the United States. Tylenol recalled its arthritis caplets, and Slim Fast was recalled. This year ground beef, green leafy lettuce, Pistachios, Vicks Sinex nasal spray and even dog food have all been recalled.

2009 has been a year of discovery and recovery in the health field. With new virus, medications, research, better standards from the FDA and health care reform, 2010 is bound to offer us even bigger headlines.