Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Davos divided on tackling the scourge of obesity

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Obesity, a major factor in diabetes and heart disease, imposes costs on both public and private sectors and is a drag on economic growth, but business leaders meeting in Davos can't agree on what they can or should do to address it. The World Economic Forum has some notable past achievements in healthcare, such as galvanizing support for the fight against AIDS and the vaccination of children in poor countries, but tackling the rise in obesity promises to be a much more complicated task.

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Yum's chicken in China contained excessive levels of drugs - Xinhua

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chicken sold to KFC's parent Yum Brands Inc <YUM.N> in China contained excessive levels of chemicals, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, escalating a month-long food scare that has hit Yum's sales in its biggest market. The Shanghai Municipal Food Safety Committee said KFC's checks on its suppliers were lax, and that it found excessive levels of chemical residue in some of the fast food chain's supplies, the report said.

U.S. researchers tracking flu through Twitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Researchers and computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University have devised a way to track cases of influenza across the United States using the microblogging site Twitter. Twitter is full of tweets about the flu, which has been severe and reached epidemic proportions this year, but it has been difficult to separate tweets about the flu from actual cases.

Public wants deficit reduction but not programs cuts: polling data

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans want President Barack Obama and Congress to reduce the federal deficit without cutting Medicare, Social Security and education, according to polling data released Thursday. A joint survey by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Kaiser Family Foundation also showed majorities support President Barack Obama's plan to expand Medicaid and provide subsidized private health insurance to working families through new online state exchanges.

U.S. mental health experts urge focus on early treatment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. mental health system has huge gaps that prevent millions of people with psychological problems, including children and teens, from receiving effective treatment that could prevent tragic consequences, experts told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday. Just over a month after the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, experts told a Senate hearing that three-quarters of mental illnesses emerge by age 24, but fewer than one in five youths with diagnosable problems receive treatment that could avoid later problems including violence and suicide.

U.S. Catholic bishops review lawsuit saying fetuses not people

DENVER (Reuters) - Three Colorado bishops said on Thursday they will review a Catholic Church hospital's defense of a lawsuit that argues fetuses do not have legal status - apparently contradicting the Church's teaching on life issues. The case stems from a malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jeremy Stodghill in the 2006 death of his seven-month pregnant wife Lori at a Catholic hospital in Canon City, Colorado. Her twin fetuses also died.

Novartis CEO tempers talk of Roche stake sale

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Novartis <NOVN.VX> Chief Executive Joe Jimenez played down talk that it was looking to sell its one-third voting stake in crosstown rival Roche <ROG.VX>, and certainly not at its current market price. There has been widespread speculation that the Novartis could be heading for a change of strategic direction - including a possible sale of the Roche stake - following the appointment of a new chairman on Wednesday.

Unintended pregnancies on the rise in servicewomen

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Just over ten percent of women in the military said in 2008 they'd had an unintended pregnancy in the last year - a figure significantly higher than rates in the general public, according to a new study. The findings come amid news that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in front-line combat jobs starting in 2016.

Mediterranean diet may not protect the aging brain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite hopes that a Mediterranean-style diet would be as good for the head as it is for the heart, a new study among French men and women found little benefit to aging brains. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the participants' dietary patterns in middle age and measured their cognitive performance at around age 65, but found no connection between Mediterranean eating and mental performance.