Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Davos strives to make climate talk more than hot air

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Climate change is back on the global agenda, with debate in the corridors at Davos given fresh impetus by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both highlighting it as top priority this week. Yet business leaders are still struggling to find the economic incentives to change current practices.

Swine flu infected 1 in 5, death rate low, study shows

LONDON (Reuters) - At least one in five people worldwide were infected with swine flu during the first year of the 2009-2010 H1N1 pandemic, an international research group said on Friday, but the death rate was just 0.02 percent. The results echo other studies that found children were hit harder by the H1N1 strain, which swept around the world, than they are by regular seasonal flu outbreaks and that people over 65 were less vulnerable.

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Car commuters gain more weight

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People driving to work every day are packing on more pounds than their colleagues on trains, buses and bikes, according to a new study from Australia. "Even if you are efficiently active during leisure time, if you use a car for commuting daily then that has an impact on weight gain," lead author Takemi Sugiyama of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne told Reuters Health.

High doses of folic acid not tied to cancer risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - According to a new analysis, people taking high doses of the B vitamin folic acid are not at an increased risk of cancer - easing some concern about possible side effects of national fortification programs. The U.S. and Canada have required flour to be fortified with folic acid since 1998, after deficiencies in pregnant women were tied to brain and spinal cord birth defects in their babies.

Insurers tally flu's costs as U.S. epidemic continues

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The bills for the flu - at epidemic levels in the United States this winter - are piling up. The nation's three largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group Inc <UNH.N>, WellPoint Inc <WLP.N>, and Aetna Inc <AET.N>, have paid at least $100 million more than usual this year to cover doctor and hospital visits by people with the flu.

FDA head and company CEOs cheer bumper haul of new drugs

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Pharmaceutical industry productivity is improving as a more targeted approach to drug development yields dividends and regulators offer speedier decisions on medicines that make a real difference to patients. That is the view of both the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and drug company CEOs meeting in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum.

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Russian anti-smoking bill backed by lawmakers

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers on Friday backed a law which would ban smoking in bars, cafes and other public spaces to promote healthier living in the world's largest tobacco market after China. Supported by President Vladimir Putin, who likes to present a healthy, active image, and has previously rebuked ministers for smoking, the bill was voted through in a second reading in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

U.S. mental health experts urge focus on childhood screening

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. mental health system has huge gaps that prevent many children with psychological problems from receiving effective treatment that could prevent tragic consequences later in life, experts told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday. Just over a month after the shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, mental health experts said psychological disorders usually emerge before people enter high school but that only one-quarter of children with problems see trained professionals and often the care is not enough.