What were the top health news stories of 2008?
Everyone, it seems, has put together a list of the year’s best and most important stories: Health care reform. Statins. War wounds. Tainted peppers. Melamine.
Here’s a compilation of the top ones, as seen by various observers and experts.
From the Harvard Health Letter, the No. 1 news development of 2008 is "Blood sugar: How low should it go?":
The single-minded pursuit of low blood sugar levels is probably not the best approach to type 2 diabetes, particularly in people ages 60 and older. People with diabetes should not give up blood sugar control, but three clinical trials show it’s unwise to be overzealous about lowering high blood sugar, and certainly not without attending to high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Also on Harvard’s list, which was selected by the health letter’s editorial board, were news happenings ranging from Vytorin ("Nice name, nice numbers, but let’s see what you can do") to health care reform.
Over at WebMD, the editors’ top pick was salmonella-tainted tomatoes and their impact on U.S. confidence in food safety:
The Salmonella saintpaul outbreak, linked first to tomatoes and then to raw jalapeno and serrano peppers, was the nation’s largest food-borne outbreak of any kind in the past decade. It sickened more than 1,400 people, wreaking havoc on tomato farmers, shaking up grocery lists nationwide, and putting the FDA and CDC in the hot seat as the investigation dragged on for months.
Other picks in WebMD’s top 10: the death of newsman Tim Russert from heart disease, the dangers of belly fat, health care reform and the toll that America’s economic woes are taking on health.
The editors at MedPage Today made their choices from among medical news in 2008 that had an influence on clinical practice or triggered ongoing discussions among medical professionals. Their summary:
When it comes to LDLs and glycosylated hemoglobin, the philosophy of lower is better was dealt evidence-based blows this year with a series of surprising findings.
The list includes the study findings on Vytorin and on blood glucose control. MedPage Today also singled out the mounting toll of head injuries and post-traumatic stress among U.S. soldiers in Iraq as one of the year’s major medical stories.
Advances in stem-cell research and their implications for organ transplantation led the list at CNN. At FOXNews, the resurgence of measles in the United States and the world’s first double-arm transplant were among the top 10.
Locally, the top health-related stories of 2008, in no particular order, are these:
– Affiliated Community Medical Centers opens a new clinic in New London to serve patients in the New London and Spicer areas. The $3 million facility, which replaces a clinic that had become outdated and crowded, will allow the medical staff to expand. It also has an optical department and a pharmacy, making these services more readily available in the New London-Spicer area.
– Lawrence Massa, chief executive officer at Rice Memorial Hospital since the beginning of 1994, resigns to take a new position as executive director of the Minnesota Hospital Association. A search committee is formed to start seeking his replacement.
– Rice Memorial Hospital eliminates two outpatient chronic disease management programs – one for diabetes and the other for congestive heart failure – and lays off 13 people as part of $3 million in budget cuts to help keep the city-owned hospital from slipping into a deficit. In response, Willmar Medical Services, a joint venture between the hospital and Affiliated Community Medical Centers, creates the Willmar Diabetes Center to ensure the local continuity of diabetes management and education. Family Practice Medical Center also announces it will add the management of congestive heart failure to its roster of primary care services.
– Willmar Medical Services completes its first year as a joint venture for same-day surgery services, integrated cancer care, medical imaging and diabetes management. Milestones include the addition of digital mammography and the consolidation of these services at the Affiliated campus, the launch of the Willmar Diabetes Center, and the completion of the design for a new cancer center, to be developed this coming year at Rice Memorial Hospital.
– Granite Falls Municipal Hospital becomes the second hospital in Minnesota to be designated a Comprehensive Advanced Life Support facility. The designation, which helps rural medical teams provide the best trauma and emergency care, required 39 people at the Granite Falls hospital to complete a specialized training program.
– Construction continued on a new $26 million addition at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield. The hospital also shortened its name from "Meeker County Memorial Hospital" to "Meeker Memorial Hospital."
– The RC Hospital Foundation and Renville County Hospice received an unexpected windfall from a rural Olivia farmer, Gordon Ruebel, who left his entire estate, valued at approximately $2 million, to the two organizations.