Headlines: November 2, 2010
by Meg Larkin
First, in research news, new studies indicate that two attempts may be all it’s worth for couples trying to conceive using IVF. A new study has found that women trying to have a child using in vitro fertilization often have a higher chance of success with a second round of treatment, but that success rates level off after the third attempt. The new research may help provide guidance to couples on when it might be more beneficial to stop IVF treatments, which can be incredibly expensive. Nationally, the average cost of one IVF cycle is approximately $12,400, and the procedure is not always covered by insurance.
In mental health news, new research shows that about half of youths who experience a severe bout of depression will experience a recurrence within five years. The study, which was published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that the recurrence happened regardless of what treatment they received for the initial depression, and that a second bout of depression was more likely to affect young women than young men. Although young people treated with a combination of antidepressants and therapy were more likely to recover from the first depression in a shorter amount of time, this had no impact on the likelihood that they would develop depression again within five years. The research also found that young women who were treated for anxiety in addition to depression were more likely to experience a second bout of depression than those that were not. At this stage the researchers do not know whether the second bout of depression is a natural part of the disease, or whether there are external stressors in these patients’ lives that make it more likely.
In public health news, low cost dental care in rural areas has sparked a debate within the dental profession. In remote Northwestern Alaska, where there is a high incidence of tooth decay, dental therapists, who are not dentists, are providing fillings and extractions to a population that would otherwise, largely, live with the pain. According to the New York Times, Alaska has a hard time retaining qualified dentists to serve these rural populations, and “Sixty percent of Alaska Native children ages 2 to 5 have untreated decay, and 20 percent of Native adults over 55 have no teeth at all.“ However, the American Dental Association strongly objects to non-dentists performing these procedures, and cites patient safety concerns. Now, an independent study, which found that Alaska’s dental therapists provide “safe, competent, appropriate care” has added fuel to the debate. The success of Alaska’s program has led other states to consider similar mid-level provider programs for underserved and rural populations. However, the American Dental Association is standing firm in its position that this type of care should be provided by licensed dentists, even if patients have to travel for a number of hours to reach one. While the ADA cites patient safety concerns, critics of the Association claim that this is a turf issue for dentists who do not want to risk losing business from rural patients.
Finally, in global health news, new evidence shows that the strain of cholera now causing infections in Haiti matches a South Asian strain of the bacteria. The cholera outbreak has killed more than 300 people in Haiti thus far, and the situation is exacerbated by the poor living conditions of most of the Haitian population following the earthquake in the beginning of this year. The recent findings have focused attention on a UN base above the Artibonite Rover, which is home to a group of peacekeepers who recently arrived from Nepal, where this strain of cholera is common. The outbreak began downstream of the UN base, but the United Nations insists that its facility uses proper sanitation practices. Cholera is a type of bacteria that is spread when people come into contact with food or water that has been contaminated by feces that contains the disease. The findings have been able to eliminate some earlier hypotheses about how cholera came to Haiti, which has no history of the disease.
Meg Larkin is a third year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.