Entries in Health (8)


ABC News Exclusive: Facebook to Help Find Organ Donors

Rick Rowell/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Conversations over the dinner table with his med-student girlfriend helped Mark Zuckerberg formulate his latest big idea — harnessing the power of Facebook to help eliminate the critical shortage of organs for patients desperately in need of life-saving transplants.

And it was his friendship with Apple founder Steve Jobs, whose life was extended by years following a liver transplant, in part, that spurred the 27-year-old Facebook founder and CEO to help put that idea into practice.

“Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories… We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that’s out there,” Zuckerberg told ABC’s Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview at Facebook’s headquarters.

Starting Tuesday, users in the United States and U.K. will be able to add that they’re organ donors to their Timelines, and if they’re not organ donors, they can find links to official organ donation registries and instantly enroll.

“We want to make it simple,” said Zuckerberg. “You just put in the state or country that you’re from, so that we can help link you to the official registries.”

In the “health and wellness” section of users’ timelines, users can list their status as organ donors and explain the decision to their friends, in an effort to raise awareness about the need for donors.

More than 112,000 Americans are awaiting organs, and 18 people die every day from the lack of available organs, according to Donate Life America, a non-profit alliance partnering with Facebook.

Zuckerberg, 27, has made a fortune on the idea that people want to share everything – from photos, to the intimate details of their romantic lives. Yet, Zuckerberg himself is famously private, keeping details of his personal life – not to mention a much-anticipated Facebook IPO — under tight wraps.

In conversation with Roberts, Zuckerberg kept the door on the IPO tightly shut – citing the government-mandated quiet period before the IPO — and saying only “we try to keep very focused on the long term… We’ll be judged by how good the things are that we build and whether people like them.”

But he revealed some small details of his personal life, lighting up when talking about the dinnertime chats he had with girlfriend Priscilla Chan that helped lead to the donation initiative.

“She’s in medical school now,” Zuckerberg said of Chan. “She’s going to be a pediatrician, so our dinner conversations are often about Facebook and the kids that she’s meeting.”

Chan told him stories about patients she meets “getting sicker as they don’t have the organ that they need.” But there were other stories too, of children who ultimately received transplants. Stories, Zuckerberg called, “unbelievable.”

From Chan he learned of one boy in need of a heart transplant. His skin had turned blue from lack of oxygen, but within weeks of receiving a transplant he was out again playing sports.

“How can that not make you happy?” he asked.

Chan inspired Zuckerberg to try to learn Mandarin Chinese in one year. That venture, he admitted, was unsuccessful, but he picked up enough to natter with Chan’s elderly grandmother.

Zuckerberg said he was further prompted to make Facebook an important tool to encourage donors to register following the death of Steve Jobs, whom he called a “friend.” Though Zuckerberg never talked with Jobs specifically about a Facebook donation tool, he said many of the people involved in the project were inspired after Jobs’ death.

“That definitely, I think, was something that we all had in mind as we were building this out… His story is just one of many, of people who both were able to have an organ transplant that made his life longer and he was extremely thankful for that,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook was initially developed by Zuckerberg while still an undergraduate at Harvard. The site was initially conceived as place for college students to socialize. Recently, however, Zuckerberg said he’s been surprised by the power of the network and the way users use its tools creatively in times of crisis, like finding loved-ones following tornadoes in the Midwest or the tsunami in Japan.

“People are using the same social tools that they’re using just to keep in touch with people on a day-to-day basis to solve these important issues,” he said.

The technology behind the donation application, Zuckerberg said, is a “pretty simple thing.” But the ability to link people across hundreds of miles and save their lives? That, he called, “amazing.”

Both the company and organ donation advocates are hopeful the new tool could change the landscape of the organ donation process.

“I think it’s possible that we will see an impact over the next couple of years, where we would imagine eliminating the transplant waiting list,” said Dr. Andrew Cameron, Transplant Surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Birth Control Free for All: New Insurance Rules for Women 

Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced sweeping new guidelines for women's health care that will change everything from distribution of birth control pills to administration of breast exams -- and will mean insured women will no longer pay anything out of their own pocket.

Beginning Aug. 1, 2012, all private insurance plans will be required to cover women's preventive services without a co-pay or deductible. The move is intended to help women have the chance to stop health problems before they start.

In one year's time there will be co-pay or deductible-free well-woman visits, screening for gestational diabetes, breast-feeding support, domestic violence screening and all FDA approved birth control methods -- including emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill.

The idea of insurance completely covering birth control has come under heavy fire from conservative groups and pundits, who argue that covering the morning-after pill is the equivalent to using federal dollars for abortion. However, the opposing argument is that the new law is about focusing on woman's health.

Many women won't see the benefits till January 2013. However, once the changes take effect, insurers will pick up the tab automatically, so women across the country won't have to sign up for anything.

As for who is picking up the extra cost, White House advisors say they don't believe the changes will impact premiums -- but ultimately, that decision will be made by insurance companies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Measles Outbreak: Tens of Thousands Exposed?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images (file)(WASHINGTON) -- Federal health officials are scrambling to prevent a massive measles outbreak after a young woman traveled through three airports this week with an active case of the highly contagious virus.

The 27-year-old woman, who tested positive for measles, departed the U.K. before traveling through airports in Washington, D.C., Denver and Albuquerque last Tuesday, exposing possibly tens of thousands of passengers to the disease.

"Public health authorities consider this a medical urgency, if not an emergency,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. “They will do everything they can to track down everyone to see if they are indeed protected."

Because measles is transmitted through the air, health experts say passengers who traveled on the same planes as the woman, or passed through the same airports could have been exposed.

"Measles is the most communicable virus that we know and it can be transmitted not just person to person, but over considerable distances because it wafts in the air and then people can inhale it when they are some distance away," Schaffner said.

While the CDC is trying tracking down the passengers, airport officials are doing the same with employees.

In the U.S., only about 60 cases of measles are reported to the CDC each year. Health officials say children who never received an immunization or adults who declined to be immunized are at greatest risk.

"It’s a potentially devastating illness,” Schaffner said. “It still kills many children worldwide, so this is not a disease which we wish to reintroduce into the United States."

The measles can take 18 days to develop, so it may be a while before the scope of the exposure is fully recognizable.

The CDC says the woman who tested positive was not immunized because of her religion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Christmas Miracle' for 9/11 Responders?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The first responders still suffering health effects more than nine years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks could get a "Christmas miracle" this year, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Saturday.

Senate Republicans last week derailed a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors, but Gillibrand this weekend voiced confidence that the Senate will pass the bill in the next week, now that lawmakers have agreed on how to pay for the measure.

"We have the votes we need," Gillibrand said Saturday at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "We've had indications from several Republicans that they very much want to vote for this bill.

"They would like to vote for a stand-alone bill," she said. "There is general agreement on a new pay-for that we're going to offer, so the hope is to get to the bill as soon as the START bill is completed."

The bill was put to a test vote on Dec. 9, but supporters found themselves three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote. The measure failed 57-42.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Tylenol Recalls Several Cold Medications to Update Labeling

Photo Courtesy -- WASHINGTON, PA) -- Tylenol has announced a recall of several types of its cold medicines in order to update labeling issues.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, in consultation with the FDA, has announced the recall of several types of Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom liquid products after a minor mislabeling of alcohol content was discovered. 

The company said there is no need for consumers to stop using the product and no adverse events have been reported.

The following products are included in the recall:

Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Daytime 8oz Citrus Burst

Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Severe 8oz Cool Burst

Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Nighttime 8oz Cool Burst

All products were sold in the United States.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Cheney Appears Frail at First Public Event Since Heart Surgery

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- Former vice president Cheney appeared frail and noticeably thin during a public appearance this weekend at the Bakersfield Business Conference.

Cheney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The former vice president has been on the mend since a July procedure to implant a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) into his heart. Cheney said at the time he was "entering a new phase of the [heart] disease" when he began to "experience increasing congestive heart failure."

Cheney was released from the hospital August 9.

The California event was Cheney’s second appearance this month. Last week, he spoke at a closed press event for the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers in Colorado Springs.

Cheney’s history of heart problems includes five heart attacks, dating back to his first in 1978 when he was just 37 years old. His most recent one took place in February.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


President Carter Released from Hospital

Photo Courtesy - The Carter Center/Knudsen Photos(CLEVELAND) -- President Jimmy Carter was discharged from a Cleveland hospital Thursday after recovering from a gastric viral infection.

"He will resume his schedule with a meeting this week in Washington, D.C.," according to a statement released by the Carter Center.

The former president spent two days at the MetroHealth Medical Center after experiencing stomach pain aboard a Cleveland-bound flight.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


House Passes 9/11 Health & Compensation Act

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House on Wednesday passed final congressional approval of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which provides medical care for persons exposed to harmful toxins from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. First responders, cleanup workers and those living within the terrorist attack areas are eligible for care.

The bill passed 268 - 160.  17 Republicans supported the measure, while three Democrats voted against the bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in the chair when the vote was announced.

Pelosi spoke out on the House floor in favor of the bill, saying it will help those who jeopardize their health to rescue others, secure necessary medical treatment especially for the unique exposures suffered at Ground Zero, and ensures survivors and victims’ families can attain compensation for their losses.

“They and those who rushed to the scene in real time when it happened risked their lives and their health to do so. They didn’t ask any questions. Is anybody going to take care of me? They were there to help,” Pelosi said. “Today we remember all the heroes of 9/11, we praised the strength of thousands of firefighters, rescue workers, first responders and medical personnel who turned tragedy into inspiration, and gave themselves, of themselves, to help a city and our nation rebuild.”

Pelosi said the legislation, which was introduced by New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney, is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit. An attempt last July to get the bill through the House failed because it was brought to the floor under an expedited procedure requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, which it failed to get.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio