Top 10 Health Stories of 2015

Lots of things happened in 2015. Lots of things happen every year. With the New Year just around the corner, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta rounds up the top 10 health stories of 2015. Starting from 10 and counting down:

10. Major advancements in concussion and brain injury prevention. The new film Concussion, with Will Smith, brings to light the newly defined disease CTE – chronic brain encephalopathy. With repeated blows to the head, football players and athletes from a young age are at a much higher risk for developing chronic brain disease.  Today, the disease is widely accepted and diagnosed, especially among football players. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, for example, killed his girlfriend before killing himself in 2013. It’s believed his aggression and depression were caused by CTE. The 2015 movie ‘Concussion’ creates a much wider awareness of CTE, and the NFL has put much stricter measurements in place to reduce diagnoses of CTE.

9. Obama reframes global climate change as a public health issue. It should seem obvious that a clean environment is linked to public health,  but Obama’s climate change plan – the Clean Power Plan – aims to drastically reduce the amount of carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 32% in 2030. As coal plans reduce carbon emissions, they inadvertently reduce soot, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide pollutants that contribute to heart and lung disease. According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan may help avoid 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths by 2030. In December, world leaders agreed to save the world by reducing emissions to keep the temperature from climbing. A major win for Obama and mother earth alike.

8. Mammograms recommended for women starting at age 45 instead of 40. In October 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) revised their recommendation for women to receive annual mammograms at age 40 to 45, and move to every two years after 55. Increasing the age for this procedure is based on several studies that question the value of screening mammograms. According to these doctors, for each breast cancer death prevented from a mammogram, 3-4 women are ‘over diagnosed.’ Meaning that either the mammogram gave a false positive, or a mammogram found cancer that would’ve eventually been diagnosed as malignant by other means without any effect on prognosis. Over diagnosis means more tests, doctor visits, as well as physical, emotional, and economical costs. Read about the new mammogram guidelines in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

7. A hospital in Florida closes a paediatric cardiothoracic surgery center after a CNN investigation. St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida closed in August of 2015 after a CNN investigation found that the program had a 12.5%  mortality rate for open heart surgery – three times the national average. Shortly after, the CEO resigned. According to the CNN report, 9 babies have died after the surgery in the hospital, and another was left paralyzed. Read more about the report on CNN.

6. Martin Shkreli raises the price of Daraprim by 4,000%. Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of a drug called Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 a pill. The drug is mostly used to treat those with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV, cancer, and even pregnant women. The act was seen as a horrific, greedy, and all around inexplicable. While drug prices to do rise regularly, Shkreli’s price increase was seen as unfounded. The internet fought back against the young CEO, who paid 2 million dollars for a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album, and was recently arrested on securities fraud charges unrelated to the price increase of Daraprim.

5. Jimmy Carter is diagnosed with cancer, and then declared cancer free. Former US President Jimmy Carter, who turned 91 this year, was diagnosed with melanoma after small spots were discovered on his brain. Carter remained in good spirits after the diagnosis, thinking he only had weeks to live. However, after responding well to treatment, latest scans showed no presence of the original or new cancer spots. Until recent years, metastatic melanoma was considered a death sentence, and research on innovative treatments was limited. In 2011, the FDA approved new melanoma therapies, and since then 11 new therapies have been approved. Because of recent advancements in treating melanoma, Carter was able to beat cancer quickly and provide inspiration and hope to other patients and researchers alike.

4. New cases of diabetes is down for the first time in 25 years. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of new cases fell by 20% rom 2008 to 2014. After 25 years of increasing new cases year after year, new cases are finally starting to fall. In 2014, there were 1.4 million new cases, compared to 1.7 million new cases in 2008. However, we can’t be sure whether the fall is because of a rise in education and awareness, or because it has saturated the population. Dr. David M. Nathan, the director of the Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital said, “It’s not yet time to have a parade.” While the decline is evident, there is still much work to be done in the coming year.

3. Measles outbreak linked to an amusement park in California. In 2015, 189 from 24 states and Washington D.C. were diagnosed with measles. 113 of these cases were linked to an amusement park in California, according to the CDC. The majority of measles patients were unvaccinated, raising a nationwide debate about vaccinations and a link to autism, which medical professionals agree does not exist. The outbreak began from a traveler who was infected overseas with the measles because they were unvaccinated. According to the CDC, measles is a ‘highly contagious, acute viral illness that can lead to complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and death.’ Measles is a mostly contained disease because of the 2-dose vaccination given to young children.

2. Superbugs could kill up to 40,000 people in the next five years. As Americans take more antibiotics and medicines, drug-resistant infections could spread and become even more deadly than they  already are. The report calls for health care enters to work together to prevent infections, coming up with systems to control infections and better alert systems when an infection becomes present. The CDC continues to report that hospitals currently respond to outbreaks as one-man show, many not reporting them to local, state, or federal health departments. Basically, this approach isn’t working. Between bad systems and over-prescribed society, something has to change next year if we want to prevent up to 40,000 deaths.

1. Processed meat said cause cancer. This is a story you absolutely did not miss. The WHO announced in october that said processed meats – like hotdogs, sausage, ham, bacon (and turkey bacon) – cause cancer. It also said that red meat is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans.’ the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) reviewed 800 studies on the association of these types of meats with cancer from people all around the world. The IARC didn’t give us a ‘safe’ amount of red or processed meat to eat. There’s no evidence of a level that is declared safe or unsafe. Instead, the ACS recommends that we minimize processed and read meat in our diet, instead opting for fish, poultry, and beans.


What other health news did you find ground breaking this year? Let us know in the comments. And download Nutrino to start a healthy 2016.