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Birth control use rose over 2 decades; about 221 million women worldwide still lack access to modern methods

Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of an L.A. drug store. Experts estimate that by 2015, around 233 million women worldwide will lack access to modern methods of birth control.
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Birth control became a lot more common over the past couple of decades, but the number of women worldwide who lack access to modern methods of contraception, like the pill or intrauterine devices (IUDs), still tops 200 million.

That's according to a new study appearing in the Lancet, which found that in 2010, more than 63 percent of the world's married women of reproductive age (ages 15-49) reported using modern forms of contraception. That was up from about 55 percent in 1990.

Researchers also found that the percentage of women who had trouble accessing birth control decreased during that same 20-year window – from about 15 percent to about 12 percent.

Still, about 146 million women are estimated to have an "unmet need" for birth control, and that number jumps to 221 million if women who use "traditional methods" – periodic abstinence or pulling out, for example – are included.


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Birth control shortages and mummy hearts: In health news today

Prescription contraceptives for women sit on the counter of a drug store in Los Angeles. An estimated 233 million women worldwide will lack access to birth control in 2015.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In today's health news:

More than 63 percent of married women worldwide use contraception, says a new study in the Lancet, which marks an 8-percent increase from 1990. The global unmet need for birth control shrank from 15 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2010, said researchers, but because of population growth and a growing awareness of family planning, an estimated 233 million women around the world will have an unmet need for contraception by 2015.

Children who are seriously ill may have a higher risk of dying if they're obese, says a new study, which cautions that the findings are "suggestive" and not conclusive. HealthDay says while the authors don't yet feel confident enough to say whether obesity can cause higher mortality, any evidence that that's true could have major implications.


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Bloomberg's sugary drink ban: What's the role of government in promoting healthy lifestyles?

New York resident Jasmine Batista displays a 21-ounce soda she purchased at McDonald's in Manhattan in September 2013. The drink in her hand would have been banned if New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's sugary drink ban had been successful, but a judge put a hold on it on Monday, the day before it was set to go into effect.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's large sugary drink ban has been put on hold the day before it was set to take effect.

The mayor announced in June that in an effort to combat obesity, the city would ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at certain venues, including sodas. The law was an attempt to regulate portion size; consumers wouldn't be banned from getting refills, nor would they be prohibited from buying four 16-ounce drinks in order to quench their thirst for 48 ounces of cola.

Those loopholes are problematic, wrote New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling in his ruling on Monday, because they "effectively defeat the stated purpose" of the law.

Alexander Capron, a professor of law at USC who specializes in health policy and medical ethics, agrees with that assessment.


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US health plans aren't on track to meet future minimum coverage requirements, says analysis

A young patient at South Central Family Health Center in South Los Angeles. Fewer than one in five health insurance plans in the U.S. were found to cover pediatric care in a recent analysis by HealthPocket.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

A comparison of more than 11,000 health insurance plans found that fewer than 2 percent are ready to meet minimum coverage standards that will go into effect in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.

Those minimum coverage standards are known as "essential health benefits," which every U.S. health insurance plan must cover starting next year. HealthPocket, a company that ranks and compares plans, used these benefits as a gauge in its analysis of whether insurers nationwide are ready to meet the new standards.

The verdict? If the Affordable Care Act's essential health benefits requirement went into effect today, more than 98 percent of health plans would be in big trouble.

On average, U.S. health plans cover 76 percent of essential health benefits. (That includes partial or limited coverage.) California did better than that – health plans in the Golden State covered, on average, 89 percent of essential health benefits. That wasn't as good as No. 1-ranked Massachusetts, where the average is 94 percent, but it was way better than No. 50-ranked Alaska, where the average is just 66 percent.


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Weakened whooping cough protection and dangerous daylight saving: In health news today

Statistically speaking, the day after spring daylight saving time may be one of the most dangerous days of the year. (Albert Lynn/Flickr Creative Commons)
Albert Lynn/Flickr Creative Commons

Obese women who have recently given birth appear to be twice as likely as women of normal weight to have a heart attack or a stroke. HealthDay says researchers were able to prove a strong association between obesity and increased risk – although not a cause-and-effect relationship – even though heart attacks and strokes among this age group are rare.

Another finding about maternal obesity: Research appearing in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology says the children of mothers who are obese before becoming pregnant have a risk of frequent wheezing that's around four times higher than children whose mothers are a normal weight. Frequent wheezing is one of the symptoms of asthma.

The vaccine that preschool-age children get to protect them against whooping cough may start losing its effectiveness a few years later, says a new study. Reuters reports that experts think the cause can be traced back to the '90s, when doctors switched the whooping cough vaccine to one that worked well in the short-term but perhaps offered less long-term protection.


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