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Primary care doctor shortage creates critical void, leaving field's future uncertain

The nation is short about 16,000 primary care doctors according to a recent Senate report, and that shortage is expected to grow to about 52,000 by 2025.
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A recent Senate report said the country is short about 16,000 primary care doctors – and that shortage is only expected to grow.

That's especially troubling for people in the public health and medical fields, since a soon-to-be-enacted provision of the Affordable Care Act will extend Medicaid to millions of Americans – begging the question of who, exactly, will treat them.

A recent study in the Annals of Family Medicine estimated there are nearly 209,000 primary care providers in the U.S.

That's a big number, but with population growth, aging and the changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, experts say today's shortage of 16,000 primary care physicians will grow to about 52,000 by 2050.

That's also a big number – but it's a bigger problem.

Why the shortage of primary care doctors?


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A TB outbreak in the City of Angels and relationship anxiety: In health news today

A manufacturing plant in Maryland prepares small glass vials that will hold tuberculosis vaccine. L.A. County's public health director called the outbreak in Downtown L.A.'s Skid Row the largest in a decade.
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In today's health news:

Local and federal health officials are trying to contain an outbreak of tuberculosis in Downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row, reports KPCC. As many as 4,600 people may have been exposed to the potentially lethal disease. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department's director said the outbreak is the largest in a decade.

This season's flu vaccine was only 55 percent effective, according to a federal analysis. The percentage represents the proportion of flu patients for whom the vaccine worked. Reuters says the vaccine "largely failed to protect the elderly" against a strain of the virus that was particularly deadly. "We simply need a better vaccine against influenza," said the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A drug therapy for breast cancer called Kadcyla has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, reports Bloomberg. Kadcyla is able to narrowly target cancerous cells for chemotherapy without affecting healthy cells.


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Fast food makes up more than 11 percent of average adult's daily calories

One finding of a new federal report was that as people get older, they eat less fast food.
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More than 11 percent of the average adult's daily calories come from fast food, according to a new federal report – but that's less than it was about a decade ago.

A data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics looked at how much fast food contributed to adults' daily caloric intake between 2007 and 2010, and compared that to the period between 2003 and 2006.

Between 2003 and 2006, an average of 12.8 percent of the calories adults consumed every day came courtesy of fast food joints.

That proportion dipped to 11.3 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The report's other findings:

  • The percentage of daily calories that come from fast food is higher among black adults than other ethnicities. More than 21 percent of the daily calories consumed by black adults between 20 and 39 years of age comes from fast food.
  • As people get older, they eat much less fast food. For folks between 20 and 39, 15.3 percent of their daily calories come from fast food; for their elderly counterparts, that drops to 6 percent.
  • Overall, there didn't seem to be a difference in how many daily calories came from fast food based on income. But researchers did find that as young adults became richer, they ate less fast food.


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Medical experts: Doctors should think twice before ordering these 90 tests, procedures

A feeding tube. One of 90 tests and procedures that medical societies implored doctors to think twice about was using feeding tubes in patients with dementia.

A campaign sponsored by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) has released a list of 90 medical procedures and tests that health providers shouldn't perform in certain situations.

The Choosing Wisely campaign "is focused on encouraging physicians, patients and other health care stakeholders to think and talk about medical tests and procedures that may be unnecessary, and in some instances cause harm."

In other words, the initiative is looking to cut back on worthless care – the overuse of tests and procedures – that in some cases could harm the same patients it's trying to help.

Why so many tests and procedures?

Unnecessary procedures aren't usually something patients in the safety net have to worry about, said Nina Vaccaro, the executive director of the Southside Coalition of Community Health Clinics.


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Move over Beyoncé: Big Bird is the newest star in Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign

Mrs. Obama and Big Bird star in two new public service announcements for her "Let's Move" campaign.
screenshot of PSA

In the three years of her "Let's Move" campaign, Michelle Obama has employed the help of America's biggest stars.

First was Beyoncé's catchy work out video and surprise school appearances, and now there's Big Bird.

The giant yellow-feathered favorite is the newest star to join the First Lady in her quest to promote a healthier, more active America.

Mrs. Obama and Big Bird star together in new public service announcements (PSA) that will be distributed to 320 PBS Stations by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street.

"The new PSAs feature Mrs. Obama and Big Bird in the White House showing kids how easy and delicious it is to eat healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables and demonstrating fun ways to get active like dancing and jumping," according to a statement from the White House.


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