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Health Highlights: Nov. 21, 2013

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Most Health Improvement Initiatives Show Progress: CDC

Efforts to improve Americans' health in seven key areas by 2015 are making progress, according to an interim report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2010, the agency said it would focus attention and money in six areas: smoking, HIV/AIDS, obesity and nutrition, teen pregnancy, auto injuries and infections that spread at hospitals. It later added food safety, the Associated Press reported.

CDC officials said they're mostly pleased with the findings of the first progress report.

"There's clearly A's here and there's clearly things that aren't A's," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, told the AP. "Overall, I'm quite encouraged."

The report card said there were significant reductions in traffic accident deaths, teen births and three types of infections spread at hospitals and other health care facilities, and good progress in lowering smoking and childhood obesity rates.

There was mixed success in the area of HIV/AIDS. While more people have been tested and more know about their infection, there's been no change in estimated of new HIV infections each year, the AP reported.

There was no improvement in food safety, according to the CDC.


J&J Announces $2.5B Settlement for Hip Implant Lawsuits

Johnson & Johnson says it will pay $2.5 billion to settle lawsuits over faulty hip replacements, making it one of the largest settlements paid out in the medical device industry.

The agreement presented in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio, resolves about 8,000 cases involving patients who had to have the metal ball-and-socket hip implant -- called the ASR Hip System -- removed or replaced, the Associated Press reported.

The metal implant was pulled from the market in 2010 after data showed that it failed sooner than older types of plastic or ceramic hip implants.

The settlement announced late Tuesday provides about $250,000 per patient and covers those whose implants were removed or replaced before Aug. 31, 2013. Most of the patients are expected to receive their payments in 2014, the AP reported.

J&J's lawyers have denied that the company acted improperly.

The deal does not cover all lawsuits related to the hip implant, J&J's DePuy unit said in a statement. "DePuy will continue to defend against remaining claims and believes its actions related to the ASR Hip System have been appropriate and responsible," the company said.

The ASR Hip System was sold for eight years and used in about 35,000 patients in the United States and more than 90,000 worldwide. Production of the hip implant was halted in 2009 and it was recalled in 2010, the AP reported.

Internal J&J documents suggest that company officials knew about problems with the device at last as far back as 2008. And a 2011 company review of a patient registry said that more than one-third of the hip implants were expected to fail within five years of implantation, the AP reported.

Replacement hips are generally supposed to last at least 10 to 20 years, according to the news service.


Obese Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers Must Be Checked for Sleep Disorder: FAA

Obese pilots and air traffic controllers in the United States will soon have to undergo screening to determine if their excess weight is causing them to lose sleep and therefore affecting their work performance, the Federal Aviation Administration says.

Agency officials explained that overweight people are at increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder that impairs sleep and can cause drowsiness when people are awake, FoxNews.com reported.

"Airman applicants with a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or more will have to be evaluated by a physician who is a board certified sleep specialist," FAA's air surgeon, Fred Tilton, wrote in a recent FAA medical bulletin. "Anyone who is diagnosed with OSA will have to be treated before they can be medically certificated."

Body mass index is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. People with a BMI of 40 and higher are considered extremely obese.

The memo also says that the FAA plans to expand the screening program to include those with a BMI of 30, FoxNews.com reported. People with a BMI of 30 are considered moderately obese.

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