Despite progress toward preventing the spread of malaria, the world is moving too slowly toward elimination of the disease, which still claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, the World Health Organization said. On the positive side, children and pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa have greater access to tools that stop the transmission of malaria. Diagnostic testing for children and preventive treatment for pregnant women has risen steeply across the region over the last five years, and the use of nets treated with insecticide has expanded rapidly. But overall progress toward eliminating the spread of the disease is threatened by “substantial gaps” in the number of people with access to those measures and the fragile health systems that exist in many countries, the health agency said.

Third of long-term opioid users addicted

One-third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months say they became addicted to, or physically dependent on, the powerful painkillers, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Virtually all of the 622 long-term users surveyed said that they were introduced to the drugs by a doctor’s prescription. But more than 6 in 10 said doctors offered no advice on how or when to stop taking the drugs. And 1 in 5 said doctors provided insufficient information about the risk of side effects. Opioid deaths surged to more than 30,000 last year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Handful of nuts a day may be good for heart

A handful of nuts a day may be enough to reduce the risk for death from heart disease and other ills. In a review combining data from 20 prospective studies, researchers found that compared with people who ate the least nuts, people who ate the most reduced the risk for coronary heart disease by 29 percent, for cardiovascular disease by 21 percent and for cancer by 15 percent. There was also a 52 percent reduced risk for respiratory disease, 39 percent for diabetes and 75 percent reduced risk for infectious disease in people who ate the most nuts. Most of the reduction was achieved by eating an average of about 1 ounce of nuts a day.

Tax sugar, not soda, for better results

While there’s evidence that soda taxes reduce soda consumption, economists say there is a very simple way to more effectively reduce sugar and sweetener intake. In a nutshell, don’t tax the soda — tax the sugar it contains. According to a new research report by the Urban Institute, such an approach would reduce both sugar consumption and consumer burden more than volume taxes, which tax beverages by the fluid ounce. What’s more, they might also encourage manufacturers to reformulate some high-sugar beverages.

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