A controversial paper on how to make the bird flu more virulent now published, new resource for young adults and their families on how health insurance works;  feds provide boost to community health centers. Those stories and more topping public health headlines today, Thursday, May 3, 2012.

The Public’s Health – Beyond epidemic, ‘The Weight of the Nation’ points to an obesity era
Philadelphia’s public health community descended on the Franklin Institute on Tuesday evening for a preview screening of The Weight of the Nation,  an HBO documentary series about obesity in America that will be shown May 14th and 15th at 8 p.m. The message is that the country’s obesity crisis is serious: 37 percent of adults are obese, as are 17 percent of kids. Its causes are complex and thoroughly intertwined with our cultural, economic, and physical environments. And, luckily, the whole situation is preventable.

Grand Forks Herald – 15 million babies, a year, born prematurely
About 15 million premature babies are born every year — more than 1 in 10 of the world’s births and a bigger problem than previously believed, according to the first country-by-country estimates of this obstetric epidemic. The startling toll: 1.1 million of these fragile newborns die as a result, and even those who survive can suffer lifelong disabilities.

Seattle Times –  Community health clinics in state get $19.2M from feds
The cramped 45th Street Medical & Dental Clinic in Wallingford will be renovated, the Greenwood Medical Clinic could double in size and the Columbia Health Center will get a remodel and extra exam rooms. Those are among the projects that will be paid for in part with $19.2 million in grants to community health clinics in Washington state announced by the Obama administration Tuesday.

Washington Post – A GOP ‘assault’ on women’s health?
First of all, it makes a difference whether you look at the current fiscal year (2012) or proposals for the next fiscal year (2013). In the current fiscal year, there is very little money specifically allocated to women’s health programs. Take a look at this list on the Department of Health and Human Services website, and you will see there is nothing specifically aimed at women, except perhaps $7 million for breastfeeding. Pelosi mentioned childhood immunization, and that’s there, but that’s more for children than women. But cervical cancer, breast cancer, birth defects — nope, unless you label programs on obesity and tobacco as preventing birth defects.

Young Invincibles -Friends With Benefits: Not Just For College Students
 We are excited to let you know about a great new resource for young adults and their families, to help explain how health insurance works, where to find it, and what the new law means for them.  We are partnering with Young Invincibles to bring you this free Health Care Toolkit.  It has information for your state and specific tips like how to stay covered up to age 26.   Share the Toolkit to help your family and friends get covered and stay healthy.  The Toolkit is available at http://www.gettingcovered.org/.

ScienceNOW – One of Two Hotly Debated H5N1 Papers Finally Published
One of two influenza papers at the center of an intense, 6-month international debate has finally seen the light of day. Today, Nature published a controversial study in ferrets that shows how scientists can engineer an avian influenza strain to transmit between mammals through respiratory droplets such as those created by coughing or sneezing.  The 11-page study, led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, describes how the research group stitched a mutated version of a key viral protein called hemagglutinin from the bird flu virus known as H5N1 onto the human H1N1 virus that caused a relatively mild pandemic in 2009. A mere four mutations in the avian hemagglutinin—the H5—allowed this hybrid virus to bind more strongly to mammalian cells and copy itself at high enough levels to readily transmit via respiratory droplets. If the same holds true in humans, that means the virus might be able to trigger a pandemic.