Health officials indicate that the flu season is nearing its end; new report shows an increase in consumers ordering lower calorie restaurant items; and Texas mental health care funding shows little movement. Read these and more public health news stories for Feb. 11, 2013.

USA Today – Flu season nearing the end, health officials say
The worst of this year’s flu season should be over in most of the country in two to three weeks except for the West Coast, where the flu arrived later, health officials said Friday.
“We’re not at the end but we’re nearing the end,” said Michael Jhung, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York Times – Smoking, once used to reward, faces a ban in mental hospital
Annelle S., 64, who has paranoid schizophrenia, took an urgent drag on a cigarette at a supervised outdoor smoke break at Southeast Louisiana Hospital.
“It’s mandatory to smoke,” she explained. “It’s a mental institution, and we have to smoke by law.”
That was 18 months ago, and Annelle’s confusion was understandable. Until recently, Louisiana law required psychiatric hospitals to accommodate smokers — unlike rules banning smoking at most other health facilities. The law was changed last year, and by March 30, smoking is supposed to end at Louisiana’s two remaining state psychiatric hospitals.

Washington Post Blogs – Fewer Americans want fries with that
Restaurant portion sizes have exploded in recent decades. A fast food soda is six times bigger now, than it was 60 years ago. Burger size has grown threefold.
new report from the Hudson Institute picks up on a more recent, countervailing trend: Fast food restaurants are gravitating towards lower calories options – and customers are buying them.
The report looked at the offerings in 21 chain restaurants, ranging from Burger King to Panera Bread in 2006 and 2011. “Low-calorie” offerings were defined, for an entree as fewer than 500 calories. For a dessert, anything less than 150 calories made the cut.

Dallas Morning News – Texas mental health care funding has stagnated, even as calls to boost efforts grow
The gun-violence debate following the Newtown school shootings has included calls for boosting mental health services, but in Texas, that’s a tall order.
The state ranks 49th in mental health spending, and preliminary budgets in the Legislature so far show little movement toward undoing lawmakers’ cuts to community mental health services two years ago.


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