The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health Awareness Week; survey suggests babies eating solid food too early, reports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and how can you avoid allergies this spring? These stories and more top public health news on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

HHSStatement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on LGBT Health Awareness Week
Shortly after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, President Obama asked me to identify steps we could take at the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As we mark the beginning of LGBT Health Awareness Week, I am proud to say that we have been working hard to ensure LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections as other Americans. For example, we have released rules requiring Medicare and Medicaid-participating hospitals to allow visitation rights for same-sex partners. This means LGBT Americans now have the same opportunities as other Americans to be with their families and loved ones when they are sick. LGBT Americans have experienced – and continue to experience – health disparities and are more likely than other Americans to be uninsured or underinsured. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act, our major national health surveys are beginning to include data on LGBT populations. This will give us the information we need to target and reduce disparities among this group going forward.

New York Times — Many babies fed solid food too soon, CDC finds
Despite growing warnings from pediatricians about feeding newborns anything other than breast milk or formula, many mothers appear to be introducing solid food well before their babies’ bodies can handle it, says a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. In a national survey of 1,334 mothers, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40 percent said they gave their baby solid food before they were 4 months old, with 9 percent starting as early as 4 weeks. Doctors now recommend waiting until a baby is at least 6 months old. For at least 20 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics had advised against feeding babies solid food before they turned at least 4 months old. Last year, encouraged by growing evidence of the health benefits of breast milk, the group raised that age, saying babies should be fed nothing but breast milk for six months. When breast milk is not an option, formula is an acceptable alternative, the group says.

Huffington Post7 ways to prepare for spring allergies
You can feel it in the air — spring allergies are fast approaching. With the changing of the seasons comes an increase of pollen and mold in the environment, which means a lot of people are going to be reaching for a box of tissues. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), pollen season can begin as early as February and last through October, although weather patterns and your location can alter the start and end dates. If you’re already dreading the return of sneezing, sniffles, stuffiness and itchy, watery or dry eyes, take steps to keep allergy symptoms from activating your immune system.

BBC NewsSocial isolation ‘increases death risk in older people’
Social isolation is associated with a higher risk of death in older people regardless of whether they consider themselves lonely, research suggests. A study of 6,500 UK men and women aged over 52 found that being isolated from family and friends was linked with a 26% higher death risk over seven years. Whether or not participants felt lonely did not alter the impact of social isolation on health. Age UK says cuts to services for older people are compounding the problem. It is not the first time that loneliness and social isolation has been linked with poor health.

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