The year 2012 brought plenty of health news that caught everyone’s attention. From health care politics and zombie attacks, to scary national and global disease epidemics.
Among the many 2012 health news, some of these seemed to really leave a mark and a few changed the health care panorama of the nation and the world.
1. The Affordable Care Act: Probably one the most—if not the most—important health news of 2012, the Affordable Care Act survived Supreme Court scrutiny and will bring affordable health insurance coverage to approximately 30 million additional people in the United States. The health care plan eliminated lifetime limitations and exclusion policies; provided cost-effective prescription plans for seniors; allowed children to remain on parents’ policies until age 26; and created no-cost wellness screenings and test programs to encourage preventative health. The news were particularly positive for minorities, children and women, and made a central component of the presidential race of 2012. ACA is the health law of the land and here to stay, at least four more years.
2. New York City bans sugary beverages: There was public outcry when New York City’s mayor placed a ban on large sizes of soda and other sugary beverages in an effort to help combat the nation’s growing issue with obesity. While people were up in arms about the restrictions (and government intervention), Mayor Bloomberg held his ground, indicating it was his response to statistic showing more than 50 percent of the city’s residents were classified as obese. This was definitely one of the most controversial health news in 2012.
3. Whitney Houston’s death: One of the most shocking health news of 2012 was headlines about Whitney Houston’s death in her hotel room apparently from a drug overdose. Houston’s death was also a result of progressing atherosclerosis, better known as hardening of the arteries, which made the term one of the most searched health topics during 2012. Additionally, Houston’s death was among Google’s top search queries, even topping “Gangnam style”.
4. Obesity is not about looks, it’s a global health epidemic: Many of the health news of 2012 centered on the growing issue of obesity, not just in the United States, but around the world. As obesity cases continue to rise, so do the cases of obesity-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Awareness on the dangers of obesity brought to light a number of studies regarding healthy eating, exercise and the importance of access to preventative health care. Obesity was definitely a big fat health news in 2012 and one sure to roll over for the next few years.
5. AIDS spread and HIV at-home tests: Early detection is important when it comes to HIV, which affects more than 34 million individuals around the globe, many of them unaware of their status. The first ever over the counter home HIV test offered a way for early detection and thus earlier treatment, and was an important step in the war against the spread of AIDS, which made the product release a highlight in 2012 health news.
6. Miami zombie attack: People all around the world were stunned when a man, reportedly under the influence of synthetic drugs, attacked a homeless individual and ate off portions of his face, gouging out his eyes. While coroner reports eventually ruled out hard-core drugs as the cause of the horrific attack, the incident, which was followed by a handful of other bizarre attacks, called attention and raised awareness on the dangers of new designer street drugs (and incidentally made “zombie attack” one of the most searched terms in 2012).
7. Lance Armstrong guilty of blood doping: After years of fighting with the World Anti-Doping Agency, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven cycling titles and deemed guilty of blood doping. The news story put strain on Armstrong’s charity, which is said to be more influential in helping cancer survivors than larger national organizations such as the American Cancer Society.
8. Marijuana legalized in some states: Marijuana was in the news consistently during 2012 as movements to legalize the substance eventually won out in some states. The rulings met with strong opposition and support, and now questions have been raised regarding regulation and public safety monitoring. It also revived the ever-going discussion on weed’s health effects. One university has gone so far as to create a program dedicated only to the study of marijuana so the medical community may start to answer some important questions regarding the substance. Medical marijuana was also a top health news, including a few cases of use in pediatric patients.
9. Meningitis outbreak: Contaminated steroid injections led to a number of deaths in the country and sickened thousands with fungal meningitis. In addition to the steroids, a number of other products, including ointments and creams, were recalled. The outbreak reminded the public of the potential risks associated with all manufactured medications and placed scrutiny on the FDA’s monitoring policies and compounding pharmacies.
10. Hugo Chávez rhabdomyosarcoma cancer: One of the top health news of 2012, especially for the Hispanic population, was Hugo Chávez’s health condition. The media is still keeping tabs on Chávez’s health status, which was originally brought to light by reporter Dan Rather. The news brought attention to a rare form of cancer most commonly found in children and teenagers, and added a strong component to the already controversial political situation in Venezuela.
11. Pink slime in schools: People were shocked when pink slime appeared in the kitchens of schools around the country; however the slime, which was a combination of beef byproducts, garnered more attention when it was revealed it had added ammonia. The pink slime revelation brought attention to the need for better school lunch regulations, and a number of state and government policies have since been implemented to improve student diet.
12. Energy drinks linked to deaths: For a number of years the FDA has been collecting information on adverse effects related to energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster drink. Not only have some individuals been hospitalized after consuming these popular products, some deaths have been reported as well. The reports placed further emphasis on the dangers associated with too much caffeine and led to many faithful consumers to desist buying the products.
13. Spanx and shape wear not so good for health: For years now, women around the world have been focused on looking fit. Many of them turned to shape wear to help them acquire the desired look. In fact, Spanx was one of the top growing companies in the last few years. So it was a shock when news brought attention to the potential health risks associated with the use of shape wear. Unfortunately, the tight clothing has had a number of reports on adverse health effects, including the potential for nerve damage.
14. Health care jobs to hit 5.6 million: Despite troubles with the economy, one area saw (and continues seeing) growth: health care. With an estimated 5.6 million new jobs opening by 2020, health care was one of the top industries in 2012. Hispanic doctors in particular are in shortage, and the demand for work in the health care industry will offer opportunities for people of all backgrounds.
15. Genetically modified foods: Top health news of 2012—GMOs. People all around the United States, as well as those in other countries, were made aware of the prevalence of genetically modified organisms in their food supply when a study on Monsanto corn products revealed negative health effects on laboratory rats. The ensuing actions led to the products being banned in certain parts of Europe and created a demand in the U.S. for better food labeling protocols. Then, in November, Prop 37 was defeated. The proposal put on the California ballot to create new labeling requirements for genetically modified organisms was supported by individuals advocating the public’s right to know what ingredients were in their food. Had Prop 37 passed, Californians would have known which foods on the shelves contained GMOs.
16. Flesh eating bacteria: People reading health news were captivated in 2012 by the story of Aimee Copeland, a young woman who went through multiple amputations in order to save her life from a flesh eating bacteria. Aimee injured her leg during a zip line accident, and the wound later became infected with Aeromonas hydrophila bacteria.
17. Teen pregnancies hit 40-year low: Teenage pregnancies hit a 40-year low during 2012, though both non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics still surpassed non-Hispanic whites in teen pregnancies. Though the numbers were positive, many people were opposed to more school-involved programs to provide birth control to students.
18. Plan B birth control pills become available in schools: New York City schools decided in 2012 one of the best ways to teach students about safe sex was to offer the morning after pill, better known as Plan B, to students for free. The Plan B pill works by controlling certain hormones, thus preventing ovulation in the case of unprotected intercourse. The decision was ill received by parents and educators who believed it might promote unsafe sex among teens and such decisions, such as taking emergency contraception pills, should not be made without a parent’s consent.
19. Graphic smoking ads released: In an effort to bring awareness to the public about the dangers of smoking, graphic television commercials were released showing the physical and emotional damage caused by tobacco use. Once released, the videos and posters made headlines both in print, online and television media outlets.
20. The Hispanic paradox: The Hispanic paradox, real or not, made health news headlines during 2012 as more attention was placed on Hispanic health by the new Office of Minority Health. The topic has brought attention to the need for better health guidelines specific to Hispanics and other minorities, who are expected to become one of the countries majority populations within the next few decades.
21. Cranberry and UTI: While not a national headline-maker, readers of VOXXI visited the story on cranberries and urinary tract infections (UTIs) enough to rank it among the top five stories written in 2012. The article touched on both the positives and the negatives of using cranberry juice, and warned of the possibility of interstitial cystitis, which mimics UTI symptoms.