Inequality in Life ExpectancyA study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine shows that Americans’ average life expectancy at birth rose 5.3 years between 1980 and 2014, from 73.8 to 79.1 years. However, researchers found that the average life expectancy was 20.1 years lower in certain U.S. counties than in others. For example, Marin County, Calif., and Summit County, Colo., with affluent and highly educated populations, have among the highest life expectancies, while Oglala Lakota County, S.D., which has a poorer and less educated population, has the lowest in the nation. Overall, “counties in central Colorado, Alaska and along both coasts experienced much larger increases” in life expectancy “while counties in states stretching from Oklahoma to West Virginia saw little, if any, improvement over this same period.” Socio-economic factors such as race, education and income partly account for the differences; not surprisingly, so do rates of smoking, diabetes, hypertension and other health issues.

Urgent care vs. ED for cancer patients

More hospitals across the country are setting up urgent care centers specifically to treat cancer patients so they can avoid the emergency department, the Chicago Tribune reports. Unlike most EDs, the centers are always staffed by clinicians who specialize in the disease. The centers are often open in off hours or even around the clock. Patients undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that compromise their immune systems are able to avoid exposure to any germs that may be in the ED waiting room. And, as the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore have found, urgent care is less expensive than the ED and inpatient care, sometimes saving thousands of dollars.

Anti-vaxxers blamed for measles outbreak

Anti-Vaxers Cause Measle OutbreakMinnesota has been hit by the biggest outbreak of measles in decades, and health officials say out-of-state groups espousing the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism are largely at fault. Forty-eight people, mostly children from the Minneapolis area’s Somali community, have been infected, and 11 youngsters have been hospitalized with pneumonia and other dangerous complications, according to "NBC News." Anti-vaccine activists have gone door to door in the Somali community, as "NBC News" reports, “using language of personal freedom and conspiracy theory to paint a picture of cynical doctors colluding with greedy pharmaceutical companies to promote harmful vaccines.” Health workers are now taking the same direct approach to let residents know that research has found zero links between autism and the shots that can prevent sometimes deadly diseases.

Spaghetti doughnuts? Now they’ve gone too far

Doghnuts help feed obesityOK, this may be a stretch for a blog about health care stories, but I could make an argument — feeble, perhaps — that the trend among professional bakers to create weirder and weirder kinds of doughnuts is contributing to our planet’s obesity crisis. Instead, just for the fun of it, I invite you to read the hilarious rant in Bloomberg News titled “Doughnuts Are on a Global Rampage, and They Must Be Stopped.” The authors, Kate Krader and Chris Rovzar, once counted themselves among doughnuts’ biggest champions — even as they evolved with unconventional flavors like Creamsicle or Mexican Hot Chocolate. But now, the pastries have “officially jumped the shark,” Krader and Rovzar contend, with perfectly respectable restaurants offering variations like The Ripple, comprising three concentric doughnut rings the size of a large pizza. Or another that offers spaghetti Bolognese “forced into doughnut clothing.” Or the place in Austin, Texas, that serves the Drunken Hunk, “a doughnut topped with a mound of bacon-wrapped meatloaf, potato pancake and candied jalapenos.” Read the article and you might burn a few calories chuckling and shaking your head at how far the world has fallen.