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Health News in Brief

You Can Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the leading cause of death for babies older than one month, and it remains a mystery despite years of medical research. Researchers have been able to find SIDS-related trends by studying why otherwise health babies die suddenly, and they've found parenting methods that reduce the death rate. Researchers have also found that American Indian babies are three times as likely to die of SIDS as white babies.

According to the website, there are patterns to SIDS deaths. Most SIDS deaths occur while the baby is between two and four months old, and most occur in colder months. Babies put to sleep on their stomachs are much more likely to die of SIDS than babies placed on their backs.

Photo of Mother with SIDS Child

The first and most important thing parents can do is put their babies to sleep on their backs, researchers say. This is relatively new advice - about a decade old. Other suggested practices include:

  • Put the baby on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib. Soft mattresses, sofas, waterbeds and other soft surfaces are dangerous; so are fluffy and loose bedding.

  • Remove all soft material, including pillows, quilts, stuffed toys and other soft items, from the crib; make sure that the baby's face and head stay uncovered during sleep.

  • Keep the baby warm, but don't allow the baby to get too warm.

  • Parents, especially mothers, should not smoke either before or after the birth of a child and should create a smoke-free zone around the baby at home.

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HHS Launches AI/AN Diabetes Education Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a public awareness campaign called "We Have the Power to Prevent Diabetes," aimed at fighting diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives. Research finds that 40 percent of all adults ages 40 to 74 -- about 41 million people -- have pre-diabetes, a condition that raises a person's risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. American Indians and Alaska Natives, however, are twice as likely to develop diabetes as whites.

Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program is sponsoring the public awareness program as part of its "Small Steps. Big Rewards. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes" campaign, which targets groups at highest risk for diabetes. "We Have the Power to Prevent Diabetes" uses testimonials from American Indians and Alaska Natives who have made lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes and encourages others to take up the charge. The campaign promotes the idea that AI/AN communities can fight the high incidence of Type 2 diabetes by losing a modest amount of weight, eating less and making healthier food choices.

"Diabetes is ravaging our community. We, as Native Americans, must spread the word about the many ways we can beat this devastating disease," said Tom John, director of the Chickasaw Nation Health System's Diabetes Care Center, who helped develop the campaign.

The National Diabetes Education Program is federally-funded and co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is a leading source for information about diabetes care and prevention. For more information about the diabetes prevention campaign and free materials, including tip sheets and the GAMEPLAN for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes -- tools to help people lose weight, get active and track their progress -- visit the NDEP Web site at or call (800) 438-5383.

Olive Oil May Be Better for the Heart, says FDA

Photo of The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given tepid approval to the notion that olive oil may be better for your heart than other kinds of oils that are high in saturated fat. The FDA approval gives producers permission to put information on labeling that touts the benefits of olive oil to a heart healthy diet.

The American Heart Association says that coronary heart disease accounted for one in every five deaths in 2001 -- about 502,189 deaths. In addition, another 13.2 million Americans survived heart attacks related to coronary heart disease. The group recommends that the risk of developing heart disease can be decreased by quitting smoking, exercising, lowering cholesterol and eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. The group did not endorse or reject the FDA's olive oil position.

The FDA approval allows producers to say that "limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil." This is only the third time that the FDA has allowed a limited beneficial health claim for a conventional food product.

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New Health Center Dedicated for Jicarilla Apache Nation

Dulce, New Mexico -- The Indian Health Service and the Jicarilla Apache Nation have dedicated a new $10.5 million health care facility that will serve about 4,000 Indians living in the Jicarilla area. The 65,000-square-foot facility was built as part of an innovative joint construction arrangement with the IHS and the Jicarilla Nation. The facility is owned by the tribe and will be leased to the IHS under a no-cost 20-year lease.

The facility provides space for comprehensive educational, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health service programs and will incorporate high-tech distance medical services via computer access. The center expects to add 40 new positions to its 50 member staff. The IHS will provide the initial equipment for the center.

"This facility demonstrates the successful exercise of self-determination by the Jicarilla Apache Nation and their dedication to improving the quality of health care services provided to their members," remarked Indian Health Service Director Dr. Charles W. Grim. The tribe has named the new health center nah'o n a'ch'idle'ee, which means "a place to get well."

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Lactose Intolerance Can Spoil the Joy of Dairy Foods

Photo of a Glass of MilkAs many as 75 percent of all American Indians are affected by lactose intolerance, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The condition is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down milk sugar in the body, and is more prevalent in racial and ethnic groups than among peoples of northern European descent.

Symptoms of the condition can include gas, bloating, nausea, cramps and diarrhea, and can begin anywhere from a half hour to two hours after consuming food that contains milk sugar, or lactose. But symptoms and their severity can vary between sufferers, and experts advise that you should find out which foods you can eat and which ones you should avoid. Commercially available dietary supplements such as Dairy Ease and Lactaid, taken in advance of eating products with dairy, can also ease or prevent the suffering.

"While I don't have any statistics about how many children are diagnosed, I can tell you that it is estimated that 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant," says Laura Rodgers, pediatric dietitian at the University Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. "And it is real prevalent in a lot of ethnic groups such as African Americans, American Indians, Asians, Hispanics and Jewish people."

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Headlands Indian Health Careers Program

NORMAN, OK -- The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is accepting applications for its 2005 Headlands Indian Health Careers Program, to be held June 5 through July 30, 2005, on the OU Norman campus.

American Indian high school seniors and first-year college students who are interested in pursuing a career in the health professions are encouraged to apply for this eight-week program offering courses in calculus, chemistry, physics and biology, designed to prepare students for the required college-level math and science coursework in pre-health programs.

Travel, lodging and meal expenses will be provided for each student accepted into the program. Applications for the Headlands program can be found at or call (405) 271-2250. Application deadline is March 15, 2005.

The Headlands program is sponsored by the Oklahoma Native American EXPORT Center with funding from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health.

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