Health Highlights: Aug 11, 2015

Health Highlights: Aug 11, 2015

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Fatigue a Major Problem for U.S. Air Traffic Controllers

Fatigue is a major problem among air traffic controllers in the United States, affecting their ability to do their job and putting airline passengers at risk, according to a Federal Aviation Administration study.

It found that nearly 20 percent of air traffic controllers made significant errors in the previous year — such as guiding planes too close to each other — and that more than half of the controllers blamed the errors on fatigue, the Associated Press reported.

One-third of controllers said fatigue was a “high” or “extreme” safety risk.

More than 60 percent of controllers said that in the previous year they had fallen asleep or had a lapse in attention while driving to or from midnight shifts. Controllers averaged 5.8 hours of sleep per night during the work week, and averaged only 3.1 hours before midnight shifts and 5.4 hours before early morning shifts, the AP reported.

The study included more than 3,200 air traffic controllers who were asked about their sleep habits and work schedules, and more than 200 who underwent sleep and mental alertness monitoring.

The study was completed nearly four years ago, but not released by the FAA. However, the AP obtained a draft of the final report dated Dec. 1, 2011.


School ‘Fat Letters’ Don’t Work: Study

School programs to monitor students’ weight and send updates home have almost no effect, a new study finds.

Schools in 10 states are required to send these notifications — so-called “fat letters” — home to parents. In 2003, Arkansas became the first state to implement this type of program, The New York Times reported.

This study of high school juniors and seniors in Arkansas found that students whose families received the updates showed no notable improvement in body mass index (BMI – an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) scores after two years, compared to those whose families did not receive the updates.

The study in The Journal of Adolescent Health raises questions about the use of the letters.

“The typical 16-year-old’s reaction to getting a letter at home and having your parents tell you to eat right and exercise, would be, ‘Don’t nag me,’ ” study author Kevin Gee, assistant professor of education policy, University of California, Davis, told The Times.

A 2011 study of younger students in California yielded similar findings about the use of such letters, and many health, parent and educator groups oppose such programs.

“There is so much stigma with being overweight, and children in adolescence are particularly sensitive to that,” Mary Story, an expert on teen obesity at Duke University, told The Times. “In some schools, there is no privacy screen when they’re being weighed, and the process is embarrassing for them.”

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