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Consumer Reports Health News - August 2009

YONKERS, N.Y., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Welcome to Consumer Reports Health News for health and medical journalists. Consumer Reports and cover issues pertaining to the efficacy and safety of prescription and non-prescription drugs (including natural medicines), mental health, diet and nutrition, food safety, and fitness. Consumer Reports tests health and fitness products, rates the effectiveness and affordability of prescription drugs, and evaluates the claims made by drug companies and the health care industry - all without commercial agendas or advertiser influence.


A large body of research shows that hospitals vary widely on quality of care. For that reason, Consumer Reports has developed Hospital Ratings based on survey responses from more than 1 million patients that include how well doctors communicate, how attentive the hospital staff is, and more. Higher patient ratings often mean higher quality of care, so consumers can use these Hospital Ratings to get better care in the hospital - and to do better when they get out. This information, on 3,400 U.S. hospitals, is available to subscribers of


Just how safe and sanitary are hospitals? Side-by-side surveys conducted by Consumer Reports show startlingly different conclusions from two very different perspectives: those of nurses and those of patients. While 28 percent of nurses perceive problems with hospital cleanliness, only 4 percent of patients think cleanliness is an issue. And according to 26 percent of nurses, hand washing is lax in many hospitals - even though only 5 percent of patients think it's a problem.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says doctors and nurses should wash their hands in front of patients when they enter the room, in order to prevent infection. And if they don't, it's up to the patient to remind them. While that's not easy to do, Consumer Reports has several suggestions for how to broach the subject. To read the full report, go to


Hospital discharge is a crucial moment in medical care, when many things can - and too often do - go wrong. According to John Santa., M.D., director of the Consumer Reports Health Rating Center, up to half of discharged patients experience drug errors, in part because doctors don't always double-check for interactions or adequately explain the proper use of the drugs they prescribe. Patients also often go home without fully understanding the warning signs to watch for and type of follow-up care they need. That's part of the reason why 15 to 20 percent of hospital patients are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.

Dr. Santa advises consumers to start planning for leaving the hospital before checking. They should start with asking their physicians about what sort of services or equipment they might need when they get home, and check with their insurers about coverage. They should find out in advance who will oversee their hospital care, and line up a few friends or family friends who can act as advocates for them while they're in the hospital and help coordinate follow-up care after discharge. Dr. Santa recommends making a checklist, so that consumers know what to watch out for when they get home, how to address potential problems, and what kind of follow-up care they should get. To read Dr. Santa's article, go to


Fish is healthy: It's lower in calories and saturated fat than red meat and naturally higher in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. But wait - it can also contain mercury and other potentially harmful contaminants. What to do? To maximize the health benefits of fish, Consumer Reports recommends eating fatty fish like salmon and sardines, which are also low in mercury, at least twice a week. But some fish, such as king mackerel, shark, and swordfish, are consistently high in mercury. And certain other fish, including canned light tuna, are also occasionally high in that metal. Consumer Reports advises women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, as well as young children, to avoid or restrict consumption of such fish. As for sushi lovers, choose pieces made with low-mercury fish, such as salmon or shrimp, and make sure the fish was frozen before serving, to protect against parasites. To read the full report, go to


We're all familiar with apples and oranges, but what about more mysterious, less tasted fruits? According to Consumer Reports, many have hidden health benefits, including:

  • Lychees are a terrific source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
  • Passion fruit is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and a great source of fiber when eaten with the seeds. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to three months.
  • Kumquats are rich in vitamin C, fiber, and potassium. They may be stored for about two weeks in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag, or frozen for six months or longer.

To read the full report, go to


(C) Consumers Union 2009. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports on Health(R) is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, Consumers Union accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. Consumers Union supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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