NBC News: The US will require insurers to cover mental health and addiction the same as they do physical illness, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday.
"This is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation," Sebelius said. "The rule is a reality in part because of the leadership of President Obama, who was committed to getting this done this year."
Up to 2.5 million patients with high blood pressure could in the future have a simple operation on an artery in the throat to treat the condition.
In a typical yoga class, students watch an instructor to learn how to properly hold a position. But for people who are blind or can’t see well, it can be frustrating to participate in these types of exercises.
Now, a team of University of Washington computer scientists has created a software program that watches a user’s movements and gives spoken feedback on what to change to accurately complete a yoga pose.
“My hope for this technology is for people who are blind or low-vision to be able to try it out, and help give a basic understanding of yoga in a more comfortable setting,” said project lead Kyle Rector, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering.
The program, called Eyes-Free Yoga, uses Microsoft Kinect software to track body movements and offer auditory feedback in real time for six yoga poses, including Warrior I and II, Tree and Chair poses. Rector and her collaborators published their methodology in the conference proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGACCESS International Conference on Computers and Accessibility in Bellevue, Wash., Oct. 21-23.
Rector wrote programming code that instructs the Kinect to read a user’s body angles, then gives verbal feedback on how to adjust his or her arms, legs, neck or back to complete the pose. For example, the program might say: “Rotate your shoulders left,” or “Lean sideways toward your left.”
The result is an accessible yoga “exergame” – a video game used for exercise – that allows people without sight to interact verbally with a simulated yoga instructor. Rector and collaborators Julie Kientz, a UW assistant professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and Cynthia Bennett, a research assistant in computer science and engineering, believe this can transform a typically visual activity into something that blind people can also enjoy.
“I see this as a good way of helping people who may not know much about yoga to try something on their own and feel comfortable and confident doing it,” Kientz said. “We hope this acts as a gateway to encouraging people with visual impairments to try exercise on a broader scale.”
Each of the six poses has about 30 different commands for improvement based on a dozen rules deemed essential for each yoga position. Rector worked with a number of yoga instructors to put together the criteria for reaching the correct alignment in each pose. The Kinect first checks a person’s core and suggests alignment changes, then moves to the head and neck area, and finally the arms and legs. It also gives positive feedback when a person is holding a pose correctly.
Rector practiced a lot of yoga as she developed this technology. She tested and tweaked each aspect by deliberately making mistakes while performing the exercises. The result is a program that she believes is robust and useful for people who are blind.
“I tested it all on myself so I felt comfortable having someone else try it,” she said.
Rector worked with 16 blind and low-vision people around Washington to test the program and get feedback. Several of the participants had never done yoga before, while others had tried it a few times or took yoga classes regularly. Thirteen of the 16 people said they would recommend the program and nearly everyone would use it again.
The technology uses simple geometry and the law of cosines to calculate angles created during yoga. For example, in some poses a bent leg must be at a 90-degree angle, while the arm spread must form a 160-degree angle. The Kinect reads the angle of the pose using cameras and skeletal-tracking technology, then tells the user how to move to reach the desired angle.
Rector opted to use Kinect software because it’s open source and easily accessible on the market, but she said it does have some limitations in the level of detail with which it tracks movement.
Rector and collaborators plan to make this technology available online so users could download the program, plug in their Kinect and start doing yoga. The team also is pursuing other projects that help with fitness.
Native Americans have new access to Plan B pill
Native Americans seeking emergency contraception at Indian Health Services facilities managed by the federal government now can get it without a consultation or prescription.
Australian scientists find new way to save pneumonia victims
A research team from Melbourne has developed a low cost, electricity-free oxygen concentrator that has the potential to save thousands of children’s lives each year.
A health worker tests a child’s blood for malaria at a free clinic in Mali. A new study has raised cautious optimism that an effective vaccine might finally become available. [Getty Images]
Maverick malaria vaccine achieves 100% protection using parasites from irradiated mosquitoes
A malaria vaccine has become the first to provide 100% protection against the disease, confounding critics and far surpassing any other experimental malaria vaccine tested. It will now be tested further in clinical trials in Africa.
The results are important because they demonstrate for the first time the concept that a malaria vaccine can provide a high level of protection, says Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, adding that the findings are cause for “cautious optimism”.
No effective malaria vaccine is available at present. The World Health Organization has set a target to develop a malaria vaccine with 80% efficacy by 2025, but until now, says Fauci, “we have not even gotten anywhere near that level of efficacy.”
Scientists had previously been sceptical of the vaccine because producing it required overcoming massive logistical hurdles. The vaccine — called PfSPZ because it is made from sporozoites (SPZ), a stage in the life cycle of the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) — uses a weakened form of the whole parasite to invoke an immune response.
Victory at Last: Apache Activist Helps Pass HIV/AIDS Confidentiality Resolution
A resolution in support of the Public Health and Safety Code of the San Carlos Apache Tribe (SCAT) has passed that will directly impact the lives of Natives living with HIV/AIDS.
Treated for cancer, two men now appear free of HIV
NBC News: Two men who had grueling bone marrow treatments for cancer are enjoying a happy side effect: They appear free of the AIDS virus, researchers reported on Wednesday.
The doctors are not quite ready to call it a cure, but they say the men have stopped taking HIV drugs and have remained free of the virus for almost four months in one case and almost two months in another.
“While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured,” says Dr. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Photo: Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, speaking at an AIDS research conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Steve Forrest / International AIDS Society)
A new report on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan) has revealed a marked increase in progress in stopping new infections in children across the Global Plan priority countries in Africa.
SA’s low-dose X-ray makes its mark
South African X-ray system manufacturer Lodox Systems is making its mark on the international medical scene with a low radiation dose X-ray system that takes a full-body scan in just 13 seconds. It’s even got the attention of the makers of popular American television drama Grey’s Anatomy.
The Xmplar-dr X-ray system, the company’s latest product, featured in the 18th episode of season nine of the TV drama series for its functions in medical trauma and forensic pathology.
"Far from paid-for product placement, this was a storyline independently researched and written by the Grey’s Anatomy producers,” Lodox’s Sarah Whiley said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Here at Lodox, we are both pleased and proud that our scanner has been recognised on this international platform and equally that it has been featured in our local media as an example of some of the truly great things that happen here in South Africa," Whiley said.
No More Chemo: Doctors Say It’s Not So Far-Fetched
There’s a revolution occurring in cancer treatment, and it could mean the end of chemotherapy.
When it comes to taming tumors, the strategy has always been fairly straightforward. Remove the offending and abnormal growth by any means, in the most effective way possible. And the standard treatments used today reflect this single-minded approach — surgery physically cuts out malignant lesions, chemotherapy agents dissolve them from within, and radiation seeks and destroys abnormally dividing cells.
There is no denying that such methods work; deaths from cancer have dropped by around 20% in the U.S. over the past two decades. But as effective as they are, these interventions can be just as brutal on the patient as they are on a tumor. So researchers were especially excited by a pair of studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week that showed a new type of anticancer drug, which works in an entirely different way from chemotherapy, helped leukemia patients tally up to an 83% survival rate after being treated for two years.
A landmark three-dimensional digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain, shows the brain anatomy in microscopic detail at a spatial resolution of 20 micrometers—smaller than the size of one fine strand of hair.
The reconstruction, published in the 21 June issue of the journal Science, exceeds the resolution of all existing reference brains presently in the public domain, and will be made freely available to the broader scientific community.
The ‘upward spiral of happiness’: Positive classrooms help kids create healthy neuropathways, says prof
There is a lot schools could do to make their classrooms happier places, Queen’s University faculty of education PhD candidate Scott Hughes argued in a presentation at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Victoria this week. He asked teachers, parents and students from kindergarten to Grade 2 at Waldorf, Montessori, Froebel and independent and public schools about happiness and how it can help kids have a better experience at school.
He told the Post’s Sarah Boesveld all about it.