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Health Highlights: May 2, 2017

Last Updated: May 02, 2017.

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

Jimmy Kimmel Reveals Newborn Son's Heart Condition

On his show Monday night, late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel revealed that his son was born April 21 with a serious heart problem. His emotional speech also emphasized the importance of health insurance coverage.

William John Kimmel -- called Billy by his parents -- was born with a condition in which a pulmonary valve was completely blocked and there was a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart, CNN reported.

The baby underwent open-heart surgery three days later at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He is doing well but will require future operations, Kimmel said.

In his 13-minute long monologue, Kimmel also made note of President Donald Trump's proposed $6 billion cut to budget for the National Institutes of Health, and commended Congress for deciding "to not go along with that," because such cuts would have adversely affected children, CNN reported.

"They actually increased funding by $2 billion and I applaud them for doing that," Kimmel said.

Kimmel also pointed out that before Obamacare, infants born with congenital heart problems like his son could be denied health insurance because they were deemed as having a pre-existing condition, CNN reported.

Americans need to band together and hold elected officials accountable for their decisions on health care, which is a non-partisan issue, Kimmel said.

"If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make," he said. "I think that's something that whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?"


Leading Republican Won't Support Health Care Bill

The new version of the Republican health bill "torpedoes" protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions, an influential Republican says.

"I cannot support the bill with this provision in it," Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on a local radio show Tuesday, The New York Times reported.

The committee was one of those involved in drafting legislation to repeal and replace large parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Upton said removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions was meant to help get hard-line conservatives to support the bill, but is costing the backing of more moderate Republicans.

Upton is an important Republican voice on health care. His rejection of the bill comes as it's blasted by the American Medical Association and other advocacy groups and is the target of political attack ads, The Times reported.


Strong Support for NIH in New Budget From Congress

The U.S. Congress is backing a $2 billion budget increase for the U.S. National Institutes of Health for fiscal year 2017, which should boost a number of key areas of research.

The funding was welcomed by scientists who became alarmed in March when President Trump's draft budget proposed cutting the NIH budget by about one-fifth, or $6 billion, the Washington Post reported.

The National Cancer Institute will receive an additional $476 million, for a total of $5.7 billion. Cancer claims the lives of about 600,000 Americans a year. The Obama administration launched a "cancer moonshot" initiative to bring together government, academic and industry experts to find more effective treatments for cancer.

The new budget also includes $400 million more for Alzheimer's disease research, bringing the total to $1.39 billion, the Post reported.

A "precision medicine" initiative, introduced by the Obama administration, receives an additional $120 million, for a total of $320 million. The goal is to develop new treatments tailored to a patient's genetic and other individual characteristics.

There is a total of $463 million for research into new antibiotics to fight drug-resistant infections, which pose a significant global health threat, the Post reported.

The budget also includes $110 million for efforts to map the human brain under another Obama administration initiative called the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies program.

Funding to combat the nation's opioid epidemic was increased from $150 million to $800 million, the Post reported. In 2015, a record 52,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, and 80 percent of those deaths involved the misuse or abuse of prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


U.S. Government Not Preparing for Next Pandemic: Experts

A lack of U.S. government funding to prepare for a biological terror attack or the next major pandemic puts the nation at risk, according to experts.

Infectious disease experts have long urged the federal government to do more to keep the U.S. prepared for outbreaks of diseases such as new strains or flu, Ebola and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and have also noted that other countries have prepared biological weapons such as smallpox and anthrax and have used chemical weapons, NBC News reported.

However, there is a shortage of money and no single person or agency is in charge of ensuring the U.S. is ready for such threats, experts warned Monday at a meeting of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.

There is a 100 percent likelihood that a new flu pandemic will occur, according to influenza specialists, NBC News reported.

The U.S. must be prepared by having stockpiles of drugs, vaccines and equipment, along with plans for their use and someone with the authority to make rapid decisions, the experts at Monday's meeting said.

However, the 2017 budget agreement announced this week by Congress would provide just $57 million specifically to prepare for a new flu pandemic, NBC News reported.

There was a quick response to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic, but a slow response to the Zika outbreak, the experts noted.

"We are becoming complacent again," Andrew Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense, said, NBC News reported.

"We had the Ebola wakeup call, and I am afraid we are falling asleep again," said Weber, now at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

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