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Health: News In Brief

Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK

Sunshine 'cure' for hip fractures

A healthy dose of sunshine could prevent older women from fracturing their hips, according to a study.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA, found that half of post-menopausal women admitted to the hospital with hip fractures had low levels of vitamin D.

The vitamin, which helps the body to absorb calcium, is synthesised in the body through exposure to sunlight.

US doctors say up to 24% of women can die in the first year after suffering a hip fracture.

The risk of post-menopausal women developing hip fractures is thought to be equal to the combined risk of developing breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests vitamin D could be an important supplement for patients with weakened bones.

Prolonged breastfeeding could cut asthma

Breastfeeding babies for at least the first four months of their lives can significantly reduce their chances of getting asthma, says an Australian study.

Dr Wendy Oddy of the TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health in Perth, western Australia, told an American Lung Association conference that babies who were only given breast milk were 27% less likely to develop asthma by age six.

Her study involved almost 3,000 children.

Oddy said breast milk was a way of transmitting a mother's immunity against infection to a child.

£3m anti-fraud drive launched

The government is investing £3m in an anti-fraud offensive.

Health minister John Denham said the money would be spent on setting up counter fraud specialists in every health authority and NHS trust.

Each NHS region will have a fraud team of five trained staff and there will be a national team of 16 people.

All will be specially trained for the job which will include reducing prescription charge evasion and stopping health workers submitting false claims for bogus patients.

The government estimates prescription charge evasion costs the NHS more than £150m a year.

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