Fighting Obesity / Alcohol-based Hand Cleaners / AIDS Education 'Toolkit' / Changes at Kodak

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Sarah Long. This week -- the World Health Organization has a plan to fight the increase in overweight people around the world.

Alcohol-based hand cleaners make life easier for some people, but others worry about the fire risk.

These stories, and more, coming up ...

The World Health Organization is moving forward with a proposal to fight obesity around the world. All one-hundred-ninety-two countries in the World Health Assembly are expected to consider the plan in May.

The United States and other members of the W-H-O Executive Board voted last month to send the plan for final approval. However, the United States and some others also requested an extra month to comment on the plan.

Tommy Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, attended the meeting in Geneva. Mr. Thompson said more time was needed to make sure the guidelines contained what he called "more scientifically based evidence." Comments will be accepted until the end of February.

The W-H-O calls the plan a "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." The proposal urges people to eat more fruits and vegetables and less fat, sugar and salt. The plan also suggests that governments restrict food advertising, especially messages aimed at children. And it suggests that governments use tax policies and price supports to get people to eat healthier food.

Last month a Bush administration official sent a letter to W-H-O Director-General Lee Jong-wook to call for changes in the plan. The administration says the report is not based on "the best science." Also, it says the plan does not talk enough about the responsibility of a person to exercise and eat right. The administration says its supports dietary advice that centers on the idea that all foods can be part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Non-government health groups argue that the ideas in the plan are based on common sense. They say the food and sugar industries are influencing the position of the administration. Administration officials deny that charge. They note several projects to fight obesity in the United States. They also note the personal campaign by Secretary Thompson to lose weight.

A group called the International Obesity Task Force estimates that one-thousand-million people around the world weigh too much. This includes more than twenty-million children under age five. And it includes more than three-hundred-million people who are severely overweight. In the United States, about one-third of adults are considered obese.

The problem of obesity has also spread to developing countries. Health officials say poor diet and lack of exercise are among the leading causes of heart disease, type two diabetes and some cancers. They estimate that these kinds of diseases are now responsible for almost sixty percent of deaths worldwide.

Health officials say one of the most important ways people can stop the spread of infection is to wash their hands well and often. Most people use soap and water. But others increasingly use products that let them clean their hands without water. Such cleansers are especially popular with medical workers. People in health care are supposed to wash their hands before and after each patient.

One kind of product is made with alcohol. Alcohol kills germs. And researchers say it does not add to the problem of drug-resistant bacteria. They say soaps that contain antibacterial compounds may.

Health officials say effective alcohol-based cleansers are at least sixty percent alcohol. That amount can go as high as ninety percent depending on the maker.

In the United States, officials at the Centers for Disease Control -- the C-D-C -- advise all health care centers to use alcohol-based products. They say studies show that these cleansers reduce the number of bacteria on hands better than soap and water.

The C-D-C says almost two-million patients in the United States each year are believed to get infections while in hospitals. It says ninety-thousand of them die as a result. The agency also notes the problem of infections in smaller health centers and long-term care places.

But no product is perfect. Alcohol burns easily. This can present a serious fire risk. It can also present a conflict for hospitals that want to have containers of hand cleanser in busy areas. Fire prevention experts say hospitals should not place alcohol-based products in hallways that lead outside the building. They say passages should be as free of flammable materials as possible, so people can get out safely.

People living with AIDS and the virus that causes it can face rejection in their community and their jobs. Experts have created special programs to increase the acceptance of people with AIDS. One group, called the Change Project, has developed teaching information for people at the local level fighting the disease. It is called a "Toolkit for Action."

The toolkit includes fifty-seven teaching exercises that community groups and educators can use to help improve people's knowledge of the disease. The goal is to help people understand the stigma, or bad thoughts about AIDS, and work toward ending it.

For example, many activities involve group discussions and the sharing of ideas, fears and personal experiences. Other activities require people to present information or act out stories in front of other people.

There are activities that teach about caring for HIV-AIDS patients in the family. Other activities teach about stigma faced by children. There are also exercises to teach people about sex, morality and dishonor.

The Change Project created the toolkit with the help of the Academy for Educational Development and the United States Agency for International Development.

AIDS activists from more than fifty non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia helped write the exercises. You can get the toolkit from the Change Project Web site. That address is changeproject-dot-o-r-g.

The Kodak company plans to stop selling traditional film cameras in the United States, Canada and western Europe by the end of this year. Sales of cameras for use only one time will continue. Kodak will also continue to sell its traditional thirty-five-millimeter film in those countries.

Kodak says it wants to increase its sales of reloadable film cameras in developing markets. These include China, India, eastern Europe and Latin America. A Kodak official said the company is expanding efforts to sell film and cameras in these markets because of increasing demand there.

Kodak also announced that it will no longer produce cameras for the Advanced Photo System. The company began to sell A-P-S cameras in nineteen-ninety-six. But these never became very popular. Kodak will continue to make A-P-S film.

The announcements are the result of an increase in demand for digital cameras. Last year, more than twelve-million digital cameras were sold in the United States. Digital cameras record images electronically, without film. Most people then print the images out on a computer, or send them to other people by e-mail. Traditional cameras depend on film and chemical processing.

The decisions mark an important event in the history of Eastman Kodak Company. George Eastman started the company in Rochester, New York, in eighteen-eighty. Eastman invented a way to make it easier to take pictures. He called his camera "Kodak" because it sounded good to him. Eastman said he always liked the sound of the letter K. So he mixed it with other letters and made the word Kodak.

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jill Moss, Caty Weaver and George Grow. Cynthia Kirk was our producer. This is Sarah Long. And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for more news about science, in Special English, on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English

Source: SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - Fighting Obesity / Alcohol-based Hand Cleaners / AIDS Education 'Toolkit' / Changes at Kodak
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