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Daily Rounds: You Smoke, You Pay; Reducing Infant Deaths; Ageless Marathoners; Bionic Exoskeleton

Insurance penalties for smokers draw wide support (NPR) - "When it comes to improving health, there are carrots and there are sticks. One way to try to influence people's habits is by tying how much they pay for health coverage to their behavior. Starting next year, for instance, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, will charge workers who smoke a penalty ranging from $260 to $2,340 annually on health insurance. That's a pretty big stick. As for a carrot, the retailer will offer free smoking-cessation help. Across the country, employers are rewarding some workers, such as those who exercise, and penalizing those who are overweight or smoke. We wondered how that approach is going over, so we asked more than 3,000 adults across the U.S. in the latest NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll." (NPR-Shots)

New program aims to reduce infant deaths (Boston Globe) - "In an effort to drive down the disproportionately large number of deaths among black and Latino infants in Boston, city leaders yesterday unveiled a campaign to provide housing, counseling, and other critical support for pregnant women who are homeless or living on the edge.The pilot program, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, will initially make 75 Boston Housing Authority apartments available for little or no charge to women living on the streets, in shelters, or sleeping on couches and floors of family and friends. Those facing eviction or domestic violence may also qualify." (The Boston Globe)

Behold the agelessness of these long-distance runners (USA Today) - "More older people are running marathons and running faster, says Don Lein, an official record keeper for USA Track and Field. In Sunday's race, 2,634 entrants are ages 60 and older. "There is very definitely both an increase in terms of those who want to participate and get fit and those who want to compete," says Lein, adding that many masters runners begin when they are older." (USA Today)

Walking again, with help from an exoskeleton (nytimes.com) - "It's almost like riding a bicycle. A bicycle with a six-figure price tag, a hand-held controller operated by a physical therapist, 15 sensors, a small computer, 2 lithium batteries strapped to Mr. Woo’s back and 2 purring motors, resembling holstered shotguns, at his sides. On Dec. 14, 2007, Mr. Woo was paralyzed after an accident at a construction site at Goldman Sachs headquarters on West Street. Mr. Woo, an architect on the project, was struck as seven tons of metal studs, hoisted by a crane, crushed the trailer in which he was working. This week, Mr. Woo has been testing a bionic exoskeleton called Ekso, designed to allow patients in wheelchairs to stand and move while upright." (The New York Times)

Putting baby in cot after birth causes stress levels to double (Daily Telegraph) - "Researchers claim that the long-established practice of putting newborns in a nearby cot or nursery to give their mothers some rest immediately after birth can distress them. Babies are also separated from their mothers if they are premature or in need of medical attention, while worries over cot death have prevented many parents sleeping with their newborns. Scientists in South Africa looked at the effect of early separation by monitoring the heart rates of two-day-old babies when they were alone in a cot or being nursed by their mothers skin to skin. The results, published in Biological Psychiatry, showed that stress levels among babies rose 176 per cent when they were alone, and that they were 86 per cent less likely to sleep soundly." (The Daily Telegraph)

This program aired on November 4, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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