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The top health stories of the year
Late December brings with it a flurry of lists summing up the year. We asked our regular medical analyst, Dr. Jon Hallberg, to take stock of the year's biggest medical stories. Hallberg is medical director of the Primary Care Center at the University of Minnesota.

St. Paul, Minn. — Here is Dr. Jon Hallberg's chronological review of the year's top 10 health stories.

1. Small Pox. Efforts to immunize "front-line" health care personnel against small pox flopped.

2. Supplements. Steve Bechler of the Baltimore Orioles professional baseball team died, partially as a result of taking the supplement ephedra. That has resulted in changes in state laws and policies by sports organizations.

3. SARS. There's a vulnerability we face despite all of our advances in health care; new viruses can pose real threat to us.

4. Hypertension. In May, an article published in JAMA essentially created a new category of "pre-hypertensive" patients. It means many more people are at risk for high blood pressure, and has prompted more aggressive prevention measures in primary care.

5. Obesity. We now estimate that 65 percent of Americans are overweight. That rate has doubled since 1983.

6. Mountains Beyond Mountains. Tracy Kidder's book about Dr. Paul Farmer introduced his work with AIDS patients in Haiti to people around the world.

7. Biotech research. The University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and state of Minnesota are collaborating to create the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics.

8. Translational research. A new research facility at the U of M broke ground in November. It will create a way for basic science researchers to mingle with clinical types as well as people in industry.

9. Medicare reform. President Bush called it the greatest advance in health care coverage for seniors since the founding of Medicare, although we don't know what it means yet.

10. Influenza. The anticipation that it would be a bad flu year prompted rush to vaccination. Now we're running out of supply.

To listen to Dr. Hallberg's interview with All Things Considered host David Molpus, click the audio link in the right column.

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