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Daily check up: City’s black infant mortality rate drops by half

A look at the morning’s top health industry news.

Boston black infant mortality rate falls: Globe reporter Kay Lazar writes that the mortality rate for the city’s youngest black residents dropped by 50 percent between 2008 and 2009, giving public health officials hope that long-running efforts to drive down disparities in mortality are working. Sixteen black infants died in 2009, compared to 30 the year earlier. That’s 7.7 deaths per 1,000 births, the lowest rate, in 20 years. The rate was 5.0 for whites and 8.0 for Hispanics.

Proposed change in research rules: The government has proposed sweeping changes to the rules that govern studies involving human subjects, reports Andrew Pollack for the New York Times. The changes, among other things, would allow a single review board to oversee studies that take place at multiple sites, loosen regulations for studies in social sciences that pose less risk to participants, and require an upfront consent process for people who provide blood, DNA, or tissue samples in order for those samples to be used in subsequent studies. The rules would apply to any study conducted at institutions that receive grant money from 15 federal agencies and even to studies that are industry-funded.

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Rhode Island offers deal to nurses: In an effort to address a nurse shortage, Governor Lincoln Chafee is offering zero-interest student loans to nursing students if they agree to work at a hospital or other health care facility in the state after graduation.

Pregnant question: A recent study found that women who are pregnant may be more likely to have a child with autism if they take antidepressants, reports Globe correspondent Neena Satija. But depression left untreated in pregnant women has been linked to poor fetal development and pre-term delivery. “What’s an expectant mother to do?’’ Satija asks. “How does she make a decision about whether it’s safe to use antidepressants when she’s suffering from a disorder that makes her more anxious to begin with?’’

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