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Health Highlights: June 13, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Health Care System Ranked Last Again: Report

The United States' health system once again comes in last when compared to 10 other rich nations, according to the latest Commonwealth Fund report on the issue.

The nonprofit group said that while Americans spend much more per person on medical care, they are less healthy than people in the other nations. In addition, the U.S. health care system is less fair and efficient than those in the other 10 countries, NBC News reported.

"Among the 11 nations studied in this report -- Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2004 editions," the Commonwealth Fund said.

"Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last or near last on dimensions of access, efficiency, and equity."

The paper also said that countries with nationalized health systems outperform the U.S. in all measures, NBC News reported.

"Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than their counterparts in other countries to report not visiting a physician when sick; not getting a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up care; or not filling a prescription or skipping doses when needed because of costs," the Commonwealth Fund said.

It noted that the problems with the U.S. health care system affect Americans' longevity, NBC News reported.

"The U.S. and U.K. had much higher death rates in 2007 from conditions amenable to medical care than some of the other countries, e.g., rates 25 percent to 50 percent higher than Australia and Sweden. Overall, France, Sweden, and Switzerland rank highest on healthy lives," the paper said.

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Baseball Legend Tony Gwynn Dies of Cancer Tied to Chewing Tobacco

Hall of Fame batter Tony Gwynn died Monday after a battle with cancer that he says was the result of having dipped tobacco throughout his baseball career.

In recent years, the 54-year-old Gwynn underwent surgery for cancer of the mouth and salivary glands. Since spring, he had been on leave as the baseball coach at San Diego State University, his alma mater, The New York Times reported.

Gwynn was born May 9, 1960 in Los Angeles. He died Monday in Poway, Calif. His death was announced by Major League Baseball.

With his record eight National League batting championships, a total of 3,141 hits, and a career batting average of .338, Gwynn was regarded as one of the sport's most passionate students of the art of hitting, according to The Times.

Gwynn, who made his major league debut in 1982 and spent his entire 20-season career with the San Diego Padres, was also a Gold Glove-winning outfielder, a renowned base stealer, and a 15-time All-Star. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Along with his wife and daughter, Gwynn's survivors include his son Tony Jr., an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, and his brother Chris, an outfielder who spent the last of his 10 major league seasons as Tony's teammate on the Padres.

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Whooping Cough Epidemic in California

More than 3,400 new cases of whooping cough were reported in California between January 1 and June 10, which means the outbreak is officially an epidemic, according to the state's department of health.

There have been about 350 new cases of whooping cough (pertussis) so far this year in Los Angeles County. Long Beach has been hit particularly hard, with more than 90 new cases of the bacterial disease and an infection rate of nearly 20 cases per 100,000 people, NBC News reported.

Whooping cough -- which is highly infectious and can be spread by coughing -- is cyclical and peaks every three to five years, according to the California Department of Public Health. The last major peak in cases was in 2010.

Two-thirds of the people hospitalized with whooping cough have been children four months or younger, and two infant deaths have been reported, according to the health department said.

"Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority," Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the health department, in a news release, NBC News reported. "We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible."