Health Scan: Herzog Hospital - A family affair

Goal is to raise $1.5m towards construction of new psychogeriatric wing in Jerusalem's Herzog Memorial Hospital.

herzog hospital 88 (photo credit: )
herzog hospital 88
(photo credit: )
The Rivlin family is one of the largest organized Jewish clans in the world. The name Reuven Rivlin, the Knesset speaker, first comes to mind, but there are, and have been, many illustrious sons and daughters in the "tribe," including the great sage known as the Vilna Gaon. The family's current size is fortunate, as members have committed themselves to raise funds for a new 60-bed psychogeriatric wing in Jerusalem's Herzog Memorial Hospital. Exactly 110 years ago, Rivlins were among the founders of the hospital. Many family members have already stepped forward in Israel, North America and England to organize parlour meetings in their communities. The goal is to raise $1.5 million towards the construction of the psychogeriatric wing, which will allow Herzog to treat more patients with disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. One of the most historic families in Israel, with their roots going back to Spain in 1492, the Rivlins have developed an unusual network of family members, exceeding 8,000 people throughout the world. In 1980, over 2,500 Rivlins met in Jerusalem for a family reunion. A special Web site has been established at to help publicize and raise funds worldwide for this exciting project. The site will be used by the family to collect and update information about family members worldwide, and will serve as a communications network for the Rivlin family's next reunion in Jerusalem in 2009. BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE: GOOD FOR YOUR ARTERIES Dark chocolate may stave off artery hardening in smokers, and a few squares every day could cut the risk of serious heart disease, according to a small study in the journal Heart. Researchers compared the effects of dark (74% cocoa solids) and white chocolate on the smoothness of arterial blood flow in 20 male smokers. The activity of both endothelial cells, which line the artery walls, and platelets, which are involved in the formation of blood clots, are continuously disrupted in smokers, making the arteries susceptible to the narrowing and hardening characteristic of coronary artery disease. Before eating 40 g of chocolate (about 2 oz), smokers were first asked to abstain from other foods rich in antioxidants, such as onions, apples, cabbage, and cocoa products for 24 hours. After two hours, ultrasound scans revealed that dark chocolate significantly improved the smoothness of arterial flow, an effect which lasted for eight hours. Blood sample analysis also showed that dark chocolate almost halved platelet activity. Antioxidant levels rose sharply after two hours. White chocolate had no effect on endothelial cells, platelets or antioxidant levels. Dark chocolate has more antioxidants per gram than other foods such as red wine, green tea or berries, say the authors, who suggest that the beneficial effects of dark chocolate lie in its antioxidant content. "A small daily treat of dark chocolate may substantially increase the amount of antioxidant intake and beneficially affect vascular health," conclude the authors. WHO TO STAFFERS: PUFF OFF The World Health Organization says it will no longer hire smokers under a tough new policy introduced to protect its credibility as the UN's health agency. The policy, announced to job seekers on its Web site, may have some applicants fuming. "WHO has a smoke-free environment and does not recruit smokers or other tobacco users," it states. Application forms ask candidates if they smoke and if they would continue to do so if they were employed by the WHO. A WHO spokesman said anyone who answers "yes" to both questions will not be invited to an interview. "The agency believes its credibility in promoting the principle of a tobacco free environment is at stake," he said. "[We are] campaigning against tobacco and the tobacco industry." The WHO is leading efforts to adopt the international anti-tobacco treaty. "For us, it's a question of principle." WHO lawyers have determined that it is "not discriminatory." The WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into force this year and which has been ratified by about 100 countries (including Israel, where it has not yet been widely implemented), bans the promotion and advertising of tobacco products such as cigarettes, as well as sales to minors. It also advocates public smoking restrictions and larger health warnings on cigarettes, and promotes taxation as a way to cut consumption and fight smuggling. The new policy will not apply to existing WHO employees, but they are being encouraged to quit through individual counselling and prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum. But the new policy will apply if an employee leaves the agency and later returns; a growing number are recruited on short-term contracts. In addition, disciplinary action will be taken against a serving staff member who smokes on its premises. However, a leading Swiss anti-smoking campaigner, Jean Charles Rielle, said he felt "ill at ease" with the move, and opposed it as a matter of principle. "As a doctor, I cannot accept that a person suffering from a dependency, whatever it is, should be excluded if they are able to carry out the objectives set by the company," Rielle told the Swiss newspaper, Le Temps.