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Premature birth is a global killer. Leaving the womb too early accounts for more than 1 million infant deaths each year, the latest data reveals, almost half of all newborn mortality worldwide. But it’s not just the toll on newborns that increasingly concerns health experts.

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Francine Kaufman became vice president of global affairs for Medtronic Diabetes in January 2009, after 30 years at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where she was head of the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, and 11 years as a professor of pediatrics at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. At Childrens Hospital, where she continues a clinical practice, Dr. Kaufman also directed the Comprehensive Childhood Diabetes Center.

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The focus of today's conference, Improving Health Literacy in Los Angeles, was on ways in which medical providers can improve the community's understanding of health concerns and health care.

We are “focusing on expanding health literacy in L.A. and the western region,” said Ellen Iverson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, who introduced the conference panelists.

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Dr. William H. Dietz is the director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Prior to his appointment, he was a professor of pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine and director of clinical nutrition at the Floating Hospital of New England Medical Center Hospitals. His work in the field of pediatric obesity includes the first study to demonstrate the relationship between television viewing and obesity, the earliest report that overweight was increasing among U.S.

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Dr. Laurene Mascola is chief of the Acute Communicable Disease Control (ACD) unit for the Los Angeles County Department of Health's Public Health Programs & Services, which performs disease surveillance and epidemic control activities for more than 60 diseases. Mascola oversees the County's programs for immunization, food and water safety epidemiology, vectorborne (insect) disease, hospital outbreaks and bloodborne diseases. Mascola has extensive experience in epidemiology and disease prevention, publishing more than 100 articles and abstracts in numerous medical and public health journals.

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David Olds is a professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and preventive medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and director of the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health. He has devoted his career to investigating methods of preventing health and developmental problems in children and parents from low-income families.

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