(Food and Drug Administration via AFP/Getty Images)

In a year of birth defects from the Zika virus, lead contamination of the water of Flint, Mich., a startling decline in life expectancy and the ever-rising death toll from opioid overdoses, there was, in fact, some good news about health. In keeping with the holiday spirit and in recognition of the vast sums of money devoted to our well-being, please consider some of the bright spots from last year.

• The number of people who smoke continued to decline to record lows. This partly contributed to the lone bright spot in the life-expectancy report: Cancer rates are down, although the disease remains the No. 2 killer of Americans. Teen pregnancy rates also continued their record-setting slide.

• Another reason cancer rates have dropped: New immunotherapy drugs are having a significant impact for a longer period of time against a wider array of cancers.

8-year-old Ava Christiansen has been battling cancer for half her life. Now a new specialized cancer treatment may be able to keep her in remission. (Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

There's new hope for an HIV vaccine; it’s being tested right now. A vaccine against Ebola proved 100 percent effective in a study in Guinea. And more boys are being vaccinated against HPV. A lot more.

• A woman received the first uterus transplant performed in the United States in February. (It soon failed, however, because of infection.)


Lindsey and her husband, Blake, appear with Cleveland Clinic medical staff as they announce she is the nation's first uterus transplant patient, on March in Cleveland. Lindsey did not want her last name used to protect her family's privacy. (Marvin Fong/Plain Dealer via AP)

• Some outside-the-box thinking may expand the pool of available organs for transplant.

• And another innovative project gave a paralyzed man a sense of touch.

• Scientists found a new antibiotic in an unlikely place: inside the human nose.

• A new way of safeguarding children from potentially lethal peanut allergies appears to provide lasting protection.

• A sharp-eyed lab tech, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and two good hospitals saved a Baltimore man from certain death when he picked up a rare parasite.


The parasite, in dark blue, in Erich Burger's blood. The parasite causes human African trypanosomiasis, also known as sleeping sickness, which is fatal if not treated. (Greater Baltimore Medical Center)

• And at age 70, a man underwent the gender-altering surgery he always wanted, supported by his wife of 48 years.

William Rohr always knew he was transgender but was afraid that if he ever told anyone, he would lose the family he so dearly loves. Now, watch as William transforms into Kate. (Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)

That's our list. If you'd like to add stories of  your own, please do so in the comments below.