1. The worst Ebola outbreak in history devastated numerous countries in West Africa and resulted in more than 5,000 deaths to date.

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Handout / Reuters

The World Health Organization called the outbreak “unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times.”

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Reuters / James Giahyue

Health workers carry buckets of disinfectant at the Island Clinic and Ebola treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 25.

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Reuters / Umaru Fofana

A discharging ceremony for survivors of the Ebola outbreak at a health clinic in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Oct. 6. Read a heartbreaking account about what it’s like to be an Ebola survivor here.

2. Jimmy Kimmel proved that no one knows what the hell gluten actually is.

For the record, gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some people get sick when they eat it.

3. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, allowing religious companies to provide their employees with health insurance that doesn’t cover birth control.

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Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

And then women shared why they take birth control.

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Macey J. Foronda for BuzzFeed

Not always for the reasons you’d expect.

4. Dr. Oz got scolded about weight-loss pills in a congressional committee hearing.

And then he made a colossal mistake on Twitter…

What is your biggest question for me? Reply with #OzsInbox and I'll answer my favorites on http://t.co/8kjmALRoAd.

— DrOz (@Dr. Mehmet Oz)

Can you go an entire show without saying the words "miracle," "toxin," and belly fat?" #OzsInbox

— DrJenGunter (@Jennifer Gunter)

@DrOz Name specific toxins removed by a detox that is not removed by your liver/kidneys?What studies have you published on this?#OzsInbox

— ScholtzC (@Chris Scholtz)

.@DrOz what's your favorite snake oil? How do you sleep at night? #OzsInbox

— Chow_Babe (@Chow Babe)

5. Robin Williams’ suicide spurred discussion about depression and mental illness.

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Alessia Pierdomenico / Reuters

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Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Genie, you're free.

— TheAcademy (@The Academy)

6. CVS stopped selling tobacco products.

#cvsquits. Today we announced that as of Oct 1, we will no longer sell tobacco in any CVS/pharmacy. http://t.co/EgdDWMpgFI

— CVSHealth (@CVS Health)

And they actually did it a month earlier than expected.

7. Thirteen women died in India after botched sterilization procedures.

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Anindito Mukherjee / Reuters

Pictured above is Indra Bai, the mother of one of the victims. The deaths occurred at a government-run health camp, where doctors performed sterilization procedures in rapid succession. Preliminary reports showed that the women died of toxic shock, likely from unsanitary surgical devices. Drug-makers were also later arrested for providing the doctors with fraudulent toxic medication that they administered to the patients.

8. The number of Americans with health insurance increased by about 10 million, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

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Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, but most of the biggest key features went into effect in January 2014. Millions of additional people qualified for state Medicaid coverage, for starters. The health insurance marketplace opened up to consumers. And starting this year, several consumer protections went into effect: Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to people based on preexisting medical conditions, and new plans and existing group plans can no longer have annual limits of coverage…among numerous other changes.

9. The #GetYourBellyOut campaign inspired people to post pictures of themselves with their colostomy bags visible.

10. And Miss Idaho wore her insulin pump at several beauty pageants.

11. A 21-year-old girl from the United Kingdom showed the world what it’s like to suffer from trichotillomania, a disorder that causes you to pull out your own hair.

Her four-minute video documents more than six years of her life.

12. Joan Rivers died from complications during surgery.

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© Lucas Jackson / Reuters / Reuters

13. In the midterm elections, voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Voters in Guam approved of legal medical marijuana.

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Jason Redmond / Reuters

Meanwhile, voters in Florida narrowly rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed the use of medical marijuana to treat “debilitating diseases” like cancer, HIV, and multiple sclerosis. It needed 60% to pass, but only got 57% support.

14. Doctors successfully implanted lab-grown vaginas into four women.

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See what one woman says about how it changed her life.

15. The World Cup reminded us that concussions have serious repercussions.

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Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Uruguay midfielder Alvaro Pereira suffered a traumatic head injury during a World Cup match against England (pictured above), but officials allowed him to keep playing — even though experts agree that this can cause a head injury to become much, much worse. Players union FIFPro then accused FIFA of failing to protect Pereira.

16. And in the ongoing NFL concussion lawsuit, a federal judge approved a settlement proposal in July. Over 5,000 former NFL players have sued the NFL for concussion-related health claims.

New York Times Magazine cover on football today.

— janesports (@Jane McManus)

Many people were not satisfied with the terms of the settlement and want to alter it.

Damning research shows that people who suffer from concussions experience major health issues down the line, from chronic headaches, to dementia and Alzheimer’s, to depression and suicide. In spite of the settlement, this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about this issue. Read the cover story from the New York Times Magazine, “Is Football The Next Tobacco?,” to learn more.

17. The Ice Bucket Challenge resulted in millions of dollars raised for ALS.

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And, of course, some really incredible Ice Bucket Challenge fails made the rounds as well.

18. The American Academy of Pediatrics officially endorsed the IUD and implants as the best forms of birth control for teenagers.

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Spike Mafford / Getty Images

Both types are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, and they also last a really long time (so no risk of forgetting to take a pill).

19. New York City officials accidentally hired a con artist to do Ebola cleanup.

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Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

20. And New York and New Jersey governors required mandatory quarantine for anyone who had been in contact with any Ebola patients within the past 21 days.

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Handout / Reuters

Pictured above is Kaci Hickox, a nurse who spent time treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She returned to the United States in October, and was held in a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, for several days before being released to her home state of Maine.

Hickox described her quarantine as a violation of her human rights. Further, the CDC recommended against forced quarantine for medical professionals returning to the United States from treating Ebola patients, out of fear that it would turn health care workers into “pariahs.”

21. In fact, people in general freaked out monumentally about Ebola.

Lady just chilling at Dulles in her homemade Hazmat suit

— jdhenchman (@Joe Henchman)

22. The first baby was born via womb transplant.

A 36-year-old woman from Sweden had been born without a uterus, and received a donated uterus from a friend in her sixties. The mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy in October.

23. Apple and Facebook announced that they’ll start paying for female employees to freeze their eggs.

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Pichi Chuang / Reuters

On a related note: 11 things you should know before you freeze your eggs.

24. We learned just how dangerous morcellator devices are, and the FDA issued major warnings against them.

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Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Morcellators are tools used during routine hysterectomies. Researchers discovered this year that the devices actually pose a much greater risk of spreading cancer than doctors previously believed. With this scary new data, the FDA announced in April that they didn’t recommend doctors use the devices anymore, and in July, Johnson & Johnson issued a voluntary worldwide recall. At the end of November, the FDA issued another warning about the devices.

Pictured above is a woman named Martha Montalvo-Ariri, a mother of four who underwent a hysterectomy and was later diagnosed with cancer.

25. The measles returned.

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The United States experienced a record number of measles cases this year, the most by a long shot since the CDC announced measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

26. And so did the bubonic plague.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Getty Images

A bubonic plague outbreak killed 40 people in Madagascar, and 119 people had contracted the bacterial illness by late November. The World Health Organization warned that there could be a potential “rapid spread” of the disease in the capital city of Antananarivo.

27. And Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal cancer, ended her own life surrounded by her loved ones.

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Read her story here, and visit thebrittanyfund.org or learn more about the fight for death with dignity.

As you can see, 2014 was clearly an important year for how we think about health, with many tragic and terrible stories, but a few inspiring and uplifting ones as well.

Here’s to better health in 2015.

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