Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Governor Corbett Gives New Support for Medical Marijuana

May 1, 2014
Mark / Flickr

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania hoped a meeting with Governor Corbett might change his stance on the issue. These advocates threatened a sit-in if the governor refused to see them. 

It looks like their threats paid off. 

Despite a recent Quinnipiac University poll which showed 85% of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of medical marijuana, 90.5 WESA Capitol Correspondent Mary Wilson said Corbett remained steadfastly opposed, until this afternoon.  

"Corbett is quoted in a press release this afternoon saying that he will support a bill to allow research based hospitals to prescribe this oil extract which is from the marijuana plant." said Wilson

"Of course it's going to need the approval of the legislature but the leader of the senate Republicans has said that he will support this. And that he looks forward to sending the bill to the governor's desk."

Community members, farmers, government officials and school administrators will gather in Pittsburgh Friday for the second Farm to Community Conference.

Hosted by Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE), the conference will focus on ways to make farm fresh food available in local schools and underserved communities, or food deserts.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director for WHE, said eight workshops are scheduled throughout the day, each focused on a different fresh food challenge.

It's a problem that is lurking just below the surface in Pennsylvania, and it is getting worse every year.  

A group assembled by United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton will look for solutions to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the Pittsburgh area.

The U.S. Attorney’s Working Group on Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery will work to identify the problems behind the alarming number of opiate overdoses in Western Pennsylvania and how to solve them.

Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club / Facebook

At Barack Obama Academy in East Liberty, the long-tarnished reputation of school lunches may be coming to an end. Thanks to the Food Revolution Cooking Club, students have the opportunity to learn how to prepare healthy meals.

The idea for the club came after world renowned chef Jaime Oliver visited Pittsburgh in 2012 and challenged the community to focus on healthy food choices. Since then, the Cooking Club has partnered with many local restaurants where students are exposed to the kitchen and learn the importance of quality foods. 

If a cancer cell forms in the body, does it make a sound?

John Viator, director of the Duquesne University biomedical engineering program, would say yes—if it’s hit by a laser.

Viator and his team received a five-year, $1.4 million federal grant to use lasers in detecting, capturing and analyzing circulating melanoma cells, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

According to a study by Trust For America’s Health published last October, Pennsylvania has the 14th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 15.3 per 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses. According to the same study, overdoses from prescription drugs now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded about $2.1 million in grants to 26 counties to combat West Nile Virus.

Allegheny County received $168,114 to study and control the virus-carrying mosquito populations. Philadelphia County got the most at $231,298.

DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman said West Nile Virus studies are best handled at the local level.

Overcoming Unique Challenges With Doctors Without Borders

Apr 18, 2014
Sophie-Jane Madden / MSF

Last November, Typhoon Haiyan, a powerful tropical cyclone devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines.

When cataclysmic events such as this happen, many organizations are dispatched to these areas to provide medical treatment and aid.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders is one such group providing help. Brett Davis, an aid worker for Doctors Without Borders recently returned from the Philippines.

Food trucks are commonplace in cities such as Los Angeles or New York, but Pittsburgh has had a hard time embracing the mobile eateries.

All that could change with Farm Truck Foods.

Awesome Pittsburgh, which gives grants to people "with brilliant ideas," this week awarded the company $1,000 for its proposed solution to the city’s food desert dilemma.

Allegheny County employees no longer have to wonder about their health care options for 2015.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Tuesday that the county will exclusively retain Highmark for health care coverage through December 31st, 2015 - even if Highmark and UPMC are unable to reach an agreement.

Can depression lead to asthma? How about over-medicating?

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and UPMC are trying to answer these questions with a new computer program that has the ability to track 112 clinical variables for 398 people who do and do not have asthma.

This program can identify various subtypes of the disease such as asthma related to allergies, sinuses or environmental factors.

Wei Wu, an associate professor at CMU’s Lane Center for Computational Biology, said they want to help clinicians better define “asthma.”

Ways to Help Young People Cope with Traumatic Events

Apr 10, 2014
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

In the wake of the violent attacks at Franklin Regional High School, students and staff at the school have begun the process of coping with the traumatic event.

For young people this can be a particularly difficult journey. The Center for Victims is a victim advocacy group which offers support for those affected by violence.

Diane Dahm is director of prevention education and outreach and Toya Jones is a trauma therapist with the center. They explained how important it is to maintain a child's sense of normalcy while still keeping alert to any possible signs of trauma

Steps for Older Adults to Reduce the Risk of Falling

Apr 8, 2014
Jym Ferrier / flickr

Among people 65 and older, falling is a dangerous reality. Yet a new program has reduced falls among the elderly by 17 percent statewide according to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Steven Albert is Chairman of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Services and says older adults often do not realize the severity of their falling risk. 

More people in Pennsylvania are being diagnosed with cancer, but less are dying.

That’s according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which released the State of Cancer Care in America: 2014 — the first-ever report of its kind.

According to ASCO, the report provides a “comprehensive look” at demographic, economic and oncology practice trends and how they will affect the United States in the future.

Last week, the trauma center at UPMC Presbyterian began a medical trial using critically injured gunshot and knife wound patients. It’s similar to suspended animation, but surgeons are calling it Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation.

The patients will not quite be alive, but they also won't quite be dead.

Dispute Over Disabled Man's Care Magnifies Guardianship’s Complexities

Apr 6, 2014
Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Rarely is there so much tension — or so much at stake — around giving someone hope for a family reunion as in the case of Dominic Pantoni.

Every month, Dominic intently waits at the door of his group home for his mother to arrive, and he immediately asks her, “When’s the next hearing?”

A court hearing, in Dominic's eyes, means going home, or at least leaving a place that he calls prison, said his mother, Nancy Pantoni. She has been trying since 2010 to change legal guardianship of her 27-year-old son, who has intense special needs because of a genetic disorder.

Officials at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown say state inspectors found no food safety problems as investigators continued to trace the source of a norovirus that has sickened 176 people.

An online report by the state Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Food Safety showed no violations at the campus dining hall and other food outlets operated by Sodexo Inc.

The state Department of Health earlier this week cleared the school to reopen.

Time Will Tell When it Comes to the Benefits of E-Cigarettes

Apr 3, 2014
Lindsay Fox / flickr

Some view e-cigarettes as a means to help them stop smoking. This is one reason for their increase in popularity. However, they may not be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. They’ve also been blamed for a number of poisonings nationwide.

More than 120,000 people across the United States are waiting for an organ transplant — 8,300 in Pennsylvania alone.

April is National Donate Life Month, recognizing those who need transplants, those who have donated and encouraging more people to do so.

Pittsburgh firefighters are asking state lawmakers to ban chemicals found in flame-retardant furniture.

According to Pittsburgh Firefighters Deputy Chief Frank Large, studies have found that these chemicals increase the number of cancer deaths in firefighters inhaling the chemicals. Flame-retardant materials that are found in 85 percent of couches in American homes become carcinogens when ignited in a house fire.

Large says firefighters are given state of the art technology to filter the smoke they breathe in, but that isn’t enough to protect them from these chemicals.

If you’re traveling around Pittsburgh next Wednesday, you might be seeing blue, as more than a dozen buildings across the city are shining a light on autism, including the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

The cathedral is one of more than 8,400 buildings and landmarks around the world are participating in this year’s “Light It Up Blue” campaign to raise autism awareness, including Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower, BNY Melon Building, and the Carnegie Science Center.

UPMC Website

When the National Diabetes Education Program gathers for its annual meeting this summer it will install a Pittsburgher in its top elected position.  University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute Executive Director Linda Siminerio was elected as chair earlier this year.

The federally-funded program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Siminerio refers to the nation’s struggle with type II diabetes as an epidemic but warns that it is already a pandemic in other parts of the world.

Text messaging can serve a variety of purposes, from casually chatting with friends to ordering a pizza, but what about monitoring concussion symptoms?

Some, like researcher Stephanie Huang think it could be a tool for providing more personalized health care.

Thanks to a grant from the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation, the first-year student from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is coming to Pittsburgh to see if texting is a more effective way of getting patients to monitor their own concussion treatments.

University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering researchers are developing a way to help arteries regrow with less risk of an aneurysm after a coronary bypass surgery.

Arturo Valentin and his team are attempting to use new polymers in artery replacements as a way to prevent aneurysm formation.

He said they are working to create an “in host remodeled graft.”

Hepatitis Bill Promotes Quicker Testing

Mar 20, 2014

Nearly 200,000 Pennsylvanians have hepatitis C and don’t know it, and new legislation could help them find out.

The bill would require health care providers to offer hepatitis C testing to baby boomers, people born between 1945 and 1965.

Rep. Matt Baker (R-Bradford), the bill sponsor, said a greater emphasis on testing would save lives.

“By increasing testing opportunities, this legislation will insure that more individuals living with hepatitis C can become aware of their infection status, get available treatment and take steps to prevent transmission,” Baker said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

With just two weeks left to sign up for health insurance through state and federal online exchanges, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has declared March 17-23, 2014 to be Affordable Care Act Week in Allegheny County.

Fitzgerald said county officials are working with nearly three dozen partner organizations on “one last push to encourage residents to get all the information and be able to enroll in the marketplace.”

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs released a report last year stating that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

That number hit home for Marine Sgt. Daniel Egbert and Army Sgt. Matt King; both of whom served in Iraq. The two set out on a 22-day road trip from Los Angeles to Ground Zero in New York, producing a documentary focused on raising awareness about veteran suicide.

That documentary is "Project 22."

Kids Encouraged to Stand Up to Tobacco Industry

Mar 17, 2014

On March 19, kids across the country will show that the battle against the tobacco industry isn’t only fought in the courtroom, but on the playground.

The 19th annual Kick Butts Day, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is a celebration of youth leadership and activism in the battle against smoking and tobacco marketing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 people die every day from prescription drug overdoses nationwide, and the commonwealth and a physicians group want stricter regulations for Pennsylvania.

“Prescription drugs are getting into the wrong hands via many different channels … This is an issue we are taking very seriously at the Medical Society, and believe that physicians need to play their role in fighting this crisis,” said Michael Fraser Executive, vice president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Can a Capsule Camera Replace the Colonoscopy?

Mar 10, 2014
Euchiasmus / Wikipedia Commons

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer-related death in the U.S.

The FDA has approved a new colonoscopy capsule which is a camera in pill form. There are many advantages to this capsule, but people are wondering if this new colon cancer detection device will replace the colonoscopy.

Dr. Edward Chu, deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute says that the pill is not a replacement for the colonoscopy.