Health news from 90.5 WESA.

The federal government has awarded nearly $3.4 million to be doled out over the next four years to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health to establish one of 10 public health training centers across the nation with the hopes of improving national health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) selected Pitt to create the Region 3 Center, which will provide free training sessions to public health professionals in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Talking to your baby could be one of the best things a parent can do developmentally, and to help get that idea across Allegheny County the Department of Human Services has launched what it is calling the “Use Your Words” campaign.

The campaign encourages parents to talk to their infant about things that they are doing. For instance “I am cutting up orange carrots” in an expressive manner is the best way to help children develop.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health may shed light on some of the risk factors heart disease – namely that race and ethnicity may place a role in a man’s likelihood of accumulating fat around the heart.

“This is important because fat around the heart has been shown to be a risk factor of cardiovascular disease,” said Samar El Khoudary, an assistant professor of epidemiology and the study's lead author.

UPMC Voice Center Takes Steps to Conserve A Variety of Voices

Sep 26, 2014
Dara Bailey

The UPMC Voice Center is a unique place in Pittsburgh for more than just vocalists. They often work with those who, knowingly or not, use their voice on a regular basis and are susceptible to injury; teachers, clergy, even people in customer service.

The center's mission is to prevent injury and rehabilitate patients through therapy and cutting edge research. Dr. Jackie Gartner-Schmidt, Director of Speech Language Pathology, and patient Karl Bailey of the Homestead Waterfront Dueling Piano Bar, Sing Sing join us to talk about what it takes to conserve one's voice into old age.

With the hope of being able to help epilepsy patients who have not responded to other treatments, Allegheny General Hospital Friday opened a unit designed to monitor and evaluate those who suffer from the condition.

The division includes four private rooms, each equipped with a video camera and an EEG (electroencephalography) device, which, combined, allows physicians to record patient behavior and their neurological activity.

UPMC Wants Your Unused Medications

Sep 25, 2014

As part of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, UPMC is hosting multiple drop-off zones Sept. 26 where people can safely dispose of their unused medications.

There are 11 locations participating across the city, including Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, UPMC Mercy South Side and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  

Highmark Unveils Healthcare Center in Wexford

Sep 23, 2014
Julian Routh / 90.5 WESA

Rather than having to go from doctor to doctor for health care, Highmark patients will soon be able to get the care they need all under one roof.

Officials from Highmark Health and the Allegheny Health Network unveiled the new Health + Wellness Pavilion in Wexford Tuesday afternoon, less than two weeks before its opening to the public.

The 175,000 square foot facility, deemed a "medical mall," will house an array of retail, diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic healthcare services.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Students at Duquesne Elementary School in the Mon Valley spent Tuesday running, jumping and playing, all in the name of health.

“It was really exciting to be going through the school, going through the play area, the gym, seeing the Move-a-thon, seeing the kids doing yoga, and relay races and the dancing and the nutrition, having meals with fruits and vegetables,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who joined the kids for a couple of yoga poses during Tuesday’s event.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has developed a 91 percent accurate genetic test to identify those patients whose prostate cancer is likely to recur. The new knowledge may lead to a clinical test, as well as future drugs and therapies.

“I think we are not as unhealthy as we could be, but I think there’s lots of room for improvement,” says Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department Director. 

On Monday the department begins a series of 13 public meetings over the next seven weeks to discuss health concerns throughout the county.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a refrain that U.S Senator Bob Casey (D- PA) has been repeating as he fights to get black lung benefits into the hands of coal miners in a more timely manner.

After working for several months to break up the backlog in black lung benefits claims, Casey announced plans Thursday to introduce legislation aiming to reduce fraud in miners’ cases.

According to Casey, the case backlog is in the thousands now and grows by substantial numbers each year.

With an eye on examining both the negative influences and positive capabilities of today’s media and technology on health, the University of Pittsburgh has created the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH).  

Director Dr. Brian Primack said although every generation tends to think its innovations will have dire negative effects, there are reasons to think today’s larger-than-life media portrayals do  have a significant impact on sleep and cognition.

New helmets, devices and regulations are coming out increasingly as people learn more about the severity of concussions, and as part of the trend UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have been working together to study the effectiveness of a new concussion screening tool. 

West Penn Hospital Offers Free Lung Cancer Screening

Sep 15, 2014

With the hopes of catching lung cancer in its earlier, more curable stages, West Penn Hospital, is offering a free screening program for those at risk.

“If you find a patient and there at stage one they’re potentially curative the five year survivor rates are significantly higher, and it’s at almost 90 percent, so it places a huge impact on healthcare cost if you’re diagnosing patients at stage one versus stage four,”  said Dr. Lana Schumacher, Allegheny Health Network Esophageal and Thoracic Institute Co-Director.

As the cooler weather moves in so do the heavier jackets and sniffles, and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD)  is gearing up for the coming flu season by offering vaccinations.

Starting Monday (9/15) the ACHD’s vaccine clinic in Oakland will provide flu shots for $25.

“The single best way to protect against the flu is to vaccinate people, and it’s recommended for everyone six months of age and older,” said Sharon Silvestri, the Chief of Infectious Disease at Allegheny Health Department.

A Closer Look at the Physical Therapy Industry

Sep 9, 2014

Whether it’s an athlete, injured soldier or senior citizen people needing physical therapy cover a broad spectrum. In addition, as the population ages the need for people trained health professions, such as physical therapy increases. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of physical therapy

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

State and local elected officials joined UPMC officials for a ribbon cutting Tuesday on the new Children’s Hospital of UPMC of Pittsburgh South Hills location.

The outpatient facility in South Fayette Township is replacing the current Children’s South in Bethel Park. The new location, with easy access off I-79, is expected to expand access to care.

Shattered Image: A Story of Struggle and Recovery

Sep 8, 2014
Brian Cuban

Bulimia is often thought of as a woman’s disorder. However, men can suffer from it as well. In his memoir Shattered Image, our guest Brian Cuban chronicles his battles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder as well as his addictions to alcohol, cocaine and steroids. He joins us in Studio A to discuss his struggles and recovery.

With nearly 2,000 confirmed deaths and more than 3,700 cases in West Africa in the last eight months, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Ebola virus spreads rapidly from one human host to another.

But Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician at UPMC specializing in emerging pathogens, said that is not the case.

“Right now Ebola is not a human pathogen,” said Adalja. “Humans are dead-end hosts. It can’t really spread very well between humans, other than through exposure to their blood or bodily fluids.”

Flickr user Mike Licht

The Allegheny County Health Department wants you to help set its priorities as it attempts to become the healthiest county in the nation.

That’s according to department director Dr. Karen Hacker, who said the county is now moving into the second phase of its community health assessment process. The first phase was an online comment period, which Hacker said garnered more than 1,000 responses.

Coalition Assembled to Prevent Misuse of ADHD Meds

Sep 3, 2014

Classes are in session at college campuses across the country and that means late-night study sessions in the library, no sleep and in some cases, the abuse of ADHD medications.

But the misuse of such medications is not only dangerous, it is also illegal.

The newly-formed Pennsylvania-based Coalition to Prevent ADHD Medication Misuse (CPAMM) is trying to spread the word on campuses across the nation.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department Tuesday announced it has received and publicly posted the final transition plan for consumers affected by the separation of Highmark and UPMC at the end of 2014.

“We’re excited, because now we can bring clarity to the transition plan, we can help members make choices they need to make, and we think it’s an important part of the roadmap for us as we move forward,” said Deborah Rice Johnson, president of Highmark Health Plan.

Children with acute brain injury account for roughly 10 percent of all hospital admissions in the U.S. and half of all childhood deaths, but one Pittsburgh researcher believes the emphasis should be on rehabilitation as opposed to survival rates.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh physician-scientist Dr. Ericka Fink landed a $1.9 million grant Thursday to study early rehabilitation therapies on children with acute brain injury.

Starting next year, UPMC will implement a universal influenza immunization policy for all staff working in clinical locations. The current policy strongly encourages employees to get the flu shot. The reason for the new policy is primarily patient safety.

A day after it was announced that Gov. Tom Corbett’s alternative to Medicaid expansion, Healthy PA was approved by the federal government, health care advocates in Pennsylvania lauded the move as good overall but voiced concerns over high premiums and the logistics of establishing an entirely new system.

“We don’t believe that this is the best way to cover 600,000 Pennsylvanians,” said Kristen Dama, staff attorney at Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services.

Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

The federal government has approved Gov. Tom Corbett’s alternative to Medicaid expansion, the culmination of a roughly year-long negotiation to use federal money to subsidize private insurance plans for low-income Pennsylvanians.

Resolving the Backlog for Black Lung Disease Care

Aug 26, 2014
LeRoy Woodson / National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. Senator Bob Casey is laying out a plan to reduce a claims backlog that has impacted residents throughout the region. He recently chaired a hearing to explore the challenges that former coal miners are dealing with.

Dr. Kevin Gibson of the UPMC Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine department explains that although the term “black lung disease” is the popular name for the disease, it “doesn’t really capture how we think of the disease in the medical field.” According to him, black lung is more accurately described as two different types of disease.

“Simple pneumoconiosis is a problem where you develop very, very tiny nodules in the lung, which, generally speaking, are not associated with much in the way of symptoms. The severe disease, the serious disease, is what we call complex pneumoconiosis, or another term we use to describe it is progressive massive fibrosis. Those patients usually go on to respiratory failure, and those are the folks that usually die from the disease. Fortunately, they represent a relatively small percentage of people who are exposed.”

New open burning rules are pending before the Allegheny County Board of Health, and while most residents who have spoken out are in favor of the tighter controls, some feel the rules fall far short of being able to adequately protect public health.

“This is not about the tyranny of government overreach and the revolution has come to Bellevue,” said Bellevue resident and anti-burning activist Carol Wivell. “This is about people going before your elected officials and begging for help.”

Last Chance Summer Fitness Events

Aug 22, 2014

Before summer comes to a close and the autumn chill is in the air, there are plenty of outdoor activities for you to enjoy. Joe Vennare, co-founder of the online fitness and health magazine Fittsburgh, offers suggestions for some upcoming fitness events you may enjoy. “There’s something for everyone,” Vennare explains.

“Coming up is Pedal Pittsburgh, and they have three different events: a ride around town for the family that’s shorter, one for intermediate riders and one that goes up to 60 miles for more advanced riders. Same thing with something like the Great Race coming up here. … That’s a 5K run and walk -- but also [there is] the 10k, which is a little bit farther and more competitive.”

Pittsburghers Delivering Medical Aid to Ebola Victims

Aug 21, 2014
European Commission DG ECHO / Flickr

The Pittsburgh-based medical relief foundation Brother’s Brother has been trying to distribute medical aid throughout Western Africa since an outbreak of the Ebola virus began last spring. More than 1350 lives have been claimed by the virus, many were health care workers, according to the World Health Organization.

Luke L. Hingson, President of Brother’s Brother explains what workers face when treating people with Ebola.

“When people die in a hospital there is a feeling among the workers - should I go back to work? So you have smaller staffs helping these patients that have Ebola, plus, they have to carry out the regular work of the hospital.”

Hingson also explains how the 56 year-old foundation is keeping up with demand for these items in the affected regions.

“There is a need for 6 million exam gloves over the next sixth months," says Hingson.  "They have a supply right now of maybe two weeks, maybe three weeks. There is help coming. Every single medical person, not only wants to wear one exam glove, they want to put on two or three. There’s just such a risk of exposure, you get a pinprick of some type and the fluid gets through. There’s a much faster consumption of these medical supplies than ever before.”