Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

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Roughly 90% of Americans are medically illiterate to some degree, according to Kevin Progar, Project Manager of the Regional Health Literacy Coalition.

This low level is a costly problem for patients and healthcare providers. Consumers accept their doctor’s orders without asking for a second opinion or truly understanding what the doctor has said. In some cases patients take their medication incorrectly or do not take the prescribed medication at all (because they do not understand how to do so properly). Progar says $230 billion is wasted annually in the United States because of medical illiteracy. How can we fix this problem?

From the grocery store to the high school football game, you’re likely to start seeing pink everywhere this month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and local nonprofits are ramping up their efforts to raise public consciousness about the disease.

Kathy Purcell, chief executive officer of Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh, said people will sometimes ask her if there’s just a little too much pink.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office plans to fight an arbitration related to tobacco settlement money, but in the meantime, the Department of Health has started cutting millions of dollars.

That's expected to shutter tobacco programs such as Tobacco-Free Allegheny which will now be operating on a week-to-week basis.

Head and neck cancers account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancer in the United States, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which means proving the efficacy of a robotic detection technique could have a big impact on public health.

A University of Pittsburgh study shows using robotics to identify neck tumors can improve individualized treatment and increase survival rates.

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins Tuesday, and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) wants to make sure people understand what that means to them.

PHAN is hosting a community awareness event Tuesday at the Hill House in Pittsburgh with the goal of educating Pennsylvanians on the new health care law.

Erin Ninehouser, PHAN education and outreach director, said they plan to talk about the new choices, protections and benefits that come with the law.

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On Tuesday October 1st the health insurance exchange, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, opens for enrollment. While the various insurance plans and stipulations can be confusing, there are many resources available to offer assistance.

On Thursday September 26th, representatives from various health access groups came together at the Community Broadcast Center to talk about how the new healthcare & insurance plans will affect individuals and businesses. Listen to an edited broadcast of the forum on Tuesday October 1 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

Innovative Concussion Evaluation Technology

Sep 25, 2013
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According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 2 million people each year suffer from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

In the sports world, concussions have been in the limelight as athletes come forward with reports of lasting affects from the brain injuries they sustained while playing. As a result, the sports community is becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to properly treat a concussion and gather as much data as possible close to the time of impact.

C3 Logix is a new, innovative concussion evaluation technology that provides on site data collection at the time of injury, to better aid physicians in diagnosis and treatment. The program is loaded into an iPad and before the season starts, athletes perform a series of neurocognitive tests. The program tracks the athlete’s visual reflexes and their ability to focus on moving objects. Results of these baseline tests can then be compared to data logged in incident reports at the time of suspected brain injury.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that people will have more options in the health insurance marketplace and premiums will not be as high as originally thought. 

Premiums nationwide will be about 16 percent lower than originally expected.

“In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. 

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No longer are pharmacies the corner soda shop drug stores of the past.

Modern pharmacies and drug store chains have expanded their role from prescription outlets to alternative venues for medical treatment.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, many drug stores are going above and beyond their traditional roles by offering immunizations and flu shots for all ages throughout the year. She says because they deal with prescriptions daily, pharmacists often know more about the latest medical trends than doctors and can be a valuable partner for consumer health.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

New mobile technology being used by the Allegheny Health Network will allow physicians to better diagnose and treat concussions.

C3 Logix uses a computerized neurocognitive exam through a unique iPad app. The iPad is strapped to a patient’s back and can detect even minute movement.

Flickr user vitualis

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act open. It can be confusing, however, so here is some basic information and resources to help with understanding Obamacare. You may also want to read a Q&A from NPR's Morning Edition about the ACA. 90.5 WESA's daily magazine program Essential Pittsburgh will host public forum on the topic Thursday.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In Clarion County’s Licking Township there are vibrant green hills, windy narrow roads and traffic signs posted just as much for the trucks and tractors as for the horses and buggies.

It's a small, rural farming community north of Pittsburgh.

When you pull up to Emmanuel Schmidt’s home, you see acres of land, his woodworking shop and carriages. The 49-year-old Amish farmer knows Obamacare is coming, but he doesn’t quite know what that means.

"I’ve wondered, I’ve really wondered what’s going to happen with the health care, I don’t know," he said. 

Dwight Knox / Symbius Medical / flickr

Dedicated to supporting underprivileged medical facilities both in the region and overseas, Global Links works with hospitals in the greater Pittsburgh area to collect, refurbish and distribute medical supplies.

CEO and co-founder Kathleen Hower says while the company remains firmly rooted in Pittsburgh, they’ll continue to help those in need worldwide.

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Governor Tom Corbett’s medicaid expansion plan sounds like “a step in the right direction” according to Erin Ninehouser, the Education and Outreach Director for Pennsylvania Health Access Network, but she does have some reservations.

State Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Washington) wants the commonwealth to become the 21st state to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.

E-cigarettes have been marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests they could be a gateway to regular cigarette use.

The study showed 160,000 teens nationwide who never smoked cigarettes before used electronic cigarettes in 2012.

The devices are battery-powered and provide users with doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol.

Allegheny County’s new health department director is setting her sights on obesity prevention.

Dr. Karen Hacker, who joined the department last week, gave a presentation about ways to address obesity during Wednesday’s meeting of the Allegheny County Board of Health.

“I think it’s a national issue," Hacker said. "Somewhere between 30-40 percent of the population is in the overweight category, and I just believe there’s a lot a community can do and a lot a public health department can do.”

State Rep. Jake Wheatley is hoping a series of events he is sponsoring this weekend will improve the health of his district in every sense of the word.

“When you hear the word ‘health’ you always go instantly to physical health, but we’re also talking about your financial health, your mental health, and your emotional health, your communal health,” Wheatley said. “So that really was the impetus for what we wanted to do. And we wanted to get people out moving, we wanted to get people out talking, we wanted to get people out to share, so we kind of combined our activities.”

People working for or in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s Participant Direction Service (PDS) can now log onto a new Google Group to seek answers to common questions.

The PDS allows care recipients to control where, when and how some of their services and supports are delivered. With participant direction they become a type of employer to care workers. There are about 16,000 participants and 20,000 workers involved in the program. 

On Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke at Allegheny General Hospital announcing a partnership with Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The goal? To go into areas with high numbers of uninsured people and ensure they sign up for the health insurance exchanges, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are a health care market where people can compare different insurance plans based on coverage and prices.

Elderly patients hospitalized with an infection, like pneumonia, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who were not.

That’s according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh that followed 5,888 patients over the age of 65 in four areas across the country: Winston-Salem, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; Hagerstown, Md.; and Pittsburgh.

The study was done in conjunction with researchers from the University of Washington, University of California, University of Illinois, John Hopkins University and Columbia Medical Center.

Members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs were in Pittsburgh Monday morning for a field hearing to examine instances of preventable deaths at VA facilities across the country.

A major focus of the hearing was on the Legionella outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA in 2011 and 2012, which killed at least six veterans and sickened many others.

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Americans have become increasingly concerned about contact sports and whether they should be played by children.

Dr. Anthony Kontos, UPMC Concussion Program Assistant Director of Research, says this may be a knee jerk reaction to increased awareness of injuries and recent NFL lawsuits.

His latest research focuses on concussions in youth football for players under the age of 12. The studies confirm that concussions primarily occur during games. One finding that Kontos says may surprise people is the fact that 8, 9 and 10-year-olds who’ve played tackle football incur fewer concussions than previously thought.

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On college campuses across the country, mental health is becoming an increasing concern. In the past year, one in five students have received a psychiatric diagnosis or been treated for mental health issues.

As a result, there is a rising demand for mental health professionals to provide the proper treatment for students. According to Tevya Zukor, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Counseling Center, there's an increased need because of the de-stigmatization of mental health issues among the public.

He says students are seeking treatment at earlier ages and many come into college with a history of mental health treatment. A second reason is that in the past 10 to 15 years there have been huge advancements in psychotropic medicine.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are one of the only vaccinations that can prevent cancer, but most women, especially black women, are still unlikely to get the shots. This is according to Sonya Borrero, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

A study from Borrero and researchers at the School of Medicine found black women are significantly less likely to receive human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines than white women.

CDC: Lyme Disease Threat is Bigger Than Thought

Sep 1, 2013

Pennsylvania has always been a hot sport for Lyme disease, but new studies being conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the problem is far more widespread than earlier believed.

Previous reports from the CDC have listed about 30,000 cases of tick-borne Lyme disease each year, however, the CDC’s research from this year shows that a more accurate estimate would be 300,000 cases of the disease.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine plan to expand their Vascular Medicine Institute over the next five years, by creating the Heart, Lung Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute, or VMI.

Dr. Mark Gladwin, co-director of VMI, said it will be a hub for research.

"This will be the research home for scientists and physicians and physician scientists that have primary appointments within cardiology, pulmonary and hematology," he said.

Long-term facilities such as skilled nursing homes or facilities for people with intellectual disabilities often work with hospices. In some cases it goes well. But in other cases, communication can go by the wayside, affecting quality of patient care.

New federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid hope to smooth the transition between the facilities as well as give the patient more choice.

They went into effect on Monday. 

Patients in long-term care facilities basically now have two options:

Summer may be coming to a close, but the threat of West Nile Virus continues.

The Department of Health has detected Pennsylvania’s first confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus this year.

A Montgomery County man tested positive for West Nile Aug. 7 and was hospitalized, and the infection was confirmed in a York County man July 20, who did not require hospitalization.

Health department spokeswoman Kait Gillis said both men are recovering.

Sixty human cases of West Nile Virus were recorded in 2012.

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Hypertension, known as the “Silent Killer,” is more prevalent in Allegheny County African Americans than any other group. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension has taken the lives of over 50,000 people in the last year.

Dr. Indu Poornima is a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital and conducts research with high blood pressure patients in Allegheny County. She says the increased prevalence of obesity and stressors, along with access to health care and genetic predispositions, are all possible factors that cause hypertension.

Richard Gates pushed off Monday afternoon from Pittsburgh on a 700-mile bike ride to Boston. That’s difficult enough for a perfectly fit person, but consider that the 62-year-old musician is a heart transplant recipient.

This is the third time since 2008 that Gates is making a long bike trip that he calls the Tour de Second Chance. During the trip he will stop at hospitals and meet with patients on the waiting list and recent transplant recipients, “bringing awareness to organ donation and being able to visit with people awaiting hearts and able to answer some questions.”

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