Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

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
Fittsburgh

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.”

A western Pennsylvania judge has approved the sale of the Johnstown-based Conemaugh Health System to a for-profit Tennessee network, Duke LifePoint Healthcare.

Under the deal approved Wednesday by Cambria County Judge Timothy Creany, Duke LifePoint will pay $111 million for Conemaugh, and agree to invest $425 million more on capital improvements, including new facilities in Richland Township, near Johnstown, and Ebensburg, over the next decade.

Additionally, the properties in the system will now be taxable.

New Bill to Give Doctors Protection From Lawmakers

Aug 18, 2014

Patients trust that their doctors are acting in their best interests, with opinions formed by years of experience, training, and studying. But what if that medical opinion was actually handed down by a politician?

A new bill proposed by Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Stack (D- Philadelphia) attempts to address that issue by preventing government bodies from requiring medical personnel to make decisions that are not medically supported.

Between 2001 and 2011 there was a 21 percent increase in disabilities classified as neurodevelopmental or mental health-related in nature in children.

That’s according to an analysis from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. This is in contrast to physical health-related disabilities in children – that rate dropped 12 percent over the same time period.

More than 12,600 Pennsylvanians are at risk of losing their federal exchange health insurance this September if they do not resolve inconsistencies in their enrollment information, according to the Pennsylvania Health Access Network.

In May, more than 970,000 people were identified by the Department of Health and Human Services as missing information or having contradictory information about their citizenship or immigration status in their data.

Are Fitness Apps Really Worth It?

Aug 14, 2014
Health Gauge / Flickr

Whether it's a pedometer or an app tracking your calories there's no shortage of technological devices to record your fitness endeavors. But, do they work? Are they necessary? How long do people actually use them? Research states one in three people using wearable fitness technology will stop after six months.

Aliquippa-Born Doctor Was An Early Opponent Of Big Tobacco

Aug 12, 2014
United States Government

Only a few decades ago, the public’s attitude toward cigarettes was remarkably different. Cigarettes were smoked in public, they were recommended by doctors, and were even smoked by pregnant women. Awareness of the dangers of smoking, and the public change of opinion can largely be traced to one man: West Aliquippa native Jesse Steinfeld.

Steinfeld was the first surgeon general in the Nixon Administration and spoke out against cigarette smoking, bringing new attention to the risks it posed and leading to the ban of smoking in most public places. He died last week at age 87.

Stanton Glantz who studies the health effects of secondhand smoke at Stanford University, discussed the legacy of Dr. Steinfeld.

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, no workers, visitors or patients will be allowed to smoke on any Allegheny Health Network grounds.

“Anybody whose walked into any facility, health care or otherwise, who has to walk through smoke or be exposed to smoke, it's not a pleasant thing if you're not a smoker," said Allegheny Health Network spokesman Dan Laurent, "particularly in a facility that’s dedicated to preserving health and promoting health.”

Smoking is already not allowed inside Allegheny Health Network facilities.

Caregiver Stress and Supportive Resources

Aug 11, 2014
Donald Lee Pardue / Flickr

In an article for the Post–Gazette, freelance writer Tina Calabro chronicled a tragic murder-suicide that took place in the Mon Valley borough of Port Vue. The incident involved an elderly caregiver of a middle-aged son with developmental disabilities.

In December, 78 year old Richard Lipschok of Port Vue took the life of his 52 year old son before taking his own. The elder Lipschok’s wife died the year before, leaving him wondering how to care for his only son. Calabro thinks the notions of previous generations, where the mother of the family was expected to take care of children, caused part of Lipschok’s distress.

Calabro says cases like this are not as uncommon as they may seem, as a similar incident happened in Philadelphia last summer.

“This murder-suicide type thing happens fairly regularly, but it’s not what most people do. But, we do know that people struggle behind closed doors, that they are silently struggling, and what is the situation of these people and is our public system addressing their need for information and providing services?”

Paramedics and EMTs undergo hundreds of hours of training to know how to respond to a health emergency, but sometimes, nothing can take the place of a physician’s input. Allegheny Valley Hospital is the first in the state to solve this problem by allowing its paramedic response units to connect patients to hospital physicians via iPad in an initiative called “telemedicine.”

One in four people live with some form of mental illness in the United States, according to the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania.

But Health and Human Services announced recently that seven health centers in the commonwealth will receive a total of $1,750,000 in Affordable Care Act funding.

This will be used to establish or expand behavioral health services for more than 20,900 people in the commonwealth.

The Squirrel Hill Health Center was one of the seven clinics that received $250,000.

Talking CrossFit: Are the Workouts Too Intense?

Aug 7, 2014
Tony Felgueiras / Flickr

Combining cardiovascular and weight training, CrossFit is one of the biggest fitness trends in recent years.  Known for their intensity, CrossFit workouts, if taken to extremes, have resulted in serious injury for some participants.

Jim Crowell is an elite CrossFit athlete and trainer. He's also a former owner of a CrossFit facility. Crowell thinks the workout is excellent, if done safely and the right way. The biggest factor for Crowell is finding the right coach. This is especially important when a CrossFit class might have participants with varying levels of athleticism.

“It's really up to the coach to understand what their limitations are  before the workout starts, and their work is not overly aggressive,” he said.

Another concern about CrossFit is the ease in obtaining a coaching certification and opening a "box," as CrossFit gyms are known. 

“I think where the criticism is coming in is you are having these coaches who have no athletic, training or coaching background opening gyms, and then just trying to line up the most difficult and fun workout that may not have any interest in safety,” Crowell said.

The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh has received a $1.5 million grant to be used in aiding the renovation of its Pediatric Specialty Hospital.

The Economic Growth Initiative Grant will be used to add 14 private hospital rooms and a new common area complete with a kitchen.

“Over the last couple of years we have been filling our beds, and what we don’t ever want is for a child who needs our services to be on a waiting list,” said Jennifer March, director of External Affairs at the Children’s Home.

The entire project will cost the hospital $5.3 million.

  About 15,100 people die each year from hepatitis C, making it the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver transplantation.

The disease can be contracted through injection drug use, unprotected sex or through contact with the blood of someone who is infected. It can be minor, lasting only a few weeks, or a lifelong battle.

But a study from the University of Pittsburgh shows that hepatitis C could become a “rare” disease by 2036.

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