Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

For cancer patients, the burden of treatment can be so heavy that their overall quality of life is overlooked as recovery takes precedence. Elements of wellness such as movement, touch, nutrition, and mindfulness will be addressed by The Hillman Cancer Center at its inaugural Integrated Cancer Wellness Fair on October 23 at UPMC Shadyside Hospital.

Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) nurses have ratified a new two-year contract Wednesday after their previous contract expired Sunday.

Eighty-seven percent of the 1,238 nurses voted in favor of ratifying the contract.

Transplant nurse Cathy Stoddart, president of the SEIU unit that represents AGH’s nurses, said they gained a combined 4.25 percent raise over the life of the contract.

Gov. Corbett has signed into law the elimination of an unpopular six-month waiting period for some children in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The lag in enrollment applied to some children more than two years old - it was a way to ensure employers or consumers wouldn't drop private coverage to enroll in the public program.

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) praised his colleagues for making the proposal a priority.

About 400 nurses will descend on Market Square downtown Thursday afternoon to educate people about the Affordable Care Act - each with their own story.

Michelle Boyle, a nurse at Allegheny General, believes her mother-in-law would still be alive if the Affordable Care Act had been enacted sooner.

“My mother-in-law, she was 58, and she lost her job, she lost her health insurance, and a year later, she lost her life because she kept on being denied because she had pre-existing conditions,” Boyle said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

If you walked through Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh during your lunch hour on Tuesday, you maybe have received a free sweet treat.

Staff from Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Greater Pittsburgh, or BVRS, were there to celebrate White Cane Awareness Day. They brought with them 5,000 chocolate covered pretzel rods, painted to look like the signature red-tipped white canes carried by the visually impaired.

Erika Arbogast is the President of BVRS, and she said passing out free food is a great way to get people interested and to raise awareness.

ThyroSeq, a new way of genetically testing thyroid nodules for cancer, could save patients an extra procedure.

Developed at the University of Pittsburgh, ThyroSeq is a genetic sequencing test that allows researchers to accurately diagnose a thyroid growth for cancer.

Dr. Yuri Nikiforov, director of thyroid molecular diagnostics at the Pitt School of Medicine, said thyroid nodules typically appear as a lump on the neck close to the “Adam’s apple.” He said they are more common in women and the elderly.

A new study released Monday shows Pennsylvania has the 14th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.

Albert Lang, communications manager at the Trust for America’s Health, said this is the first time the organization has aggregated such data.

They were motivated to do so after compiling related data on accident and injury deaths, which includes drug overdoses.

On Thursday afternoon, Carla Bailey was unsuccessfully trying to get customers’ attention at the Rite Aid on Smithfield Street downtown.

Bailey, a supplemental insurance agent, was working for Green Cross Insurance, a new brokerage firm setting up in Rite Aid stores to disperse information about the health exchanges. Bailey is working in stores throughout the region, and on Wednesday she had been in McKees Rocks, where one person signed up to learn more about the Affordable Care Act.

Confusion continues to swirl around the coming split of Highmark and UPMC, and a pair of western Pennsylvania state representatives is hoping to calm the fears of many in the region.

Reps. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) and Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) this week introduced a pair of bills (HB 1621 and HB 1622) that would force all not-for-profit health care insurers and health care providers to open their services to all insurance holders, not just their own.

Patients and those seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act aren’t the only ones fighting confusion. Physicians also have a lot of new things to deal with. Representatives with the Pennsylvania Medical Society say there are many confusing points, including understanding how people will be enrolled in the insurance exchanges that opened Monday.

The High Cost of Medical Illiteracy

Oct 2, 2013
Andye / Flickr

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.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

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
GENuine 1986 / Flickr

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. 

The Business of Pharmacies Expand & Evolve

Sep 24, 2013
Assia R / flickr

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.

90.5 WESA

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.

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