Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

"The Fault in Our Stars," a movie adaptation of a critically and commercially popular young adult novel, has just finished filming in Pittsburgh and in the Netherlands.

The book and movie center around two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Many of the extras in the movie are young people with cancer.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie adaptation of the beloved novel. Book author John Green says the story goes against the typical trope popular media brings us about the ailing.

Nearly half of all Americans say they would favor a ban on contact in youth football among kids that have not yet entered middle school. The 47.6 percent number comes from a recent survey released Thursday by Robert Morris University.

That number falls to 40.5 percent when the age is increased to high school. 

Among males who played football in their youth, the percentage slips to 44.3 for a ban prior to middle school and 38.2 for a ban prior to high school.

Elementary and secondary schools in the Pittsburgh region are increasingly interested in integrating gardening into their curricula. At least, that’s what it looks like from where Jake Seltman is sitting.

Seltman is the director of educational programming at Grow Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that provides gardening and farming education to people of all ages.

Seltman said that in the last six months he’s fielded 22 requests from schools and school districts to bring the Edible Schoolyard program to their schools.

A study of the economic impact of Pennsylvania's home health care industry shows the sector has a big financial footprint and is expected to grow larger yet.

The report was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, representing about 500 homecare and hospice providers. It finds the home-based health care industry contributed to nearly $22 billion in economic activity in the commonwealth last year, putting the sector just behind the state's medical schools and nursing homes in spending and jobs supported.

The mortality and re-admission rates for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery and valve replacement continue to decline in Pennsylvania.

The new report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) studied 20,164 patients who underwent bypass and/or valve replacement surgery in 50 Pennsylvania acute care hospitals between July 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2012.

HHS.gov & casey.senate.gov

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday. This time she will be fielding questions from members of the Senate Finance Committee about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the failure of the launch of the website HealthCare.gov.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is a member of the committee. He thinks the session will start with a look at why the website used to sign up for new healthcare insurance collapsed on the first day and has never fully recovered. However, he hopes it will not end there.

The number of ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in Pennsylvania increased by 10 in 2012, bringing the total to 281. That’s according to an annual report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, or the PHC4.

An ASC is a facility that offers outpatient procedures that don’t require an overnight stay, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy.

The local media, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and members of congress have all tried to dig into the outbreak of Legionella at the Pittsburgh VA hospital and now the American Legion is getting involved.

The group tours fifteen hospitals each year to gather information for an annual report from its System Worth Saving Task Force, which assesses the facilities on several criteria.  The Task force chose Pittsburgh to be among those reviewed this year.

One out of every three people in the United States feels the painful inflammation of periodontal disease, or gum disease.

That’s according to University of Pittsburgh researchers who believe they have discovered a way to treat the disease by mimicking a tumor.

Steve Little, associate professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, said tumors have a way of hacking into the body’s immune system and convincing the system to accept it.

The Porch restaurant in Oakland closed Wednesday in response to several E. coli cases among employees and customers.

The restaurant voluntarily closed for the day, but has been approved by the Health Department to re-open Thursday.

Karen Hacker, Director of Allegheny Health Department, said the restaurant is undergoing extensive cleaning.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is once again facing the ire of some of its employees, but this time it has nothing to do with alleged union-busting tactics at the healthcare giant.

About 50 people gathered Wednesday outside the Steel Building where UPMC has its corporate offices to protest the outsourcing of the medical transcription department to a Massachusetts company called Nuance.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society wants to light a flame under e-cigarette regulations.

More than 200 physicians called on the state legislature to pass electronic cigarette legislation similar to existing tobacco laws. 

The physicians met at the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s annual meeting over the weekend and expressed concerns about the devices.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes, but the battery-powered devices give smokers doses of nicotine and other additives in an aerosol.

More than twenty years after the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) became law, a new report finds that about 1 in 20 Pennsylvania children is still uninsured.

According to the second annual State of Children’s Healthcare in Pennsylvania report by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, or PPC, nearly 148,000 children in the state lack health insurance.

In its last big recruitment push for its latest major research study, The American Cancer Society is seeking participants in rural southwestern Pennsylvania counties such as Fayette, Cambria and Westmoreland.

Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3) is the third massive American Cancer Society study. CPS-1, which started in the 50’s, found links between smoking and lung cancer. CPS-2, which started in the 1980’s and is ongoing has found links between unhealthy behaviors and cancers. CPS-3 hopes to find major factors that can affect cancer risk.

United Way Report: Elderly Needs on the Rise

Oct 23, 2013

Fewer funds and resources for elderly and disabled people along with a growing aging population are creating problems of “epic proportion,” according to a new report from the United Way of Allegheny County.

United Way President Bob Nelkin said that with new medical advancements people are now outliving their spouses and caregivers more than before, and their needs are increasing. 

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Oct 23, 2013
Flickr

Be it antibiotics or pain medication, in the past, most people have disposed of their leftover pills in toilet, which can cause drinking water contamination and other environmental concerns.

Run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, National Prescription Take Back Day provides people with a safe, responsible and convenient way to turn in their drugs.

According to Michael Stepaniak, an environmental program coordinator for the PA Resources Council, they accept everything from prescription drugs to controlled substances. It is completely anonymous and no questions are asked.

Flickr user jrgcastro

A federal judge says she's likely to put on hold a civil rights lawsuit over Pittsburgh's challenge to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's tax-exempt status.

Meanwhile, in the related state case, attorneys wrangled Monday over whether UPMC has employees.

The city sued UPMC in earlier this year, saying the medical center shouldn't be treated like a charity because it doesn't act like one.

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.

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