Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

UPMC St. Margaret used to use alcohol caps for central lines, and with those had a very low infection rates. The use of the caps was discontinued and a disturbing trend emerged.

“When that happened we saw almost a double of our infection rates,” said Jenny  Bender, infection preventionist, now at UPMC Presbyterian, formerly with St. Margaret, “they still weren’t awful but they were way higher than what we were used to seeing, which was zero.”

A $1 tax increase could cause 77,000 adults to quit smoking and prevent 85,000 kids from ever starting smoking in Pennsylvania, according to the American Cancer Society.

The organization and its affiliate the Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) are partnering with the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association to convince Pennsylvania lawmakers to consider adding a dollar to the $1.60 per pack tax.

The groups are saying that the increase could save almost 50,000 lives in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Corbett is calling on UPMC and Highmark to put their patients first.

The contract between UPMC and Highmark is set to expire by December 31st, 2014.

UPMC said that it does not intend to extend the contract, which means that Highmark patients will not receive in-network rates for UPMC services.

Injured workers in Pennsylvania receive stronger painkillers per claim than the average state. That's according to a report released this month by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

According to the study, the average injured Pennsylvania worker gets about 2,745 milligrams of a morphine equivalent narcotic per claim. That’s 32 to 48 percent more than workers in the average state.

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is asking for public feedback on its 2014 Air Monitoring Network Review, an annual report listing where and how air pollution is being measured.

The 78-page document, required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, includes the location of monitoring stations, the process used to monitor the air and the pollutants detected at each location.

Health Department to Make Low-income Homes Healthy

May 29, 2014

Every day, an average of 36,000 children in the United States miss school because of an asthma attack, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Unfortunately, many children are exposed to asthma triggers such as mold and dust mites, along with other health hazards, in their homes.

Now, lower income households with children can receive free home health inspections from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) to detect risks such as asthma triggers, mold spores, and lead paint.

Flickr user proimos

A new report is providing a “check-up” on the financial state of the commonwealth’s hospitals - and the diagnosis is not looking promising.

The Financial Analysis 2013: General Acute Care Hospitals, a report written by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), shows that the commonwealth’s hospitals are being under-funded by Medicare and Medicaid.

Highlighting Southwestern Pennsylvania's ALS Clinics

May 24, 2014
Luke Torrance / 90.5 WESA

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. That I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

These were the words of baseball legend Lou Gehrig from his iconic 1939 speech, which has become a part of his legacy as much as his consecutive games played record and the disease named after him.

75 years later, there is still no known cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, formally known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Living with the disease is still difficult as Larry Jacknin, a Pittsburgh native with ALS, can attest. He discussed the changes in his life since being diagnosed.

What Is The Long-Term Health Impact Of Pharmaceuticals In Our Water?

May 19, 2014
Katie Colaneri / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Scientists have been detecting traces of pharmaceuticals in our water systems for about 30 years now, but the research shows no one is getting a full dose of say, Prozac, just from drinking tap water. However, scientists do wonder whether these compounds may be having more subtle, long-term impacts on human health.

“We don’t have an answer to that and there’s really no good research out there that says ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ at this particular time,” said Julie Becker, a public heath researcher at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

May is World Asthma Month, and in an effort to raise awareness of diagnoses, treatments and other asthma-related issues, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals gathered for a one-day summit.

One of the goals is to draw attention to how many asthma sufferers there are in the Pittsburgh area.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program is aimed at ensuring pregnant women and mothers of young children have access to food staples. The program is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Allegheny County was a pilot site for the national demonstration project in the 1970s.

“Allegheny County Health Department opened the first WIC Clinic in Pennsylvania and issued the first WIC voucher on May 28th, 1974,” said Kathryn South, a public health nutrition administrator with the Allegheny County Health Department’s WIC Office.

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of emergency department visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) rose by nearly 30 percent throughout the United States. That’s according to a study from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

While there was an increase, researchers are unclear of exactly why.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is hoping a newly formed working group will be able to turn the tide of heroin overdose deaths in the Commonwealth. 

Corbett is calling for the working group, which will be chaired by Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis, to put a report on his desk by September.

“Yes I know that’s an aggressive time frame and I know that’s across the summer,” Corbett said.  “We don’t have the time to wait.”

Allegheny County health authorities say a person with measles might have recently spread the virus to others in the Pittsburgh area.

Officials say Thursday that people who may have been in contact with the Allegheny County resident at work or elsewhere are being notified. They also say others may have been exposed on April 30 in New Kensington, at an Indiana Township restaurant, and in Harmar Township.

A needle digs painfully deep into your skin for what seems like an eternity, and in its place, an image or phrase resides forever. But who’s to say a deadly blood-born disease like HIV doesn’t inhabit, too?

No one, and that’s a major problem as tattoos and body piercings become more popular, according to a Pennsylvania lawmaker.

“Because there’s needles used, there should be some sort of, at the least, sanitation or sterilization requirements for an establishment and some training that’s involved with the tattoo artists as well,” Rep. Rosemary Brown said.

A painkiller that has five to ten times more opioid than any other drug on the market was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, and a Pennsylvania lawmaker isn’t happy.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks County) is sponsoring a bill that would regulate the use of Zohydro, a pure formulation of hydrocodone, in Pennsylvania. The drug was approved by the FDA, even though its medical board voted 11 to 2 against it.

“The FDA went over the heads of their own medical board and approved this,” DiGirolamo said.

Ever ask a family member, “Did you take your medicine today?”

There might be a more effective way to prompt people to take their meds on time, a recent Carnegie Mellon University study found.

The 10-month study, conducted in the homes of older adults with chronic health problems, revealed that giving people feedback after they take medication, rather than reminding them on time, has its benefits.

Gov. Tom Corbett has reversed his opposition to legalizing a certain kind of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. The governor said Thursday he’ll support a proposal to make it available to people suffering from debilitating seizures.

Spokesman Jay Pagni said Corbett shared his decision first with parents and families advocating for medical marijuana in a private meeting Thursday in Harrisburg. A notice was sent simultaneously to other families who have been advocating for legalization, Pagni said.

Governor Corbett Gives New Support for Medical Marijuana

May 1, 2014
Mark / Flickr

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania hoped a meeting with Governor Corbett might change his stance on the issue. These advocates threatened a sit-in if the governor refused to see them. 

It looks like their threats paid off. 

Despite a recent Quinnipiac University poll which showed 85% of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of medical marijuana, 90.5 WESA Capitol Correspondent Mary Wilson said Corbett remained steadfastly opposed, until this afternoon.  

"Corbett is quoted in a press release this afternoon saying that he will support a bill to allow research based hospitals to prescribe this oil extract which is from the marijuana plant." said Wilson

"Of course it's going to need the approval of the legislature but the leader of the senate Republicans has said that he will support this. And that he looks forward to sending the bill to the governor's desk."

Community members, farmers, government officials and school administrators will gather in Pittsburgh Friday for the second Farm to Community Conference.

Hosted by Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE), the conference will focus on ways to make farm fresh food available in local schools and underserved communities, or food deserts.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director for WHE, said eight workshops are scheduled throughout the day, each focused on a different fresh food challenge.

It's a problem that is lurking just below the surface in Pennsylvania, and it is getting worse every year.  

A group assembled by United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton will look for solutions to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the Pittsburgh area.

The U.S. Attorney’s Working Group on Addiction: Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery will work to identify the problems behind the alarming number of opiate overdoses in Western Pennsylvania and how to solve them.

Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club / Facebook

At Barack Obama Academy in East Liberty, the long-tarnished reputation of school lunches may be coming to an end. Thanks to the Food Revolution Cooking Club, students have the opportunity to learn how to prepare healthy meals.

The idea for the club came after world renowned chef Jaime Oliver visited Pittsburgh in 2012 and challenged the community to focus on healthy food choices. Since then, the Cooking Club has partnered with many local restaurants where students are exposed to the kitchen and learn the importance of quality foods. 

If a cancer cell forms in the body, does it make a sound?

John Viator, director of the Duquesne University biomedical engineering program, would say yes—if it’s hit by a laser.

Viator and his team received a five-year, $1.4 million federal grant to use lasers in detecting, capturing and analyzing circulating melanoma cells, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

According to a study by Trust For America’s Health published last October, Pennsylvania has the 14th highest drug overdose mortality rate in the United States, with 15.3 per 100,000 people dying from drug overdoses. According to the same study, overdoses from prescription drugs now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded about $2.1 million in grants to 26 counties to combat West Nile Virus.

Allegheny County received $168,114 to study and control the virus-carrying mosquito populations. Philadelphia County got the most at $231,298.

DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman said West Nile Virus studies are best handled at the local level.

Overcoming Unique Challenges With Doctors Without Borders

Apr 18, 2014
Sophie-Jane Madden / MSF

Last November, Typhoon Haiyan, a powerful tropical cyclone devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines.

When cataclysmic events such as this happen, many organizations are dispatched to these areas to provide medical treatment and aid.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders is one such group providing help. Brett Davis, an aid worker for Doctors Without Borders recently returned from the Philippines.

Food trucks are commonplace in cities such as Los Angeles or New York, but Pittsburgh has had a hard time embracing the mobile eateries.

All that could change with Farm Truck Foods.

Awesome Pittsburgh, which gives grants to people "with brilliant ideas," this week awarded the company $1,000 for its proposed solution to the city’s food desert dilemma.

Allegheny County employees no longer have to wonder about their health care options for 2015.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Tuesday that the county will exclusively retain Highmark for health care coverage through December 31st, 2015 - even if Highmark and UPMC are unable to reach an agreement.

Can depression lead to asthma? How about over-medicating?

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and UPMC are trying to answer these questions with a new computer program that has the ability to track 112 clinical variables for 398 people who do and do not have asthma.

This program can identify various subtypes of the disease such as asthma related to allergies, sinuses or environmental factors.

Wei Wu, an associate professor at CMU’s Lane Center for Computational Biology, said they want to help clinicians better define “asthma.”

Ways to Help Young People Cope with Traumatic Events

Apr 10, 2014
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

In the wake of the violent attacks at Franklin Regional High School, students and staff at the school have begun the process of coping with the traumatic event.

For young people this can be a particularly difficult journey. The Center for Victims is a victim advocacy group which offers support for those affected by violence.

Diane Dahm is director of prevention education and outreach and Toya Jones is a trauma therapist with the center. They explained how important it is to maintain a child's sense of normalcy while still keeping alert to any possible signs of trauma

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