Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Medicaid Expansion & Women in PA

Mar 7, 2013
Ben Ostrowsky / Flickr

As more Republican governor's adopt the Medicaid Expansion, Governor Corbett is under more pressure to adopt the program. We'll discuss the impact of the Medicaid Expansion program on Pennsylvania women and low-income families with Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health Policy and Reproductive Rights for the National Women's Law Center.

A day after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the Corbett administration has to spend tobacco settlement proceeds on health care programs such as adultBasic, plantiffs celebrated what they call a victory for the working poor.

AdultBasic, a health insurance plan, launched in 2002 for low-income people earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.  Two years ago, when the Corbett administration cancelled the program, 41,000 people lost their health insurance coverage.

As part of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, about half of the state’s sixty health centers will be shuttering, consolidating or morphing. Lay-offs of personnel are also part of the proposal; which state officials say is an effort to modernize Pennsylvania’s public health services and save money.

Michael Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health says this move would be a way to deliver services to people who can’t get to the health centers.

Lawyers Say Court Ruling Gives adultBasic New Life

Mar 5, 2013

A portion of Pennsylvania's tobacco settlement proceeds must fund the defunct adultBasic health insurance program for lower-income adults or a similar plan, rather than be used to help balance the government budget or pay for teacher pensions, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini, applying a previous and related court ruling, declared unconstitutional two state laws that siphoned the money away from adultBasic and Medicaid for disabled workers.

In its first year, a program at Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights has substantially reduced readmission rates for its sickest patients.

Allegheny Valley Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas McClure said the High-Risk Care Team (HRCT), created February 2012, singles out the patients who have the highest risk of returning to the hospital. McClure said the five team members do everything they can to ensure those high-risk patients don't have to come back for more treatment.

Energy Drinks

Mar 4, 2013
Matteo Paciotti / Flickr

You can’t help but notice the amount of products on the market to help you fight that tired feeling. Drinks like Red Bull, Monster and five-hour energy shots are supposed to give you a much-needed jolt. But, how safe are these products? We’ll find out from Leslie Bonci director of sports nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

Lessons for Living Well

Mar 4, 2013
Meg Hourihan / Flickr

Do we learn all we ever really need to know in kindergarten? We’ll discuss five principles for living, loving and playing well with others with psychologist Robert Schwartz, President of Cognitive Dynamic Therapy Associates.

Act 13 Debated at Pitt Symposium

Feb 28, 2013

Pennsylvania's law governing Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania, has made headlines because of its zoning rules, how it treats municipalities, and whether it is constitutional.

Women's Heart Health

Feb 28, 2013
Go Red Campaign

More women than men die of heart disease each year. One challenge is heart disease symptoms in women can be different from symptoms in men. We'll look at this aspect of women's health with heart attack survivor Amy Heinl and Katie Berlacher, MD from the UPMC Heart and Vascular institute.

Altoona and UPMC Move Forward on Deal

Feb 26, 2013
tom16602 / Flickr

  The Altoona Regional Health System says it is moving forward with a proposed affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Officials said Monday that the Altoona health system's board of directors and parent company Central Pennsylvania Health Services Corp. have signed a nonbinding letter of intent to negotiate the deal.

If approved, the two would sign a definitive agreement to affiliate.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

Medicine taken “under the tongue” might replace traditional allergy injections, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunotherapy.

In a Phase III clinical trial researchers gave patients either a placebo or liquid immunotherapy.

Patients who took the medicine through ragweed season—about eight to 16 weeks— experienced a 43 percent decrease in symptoms compared to those on the placebo. 

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine says he was surprised by the announcement last week from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare that PCIP – Pre-existing condition insurance plans- a transition insurance program that is part of the Affordable Care Act - would cease to take new enrollees.

Pennsylvania’s plan called 'Pennsylvania Fair Care,' was set up in 2010, has 6,500 enrollees and averages about 200 new enrollees a month.

Former Allegheny County Health Department Director Bruce Dixon died early Wednesday morning according to the County Medical Examiner’s office.  The death is listed as being related to a blood infection from a sudden inflammation of his gallbladder, which caused him to be hospitalized on Tuesday.

Deanna Garcia/90.5 WESA News

February is Black History Month, March is Women’s History Month, and in the City of Pittsburgh February 15th through March 15th is Women of Color HERstory Month.

Long-term Marcellus Shale Study Underway

Feb 19, 2013
Ari Moore / Flickr

Geisinger Health System is using a $1 million grant to study the impact Marcellus Shale drilling has on people's health.

The grant from the Degenstein Foundation will go towards building a data warehouse that will be home to healthcare, drilling, and environmental data needed for the project.

Stephen Sellers, Administrative Director of the initiative, said the project will take 20 to 30 years. He said they’re divided into 5-year phases and the grant will go towards the first.

Penn State 'Thon' Raises Record $12.37M

Feb 18, 2013

A 46-hour, no-sitting-or-sleeping-allowed dance marathon at Penn State raised more than $12.37 million for pediatric cancer research and care, shattering last year's record-breaking total by nearly $1.7 million.

The announcement delivered by student organizers to more than 700 dancers and thousands of volunteers, along with cancer patients and their families, concluded the weekend-long IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon at 4 p.m. Sunday.

jimmiehomeschoolmom/Flickr

A conference on traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary contexts at the University of Pittsburgh Friday will examine traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a concurrent approach to treating illness. The event is organized by the husband and wife research team of Professor Andrew Strathern and Dr. Pamela J. Stewart.

The two-day conference is rooted in the growing field of medical anthropology, a study of health-related beliefs and behaviors. Strather said modern medicine can avail itself of the nearly 2,000 years of historical knowledge that TCM encompasses.

A conference on traditional Chinese medicine in contemporary contexts at the University of Pittsburgh Friday will examine traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a concurrent approach to treating illness. The event is organized by the husband and wife research team of Professor Andrew Strathern and Dr. Pamela J. Stewart.

The two-day conference is rooted in the growing field of medical anthropology, a study of health-related beliefs and behaviors. Strather said modern medicine can avail itself of the nearly 2,000 years of historical knowledge that TCM encompasses.

University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) researchers have uncovered a technique to halt the growth of cancer cells—a discovery that could lead to potential new anti-cancer therapies.

The team discovered when cancerous cells are deprived of Dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), they are unable to properly divide and multiply.

GERD Connected to Adult-Onset Asthma

Jan 28, 2013

A study published earlier this month in JAMA Surgery established the link between two common diseases - Gastroesophageal reflux disease also known as GERD and adult-onset asthma – which can be caused by GERD.

“That’s a very challenging diagnosis to make oftentimes because up until recently we didn’t have technology that had the sensitivity that enabled us to make that diagnosis,” said Blair Jobe, one of the study’s authors and the Director of West Penn Allegheny’s Institute for the Treatment of Esophageal and Thoracic Disease.

Is the Flu Season In Pittsburgh Coming to an End?

Jan 22, 2013

This year's "flu season” has claimed a higher than average number of victims this winter, but some local doctors are finding the high volume of cases are already starting to drop.

Thomas Campbell, Assistant Chairman of Emergency Medicine for West Penn Allegheny Health System, said this year got started a little bit earlier than in the past several seasons and it was worse than normal, but he isn’t exactly sure why. He said while it will linger through the winter, he is optimistic an end to the spike is in sight.

Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) have agreed to an out-of-court deal that would have the health insurer buy out the outstanding debt load of WPAHS.

The two nonprofits released a joint statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying the companies' original affiliation agreement had been amended to include the new proposition.

Though Pennsylvania gets a sizeable chunk of money from tobacco settlements, it’s not spending the funds as intended, which is to fight tobacco use and to help people quit. That’s according to the National Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2013 report. The annual report gives the state two “C” grades and two “F’s.”

No More Babies At Windber Medical

Jan 16, 2013

Less than 10 years after restarting its Obstetrics program, the Windber Medical Center (WMC) will stop delivering babies once again.

The decision to shutter this program came to many as somewhat of a surprise.  Obstetricians at Windber have delivered approximately 200 babies per year since the program reopened in 2005.  In addition, the Medical Center expanded its nursery less than two years ago.

Kim Oleska, Windber Medical Center spokesperson, said it’s the lack of obstetricians that is causing Windber to close the program.

Flu Season Reaching Zenith

Jan 8, 2013

As flu season reaches its peak across the country, the Allegheny County Health Department is asking those who haven't been vaccinated to get flu shots and urging everyone to wash hands after contact with other people.

ACHD Acting Director Dr. Ron Voorhees said even though it takes a few weeks for the immune system to create defensive antibodies after a vaccine, it's not too late to get one for this flu season.

Coal companies are installing defibrillators in their mines to comply with a new order from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

A new regulation approved in December requires all coal mines to be equipped with defibrillators, at the entrance and in each underground section, by March 8. The change comes as a result of a suggestion from a private citizen in Erie County, according to DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday.

Plunging Temperatures Leave Furry Friends at Risk

Jan 2, 2013

As the temperatures in the Pittsburgh region dip to near single digits overnight, and remain below freezing during the day, pet owners are advised to make sure their cats and dogs are kept warm. The Humane Society of Western Pennsylvania receives calls each winter about dogs and cats left outside in freezing weather with no shelter. The first thing a pet owner is advised to do when the temperature drops is to bring dogs and cats indoors.

Between 2003 and 2011 Pittsburghers with a family health insurance policy saw their annual premiums on average increase 51 percent, from $9,193 to $13,850, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that seeks to improve health care.

Nationwide the average family premium increased more than $5,000.

Heaters Bring Warmth, and Carbon Monoxide

Dec 28, 2012

Heaters are on full-blast this time of year, but the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) warns those warmth-generating appliances are often the cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Acting Director of the ACHD, Ron Vorhees, said the two main sources of carbon monoxide in the winter months are from heaters, and idling vehicles.

A pre-clinical study has found targeted drug therapy may be helpful in preventing esophageal cancer in a high-risk population. Researchers are looking at people who suffer from gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Some 20 percent of Americans have at least one symptom of GERD a week that requires some sort of therapy.

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