Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Speculation Grows on AdultBasic Court Case

Jun 28, 2012

A recent opinion handed down by the Commonwealth Court could signal problems with the way the state eliminated its low-cost health insurance program last year. A group of former enrollees of AdultBasic sued over how it was set to zero. Legislators used a provision in a budget-related bill called the "fiscal code" to make the change.

The court hasn't heard that case or ruled on it, but the opinion has overruled part of the state's preliminary objections to the lawsuit, signaling the way AdultBasic was slashed could still be deemed unconstitutional.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Children's Hospital doctor David Hackam conducted a 34-week study on mice that could be a breakthrough for the cause, treatment, and prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, a disease in which the intestines die in babies born prematurely. Hackam's findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that when premature baby mice were fed amniotic fluid, it reduced the risk of NEC.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.3% of Americans and 12.2% of Pennsylvanians were without health insurance in 2010. The report, "Dying For Coverage," just released by Families USA, indicates 745 Pennsylvania residents died prematurely in the same year because they did not have proper health care coverage, with approximately 14 dying per week.

Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said people may feel discouraged to seek help when looking at their financial situations.

Improving the Quality of the Cure for Child Cancer

Jun 21, 2012

Every year, around 10,400 children are diagnosed with cancer, and thanks to one health care group's approach to care, the large majority of them will survive the disease. The group is applying the same methods to improving the long-term behavioral outcomes of kids who undergo treatment.

"Meet Bob!"

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot?

Jun 20, 2012

In Pittsburgh, it's rare that heat reaches a point of danger, but the Allegheny County Health Department is advising the public to be sure to stay cool and hydrated during the next several days because the temperature will be reaching 90º F and above.

Health Department Director Ronald Voorhees said certain people, such as the elderly, those with heart and lung conditions, or others engaging in outdoor activity, may be especially prone to heat exhaustion or stroke.

People who have undergone weight-loss surgery have a greater chance of developing alcohol disorders, according to new research released by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. This is the first study conducted that directly links these procedures and alcoholism.

Patients from ten hospitals across the United States participated in the study. About 70% underwent RYGB, a type of bariatric surgery, while 25% had laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, and the remaining 5% were treated with one of three less popular surgeries.

Reprieve Period for Abortion Clinics Underway

Jun 19, 2012

Act 122, or the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law, passed in December 2011, was to have been enforced today, but providers have received some additional time to comply. TRAP requires surgical abortion clinics to abide by the same regulations as freestanding surgical centers. If they failed to do so by June 19, either they were given a temporary license or could not operate.

VA To Hire More Mental Health Workers

Jun 18, 2012

In the next few months, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare system will be hiring approximately 42 new mental healthcare workers.

The VA will be bringing on clinicians and support staff to assist the ever-growing number of veterans who seek and require mental health help.

It isn't a rescue, a takeover, or a merger, according to Highmark interim CEO and Board Chairman J. Robert Baum.

However, the Pittsburgh-based health insurer wants to provide at least $275 million to the Jefferson Regional Medical Center and its foundation in return for effective control of Jefferson's Board of Directors.

The local paramedics union has voted down a contract offer from the city of Pittsburgh, and authorized a strike.

The contract offer was rejected overwhelmingly with a vote of 134-9. Local 1 of the Fraternal Association of Professional Paramedics said it will continue to negotiate in good faith with the Ravenstahl administration to prevent a strike.

Wrong-site surgery and harmful fall prevention tactics appear to be working. According to the June Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory, there has been a decline in the number of reports filed. Wrong-site procedures occur when surgeons operate on a body part other than that intended.

A new study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows nearly 1 in 3 college students have admitted to smoking tobacco from a hookah, a single or multi-stemmed instrument in which flavored smoke passes through a water basin before it's inhaled.

Brian Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics, said the study's findings were somewhat surprising.

To head off West Nile Virus, the Allegheny County Health Department today begins to treat storm water catch basins in the Pittsburgh area with pesticides to combat the breeding of mosquitoes. The treatment will continue weekdays from 4:00-9:00 PM.

The bugs can carry the virus, which has already been detected in samples in Allegheny County this year. Four mosquitoes tested positive: three coming from Pittsburgh's East End and the other from Penn Hills.

Some hospital visits are inevitable, but many are preventable. Over the past decade, potentially preventable hospitalizations have declined in the commonwealth. The most recent report [PDF] from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) tracked 12 conditions and found that in the last ten years the rate of potentially preventable hospitalizations dropped from 231 per 100,000 residents in 2001 to 186.9 per 100,000 in 2010.

Medicaid Changes Have Providers Pulling Teeth

Jun 11, 2012

Marcia Esters lives in a Hazelwood high-rise. As the result of a spinal congenital disorder that was compounded by a workplace accident, she gets around in a motorized wheelchair.

Last fall, she went to her dentist. He told her she needed crowns fused to six of her bottom teeth and her top dentures were wearing out, and because of changes made to Medicaid in the last fiscal budget, the care she needed wouldn't be covered. She would have to pay out of pocket.

Panel Discusses LGBT Health Problems

Jun 6, 2012

Public health experts from the University of Pittsburgh met in Oakland Wednesday to discuss health problems facing gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities.

According to Pitt's Center for LGBT Health, sexual minorities are often more likely to develop certain cancers than heterosexuals. For example, Pitt assistant professor of psychiatry Dr. Tom Mills said lesbians haven't been proven to have higher rates of breast cancer, but that's probably the case.

Starting in September health care insurers will be required to write their policies in plain language. Currently,the policy descriptions sent to customers by insurance companies tend to be long and difficult to figure out. The Summary of Benefits and Coverage, which is required by The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, changes that.

In March, an Allegheny General Hospital patient became the first there to undergo robotically-assisted minimally invasive coronary bypass surgery. The procedure is thought to be less traumatic to the body and allows for faster recovery times for patients.

Teenage athletes disproportionately estimate their recovery from concussions on physical symptoms like headache and nausea, according to a new study from UPMC.

The UPMC Center for Sports Medicine Concussion Program studied 101 concussed teen athletes to find that they often overlook non-physical symptoms like emotional distress, sleep problems, and difficulty in concentration when they are gauging their recoveries.

Robotic-assisted, laparoscopic surgery for prostate cancer has gained in popularity over the years, but a recent UPMC study found it doesn't yield better results than standard open surgery, though it costs a great deal more.

The "Hard Head Patrol" is back this summer educating children of all ages on the importance of wearing a helmet when riding anything with wheels. The program sponsored by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh will begin this month and run through September.

A new study released by the Trust For America's Health (TFAH) shows almost half of all U.S. states scored low on the Injury Prevention Report Card. The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report ranked states on ten indicators and 24 of them scored a five or lower.

The growing popularity of telemedicine may still be out of reach to some, but Pennsylvania is trying to close that gap. Governor Tom Corbett has announced that the state will increase patients' access to specialist care through telemedicine by expanding coverage for people covered by the Medical Assistance Program.

"How this will work is using technology like interactive audio and video equipment, doctors and patients will be able to connect from remote locations," said Carey Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

Several years ago Paul Getsy woke up and went to work like any other normal day. He put on a headset and thought the right ear had stopped working, only to discover it was actually his ear that wasn't working. Getsy suffered what's called sudden sensorineural hearing loss. That's a fast, frequently one-sided and often uncorrectable hearing loss that occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. A steroid treatment didn't work, and traditional hearing aids don't do much for people with this type of hearing loss.

Screening for colorectal cancer has shown to be effective and decrease the likelihood of death caused by colon cancer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. University of Pittsburgh Professor of Medicine Dr. Robert Schoen, the lead author, said that the screening exam was not a full-blown colonoscopy.

A special type of cardiac ultrasound developed at UPMC allows doctors to pinpoint the placement of pacemaker wires on the heart, according to a recent study from the hospital system.

Principal investigator Dr. Samir Saba said the speckle tracking echo technique improves upon doctors' methods of placing the left ventricular wires for biventricular pacemakers.

Well, it would improve the current technique if there were any standard method of placing those wires.

A research team at the University of Pittsburgh has discovered a possible treatment for Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), just four years after determing the cause of the rare skin cancer.

The husband-and-wife team of Dr. Patrick Moore and Dr. Yuan Chang has found that the experimental drug YM155 is an "extremely potent killer" of MCC tumors in laboratory mice.

Moore said the drug was not toxic to the rodents, so human trials are expected to begin within six months.

ACHD Warns Whooping Cough is On the Rise

May 9, 2012

The Allegheny County Health Department is reminding the public to get vaccinated for pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Department spokesman Dave Zazac noted there have been 46 confirmed or probable pertussis cases countywide this year, far above the typical average of seven. He said the bacterial infection can be picked up by touching tissues with the disease, or by coming into contact with bacteria put in the air through coughing.

Wheelchairs break 40% more often than they used to, according to a new study by researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The incidence of breakdowns in previous years was already high, according to senior author Dr. Michael Boninger, but a surge in failures since 2006 has left more people with spinal-chord injuries in inconvenient and unsafe situations.

Members of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and Allegheny County residents implored the County Board of Health Wednesday to pass updated and strengthened air toxic guidelines (ATG), the document used to permit new sources of air pollution in the county.

GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said the hope was that the board would have new guidelines to consider at their meeting on Wednesday, but they didn't.

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