Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

All too often a patient who has battled an aggressive sickness ends up succumbing to a simple, but ultimately fatal, infection.

"These are patients … who are undergoing chemotherapy, whose immune systems get compromised," said Dr. Aleem Gangjee of Duquesne University, "patients who are transplant recipients — their immune system is also compromised — and of course for patients who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS."

Gangjee is a medicinal chemist who, along with a team of researchers, is developing compounds that will tackle the stubborn fugnal infection.

A new study indicates exposure to heavy diesel exhaust fumes in workplace mines increases the risk of dying from lung cancer.

Mike Attfield led the initiative, titled "The Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study: A Cohort Mortality Study With Emphasis on Lung Cancer," [PDF] that he said aimed to improve upon previous thoughts and research.

Amid Shale Rush, Trying to Answer Health Questions

Mar 2, 2012

Amy Pare is a plastic surgeon in Washington County. She makes her living doing lifts, tucks and augmentations. So it's remarkable that she finds herself in the middle of a public health debate. It started about two years ago, she says.

That's when patients started coming in with what looked like acne on their faces.

"We started to have patients that would have open areas or recalcitrant lesions, that just kind of bled, ulcerated, didn't quite heal."

A new report [PDF] from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) finds that among patients who acquired a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) in 2010, nearly 42% were readmitted within 30 days of discharge, 31.3% were readmitted specifically because of an infection or complication.

Among those without an HAI 16% were readmitted.

New Hope for Heart Patients

Feb 23, 2012

Patients who suffer from end-stage biventricular heart failure, a condition where both sides of the heart become weakened and can't pump blood adequately throughout the body, might have a new hope, an artificial heart implantation that surgeons say will serve as a "bridge to transplant."

A web service that helps patients view hospital quality will begin publishing data on the occurrence of infection associated with central line-associated bloodstream infections.

Hospital Compare, which provides information about the quality of care in more than 4,700 hospitals across the country, plans to publish data on the occurrence of infection at specific hospitals.

The emergency department at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield will reopen on Valentine's Day, after being closed for more than a year. The move comes as part of Highmark's $745 million takeover of the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS). The new facility features 23 patient beds in private rooms, all new medical equipment, and a fast track patient triage system.

Senator Calls For Stricter Smoking Laws

Feb 10, 2012

Pennsylvania State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) wants to strengthen the Clean Indoor Air Act to ban smoking in casinos and all restaurants, bars, and taverns.

In September 2008, the Clean Indoor Air Act took effect prohibiting smoking in most indoor work and public places through the state.

Under the current law, smoking is allowed in half of a total floor space in casinos, and bars can apply for exceptions to the smoking ban if they show they earn less than 20 percent of their revenues from food sales.

Unveiling of the Giving Life Wall at UPMC

Feb 10, 2012

On Saturday, UPMC will dedicate the Giving Life Wall, a photomontage on permanent display at UPMC Presbyterian hospital that honors those who gave the gift of life through organ donation.

The wall is a collaborative effort between the hospital system and the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE).

The popularity of smoking through a hookah has been on the rise for several years, with many towns and cities having cafes or bars specifically for hookah. The National Cancer Foundation funded a study into whether or not websites that offer Hookah products are candid about their products.

The research team at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine did a systematic search of some of the most prominent Hookah Tobacco websites on the Internet.

CORE Courts More Donors

Feb 2, 2012

The Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) wants to enlist 20 million new donors this year and will devote substantial energy and resources to the national initiative.

CORE is a not-for-profit organ procurement organization that is federally designated to serve Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and parts of New York.

The so-called Women's Right to Know Act (House Bill 1077) would require an abortion provider to do an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the procedure. Supporters say they want to make sure women have all of the medical information necessary before making a final decision on having an abortion.

Autism Study Sheds Light On Challenges

Jan 29, 2012

Information from more than 3,500 autistic adults and caregivers is included in the Pennsylvania Autism Needs Assessment study, the largest of its kind in the nation.

Anne Bale, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) said there was a great need for information about people living with autism.

Health Officials Consider Rules For Wood-Fired Boilers

Jan 23, 2012

The Allegheny County Health Department is trying to figure out how to best regulate emissions from wood-fired boilers used to heat homes. The department has been seeing an increasing number of complaints about smoke as the popularity of the devices grows. However, there weren't many residents attending a recent Board of Health public hearing on proposed regulations.

Roe v. Wade Anniversary Sparks Rally

Jan 20, 2012

Two days before the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, reproductive rights activists gathered outside City Hall in downtown Pittsburgh today to rally against a new law that puts restrictions on abortion providers.

Governor Tom Corbett signed SB 732 into law on December 22 in response to the Dr. Kermit Gosnell incident that occurred in Philadelphia last year. Gosnell was indicted last January in the deaths of seven babies and a woman at his clinic.

Group Flunks Pennsylvania on Tobacco Policy

Jan 19, 2012

In a "report card" released Thursday, the American Lung Association gave Pennsylvania poor grades for its policies regarding tobacco use and taxation.

Deb Brown, President of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, said the Commonwealth is "in the middle to the end of the pack" of the 50 states and Washington D.C., in the eyes of the ALA.

Adolescent Brain Respond Differently to Rewards

Jan 17, 2012

A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh has discovered that the adolescent brain responds differently to reward. This discovery could change what researchers know about early addiction and mental illness.

Researchers at Pitt were trying to learn if the adolescent brain processes salient events differently than the adult brain does. They found that the adolescent brain does, and that process could make them vulnerable to risky behavior and poor decision-making. It could also make them more susceptible to diseases such as addiction, schizophrenia, or eating disorders.

261 people received a liver transplant at UPMC between July 2008 and December 2010. Of those patients, 42 died. Nation-wide averages indicate fewer than 29 where expected to die. But, Christopher Hughes, UPMC's surgical director for liver transplants, said that's not due to negligence on the hospital's part, but rather to deficiencies in the way transplants are reported.

"If there's one thing I can criticize our program about, it's our self-reporting of data," said Hughes.

The 21 and Able initiative seeks to create a system for youth with disabilities who are transitioning out of the education and supportive services system. Currently, once a person with disabilities turns 21, they have officially "aged out" of the education system and no longer qualify for many benefits they may have had as children. That's the case with William, who will turn 21 in late January.

Child Protection Task Force Members Appointed

Jan 11, 2012

In Pennsylvania, most professionals who come in contact with children are required to report suspected child abuse. As a direct response to the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, the state legislature has created the Task Force on Child Protection.

The ten members will review current state policies governing child protection, the reporting of child abuse, and propose suggestions to improve the system. Four members were appointed by Governor Tom Corbett, and three each by the House and Senate.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is in the process of testing around 4,000 deer and 53 elk for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

First found in Colorado in the 1960s, CWD is a degenerative brain disease that causes cervids, including all species of deer, elk, and moose, to act in an uncoordinated manner, drool, and eventually waste away and die. The commission hopes that the results determine that there are no present cases in Pennsylvania. However, the disease has been confirmed south of the Mason-Dixon Line below Pennsylvania's Bedford and Fulton counties.

Highmark Inc. and the West Penn Allegheny Health System announced on Wednesday morning that $20 million dollars will be spent on updating Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville.

UPMC is scheduled to open a new medical facility less than a mile away this summer.

The renovations to Forbes Hospital will be aimed in part at getting the hospital accredited as a Level 2 Trauma Center. That would allow the hospital to offer advanced treatment of trauma injuries.

Each year at least a handful of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes. While a small number of people are affected, such deaths are preventable. Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is reminding residents to install and maintain CO detectors in the home.

"The best place to install a carbon monoxide detector is near the sleeping area, that way if it goes off during the night it wakes you up while you're sleeping," said Ellen Partridge, spokeswoman for Columbia Gas PA. "For extra protection we also suggest you install additional detectors on every level of the home."

Center Will Focus On Health Disparities

Jan 2, 2012

The University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health has formed a new center that will replace The Center for Minority Health. That center was formed in 1994 out of concern about the health disparities among minority populations in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

This new center, which has grown out of The Center for Minority Health, opened in mid-December. It will focus less on outreach and more on quantative research, getting funding, and publishing.

Plan to Quit Smoking in the New Year

Dec 27, 2011

As 2012 approaches, it brings with it New Year's resolutions and promises by many to live a healthier lifestyle, including quitting smoking.

The Mid-Atlantic American Lung Association's CEO, Deb Brown, said that it's not uncommon for people to attempt quitting around the New Year.

"There are about six out of ten smokers who actually require multiple attempts to quit smoking," Brown said. "But we know that 80 percent of individuals who smoke out there, at some point in time, are trying to quit smoking."

Holidays Can Be Hard

Dec 23, 2011

For those that have lost a loved one, the holidays can bring back painful memories.

Cynthia Oliver, Director of the Good Grief Center in Squirrel Hill, which provides bereavement support, notes that the holiday season can be a difficult time, with all the celebrations and rituals that may bring back memories of the person who has passed away. Oliver said that grief affects everyone differently and is a unique experience that is different for every person. In some cases, cultural and gender roles play a part.

Blood clots are a major cause of death among cancer patients, but currently, anticoagulants are only used on patients when they're hospitalized. A study led by Margaret Ragni, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, tracked what would happen if anticoagulants were used in outpatient cancer treatments.

"There is increasing evidence that using blood thinners has a beneficial effect on cancer. The mechanism isn't well known but it probably inhibits extra vessel growth and it inhibits tumor growth," said Ragni.

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a randomized 12-week trial of a text messaging-based program aimed at reducing so-called hazardous drinking behavior. The study involved 45 people between the ages of 18 and 24 who were discharged from area emergency rooms and identified as having engaged in dangerous drinking, such as binge drinking.

UPMC to Partner with Singapore Transplant Center

Dec 15, 2011

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has announced an interim agreement with The Asian Centre for Liver Diseases & Transplantation (ACLDT) in Singapore. This is the first step in what's expected to be a broader collaboration in the future. Under the agreement, UPMC will help ACLDT with its business and technology planning and with clinical consultations.

Penn State Works on Egg Safety

Dec 12, 2011

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Pennsylvania State University a $542,607 grant to improve food safety.

The USDA handed out $10.4 million in grants to 17 universities for research and education.

Penn State researchers will be working with Iowa State University to develop an updated and optimized Egg Quality Assurance Program that will reduce Salmonella Enteritidis contamination of egg shells.

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