Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Pittsburgh firefighters are asking state lawmakers to ban chemicals found in flame-retardant furniture.

According to Pittsburgh Firefighters Deputy Chief Frank Large, studies have found that these chemicals increase the number of cancer deaths in firefighters inhaling the chemicals. Flame-retardant materials that are found in 85 percent of couches in American homes become carcinogens when ignited in a house fire.

Large says firefighters are given state of the art technology to filter the smoke they breathe in, but that isn’t enough to protect them from these chemicals.

If you’re traveling around Pittsburgh next Wednesday, you might be seeing blue, as more than a dozen buildings across the city are shining a light on autism, including the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

The cathedral is one of more than 8,400 buildings and landmarks around the world are participating in this year’s “Light It Up Blue” campaign to raise autism awareness, including Pittsburgh’s Gulf Tower, BNY Melon Building, and the Carnegie Science Center.

UPMC Website

When the National Diabetes Education Program gathers for its annual meeting this summer it will install a Pittsburgher in its top elected position.  University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute Executive Director Linda Siminerio was elected as chair earlier this year.

The federally-funded program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Siminerio refers to the nation’s struggle with type II diabetes as an epidemic but warns that it is already a pandemic in other parts of the world.

Text messaging can serve a variety of purposes, from casually chatting with friends to ordering a pizza, but what about monitoring concussion symptoms?

Some, like researcher Stephanie Huang think it could be a tool for providing more personalized health care.

Thanks to a grant from the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation, the first-year student from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is coming to Pittsburgh to see if texting is a more effective way of getting patients to monitor their own concussion treatments.

University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering researchers are developing a way to help arteries regrow with less risk of an aneurysm after a coronary bypass surgery.

Arturo Valentin and his team are attempting to use new polymers in artery replacements as a way to prevent aneurysm formation.

He said they are working to create an “in host remodeled graft.”

Hepatitis Bill Promotes Quicker Testing

Mar 20, 2014

Nearly 200,000 Pennsylvanians have hepatitis C and don’t know it, and new legislation could help them find out.

The bill would require health care providers to offer hepatitis C testing to baby boomers, people born between 1945 and 1965.

Rep. Matt Baker (R-Bradford), the bill sponsor, said a greater emphasis on testing would save lives.

“By increasing testing opportunities, this legislation will insure that more individuals living with hepatitis C can become aware of their infection status, get available treatment and take steps to prevent transmission,” Baker said.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

With just two weeks left to sign up for health insurance through state and federal online exchanges, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has declared March 17-23, 2014 to be Affordable Care Act Week in Allegheny County.

Fitzgerald said county officials are working with nearly three dozen partner organizations on “one last push to encourage residents to get all the information and be able to enroll in the marketplace.”

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs released a report last year stating that an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

That number hit home for Marine Sgt. Daniel Egbert and Army Sgt. Matt King; both of whom served in Iraq. The two set out on a 22-day road trip from Los Angeles to Ground Zero in New York, producing a documentary focused on raising awareness about veteran suicide.

That documentary is "Project 22."

Kids Encouraged to Stand Up to Tobacco Industry

Mar 17, 2014

On March 19, kids across the country will show that the battle against the tobacco industry isn’t only fought in the courtroom, but on the playground.

The 19th annual Kick Butts Day, organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, is a celebration of youth leadership and activism in the battle against smoking and tobacco marketing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 people die every day from prescription drug overdoses nationwide, and the commonwealth and a physicians group want stricter regulations for Pennsylvania.

“Prescription drugs are getting into the wrong hands via many different channels … This is an issue we are taking very seriously at the Medical Society, and believe that physicians need to play their role in fighting this crisis,” said Michael Fraser Executive, vice president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Can a Capsule Camera Replace the Colonoscopy?

Mar 10, 2014
Euchiasmus / Wikipedia Commons

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer-related death in the U.S.

The FDA has approved a new colonoscopy capsule which is a camera in pill form. There are many advantages to this capsule, but people are wondering if this new colon cancer detection device will replace the colonoscopy.

Dr. Edward Chu, deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute says that the pill is not a replacement for the colonoscopy.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of UPMC workers, community organizers, faith leaders, elected officials and concerned citizens descended on downtown Pittsburgh for a day of action Monday.

Protesters dealt with frigid temperatures and slushy streets to demand that UPMC recognize a workers union, pay higher wages, decrease healthcare premiums and pay taxes on the land that they own in the city of Pittsburgh.

Being a teenager is stressful — that’s no secret. But according to a report released this month by the American Psychological Association, U.S. teens are even more stressed out than their parents.

During the school year, teens report stress levels that exceed what they believe to be healthy. On a 10-point scale, teens experience a stress level of about 5.8, while adults said their levels sit at 5.1.

Representatives of several organizations are set to gather outside of UPMC headquarters today to lobby in support of wage increases—and they might have some economic ammunition.

According to a report by the activist organization Pittsburgh United, raising wages to $15 an hour for UPMC service workers could benefit the region’s economy.

Enroll America

As the deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act approaches, the activist group Enroll America has released a series of maps it hopes will help administrators better understand where to focus their efforts.

The map of Pittsburgh shows that some of the largest concentrations of uninsured can be found in East End and Hill District.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday officially began seeking federal approval for his plan to bring billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars to Pennsylvania to cover a half-million working poor residents through private health plans, although advocates for the poor and uninsured called it bureaucratic and punitive.

State Draws Attention to Deadly Birth Disorder

Feb 17, 2014

A rare disorder that gets little attention and even less funding now has an entire month to build awareness.

The Pennsylvania State Senate has dedicated February as Turner Syndrome Awareness Month. Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna County) sponsored the resolution, which passed unanimously, to draw attention to the non-inheritable chromosomal condition that affects one in every 2,500 live female births.

Blake hopes this will give physicians and family members of those living with the disorder a chance to share information and personal stories with the public.

For the next year, Allegheny County will be surveying 14- to 19-year-olds in an effort to improve services offered for youth. The phone survey is based on the national “Youth Risk Behavior” survey.

“Which focuses on a whole variety of areas that include everything from drug abuse to physical activity and nutrition to sexual activity to mental health issues,” said Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker. “Many of the questions on the survey were drawn from the national survey.”

Healthcare providers often urge patients to be more involved in their own care, and now the University of Pittsburgh has begun a $300,000 competition to encourage people to show how they take charge.

Pitt Innovation Challenge, PInCh, would like people from all over to submit a two-minute video, by March 2, citing a health problem, such as high blood pressure, and create a solution that challenges people to take control of their healthcare.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation, in partnership with the Eye and Ear Foundation, have kicked off a national public awareness campaign aimed at medical providers and parents, urging them to have their pre-teen boys and girls vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.

Heart disease kills one woman every minute in the U.S., making it the number one killer of women in the nation.

That’s why the American Heart Association is asking everyone to take part in National Wear Red Day Friday to raise awareness for the 43 million women affected by heart disease.

Karen Colbert, a spokeswoman with the American Heart Association, said heart disease isn’t gender specific.

Dr. Jim Withers: Bringing Healthcare to the Streets

Feb 5, 2014
Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

There is a doctor in Pittsburgh that still makes house calls, to a certain extent. For more than 20 years Dr. Jim Withers’s house calls have brought healthcare to the homeless.  What began as a nightly service in 1992 has become the non-profit, Operation Safety Net.

"I was just frustrated with the gap between how healthcare looks at people and how much each person's own reality is unique to them," says Withers.

Haldan Kirsch / WESA

In 2006 the European Union banned the use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals. The US  has yet to follow suit and today 80% of the antibiotics used in the nation are being fed to animals in factory farms according to Food & Water Watch.  That group is calling for a federal ban on the non-medicinal use of antibiotics in animal feed, which is believed to promote antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.

Antibiotics are also used to prevent and control diseases that can breakout in the confined animal pens.

Allegheny Health Network has been designated by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) as an official Olympic Regional Medical Center.

“As a participating center, one of just six in the country, we will have the great privilege of playing a prominent role in the health and well-being of our nation’s elite Team USA athletes,” said Dr. Patrick DeMeo, chair of the AHN Orthopedic Institute.

From major league athletes to children, more than 1.7 million Americans sustain concussions each year.

That’s why the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC received a $300,000 grant from General Electric and the NFL for a project to find a better way to “see” concussions.

The Pitt researchers are testing high definition fiber-tracking (HDFT) to determine if it can accurately and consistently aid in determining a diagnosis of concussion and injury prognosis.

Heroin Addiction & the Social Stigma of Rehab

Feb 4, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

The recent rash of deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl, and the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman have brought attention to the need for more efficient clinical treatment for drug addiction.

Gateway Rehab Medical Director Dr. Neil Capretto works with addicts and talked about what a relapse can mean to someone trying to conquer their dependency.

State police are still trying to track down the source of a drug that has killed as many as 23 people in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland Counties, based on data released Friday by the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office.

There have been 14 deaths in Allegheny county in which victims tested positive for both heroin and Fentanyl, a powerful analgesic used to treat cancer patients.

90.5 WESA reporter Liz Reid has been following the story and says leading up to January 24th, the County Medical Examiner saw one opiate overdose death per day, which was not considered abnormal, but he became concerned when that number jumped to 3 in one day, on Friday and 4 more that Saturday.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

In 2012, more that 58,000 refugees were resettled in the United States. A couple thousand of them came to Pennsylvania. Many of these refugees come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Others feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time. 

Two Pennsylvania health care organizations are coming together to establish the Home Health and Hospice Forum.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and the Pennsylvania Homecare Association (PHA) are reaching out to independent healthcare providers by holding an open forum to address issues and concerns about the impact of reform on the home health industry.

PHA spokeswoman Jennifer Haggerty said issues such as care transitions, chronic care management and consumer and family-focused care will be addressed.

Health officials are warning that an extremely dangerous brand of heroin is making the rounds in Pittsburgh and surrounding counties.

Twenty-two people have died in the past week in western Pennsylvania from a suspected overdose of a mix of heroin and the powerful narcotic fentanyl, according to Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner says they’ve found “stamp bags” labeled with the words “Theraflu,” “Bud Ice” and “Income Tax” at the scenes of the overdoses.

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