Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

The National Hockey League is not the only place mumps are being  found in Western Pennsylvania and public health officials say they are ready to react.

The Sharpsville Area School District in Mercer County canceled classes and sporting events Monday due to a possible mumps infection, according to the district’s website. At least one individual is suspected of carrying the mumps virus and schools are expected to reopen Tuesday unless otherwise announced.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, is on the rise in popularity among adults and teens.

Since it’s a new technology, the health effects aren’t fully understood, but officials are warning that small children could be at risk from exposure to the liquid used in e-cigarettes.

New Year’s resolutions are often hard to stick with, and by February many forget about their resolution altogether. One of the most popular resolutions each year is to lose weight.

If you actually want to shed some of the weight added during the holidays, holistic health coach Emily Levenson suggests setting goals rather than resolutions.

When the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recently asked community leaders to identify the biggest unmet needs for children the number one priority was prevention of childhood obesity.

It just so happens that Children’s Hospital has a weight and wellness center, and a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public school district was quickly formed.

“When we interacted with [district leaders] they asked that we partner with some type of program with established outcomes that would help us better monitor our success,” said Children’s Hospital Vice President Kathy Guatteri.

Health Data Isn't Shared, Researchers Say

Dec 31, 2014

The more public health data is shared, the better the world’s public health outcome.

So says an analysis that was recently released by a team of researchers, including several from The University of Pittsburgh. The analysis was published in the journal BMC Public Health.

At present, public health data isn’t always shared on a local, national or international data. Researchers wanted to know why public health data isn’t shared as widely as for example genomic data is.

If you’re planning to quit smoking in 2015, you’re not alone. After losing weight, it’s perhaps the most commonly made New Year’s resolution.

If you’re still smoke-free by June, you’re in much more select company.

Many gym regulars dread the first of the year – it’s often a time when gyms get overcrowded with newcomers, making good on the popular New Year’s resolution to exercise more.

But, come February and March the crowds die down. Why? Because, as with many New Year’s resolutions, people tend to give up on the exercise one fairly quickly. There could be a number of reasons, including goals that are too big and lack of planning.

Susan Steel ignored a mole in 2005.

The Chicago resident and mother of two said she put it off but eventually went to her dermatologist only when the mole began to bleed. The first visit confirmed she had melanoma and the growth needed to be surgically removed.

“You go into surgery very quickly and then the surgeon comes out and looks desperate and tells you that you have less than a year to live,” she said.

At that time there were no effective treatments, some options had a “high” 6 percent chance of survival, Steel says.

The Allegheny County jail houses about 2,700 inmates, many of whom by one person's estimation are not being provided with efficient health care.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner Monday released the audit of Corizon Prison Health Management Inc., which she claims yielded some “damning” findings.

She said this not only impacts the health of the inmates and prison employees but also the larger community.

Allegheny Health Network has announced a multi-year collaboration with Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine. This is in addition to a partnership announced earlier this year between the two institution’s cancer centers. This collaboration will, among other things, explore ways to be more economically efficient.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Every year doctors encourage nearly everyone to get a flu shot, but this year the vaccine is less effective and the strain going around is more deadly.

That's leading doctors to be even more vocal when it comes to encouraging people to get the vaccine.

Ben Spiegel courtesy of the University of Pittburgh

George McCrary knows the Hill District well. As he drives the windy streets, he points out the places he remembers from his days working as one of the nation's first emergency medical technicians in the late '60s and early '70s.

It was on these streets where a young McCrary was a member of the Freedom House Enterprise Ambulance Service, which served as the model for emergency ambulance medicine.  

We have all heard of the “holiday blues,” but until you or a loved one actually experiences them you might think it is more something of myth than of reality.

“Everyone at times can experience grief around the holidays,” said Anna Boettcher, Medical Director of Community Psychiatry at Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. “Just because of those warm thoughts and if those expectations are not met … then it can be a depressing time of year for some people.”

When it comes to protecting those most vulnerable to influenza, a high-dose flu vaccine may be most effective.

That’s according to the findings of a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine which found that giving a high-dose vaccine to elderly people in long-term care facilities helped build immunity. Each year in the U.S. there are 3,000 to 49,000 influenza-related deaths.

A few dozen veterans gathered at the VA Pittsburgh Hospital in Oakland Friday to discuss any and all concerns they may have about the system.

“It’s a really wide variety of subjects that come up,” said VA Pittsburgh spokesman Mike Marcus, “anything from changes to benefits, healthcare – different pieces that come up around that – as well as questions that come up around some of the controversies that have plagued the VA over the last year or so.”

The state is launching a website to help consumers through the impending termination of a contract between a Western Pennsylvania insurer and the region's dominant hospital and outpatient network.

Officials said they're posting information to stayInformed.pa.gov about changes taking effect Jan. 1 when most Highmark subscribers lose in-network access to UPMC doctors and hospitals. This change has raised many questions, and they have been fielded through the PA Department of Insurance.

The Allegheny County Health Department is urging testing, treatment and vaccination for pertussis as a growing number of cases are being reported.

From Jan. 1 through Nov. 30 this year there were 140 confirmed cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. That’s compared to the average of 66 reported cases in the same time period over the last ten years.

Pennsylvania's Heath Ranking Remains Steady

Dec 11, 2014

Pennsylvania’s health ranking has stayed steady over the past quarter century. So says a report from The United Health Foundation and the American Public Health Association.

The rankings are done with the purpose of providing a better understanding of health of people and communities across the country and states.

In 2014, Pennsylvania moved up a place to the 28th healthiest state. The state has seen some improvements over the years, such as more students graduating high school and higher immunization rates. And smoking has declined.

7 Cold Weather Races for Dedicated Runners

Dec 10, 2014
János Balázs / Flickr

Like the postman, rain, snow or dark of night can't keep some runners indoors.

If you’re a dedicated runner and can’t wait until the nice weather returns we’ve got good news for you.

Fitness contributor Joe Vennare joins us with information about seven cold weather races taking place in Pittsburgh this winter.

A handful of health care advocates are worried that confusing messages in the media might prevent thousands of Pennsylvania from getting the free and low-cost health insurance they deserve.

The Corbett administration reached an agreement with the federal government this year to launch the Healthy PA program in lieu expanding Medicaid. Open enrollment in the program has started and coverage will take effect Jan. 1.  However Governor-elect Tom Wolf says he will scrap Healthy PA and opt in to Medicaid expansion.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network has announced a new academic affiliation, allowing medical students to train at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville.

Students from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) will be able to do their clinical rotations at the hospital. AHN officials said this move is critical to the future of health care in the region.

A commission tasked with examining the long-term care system in Pennsylvania is prepared to submit its recommendations to Gov. Tom Corbett but not before it has one more meeting.

The Long-Term Care Commission was formed in January of this year and has until Dec. 31 to report to the governor on issues including illness prevention and caregiver support, accessibility, provision of services and quality outcomes and management.

Bonnie Rose, deputy secretary for the Office of Long-Term Living, said the commission will have the report on Corbett’s desk ahead of the deadline.

“This is the most damning audit in terms of the findings in my tenure,” says Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner.

The controller is referring to an audit of Corizon, the Tennessee-based firm contracted to manage the infirmary and health care for inmates at the County Jail. Corizon provides health services at other jails and prisons across the country, including Rikers in New York

Wagner said Corizon, which is paid $11 million a year, is failing to provide clinical care to inmates. 

Breathe Cam / Breathe Project and CREATELab

Improving air quality continues to be a major challenge in the region, but Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab has collaborated with the Breathe Project and introduced Breathe Cam.

It's designed to give area residents direct access to the world's most sophisticated technology for documenting visual pollution in the air they breathe. CMU Robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh joins us to explain how it works. 

Pittsburgh’s air pollution has improved a great deal over the last few decades, but it still has a long way to go, and the city's air quality remains among the worst in the nation.

Illah Nourbakhsh shares a  haunting statistic about air pollution.

"Air pollution across the US is killing more people than prostate cancer, AIDS and breast cancer put together."

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, one in six HIV-positive individuals are unaware they have the virus.

On this World AIDS Day, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and the health department are looking to reduce that number through outreach.

“You can make a big impact by raising awareness [because] it’s a preventable infection,” says Areej Ali, AmeriCorps member and volunteer coordinator with the AIDS task force. “Conversations matter, getting people to know about it, to protect themselves. Those things really make a difference.

The Allegheny Health Network is the first health system in the Pittsburgh region to offer a new medication called Lutonix to help those suffering from peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Between 8 and 12 million people in the U.S. are affected by PAD - the hardening of the arteries from cholesterol and plaque buildup. It can obstruct blood flow, which could result in amputation or death if untreated.

Medical professionals and public officials are making their annual effort to raise awareness of the best ways to ensure infants' safety while they sleep.

Improper sleeping conditions put babies at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Doctors advise parents and other caregivers to place infants alone, on their backs, in an unadorned crib to avoid suffocation.

What to do About the Winter Workout Rut

Nov 26, 2014
yuki55 / flickr

We all know exercise is good for us.

Trouble is, most of the time, fitness isn’t fun.

Some actually call it work; and boring work at that. Same gym. Same exercise machines. Same workout routine.

There has to be a better way and we’ve asked contributor Joe Vennare, co-founder of the fitness site Fittsburgh to help us out of the exercise rut.

Medicare Changes Coming in 2015

Nov 24, 2014

Changes are coming to Medicare, the insurance plan for seniors and disabled, in 2015. This will affect the way physicians deliver care and the way patients receive care. 

Officials from the Pennsylvania Medical Society discussed some of the changes in a conference call on Monday. Providers will have to provide quality measure data or be penalized in 2015.

Mary Ellen Corum, the group’s director of practice support, said that this is an arduous process.

No child should feel alone in a time of grieving — It's that belief that drives National Children’s Grief Awareness Day Thursday.

On Thursday Terse Vorsheck, director of the Highmark Caring Place, asks that everyone show their support by wearing blue, and by visiting the downtown facility to spread a message of hope on the Caring Place Memory Wall. 

“The purpose being is to let children know that we are here, we’re here to support them — we are aware they are hurting and we’re kind of standing with them on this day,” said Vorsheck.

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