Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Flickr / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

It’s hard to know exactly how many kids have asthma in the Pittsburgh region but a study is underway aimed at determining just how prevalent it is and what some of the triggers may be. Nearly 25 million Americans and more than 9 percent of children suffer from Asthma. National and state studies show the rate of childhood asthma in Allegheny County to be around 13 percent.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is about to see a lot of new patients — but not in person.

As of March 1, 2014 the hospital will become the exclusive pediatric provider for tele-health company MDLIVE.

MDLIVE provides online and on-demand health care services and software for more than 3 million users throughout the U.S.

Harun Rashid, Children’s Hospital chief information officer, said the partnership will allow people throughout the country to connect with the hospital’s specialized doctors.

A New Push for Prescription Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Jan 16, 2014
KayVee / flickr

For the first time in the state Senate’s history a medical marijuana bill has been drafted with bipartisan support.

A poll conducted last year shows state residents support the use of medical marijuana. New Hampshire and Illinois legalized it last year.

Could Pennsylvania be next?

Heather Shuker of Valencia, Butler County, is the mother of a 10-year-old girl with intractable epilepsy who says her daughter is in "desperate need of medical marijuana." 

Because of people like Heather, State Senator Daylin Leach, along with Senator Mike Folmer, introduced the legislation, known as SB 1182, earlier this week.

Flickr user Chealion

The state of emergency medicine in Pennsylvania is improving, but a national report card from the American College of Emergency Physicians, or ACEP, shows the commonwealth lagging behind the rest of the US in some categories.

Overall, the state received a grade of "C+," which was compiled by looking at several areas.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services released Monday the latest enrollment data for state and federal health insurance marketplaces.

Nationally, nearly 2.2 million people have signed up for private health insurance plans through the marketplace, with almost 1.8 million people signing up in December alone.

For Pennsylvania, that shakes out out to about 81,000 people who have purchased health insurance through the federal marketplace since its troubled launch in October.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

As new Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker comes into office, she faces a range of public health concerns. From smoking, obesity and air quality to green infrastructure and fracking issues, Dr. Hacker will be tackling a number of community health matters.

Many worry whether the department has the resources it needs to enforce all the state and county regulations under its purview, but Dr. Hacker says she has already received unique support from the public and from advocacy groups.

The Affordable Care Act goes into effect October 1st, with the threat of a government shutdown.

The House threatened the shutdown if the Affordable Care Act is not defunded and the Senate does not appear to see that as an option.

With the political tension rising, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) wants to make sure people understand and are educated on the new health care law.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday morning, 47-year-old Tek Nepal is moving about the Mount Oliver duplex he shares with his wife, sons, daughter-in-law and grandchild.

He works nights, so he gets his family time in the mornings. And often, that time centers around eating.

Those meals used to consist of lots of starches. But since a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2012, they have changed.

You might not have ever heard of eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) — it only affects five to 30 people in the United States annually — but it kills about half the people it infects, doesn’t have a cure and is becoming more common.

That’s according to William Klimstra, who, along with other University of Pittsburgh researchers, has made a major discovery that could lead to possible treatment for and prevention against the mosquito-borne virus.

With more than 2 million citizens 65 or older, Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the United States, and experts say they aren’t getting the care they need.

Advocates and senior citizen care professionals met to discuss the safety of the state’s elderly with a Pennsylvania Senate committee. Drawing up a four-year aging plan for the state, the meetings emphasis was on senior abuse.

Self-neglect and caregiver neglect make up about 65 percent of all reported abuse cases in the state, but the majority of cases go unreported, according to the panel.

If you want to know how your neighborhood sandwich shop or your favorite sushi restaurant fared on its last health department inspection, you can find that information online, but those reports can often be full of jargon and difficult to interpret.

Now, the Allegheny County Health Department is working to make that information easier to digest by implementing a four-tiered grading system for restaurant inspections.

Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the county health department, said they’re still figuring out how that grading process would work.

Patients rushing into Magee-Womens Hospital will be passing through the doors of a bigger and better emergency department starting Sunday.

According to Joe Suyama, Chief of Emergency Services, the new department will be located on Craft Avenue and will replace the existing emergency department on the other side of the building off Halket Street.

Suyama said the move will help them better serve an increasing volume of patients which has almost doubled since 2007.

“We’re just now meeting that growth need by building this emergency department,” Suyama said.

Wind chill temperatures are expected to dip to more than 30 below zero in southwestern Pennsylvania Monday night and Tuesday morning, which means exposed skin could freeze in less than 5 minutes.

Early detection of breast cancer is one of the most important factors when calculating survival rates, but a Magee Hospital surgeon thinks he has found a way to help women who’s cancer is not detected until it has already spread to their bones.

Patients who first present with stage four breast cancer with bone metastasis have a short life expectancy, but a study of 278 women in Turkey suggests that by sending the patient directly to the operating room might be able to help hundreds of American women each year survive.

New Arrivals in the US Face Vast Health Challenges

Jan 6, 2014

Immigrants come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Others arrive seeking better opportunities for their families. But whether they are refugees from Nepal seeking asylum or undocumented Mexican families in Los Angeles, immigrants share common circumstances. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Many feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time.

Flu 'Widespread' in PA, CDC Says

Dec 30, 2013

Influenza is now considered to be “widespread” in Pennsylvania as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with health officials reporting outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state.

What if HIV was not only preventable, but also if sexually active individuals had a list of options to prevent the disease that newly infects an estimated 50,000 people a year in the United States?

The Pittsburgh-based Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) has been awarded $70 million for use over seven years to develop and test HIV prevention products.

MTN has completed 13 trials since 2006 from its base at the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Women’s Research Institute.

It’s the “season of giving” but in the hustle and bustle of the season, some forget that can also mean giving blood. Each year, blood and platelet donations drop off during this time of year, according to the American Red Cross Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region. There are several reasons for the decline.

“One is the holidays,” said spokeswoman Marianna Spampinato. “People are busy shopping, baking, decorating, enjoying themselves – which is great, but meanwhile, patients are still in hospitals needing transfusions.”

This is often called “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many it’s one of the toughest times of the year, thanks to depression. There are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, or what is more commonly known as clinical depression.

“It’s a mood state that lasts for an extended period of time and to a degree of severity that really interferes with a person’s usual functioning,” said Edward Friedman, a psychiatrist with UPMC. “That’s kind of different from holiday blues or seasonal blues.”

At the end of next year, the contract between the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark Health Plan will expire, and many Western Pennsylvanians are worried about losing access to the doctors and hospitals they have patronized for years.

In October, a pair of Pennsylvania House representatives introduced legislation that would impose new rules on nonprofit integrated delivery networks, like UPMC, which offer both healthcare and health insurance.

What's Good About Going Gluten Free?

Dec 16, 2013
cookiespi / flickr

Grocer’s shelves are filling up with a number of gluten free products.

This is great news for people switching to gluten-free diets based on their gluten intolerance or celiac disease. But as the trend gains popularity, some worry that a gluten-free diet may be a fad and not healthy for everyone.

Dr. Kofi Clarke, director of the Celiac Center at Allegheny General Hospital and Amy Macklin, registered dietitian and owner of Gluten Free Roots say the popularity of gluten-free products is positive in that it increases awareness of celiac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten allergies. 

Research Finds Better Sleep Makes for Stronger Bones

Dec 16, 2013

Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice, marks the shortest day of the year with only a little more than nine hours of daylight here in Pittsburgh. With less light some people might be feeling ready for bed a little early. According to researchers, this is another way our bodies fight off some diseases.

With shorter days and longer nights our bodies’ melatonin levels are rising earlier than usual. Melatonin is the molecule that tells our bodies when it is night and prepares us for sleep. Melatonin has also been found to be important in maintaining healthy bones.

An Update on Governor Corbett's Health Care Plan

Dec 11, 2013
Talk Radio News Service

The Corbett Administration is making details of its alternative proposal to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion available to the public.

The Governor recently held a presser on his health care plan days after releasing it online. The plan, which would allow hundreds of thousands of people to enroll in private health insurance plans subsidized with federal funds, is one step closer to receiving federal review.

90.5 WESA's Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson reports on the plan from Harrisburg and says the proposal is similar to those of other states, but includes a few elements unique to the Commonwealth’s needs.

Accessing 125 Years of Contagious Disease Research

Dec 11, 2013
Houston Museum of Natural Science / flickr.com

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have collected and digitized all weekly surveillance reports for reportable diseases in the United States going back more than 125 years.

The design, called Project Tycho, is led by researchers Drs. Donald Burke and Willem van Panhuis. They say this access to this data can be vital to preventing and treating contagious diseases.

Dr. Burke, Dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health says the data has always been available, but not so easy to access.

A week before the Pennsylvania House Health Committee holds a hearing on legislation to force all not-for-profit health care insurers and care providers to open their services to all insurance holders, not just their own, UPMC launched a campaign to defeat the measures.

Mailers were sent to at least three legislative districts in western Pennsylvania and robocalls were received across the state asking recipients to urge their lawmakers to reject the legislation.

Fifteen years after tobacco companies agreed to pay restitution to states for costs related to tobacco use, a new report finds that most states are not spending enough of that money on smoking prevention and cessation programs.

It’s flu season again — have you been vaccinated yet?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is offering free flu clinics throughout the commonwealth during National Influenza Vaccination Week,

Secretary of Health Michael Wolf said the holiday season is the perfect time to remind people of the importance of getting vaccinated.

Fifth (Pittsburgh)Red Celebrates AIDS Awareness

Dec 2, 2013
Tim Camerato/90.5 WESA

County officials, HIV/AIDS advocates, and survivors gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Monday to mark International World AIDS Day and to blow up a 30-foot balloon ribbon onto Fifth Ave. Place.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald noted it’s been more than 30 years since the first AIDS cases were reported.

The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, but as many people who’ve gone through high school and who are familiar with pop culture know, kids finds ways around that all the time.

A new study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh finds that teens that do their drinking alone may be at greater risk for alcohol problems later in life.

Picking a hospital for cancer treatment may be one of the most important decisions in a patient’s life.

Now, a Pennsylvania nonprofit is making it easier to see which hospitals are offering the best cancer care by making quality ratings available online for the first time.

The hospital quality reports, released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance (PHCQA), rates hospitals based on process measures, which assess a health care facility’s adherence to standard guidelines and procedures for treatment.

Pages