Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

Syphilis cases in Allegheny County have risen about 75 percent this year compared to 2013, the Allegheny County Health Department said Wednesday.

As of Nov. 10, 98 syphilis cases have been reported in the county, compared to 56 this time last year. After a drop in cases in the late 1990s and early 2000s, syphilis has been on the rise since 2005, locally and nationally.  

The Challenges of Aging for LGBTQIA Individuals

Nov 19, 2014
Patrick / Flickr

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 45.3 million Americans live in poverty. While poverty affects people from all walks of life, last week WESA’s Deanna Garcia reported on the prevalence of poverty among those who identify as LGBTQIA, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual. Poverty becomes an even greater problem as they grow older.

Kathi Boyle, coordinator of older adult services for the Persad Center, is part of a national group called SAGE, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders. August “Buzz” Pusateri, a retired pharmacist who was diagnosed as HIV positive in the early 1980s. Buzz is chair of the Pitt Men’s Study community advisory board and lives in a retirement community in Oakland. They join us to talk about the challenges of aging and being out.

  Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion, and that need doesn’t diminish over the holiday season.

But the number of blood donations does decrease this time of year, according to Marianne Spampinato, Red Cross spokeswoman.

“People get busy with holiday activities, and travel and we also have longer periods when schools are out of session,” Spampinato said. “Businesses may be shorter staffed, and unable to support local blood drives as much as they do other times of the year.”

Flickr user UNICEF Ethiopia

Scientists are clear on the effects of preterm birth, that is, babies born before 37 weeks. Breathing, hearing and vision problems, difficulty feeding, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays are some of the challenges facing babies born too early.

But on the causes of preterm birth, researchers are less certain.

The health insurance marketplace open enrollment period starts Saturday. It ends Feb. 15.

Neil Deegan, Pennsylvania State Director of Enroll America said during the last open enrollment period, 28,000 Allegheny County residents signed up for health coverage. But there are still residents without it.

“The uninsured rate here in Allegheny County is at about 12 percent. So while great work was done last year, there’s much to be done,” Deegan said at an event held Friday in Garfield.  

Former Steelers player Rocky Bleier and UPMC neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon will be the honorary chairmen of a strenuous hike in the Laurel Mountains in May.

The hike, dubbed “The Crucible,” is a 70-mile, three-day, two-night hike. The hike raises money for The Checkpoint, a nonprofit that provides supports and services for Pittsburgh-area veterans and military families.

Bleier, a four-time Super Bowl champion is also a veteran, who served in Vietnam and received both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Autism Speaks, a national advocacy organization, has awarded nearly $930,000 in grants to community groups nationwide, including some in Western Pennsylvania.  

Grants totaling $5,000 each will go to UPMC’s Theiss Early Autism Program, a development center for children diagnosed with autism, and Intermediate Unit 1, an educational support agency.

The Theiss Early Autism Program will use the grant to enhance its Community and Family Involvement initiative.

Courtesy photo

In 1999, Lisa and Sumner Bemis met at a bar during a Penguins hockey game. She was intrigued by his unusual name, “and the fact that he had a Camaro," recalled Lisa.

"I loved muscle cars, " she said, "so it worked.”

Less than three years later they were married. After the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened Sumner was deployed as part of the National Guard and was in Iraq from 2005-2006. When he returned, Lisa was overjoyed to have him back. But she said he was a different person.

Women’s health advocates in Pennsylvania are calling on the Corbett administration to extend a low-income women’s health insurance program set to expire at the end of the year.

The Women’s Health Caucus sent a letter Thursday to state Human Services Secretary Beverly Mackereth asking for a one-year extension of the SelectPlan for Women program, which provides coverage for gynecological exams, emergency contraception and breast and cervical cancer screenings for an estimated 90,000 women in the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Gets 'B' for Preterm Birth Rate

Nov 10, 2014

The dropping premature birth rate in Pennsylvania has earned the state a "B" on the March of Dimes’ annual report card, one letter grade ahead of the national average.

The grade recognizes Pennsylvania’s 10.7 percent preterm birth rate in 2013, the seventh straight year it has decreased or stayed the same. The state is on pace to surpass the March of Dimes’ goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020.

More than 450,000 babies each year nationwide, one in every nine, are born prematurely before the standard 37 weeks of gestation.

Pitt Study Reveals Stem Cells In Esophagus

Nov 9, 2014

A new discovery by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine could impact the treatment of esophageal cancer and a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.

In a study released in the current issue of Cell Reports, researchers found a pool of stem cells in the esophagus, something that was never considered before.

The study, which was done in mice, could unveil major implications if similar results are found in humans.

Diabetes Research Reaches a Breakthrough

Nov 7, 2014
Umberto Salvagnin / Flickr

After fifteen years, Harvard researchers are reporting a diabetes breakthrough. Joining us in Studio A to tell us more about this discovery and what it means for diabetes treatment is Linda Siminerio, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute.

We’ll also preview the 2014 Expo, aimed at helping people manage their diabetes with Terri Seidman, associate director of the American Diabetes Association of Western PA.

How Better Communication Can Help Patients Die with Dignity

Nov 6, 2014
Alex Proimos / Flickr

With the recent assisted suicide of a woman in Oregon named Brittany Maynard, we want to talk about how conversations on death and dying are changing, or need to change between medical professionals and terminally ill patients and their families. 

Dr. Robert M. Arnold, professor of medicine and Medical Director at UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute says before the need for assisted suicide comes up, we need to look at how quality of life can be better for people who are terminally ill.

Changing Attitudes of Aging: 50 is the New 50

Nov 6, 2014
Ronn aka "Blue" Aldaman / Flickr

 

According to our guest Dr. Bill Thomas, an internationally recognized expert on elderhood and geriatric medicine, Americans need to rethink their attitudes on aging. Dr. Thomas joins us for a conversation about aging. He is also the founder of the Eden Alternative and Green House Project.

In the face of clichés like “65 is the new 50,” Thomas stresses that 50 is the new 50, encouraging people to embrace the age that they are and not aspire to something else.

Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are the first in the region to offer a minimally invasive heart surgery that allows physicians to operate as the heart beats.

The MitraClip is designed to treat degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart condition where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve, forcing the heart to pump even harder to get the blooding moving in the right direction. MR causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure.

With the incidence of diabetes or pre-diabetes growing in this country, the Pennsylvania Senate has approved unanimously a resolution naming November as “Diabetes Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.”

“This disease effects approximately 29 million adults and children nationwide, but tragically over 8 million cases go undiagnosed," said Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny), who authored the resolution. "It is only through increased education, research and prevention that we can combat this epidemic.”

33 Genes Linked to Autism by CMU, Pitt Study

Oct 29, 2014

An international research team led by professors from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has identified 33 genes that contribute to the risk of autism.

The team also uncovered 70 genes that are “likely” linked to autism risk, and have estimated that more than 1,000 have yet to be identified. According to the researchers, the discovery, which is the largest to date, enhances the scientific community’s understanding of how a brain with autism spectrum disorder works.

No one in Pennsylvania has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus, but the state is closely watching possible cases under the direction of the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Jonas Salk's Legacy Includes a Focus on Sustainability

Oct 27, 2014
University of Pittsburgh

We'll join the Pitt School of Public Health in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk, the man who discovered and developed the first successful polio vaccine. His son Peter Salk, scientific director of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation, will join us to talk about the Jonas Salk Centenary Symposium on Sustainability: Survival of the Wisest.

Executive Vice President Zach Zobrist of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania said the union is working with hospitals in the state to assure that specific protocols and procedures will protect health care workers.  

"That, to me, is the really clear thing the CDC came forward with," he said. "It’s not just providing employees with protective equipment, it’s giving them the training they would need on how to use that personal protective equipment. And that they have spotters and not just, ‘Here’s a handout on how to wear your equipment.’"

Health and breast cancer awareness advocates delivered 150,000 petitions to the Susan G. Komen offices in Pittsburgh Friday, urging the nonprofit to cut ties with the oil and gas industry.

Groups, including Breast Cancer Action, New Voices Pittsburgh and Food and Water Watch, are urging Komen to refuse a $100,000 check from oil and gas extraction company Baker Hughes, which, according to Forbes.com, saw a net income of roughly $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

Flickr user Michael Goodin

According to Diane Hupp, chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the neonatal unit at the hospital is running out of space.

“Five years ago, we had 31 neonatal beds. Today, we have over 60 neonates in the hospital and we are busting at the seams,” Hupp said.

That’s one of the challenges caused by the hospital’s rapid growth since its relocation to Lawrenceville in 2009, a challenge that administrators hope can be overcome with a $19 million expansion project announced Wednesday.

Ebola has killed thousands of people in West Africa — yet the absence of victims’ names and faces could be just one reason why large numbers of people have not been donating money to the fight the outbreak.

“Unlike many natural disasters that we have seen in the past with massive outpouring of donations support, we’re not seeing people making donations … it’s something that everybody’s talking about, but it’s not driving us to donate,” said Nicole Coleman, assistant professor of business and marketing at University of Pittsburgh.

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