Health

Health news from 90.5 WESA.

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.

Megan Rosenbloom / Flickr

A new report issued by the American Legion’s System Worth Saving Task Force has made recommendations to prevent future Legionella outbreaks at the city’s VA medical center. This is in response to the death of 5 patients in 2011-2012.

Jacob Gadd, deputy director for health care and manager of the System Worth Saving program for the American Legion, discusses what measures need to be taken in order to prevent future outbreaks.

He says the report finds the Veterans Administration needs to empower its 152 hospitals to better communicate during a crisis.

A report released Thursday by the American Legion finds that the VA Pittsburgh Health System has responded well to the outbreak of Legionella in 2011 and 2012 that took the lives of at least five veterans. 

However, the report finds the Veterans Administration needs to empower the 152 hospitals in the system to better communicate during a crisis.

Jacob Gadd, American Legion deputy director for healthcare, said that since the outbreak the Pittsburgh VA has formed a water safety committee, which had made important recommendations that have been implemented.

Why Young People are Getting the Worst of the Flu

Jan 22, 2014
SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget / flickr

The H1N1 flu is back and it's striking mostly young adults. More than 90 percent of flu cases statewide have been identified as the H1N1 strain, commonly referred to as "Swine Flu" since it reemerged in 2009 after lying dormant since the 1960s and 1970s.

Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital has the answer for why the swine flu is hitting young people so hard.

“Many of the young adults and children have not been exposed to this virus and therefore do not have built up, innate immunity to this virus. And so without the vaccine this is the most vulnerable population to get sick when they’re exposed to this infection.”

@aerial_m / Flickr

Studies show the rate of childhood asthma in Allegheny County is around 13 percent, higher than the national rate of 9 percent.

An Allegheny General Hospital study is underway to more precisely determine childhood asthma rates in the region and exactly what triggers the respiratory disease.

Dr. David Skoner, Division Director in asthma, allergies and immunology for the Allegheny Health Network, is a co-director for the study.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Health Network and Johns Hopkins Medicine have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding between their two cancer centers.

When finalized, Allegheny Health Network and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center will collaborate on several initiatives, share research and participate in joint projects, among other things.

A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that uninsured patients with a variety of common medical diagnoses were less likely to be transferred between hospitals for treatment.

The study came about because an “urban myth” that uninsured patients were more likely to be transferred persisted, yet there was no hard data to back it up.

A new report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association gives Pennsylvania lackluster grades with regard to anti-smoking laws and programs.

The State of Tobacco Control 2014 report gives the Keystone state an “F” for funding of tobacco prevention and control programs, a “C” for smokefree air, a “C” for tobacco taxation, and an “F” for cessation coverage by insurance companies.

Canadian Blood Service / flickr

Following the deaths of three prominent black leaders in Western Pennsylvania, the need for bone marrow donors, especially in the African American community has come to light.

In an effort to increase awareness and register potential donors, Daria Crawley, an associate professor of management at Robert Morris University and Howard Russell of East Hills find that patients and families experience unique hurdles when searching for a donor.

Nadya Dutchin, National Account Executive for Be the Match, a global leader in bone marrow transplantation, says many potential donors are often uneasy about joining. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Live Well Allegheny is a new initiative aimed at promoting health and wellness throughout Allegheny County.

The effort was launched Tuesday by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, members of the county Board of Health and Health Department Director Karen Hacker.

Fitzgerald said while the Pittsburgh region ranks high on national lists for things such as livability and academia, it could also be a leader in healthy living.

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.

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