Health

Toby Talbot / AP

A southeastern Pennsylvania county sued 11 pharmaceutical companies Thursday for marketing tactics that county officials say misrepresent the dangers of long-term opioid usage while a national overdose crisis continues to kill tens of thousands of people annually.

Delaware County alleged in its complaint that the companies and three consulting physicians engaged in promotional campaigns that encouraged prolonged and widespread use of their powerful painkillers, despite knowing that in doing so consumers risked damaging health effects and addiction.

Lotzman Katzman / Flickr

High rates of asthma in Allegheny County are keeping kids out of schools and impacting learning, according to research by a local pediatrician. Pittsburgh has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the country, one of the strongest factors for childhood asthma.

The study by Deborah Gentile reveals more than 22 percent of children in some Pittsburgh schools have asthma, much higher than the national average of just more than 10 percent. Gentile says this high rate of childhood asthma is alarming.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

For several months, the state Health Department has been refusing to disclose who is on the panels that scored applications for medical marijuana licenses.

But now, the Department of Open Records is ordering the agency to release the information. 

The Open Records decision comes after protracted back-and-forth between the DOH and PennLive.

After releasing permits to grow, process and sell medical marijuana to select applicants, the department wouldn’t name the panelists who had made those decisions.

New Report Recommends Ways To Prevent And Respond To Childhood Lead Exposure

Sep 5, 2017
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The water and lead crisis in Flint Michigan and parts of Pennsylvania has shone a national spotlight on he problem of childhood lead exposure.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

As students in Pittsburgh and across the state prepare to head back to school, they will be required to comply with a new immunization policy from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Gerry Broome / AP

A report released Thursday by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network finds Pennsylvania isn’t doing enough to produce statewide policies that help prevent and fight cancer.

Seth Weing / AP

Some patients in Pennsylvania could be able to get prescriptions for medical marijuana early next year. In the meantime, many doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers have questions.

Jason Redman / AP

The Congressional Budget Office predicts 14 million Americans who currently have insurance would be without it next year if the Senate Republican version of the health care overhaul bill is adopted.

That's leaving officials behind some rural health systems worried.

Branden Camp / AP

E-cigarette users report feeling less dependent and addicted than traditional smokers do, according to a recent study. Even so, researchers don't believe e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco.

Concerned About How Fracking Is Affecting Your Health? This Organization Can Help

Jun 30, 2017
Environmental Health Project

With all the oil and gas development happening in the region, people are wondering how it is affecting their health.

Rate Of Hospitalizations For Opioid Overdoses Rising Rapidly In PA

Jun 29, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

Many who overdose on an opioid in Pennsylvania never need to go to a hospital. Some are treated by first responders, or bystanders who carry naloxone, a drug that can halt an overdose before it becomes fatal.

Some succumb without help.

But a growing number of Pennsylvanians are winding up as hospital patients as the result of opioids — 66 percent more in 2016 than in 2014. The numbers do not include emergency room visits.

Overcoming Opioids: Easing An Epidemic 1 Doctor At A Time

Jun 17, 2017
Carla K. Johnson / AP

Even doctors can be addicted to opioids, in a way: It's hard to stop prescribing them.

Melissa Jones is on a mission to break doctors of their habit, and in the process try to turn the tide of the painkiller epidemic that has engulfed 2 million Americans.

It was in doctors' offices where the epidemic began, and it's in doctors' offices where it must be fought. So Jones is using some of the same tactics pharmaceutical sales forces used to push their potent pills into communities — this time, to get them out.

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Highmark Health says Allegheny Health Network will build a state-of-the-art cancer institute at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital as part of a $200 million investment in cancer care.

The health network says about a half-dozen more community cancer treatment centers will be added in the region over the next two years. Officials didn't release the locations of the centers, which will bring as many as 175 health care jobs to western Pennsylvania, but said they would offer medical and radiation oncology care.

CMU Scientists Help Clairton Residents Find Out What's In Their Air

Jun 13, 2017
Kara Holsopple / AP

R. Subramanian has been working on air quality issues for about 15 years. He started with a background in mechanical engineering, then added chemistry and atmospheric science while working on a Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University.

“There are problems to be solved. And I’m an engineer. And I will learn what I need to solve them.”

Cynthia Goldsmith/Dr. A. Harrison/Dr. P. Feorino/CDC / AP

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a new test that can detect dormant HIV in patients’ cells that is cheaper and more efficient than the current test used by clinics.

Pitt scientists announced their discovery last week in Nature, a national scientific journal that focuses on immunology and biotechnology.

Pennsylvania DEP

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is warning residents about dangerously high levels of radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that may cause up to 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year nationally.

A spokesperson for the agency says he could not share which area is affected.

The agency says at least one home has a radon level 25 times higher than recommended. In a letter sent to one resident, the agency says Pennsylvania generally has "some of the highest radon values in the country."

Susan Walsh / AP

Katie Horowitz is making dinner at her home in Morningside. On this night, it’s sautéed spinach with chicken breasts boiled in broth.

“One of the hardest parts of this diet is that you have to cook everything,” Horowitz said. “I have a really busy job, and it’s really challenging to find time.”

Horowitz was diagnosed last year with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, and is now on a very restrictive diet. She’s been hospitalized several times, and her doctor said she’ll likely need surgery someday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

New research from the Rand Corporation shows that who you are – including your race, education and income – is a big predictor of how healthy you eat. But where you live matters, too.

Since 2011, Rand has compared the health of residents in Homewood, a food desert, with the Hill District, which went 30 years without a grocery store before finally getting one in 2013.

Chris Stalnaker / 90.5 WESA

Although the smokestacks are largely gone, Pittsburghers still breathe some of the sootiest air in the Eastern U.S., according to a report issued Thursday by a local environmental advocacy group.

 

Nathanial Burton-Bradford / Flickr

The Allegheny Health Network is creating a new Cerebrovascular Center with the goal of making it easier for stroke victims to get access to treatment quickly.

Studies show that reducing the time between a stroke and treatment is one of the most important factors to a successful recovery.

Charanjit Chana / Flickr

Pennsylvania lawmakers have re-introduced a bill that would help the 10 to 15 percent of women who suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth.

 

Auslandsoesterreicherflickraccountinhaber / Flickr

Ticks don’t always wait until the spring to become active. A warm snap in western Pennsylvania could mean more breeding among the insects, and more cases of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania has had the highest rate of Lyme disease in the nation for years – and that number is going up. More than 12,000 cases were reported last year -- one-third the total cases of Lyme disease across the country.  

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Sharon Serbin describes herself as a Jane-of-all-trades: an artist, a personal trainer, and most recently, a life skills counselor at the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services. Serbin lost her hearing in her teens, and has spent many years working in the hearing and deaf communities. 90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss interviewed Serbin as part of an ongoing series in which we speak with leading experts and people of interest in the Pittsburgh community. Their conversation has been edited for length.

 

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

On Feb. 17, 2016, Kelsey Williams got some devastating news.

“I went in for my routine anatomy 20-week ultrasound with my second child – my husband and I have a 4-and-a-half year old – and nothing had been indicated as anything but typical up to that point in the pregnancy," she said.

Nathan Forget / Flickr

The nonprofit that runs the needle exchange program in Allegheny County is leaving it's current location in Oakland. 

Each Sunday, as many as 75 intravenous drug users or their surrogates visit the Prevention Point Pittsburgh needle exchange program at the Oakland office. But the exchange will move to East Liberty in April.

The health department is moving its clinic and wasn't able to guarantee Prevention Point would be able to use those facilities on Sundays. 

Mark Lennihan / AP

Terminally ill people with higher body mass indices, or BMIs, are less likely to die at home than people with lower BMIs, according to a new study authored by University of Pittsburgh professor John Harris.

Allegheny County

Health agencies in Allegheny County want more families to take advantage of free home visit programs.

The “Open Doors to Home Visiting” campaign was launched this week by the Allegheny County Health Department and Department of Human Services.

There are currently 36 home visit programs in the county for expectant and new mothers. Health Department Director Karen Hacker said home visit programs have been proven to work.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED: Feb. 2, 2017 at 3:37 p.m. 

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials lifted the flush and boil water advisory for the city’s central and eastern neighborhoods Thursday.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The precautionary boil order in effect for about half of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers will most likely remain in place through the end of the week.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A western Pennsylvania elementary school has been closed for two days so the district can deal with high level of lead in its water, which comes from a well.

Butler Area School District Superintendent Dale Lumley apologized to irate parents who attended a Monday meeting about the problems at Summit Elementary.

Students were given bottled water for two days earlier this school year after water tests in August found lead.

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