Health

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.

Law Insuring 1 Million Pennsylvanians Faces Uncertain Future

Dec 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

 

About 1 million people in Pennsylvania are receiving government-subsidized health insurance under Democrats' 2010 health care law that is facing an uncertain future as Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month with a pledge to repeal it.

Jarus Health Technologies

Public health organizations are increasingly considering how they can use technology to battle the opioid epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives in southwestern Pennsylvania in recent years.

Health care experts, students, investors and entrepreneurs will gather Thursday evening to discuss the opioid epidemic and develop collective solutions utilizing technology.

Jon Olav Eikenes / Flickr

A recent study found the number of concussion diagnoses in Pennsylvania is spiking, but that’s not necessarily because they’re happening more often.

The report from Blue Cross Blue Shield found concussion diagnoses among 10 to 19-year-olds in the state jumped 85 percent between 2010 and 2015. The report doesn’t specify how the concussions were received, nor does it speculate as to why the numbers are increasing.

Looking At Addiction As A Health Crisis

Dec 3, 2016
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

For the past 20 years, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, has been a vocal advocate for drug and alcohol rehabilitation in Pennsylvania. And he’s been pushing the public and lawmakers to stop looking at addiction as a crime.

“Addiction has to be looked at like a disease and it is, like other diseases, highly treatable, and treatment works,” he said.

Aaron Warnick / PublicSource

 

What was supposed to be a routine visit to the pediatrician with little Oren resulted in a finding that sent Katy Rank Lev and her husband, Corey, into a frenzy.

Their 1-year-old had lead in his blood.

Richard Pedroncelli / ap

The Allegheny County Board of Health has placed e-cigarettes under nearly all of the same regulations as traditional cigarettes when it comes to use indoors. The vote Wednesday came after a series of speakers asked for the policy to be rejected.

Former smoker Dale Ray spoke in opposition to the regulations. He said he had diminished lung function due to his smoking habit. He said tried to quit smoking several times but it never stuck until he tried e-cigarettes.

Mark / Flickr

Pennsylvania officials are making progress on rules to govern the state's new medical marijuana program, including how dispensaries will operate and the fees paid by growers and processors.  

The Department of Health on Tuesday posted draft regulations for dispensaries .

No facilities in Pennsylvania have been approved to sell medical marijuana, but there are 103 families in the state who can already legally own the drug.

At the Marshfield Clinic dental center in Chippewa Falls, Wis., hygienist Karen Eslinger is getting her room ready. It's all quite routine — covering the chair's headrest with plastic, opening instruments, wiping down trays.

But then she starts getting creative.

Richard Drew / AP

 

Restrictions on what Medicaid and Medicare will cover for nursing home patients can often lead to unnecessary hospitalizations – an estimated $8 billion in unnecessary hospitalizations each year, in fact.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center

 

The National Institutes of Health is awarding a $20 million grant to Penn State Health's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine.

The funds essentially aim to use scientific discoveries to make healthier communities.

The money will go towards training programs for faculty, staff and students, groundbreaking research, as well as a data system that will be able to analyze information to predict and prevent disease.

It will connect research done at 10 different schools and institutes at Penn State.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

When then-Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri died from amyloidosis in 1988 not much was known about the disease. Since then, research and awareness has increased and now an endowed chair is being created to further research and treatment at the University of Pittsburgh.

Amyloidosis is a systemic disease that usually attacks the heart but can impact other internal organs.

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