Health

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

Navy veteran Ken Haynes stepped off a beefed-up RV, sporting military logos and said he was impressed with the vehicle.

The RV was a Vet Center’s mobile unit, touring the Pittsburgh area this week. Haynes stopped by on Wednesday when it was parked outside the Veterans Leadership Program offices in the Strip District. Later, it parked and opened its doors at the River Hounds Game on the South Side.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Last June, nearly 200 members of the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf pushed for a special legislative session to address the opioid crisis that has killed more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the past two years.

House Speaker Mike Turzai stood inside the Capitol rotunda just a few months ago.

"We will be asking the Governor to give this heightened attention by calling the General Assembly into special session," he said.

Sorry, kids. Your pediatrician will probably give you the flu vaccine in the form of a shot this year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday that it doesn't recommend using the flu vaccine that comes as a nasal spray. That's because the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at its performance last year and concluded it wasn't up to snuff.

An experimental drug dramatically reduced the toxic plaques found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, a team reports in the journal Nature.

Results from a small number of patients who received a high dose of the drug, called aducanumab, hint that it may also be able to slow the loss of memory and thinking.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In addition to bringing a baby into the world, many of The Midwife Center’s birth stories share a common anecdote – one of the mother-to-be going in and out of the building while their partner or family member searches for parking. 

Part One in an NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

You might call it a silent epidemic.

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

St. Clair Hospital

 

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is known for employing doctors with highly refined subspecialties, and now St. Clair Hospital doctors can tap into that expertise.

An agreement between the two hospitals, finalized this week, will allow St. Clair doctors to access eTumor Boards – a virtual version of tumor board reviews, in which multiple doctors brainstorm ways to treat an individual patient.

National Human Genome Research Institute / genome.gov

At the most basic level cancer can be defined as the DNA of a normal cell going haywire. 

Artisanal Food Waste: Can You Turn Scraps Into Premium Products?

Aug 19, 2016

Many efforts to address the food waste crisis hinge on getting consumers to buy fruits and vegetables that are adorably ugly — the bumpy tomato, the bulbous carrot, the dinged apple. Taste and nutritional value aren't compromised by their irregular appearance.

Buried in the fine print of many marketplace health plan documents is language that allows them to refuse to cover a range of services that are used more often by women, a study finds.

It's unclear if these exclusions have prevented patients from getting needed treatments. An insurance industry representative says patients are generally able to get care if it's appropriate for them. Yet some women with a family history of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, for instance, may have gaps in care because of the exclusions.

Dozens of journal articles cross our desks at NPR each week and, like nurses in the emergency room, we need to do rapid triage.

First we scan for those in critical need of attention (they aren't all that frequent). Next we look for studies that are interesting but not essential. Finally, we ask ourselves whether articles that are iffy need some attention anyway, since other news organizations are going to run with them. We figure Shots readers would like to see our take.

How The Placebo Effect Could Boost An Olympic Performance

Aug 14, 2016

Olympic medals are won by margins of tenths or even hundredths of a second. So, it's no surprise that athletes want any edge they can get — even methods not backed by a lot of scientific evidence.

Nati Harnik / AP

 

Noelle, who is in labor at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, tells a nurse that she isn't feeling right. Then her water breaks. The nurse checks the monitors and realizes that the umbilical cord has prolapsed. This is an obstetrical emergency.

Noelle has had this emergency — and others — thousands of times in the past three years that she has been in the simulation lab at Conemaugh. Noelle Birthing Simulator, made by Gaumard Scientific Co., Florida, is a full-size mannequin used to help nurses, residents and physicians practice real-life emergencies.

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The healthy human gut is home to hundreds of millions of bacteria species.

But people who are missing a few hundred or so particular species are at greater risk for certain health issues, including Crohn’s disease, which is characterized  by chronic inflammation of the bowels. 

Richard Duerr, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is co-senior author of a study linking that lack of gut diversity with a specific genetic variation.

Three college-age scientists think they know how to solve a huge problem facing medicine. They think they've found a way to overcome antibiotic resistance.

Many of the most powerful antibiotics have lost their efficacy against dangerous bacteria, so finding new antibiotics is a priority.

It's too soon to say for sure if the young researchers are right, but if gumption and enthusiasm count for anything, they stand a fighting chance.

How Many Calories Do Olympic Athletes Need?

Aug 5, 2016

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 25, 2012.

Food, as we so often note on this blog, means a lot of different things to different people. To Olympic athletes, food is fuel for exceptional athletic performance. But there's a surprising amount of variety in just how much fuel elite athletes need.

We're living at a time when more than 80 percent of Americans fail to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. At the same time, many Americans overeat refined grains and sugar.

This may help explain why the obesity rate seems stuck. The most recent estimate is that 36 percent of adults in the U.S. are obese.

New Study Links Asthma With Fracking

Jul 21, 2016
National Institutes of Health / Flickr

 

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have published a study linking unconventional gas development with asthma attacks.

“We found that patients living closer to more—or bigger—unconventional natural gas wells had higher risk for an asthma attack,” says Sara Rasmussen, the study’s lead author.

Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state is making strides on developing its new medical marijuana program.

Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said, since the commonwealth’s legalization of medical marijuana in April, her department has been working constantly to build the program.

It's been thought that the Zika virus spreads only through mosquito bites or sexual contact. But someone in Utah appears to have caught Zika another way — while caring for an elderly family member infected with the virus.

"The new case in Utah is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika," Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported Monday.

The year is half over. So I took a moment over the long holiday weekend to triumphantly write, "Mission accomplished!" in ink next to each of my New Year's resolutions.

VCU CNS / Flickr

The Allegheny County Health Department will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening regarding a potential HPV vaccine mandate for pre-teens.

Lack Of Summer Donations Leaves Blood Banks Dry

Jun 6, 2016
Charleston's TheDigitel / Flickr

Most people are focused on outdoor activities or travel in the summer, but not usually donating blood.

“(They) sometimes tend to forget that people need blood to survive,” said Central Blood Bank spokeswoman Megan Lakatos. “Summer gets in the way.”

Though fewer people think to donate blood during the warmer months, demand for blood transfusions stays constant, she said. To combat the issue, blood banks are launching campaigns focused on rewarding blood donors who make appointments during the summer.

Brett Levin / Flickr

 

Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but a lot of regulations have to be implemented before the system is completely set up. Parents who want to help their children with serious illnesses are the first priority for the state Health Department.

Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy says temporary rules for out-of-state purchases will be ready by next month.

Parents will be allowed to bring medical marijuana back to Pennsylvania if their child has one of 17 serious medical conditions.

OpenBiome

They're not as ubiquitous as blood or sperm banks, but another kind of biological substance also sits in cold storage ready to treat desperately ill or ailing patients. In Pittsburgh, the use of stool banks for fecal transplants is on the rise.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

This month, Pittsburgh officials and members of the organization Donate Life are encouraging locals to consider becoming organ donors.

According to Donate Life, there are more than 8,000 people in Pennsylvania waiting to receive organ transplants. Most transplanted organs come from deceased donors, but just 46 percent of Pennsylvanians are registered eye, organ and tissue donors. While advocates are working to increase that number, they're also looking for more options to meet the demand.

For some, like Steve Debakawitz, that’s a living donor.

Harrisburg Ramping Up Lead Testing, Remediation Efforts

May 12, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF

Lead-based paint remains in homes in cities nationwide, including many in Pennsylvania, despite long-standing awareness of health risks to young children.

So Hamilton Health Center, located in one of Harrisburg's most distressed neighborhoods, already does free lead-exposure screenings for children under six.

But a new partnership with the city will mean the health center gets new equipment that will mean faster testing and response.

Flickr user jrgcastro

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has signed a letter of intent to pursue an affiliation with a north-central Pennsylvania hospital network.

Susquehanna Health and UPMC jointly announced the letter of intent Thursday.

The details of the affiliation have yet to be determined.

Susquehanna serves 11 counties through four hospitals, Divine Providence, Muncy Valley, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial and Williamsport Regional Medical Center.

rumpleteaser / Flickr

Jenny Stalnaker, her husband, and their 3-year-old son Townes spend a good two hours cleaning their house every night before bed. 

Flickr user Abby Lanes

Pittsburgh-based PPG industries announced to shareholders on Thursday that it will stop putting lead in any of its products by 2020.

The announcement came shortly after shareholder Perry Gottesfeld, public health activist and founder of the nonprofit Occupational Knowledge International, delivered a petition with more than 5,000 signatures asking the company to discontinue the use of lead.

“PPG is now the first large U.S. company to agree to completely reformulate their products and take out lead,” Gottesfeld said.

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