Health

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Nearly 1 in 3 school age children in the Pittsburgh region is overweight or obese. Last January Allegheny County launched the Live Well project to improve the health of county residents, particularly students, through health and fitness. It’s one of the leading health initiatives undertaken by Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County’s Health Department Director.

Pittsburgh firefighters are asking state lawmakers to ban chemicals found in flame-retardant furniture.

According to Pittsburgh Firefighters Deputy Chief Frank Large, studies have found that these chemicals increase the number of cancer deaths in firefighters inhaling the chemicals. Flame-retardant materials that are found in 85 percent of couches in American homes become carcinogens when ignited in a house fire.

Large says firefighters are given state of the art technology to filter the smoke they breathe in, but that isn’t enough to protect them from these chemicals.

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.

Wind chill temperatures are expected to dip to more than 30 below zero in southwestern Pennsylvania Monday night and Tuesday morning, which means exposed skin could freeze in less than 5 minutes.

New Arrivals in the US Face Vast Health Challenges

Jan 6, 2014

Immigrants come to the United States fleeing war and genocide. Others arrive seeking better opportunities for their families. But whether they are refugees from Nepal seeking asylum or undocumented Mexican families in Los Angeles, immigrants share common circumstances. Many arrive healthy but develop chronic illnesses as they adopt American habits. Many feel isolated and alone – suffering that can turn toxic over time.

Fifth (Pittsburgh)Red Celebrates AIDS Awareness

Dec 2, 2013
Tim Camerato/90.5 WESA

County officials, HIV/AIDS advocates, and survivors gathered in downtown Pittsburgh Monday to mark International World AIDS Day and to blow up a 30-foot balloon ribbon onto Fifth Ave. Place.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald noted it’s been more than 30 years since the first AIDS cases were reported.

"The Fault in Our Stars," a movie adaptation of a critically and commercially popular young adult novel, has just finished filming in Pittsburgh and in the Netherlands.

The book and movie center around two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Many of the extras in the movie are young people with cancer.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie adaptation of the beloved novel. Book author John Green says the story goes against the typical trope popular media brings us about the ailing.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With sexual violence can come a host of mental health issues — depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. But dealing with the judicial system can also bring a slew of problems for victims.

Innovative Concussion Evaluation Technology

Sep 25, 2013
GENuine 1986 / Flickr

According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 2 million people each year suffer from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

In the sports world, concussions have been in the limelight as athletes come forward with reports of lasting affects from the brain injuries they sustained while playing. As a result, the sports community is becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to properly treat a concussion and gather as much data as possible close to the time of impact.

C3 Logix is a new, innovative concussion evaluation technology that provides on site data collection at the time of injury, to better aid physicians in diagnosis and treatment. The program is loaded into an iPad and before the season starts, athletes perform a series of neurocognitive tests. The program tracks the athlete’s visual reflexes and their ability to focus on moving objects. Results of these baseline tests can then be compared to data logged in incident reports at the time of suspected brain injury.

Flickr user vitualis

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act open. It can be confusing, however, so here is some basic information and resources to help with understanding Obamacare. You may also want to read a Q&A from NPR's Morning Edition about the ACA. 90.5 WESA's daily magazine program Essential Pittsburgh will host public forum on the topic Thursday.

With less than two weeks until Pennsylvania's online health insurance marketplace opens to the public, advocates are trying to spread the word about its offerings.

For people who feel the slightest pecuniary pinch and don't have significant health coverage, the soon-to-launch state exchange offers a chance to shop at a discount.

Financial assistance will be available to some purchasing health care plans through the marketplace opening Oct. 1, allowing those individuals to greatly reduce the percentage of their income spent on coverage.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In Clarion County’s Licking Township there are vibrant green hills, windy narrow roads and traffic signs posted just as much for the trucks and tractors as for the horses and buggies.

It's a small, rural farming community north of Pittsburgh.

When you pull up to Emmanuel Schmidt’s home, you see acres of land, his woodworking shop and carriages. The 49-year-old Amish farmer knows Obamacare is coming, but he doesn’t quite know what that means.

"I’ve wondered, I’ve really wondered what’s going to happen with the health care, I don’t know," he said. 

Elderly patients hospitalized with an infection, like pneumonia, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who were not.

That’s according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh that followed 5,888 patients over the age of 65 in four areas across the country: Winston-Salem, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; Hagerstown, Md.; and Pittsburgh.

The study was done in conjunction with researchers from the University of Washington, University of California, University of Illinois, John Hopkins University and Columbia Medical Center.

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry used brain scans to measure blood flow to parts of the brain associated with emotion regulation to gauge if the subjects had unipolar depression or bipolar disorder.

The study hoped to identify brain function markers that identified the two types of depression.

The study used 44 Pittsburgh-area women and was conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Kings College London, the University of South Florida and the University of Texas Southwestern.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Rachel Zwipf is packing. Boxes scattered around her home are being filled with pots, children’s toys and framed photos.

She’s moving to North Carolina, leaving behind a good job, her family and painful memories of Pittsburgh.  

"His name was Sean Thompson, but we all called him Lydell," she said.

Two summers ago, Zwipf’s fiancé was murdered in Lawrenceville, just a few blocks from their home. They were already planning to move. Thompson had spent years in jail for a slew of offenses and wanted a new start.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine plan to expand their Vascular Medicine Institute over the next five years, by creating the Heart, Lung Blood and Vascular Medicine Institute, or VMI.

Dr. Mark Gladwin, co-director of VMI, said it will be a hub for research.

"This will be the research home for scientists and physicians and physician scientists that have primary appointments within cardiology, pulmonary and hematology," he said.

Dr. Arvind Venkat says that hospital emergency rooms are basically an autistic person’s worst nightmare.

“I think if you were to purposefully design an environment that was going to be difficult for an autistic patient, you could not do worse than what we do day to day in emergency medicine,” he said.

Meddy Garnet / Flickr

Hypertension, known as the “Silent Killer,” is more prevalent in Allegheny County African Americans than any other group. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension has taken the lives of over 50,000 people in the last year.

Dr. Indu Poornima is a cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital and conducts research with high blood pressure patients in Allegheny County. She says the increased prevalence of obesity and stressors, along with access to health care and genetic predispositions, are all possible factors that cause hypertension.

A new study partially conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that those with the herpes simplex virus 1, which typically causes cold sores, displayed reduced cognitive function.

The researchers studied people in India with and without herpes and with and without schizophrenia. They looked at their cognitive functions using a computerized battery and assessed different aspects of top processes.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s plans to shut down 26 of the state’s 60 public health centers has been put on hold after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction Wednesday.

The state’s Department of Health said closing almost half of Pennsylvania’s health centers that provide services such as immunizations and disease testing would save $3.4 million.

But the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Pennsylvania argued doing so would cut 26 nursing jobs, and the state couldn’t close the centers without state legislature approval. 

LGBT Health Concerns

Jul 16, 2013
UPMC

According to Dr. Ron Stall, director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, the dearth of investment in sexual health research, especially for the LGBT community, is something of an American tradition. Primarily due to the hot-button nature of conversations about sexuality and sexual practices, “the US has been slow to invest in sexual health in general.”

This additional roadblock makes the advances that have been made in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV all the more impressive. According to Stall, thanks to breakthrough drug research, HIV “has now become a chronic manageable disease much like diabetes,” for those who are aware of their illness and have access to drugs.

Starting July 1, 2014, UPMC is stubbing out the cigarettes of its employees, physicians, students and volunteers during their shifts.

UPMC has introduced a policy in which employees are not permitted to smoke at any point during their shift — even during scheduled breaks.

Tim Cline, senior director of clinical training and development, said exposure to tobacco smoke and the residual products of tobacco use is not safe on any level.

In an effort to better understand brain aneurysms, researchers in Pittsburgh will examine aneurysm tissue to try and learn what determines whether an aneurysm ruptures or doesn’t.

Last July, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center opened a $250 million dollar, 156-bed hospital in Monroeville.

A year in, Mark Sevco, UPMC’s East President said they have had “a great first year.”

They are seeing more than a hundred patients a day in the emergency department, operating at 75 percent capacity.

“We were expecting 65 patients a day, and we’re at about 115," Sevco said. "And from a surgical perspective, we’re 50 percent over our budget projections."

About a month after its re-opening, the fountain at Point State Park is being tested by the Allegheny County Department of Health for Legionella.

The move follows a report of one person coming down with Legionnaires' disease after a visit to the fountain. County health officials say it’s unlikely the infection came from the fountain, but they are testing it as a precaution.

According to a Pew report, too many Pennsylvania children are developing cavities and dental-related issues, but this is not mom and dad’s fault.

The Pew Children’s Dental Campaign report assessing states on how well they are providing children access to dental care showed that 10 percent of Pennsylvania’s population is under-served and living in a dental “shortage area.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports about 45 million Americans live in regions that do not have enough dentists to serve the population.

The longest study of the link between obesity among Type 2 diabetes patients and cardiovascular disease recently wrapped up, and it found that among the 5,145 participants, losing weight did not improve their chances of having hospital stays due to things like chest pain and heart attacks. 

However, researchers warn there is much more to the study once you start to dig a little deeper.

Calling it an “overreach” of the state’s power and a “new frontier,” three female members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are blasting recently passed legislation that would prohibit insurance companies from offering policies that cover abortion services in the soon-to-be-launched Pennsylvania health exchange. 

Reps. Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny), Madeline Dean (D-Montgomery) and Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) said the solution might lie in the next election cycle.

A study out of the University of Pittsburgh has found similar brain abnormalities in concussion and Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Saaed Fakran, an assistant professor of neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the study, said it's too early to make any conclusions based on this research, but he hopes to follow up on it.

The study looked at concussion patients ranging in age from 12 to 28 who have had some sort of trauma, persistent abnormality but have a conventional CT and MRI.

When Violence Strikes, What About Mental Health?

Jun 12, 2013
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The last couple years have seen high profile mass shootings and terrorist attacks — Aurora, Newtown, Boston.

Here in Pittsburgh we’ve seen the same. Last year a gunman opened fire at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, killing one person and injuring seven. And in 2009, a man walked into an aerobics class at an L.A. Fitness and started shooting, killing three women and injuring nine.

There are also regular incidents of community and street violence. Last month a gunman injured two women and killed a 15-month-old in the East Hills.

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