Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Bill Sikes / AP

Health insurer Aetna has agreed to pay $17 million to settle claims that it breached the privacy of thousands of customers who take HIV medications.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the settlement Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Court documents say the Hartford, Connecticut-based company sent a mailing in envelopes with large, clear display windows that revealed confidential HIV information. The mailing was sent to about 12,000 customers in at least 23 states.

Elaine Thompson / AP

Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against drug companies that make prescription opioids, saying they've created "an unprecedented public health crisis."

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Health care providers enter into dozens of contracts with outside companies, like medical record disposal or storage entities, that have access to patients’ medical information.

Dan Mulholland, senior partner at the health law firm Horty Springer, said these contracts come and go so frequently that they're not always reviewed by a lawyer because of cost and time constraints. But even tiny errors in the documents can create huge liabilities if patient information is mishandled. 

Government of Alberta / Flickr

This flu season has been particularly severe, with the Allegheny County Health Department reporting that last week three people died from flu complications; 260 people have been hospitalized. 

Eric Gay / AP

Pennsylvania regulators said Friday they will no longer make a new medical marijuana registry available on the state's computer system for law enforcement, making it less likely someone's participation will be flagged during federal gun-purchase background checks.

First Responders Face Growing, Deadly Risk On Overdose Calls

Jan 13, 2018
Mel Evans / AP

"Welcome back."

It was the first thing Sgt. Giovanni Trello heard when he woke up in the back of an ambulance headed to the hospital.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is once again sounding the alarm on lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

Tim Betler / UPMC

A new combined 27-bed addiction rehabilitation-detox facility will soon open at UPMC McKeesport.

Mel Evans / AP

*UPDATED: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 at 4:35 p.m. 

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has declared Pennsylvania's opioid addiction epidemic a public health emergency and ordered a command center set up to treat the crisis like it would a natural disaster.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Shark Snider cut out of preschool early for an appointment with his pediatrician, Dr. Jonathan Weinkle of Squirrel Hill Health Center. The 3-year-old’s snoring had gotten worse, and his parents were worried it could be a symptom of something bigger.

Founder Institute

Whether it’s an app or a device, the path from start-up idea to full-fledged company often leads through programs called accelerators or hubs that can provide workspaces, guidance and even funding.  In Pittsburgh, there is AlphaLab, AlphaLab Gear and Ascender.

Kenny Chen / Ascender

Seven Pittsburgh-based startups are still in the running for the IBM Watson  IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. That's more entries than any other U.S. city in the global challenge to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of the world's toughest problems.

Crazypaco / Wikimedia

Highmark health insurance has reached a five-year agreement with UPMC to allow its customers to receive care from select UPMC locations at in-network rates.

Pennsylvania Gives Approval To First Medical Pot Dispensary

Jan 4, 2018
David Goldman / AP

Pennsylvania officials on Thursday announced the first all-clear for a medical marijuana dispensary in the state to begin providing the drug once it becomes available from a licensed grower.

The Keystone Canna Remedies dispensary in Bethlehem received the state authorization, a major milestone in Pennsylvania's new medical marijuana program .

Bobby Caina Calvan / AP Photo

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control unveiled a series of anti-smoking ads intended to shock viewers called "Tips From Former Smokers" -- they showed graphic images of former smokers and the lifelong effects the habit left on their bodies. The CDC has said the campaign increased quit attempts in the United States.

Canon-McMillan School District

Computer programming might sound like an advanced skill, but at the Canon-McMillan School District south of Pittsburgh, students are beginning to learn how to code right when they start elementary school.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

A local nonprofit is offering free water filters to Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers, while working to educate Pittsburgh-area residents on preventing lead exposure.

Damian Devorganes / AP

The rate of early cancer diagnosis was higher in some states that expanded Medicaid compared to other that did not.

Feds Employ Data-Driven Early Warning System In Opioid Fight

Jan 2, 2018
Keith Srakocic / AP

The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

Jennifer Peltz / AP

Pennsylvanians have started receiving identification cards to get medication through the commonwealth's new medical marijuana program.

Ryan Kang / AP

Stephen Arch, a 60-year-old filmmaker from Moon Township, is prescribed the drug Klonopin for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he said stems from childhood trauma.

Carlos Osorio / AP

Allegheny County begins mandatory blood testing for lead in small children Jan. 1. 

Googlemaps

After a coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania closed, early-life health outcomes improved for babies across the border, in New Jersey.

The Portland Generating Station sits on the Delaware River, about two hours north of Philadelphia and right across the border from New Jersey. While in operation, it was one of the most prodigious emitters of sulfur dioxide in the nation, primarily affecting Jersey’s Warren, Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon Counties. It stopped burning coal in 2014, after the Environmental Protection Agency demanded it reduce its pollution levels.

Sajad Haghanifar / University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are working to improve the next generation of solar panels.

They’re using something called fused silica glass. Imagine tiny blades of grass, almost 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, tightly packed together.

That’s how the surface of fused silica glass will look under a microscope after Paul Leu, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and Sajad Haghanifar, a Ph.D. student in Leu's lab, bombard the glass' surface with charged particles called ions.

Blue Coat Photos / Flickr

If you’ve received a new computer as a holiday gift, it’s important to protect this device from so-called “tech support scams.”

Lorrie Faith Cranor is associate department head of Carnegie Mellon University’s department of Engineering and Public Policy. She’s also the former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission.

Cranor tells 90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden to be wary of  unsolicited messages that claim to come from prominent companies. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

marcus eubanks/Flickr

Many people find it difficult to work, exercise and socialize this time of year due to a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

UPMC/Pitt Health Sciences

Prosthetics researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have landed a $5.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a lower limb prosthesis that mimics the feeling of a leg or foot.

Current prosthetics lack sensory feedback, so people who have lost a leg often struggle to walk. To recreate the sensations of balance and pressure, researchers are experimenting with an implant that transmits electronic signals to a simulator worn on the belt. 

Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana / flickr

The number of Pennsylvanians enrolled in insurance plans sold through the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace shrank slightly, as state officials accused the Trump administration of trying to undermine the system.

Matt Rourke / AP

Fights over federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has states trying to figure out how long their programs can hold out without getting more money.

Kit / Flickr

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is spearheading an initiative meant to standardize care for pediatric transplant patients.

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