Science, Health & Tech

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

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Highmark’s Medicare costumers can continue receiving in-network care from nine UPMC hospitals until the end of 2019, due to a Monday ruling by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini.

Gerald Herbert / AP

According to the American Lung Association, state lawmakers are not doing enough to reduce tobacco use in the state. The group gave Pennsylvania's smoking-adjacent policies a D-average.

The association rated the commonwealth in five categories -- prevention and cessation funding, smoke-free air, tobacco taxes, cessation services and the legal age of purchasing tobacco. Pennsylvania received Fs across the board, except in smoke free-air (C) and tobacco taxes (D). 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Parents of 180,000 children across Pennsylvania, including 14,000 kids in Allegheny County, are breathing sighs of relief now that funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been renewed for six years.

Philadelphia Wants Safe Injection Sites To Help Opioid Fight

Jan 24, 2018
Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Philadelphia wants to become the first U.S. city to allow supervised drug injection sites as a way to combat the opioid epidemic, officials announced Tuesday, saying they are seeking outside operators to establish one or more in the city.

Keith Srakokic / AP Photo

There's evidence to suggest that cocaine is more addictive for adolescents than adults. Scientists believe that at least part of this has to do with biological mechanisms in the brain, but they're not sure exactly what those mechanisms are.

A special sensor being developed at the University of Pittsburgh could help give them a better understanding.

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

Lead levels in Pittsburgh’s drinking water are back above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority announced Monday that the latest round of compliance testing showed levels at 21 parts per billion.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Following the controversial Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality, a coalition of 22 attorneys general, including Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, filed a petition for review of the decision in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

Margaret J. Krauss

Update 1/21/18 3:06 p.m.: PWSA has lifted the flush and boil advisory.

Roughly 900 Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority customers in Lawrenceville and Bloomfield are under a flush and boil advisory.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

No one masters a skill without mistakes, but when you’re a health care provider, screw ups can be deadly. 

In 2016, the National Academy of Sciences found that every year up to 30,000 civilian and military deaths of trauma patients could be prevented if the injured people had received optimal care.

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.

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