Science, Health & Tech

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

It's a beautiful morning in Pittsburgh, but Ariel Haughton is stressed out. She's worried her young children's health insurance coverage will soon lapse.

"So, we're like a low-middle-class family, right?" she says. "I'm studying. My husband's working, and our insurance right now is 12 percent of our income — just for my husband and I. And it's not very good insurance either."

The policy that covers the couple requires high fees to even see a doctor, and it has a high deductible for further treatment.

Allegheny Health Network

Westmoreland County is getting a new hospital in Hempfield Township at the junction of Route 30 and Agnew Road. 

AHN Hempfield is the first of four so-called “neighborhood" hospitals planned by Allegheny Health Network. 

New Medicaid Feature To Reduce Future Nursing Home Enrollees

Dec 11, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

Years in the making, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is rolling out a new Medicaid feature that's designed to reduce the future number of enrollees in nursing homes and, along with it, a fast-growing expense in a state where the elderly population is exploding.

The program takes effect Jan. 1 in 14 southwestern counties. A launch is planned in 2019 for Philadelphia and its four collar suburban counties and in 2020 for the remaining 48 counties across central and northern Pennsylvania.

North Dakota Department of Agriculture via AP

The number of acres permitted to grow industrial hemp in Pennsylvania is going to increase 100-fold in 2018, from less than 50 to possibly more than 5,000.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

About two dozen demonstrators gathered outside a Verizon store in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, chatting slogans like “Ho-Ho, Hey-Hey, Net Neutrality is here to stay” and “Pai, Pai, Stop the Lies.” 

Scientists Call On US To Allow Research On Pot Meds For Pets

Dec 7, 2017
David Zalubowski / AP

Dr. Byron Maas surveys a supply of marijuana products for dogs that lines a shelf in his veterinary clinic. They're selling well.

National Aviary

The National Aviary has launched a new nest cam trained on two African penguin eggs expected to hatch later this month.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

A new long-term care facility for older adults in Allegheny County could be the first of its kind, according to local mental health professionals. It will serve aging patients living with neurological and psychiatric conditions.

The 45-bed unit at Kane-Glen Hazel Regional Care Center in Hazelwood provides a nursing home environment while also treating the special emotional and physical needs of patients, including those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

The open enrollment period for people buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace ends next Friday.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Many recipes for holiday treats have been passed down through the generations, in dog-eared cookbooks or on tattered, chocolate-stained scraps of paper. But the Gluten Free Goat Bakery in Garfield is using the power of artificial intelligence, developed by Google, to add a little more spice to a holiday snack. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

At least 49 genes contribute to whether one’s earlobes are attached or detached.

That's what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found in a new study. Lead author John R. Shaffer says this work could help shed light on serious genetic syndromes.

"Some of these conditions, like an example is Mowat-Wilson syndrome, the ear involves earlobe malformations," said Shaffer. "In the same genes that affect normal variation in the morphology, when they're disrupted, they lead to genetic syndromes."

PA Sets New Guidelines In Prescribing Opioids To Kids

Dec 4, 2017
Emma Lee/WHYY

Pennsylvania’s top health official visited the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Friday to introduce new guidelines for prescribing painkillers to kids. It’s one of the state’s most recent efforts to address the growing opioid epidemic.

Carla K. Johnson / AP

 

A series of community discussions and an interactive website featuring the stories of the opioid crisis will launch in Pennsylvania next year as part of a campaign to reduce the stigma associated with drug addiction.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On a Tuesday night, the first floor of the Cathedral of Learning is brimming with students, their conversations bouncing off the high, arched ceilings. They sit on the ground, in more than a dozen small circles; at the center of each circle is a dog. 

Oliver, a golden retriever, lays on his side as he's pet by five or six people at once. Despite all the attention, Oliver is calm and quiet. That's because he, like every other dog here, is a therapy dog from the College Canines program at Humane Animal Rescue

Tim Kelly / Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering

A Ph.D. student in Pittsburgh is working to develop a more effective drug delivery method for patients with lung diseases.

PA Hotline Links Those In Need With Help To Confront Opioid Addiction

Nov 28, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

One of the most frequent complaints that Jennifer Smith, acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, hears from family and friends concerned about loved ones’ opioid abuse is that they don’t know how to access treatment.

“I heard over and over and over again … my child needs treatment, but I have no idea how to get him or her there. I don’t know who to call,’” said Smith last month at a hearing on the state of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

UW Health/Flickr

When a parent has health insurance through Medicaid, their child is 29 percent more likely to receive an annual physical exam.

That’s according to a new study designed by a University of Pittsburgh Public Health researcher Eric T. Roberts, who calls this correlation between pediatric care and parental health insurance a "spill-over effect."

Tony Talbot / AP

The death rate in Pennsylvania from drugs, alcohol and suicide could increase 46 percent over the next decade. That’s according to a new report released by Well Being Trust, a national foundation that aims to improve mental health. 

“We’re turning to more lethal means to address our pain,” said Well Being Trust chief policy officer Benjamin Miller. He said nationwide those deaths could jump by 60 percent over the next 10 years if current trends continue.

HIPPONOTIZED / Flickr

For people with anxiety or depression, an online therapy can be similarly effective to seeing a mental health professional, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The cognitive behavioral therapy program (CBT), called "Beating the Blues," consists of eight one-hour video sessions that teach patients to overcome negative thoughts.

Hao Sun / University of Pittsburgh

A University of Pittsburgh researcher's work detecting the "health" of buildings has landed him a spot on Forbes' 30 Under 30 List in science.

Hao Sun, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt, has developed a method that could help detect structural problems in buildings after a damaging event such as an earthquake or a hurricane.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh-area robotics and 3-D printing companies displayed their designs as part of a preview of the Hazelwood Green’s Mill 19 facility.

The former steel mill will soon be the home to the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, a public-private partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, community stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Defense.

As women go through menopause they may express greater interest in trying new ways of being intimate with their partners as a way to adapt to changes in sexual function.

That's according to a new UPMC study, published online this month in the journal Menopause, which looked at 39 women ages 45 to 60, most of whom were heterosexual. During hour-long interviews with researchers, the women answered questions including, "How do you define satisfying sex?" or "What does 'sex' mean to you?"

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Twelve Pennsylvania medical marijuana growers and processors were licensed by the state in June. Since then, two have been approved to start production -- Cresco Yeltrah in Jefferson County and Standard Farms in Luzerne County.

 

The three other growers and processors, all in western Pennsylvania, still have work to do before the state’s December 20 approval deadline.

 

AGRiMED Industries in Greene County is still setting up its facility and hiring staff, said COO Matt Levine.

 

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Supercomputers are pretty much what they sound like: bigger, faster and more sophisticated than any Mac or PC. 

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

New research from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC credits a computer program with detecting sudden kidney failure in hospitalized patients.

 

Acute kidney injury affects one in eight hospitalized patients in the U.S., according to UPMC. About 2 million people in the world die of the condition each year, and because it’s often asymptomatic, it can be undetected until problems arise.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Since the late 1800s, steamfitters have built, installed and maintained piping systems, everywhere from power plants to residential homes.

M. Spencer Green / AP

Pennsylvania was one of only four states that saw a decrease in premature birth rates last year compared to 2015, according the March of Dimes’ annual Premature Birth Report Card.

Last year 9.3 percent of babies in Pennsylvania were born before 37 weeks gestation. In 2015 the rate was 9.4 percent. Nationally the rate increased from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

Ryan Kang / AP

More than 3,800 patients have registered for Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program in its first week.

Governor Tom Wolf says more than 200 caregivers have also registered for the program. He says the demand shows the "need for this vital medication."

A 2016 state law gives people under a doctor's care access to medical marijuana if they suffer from an illness on a list of 17 qualifying conditions.

The law permits pills, oils, vapor or liquid marijuana, but not marijuana in plant form.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh hospital is opening a unit for that will allow new mothers to stay with their opioid-addicted infants.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital says the unit will initially consist of six rooms.

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