Bridges to Health

Health--it's what we all have in common:  whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health.  "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.

Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio's voter registration law in a 5-4 ruling Monday that loosens restrictions on how and when the state can purge its voter rolls. Proponents of the law argue it keeps their record books cleaner, while voting rights activists argue it punishes registered voters for not exercising that right, and disproportionally removes minority and Democratic names.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Baptist Homes is a sprawling senior care campus, located on a lush, quiet hillside in Mt. Lebanon. About 50 people live in the personal care part of the facility, where they can get help with everyday tasks. 

Blair Roughley / Netflix/AP

A University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist is one of the primary collaborators on a new, public health toolkit that presents important information related to the Netflix program “13 Reasons Why,” a teen drama that depicts events surrounding a high school girl’s suicide.

The second season came out earlier this month. 

Walter Astrada / AP

Black babies in Allegheny County are nearly three times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthdays.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

A recent report from Allegheny County’s medical examiner on the number of overdose fatalities in 2017 contains both good and bad news.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of overdose deaths was the highest on record -- more than 735 people in 2017 -- but the rate of fatalities decreased in each subsequent quarter of last year.

Brett Sholtis / Transforming Health

York County Solicitor Glenn Smith knows the county coroner's phone number by heart. He calls often to get the most recent number of drug overdose deaths, a number that increases almost every day. 

"As of today?" said York County Coroner Pam Gay. "Twenty-two confirmed, another 25 suspected... We just had two this morning."

York County has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, with 176 overdose deaths last year. It is one of 17 Pennsylvania counties to sue Purdue Pharmaceuticals and other companies that make prescription opioids.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Kerry Cannon, 31, of Bethel Park, works the salad bar at an Eat n' Park restaurant, a job she said she enjoys. She has Down syndrome, and said she has a good life. 

Keith Srakocic / AP

Eight of Pennsylvania’s universities have received the go-ahead to start studying medical marijuana.

Governor Tom Wolf’s administration is billing the move as the commonwealth’s “first step towards clinical research” on the drug.

The eight medical universities and colleges in question are:

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On a mild spring day, 47-year-old Tom Lefevre stood on his apartment’s back porch, which overlooks a quiet, wooded area in the borough of Bellevue, just outside Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. 

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania is raising some alarm over a fee hike Governor Tom Wolf wants to include in next year’s budget.

Right now, hospitals pay $220 million annually to the state’s general fund under the Quality Care Assessment law, which started as a partnership to ease budget shortfalls after the Great Recession.  

The law is up for renewal this summer. And in his proposal released earlier this year, Wolf called to raise the contribution about 60 percent, to $350 million.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The insurance mandates of the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid helped prevent hospitals in Pennsylvania from losing more than $80 million in 2017. 

The findings come via a report on the state's health care finances from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), an independent state agency established in the 1980s by the state legislature to analyze and report information to improve the costs and quality of health care in Pennsylvania. 

Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social / Flickr

Seven out of 10 babies born to mothers with Hepatitis C at Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC are not screened for the virus, which can cause serious liver damage.

The information comes from a new study from the University of Pittsburgh, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, which looked at children who continued to receive pediatric care from UPMC through their second birthday.

Matt Rourke / AP

Several state lawmakers are trying to boost a proposal that would qualify women with postpartum depression for support through Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention program.

Feggy Art / Flickr

Legislation in the Pennsylvania House would prohibit health insurance companies from changing benefits or adding restrictions to coverage plans mid-year.

Maya Alleruzzo / AP

The sleep lab at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC looks like an extended stay hotel suite. There’s a small kitchen, sitting room and a nice TV. It’s clean and sparse, dark and quiet.

How A High School Concussion Inspired A Tech Startup

Apr 20, 2018
Rachel McDevitt / 90.5 WESA

  Matt Roda of Lancaster County was a junior in high school when a single hockey game changed his entire life, putting him on a path to try and better identify and treat concussions. 

He was skating down the ice on a breakaway when he was checked from behind and flew head first into the boards.

Roda doesn't really remember the rest of that game. 

Dank Depot / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensaries may eventually be permitted to sell the product in plant form for vaping, after a vote by the state's medical marijuana advisory board recommended a change in the regulations. 

SUBCONSCI PRODUCTIONS / Flickr

Members of Pittsburgh's immigrant and refugee communities are dealing with a variety of issues that can make health care treatments challenging, according to a forum on Thursday hosted by Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

Screenshot / Google Maps

A new University of Pittsburgh study asks whether a revenue model set to be introduced in six rural Pennsylvania hospitals next year can both reduce patient admissions and increase profits.

The program is expected to be implemented in 30 rural hospitals by 2023. Data from Pennsylvania's Department of Health Innovation shows that in 2015, 47 percent of all rural hospitals in Pennsylvania had negative operating profit margins

John Zylka / Excela Health

Your doctor probably has a good idea of your medical history. But how well do they know you, as a person?

Ketki Jadhav / Wabbit

A mobile game prototyped by Carnegie Mellon University students recently finished as a finalist in a National Geographic competition. The augmented reality app is designed to help patients in stroke recovery complete physical therapy tasks.

SalFalko / Flickr

Social Security numbers are used for just about everything--financial records, medical information, legal documents.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Republican Rick Saccone conceded defeat to Democrat Conor Lamb on Wednesday night in a closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, more than a week after the end of a remarkable race that has shaken GOP confidence ahead of the November midterm elections.

Subconsci Productions / Flickr

People who retire early may be tempted to purchase so-called “skinny” health insurance plans before Medicare kicks in because they’re less expensive, but Pennsylvania’s Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman told an AARP audience in Penn Hills on Wednesday that they should be careful when considering this type of insurance, as it’s not compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Alex and Jess Welker sat on a plush tan couch in their McCandless home and recounted their first date. The two tell the story together, going back and forth with details of their earliest interaction.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On a Saturday afternoon, a group of about 25 people, ranging from teenagers to seniors, were gathered at the Steel City Improv Theatre in Shadyside for a workshop. 

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

At the northeast corner of US Route 30 and Agnew Road in Westmoreland County, there’s a sloping, nine-acre lot of mostly gravel and overgrown brush.

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