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.

Liver Transplant Surgical Pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl Dies

Mar 6, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Dr. Thomas Starzl, who pioneered liver transplant surgery in the 1960s and was a leading researcher into anti-rejection drugs, has died. He was 90.

The University of Pittsburgh, speaking on behalf of Starzl's family, said the renowned doctor died Saturday at his home in Pittsburgh.

Katie Meyer / WITF

Pennsylvania gets a failing grade for its efforts to protect children from high levels of lead in the water at their schools, according to a report released two weeks ago from Public Interest Research Groups, a national federation of left-leaning, independent nonprofits.

It advises—among other things—that schools install water filters as soon as possible while working on longer-term solutions.

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

On Feb. 17, 2016, Kelsey Williams got some devastating news.

“I went in for my routine anatomy 20-week ultrasound with my second child – my husband and I have a 4-and-a-half year old – and nothing had been indicated as anything but typical up to that point in the pregnancy," she said.

Andrew Malone / Flickr

Allegheny Health Network announced it is launching same-day appointment services for primary care and some specialties starting on Monday, Jan. 23.

AHN medical director for clinical access Elie Aoun said the change is part of a broader effort to make care more “patient-centered.”

“One of the biggest pet peeves or frustrations with health care is the amount of time it sometimes can take to get in to be seen,” he said.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

 


Gynecologist Colleen Krajewski tells anyone who will listen -- intrauterine devices are "the Cadillac of birth control right now.”

Quinn Dombrowski / flickr

Allegheny Health Network hopes to fill a gap in coverage for new moms with an Intensive Outpatient Program. Clinical psychologist Rebecca Weinberg said treatment for mothers suffering from pregnancy-related depression often jumps between regular outpatient care and expensive in-patient care.

A new three-hour intensive outpatient program at Western Pennsylvania Hospital three days a week will offer intensive group therapy, medication management and allow women to bring their babies with them.

Pittsburgh Air Is Still Bad, But It Is Getting Better

Dec 27, 2016
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Air quality in western Pennsylvania improved in 2016, according to three regional monitors tracked by the Allegheny County Health Department.

“It was a good year in ozone,” said Jayme Graham, the department's air quality manager.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Deb Schmersal glides around the floor, holding hands with her partner, Jeffrey, as they dance. Their moves aren’t perfect, but that’s not the point at Yes, You Can Dance!

The organization, founded in 2011, uses dance to promote wellness for people with special needs, chronic degenerative diseases and disabilities.

Over the past six years, it has grown and blossomed with the help of some dedicated volunteers, including Schmersal.

If Your Ear Hurts, Take This For 10 Days Not Five

Dec 21, 2016
Jed Conklin / AP

The benefits of treating ear infections with antibiotics for 10 days far outweighs any benefit associated with reducing a child’s exposure to the medication, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“No question,” said Alejandro Hoberman, the hospital's division chief of general academic pediatrics. “Even more than what we expected. The five-day treatment did not work.”

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Dominic “Mickey” Sgro leaned on the back of a highly adaptive, metallic pink bicycle shaking his head. His friend is bragging on him again.

UMVUR1972 / Wikimedia Commons

Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center called off a strike scheduled for Dec. 23 after reaching a tentative agreement with management early Tuesday morning.

The union represents more than 340 nurses and nurse anesthetists who have been working without a contract since October 2015.

Indiana Registered Nurses Association spokesperson Annie Slezickey said the two sides reached a “fair and equitable” contract after 13.5 hours of overnight bargaining.

“Last night we saw a true effort of compromise from both sides, from the hospital and from the union,” she said.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

First year medical student Aneta Kowalski knocked on the door of the classroom. Upon entering, she used sanitizer to clean her hands and introduced herself to the patient, Brandi Welle. 

Kowalski and Welle sat down and began to talk. Welle said that she was in a car accident four years ago. She was suffering from hip pain and was dependent on pain killers. But she also no longer has a prescription and had been dropped by several doctors for her dependency.

“I think I have a problem,” Welle told Kowalski. “I think I need some help." 

Law Insuring 1 Million Pennsylvanians Faces Uncertain Future

Dec 12, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

 

 

About 1 million people in Pennsylvania are receiving government-subsidized health insurance under Democrats' 2010 health care law that is facing an uncertain future as Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office next month with a pledge to repeal it.

HealthCare.gov

Pennsylvanians looking for health insurance have a new option to help them find the right coverage. HealthPlanRatings.org is a plan comparison tool created for the state by nonprofit Consumer’s Checkbook.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Even Pittsburghers who don’t know exactly what The Midwife Center is have probably noticed the mural that adorns its northeastern wall while driving through the Strip District.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Beverly Thornton cuddles babies on Wednesdays.

When she walks into the neonatal intensive care unit at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, she said she can often already hear a baby crying.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nursing home residents who need extra care or specialized help after business hours are often sent to the emergency room. But as those visits can be expensive, disruptive and sometimes avoidable, a South Side company is offering another solution.

Curavi Health, which spun out of UPMC, created a mobile unit called CuraviCart that uses a video conference system, on-call doctors and other instruments a nursing home might need to help residents.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are using light to see inside the brains of subjects in ways traditional static imaging scanners cannot.

Functional near infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS, is portable and can measure brain activity while subjects are moving around. It can also be used in remote situations when people can’t get to an MRI scanner, which requires patients lie down and remain very still to get a usable image.

Healthcare.gov

 

Prices for health care coverage on Affordable Care Act exchanges nationwide are going up 25 percent, but in Pennsylvania that number is more than 32 percent and for some in southwestern Pennsylvania the increase will be nearly 50 percent.

After Highmark and UPMC requested rate hikes for 2017, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved even bigger hikes in an effort to bring stability to the market.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

 

 

Classes have resumed for more than 100,000 students who attend Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities.

Richard Drew / AP

 

Restrictions on what Medicaid and Medicare will cover for nursing home patients can often lead to unnecessary hospitalizations – an estimated $8 billion in unnecessary hospitalizations each year, in fact.

Michael Dakota / Lebanon Daily News

 

Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey has hired what's believed to be the first full-time facility dog at a children's hospital in the state.

Just 30 children's hospitals across the nation utilize facility dogs, which are different than therapy dogs in that they demonstrate various procedures for kids such as how to lay on x-ray tables and sit still during tests.

The hospital's Child Life Program will be using Kaia, a golden retriever, to help calm patients and create a more positive environment.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Diabetes cases are continuing to rise in the U.S. and according to the World Health Organization, the disease is projected to be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030.

NIAID

In developing nations, acute intestinal diseases and respiratory infections are deadly.

In the United States, the same viruses are the most likely culprit when children are hospitalized.

“So this is a huge burden on society both for the children and for the families involved," said John Williams, chief of pediatric infectious diseases for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. "(Especially) economically in terms of money spent caring for these illnesses, and time lost from work for parents, etcetera.” 

Retraining The Brain After Losing The Ability To Smell

Oct 2, 2016
Todd Bookman / WHYY

  In 2012, Chris Kelly caught a cold, which then moved into her sinuses. It was a run-of-the-mill nuisance, until she woke up one morning and realized her condition had become something far more serious.

"I opened my eyes, I went into the bathroom, I uncapped the toothpaste, and was immediately aware that I couldn't smell anything," says Kelly, who was born in Maine and now lives in the United Kingdom.

This wasn't a stuffy nose. This was like the on/off switch had been flipped.

WITF

In a decision that is expected to reshape the health care world in the midstate, a federal court has blocked a merger between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals caps a saga that stretched more than two years, when two of the largest health systems in the region first announced their plans to unite.

How One Composer's Hearing Damage Inspired A Concert Series

Sep 29, 2016
Ben Tran

  In 2008, composer Daniel Fishkin's ears started ringing, and they never stopped. Doctors offered no solace besides, "You get used to it." In the absence of a medical cure, Fishkin vowed to find a creative solution. 

"I do not want to get used to my hearing damage — I want to use it."

Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

A federal appeals court has reversed an earlier ruling clearing the way for a proposed merger between PinnacleHealth System and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction sought by the Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

Hershey and Pinnacle said in a joint statement Tuesday that they were disappointed and would carefully review the decision.

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