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.

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.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

The Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center offers free medical and dental services to some of Pittsburgh’s poorest uninsured and underinsured residents. 

Volunteer Medical Director Dr. Edward Kelly helped launch the clinic nine years ago. The retired orthopedic surgeon spends at least three days a week seeing patients, filling out paperwork and organizing other teams of volunteers who make the services possible.

Alan Diaz / AP

Most mental and behavioral health patients first get help through their primary care doctor.  In fact, more prescriptions for antidepressants drugs are written by primary care physicians than by mental health doctors. 

Flickr user Simon

Up to a quarter of American women will experience mental illness during pregnancy or after childbirth, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, yet health care providers are not required to screen for these conditions.

Dan Burda / Studio Raw Facebook

Morgan Yoney’s hospital room at UPMC Presbyterian was dim, even though it was the middle of a sunny day in Pittsburgh. Still, the walls were covered in colorful cards sent by some of the more than 17,000 followers of “Morgan’s Army.” Morgan is currently in the hospital, waiting for a new set of lungs.

“Morgan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 9 months old,” said her mother, Tammy Yoney.

This story is part of our NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

In the waning days of summer vacation, Sydney and Laney are enjoying their final moments of freedom flipping over a high bar at a playground close by their house in Spartanburg, S.C.

"You've got to pull your hips into the bar," says their mom, Selena, motioning to the girls, "you've got to kick up like that!"

"I tried to kick!" Laney says indignantly. "I did this – you told me not to stick out!"

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Landon DePaulo’s manniversary is Dec. 27, 2012.

That’s when he injected his first $100 shot of testosterone. It's a steep cost to look like himself, he said.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In addition to bringing a baby into the world, many of The Midwife Center’s birth stories share a common anecdote – one of the mother-to-be going in and out of the building while their partner or family member searches for parking. 

Keepingtime_CA / flickr

Watson, the computer known for beating Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, is now branching into health care.

Last month, IBM Watson Health partnered with UPMC to launch a new company called Pensiamo, with the goal of saving health care providers money by better utilizing supplies and services.

“The concept of Pensiamo was to provide some cognitive analytics or some artificial intelligence to help hospitals and health system better utilize the products that the patients need,” said Pensiamo Executive Vice President of Cognitive Solutions Mary Beth Lang.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A small group of activists delivered five cardboard boxes containing what they said were the signatures of more than 700,000 “outraged citizens” to Mylan Pharmaceuticals Tuesday morning.

Flickr user Peter Lynch

Pennsylvania is still more than a year away from having its medical marijuana system up and running, but local physicians are already thinking about how they will prescribe the drug.

Pennsylvania Internet News Service

 

Pennsylvania has officially joined nearly every other state in the U.S. by setting up a program to track prescriptions of powerful drugs like oxycodone and methadone.

It's considered a big step forward to address the addiction crisis.

Doctors, physician assistants and other prescribers can now check the database to see when a patient last received the drugs.

Researchers at Penn State's Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences are taking 3D printing from a novelty to an orthopedic tool. The team is developing a method of 3D printing with cartilage cells to create implants for joints such as the knee and elbow.

On a visit to his lab, Associate Professor of engineering Ibrahim Ozbolat showed several of his lab's bioprinters to physicians from Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

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