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

Health insurer Highmark is launching a new mobile health clinic in an attempt to bring care to those who find it difficult to get to the doctor’s office.

Flickr user jrgcastro

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has signed a letter of intent to pursue an affiliation with a north-central Pennsylvania hospital network.

Susquehanna Health and UPMC jointly announced the letter of intent Thursday.

The details of the affiliation have yet to be determined.

Susquehanna serves 11 counties through four hospitals, Divine Providence, Muncy Valley, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial and Williamsport Regional Medical Center.

Flickr user Lindsay Fox

This story was updated May 5, 2016 at 9:55 a.m.  

County health officials want to ban the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices everywhere regular cigarettes are already prohibited.

Members of the Allegheny County Board of Health have instructed health department officials to come up with a policy by the board's next meeting in July.

rumpleteaser / Flickr

Jenny Stalnaker, her husband, and their 3-year-old son Townes spend a good two hours cleaning their house every night before bed. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

The days of an individual doctor hanging out a shingle and offering a general family practice are all but gone. The new norm is that your primary care physician is part of a multi-doctor practice. It’s also more likely than not that those doctors have either already hired a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant, commonly referred to as physician extenders, or they are considering making such a move.

“I find that the PA (physician assistant) generally gives you a lot of time,” said Jeff Phillips of McCandless.  Phillips said until recently he never saw a PA, but now almost exclusively sees a PA when he visits his doctor’s office. “So far so good.”

Charles Williams / Flickr

While much of the testimony at a state Senate hearing in Pittsburgh on Thursday focused on the need for the state to fund opioid addiction treatment regimens, one expert recommended the state take legal action against insurers who illegally deny coverage of long-term rehabilitation programs for those addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.

Felipe Dana / AP

  Post updated March 29 at 5 p.m. 

The aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the Zika virus is present in Pennsylvania, and there are now 11 confirmed cases of people who became infected with the virus while traveling abroad.

And Allegheny County officials announced Tuesday afternoon the first confirmed case of Zika locally, contracted by a man who had visited "an affected area." 

But public health officials keep saying the risk of contracting the disease is slim to none. Have you ever wondered why?

Ben Allen / WITF

 

The opioid addiction crisis in Pennsylvania isn't just impacting adults, it's taking a toll on babies in the wombs of mothers who use prescription pain killers, heroin or Fentanyl.

WITF reporter Ben Allen recently reported on the issue for NPR and he spoke with WESA's Larkin Page-Jacobs about what he learned while working on the story. Allen said he visited a hospital in Harrisburg where they treat infants born addicted to opioids.

Mark Goebel / Flickr

A Hershey boarding school for low-income students is calling for greater transparency and dialog from public and private schools on how much they spend on student health.

The new position paper from the Milton Hershey School recommends greater collaboration between schools and health institutions like hospitals and nonprofits, as well as more research on the special physical and mental health needs of children living in poverty.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Peggy Glatch spends all day on her feet. She’s constantly moving while cutting her customers' hair.

She’s worked as a hair stylist for more than 40 years, the last 15 at Izzazu Salon downtown.

The salon was recognized as the first Live Well Workplace by the Allegheny County Health Department. Workplace is the fourth installment in the county’s push for healthier lifestyles, Live Well Allegheny.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If your primary care physician says you need a test or procedure, and he suggests a location to get it done, what do you do?

“There is data that shows that patients do what their doctor says,” said Mark Roberts, chair of the department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “When your doctor tells you, ‘I want you to see a cardiologist and I want you to see this cardiologist,’ that’s who you go see.”

Diagnosing And Treating A Pulmonary Embolism

Mar 4, 2016
Yale Rosen / flickr

Pulmonary embolism is the third leading cause of cardiovascular death in the United States after heart attack and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But “PE” is also treatable and preventable, so why does the mortality rate continue to climb?

Every morning since I arrived in Brazil to cover the Zika outbreak, the first thing I do is douse myself with insect repellent before venturing outside.

I know the chances I'll catch Zika are pretty low, and the disease tends to be relatively mild for most healthy adult males. But with all the alarm about the virus, it's hard not to start to get a little paranoid about catching Zika from a mosquito.

Legislation that was intended to require more people who work with children to get criminal background checks might have actually created a loophole for doctors and other hospital personnel.

“Something just got lost” when the bill was crafted, said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, an Allegheny County Republican.

The bill was one of 20 approved over the last three years to update the Child Protective Services Law in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky.

stclair.org

St. Clair Hospital in the South Hills is making at least one portion of the health care system a little more transparent. 

The hospital has just rolled out an online tool that allows potential patients to find out what the hospital will charge them for more than 150 procedures.

Jennifer Morrow / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill to increase the penalty for attacking a health care practitioner.

Under House Bill 1219, the legal charges in such assault cases would be elevated from misdemeanors to felonies.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Scott Shapiro said health care workers face a disproportionate amount of violence in the workplace.

University of Essex / Flickr

About three years ago, Laura Offutt was between medical consulting projects and looking for something new to try. Around the same time, she noticed that her teenage children and their friends were not happy with the way health information was being presented in school. 

Additionally, Offutt said the teens seemed to have picked up bad information while attempting to fill in the gaps in knowledge from their school presentations. That’s how she started a teen health blog, now a website, called Real Talk with Dr. Offutt.

Alex / Flickr

Replacing sitting with light housework or a stroll may be the new recommendation for severely obese adults looking to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

That’s what a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health-led team found after a week long study tracking 927 patients before their weight-loss surgery.

As Senior Centers Dwindle, Virtual Options Become Reality

Jan 4, 2016
Selfhelp Community Services / 90.5 WESA

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation allocated $240,000 over the next two years to bring a Virtual Senior Center to Pittsburgh through a computer-based program expected to teach live interactive history classes, gin rummy games, yoga and more.

The center will help seniors learn, build their social networks and have fun through technology, especially as the volume of traditional centers continue to decline, said foundation COO/Chief Program Officer Nancy Zionts.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

 

Gov. Tom Wolf says the 500,000 Pennsylvanians who have signed up for health care under the Medicaid expansion are part of keeping a campaign promise he made in last year's election campaign.

Wolf joined state Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas and health care advocates to mark the milestone Thursday at a news conference at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Wolf, a Democrat who expanded Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Health Care Act soon after he took office in January, says he hopes the number of enrollments will continue to grow.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council’s Wage Review Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Ricky Burgess, is recommending some of the region’s biggest employers increase their minimum wage.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania Department of Health  and the Department of Education announced Thursday a joint proposal to revise immunization regulations for school children.

Health Secretary Karen Murphy and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said this week they want to better protect students’ health by requiring students to finish all immunizations within the first five days of school. If guardians fail to complete that schedule, a written note from a doctor outlining the plan to immunize the student must be submitted to school officials within the first five days of class.  Currently families have up to eight months to make sure school children have their vaccinations.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Anchored at the corner of Fifth Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, Hieber’s Pharmacy sports a glass block window that reads, “We Create Medicine For Your Family.” Inside, white cabinets hold powdered chemicals and a rainbow assortment of empty capsules waiting to be filled.

Hieber's is a compounding pharmacy.

jakebwotha

Many dread visiting the doctor, but in Pennsylvania, that isn't because of a lack of access.

Susquehanna Polling and Research conducted a study on behalf of the Pennsylvania Medical Society to find out how many Pennsylvania residents are in close proximity to primary care providers. 

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