Health Desk

Shots - Health News
6:39 am
Sat March 28, 2015

Indiana's HIV Spike Prompts New Calls For Needle Exchanges Statewide

Needle exchange programs, like this one in Portland, Maine, offer free, sterile syringes and needles to drug users. The programs save money and lives, health officials say, by curtailing the spread of bloodborne infections, such as hepatitis and HIV.
Robert F. Bukaty AP

Originally published on Sat March 28, 2015 9:56 am

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

"Right then, I kind of realized, 'Wow, are we on the tip of something?' " Avery says. "But you just put it away. ... It's statistically an oddity when you're just one little doctor, you know?"

Read more
On Aging
6:39 am
Sat March 28, 2015

At Aging Conference, Old Is The New Black

Originally published on Sat March 28, 2015 9:56 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JAILHOUSE ROCK")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) Warden threw a party in the county jail. The prison band was there, they began to wail.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RESPECT")

Read more
The Salt
5:01 am
Sat March 28, 2015

Guess What Makes The Cut As A 'Smart Snack' In Schools? Hot Cheetos

Frito-Lay reformulated Flamin' Hot Cheetos, a perennial favorite among school kids, to meet new federal "Smart Snack" rules for schools.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Sat March 28, 2015 9:56 am

Flamin' Hot Cheetos might conjure a lot of descriptors: spicy, crunchy, unnaturally fiery red. But it's a good bet that "healthy" didn't exactly spring to mind.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:04 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Medical Bills Linger, Long After Cancer Treatment Ends

Melinda Townsend-Breslin holds a photo showing her and her mother standing in the parking lot of a favorite thrift store in 2013.
William DeShazer for NPR

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 7:07 pm

Melinda Townsend-Breslin keeps a photo of herself on her refrigerator standing with her mother, MaryLou Townsend, in the front of the Unique Thrift Store in Louisville, Ky. They're side by side in the parking lot, both wearing white shirts and sporting short, practical haircuts.

Mom is proudly showing her discount card. "For the thrift store!" said Townsend-Breslin, laughing. "The discount for the thrift store!"

Read more
The Salt
1:53 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

Did That Restaurant Pass Its Health Inspection? Now Yelp Will Tell You

A health inspection grade is posted outside a Manhattan eatery. In several cities, Yelp users can now find out how a restaurant scored on its health inspection well before they walk through the door.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 5:00 pm

Log onto Yelp, and you'll find what all your neighbors have to say about your favorite restaurant. You'll find prices, locations, menus, photos, even parking tips.

And if you're in the right city, you'll also find the restaurant's health inspection score.

"What we're trying to do ... is reduce foodborne illness [by] warning consumers when they're in the middle of making a decision," Luther Lowe, Yelp's director of public policy, tells The Salt.

Read more
Shots - Health News
11:42 am
Fri March 27, 2015

New York City To Teens: TXT ME With Mental Health Worries

Most teenagers with mental health problems don't get any help.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 11:57 am

The majority of teenagers with mental health issues don't get help. But maybe if help were just a text message away — they wouldn't be so hesitant to reach out.

That's the thinking behind NYC Teen Text, a pilot program at 10 New York public high schools that allows teens to get help with mental health issues by text.

Read more
The Two-Way
10:03 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Indiana Suspends Ban On Needle Exchanges To Combat HIV Outbreak

Schedule 2 narcotics Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana. Liquefied as an injectable, Opana has been connected to a major abuse problem in rural southern Indiana.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 12:57 pm

Hoping to reverse a steep increase in HIV infections in southern Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence has temporarily suspended state law and his own anti-drug policies to implement a short-term needle exchange program for addicts.

Jake Harper at member station WFYI in Indianapolis reports:

"Pence issued the order on Thursday, after meeting with Scott County health officials yesterday.

Read more
Goats and Soda
8:47 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Is There Any Way To Screen The World's Pilots For Suicidal Tendencies?

Flight crew in cockpit, rear view (zoom effect).
Tom Sheppard Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 2:45 pm

The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into the French Alps earlier this week appears to have been a deliberate act carried out by a co-pilot.

It is too soon to put the label "suicide" on the co-pilot's actions. Not enough is known yet about his state of mind or what his motivation might have been. But as investigations continue, the incident raises questions about whether better mental health screening can prevent a person with suicidal tendencies from taking charge in the cockpit in the first place.

Read more
It's All Politics
5:16 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Amazingly, Congress Actually Got Something Done

House Speaker John Boehner takes the gavel from Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Jan. 6 at the start of the 114th Congress.
Mark Wilson Getty

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 5:58 pm

They said it couldn't be done. And for more than a decade they were right.

But on Thursday, staring at a deadline that could have disrupted health care to millions of seniors, the House got something done.

It voted to fix the flawed formula for compensating doctors who provide services to patients under Medicare. But this time it wasn't just a patch for a few months or years — like the ones Congress has done 17 times since 2003.

Read more
Shots - Health News
4:04 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

How Much Does Cancer Cost Us?

WNYC

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 2:27 pm

Before we started our Living Cancer series, we went on NPR's Facebook page to ask people about their experiences in paying for cancer treatment. Over a hundred people from across the country responded.

We talked with some people by phone to learn about their stories.

Maureen Carrigg, who lives in Wayne, Neb., was diagnosed with multiple myeloma six years ago. Even though she says she was meticulous about staying within her insurer's network for care, she still ended up owing $80,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:40 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Critic Faults Alcoholics Anonymous For Lack Of Evidence

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 7:24 pm

Founded by two men in Akron, Ohio, in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has since spread around the world as a leading community-based method of overcoming alcohol dependence and abuse. Many people swear by the 12-step method, which has become the basis of programs to treat the abuse of drugs, gambling, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors.

Read more
Goats and Soda
2:26 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Ebola Is Not Mutating As Fast As Scientists Feared

In November, the Ebola virus found in Mali was surprisingly similar to strains circulating in Sierra Leone six months earlier.
Courtesy of NIAID

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:31 pm

Back in August, scientists published a worrisome report about Ebola in West Africa: The virus was rapidly changing its genetic code as it spread through people. Ebola was mutating about twice as fast as it did in previous outbreaks, a team from Harvard University found.

Read more
Shots - Health News
1:51 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

A Single Gene May Determine Why Some People Get So Sick With The Flu

The H1N1 swine flu virus kills some people, while others don't get very sick at all. A genetic variation offers one clue.
Centre For Infections/Health Pro Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:07 pm

It's hard to predict who will get the flu in any given year. While some people may simply spend a few days in bed with aches and a stuffy nose, others may become so ill that they end up in the hospital.

Read more
Shots - Health News
9:31 am
Thu March 26, 2015

High-Deductible Health Plans Cut Costs, At Least For Now

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:07 pm

Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn't pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You're a foot soldier who's been drafted in the war against high health costs.

Read more
Goats and Soda
8:52 am
Thu March 26, 2015

What's Up With Parents Who Don't Vaccinate Their Children?

Two drops of polio vaccine are administered to a child in a Nigerian health clinic.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 1:10 pm

A decade ago in Nigeria, rumors spread that polio vaccines were surreptitious sterilization efforts. That led to a boycott of the vaccine in 2003 and a resurgence in the poliovirus three years later.

The story points up a key point about vaccines: Confidence is critical.

A new study of more than 20,000 people in five countries looks as why people aren't confident in vaccines. The reasons vary, from a belief the vaccine isn't safe to a bad experience with a previous vaccination.

And the results can be devastating.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:52 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Why Doctors Are Trying A Skin Cancer Drug To Treat A Brain Tumor

MaryAnn Anselmo has started to sing again after recovering from brain surgery and having successful treatment with a drug that targeted a mutation in her tumor cells.
Dave Gershgorn/WNYC

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:06 pm

MaryAnn Anselmo feared for the worst when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a glioblastoma in late 2013.

"You start doing research on that type of tumor, and you're saying, 'Oh my God, you're history.' It's like a death sentence," says, Anselmo, now 59.

Only for her it wasn't.

Anselmo's successful treatment shows how precision medicine — tailoring therapy to each patient's genetic needs — is beginning to transform cancer care.

Read more
It's All Politics
2:48 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Is Capitol Hill Ready To Rest Its Near-Annual 'Doc Fix' Exercise?

If Reps. Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner win and their plan becomes law, it would kill what's known on Capitol Hill as the "doc fix."
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 11:11 am

Updated at 12:10 p.m. E.T.

Doctors who treat Medicare patients will face a huge cut, 21 percent, if Congress doesn't act by the end of the month. This isn't a new problem. While Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agree that the formula that pays doctors who treat Medicare patients has long been broken, over the years they've been unable to pass more than temporary patches.

Read more
Goats and Soda
3:23 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Mosquitoes Can Smell Inside Your Blood

Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 4:10 pm

Garlic lovers: You can smell them before you see them. Some people would say they even stink!

Hours after you eat garlic, your breath can still smell bad, as your body digests compounds in the plant and releases them into your blood.

Now scientists say a similar process might explain why people infected with malaria attract more mosquitoes than those not infected.

Read more
The Salt
3:22 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Arsenic In California Wines: Should Drinkers Be Concerned?

"There's no reason to believe that exposure to arsenic in food and wine is above levels that are considered to be safe," says Susan Ebeler, a professor and chemist in the Foods For Health Institute at the University of California, Davis.
Erik Schelzig ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 3:44 pm

There's been a lot of buzz around the story that some inexpensive California wines, including a Charles Shaw (aka two-buck Chuck) white Zinfandel sold at Trader Joe's, have been found to contain traces of arsenic.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:14 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

University And Biotech Firm Team Up On Colorblindness Therapy

A simulation from the Neitz lab of what colorblindness looks like, with normal color vision on the left and red-green colorblindness on the right.
Courtesy of Neitz Laboratory

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 2:39 pm

More than 10 million Americans have trouble distinguishing red from green or blue from yellow, and there's no treatment for colorblindness.

A biotech company and two scientists hope to change that.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:07 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

A Woman's Journey From Cancer Diagnosis To 'Professional Patient'

The Josephson family in 2001, after Dixie (third from left) was told she had cancer.
Courtesy of the Josephsons

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 9:31 am

Dixie Josephson was 56 when she was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. She's 71 now, but the cancer is still with her.

Josephson's story is one shared by other fortunate cancer patients. Advances in treatment mean that more people like Josephson can live longer with their disease. Still, the five-year survival rate for metastatic ovarian cancer is 27 percent, putting Josephson in the minority.

And the treatments that have extended her life have also taken a toll on her and her family.

Read more
Shots - Health News
11:13 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Patients Often Aren't Offered Minimally Invasive Surgery

iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 9:32 am

It would be nice to think that when you go in for surgery you'd be offered the safest, cheapest alternative, but that's not always the case, a study finds.

Some hospitals are much more likely than others to offer minimally invasive surgery for procedures like colon or lung surgery or appendectomy, according to an analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

Read more
Goats and Soda
10:32 am
Wed March 25, 2015

How Did Ebola Volunteers Know Where To Go In Liberia? Crowdsourcing!

Kpetermeni Siakor (left), a Liberian who is studying in Ghana, used crowdsourcing software to help out during the Ebola epidemic.
Courtesy of Ashesi University College

From more than 900 miles away, Kpetermeni Siakor helped get volunteers to the right neighborhoods in his native Liberia during the height of the Ebola epidemic.

He did it with Ushahidi, crowdsourcing software that was developed in Kenya in 2008, when the country experienced a wave of post-election violence. The word Ushahidi means testimony in Swahili.

Read more
Shots - Health News
7:29 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Affordable Care Act Makes This Tax Season Painful For Many

Tax preparation software doesn't always calculate the complexity of Affordable Care Act subsidies and credits properly.
Daniel Acker Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:08 pm

This tax season, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed five years ago, consumers are facing its financial consequences.

Whether they owe a penalty for not having health insurance, or have to figure out whether they need to pay back part of the subsidy they received to offset the cost of monthly insurance premiums, many people have to contend with new tax forms and calculations.

Read more
Goats and Soda
6:03 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Superslick Coatings Conquer Ketchup, But What About Ebola?

No thumping required: Ketchup easily slides out of a glass bottle treated with LiquiGlide.
Screengrabs from LiquiGlide

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 3:17 pm

Read more
NPR Story
4:14 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Safer Anthrax Test Aims To Keep The Bioweapon From Terrorists

Safe and small: The credit-card-sized test for anthrax destroys the deadly bacteria after the test completes.
Courtesy of Sandia Nation

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 5:25 pm

Engineers at Sandia National Laboratory have come up with what they think is a safer diagnostic test for anthrax bacteria — a test that would prevent the "bad guys" from getting their hands on this dangerous pathogen.

Sandia is home to the International Biological Threat Reduction Program. "Our interest is in safety and security of pathogens," says Melissa Finley. Finley isn't a bioweapons expert. She's a veterinarian.

Read more
Injured Nurses
3:42 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Despite High Rates Of Nursing Injuries, Government Regulators Take Little Action

Michael Bolla and Sally Singer lift Leon Anders using a ceiling lift and sling at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif. The VA system is among a very small number of hospitals that have installed equipment and provided proper training so their nursing staff can avoid physically lifting and moving patients themselves.
Annie Tritt for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 11:40 am

Just about everybody who has studied the hospital industry agrees that it needs to confront the epidemic that plagues many of its staff: Tens of thousands of nursing employees suffer debilitating injuries every year, mainly from doing part of their everyday jobs — moving and lifting patients. The problem is, nobody agrees how to get hospitals to take aggressive action.

As NPR has been reporting in its Injured Nurses series, nursing employees suffer more back and arm injuries than just about any other occupations.

Read more
Health
3:34 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Angelina Jolie Pitt's Surgeries Will Reduce Cancer Risk, Doctors Say

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 11:40 am

In a New York Times op-ed Tuesday, Angelina Jolie Pitt revealed that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because of cancer fears. Doctors say that because of her family history, it will reduce her risk by almost 90 percent.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

Read more
The Salt
3:00 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

A Top Weedkiller Could Cause Cancer. Should We Be Scared?

Central Illinois corn farmer Jerry McCulley refills his sprayer with the weedkiller glyphosate on a farm near Auburn, Ill. A new assessment of the chemical finds that the (uncertain) risks mainly affect the people who work with it or who come in direct contact with areas where it's applied.
Seth Perlman AP

An international committee of cancer experts shocked the agribusiness world a few days ago when it announced that two widely used pesticides are "probably carcinogenic to humans." The well-respected International Agency for Research on Cancer published a brief explanation of its conclusions in The Lancet and plans to issue a book-length version later this year.

Read more
The Salt
12:15 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Why There's A Big Battle Brewing Over The Lean Meat In Your Diet

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 12:22 pm

Never underestimate the power of a footnote.

When a panel of nutrition scientists tasked with updating the government's guidelines on healthy eating released its 500-plus-page tome on Feb. 19, one particular 52-word footnote threw a wrench into the conventional wisdom on lean meat. It caught the meat industry's eye, and it's created a controversy.

Read more

Pages