Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.
Several years ago, David Harris-Gershon and his wife Jamie were studying in Israel, where they'd constructed their daily life in ways they hoped would protect them from a terrorist attack. They weren't so fortunate.
David Vetter was born without a functioning immune system and spent his life in a bubble that protected him from germs. He died at age 12 in 1984. Scientists are using gene therapy to treat the disorder so that children can live normally.
Researchers say they are achieving success in curing the genetic defect that causes some children to be born without immune defenses, a rare condition made famous in the 1970s by a Texas boy who lived most of his short life in a sterile "bubble."
Scientists now report that 8 out of 9 young children given gene therapy for a type of severe combined immunodeficiency disease, called SCID-X1, are alive and living amid the everyday microbial threats that would otherwise have killed them. The oldest is just over 3 years old.
In the latest smog-related health scare in China, officials in Shanghai on Friday ordered schoolchildren to stay indoors, halted all construction and even delayed flights in and out of the city, which has been enveloped in a thick blanket of haze, reducing visibility in places to less than 150 feet.
NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai that the commercial capital's Air Quality Index soared above 500 for the first time ever, according to government sensors. He says officials described the readings as "beyond index" — in layman's terms, off-the-charts awful.
Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 1:20 pm
If you want to eat a more healthful diet, you're going to have to shell out more cash, right? (After all, Whole Foods didn't get the nickname "Whole Paycheck" for nothing.)
But until recently, that widely held bit of conventional wisdom hadn't really been assessed in a rigorous, systematic way, says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In "Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us," a 26,000-word investigative piece in TIME magazine, journalist and entrepreneur Steven Brill catalogues the myriad reasons for America's skyrocketing healthcare costs, from extravagantly paid administrators at nonprofit hospitals to bloated bills for hospital care. And Obamacare, he argues, won't do much to solve the problem.
Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 12:15 pm
HIV has reappeared in the blood of two Boston patients who scientists had hoped had been cured of their infections.
This disappointing development, reported by The Boston Globe's Kay Lazar, is yet another cautionary tale of how researchers can never afford to underestimate the human immunodeficiency virus's ability to hide out in patients' bodies and overcome their most ingenious efforts to eliminate it.
Shoppers get ready to pay at Costco Wholesale in Mountain View, Calif. For the next couple of weeks, Californians whose insurance was canceled have some unusual options, including an Aetna plan available only at Costco.
Some Californians whose policies have been canceled are finding relief in a surprising place: from insurance companies that aren't offering plans on the new Covered California marketplace.
Earlier this year, Aetna announced it would bow out of the state's individual market, effective Dec. 31. Cigna is staying, but isn't offering any products on the exchange. Right now, both companies are accepting new customers into pre-Affordable Care Act plans.
Neurosurgeon Andres Lozano talks about dramatic findings in deep brain stimulation including a woman with Parkinson's who instantly stops shaking, and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's that are brought back to life.
For a half-century, JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, adorned its cover with works of fine art. You could have easily mistaken an issue of the august medical journal on your doctor's desk for a stray copy of ARTnews.
But a JAMA redesign this summer put the table of contents on the front cover and moved the art inside.
Experts said Dr. Ola Orekunrin's dream to create air ambulance service in Nigeria was impossible. But as a doctor and helicopter pilot, she had the skills and dedication to make it work. Orekunrin tells host Michel Martin about Flying Doctors Nigeria.
Michael Robertson, then chief of staff of the Government Services Administration, testifies on Capitol Hill on April 16, 2012. Now chief of staff of the Cabinet Affairs Office in the Obama administration, Robertson has undergone treatment for stage IV colorectal cancer.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 10:07 am
It's Day 4 of the White House's new messaging push for the Affordable Care Act. Today the goal is to tell the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who are now entitled to coverage under the new health care law.
One such story comes from within the White House.
Michael Robertson, deputy assistant to the president and deputy cabinet secretary, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer 16 months ago. He was 35.
A teen's relationship — or lack of good relationship — with parents, pals or teachers may have a lot to do with why most kids aren't getting the nine to 10 hours of sleep that doctors recommend. The hormonal disruptions of puberty likely also play a role.
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:29 am
Drugs that help women become pregnant have replaced in vitro fertilization as the main culprit behind high-risk multiple births, according to a study looking at births of triplets and higher-order multiples.
"IVF, which is usually the one we tend to point fingers at, was not the leading culprit," says Eli Adashi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who was senior author of the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It's lunchtime at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.
In theory, anyway, Oakland High is a "closed campus." That's done in the interest of safety and security and to cut down on school-skipping. It means kids can't leave during school hours without parental consent, especially at lunchtime. But it doesn't stop several students from breaking out.
The University of California, Santa Barbara is experiencing a meningitis outbreak a lot like the one that hit Princeton earlier this year. The California university confirmed a fourth case of meningococcal disease on Monday.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 3:41 pm
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires health plans that offer benefits for mental health and substance use to cover them to the same extent that they cover medical and surgical care.
Among other things, the law prohibits treatment limits and copayments or deductibles that are more restrictive than a plan's medical coverage.
The Obama administration is renewing its sales push for the president's signature health care law. On Wednesday, officials host a "youth summit" at the White House, where young people will be encouraged to sign up for insurance coverage. Their participation is crucial to help balance out the cost of insuring older, sicker people.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 11:02 am
A newer form of mammogram may do a better job of finding cancer, a study finds. But the technology is still too untested to know if it's going to be useful for most women or even to know for sure who might benefit.
It's called breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography. Since being approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011, the new type of scan has been touted by radiologists.
With HealthCare.gov able to handle an increasing number of users, the Obama administration finally went on the offensive to urge Americans to sign up for new health insurance. The administration had planned a massive advertising and social media campaign to support the Affordable Care Act back in October, but the push was delayed for two months after the health insurance exchange website failed in its debut. The effort comes as the deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting next year looms.
While conceding that "more problems may pop up as they always do when you're launching something new," President Obama on Tuesday said the troubled HealthCare.gov website "is working well for the vast majority of users" and his Affordable Care Act "is working and will work into the future."
"We may never satisfy the law's opponents," Obama added during an afternoon event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. But, he said, "we know the demand [for health insurance] is there and we know the product on these marketplaces is good."
Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:30 am
Overweight or obese people are indeed more likely to die prematurely than people of normal weight, say researchers who've analyzed the data. Their conclusion throws cold water on recent studies that have found some excess weight isn't so bad.
Earlier this year, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overweight people actually live a bit longer than their skinnier peers.
Workers process applications for Oregon's health exchange program. The state paid tech giant Oracle to build its online exchange, but with the site still not functional, people shopping for insurance have been forced to apply on paper.
Oregon has spent more than $40 million to build its own online health care exchange. It gave that money to a Silicon Valley titan, Oracle, but the result has been a disaster of missed deadlines, a nonworking website and a state forced to process thousands of insurance applications on paper.
Some Oregon officials were sounding alarms about the tech company's work on the state's online health care exchange as early as last spring. Oracle was behind schedule and, worse, didn't seem able to offer an estimate of what it would take to get the state's online exchange up and running.
Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 4:45 pm
Commemorating the 25th World AIDS Day a day late, President Obama announced an initiative Monday to find a cure for HIV infections that would be funded by $100 million shifted from existing spending.
"The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put people into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies — or better yet, eliminate it completely," Obama said at a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.