Health Desk

In many countries, the decisions teens make at 15 can determine the rest of their lives. But, often, girls don't have much say — parents, culture and tradition decide for them. In a new series, #15Girls, NPR explores the lives of 15-year-old girls who are seeking to take control and change their fate. Warning: Some of the depictions and images in this story are graphic.

There's good news from the front lines in the fight against bullying: anti-bullying laws can help reduce aggression, both online and in real life.

Bullying affects one out of every five U.S. high school students. But anti-bullying laws do make a difference, researchers reported Monday in JAMA Pediatrics – especially when those laws comply with guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education.

In ancient China, black rice was considered so superior and rare, it was reserved exclusively for the emperor and royalty. These days the grain, also known as forbidden rice, has become the darling of gourmets and people seeking superior nutrition.

As health insurance open season heats up for businesses, many employees will discover that participating in their company's wellness program includes rolling up their sleeves for blood tests.

Across the country, half of large employers offering health benefits have wellness programs that ask workers to submit to medical tests, often dubbed "biometrics," that can involve a trip to a doctor's office, lab or workplace health fair.

The medicines they helped develop are credited with improving the lives of millions. And now three researchers working in the U.S., Japan and China have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Among the winners: William C. Campbell of Drew University in Madison, N.J., for his work on the roundworm parasite.

Women concerned about their fertility can use a test to help decide whether they should freeze their eggs now or whether they still have time to have a baby.

If your company hasn't launched a wellness program, this might be the year.

As benefits enrollment for 2016 approaches, more employers than ever are expected to nudge workers toward plans that screen them for risks, monitor their activity and encourage them to take the right pills, food and exercise.

For more than 10 years, disease had slowly eaten away at He Quangui's lungs, leaving him, for the most part, bedridden.

But He was no smoker — he was a Chinese gold miner. He was stricken with silicosis, a respiratory illness caused by inhaling silica dust. An estimated 6 million Chinese miners suffer from the debilitating disease pneumoconiosis — of which silicosis is one form.

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we're sharing a recent video of Greg O'Brien at home on Cape Cod, Mass. A longtime journalist, O'Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

The first time I interviewed Greg O'Brien, back in January, I asked him what he was most afraid of.

It took more than two hours for the team of health workers to reach Antonio, a 6-month-old suffering from severe malnutrition in rural Guatemala.

The journey started on a Friday morning in May in the mountain town of Tecpán, with a harrowing hour-long drive over the hairpin turns of the Pan-American Highway. Then came a rough stretch of unpaved road to the tourist hub of Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlán.

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The New York City Health Department is at it again, this time with ads in the subway and on bus shelters chatting up the glories of IUDs.

"You spent the night in Brooklyn," one brightly colored poster reads. "But you left your birth control in Staten Island. Maybe the IUD is right for you."

Mothers have been warned for years that sleeping with their newborn infant is a bad idea because it increases the risk the baby might die unexpectedly during the night. But now Israeli researchers are reporting that even sleeping in the same room can have negative consequences: not for the child, but for the mother.

An Unguarded Malala Is The Perfect Talk Show Guest

Oct 2, 2015

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls' education. She marked the first anniversary of the attack by releasing her memoir, I Am Malala. A year after that, she was named the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate ever. This month, the 18-year-old becomes a movie star.

What do you see in your community that helps you be heart healthy, and what gets in your way? People who live in the "stroke belt," an area in the Southeast with high rates of heart disease and stroke, can show you.

"The idea was to have community residents take photos of their individual take on the topic of barriers to heart health," says Sarah Kowitt, a study author and graduate student in public health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A single number has shaped the way that Americans think about young military veterans.

It's the number 22, as in, 22 vets take their lives each day.

The number has become a rallying cry for advocates trying to call attention to suicide among vets, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twenty-two, not some vague, rounded-off number. Not 30, not 20. Twenty-two.

A number so specific it inspires action. Speeches, fundraisers, marches and even walks clear across the country.

But 22 doesn't quite add up.

"If you don't have any money, then what's the point of managing it?"

That's a question that Stuart Rutherford encounters a lot. And, he says, it's a common "trap of thinking." People who have money think that people who are extremely poor — living on less than $1.25 a day — don't have even a penny to put away for a rainy day or a daughter's wedding or a fund for a new home.

Last week, I reported a story on the U.N.'s pledge to wipe out extreme poverty by 2030, and I fell into that trap. Sure, I thought, the poor can't save money!

Laticia Aossey was flat on her back in an Iowa hospital bed with a tube up her nose, a needle for a peripheral IV stuck in one arm and monitors pasted to her body. It was early June 2014, a week after her 18th birthday, when a friend brought Aossey's mail from home — including one ominous letter. Aossey's health insurance was about to be discontinued.

"My heart dropped. I just wondered to myself, 'Are they going to pull this tube out, unhook me from everything and roll me down to the street?' " Aossey said. "Could I get the medicine I needed?"

The world's annual death toll from AIDS has been falling in recent years — 1.5 million in 2013, a 35 percent drop from the peak of 2.4 million in 2005.

Now the number of deaths could soon drop even more.

The World Health Organization issued new guidelines Wednesday that recommend greatly increasing the number of people who take antiretroviral medications for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection.

If you're struck by a macaw, sucked into a jet engine or are having relationship problems with your in-laws, fear not: Your doctor now has a medical diagnosis code for that.

On Thursday, doctors, hospitals and health insurers must start using the ICD-10, a vast new set of alphanumeric codes for describing diseases and injuries in unprecedented detail.

A hospital room
Bill McChesney

Many Illinois nurses are nearing retirement. Baby Boomers in the state are also aging and may need more care. Will there be enough nurses to meet the demand?

It's been exactly one year since the CDC confirmed that Thomas Eric Duncan had Ebola. He had flown from Liberia to Dallas to visit his fiancé, and became the first person diagnosed with the deadly virus on American soil.

During his stay at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, two nurses also fell ill with Ebola. Duncan died, but the nurses survived, as did a handful of Americans who fell ill in West Africa but were transported back to the United States for care.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The benefits of talk therapy for depression have been overstated in the scientific literature, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE.

The finding comes several years after a similar study reached the same conclusion about antidepressant drugs.

You can't blame Taylor Scobbie for being nervous. His team was a finalist for the $1 million Hult Prize.

The challenge — issued by the Clinton Global Initiative and the Hult Prize Foundation last September — was for undergraduates or MBA students to design a project that would provide quality education to 10 million children under age 6 in urban slums by 2020. There were six teams that made it through to the last round, chosen from more than 20,000 applicants.

The composition of the microbes living in babies' guts appears to play a role in whether the children develop asthma later on, researchers reported Wednesday.

The researchers sampled the microbes living in the digestive tracts of 319 babies, and followed up on the children to see if there was a relationship between their microbes and their risk for the breathing disorder.

The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation's sleek marble building is on the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea. After passing through a guarded gate, visitors climb the steps to the entrance and a big door with tinted glass slides open.

"Hello, sir. Nice to meet you, sir," says David Kim, a researcher at the laboratory. "You can follow me. We can go into the clean room. It's the laboratory where we do the procedures — the cloning."

Is "poverty porn" making a comeback?

That's the term that some people used back in the 1980s to describe attention-grabbing fundraising ads like the one on the right:

Back then, the media were filled with images of starving African children in desperate need of food, seemingly all alone in the world. And folks in the West were invited to save them from their misery.

Correctional facilities have to provide health services to people who are incarcerated, but that doesn't mean the care is free of charge. In most states, inmates may be on the hook for copayments ranging from a few dollars to as much as $100 for medical care, a recent study finds.

It's a typical morning at the Dupont Veterinary Clinic in Lafayette, La. Dr. Phillip Dupont is caring for cats and dogs in the examining room while his wife, Paula, answers the phone and pet owners' questions. Their two dogs are sleeping on the floor behind her desk.

"That's Ken and Henry," Paula says, pointing to the slim, midsize dogs with floppy ears and long snouts. Both dogs are tan, gray and white, with similar markings. "I put a red collar on Ken and a black collar on Henry so I can tell who's who."