Health Desk

Last July, a photo changed Sierra Sandison's life. She went onstage in the Miss Idaho pageant with an insulin pump clipped to her bikini bottom. The photo and the #ShowMeYourPump hashtag she created went viral on social media and became NPR's most popular online story of the year.

Chilo Ketlhoafetse struts around an eighth-grade classroom like the coolest guy in Botswana, warming the students up to talk about an awkward subject. He calls out "Nomhlaba!" and they respond "Auwe!" — nonsense words from a local childhood game. Soon he has the students clicking their fingers, dancing and following his every word.

Within an hour, the students at the Bakgatle Community Junior Secondary School in Mochudi are chanting the only message he wants to get across to them: "Older partners are riskier."

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Over the years, scientists have mostly interpreted the world through what they can see. But in the past few decades, a culture of listening has blossomed, especially among biologists who seek to understand how animals communicate. This week Morning Edition embarks on a weekly summer series called Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound. We begin with an innovation that transformed medicine by searching sounds for clues to illness and health.

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To tell whether a baby has been injured or killed by being shaken, the courts use three hallmark symptoms: bleeding and swelling in the brain and retinal bleeding in the eyes. Along with other evidence, those standards are used to convict caregivers of abusive head trauma, both intentional and unintentional, that can result in blindness, seizures, severe brain damage or death.

Too much love and affection from Grandma and Grandpa are helping China's "little emperors" pack on the pounds.

That is, children in China who are mainly cared for by grandparents are twice as likely to be overweight or obese, according to a study published this month in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Do you roam city sidewalks with your nose buried in your phone, oblivious to what's going on around you? If so, you may want to look up and start paying attention.

Texting while walking decreases the ability to walk in a straight line and slows down pace significantly, according to a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE. But this gait change may not be as dangerous as it sounds, the researchers say.

This post was updated at 10 a.m. ET Thursday

The latest in a series of undercover sting videos features a woman who says she worked for a company that harvested organs from fetuses aborted at Planned Parenthood.

Most people go vegetarian out of some combination of ethical, environmental or health concerns.

But to drop pounds? That could soon become another reason to go meatless. A meta-analysis published in early July shows that people who followed a vegetarian diet overall lost more weight than people on an average American diet.

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday night requiring hospitals across the nation to tell Medicare patients when they receive observation care but haven't been admitted to the hospital as inpatients.

The distinction is easy for patients to miss — until they get hit with big medical bills after a short stay.

Science journalist Anil Ananthaswamy thinks a lot about "self" — not necessarily himself, but the role the brain plays in our notions of self and existence.

Here's a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cancer patients who do rehabilitation before they begin treatment may recover more quickly from surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, some cancer specialists say. But insurance coverage for cancer prehabilitation, as it's called, can be spotty, especially if the aim is to prevent problems rather than treat existing ones.

How Finns Make Sports Part Of Everyday Life

Jul 28, 2015

In Helsinki, sports facilities pop up all over the place, sometimes in some pretty odd nooks and crannies. One bomb shelter hosts an archery club, another an underground swimming pool and an ice hockey rink.

Though they hardly need it, there's a national plan in Finland to get people to sit less. It reminds them, in fact, that, "Under the Constitution ... physical activity is a basic cultural right."

Monthly premiums for California's 1.3 million Covered California customers will rise a modest 4 percent, on average, officials with the agency said Monday. This increase is slightly less than last year's increase of 4.2 percent for consumers who bought policies on the state's health insurance marketplace.

Some consumers could even achieve a reduction in their premium, of an average of 4.5 percent, if they choose to shop around.

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Editor's note: A version of this story was first published Aug. 1, 2014.

When Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master's in food studies at New York University, she couldn't help noticing that Americans on a tight budget were eating a lot of processed foods heavy in carbs.

Tweets Welcoming #ObamaInEthiopia

Jul 27, 2015

President Obama made history this week as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Ethiopia. He was welcomed with flowers, flags and plenty of tweets.

A $57 million experiment to provide better, more efficient care at federally funded health centers struggled to meet its goals and is unlikely to save money, says a government report on the project.

The test to coordinate treatment for high-risk Medicare patients in hundreds of communities was one of many demonstrations run by the Department of Health and Human Services' innovation center.

The Trevor Noah countdown has begun. The South African stand-up comedian will begin hosting Comedy Central's Daily Show on Sept. 28. And what better way to get ready than ... by doing comedy.

Lihong Wang creates the sort of medical technology you'd expect to find on the starship Enterprise.

Wang, a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has already helped develop instruments that can detect individual cancer cells in the bloodstream and oxygen consumption deep within the body. He has also created a camera that shoots at 100 billion frames a second, fast enough to freeze an object traveling at the speed of light.

Transgender people are not getting adequate health care, and widespread discrimination is largely to blame, according to a recent World Health Organization report. And the story is told most starkly in the high rates of HIV among transgender women worldwide.

JoAnne Keatley, one of the authors of that study, puts it plainly.

Decked out in spandex and a yellow and orange racing jersey with Eastside Bicycle Club: Ride To Live on the front, Gabriela Bilich was hanging out at club founder Carlos Morales' bike shop before a Saturday evening group-ride last weekend, joking with the other cyclists in spanglish.

Bilich says a couple of years ago, she would never have imagined herself riding a bike through the streets of LA. She says the cycling world just didn't feel welcoming to a 40-something Latina from Southeast LA who struggled with her weight.

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we hear from Greg O'Brien about losing his sense of taste and smell, and how he's learning there's much more to a good meal than food. O'Brien, a longtime journalist in Cape Cod, Mass., was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

More than 1 million people die in traffic deaths around the world each year — that's drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians combined.

It's a problem in the United States: There are 11.4 deaths a year per 100,000 population. It's a problem in low-income countries like Zambia, where the comparable figure is 23.8 deaths. And it's a huge problem in the middle-income world. The Dominican Republic records 41.7 deaths per 100,000, and was ranked in 2013 as the most dangerous country in the world for drivers.

Three terminally ill patients lost a court battle in California Friday over whether they should have the right to request and take lethal medication to hasten their deaths.

A new study of veterans from the Vietnam War has troubling implications for troops who fought much more recently — in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The study suggests that 40 years since the Vietnam War ended, hundreds of thousands of those vets still struggle every day with mental health problems linked to the traumas they experienced. It was published in the latest issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

They came from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh.

From Kazakhstan, Lesotho and Mongolia.

From Nicaragua, Nigeria and China. From 33 countries in all.

They were people in wheelchairs, on crutches. Some were deaf or blind. And they all wanted to find out how their country could learn from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which banned discrimination based on disability in employment, government services and public accommodations.

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