Health Desk

Shots - Health News
11:20 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Prolific Prescribers Of Controlled Substances Face Medicare Scrutiny

Number of providers by state who wrote at least 3,000 prescriptions for Schedule 2 controlled substances in 2012 in Medicare Part D.
ProPublica/NPR

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 6:31 am

Despite a national crackdown on prescription drug abuse, doctors churned out an ever-larger number of prescriptions for the most-potent controlled substances to Medicare patients, new data show.

In addition, ProPublica found, the most prolific prescribers of such drugs as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and Ritalin often have worrisome records.

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Shots - Health News
10:01 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Small Businesses Drop Coverage As Health Law Offers Alternatives

Where are the health insurance deals? On the exchanges, many small businesses have concluded.
Bjorn Rune Lie Ikon Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 11:57 am

For two decades Atlanta restaurant owner Jim Dunn offered a group health plan to his managers and helped pay for it. That ended Dec. 1, after the Affordable Care Act made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Subsidies under the health law for workers to buy their own coverage combined with years of rising costs in the company plan made dropping the plan an obvious — though not easy — choice.

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Health Desk
7:25 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Soda Tax Idea Coming Back In Spring Session

Credit flickr/ Jannes Pockele

Americans' love affair with sweets is well known.  It also contributes to health problems like obesity, diabetes and even heart disease.  And where do most people get sugar in their diet?  From sweetened beverages, such as soda.  

That's led some health advocates to push for ways to reduce consumption.  In Illinois, a plan for a penny per ounce tax on the drinks came up last year.  However, it got a cool reception from lawmakers.  

 

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The Salt
2:25 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Congress To Nutritionists: Don't Talk About The Environment

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:34 pm

A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation's dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.

Congress now has slapped them down.

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Shots - Health News
2:24 am
Mon December 15, 2014

To Stop Teen Drinking Parties, Fine The Parents

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 3:53 pm

When it comes to teenage drinking, the typical venue is a party — where some teens play drinking games and binge. It may surprise you to learn that the majority of parents are aware that alcohol is flowing at these events.

On any given weekend, some teenagers receive three to four text messages about parties, says Bettina Friese, a public health researcher at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, Calif.

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Goats and Soda
6:55 am
Sun December 14, 2014

Gritty Ganta: The Liberian Town That Can't Catch A Break

The Liberia-Guinea border has been closed since the early days of the Ebola outbreak. The Liberian city of Ganta — about a mile from the border — has historically been a hub of commerce, and was hit hard by the closure.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 10:16 am

Ganta is the Liberian city that never sleeps. That's what local businessman Prince Haward says of the town of 40,000, one of the country's largest cities and a crossroads for travelers in the southeastern region: "Ganta is a nonsleeping city ... a business-oriented city."

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Goats and Soda
2:43 pm
Sat December 13, 2014

A Reason To Respect The Miss World Pageant

Miss Philippines, Megan Young, sends a kiss to the audience after winning the Miss World title in last year's competition. She's helped raise money for typhoon victims in her homeland.
Romeo Gacad AFP/Getty Images

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Shots - Health News
12:43 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Confusion Over Job-Based Insurance Can Shortchange Consumers

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:20 am

Misunderstandings about whether some types of job-based coverage disqualify consumers from signing up for subsidized insurance through the health law's marketplaces may lead some people to buy skimpier employer plans instead.

In recent weeks, some of the people called assisters, who help shoppers find coverage, say consumers are being told by employers that their bare-bones plans meet the minimum requirements under the law. That kind of insurance would cover preventive benefits, for instance, but might leave out prescription drugs and emergency care.

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Shots - Health News
9:24 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Poo And You: A Journey Into The Guts Of A Microbiome

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 7:27 am

The trillions of microbes that live in our guts and on our skin have the power to affect our health in big ways — from stomach disorders and autoimmune diseases to acne and mood. The secret life of what scientists call our microbiota has remained largely obscured, however, because many of the organisms in the gut can't be grown in a lab.

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TED Radio Hour
8:06 am
Fri December 12, 2014

What Does It Take To Bring Transparency To Medicine?

Leana Wen on stage at the TEDMED conference.
Sandy Huffaker for TEDMED TEDMED

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Courage.

About Leana Wen's TED Talk

Doctors in the U.S. don't have to tell patients about conflicts of interest. When physician Leana Wen asked her fellow doctors to open up, the reaction she got was frightening.

About Leana Wen

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TED Radio Hour
8:06 am
Fri December 12, 2014

What Does Everyday Courage Look Like?

"The choice to say something is risky, and the choice to say nothing is risky. So there is no safe path." - Margaret Heffernan
Mózsi Gábor TED

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Courage.

About Margaret Heffernan's TED Talk

Margaret Heffernan talks about the danger of "willful blindness" and praises ordinary people who are willing to speak up.

About Margaret Heffernan

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NPR Story
6:02 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Medical Mystery: Why Did Ebola Pop Up In A Remote Mining District?

The authorities in Sierra Leone are coping with a raging Ebola epidemic in Freetown (above) yet they must also keep constant watch for Ebola hot spots that may crop up in the countryside.
David Gilkey/NPR

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 12:34 pm

No cars for the teams seeking Ebola cases. Not enough ambulances to get the sick to the hospital quickly. And no cups for patients to drink from.

That's how bad things have been in a remote Eastern district of Sierra Leone called Kono.

Kono District is a land of towering mountains and muddy diamond mines. It's right next to the region where the Ebola outbreak first started. Still, for a long time, it looked as if the virus was mostly bypassing the place.

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Goats and Soda
2:38 am
Fri December 12, 2014

A Liberian Prof Doesn't Like What He's Seeing On The News Blackboard

Samuel Gbarzeki, a professor who's been out of work since schools were suspended in July, gets his news and shares his views at the Daily Talk.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 12:38 pm

Samuel Gbarzeki is fed up.

"How can we cope?" he asks.

The university professor, who teaches English to freshmen and sophomores, has been out of work since July when Liberia's government suspended schools because of the Ebola outbreak.

"Ebola is very, very dangerous because it kills and has no boundaries," he says. "But people don't know what to do. They go to bed hungry because jobs have stopped."

The trim man is wearing a tan baseball cap, pressed khaki shorts and a spotless white T-shirt. He will admit to being "something over 60 years old."

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Goats and Soda
2:33 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Liberia's Daily Talk: All The News That Fits On A Blackboard

The Daily Talk uses chalk, photos and Liberian slang to spread the latest news. Editor Alfred Sirleaf set up the blackboard on Monrovia's main thoroughfare.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 12:36 pm

Just off Tubman Boulevard — Monrovia's busy main thoroughfare — stands a plywood hut with a large blackboard at the front, in three panels. On them — written in clear, bold white chalk lettering — is a form of newsreel: mini-articles and editorials, as well as graphics and illustrations. The creator of Daily Talk — this Liberian journal with a difference — is Alfred Sirleaf. He's 41 and has been "writing" the news since 2000, three years before the civil war ended.

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Shots - Health News
5:57 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Birds Of A Feather Aren't Necessarily Related

The updated avian tree shows how many different kinds of birds evolved quickly after a mass extinction 66 million years ago.
AAAS/Carla Schaffer

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 8:49 pm

What do a pigeon and a flamingo have in common? Quite a bit, according to a reordering of the evolutionary tree of birds.

One of a series of studies published Thursday in Science is the latest step toward understanding the origins of the roughly 10,000 bird species that populate our planet.

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The Salt
5:10 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Kalettes, Broccoflower And Other Eye-Popping Vegetables For 2015

Broccoflower was originally grown in Holland and hit the U.S. market in 1989. It's remained a relatively specialty item since then, but culinary experts say it may soon become more widely available.
Brand X Pictures Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 5:22 pm

Does a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale sound like your vegetable dream come true? Maybe so, if you're someone who's crazy for cruciferous vegetables and all the fiber and nutrients they pack in.

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Goats and Soda
4:11 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

You Don't Want To Monkey Around With Monkey Malaria

In Southeast Asia, the battle against malaria is growing even more complicated. And it's all because of monkeys, who carry a form of malaria that until a few years ago wasn't a problem for people.

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Shots - Health News
4:02 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

U.Va. Looks At Ways To Curb Drinking At Its Frat Houses

The University of Virginia is trying to crack down on excessive and underage drinking at fraternities.
Jay Paul Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 12:58 pm

The University of Virginia is renegotiating its contract with fraternities, which were suspended after a Rolling Stone article described a frat house gang rape. Even though that article has been called into question, U.Va.

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Shots - Health News
4:01 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Football Players Drill Without Helmets To Curb Concussions

Making and taking a hit chest to chest, instead of skull to skull, is easier to remember if you're not wearing a helmet, say University of New Hampshire Wildcat football players.
Jack Rodolico New Hampshire Public Radio

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 6:49 pm

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats are heading into a do-or-die quarterfinal football game this week against the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.

And whether they win or not, there's one thing you can say about the Wildcats: They are likely the only football team in America trying to reduce concussions by practicing without helmets.

Football has a concussion problem, from the National Football League down to Pee-Wee teams. And there are lots of efforts out there to fix it.

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Goats and Soda
3:35 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

As Ebola Cases Drop, Liberia's Soccer Fans Are Back In The Zone

At the Arsenal video club, men sit shoulder to shoulder. But some still say it's too dangerous to go in because of Ebola.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 6:13 pm

The sun has set in Liberia's eastern border town of Ganta, and the red dirt roads are humming with motorbikes and boomboxes.

As Ebola starts to lose ground in the West African country, life is slowly returning to normal. Liberia's nightlife, which stalled after officials declared a state of emergency in early August, is gradually picking up. And the hangouts where Liberians pay a small fee to watch soccer are once again packed with fans.

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Shots - Health News
3:00 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Unexpected Joint Pain Seen In Test Of Experimental Ebola Vaccine

A shipment of experimental Ebola vaccine is opened at a hospital in Geneva.
Mathilde Missioneiro AP

Two potential Ebola vaccines are currently being tested in people, to see if they're safe and to figure out the best dose.

Both trials have encountered some of the typical travails of vaccine research.

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Shots - Health News
9:54 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Does Snoring Leave Tots More Vulnerable To Childhood Obesity?

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:36 am

A solid night's sleep does more than recharge a growing brain — it may also help keep a growing body lean.

Breathing problems or a chronic lack of sleep early in life may double the risk that a child will be obese by age 15, according to research published Thursday in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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Shots - Health News
6:44 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Debunking Vaccine Myths Can Have An Unintended Effect

Would it help you to know that your worries about the flu shot are unfounded? Perhaps not.
Darron Cummings AP

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:35 am

Remember back in October when I debunked 32 myths about the flu vaccine here?

Research published since then suggests my efforts might have been in vain, at least in part.

The post might have changed some minds, but it seems unlikely to have led legions of people to race to get vaccinated.

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The Salt
4:52 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

From Potatoes To Salty Fries In School: Congress Tweaks Food Rules

When it comes to salty french fries or pizza served at lunch, schools may get more time to dial back sodium content, thanks to a provision in the federal spending bill headed for a vote on Capitol Hill.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 10:00 am

The gargantuan budget bill that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to vote on Thursday does more than dole out federal dollars to keep the government running.

It also tweaks federal nutrition rules.

For starters, the bill — aka, the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill — includes a provision that will give school food directors more flexibility when it comes to adopting 100 percent whole grain items, such as pasta and biscuits, in school breakfast and lunch meals.

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Goats and Soda
4:25 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Boredom On The Border Between Liberia And Guinea

The bright yellow steel truss bridge over St. John's River is the official border crossing between Liberia and Guinea. The Liberian-Guinean border has been closed since the early days of the Ebola outbreak.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:38 am

They're from the same ethnic group. They speak the same language. And they live on both sides of the Liberia-Guinea divide in the area around Liberia's eastern border city of Ganta, in Nimba County. The families straddle the border, which is not fenced.

"Right over there is the border," says businessman Prince Haward, directing our attention to some rubber farms not too far away. "Those are the rubber farms you find in Guinea."

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Shots - Health News
3:59 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Making The Human Condition Computable

David Goldhill (second from left) talks with Dan Hilferty of Independence Blue Cross, Kevin Nazemi of Oscar Insurance and Sam Nussbaum of WellPoint in a conversation about health costs. Moderator Avik Roy is at far left.
Glen Davis Forbes

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 4:03 pm

For centuries, the central challenge in health care was ignorance. There simply wasn't enough information to know what was making a person sick, or what to do to cure them.

Now, health care is being flooded with information. Advances in computing technology mean that gathering, storing and analyzing health information is relatively cheap, and it's getting cheaper by the day. As computers continue to fall in price, the cost of sequencing a single person's genome is tumbling, too.

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Shots - Health News
10:31 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Doctors Lag In Adopting Cheaper, Faster Radiation For Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy is effective in treating breast cancer but typically requires dozens of visits over five to seven weeks. A newer protocol takes just three weeks.
Antonia Reeve Science Source

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 7:54 pm

Radiation treatment for breast cancer could take less time and cost less for many women, but doctors aren't putting that knowledge into practice, a study finds.

And one reason is that the doctors in charge of radiation treatment will make less money, according to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a study author and chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Shots - Health News
8:21 am
Wed December 10, 2014

A Crowd Of Scientists Finds A Better Way To Predict Seizures

Mathematician Phillip Adkins (left) and Drew Abbot, a software engineer at AiLive. They were members of the winning team.
Courtesy of Phillip Adkins

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 7:12 am

An online contest for data scientists has produced a great leap forward in efforts to predict when someone with epilepsy is going to have a seizure. The winning team used data on electrical activity in the brain to develop an algorithm that predicted seizures 82 percent of the time.

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Shots - Health News
3:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Scientists Often Skip A Simple Test That Could Verify Their Work

When the wrong cells take over, scientists' experiments can be derailed.
Chris Nickels for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:34 pm

There's a simple test that scientists could use to make sure the cells they're studying in the lab are what they think they are. But most of the time, academic scientists don't bother.

That omission is a problem. One study found that between 18 percent and 36 percent of all cell lines have been misidentified. And this kind of mistaken identity is one reason that many results from experiments run in scientific labs can't be reproduced elsewhere.

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Goats and Soda
6:44 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Why Aren't World Leaders Angrier About Violence Against Women?

Bafana Khumalo (in black jacket) carried his fight for "gender justice" to the White House today. He called on the U.S. to help fund abortions for women in other countries who've been raped.
Courtesy of Dean Peacock

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 7:58 pm

On this cold and rainy Tuesday, Bafana Khumalo stood in front of the White House with a controversial demand for President Obama: The U.S. should provide foreign aid to fund abortions for women who've been raped during conflicts and in other circumstances. Currently, the 1973 Helms Amendment prohibits the use of foreign aid money for abortions as "family planning." About 200 protesters joined Khumalo.

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