Health Desk

Could the next big thing in alternative proteins be a something tiny and green?

As an obstetrician, I have counseled countless patients on the benefits of breast-feeding to both mother and baby. But I breast-fed my daughter, Safiya, for only one month, and my son, Haider, for only one week. I was a breast-feeding failure.

Next year, the military will officially lift restrictions on women in combat, the end of a process that, according to the Government Accountability Office, may open up as many as 245,000 jobs that have been off-limits to women. But those who deploy overseas may continue to face obstacles in another area that can have a critical impact on their military experience: contraception.

In a small house in rural Kenya, a young woman gives birth to a healthy little girl. Before anyone can celebrate, the mother starts bleeding. The woman will die soon if the bleeding doesn't stop.

Luckily, the midwife has a drug in front of her, called oxytocin. It can easily stop the postpartum bleeding and save the women's life. She takes the medication, but nothing happens. It doesn't work.

This story is fictitious. But the scenario is all too common.

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On a steamy San Diego afternoon, baseball fans are headed toward the Padres' downtown stadium. As they approach the park, they pass a large steel stall on the sidewalk. Darlene Collins stops to look at it.

"I did not know that was a bathroom," Collins observes. "I thought it was some kind of electrical equipment or something."

Then the stall emits a familiar sound.

"Well, now that I hear it flush, ..." she says. "I did not know that was a bathroom."

If you fall seriously ill in Poland you can count on good care at a private hospital but should probably steer clear of the public ones.

In Botswana, an otherwise survivable road accident could prove deadly owing to lack of good care. But in some areas of neighboring Namibia there's a decent chance emergency medical personnel can stabilize you.

And if you have a heart attack, your ticker should be in good hands in Sao Paulo.

In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.

The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred Wednesday. The EPA initially said 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.

From member station KUNC, Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for our Newscast unit:

School is still out for the summer, but at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C., students are hard at work — outdoors.

In a garden filled with flowers and beds bursting with vegetables and herbs, nearly a dozen teenagers are harvesting vegetables for the weekend's farmers market.

Developers of a new video game for your brain say theirs is more than just another get-smarter-quick scheme.

Akili, a Northern California startup, insists on taking the game through a full battery of clinical trials so it can get approval from the Food and Drug Administration — a process that will take lots of money and several years.

So why would a game designer go to all that trouble when there's already a robust market of consumers ready to buy games that claim to make you smarter and improve your memory?

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Like most medical professionals, it's Dr. Katherine McKenzie's job to evaluate the wounds and scars of the patients who come to her. But unlike most, it's not her job to treat them.

For the past decade, she has worked to verify claims of physical torture by refugees seeking asylum in the U.S.

Africa will mark one year without polio on Tuesday. The last case was in Somalia in 2014.

But last week, a polio vaccination campaign in Kenya faced an unlikely opponent: The country's Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a boycott of the World Health Organization's vaccination campaign, saying they needed to "test" whether ingredients contain a derivative of estrogen. Dr. Wahome Ngare of the Kenyan Catholic Doctor's Association alleged that the presence of the female hormone could sterilize children.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 9, 2015.

Fresh air, the smell of pine trees, the sounds of birds chirping and brooks babbling — all of these have helped American city-dwellers unwind for generations. But in the era of Jim Crow segregation, nature's calm also gave African-Americans a temporary respite from racism and discrimination.

The National Football League held its annual hall of fame induction ceremony Saturday night, in Canton, Ohio. Eight players were given football's highest honor, including a posthumous induction for Junior Seau, the former linebacker for the San Diego Chargers who killed himself in 2012.

After his death, Seau's brain showed signs of chronic damage — the same kind of damage that has been found in dozens of other former NFL players.

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, whose tireless efforts uncovered a link between the drug thalidomide and severe birth defects, has died at age 101.

In 1960, Kelsey was the new medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration when an application for FDA approval of the sedative Kevadon, the trade name of thalidomide, manufactured by drug company William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati.

Thalidomide had already been sold to pregnant women in Europe and elsewhere as an anti-nausea drug to treat morning sickness, and Merrell wanted a license to do the same in the U.S.

Could Sexting Help Your Relationship?

Aug 8, 2015

Sexting is scandalous, dangerous and downright dirty behavior.

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On a hot, sunny Monday in mid-July, Dr. Leana Wen stood on a sidewalk in West Baltimore flanked by city leaders: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, interim police commissioner Kevin Davis, Rep. Elijah Cummings. Under a huge billboard with the web address, she proudly unveiled a 10-point plan for tackling the city's heroin epidemic.

Wen, the city's health commissioner, said she aims to create a 24/7 treatment center, an emergency room of sorts for substance abuse and mental health. She spoke of targeting those most in need, starting with those in jail.

Sumo Breakfast Of Champions: Bowls And Bowls Of Clay Pot Stew

Aug 7, 2015

At the U.S. Sumo Open on Saturday in Long Beach, Calif., roughly 60 sumo wrestlers from around the world will face off at one of the largest sumo competitions outside Japan.

To the untrained eye, they may look like pudgy giants in underwear shoving each other around a ring. But this is a sport and there's a lot to it. Pros have to master 82 winning techniques, and follow strict training regimens that include weight lifting and flexibility exercises.

Take a close look at a house cat's eyes and you'll see pupils that look like vertical slits. But a tiger has round pupils — like humans do. And the eyes of other animals, like goats and horses, have slits that are horizontal.

Scientists have now done the first comprehensive study of these three kinds of pupils. The shape of the animal's pupil, it turns out, is closely related to the animal's size and whether it's a predator or prey.

The American Psychological Association voted Friday in favor of a resolution that would bar its members from participating in national security interrogations.

The resolution by the country's largest professional organization of psychologists passed overwhelmingly. The only dissenting vote came from Col. Larry James, a former Army intelligence psychologist at Guantanamo.

Men who work out may be using legal over-the-counter supplements to the point that it's harming their emotional or physiological health, according to a recent study.

Some days, the french fries are just irresistible. You know it's not the best thing to put in your body, but did that salad really stand a chance after the smell of fried garlic, Parmesan and thyme on crisp potato wedges wafted over to you?

Until recently, nurses at Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Hospital had to maneuver through a maze of wheelchairs, beds, boxes and lights to find surgical supplies in the equipment closet for the operating rooms.

But as public hospitals like Harbor-UCLA try to cut costs and make patients happier, administrators have turned to an unlikely ally: Toyota.

It goes by many names: Delhi belly. Montezuma's revenge. The Aztec two-step. But doctors use one not-so-glamorous term: traveler's diarrhea.

If you're visiting a place this summer with less than ideal sewage disposal — maybe a resort in Mexico or a village in Rajasthan — chances are your GI tract will give you trouble at least once ... maybe twice ... maybe continuously.

Physician and epidemiologist Gary Slutkin has worked in more than 20 countries, fighting infectious diseases like cholera, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. After a decade abroad, he returned to the United States in 1994 and found an acute problem here: gun violence. He began to study the issue and saw familiar patterns: "I just said, 'This is behaving exactly like an infectious disease.' This is the same kind of map, same kind of clustering. Someone has picked this up from someone else, and they pass it on to someone else, and pass it on to someone else."

Neighborhoods in Baltimore are still struggling to recover from the riots that broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury to his spine while in police custody. In the aftermath of the unrest, we here at NPR spent many hours trying to understand the raw anger on display. We looked at police brutality, economic disparities and housing segregation in Baltimore.

Our conversations eventually led us to Leana Wen.

Here's a number to help frame the debate over whether middle schools and high schools should start later in the morning: A study finds that only 18 percent of these public schools start class at 8:30 a.m. or later, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

Brenda Hummel's 7-year-old daughter Andrea was born with severe epilepsy. Like many children with significant diseases or disabilities, she has health insurance through Medicaid. Hummel navigated Iowa's Medicaid resources for years to find just the right doctors and care for her daughter. But now Iowa's governor, Republican Terry Branstad, is moving full speed ahead with a plan to put private companies in charge of managing Medicaid's services, and that has Hummel worried.