Health Desk

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Efforts to protect children in foster care from being inappropriately medicated with powerful antipsychotic drugs got a big boost forward on Tuesday, when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills into law designed to reform prescribing.

Overprescribing of psychiatric meds for foster youth is a persistent problem nationwide, with children given the drugs at double or triple the rate of those not in foster care.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Public health advocates have argued that one of the best ways to fight obesity would be to tax the sugary drinks that science has implicated as a big part of the problem.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

A new analysis of data from Fukushima suggests children exposed to the March 2011 nuclear accident may be developing thyroid cancer at an elevated rate.

But independent experts say that the study, published in the journal Epidemiology, has numerous shortcomings and does not prove a link between the accident and cancer.

This is a landmark week in West Africa. For the first time since the Ebola outbreak, there were no new cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

There are many unsung heroes who deserve credit for this milestone. One of them is Dr. Boie Jalloh, age 30. Ten days after he showed up for his medical residency at 34th Military Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he received a letter requesting his presence at the hospital's newly constructed Ebola unit.

There's a lot of worry about nearsightedness in children, with rates soaring in Southeast Asia as populations become more urban and educated. But maybe it also has something to do with how much Mom and Dad make you hit the books.

Firstborn children are 10 percent more likely to be nearsighted than latter-borns, according to a study published Thursday in JAMA Ophthalmology. And they're 20 percent more likely to be severely myopic.

A bill proposed Wednesday by two U.S. senators would require drugmakers and medical device manufacturers to publicly disclose their payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for promotional talks, consulting, meals and other interactions.

Madalitso Mulando knew what she needed to finish 10th grade: $150.

That's the cost of tuition at Chinika Secondary School, a public high school in Lusaka, Zambia.

Completing 10th grade was part of Mulando's dream to go to medical school and become a doctor.

But the 15-year-old's parents were broke.

"Yeah, I was alone. I was in my bedroom ... and I started, like, crying because Mom and Dad didn't have any money," she remembers. "And I was like, maybe I'll never go to school again because Mom and Dad didn't have any money."

The "death-with-dignity" movement took a giant step forward this week, with 38 million people coming under its umbrella in a single swoop when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the End of Life Option Act on Monday.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



For the first time, primitive human kidneys have been created in a laboratory dish, by using stem cells.

Although the kidneys cannot perform the functions of a fully formed adult kidney, the researchers hope the achievement will someday lead to new ways to treat people suffering from kidney failure.

With his ambulance sirens blaring, Edmund Hassan speeds to a home in South Boston after getting a call that someone there is unconscious. He's deputy superintendent of Boston Emergency Medical Services, and he suspects an opioid overdose. These days, he says, his workers administer Narcan, the drug that reverses that kind of overdose, roughly three times in every eight-hour shift.

No matter where you live, being a 15-year-old girl can be tough. For some girls, it's a fight for independence, the fight to be first in class, or even the fight to win a boy's heart.

For others, it's a fight to stay safe from deadly gang violence, the fight against being trapped in an early marriage, or the fight to play sports considered off limits for girls.

When it comes to health savings accounts and the so-called Cadillac tax on expensive health plans, the questions just keep coming. And what do you do about adding grandchildren to a health plan? Let's tackle that one, too.

Last year, my wife and I opened a health savings account. Since then, my account has been moved twice, and we have no choice as to who manages it. We can't shop around for someone with lower fees. I think that is a big flaw in the system. Why can't I choose to have my HSA with the same company I have my brokerage account?

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

Their work details how cells repair damaged DNA and preserve genes. And now three scientists — Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar — have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Their work promises years of better treatment and better drugs.

The three researchers carried out their work separately, unearthing different mechanisms cells use to fix problems in a range of cells.

Most hospitals around the country aren't doing a good job of helping new moms who want to breast-feed, researchers report Tuesday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Several common practices at the institutions may actually prevent moms from sticking with breast-feeding for six months — the duration thought to be most healthful for babies.

Women with cancer often lose their fertility after chemotherapy and radiation. But fertility can be restored in some women by removing all or part the ovary, freezing the tissue before cancer treatment and then transplanting it back afterward.

Danish researchers looked at 41 women who underwent the procedure between 2003 and 2014. They found that about one-third who tried to have a baby actually succeeded.

It's the largest number of transplants evaluated since doctors started doing the procedures in the early 2000s.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Michael Solomonov has built a reputation for his unique take on the cuisine of Israel. He's won a James Beard Award for Best Chef for his restaurants in Philadelphia.

But he says awards aren't what inspire him to keep cooking.

"It's the pots of rice," he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "It's the savory pastries that my grandmother made that if I can close my eyes right now I can still taste."

When my husband has a particularly tough workout (or workday), he comes home and says, "I have to roll."

He's talking about using a foam roller on body parts including the hips, quads and calves, using his own body weight to supply the force. You've probably seen people rolling in your gym; some facilities even offer classes. The rollers are available in various sizes and can cost as little as $10 — more for fancier ones with grooves intended for more targeted pressure.

But do rollers actually work?

The thought of paying for her daughters' weddings has haunted Kamala Rani for years. When it came time for her older daughter to get married two years ago, she was up against the biggest cost of her life: $320.

This might seem like peanuts to an American audience used to hearing about weddings costing tens of thousands. But consider this: Rani and her family in Bangladesh each live on the equivalent of about $1.50 a day, treading a very thin line between deep and extreme poverty.

You've heard it a million times: The hours we spend sitting in front of our computers, sitting in front of the TV and sitting just about everywhere else are adding up. We are sitting ourselves to death.

So it came as welcome news when we read last week that just 10 minutes — 10 minutes! — of walking after sitting for a long period of time can restore the damage to our vascular system.

Senior citizens are switching from privately run insurance plans to traditional Medicare when they face serious, long-term health conditions, a study shows.

Researchers at Brown University found that 17 percent of Medicare Advantage patients who entered nursing homes for long-term care chose to switch to traditional Medicare the following year. Only 3 percent of similar patients in Medicare made the decision to go to a private Medicare Advantage plan.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown made it legal for physicians in the state to prescribe lethal doses of medications if their terminally ill patients wish to end their lives.

Brown signed the "End of Life Act" into law on Monday, and in doing so California joins four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — where patients' right to choose doctor-assisted death is protected either by law or court order.

Updated at 9:15 p.m. ET.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation Monday, allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal medication to end their lives when and where they choose.

In a deeply personal note, Brown said he read opposition materials carefully, but in the end was left to reflect on what he would want in the face of his own death.

The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded Monday to three scientists for their work on parasitic diseases.

William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura were recognized for discovering a compound that effectively kills roundworm parasites. A Chinese scientist, Dr. Youyou Tu, won for her work in isolating a powerful drug in the 1970s to fight malaria.

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.