Health Desk

Shots - Health News
4:45 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Can Civilian Health Care Help Fix The VA? Congress Weighs In

Sen. John McCain discussed the Veterans Choice Act at a news conference on Tuesday, with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 7:03 pm

Veterans across the country are still waiting too long for medical care, a situation that drove the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last week.

Now Republicans and Democrats in Congress are competing to pass laws they think will fix the problem of medical wait times and other problems at the VA. The discussion over how to reform veterans' health care is starting to sound familiar.

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Shots - Health News
4:28 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

A Cut That Won't Heal Transforms One Woman's View Of Obamacare

Tammy Boudreaux tries a tendon-stretching drill after surgery. Boudreaux was able to get much of her operation and rehabilitation covered by the insurance plan she bought via the Affordable Care Act.
Carrie Feibel

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 11:07 am

When we first met Tammy Boudreaux, a freelance social worker in Houston, last December, she was still weighing her health insurance options.

She told us she was overwhelmed and confused by the choices she was finding on HealthCare.gov. And the high deductibles of the Obamacare plans didn't seem like such a great deal. But when we checked back in with Boudreaux this month, we learned that a chance encounter with a bottle of hot sauce ultimately changed her mind.

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Shots - Health News
12:23 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

The Health Data Revolution Enters An Awkward Adolescence

Gimma a "D!" The Health Datapalooza crowd went wild for this selfie by Bryan Sivak, chief technology officer at Health and Human Services.
Bryan Sivak Twitter

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 4:11 pm

The crowd in a hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C., was rocking on Monday, the 2,000 people shrieking with excitement over federal health-care databases. That could only happen at Health Datapalooza, the annual summit for data geeks, doctors, researchers and patients who want to use data to transform health care — or at least make a buck.

Both of those goals are proving to demand a lot more than just coming up with a nifty API and getting the venture capitalists to buy in.

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The Salt
12:23 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Could A 6-Cent Tax Sour Us On Soda And Sugary Drinks?

A mock-up of a warning label for sodas and sugary drinks proposed in California by public health advocates.
California Center for Public Health Advocacy

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 4:34 pm

These days, sugar may be the new tobacco.

With so many studies linking Americans' collective sweet tooth to diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, there's a lot of talk about policies to nudge consumers to consume less sugar.

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Money Coach
12:09 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Layoff 101: Don't Blame Yourself

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now it's time for our weekly conversation about personal finance - one of our money coach conversations. We've been hearing that the economy is slowly but surely picking up, which means that finally people are getting hired again. But in some industries, people are still getting laid off. And unfortunately, we know a little bit about that ourselves.

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Health
12:09 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

'Wait To Worry' About Challenges

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN: As we've just heard, being fired or losing your job is something that a lot of people have had to worry about in recent years. But our next guest has some advice for those of us who tend to worry a lot about life's what-ifs. That advice is to wait. Columnist Steven Petrow recently wrote about his epiphany and learning how to wait to worry for The Washington Post. In the piece, he talked about how he decided to stop worrying about stuff that hadn't even happened yet. Steven Petrow is with us now. Welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

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Shots - Health News
10:17 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Despite Law, Rape Victims Sometimes Pay For Medical Services

The effects of a sexual assault can be long-lasting, but the medical bills aren't supposed to be.

Yet a study published recently finds that despite federal efforts to lift that burden from rape victims, a hodgepodge of state rules mean some victims may still be charged for medical services related to rape, including prevention and treatment of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

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Research News
4:05 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Playtime With Mom Helps Boost Toddlers' Under-Developed Brains

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 10:29 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now we have a story about the power of play. Some 200 million toddlers in poor countries are starting life with an extra burden. Because of malnourishment or disease, these kids are small for their age and their brains are underdeveloped. The consequences of this can haunt them into adulthood. But here's some positive news - there's a study in the journal Science suggesting that more play time with parents can dramatically reverse the damage suffered by these kids. NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.

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Education
4:47 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Do Autistic Kids Fare Better In Integrated Or Specialized Schools?

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 3:03 pm

The federal law that governs special education lays out the goals pretty clearly: Students are entitled to an appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

But some parents of children with autism feel their local public schools aren't meeting their kids' needs. And with autism diagnoses rising, new schools are emerging specifically for autistic children.

Some parents see these specialized schools as a godsend. For others, they raise a new set of questions.

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Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Bursts Of Light Create Memories, Then Take Them Away

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 3:38 pm

You can't just open up a living brain and see the memories inside.

So Roberto Malinow, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent years trying to find other ways to understand how memories are made and lost. The research — right now being done in rats – should lead to a better understanding of human memory problems ranging from Alzheimer's to post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Shots - Health News
3:19 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Odds Of Abuse And Mistreatment Add Up Over Children's Lives

Maltreatment in childhood raises the risk of physical and mental health problems throughout life.
RenoCdZ iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 11:33 am

Children who are maltreated are much more likely to have physical and mental health problems later on. They face a higher risk of suicide and of getting in trouble with the law.

But there's a big gap between the number of people who say they were abused or neglected as children and the official rate of annual confirmed cases, which runs about 1 percent.

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The Two-Way
12:38 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

91-Year-Old Woman Breaks Marathon Record

Harriette Thompson meets the press at the finish line of the Suja Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon on Sunday
Jerod Harris Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 2:14 pm

It took Harriette Thompson more than seven hours to run a marathon Sunday in San Diego. But that was awfully good, considering she's 91 and recovering from cancer.

In fact, she beat the previous record for women 90 and up by two hours and 45 minutes. She also became the second-oldest woman to complete a marathon in U.S. history, according to the running site Competitor.com.

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The Salt
12:17 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Native Americans Have Superfoods Right Under Their Feet

Twigs and leaves from chokecherries are high in vitamin K, fiber and calcium.
pverdonk iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 1:42 pm

On American Indian reservations, the traditional diet of wild plants and game for food is increasingly being replaced with a far less healthful diet of predominantly high-carb, high-sugar foods.

Along the way, obesity and type 2 diabetes rates have soared. At nearly 16 percent, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups, according to the American Diabetes Association.

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Shots - Health News
11:58 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Are Pre-Existing Condition Bans For Health Insurance Still With Us?

Cigna's letter to Julie Rovner saying she had no proof of past coverage, so limitations based on pre-existing conditions could apply. (Highlights added.)
Julie Rovner for NPR

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 12:50 pm

"Welcome to Cigna," said the letter, dated May 16, on behalf of my new employer, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The letter also said the insurer was placing me on a one-year waiting period for any pre-existing conditions.

Seriously? Wasn't the health law supposed to end that?

"We have reviewed the evidence of prior creditable coverage provided by you and/or your prior carrier and have determined that you have 0 days of creditable coverage," the letter said.

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Behind Closed Doors
10:48 am
Mon June 2, 2014

'Drunk Mom' Tackles New Motherhood And Old Addictions

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 11:35 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Around the Nation
10:48 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Should Getting High Stop You From Getting Hired?

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 11:35 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
2:33 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Pregnancy Hormone May Reduce Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

A collage of family photos of Melissa Sherak Glasser.
Mark Turner for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 10:30 am

For decades, women with multiple sclerosis have noticed that they tend to do better while they are pregnant. That has led to an experimental drug for the disease that's based on a hormone associated with pregnancy.

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Shots - Health News
2:32 am
Mon June 2, 2014

Tiny Magnetic Beads Help Tame Severe Reflux For Some People

Ralph Thomas plays the harp at his house in Arlington, Vt. His reflux symptoms weren't controlled by medication, so he decided to have surgery to install a LINX device.
Herb Swanson for NPR

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 6:48 am

Call it what you will — acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or just plain heartburn. About 1 in 5 Americans suffer symptoms each week. They spend $10 billion a year on medication to relieve those symptoms, including indigestion, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Some even get major surgery to cure this digestive disorder.

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Shots - Health News
6:31 am
Sun June 1, 2014

Once A Year, Cancer Research News Comes In A Flood, Not A Trickle

Lots of basic science leads to some clinical trials and, if all goes well, new cancer treatments.
thelinke/iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 7:31 am

News about cancer therapies usually comes out in medical journals with the regular rhythm of an IV drip. But every now and then information comes out in a flood.

That's the case this weekend. The American Society of Clinical Oncology is holding its 50th annual meeting in Chicago. The convention typically attracts 30,000 attendees, making it one of the biggest cancer meetings of the year. And the amount of new information must be bewildering for even the most intrepid doctors.

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Sports
12:47 pm
Sat May 31, 2014

Meet The Hash Harriers: The Original Drinking And Running Club

In 1938, a group of nine British officers in Kuala Lumpur started going for weekly runs to shake off their weekend hangovers. They didn't have any grand ambitions, but the small group — known as the Hash House Harriers — evolved into one of the world's biggest running collectives. With more than 2,000 branches, you can find Hash House Harriers in almost all the world's major cities.

So how did a bunch of beer-swilling runners make this happen?

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Health
6:46 am
Sat May 31, 2014

Measles Hits 20-Year High In U.S.

Originally published on Sat May 31, 2014 10:38 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Measles was eliminated in the year 2000 from the United States, but a lot can change in a few years. Today, the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention says the infection rate is at a 20-year high for measles. There have been 288 cases reported for the first five months of 2014. A couple of weeks ago we spoke to William Schaffner, who teaches preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University, about this very issue and he told us the huge factor in the outbreak is a lack of vaccinations.

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Mental Health
6:46 am
Sat May 31, 2014

One Wealthy Couple's Mission To Save Marriages, En Masse

Self-help guru Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt are offering free relationship therapy workshops to Dallas-area couples. Many of the couples who attend have never gone to relationship counseling.
Courtesy of Darren Rollinson

Originally published on Sat May 31, 2014 5:29 pm

At a church in South Dallas, in one of the poorest parts of town, the room is packed with hundreds of couples. They're sitting, holding hands and staring into each other's eyes.

Their hosts, multi-millionaire couple Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, are on a mission: to save marriages. They're trying to saturate the city with relationship counseling at workshops like this one, aiming to reach couples who wouldn't or couldn't otherwise afford to attend conventional marriage counseling.

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Shots - Health News
4:22 am
Sat May 31, 2014

Phone App Might Predict Manic Episodes In Bipolar Disorder

Manic, sad, up, down. Your voice may reveal mood shifts.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 7:31 am

There are smartphone apps for monitoring your diet, your drugs, even your heart. And now a Michigan psychiatrist is developing an app he hopes doctors will someday use to predict when a manic episode is imminent in patients with bipolar disorder.

People with the disorder alternate between crushing depression and wild manic episodes that come with the dangerous mix of uncontrollable energy and impaired judgment.

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News
4:04 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Retired Army Gen. On Shinseki: 'I Don't Look Up To Any Man More'

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 6:07 pm

For more on Gen. Eric Shinseki's decision to step down, Robert Siegel turns to Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former Vice-Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army.

News
3:16 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Shinseki's Apology Punctuates A Long Career Of Service

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 6:07 pm

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki apologized for lengthy waits at VA facilities, saying he's ousting the leaders of a VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., after stories about delays in care there. Shinseki's decision to resign marks a muddy end to an illustrious career, which began when he joined the Army nearly five decades ago.

News
3:16 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

VA Secretary Shinseki Steps Down Amid Reports Of Systemic Problems

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 6:07 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Gen. Eric Shinseki is out as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. That comes after bipartisan calls for his resignation and growing outrage over scheduling from the VA health system. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

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Shots - Health News
12:17 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

VA And Military Health Care Are Separate, Yet Often Confused

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki addresses the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, D.C., Friday, shortly before he resigned under bipartisan pressure.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 7:31 am

Delays in health care for veterans led to the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Friday. And the health system for active duty military has also come under the microscope for lapses in care.

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The Salt
12:10 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Health Advocates Lament GOP Move To Relax School Lunch Rules

Currently, half of all products served in the school lunch program must be "whole-grain rich," which USDA defines as products made of at least 50 percent whole grain. According to the new standards, by the start of the next school year, schools must use only products that are whole-grain rich.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

We told you about lawmakers' proposal to give some school districts a way to temporarily opt out of the new, federal healthy school lunch standards.

The waiver provision was put forward by Alabama Republican Robert Aderholt, who says he supports healthy meals for school kids, but has heard complaints from schools in his district about the challenges of mandating kids to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains at lunch.

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U.S.
10:57 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Embattled Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki Resigns

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 11:36 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Good morning, let's hear more now about the resignation of Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. President Obama says he accepted that resignation a short time ago at the White House. He had just finished making a statement after the two men held a short private meeting. The President Shinseki's resignation has been accepted partly for political reasons, in that he says it would be politically difficult for Shinseki to focus on the questions at hand for the VA.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Shots - Health News
10:38 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Dengue Fever 101: How Serious Is This Disease?

Kevin Flores, 11, remains under a mosquito net while being treated for dengue fever at La Mascota hospital in Managua, Nicaragua, last fall.
Inti Ocon AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 2:56 pm

The painful disease has been around for centuries but began a dramatic upswing in the 1980s. In the Americas alone, the annual number of cases has boomed from 520,000 in 2003 to 2.3 million in 2013. With the World Cup coming up in mid-June, host country Brazil is frantically battling the mosquitoes that carry dengue (pronounced DENG-gey).

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