Health Desk

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Beware the mention of natural causes, as in my mother's obituary:

"Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist ... died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

Sixty-year-olds don't die of natural causes anymore. The truth was too hard to admit.

Fifteen years on, I'm ashamed of my family's shame. Those attending her funeral and paying shiva calls knew the truth anyway. People talk.

It's an open secret among journalists: When reporting a major news story in an unfamiliar country, it's great to have a "fixer."

That's the catch-all term we use for our local guides to language and logistics — the people who can translate documents, interpret during interviews and generally help you figure out the most efficient and the safest way to get from one location to the next.

Doctors Without Borders is calling it a "champagne moment." The World Health Organization says it's a "game changer."

In a small trial, an experimental vaccine protected 100 percent of participants who were at high risk for the virus. Although the results are preliminary, they offer new hope of finally stamping out the virus in West Africa — and preventing the next epidemic.

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To Haben Girma's grandmother, back in East Africa, it "seemed like magic." Her granddaughter, born deaf and blind, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and works as a civil rights attorney.

Nisha Saini has been practicing an Indian traditional health form called Ayurveda for more than 16 years. She runs a small alternative health center in Manhattan called New York Ayurveda, where customers can get massages and dietary advice. Over the counter, Saini sells an extensive array of traditional remedies concocted from herbs and spices. But there's one kind of Ayurvedic medicine she doesn't sell.

In a development that could change the way the deadly Ebola disease is fought, researchers have announced promising results of a new vaccine's trial in Guinea, one of several countries affected by a historic outbreak in West Africa.

"The estimated vaccine efficacy was 100 percent," a team of researchers say.

Just over two-thirds of Californians who did not have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act went into full effect in 2014 are now covered, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The newly insured are much less likely to say that paying for health care is a problem, compared to when they were uninsured.

What's A Better Way To Detect Cancer?

Jul 31, 2015

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fighting Cancer

About Jorge Soto's TED Talk

We often discover cancer after it's too late to treat. Jorge Soto is in the process of creating a simple, fast and cheap method for early cancer detection and all it takes is a few drops of blood.

About Jorge Soto

What Does It Mean To Be A "Cancer Survivor"?

Jul 31, 2015

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fighting Cancer

About Debra Jarvis' TED Talk

Debra Jarvis had breast cancer, but it doesn't define her, she says. Jarvis explains how clinging to the identity of "survivor" sometimes stifles personal growth.

About Debra Jarvis

Can Healthy Eating Reverse Some Cancers?

Jul 31, 2015

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fighting Cancer

About Dean Ornish's TED Talk

Dr. Dean Ornish studied how lifestyle changes could help people with chronic heart disease; he wanted to figure out if there was a way to do the same with patients with some types of cancer.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fighting Cancer

About Jay Bradner's TED Talk

Giving away something that could make you a billion dollars sounds foolish. But Dr. Jay Bradner believes it's essential to share even the most prized scientific discoveries if we hope to find a cure for cancer.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Fighting Cancer

About David Agus' TED Talk

Dr. David Agus believes that current research is too narrowly focused on the specifics of cancer. Instead, he thinks broader, more interdisciplinary methods are needed to control and treat cancer.

Read the study mentioned in Dr. Agus' interview in the New England Journal of Medicine.

When it comes to getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, teens below the poverty line are doing better than the rest.

Among teenage girls ages 13 to 17 whose total family income was less than the federal poverty level for their family size, 67.2 percent have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine, compared to 57.7 percent for those at or above the poverty line. For teen boys, it's 51.6 percent compared to 39.5 percent.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



If there's such a thing as the first family of health care, the Lees may be it.

Five decades ago, two brothers helped start Medicare. Their father inspired them and they, in turn, have inspired the next generation.

To mark the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, three Lees sat down to reflect on the U.S. health care system.

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.