Health Desk

Research News
6:58 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Study: Time Away Can Hurt Surgeons' Job Performance

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story begins with an old saying among musicians: If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days of practice, the audience will notice. A study found evidence that saying applies to surgeons, and lives may be at stake.

NPR's Shankar Vedantam has been looking at the results of that study. He's in our studios. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was the research?

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Shots - Health News
5:20 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Snip Decision: Africa's Campaign To Circumcise Its Men

hivsharespace YouTube

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

If you turn on a radio in Zimbabwe these days, it won't be long before you hear a public service spot featuring the voice of a deejay who goes by the name "Napster the Radio Master."

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Shots - Health News
4:11 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Telepsychiatry Brings Emergency Mental Health Care To Rural Areas

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

North Carolina is facing a very big mental health care challenge — 28 counties across the state do not have a single psychiatrist. That's despite the fact that in recent years, emergency rooms in the state have seen more patients with mental health, developmental disability or substance abuse problems.

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The Two-Way
3:26 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Shinseki: Swift Action If Problems At VA Hospital Are True

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, flanked by President Obama and Vice President Biden, at the White House last month.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 7:54 pm

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki tells NPR that he's determined to get to the bottom of allegations that veterans may have died at a Phoenix VA hospital while waiting for care.

The accusations of extended delays in providing health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system surfaced last month. The facility reportedly kept two lists of veterans waiting for care, one it shared with Washington and another, secret list of wait times that sometimes lasted more than a year.

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Shots - Health News
3:04 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Seeking Better Ways To Tell If Surgery Is Too Risky

Just because surgery is possible doesn't mean it's a good idea, especially for frail older people.
Sam Edwards Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 7:02 am

Older people face higher risks in surgery, but not all 85-year-olds are alike. One may celebrate his birthday skydiving, like former president George H.W. Bush, while another may be unable to stand without help.

Since half of all surgery in the United States is performed on people 65 and older, figuring out an individual's risk is key. Measuring frailty beforehand more accurately predicts who will do well after surgery, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

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Shots - Health News
1:18 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Chemists Expand Nature's Genetic Alphabet

Being able to insert the two man-made letters into DNA, alongside the usual four-letter alphabet, could teach old cells new tricks and lead to better drugs, researchers say.
courtesy of Synthorx

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

For the first time, scientists have expanded life's genetic alphabet, by inserting two unnatural, man-made "letters" into a bacterium's DNA, and by showing that the cell's machinery can copy them.

The advance means that scientists have a new tool for exploring how life encodes information, which could help them understand life's origins.

What's more, this is a step towards giving living cells new abilities, like being able to make more and better medicines, cheaper and faster.

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Shots - Health News
8:41 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Employers Eye Moving Sickest Workers To Insurance Exchanges

Would he be happier with a health plan bought on the exchange? His boss probably would be.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 11:40 am

Can corporations shift workers with high medical costs from the company health plan into online insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act? Some employers are considering it, say benefits consultants.

"It's all over the marketplace," said Todd Yates, a managing partner at Hill, Chesson & Woody, a North Carolina benefits consulting firm. "Employers are inquiring about it, and brokers and consultants are advocating for it."

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Krulwich Wonders...
6:03 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Draw My Left! No, No, My Other Left! A Hidden Bias In Art History Revealed

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 8:48 am

Look at this guy.

He is half-smiley, half-frowny. I drew the mouth carefully to make it equal parts sad and happy.

But when you look at him — take him in whole — would you say he's having a good day or a bad day?

Most people would say: good day. He seems a little more smiley than not.

That's because, says science writer Sam Kean, when we look at somebody, the left side of that person's face is more emotionally powerful and "determines the overall emotional tenor."

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Shots - Health News
2:33 am
Wed May 7, 2014

Faith Drives A Father To Create A Test For Childhood Cancer

Elizabeth, Samuel, Bryan and Noah Shaw amid Texas bluebonnets on Easter Sunday. Samuel was conceived with in vitro fertilization so he would not suffer from the hereditary cancer that afflicted Noah.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Shaw

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 12:32 pm

When Bryan and Elizabeth Shaw learned that their son Noah had a potentially deadly eye cancer, like a lot of people, they turned to their religious faith to help sustain them. But faith is also impelling Bryan Shaw to create software to detect eye cancer in children as soon after birth as possible.

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Shots - Health News
2:35 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Most Fitness Apps Don't Use Proven Motivational Techniques

That lovely weather may be more motivating than the smartphone app.
Ferran Traité Soler iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 8:30 am

If you downloaded a fitness app and didn't become a workout ninja, it may be that the app lacked the scientifically tested motivational techniques that would help get you off the couch.

Instead, most popular fitness apps focus more on teaching you how to do the exercise, according to researchers at Penn State University who analyzed the 200 top apps.

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Shots - Health News
1:13 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Big Ambitions And Flawed Technology Tripped Up State Exchanges

President Obama made the case for health coverage at Faneuil Hall in Boston in late October, a few weeks after enrollment opened for health insurance sold on exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 1:25 pm

Among the states that looked to expand health coverage to nearly all their citizens, Massachusetts was an early front-runner.

The state passed its own health care law back in 2006 mandating near-universal insurance coverage. That law became a model for federal action. And after the Affordable Care Act went through in 2010, Massachusetts had a head start in bringing health coverage to the uninsured.

Yet Massachusetts threw in the towel Tuesday on the problem-plagued online marketplace that was supposed to make health insurance shopping a snap.

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Shots - Health News
9:24 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Medicare Pays For Alzheimer's Screening, But Do You Want To Know?

The screening tests for dementia are simple, but the questions surrounding them are complex.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 8:37 am

Medicare will pay for screening for cognitive impairment, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said in March that there isn't enough scientific evidence to make the call.

That's the same conclusion that the task force, an independent panel of medical experts, came to more than a decade ago, when it last evaluated dementia screening. Patient advocates say the evidence is crystal clear in one respect: More research needs to be done.

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Shots - Health News
2:37 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Chemist Turns Software Developer After Son's Cancer Diagnosis

Noah Shaw, now 5, shows off his Texas roots at a recent birthday party.
Courtesy of Bryan Shaw

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 12:34 pm

A scientist's ambitious plan to create an early detection system for eye cancer using people's home cameras is coming along.

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Shots - Health News
11:03 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Even Penguins Get The Flu

Adelie penguins frolic in Antarctica, unaware of a flu virus that circulates among them.
Peter & J. Clement Science Source

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 3:35 pm

When you think of bird flu, you may conjure up images of chickens being slaughtered to stem an outbreak, or of migrating ducks, which can carry flu viruses from one continent to the next. Well, it's time to add penguins to your list of mental images.

Yes, Adelie penguins, which breed in huge colonies on the rocky Antarctic Peninsula, also harbor a version of the avian influenza virus, according to a study published in the journal, mBio.

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Shots - Health News
5:09 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

The Comeback Of Polio Is A Public Health Emergency

On the outskirts of Islamabad, a Pakistani health worker vaccinates an Afghan refugee against polio.
Muhammed Muheisen AP

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 3:25 pm

It is, says the World Health Organization, "an extraordinary event." Polio is spreading to a degree that constitutes a public health emergency.

The global drive to wipe out the virus had driven the number of polio cases down from 300,000 in the late 1980s to just 417 cases last year. The World Health Organization has set a goal of wiping out polio by 2018.

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Shots - Health News
4:08 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

More Health Insurance Equals Fewer Deaths In Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed a health care reform bill during an April 12, 2006, ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The bill made Massachusetts the first state in the country to require that all residents have health insurance.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Fewer people died in Massachusetts after the state required people to have health insurance, according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health.

In each of the first four years of the state law, 320 fewer Massachusetts men and women died than would have been expected. That's one life extended for every 830 newly insured residents.

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Author Interviews
3:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Why Bring Up Death When We Could Talk About 'Something More Pleasant'?

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 5:35 pm

When people talk about extending the human lifespan to 120 it bothers Roz Chast. "That upsets me for a lot of reasons," she tells NPR's Melissa Block. "I feel like these are people who don't really know anybody over 95." The reality of old age, she says, is that "people are not in good shape, and everything is falling apart."

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Global Health
3:02 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

To Fight Polio Outbreaks, WHO Lays Down New Rules

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 8:31 am

The World Health Organization is warning that recent outbreaks of polio in the Middle East, Africa and Asia mark a setback to the decades-long effort to eradicate the disease. In response, the WHO has declared a world health emergency. It's asking Syria, Pakistan and Cameroon — current polio hot spots — to require all travelers leaving those countries to show proof of vaccination.

Shots - Health News
2:47 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Colorado Redraws Insurance Map To Cut Sky-High Ski-Town Rates

Telluride, Colo., where the mountains, powder and insurance rates are all high.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 7:08 am

Relief is in sight – and it won't involve a lawsuit – for the four counties in Colorado that have the the highest Obamacare health insurance premiums in the country.

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Shots - Health News
2:39 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Learning A New Skill Works Best To Keep Your Brain Sharp

Seniors who learned more difficult skills like digital photography and Photoshop showed the greatest improvement in memory.
Courtesy of UT Dallas

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 7:08 am

Brain training is big business, with computerized brain games touted as a way to help prevent memory loss. But new research shows you might be better off picking up a challenging new hobby.

To test this theory, Dr. Denise Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, randomly assigned 200 older people to different activities. Some learned digital photography. Another group took up quilting.

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Shots - Health News
2:39 am
Mon May 5, 2014

You Had Me At Hello: The Science Behind First Impressions

Humans make split-second judgments about others based on the way they talk.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 7:08 am

Remember that famous line in the movie Jerry Maguire where Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise, "You had me at 'hello' "? Well it turns out there is some scientific evidence to back this up. People use voices to instantly judge people, researchers say.

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Shots - Health News
4:11 am
Sun May 4, 2014

Saving The World's Babies Simply Starts Before Birth

Shefali Rani Das, an expectant mother in Bangladesh, has given birth to six children (including 4-year-old Suborna) at home without a doctor. Only three of her babies have survived.
Colin Crowley Save the Children

Originally published on Sun May 4, 2014 10:35 am

Every day, all over the world, newborns die when they don't have to. They die from preventable infections and because their tiny bodies can't stay warm enough.

Shefali, a mother from Bangladesh, knows this global tragedy all too well.

"Whenever a child is born and then dies, we're overwhelmed with grief," she says. "It's terrible."

Shefali has given birth to six children at home in her village in Bangladesh. Only three of her babies have survived the first week of life.

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Sports
4:18 pm
Sat May 3, 2014

Donald Sterling, Philanthropist: What To Do With His Donations?

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 5:27 pm

UCLA cancelled a $3 million donation from LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, because of racist comments Sterling made in a recording. The donation was to go towards kidney research. Host Arun Rath speaks with Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, about why institutions return money that could still be used for good causes.

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Author Interviews
4:18 pm
Sat May 3, 2014

Drawing From The Experience Of 'Indolent But Relentless' Cancer

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 5:27 pm

A few years ago, the cartoonist Matt Freedman started having nagging pain around his ear. He bought mouth guards and tried pain relievers, but nothing seemed to work. Slowly, the pain got worse. In 2012, a bump appeared on his neck. It was a slow-growing, dangerous cancer that had already spread to his lungs.

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Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

MERS Virus Comes To U.S., But Risk To Public Is Deemed Low

A Muslim pilgrim wears a mask in Mecca to protect against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in October 2013.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 1:09 pm

On April 24, an American health care worker based in Saudi Arabia flew from Riyadh to London to Chicago, then took a bus to Indiana.

Three days later, the man began experiencing shortness of breath and coughing. He also ran a fever. He visited the emergency room on April 28 and was tested by the Indiana public health lab. Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that he is the first MERS patient in the United States.

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News
3:21 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

First American Case Of MERS Reported In Indiana

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:17 am

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The first case of MERS has been confirmed in the U.S. MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Virus Syndrome. Health officials say a man in Indiana was hospitalized on Monday and is in stable condition. NPR's Rob Stein reports that while precautions are being taken to contain the virus, there is no reason for widespread alarm.

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The Salt
2:09 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Urban Greengrocers Are Back, To Serve Big-Spending Locavores

Each Peach Market in Washington, D.C., is one of a growing breed of small, urban greengrocers.
Maanvi Singh NPR

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 9:32 am

Each Peach Market in Washington, D.C., is a far cry from the Trader Joe's where I usually shop. For one thing, it's tiny — smaller than the apartment I share with two others. And there are no lines snaking through aisles and aisles of tempting goods.

You'll find the usual staples here, and also artisanal pickles, locally grown and cured charcuterie, and yogurt from Pennsylvania's Amish country. But don't expect much selection — there are just two brands of olive oil, rather than the several shelves to choose from at Harris Teeter.

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Shots - Health News
1:44 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Don't Count On Travel Insurance To Cover Mental Health

That ticket might not be worth much if you have to cancel the trip due to a mental health issue.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 1:10 pm

It's bad enough to be sick at home in your own bed, but so much worse when on vacation.

People often buy travel insurance so they don't lose the money they spent on airfare and hotels if they can't travel due to illness. But if that illness happens to be a mental health issue, don't expect travel insurance to cover it.

And since mental health problems are so common, that means that a lot of people may be left holding the bag.

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Shots - Health News
12:15 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

When A Yoga Teacher Ticks You Off, Is It Rude To Walk Out?

Shut up and suffer, or split?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 4:32 pm

You've made a commitment to yoga to improve your health.

So there you are in class, with a teacher you've never had before. And while you're flipping your down dog, you realize you're not exactly flipping over the teacher.

Maybe the teacher is a yoga bully: "OK, everybody up for wheel! People in the back row, what's your problem?"

Maybe the teacher is making absurd claims about yoga ("Doing an inversion is like having a face-lift!").

Or it's hot yoga and you're thirsty and the teacher says, "Don't drink!" But ... you are really thirsty!

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Shots - Health News
4:10 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Obamacare Sign-Ups Show Wide Variation By State, Ethnicity

Lauren Farnsworth (left) and April Buell hand out literature in late March encouraging people to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 10:08 am

New numbers and demographic information released by the White House Thursday reveal some telling details about the 8 million people who selected new health insurance through HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces.

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