Health Desk

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Earlier this week the federal government clarified that insurers can't charge people for anesthesia administered during a free colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer.

That's welcome news for consumers, some of whom have been charged hundreds of dollars for anesthesia after undergoing what they thought would be a free test. But the government guidance leaves important questions unanswered.

His mother named him Moses, but the story of Moses Lasana over the past year unfolds more like the story of Job: Adversity follows tragedy only to be topped off with pain.

Last summer, Moses Lasana's girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant with his child, got Ebola and died. He has two sons; one of them also got sick and died. Then he came down with the disease.

In September, Moses Lasana was cured of Ebola. That should have been good news for the 30-year-old Liberian. But his suffering continues.

Eighteen years ago, Dean Karlan was a fresh, bright-eyed graduate student in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He wanted to answer what seemed like a simple question:

"Does global aid work?" Karlan says.

He was reading a bunch of studies on the topic. But none of them actually answered the question. "We were tearing our hair out reading these papers because it was frustrating," he says. "[We] never really felt like the papers were really satisfactory."

Just a few months ago McDonald's was showing no love for kale.

In a TV ad promoting the beefiness of the Big Mac, the chain poked fun at the leafy green and other vegetarian fare: "You can't get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa," a low voice quips as the camera focuses on a juicy burger. "Nor will it ever be kale."

But the chain is now showing it some affection. McDonald's has announced that it's testing a new breakfast bowl that blends kale and spinach with turkey sausage and egg whites. McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb says the bowls are "freshly prepared."

California's state Senate has passed a bill to eliminate "personal belief exemptions" that currently allow parents to opt out of having their school-age children vaccinated.

SB 277, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica, passed 25 to 10 and now advances to the Assembly.

While studying to become a paralegal and working as a temp, Symphonie Dawson kept feeling sick. She found out it was because she was pregnant.

Living with her mom and two siblings near Dallas, Dawson, then 23, worried about what to expect during pregnancy and what giving birth would be like. She also didn't know how she would juggle having a baby with being in school.

When Jeff Brown opened his first grocery store in a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia back in 2004, it seemed like a long shot.

Most people thought he was crazy to even attempt to make money in a food desert like Southwest Philly, he says. Other grocers had tried and quickly gone out of business.

If you go to the doctor with a cough and fever, odds are you're not thinking you could have an unusual fungal infection — and neither is the doctor.

That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to get the word out that they found more people sick with histoplasmosis in Montana and Idaho.

Are you a pen-clicker? A hair-twirler? A knee-bouncer? Did you ever get in trouble for fidgeting in class? Don't hang your head in shame. All that movement may be helping you think.

When the brain needs to remember a phone number or learn a new dance step, it creates a circuit by connecting different types of neurons.

Scientists still don't know how many types of neurons there are or exactly what each type does.

Medical researchers have known for several years that there is some sort of link between long-term depression and an increased risk of stroke. But now scientists are finding that even after such depression eases, the risk of stroke can remain high.

A new study finds that employer-based programs to help people stop smoking would work better if they tapped into highly motivating feelings — such as the fear of losing money.

This conclusion flows from a study involving the employees of CVS/Caremark. Some workers got postcards asking them if they wanted a cash reward to quit smoking. One card ended up in the hands of Camelia Escarcega in Rialto, Calif., whose sister works for CVS.

Creatures that venture out into the daylight can be damaged by the sun's ultraviolet rays. Humans produce melanin, a dark pigment, to help protect our skin. And now many of us slather on sunscreen, too.

Bacteria, algae and fungi make their own chemicals that sop up UV rays. And there's one called gadusol that's been found in fish and their eggs.

To make the New Numbat Artificial Diet, mix together powdered cat chow, hen's eggs and water. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes and cool. Add calcium carbonate, a vitamin-mineral supplement, cellulose powder, fish oil, Vitamin B12 and crushed termite mound.

In the late 1990s you could have taken what hospitals charged to administer inpatient chemotherapy and bought a Ford Escort econobox. Today, average charges for chemo, not even counting the price of the anti-cancer drugs, are enough to pay for a Lexus GX sport-utility vehicle.

Hospital prices have risen nearly three times as much as overall inflation since Ronald Reagan was president. Health payers have tried HMOs, accountable care organizations and other innovations in efforts to control them, with little effect.

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If you've ever walked out of the house without your phone and wallet — as I did yesterday — you might have wondered: Am I starting to lose it?

Even if you're too young for any real concern about dementia, this kind of precursor to a "senior moment" can be rattling.

But a new study suggests we're not powerless when it comes to keeping our mental acuity and memory intact.

Researchers have documented that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, whole grains, along with daily servings of nuts and olive oil can help fend off age-related cognitive decline.

Let's say you're a young person, around 30 years old. And you're the kind of person who likes to take risks. So maybe you're taking risks in your sexual relationships. You're not practicing safe sex.

What would make you change your behavior?

That's a question that's long been pondered by public health officials. And now new research from a World Bank-funded team in Lesotho, a tiny country in southern Africa, has produced a surprising answer.

Lottery tickets!

Just like flared jeans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and thighs without a gap, matcha tea powder is in fashion in America.

You can grab a matcha latte at Starbucks. Whole Foods stocks the green tea powder on its shelves. Or now that warm weather is here, maybe you'll order a Matcha Green Tea Blast smoothie from Jamba Juice.

The seasons appear to influence when certain genes are active, with those associated with inflammation being more active in the winter, according to new research released Tuesday.

Missing out on sleep pretty much guarantees feeling crummy the next day. But it can also lead to dangerous or even disastrous decision-making. Sleep-deprived operators failed to prevent the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

And during the Civil War, some historians think that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's confused command during the battles of June 1862 was due to sleep deprivation.

Free means free.

The Obama administration said Monday that health plans must offer at least one option for every type of prescription birth control free of charge to consumers. The instructions clarify the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Five years after the Affordable Care Act passed, the law's provision allowing the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more people is still causing huge fights in state legislatures.

When restaurateur Nora Pouillon moved to the United States from Austria in the 1960s, she was surprised by how hard it was to get really fresh food. Everything was packaged and processed. Pouillon set out to find the find the best ingredients possible to cook for her family and friends. She brought that same sensibility to her Restaurant Nora, which eventually became the first certified organic restaurant in the country.

Pouillon writes about her lifelong devotion to food in a new memoir, My Organic Life: How A Pioneering Chef Helped Shape The Way We Eat Today.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Is a good family doctor one who treats your knee pain and manages your recovery from heart surgery? Or is it one who refers you to an orthopedist and a cardiologist?

Those are questions at the heart of a debate about primary care – one with serious health and financial implications.

The politics of the Affordable Care Act in the state of Louisiana aren't subtle: The law isn't popular.

The state was part of the lawsuit to strike down Obamacare in 2012; it didn't expand Medicaid and has no plans to. Louisiana also didn't set up its own marketplace to sell health insurance.

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