Health Desk

The Two-Way
1:46 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Shanghai's Choking Smog Registers 'Beyond Index'

A building under construction is covered with haze in Shanghai on Friday. The city's pollution index is at its highest ever, officials say.
Eugene Hoshiko AP

In the latest smog-related health scare in China, officials in Shanghai on Friday ordered schoolchildren to stay indoors, halted all construction and even delayed flights in and out of the city, which has been enveloped in a thick blanket of haze, reducing visibility in places to less than 150 feet.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai that the commercial capital's Air Quality Index soared above 500 for the first time ever, according to government sensors. He says officials described the readings as "beyond index" — in layman's terms, off-the-charts awful.

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The Salt
1:10 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

What Separates A Healthy And Unhealthy Diet? Just $1.50 Per Day

A Safeway customer browses in the fruit and vegetable section at Safeway in Livermore, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 8:09 am

If you want to eat a more healthful diet, you're going to have to shell out more cash, right? (After all, Whole Foods didn't get the nickname "Whole Paycheck" for nothing.)

But until recently, that widely held bit of conventional wisdom hadn't really been assessed in a rigorous, systematic way, says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

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Shots - Health News
12:58 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

23andMe Bows To FDA's Demands, Drops Health Claims

23andMe will still perform genetic tests, but it won't be making health-related interpretations of the results.
YouTube

The maker of a $99 personal genome test blinked.

Silicon Valley's 23andMe said late Thursday that it would comply with the Food and Drug Administration's demand that the company stop marketing health-related genetic tests.

People will still be able to pay 23andMe to have their DNA analyzed to learn about their ancestors. And customers will get a file of their raw genetic info.

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Health Care
12:18 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Dissecting America's $3 Trillion Medical Bill

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 10:54 am

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Do you know that what the number one reason for people filing bankruptcy in this country is? What's the number one reason? Not a lost job. It's not damage from earthquakes or floods. It's medical bills. My next guest says our high-priced medical treatments are responsible for some 60 percent of personal bankruptcies. And if you think you're safe because you have insurance, he says think again.

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Shots - Health News
11:33 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Hoped-For AIDS Cures Fail In 2 Boston Patients

The HIV virus has proven once again that it can evade detection in the body.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 12:15 pm

HIV has reappeared in the blood of two Boston patients who scientists had hoped had been cured of their infections.

This disappointing development, reported by The Boston Globe's Kay Lazar, is yet another cautionary tale of how researchers can never afford to underestimate the human immunodeficiency virus's ability to hide out in patients' bodies and overcome their most ingenious efforts to eliminate it.

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Shots - Health News
10:02 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Canceled In California: People Eye Health Plans Off Exchange

Shoppers get ready to pay at Costco Wholesale in Mountain View, Calif. For the next couple of weeks, Californians whose insurance was canceled have some unusual options, including an Aetna plan available only at Costco.
Paul Sakuma AP

Some Californians whose policies have been canceled are finding relief in a surprising place: from insurance companies that aren't offering plans on the new Covered California marketplace.

Earlier this year, Aetna announced it would bow out of the state's individual market, effective Dec. 31. Cigna is staying, but isn't offering any products on the exchange. Right now, both companies are accepting new customers into pre-Affordable Care Act plans.

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TED Radio Hour
9:10 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Can Hacking The Brain Make You Healthier?

courtesy of TED

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 12:45 pm

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Hackers.

About Andres Lozano's TEDTalk

Neurosurgeon Andres Lozano talks about dramatic findings in deep brain stimulation including a woman with Parkinson's who instantly stops shaking, and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's that are brought back to life.

About Andres Lozano

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Shots - Health News
1:12 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Medical Journal Goes To The Dogs

That's Dr. Fido to you, pal.
JAMA

For a half-century, JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, adorned its cover with works of fine art. You could have easily mistaken an issue of the august medical journal on your doctor's desk for a stray copy of ARTnews.

But a JAMA redesign this summer put the table of contents on the front cover and moved the art inside.

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Africa
11:02 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Female Doctor Beats Odds To Bring Air Ambulance To Nigeria

Experts said Dr. Ola Orekunrin's dream to create air ambulance service in Nigeria was impossible. But as a doctor and helicopter pilot, she had the skills and dedication to make it work. Orekunrin tells host Michel Martin about Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Shots - Health News
4:03 am
Thu December 5, 2013

White House Cites Pre-Existing Condition Case From Its Own Ranks

Michael Robertson, then chief of staff of the Government Services Administration, testifies on Capitol Hill on April 16, 2012. Now chief of staff of the Cabinet Affairs Office in the Obama administration, Robertson has undergone treatment for stage IV colorectal cancer.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 10:07 am

It's Day 4 of the White House's new messaging push for the Affordable Care Act. Today the goal is to tell the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who are now entitled to coverage under the new health care law.

One such story comes from within the White House.

Michael Robertson, deputy assistant to the president and deputy cabinet secretary, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer 16 months ago. He was 35.

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NPR Story
3:45 am
Thu December 5, 2013

FDA Expected To Approve New, Gentler Cure For Hepatitis C

A colorized closeup of the hepatitis C virus.
James Cavallini Science Source

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 5:30 am

The Food and Drug Administration is expected any day now to approve the first in a new class of drugs that can cure the leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer.

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Shots - Health News
2:16 am
Thu December 5, 2013

HealthCare.gov Now Allows Window Shopping, And A Do-Over

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 5:31 am

One thing that's clear about the relaunch of the troubled HealthCare.gov website is that it can accommodate more people.

Federal officials said more than 1 million users logged in on Monday, and nearly that many on Tuesday.

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Shots - Health News
2:14 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Teens Who Feel Supported At Home And School Sleep Better

Solid friendships can help buffer life's stress.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 5:31 am

A teen's relationship — or lack of good relationship — with parents, pals or teachers may have a lot to do with why most kids aren't getting the nine to 10 hours of sleep that doctors recommend. The hormonal disruptions of puberty likely also play a role.

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Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Fertility Drugs, Not IVF, Are Top Cause Of Multiple Births

Nurses tend newborns at Sloane Hospital for Women in New York City.
Pat Carroll Getty

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:29 am

Drugs that help women become pregnant have replaced in vitro fertilization as the main culprit behind high-risk multiple births, according to a study looking at births of triplets and higher-order multiples.

"IVF, which is usually the one we tend to point fingers at, was not the leading culprit," says Eli Adashi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who was senior author of the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The Salt
4:05 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

These Days, School Lunch Hours Are More Like 15 Minutes

Students at Lowell High School in Michigan sit down for lunch. Shorter lunch breaks mean that many kids don't get enough time to eat and socialize.
Emily Zoladz Landov

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 8:09 am

It's lunchtime at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.

In theory, anyway, Oakland High is a "closed campus." That's done in the interest of safety and security and to cut down on school-skipping. It means kids can't leave during school hours without parental consent, especially at lunchtime. But it doesn't stop several students from breaking out.

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Shots - Health News
3:25 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Second Meningitis Outbreak Erupts In Southern California

Administrators at University of California, Santa Barbara are encouraging fraternities and sororities to hold off on parties.
Damian Gadal Flickr

The University of California, Santa Barbara is experiencing a meningitis outbreak a lot like the one that hit Princeton earlier this year. The California university confirmed a fourth case of meningococcal disease on Monday.

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Shots - Health News
2:54 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Administration Says You Can Now Escape HealthCare.Gov 'Prison'

The HealthCare.gov jailbreak is on.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:32 am

The Obama administration says it has patched hundreds of software bugs infecting the government's health insurance website. That includes the notorious "prison glitch."

Martha Freeman of Pennsylvania encountered the bug when she tried to sign up for coverage for herself and her adult children. The website wanted documentation of the children's incarceration status.

Never mind they'd never been in prison. The website was soon locked up.

Freeman figured she was stuck in solitary, until she called the toll-free help line and discovered she wasn't alone.

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Shots - Health News
9:43 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Rule Spells Out How Insurers Must Cover Mental Health Care

Insurance plans that offer mental health benefits have to keep them in line with the coverage for medical care.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 3:41 pm

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires health plans that offer benefits for mental health and substance use to cover them to the same extent that they cover medical and surgical care.

Among other things, the law prohibits treatment limits and copayments or deductibles that are more restrictive than a plan's medical coverage.

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Politics
4:33 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Federal Health Insurance Website Features 'Reset' Button

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 6:03 am

The Obama administration is renewing its sales push for the president's signature health care law. On Wednesday, officials host a "youth summit" at the White House, where young people will be encouraged to sign up for insurance coverage. Their participation is crucial to help balance out the cost of insuring older, sicker people.

Shots - Health News
4:58 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Mammograms In 3-D May Be Better, But Hard Proof Is Missing

A woman is positioned for a traditional mammogram at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye AP

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 11:02 am

A newer form of mammogram may do a better job of finding cancer, a study finds. But the technology is still too untested to know if it's going to be useful for most women or even to know for sure who might benefit.

It's called breast tomosynthesis, or 3-D mammography. Since being approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011, the new type of scan has been touted by radiologists.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

White House Revs Up Delayed Push For Health Coverage

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 5:39 pm

With HealthCare.gov able to handle an increasing number of users, the Obama administration finally went on the offensive to urge Americans to sign up for new health insurance. The administration had planned a massive advertising and social media campaign to support the Affordable Care Act back in October, but the push was delayed for two months after the health insurance exchange website failed in its debut. The effort comes as the deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting next year looms.

The Two-Way
2:08 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

'This Law Is Working,' Obama Says Of Health Care

While conceding that "more problems may pop up as they always do when you're launching something new," President Obama on Tuesday said the troubled HealthCare.gov website "is working well for the vast majority of users" and his Affordable Care Act "is working and will work into the future."

"We may never satisfy the law's opponents," Obama added during an afternoon event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. But, he said, "we know the demand [for health insurance] is there and we know the product on these marketplaces is good."

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Shots - Health News
12:34 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Nonprofits Challenge Missouri Licensing Law For Insurance Guides

Nonprofits that are supposed to be helping people figure out their health insurance options are challenging an allegedly restrictive state law.
iStockphoto

In the first lawsuit of its kind, several nonprofit groups that received federal grants to help people sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are suing the state of Missouri.

The Missouri law requires health insurance helpers called navigators to be licensed by the state, which involves passing an exam and paying a fee.

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Shots - Health News
10:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Overweight And Healthy: A Combo That Looks Too Good To Be True

Gym members warm up on treadmills at Downsize Fitness in Addison, Texas. Membership at the gym is limited to people who have a high body mass index.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 8:30 am

Overweight or obese people are indeed more likely to die prematurely than people of normal weight, say researchers who've analyzed the data. Their conclusion throws cold water on recent studies that have found some excess weight isn't so bad.

Earlier this year, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overweight people actually live a bit longer than their skinnier peers.

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Health Care
4:13 am
Tue December 3, 2013

HealthCare.gov Uses Waiting Room To Cool Traffic Surge

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 5:02 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

As with other e-commerce sites, Cyber Monday was a busy one for the HealthCare.gov. It brought a surge in traffic to the government's beleaguered health insurance website.

Later today, President Obama will give a speech detailing the work of the technical teams who have been patching bugs and expanding capacity.

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All Tech Considered
5:03 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Could A Tech Giant Build A Better Health Exchange? Maybe Not

Workers process applications for Oregon's health exchange program. The state paid tech giant Oracle to build its online exchange, but with the site still not functional, people shopping for insurance have been forced to apply on paper.
Don Ryan AP

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 7:48 pm

Oregon has spent more than $40 million to build its own online health care exchange. It gave that money to a Silicon Valley titan, Oracle, but the result has been a disaster of missed deadlines, a nonworking website and a state forced to process thousands of insurance applications on paper.

Some Oregon officials were sounding alarms about the tech company's work on the state's online health care exchange as early as last spring. Oracle was behind schedule and, worse, didn't seem able to offer an estimate of what it would take to get the state's online exchange up and running.

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Shots - Health News
4:06 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Obama Launches HIV Cure Initiative, Ups Pledge For Global Health

President Obama walks into an auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Monday for a speech about World AIDS Day.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 4:45 pm

Commemorating the 25th World AIDS Day a day late, President Obama announced an initiative Monday to find a cure for HIV infections that would be funded by $100 million shifted from existing spending.

"The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries into how to put people into long-term remission without requiring lifelong therapies — or better yet, eliminate it completely," Obama said at a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

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Shots - Health News
2:17 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Alleged Perils Of Left-Handedness Don't Always Hold Up

Lefties don't necessarily do everything with their left hand, and the ones who do might not use the right side of their brain for language.
iStockphoto

I recently stumbled upon a description of research out of Yale that suggested there was a link between left-handedness and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

Forty percent of those with psychotic disorders are lefties, one of the researchers said. That startled me. Only about 10 percent of people in the general population are left-handed. I'm one of them.

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Health Care
11:09 am
Mon December 2, 2013

HealthCare.gov Back On Track?

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 9:58 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Health
11:09 am
Mon December 2, 2013

Black Churches And HIV: 'Sex Is A Reality ... We Gotta Deal With It'

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 11:15 am

African-Americans are the racial group most affected by HIV in the U.S., and many black churches are stepping in to do something about it. Pastor Timothy Sloan of Texas talks with host Michel Martin about destigmatizing the disease from the pulpit.

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