Health Desk

Goats and Soda
8:57 am
Tue July 15, 2014

No School, No Handshakes: Reporting On Ebola From Sierra Leone

Ebola precautions are taking hold in Sierra Leone. A man washes with disinfectant before entering a hospital in the capital city of Freetown.
Youssouf Bah AP

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 4:02 pm

NPR's Jason Beaubien is in Sierra Leone, covering the Ebola outbreak that began in March in Guinea and has spread to neighboring countries. We'll be speaking with him throughout the week about what he's seeing on the ground. Today he's in Kailahun, the largest town in the country's eastern province, with a population of about 18,000, and the epicenter of Sierra Leone's outbreak.

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Shots - Health News
2:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

When Work Becomes A Haven From Stress At Home

Lucinda Schreiber for NPR

Originally published on Wed July 16, 2014 10:13 am

In the land that came up with the phrase "Thank God it's Friday," and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn't work at all.

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Shots - Health News
3:15 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

This Is Your Stressed-Out Brain On Scarcity

Josh Neufeld for NPR

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 5:24 pm

Being poor is stressful. That's no big surprise.

In a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 1 in 3 people making less than $20,000 a year said they'd experienced "a great deal of stress" in the previous month. And of those very stressed-out people, 70 percent said that money problems were to blame.

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Shots - Health News
2:08 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Do We Choose Our Friends Because They Share Our Genes?

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 10:15 am

People often talk about how their friends feel like family. Well, there's some new research out that suggests there's more to that than just a feeling. People appear to be more like their friends genetically than they are to strangers, the research found.

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Goats and Soda
11:05 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Pathogens On A Plane: How To Stay Healthy In Flight

Suspicious travel companions: Bacteria can survive for days on surfaces inside a plane. But that doesn't mean you have to take these critters home with you.
Benjamin Arthur for NPR

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 1:30 pm

From Ebola in West Africa to chikungunya in the Caribbean, the world has had plenty of strange — and scary — outbreaks this year.

Some pathogens have even landed in the U.S. Just a few months ago, two men boarded planes in Saudi Arabia and brought a new, deadly virus from the Middle East to Florida and Indiana.

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Shots - Health News
11:03 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Why Are Obstetricians Top Billers For Group Therapy In Illinois?

Unusual billing for group therapy led to a crackdown on Medicaid payments in Illinois.
iStockphoto

A few years ago, Illinois' Medicaid program for the poor noticed some odd trends in its billings for group psychotherapy sessions.

Nursing home residents were being taken several times a week to off-site locations, and Medicaid was picking up the tab for both the services and the transportation.

And then there was this: The sessions were often being performed by obstetrician-gynecologists, oncologists and urologists — "people who didn't have any training really in psychiatry," Illinois Medicaid director Theresa Eagleson recalled.

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Goats and Soda
9:38 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Facing A Toxic Dump In South Africa, He Cleaned Up

Desmond D'Sa stands by the landfill he helped shut down in Durban.
Goldman Environmental Prize

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 2:07 pm

Desmond D'Sa helped shut down a toxic landfill.

The landfill was located in South Durban — an industrialized city teeming with petrochemical plants, paper mills and oil refineries. D'Sa and his family had been forcibly relocated to the area by the apartheid government in the 1970s, together with thousands of other Indian and black South Africans. The apartheid government was notorious for forcing nonwhite laborers to live in the industrial areas where they worked.

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Health Desk
1:08 am
Mon July 14, 2014

DCFS Urges Child Supervision Around Water

Credit flickr/rockandbacon

Illinois has recorded 10 child drownings this spring and summer.  That's prompted the state's child welfare agency to remind parents about the need to use caution and keep a watchful eye.

"When we're talking about an infant or a toddler, we talk about touch supervision or reach supervision.  Which means you never let that child get any farther away from you than you can reach out your hand to grab them if they need your help,"  said Jennifer Florent with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

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Shots - Health News
4:12 pm
Sun July 13, 2014

Hearing Aid Evolution Unveils What The World Sounds Like In '3-D'

Kathleen Raven, a health reporter, found out she had hearing loss when she was 5 years old.
Jessica Horwitz

Originally published on Mon July 14, 2014 8:41 am

As hearing aid technology has improved, so has health reporter Kathleen Raven's confidence.

When she was 5 years old, she found out she had a hearing problem. Complications during her birth led to damage in her inner ear.

"I couldn't hear water dripping from a faucet. I couldn't hear crickets on a summer night," she tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "I couldn't hear sirens, couldn't hear fire alarms in our school fire drills, so I did a lot of watching other people."

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The Two-Way
8:55 am
Sun July 13, 2014

Desmond Tutu Backs Britain's 'Assisted Dying' Bill

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in fighting apartheid, photographed in India in 2012.
Ashwini Bhatia AP

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 10:40 am

Retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu, who describes as "disgraceful" the way former South African President Nelson Mandela was treated in his last, enfeebled days, has thrown his support behind a British assisted-dying bill.

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Goats and Soda
4:31 am
Sun July 13, 2014

Ebola Invades 'The New York Times' Sunday Crossword

Cross-word Puzzle
Composite by Ryan Kellman NPR

Last Sunday I literally was clueless about a New York Times crossword puzzle clue: "Menace named after an African river." The answer was five letters long. WHAT WERE THEY?!?!

I finally did figure out the answer from the crossing words: Ebola. And that's how I learned the origin of the name of this frightening virus, which is making headlines this year because of an outbreak in West Africa.

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Health
4:20 pm
Sat July 12, 2014

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 5:54 pm

Commercial sperm banks have operated in the U.S. since the early 1970s. Today, women who can afford to use them tend do so without stigma. But banks are no longer the only source for women hoping to get pregnant.

There are informal, unregulated websites popping up where men who are willing to donate their sperm for free can meet women who are hoping to have a baby.

The most established sperm donation website in the U.S., the Known Donor Registry, launched in 2010. Since then, it has grown to more than 16,000 members.

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The Two-Way
12:03 pm
Sat July 12, 2014

CDC Closes Two Labs After Anthrax, Flu Scares

Citing an anthrax scare and other safety concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has temporarily shut down two of its laboratories.

The announcement on Friday follows incidents in the past month that involved the possible exposure of dozens of lab workers to anthrax at facilities in Atlanta.

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Shots - Health News
9:18 am
Sat July 12, 2014

Searching For Stress Relief? Try Feeling Your Breath

Stressed? Try taking a fresh look at what's actually going on.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 11:12 am

Many Americans are swamped with stress, but there may be ways to ease the tension without changing the circumstances.

Almost half of all adults say they've experienced a major stressful event in the past year, according to a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Meditation can help people cope, says author Sharon Salzberg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass.

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Shots - Health News
7:03 am
Sat July 12, 2014

People Asked A Stress Psychologist Just About Everything On Reddit

Take a deep breath.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 10:31 pm

We've been asking Americans about stress in their lives.

On Friday, the tables were turned when Dr. Lynn Bufka, a licensed psychologist with expertise in treating anxiety, stress and related problems, came to NPR to take questions on Reddit about coping with stress.

Bufka, who works at the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., is on Twitter: @DrBufka.

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Goats and Soda
4:38 am
Sat July 12, 2014

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?

Leif Parsons for NPR
Leif Parsons for NPR

The World Cup is down to four teams: Argentina, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands. We've seen how these nations perform on the soccer field. But how do they perform in the fields of health and development?

Poverty

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Shots - Health News
5:06 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Feds Tighten Lab Security After Anthrax, Bird Flu Blunders

Particles of H5N1 virus — a particularly dangerous type of bird flu that can infect people — attack lung cells.
Chris Bjornberg Science Source

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 7:21 pm

In the course of trying to understand a laboratory accident involving anthrax, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stumbled upon another major blunder — involving a deadly flu virus.

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Health
4:59 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Veterans Kick The Prescription Pill Habit, Against Doctors' Orders

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 5:28 am

For many people with post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping can return you to the worst place you've ever been, at the worst possible moment.

"I always see his face," says Will, who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army. "And in my dreams it's the same thing. ... I always walk over to him, and instead of this Afghani kid that's laying there, it's my little brother."

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Medical Treatments
3:11 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Health Officials Push HIV Prevention Pills

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 7:21 pm

The World Health Organization has announced a sweeping new guideline, recommending that all men who have sex with mean take antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a similar recommendation in May. For more on these announcements, Melissa Block speaks with reporter Richard Knox.

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Goats and Soda
2:44 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

New Guidelines For Gay Men: A Daily Anti-HIV Pill

AIDS drugs line a pharmacy's shelves. A new recommendation from the World Health Organization suggests a daily anti-HIV pill for men who have sex with men.
Astrid Riecken MCT/Landov

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 4:14 pm

The World Health Organization has thrown its weight behind a controversial strategy for curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS: Today the organization strongly recommended that men who have sex with men consider taking a daily pill that prevents infection with the virus.

WHO guidelines are not binding, but can carry considerable sway with governments, which draw on the organization's expertise to determine their national health priorities.

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The Salt
12:21 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

If Exercise Feels Like Work, Mindless Snacking May Follow

In a recent study, participants who focused on the exercise of walking ate more M&Ms than people who focused on music while walking.
Daniel M.N. Turner NPR

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 1:35 pm

If we hit the gym, don't we deserve a little extra something, maybe something sinfully sweet? The idea that sacrifice begets reward is embedded in our collective thinking.

But a fascinating new study from the folks at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab shows how this thinking might backfire. Thinking of exercise as work can lure us into mindlessly devouring calorie-bombs, such as a big helping of pudding or extra handfuls of M&M's. And compensating for physical activity with sweet treats this way may lead to weight gain.

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Shots - Health News
11:39 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Suicide Attempt Survivors Seek A Voice In Helping Others At Risk

iStockphoto

Originally published on Sun July 13, 2014 5:29 am

In 2008, Cara Anna was working as a foreign correspondent in China and feeling overwhelmed by isolation, hostility from local authorities and a gnawing feeling that she was a failure. Her anguish led her to try suicide.

After waking up alive, she kept her attempt a secret. Asking for help seemed shameful, and she feared for her job if her employer found out. But after a second suicide attempt 15 months later, Anna realized that to recover she needed to stop feeling ashamed.

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Barbershop
11:24 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Avoiding The Border: Is This Obama's Hurricane Katrina?

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
7:09 am
Fri July 11, 2014

How A Fanny Pack Mix-Up Revealed A Medicare Drug Scam

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 4:30 pm

The fraud scheme began to unravel last fall, with the discovery of a misdirected stack of bogus prescriptions and a suspicious spike in Medicare drug spending tied to a doctor in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Now it's led to two guilty pleas, as well as an ongoing criminal case against a pharmacy owner.

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Shots - Health News
7:40 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Mississippi Child Thought Cured Of HIV Shows Signs Of Infection

Human immunodeficiency virus Type 1 inserts its genetic material into the DNA of human cells, turning them into little HIV factories.
Eye of Science Science Source

Originally published on Fri July 11, 2014 9:21 am

A baby who generated great excitement last year because it appeared she had been cured of HIV is infected with the virus after all, health officials say.

This discovery is a setback for the child known as the "Mississippi baby." It also complicates efforts to test what had seemed like a promising new treatment for infants born with HIV.

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Shots - Health News
4:46 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

A Growing Number Of Veterans Struggles To Quit Powerful Painkillers

Bryan McDonel and his father, Mike, both served multiple tours in Iraq with the National Guard. Bryan was first prescribed painkillers before his deployment, and his dependence on medication prompted a downward spiral.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 6:20 pm

There are antlers everywhere on the walls of Bryan and Mike McDonel's place near Pine Bluff, Ark. The house is hardly big enough for all their hunting trophies. Both are good shots with their hunting bows; Bryan and Mike, his father, served in the Arkansas National Guard and deployed together to Iraq, twice.

The McDonel family has served in the military for generations. But Bryan, 35, is out of the service now. He is one of thousands of troops and veterans who struggle with addiction to prescription drugs.

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Medical Treatments
3:59 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

HIV Returns In Infected Toddler, Dashing Hopes Of Imminent Cure

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 6:04 pm

Federal officials have announced that a young Mississippi girl, once thought to have been cured of HIV, now once again has detectable levels of the virus. This is a setback not just for the child, but also for hope of eradicating HIV in infants with a potent mix of drugs at birth.

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Parallels
3:54 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

In West Africa, Officials Target Ignorance And Fear Over Ebola

Government health workers administer blood tests to check for the Ebola virus in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 25.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 6:04 pm

There's growing concern in West Africa about the spread of the Ebola virus that has killed hundreds of people. Health ministers have formed a regional response, but fear and a lack of knowledge about Ebola threaten their efforts.

Liberian musicians are joining the campaign, taking to song to educate people about the Ebola virus. Their tune is called "Ebola in Town," and warns people to beware of close contact with those who fall ill. The song warns, "Don't touch your friend."

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The Salt
3:33 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Alcohol Test: Does Eating Yeast Keep You From Getting Drunk?

The idea that it might be possible to keep drinking a delicious bottle of pinot noir or tall bottle of beer and go right back to work is a tempting one.
Alex Eben Meyer for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 1:35 pm

Sometimes we drink with the sole purpose of relaxing, or drowning the week's worries. But other times we just want to savor a special craft beer or vintage wine, or make that good meal taste even better.

And as we get older, we're warier of that third or fourth glass. The consequences of too much alcohol — the drowsiness, the confusion and the wobbling — are a bigger hindrance. And let's face it: A hangover at 36 isn't the same as one at 22.

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Shots - Health News
3:32 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Doctors Face Ethical Issues In Benching Kids With Concussions

If parents won't bench a child after a concussion, is it OK for the doctor to tell the coach?
iStockphoto

Doctors have gotten much better at diagnosing and treating sports-related concussions, which is a good thing since Americans suffer up to 4 million sports-related concussions a year.

But we're not so good at is following their advice.

Student athletes and parents sometimes balk at doctors' recommendations to avoid play until concussion symptoms are gone, or to cut back on schoolwork. Both have been shown to speed recovery, and getting another hit on a vulnerable brain increases the risk of long-term problems.

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