Health Desk

Anne and Omar Shamiyeh first learned something was wrong with one of their twins during an ultrasound, when Anne was 18 weeks pregnant.

"The technician was, like, 'Well, there's no visualization of his stomach,' " says Anne. "And I was like, 'How does our baby have no stomach?' "

It turned out that the baby's esophagus was not connected to his stomach. He also had a heart defect. At the very least, he was likely to face surgeries and a long stay in intensive care. He might have lifelong disabilities.

What can we do to help?

Of all the questions from our audience about NPR's #15Girls series, that was the most common.

It's a simple question. "I wish I had an easy answer," says Rebecca Hersher, who reported on girls trying to get straight A's in Afghanistan.

Glyphosate, widely known by its trade name, Roundup, probably gets more attention than any other herbicide. It's one of world's most-used weedkillers, and it is also closely linked to the growth of genetically modified crops.

Monsanto invented Roundup, and also invented crops that grow well when it's used on them. Farmers find that combination almost irresistible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has crunched new numbers on America's obesity epidemic. What do they tell us? As a nation, we seem to be stuck.

The overall prevalence of obesity in the three-year period ending 2014 was just over 36 percent. This mean that about 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. is obese.

But if you're a silver-linings kind of person, there's this: After decades of increases, obesity rates do seem to be flattening out.

Allen Temple Baptist Church is buzzing with chatter and upbeat music. On this warm Saturday morning in East Oakland, Calf., the church is hosting its annual holistic health fair.

Students from the nursing program at Oakland's Samuel Merritt University, are dressed in blue scrubs, hustling to give eye exams and check blood pressure.

It's World Kindness Day today.

Yes, it's kind of a made-up holiday. But really, it's not a bad idea to celebrate kind words and deeds.

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StoryCorps' Memory Loss Initiative supports and encourages people with various forms of memory loss to share their stories with loved ones and future generations.

Teresa Valko lives in California, and her mother, 80-year-old Evelyn Wilson, lives in Georgia. They keep in touch with regular phone conversations.

Eight years ago, Wilson began to show symptoms of memory loss.

What does it feel like to kick out Ebola?

There are only two diseases that humans have wiped from the face of the earth. One is smallpox. The other one, you may not have heard of.

It's a cattle disease called rinderpest. Even the name sounds scary. It's German for "cattle plague." It was once one of the most fearsome diseases on the planet.

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Addiction is a pediatric disease," says Dr. John Knight, founder and director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research at Boston Children's Hospital. "When adults entering addiction treatment are asked when they first began drinking or using drugs, the answer is almost always the same: They started when they were young — teenagers," said Knight.

Nearly 1.2 million public housing units would need to become "entirely smoke-free" under a new rule put forth Thursday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

The proposed rule would give more than 3,100 public housing agencies 18 months to ban cigarettes, cigars and pipes in all living units, indoor common areas and within 25 feet of buildings. The ban would also apply to administrative offices.

The number of babies born with syphilis has shot up, and it's taking a toll.

Of the 458 babies born last year with syphilis, 33 were stillborn or died shortly after birth. From 2012 to 2014, there's been a 38 percent increase in cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. The spike reverses a previously falling trend in the rates of babies with syphilis from 2008 to 2012, according to a report released Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More than 100 women across the U.S. have filed a lawsuit against a drug company, saying that an error in the packaging of birth control pills resulted in unplanned pregnancies. Some of the plaintiffs are asking drugmaker Qualitest to pay for the cost of raising their children.

Over the past few weeks, NPR has featured the stories of 15-year-old girls all over the globe as part of our #15Girls series. These young women are pushing back against parental expectations, cultural norms and economic hardship and taking charge of their future.

Many of you told us you were surprised and inspired by these stories. And lots of you wanted to know more. Below, we've asked our reporters to answer some of your queries.

More than 36 percent of American adults and 17 percent of youth under 19 are obese, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Depressed? Look For Help From A Human, Not A Computer

Nov 12, 2015

Almost 8 percent of Americans 12 and older dealt with depression at some point between 2009 and 2012. With that many of us feeling blue, wouldn't it be nice if we could simply hop on the computer in our pajamas, without any of the stigma of asking for help, and find real relief?

Online programs to fight depression are already commercially available, and while they sound efficient and cost-saving, a study out of the U.K. reports that they're not effective, primarily because depressed patients aren't likely to engage with them or stick with them.

The Food and Drug Administration is seeking your input to answer a question: How should the agency define "natural" on food labels?

Disagreement over what "all natural" or "100 percent natural" means has spawned dozens of lawsuits. Consumers have challenged the naturalness of all kinds of food products.

For instance, can a product that contains high fructose corn syrup be labeled as natural? What about products that contain genetically modified ingredients?

A street drug made of various chemicals sprayed on tea leaves, grass clippings and other plant material continues to send thousands of people suffering from psychotic episodes and seizures to emergency rooms around the country.

In 2015, calls to poison control regarding the drug already have almost doubled, compared to last year's total, and health professionals and lawmakers are struggling to keep up with the problem.

Earlier this week, we went on a speed date — yes, a real speed date — with some of the most talented change-makers from the developing world.

Results are in from the first year of a bold change to the way hospitals get paid in Maryland, and so far the experiment seems to be working.

We recently reported on the unique system the state is trying to rein in health care costs. Maryland phased out fee-for-service payments to hospitals in favor of a fixed pot of money each year.

Abuse of older people, which can take the form of sexual or emotional abuse, physical violence and financial manipulation, affects at least 10 percent of older Americans, according to a review article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It looks like Kalu James is living the life as a musician. He's standing under a neon sign, ready to play guitar at Austin's famous Continental Club. And when he's not here, he's hustling to pay his bills.

"Being a full-time musician means you have three other side jobs, you know?" he says.

When Rosa Coj Bocel was in sixth grade, her parents told her she had to drop out of school so she could help take care of her four brothers. Rosa didn't put up a fight.

"What else can be said? No woman was studying at the middle school level," she told Goats and Soda in an interview translated from Spanish. "So I took it as if it were normal."

But it's what happened in the years after that put Bocel on an extraordinary path — a story that's told in an 11-minute documentary called Rosa — These Storms.

Dr. Roberta Miller hits the road at 8 a.m. to see her patients.

Many are too old or sick to go to the doctor. So the doctor comes to them.

She's put 250,000 miles on her Honda minivan going to their homes in upstate New York. Home visits make a different kind of care possible.

Expert groups differ on when and how often women should have mammograms. So many groups now say that a woman in her 40s should talk to her doctor about the pros and cons of mammography as well as her individual risk in order to make the decision that's right for her.

Except that none of my 40-something friends I've spoken with have had that kind of conversation with a physician. Instead they've heard: "You're 40, here's a prescription for a mammogram." End of discussion.

It's a tantalizing idea, isn't it, that we could burn stored fat simply by nibbling or sipping on something that tastes good.

Plenty of companies are now capitalizing on the allure of "metabolism boosting" foods and drinks. Among the most-hyped substance is green tea — for its supposed powers as an aid for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Every Thursday night you can find Nathan Fields making the rounds of Baltimore's red light district, known to locals as The Block.

An outreach worker with the Baltimore City Health Department, Fields, 55, is a welcome sight outside strip clubs like Circus, Club Harem and Jewel Box.

In the early evening before the clubs get busy, he talks with dancers, bouncers and anyone else passing by about preventing drug overdoses and how to stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

They're Calling This Vaccine A 'Stunning Success'

Nov 10, 2015

A newly developed vaccine is on track to conquer a disease that, in recent years, has killed, deafened or caused brain damage in tens of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2010, 220 million people have been vaccinated against meningitis A in what's called the "meningitis belt," 26 countries stretching from Senegal and Mauritania to Ethiopia and Kenya.