Health Desk

The Salt
2:34 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

New Rules Would Curb How Kids Are Sold Junk Food At School

Michelle Obama eats lunch with school children at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., in 2012. The first lady unveiled new guidelines Tuesday aimed at cracking down on the marketing of junk food to kids during the school day.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 2:06 pm

If you want to teach kids to adopt healthier eating habits, it's probably unwise to give them coupons for fast food chains at school.

And those advertisements for sugary sodas on the gymnasium scoreboard? Seems like another mixed message schools are sending kids.

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Shots - Health News
12:54 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Overlooked Virus May Be Cause Of Paralyzing Disease In California

Sophia Jarvis, 4, of Berkeley, Calif., is one of the few children diagnosed with the polio-like disease, which left her arm paralyzed. She attended a press conference Monday at Stanford University with her dad, Jeff.
Martha Mendoza AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 7:26 am

Doctors in California are puzzled by an illness that has paralyzed at least five children and may have affected about 20 others.

Sick children had symptoms similar to polio. They lost muscle function in an arm or a leg over a few days.

So far, the children haven't responded to any treatments and the paralysis has been permanent, doctors from Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, said in statement Sunday.

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Shots - Health News
11:21 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Can A Doctor Really Demand An Extra $75 Upfront?

Insurers prohibit doctors from charging more than a copayment or other amount specified in your plan.
Douglas W Allen iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 3:25 pm

This week, I answer readers' questions about what doctors can ask for in advance and the nuances of switching insurance plans, both on and off the health exchanges.

Q. After signing up for a gold level plan on the health insurance marketplace, my physician, who is part of my plan, asked for $75 up front. My copayment is $25. His office also wants to keep a credit card on file. Is this legal?

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Parenting
10:45 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Paternity Leave: Why Men Don't Take It, But Should

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 11:45 am

New mothers usually take at least some time off after delivering a baby, but dads are less likely to take leave. Advocates are pushing more dads to take paternity leave, and employers to offer it.

Shots - Health News
10:25 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Scant Evidence To Support Vitamins Against Cancer, Heart Disease

Vitamin E for your heart? Don't bother, new guidelines say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 7:27 am

If you're taking vitamins to guard against cancer or a heart attack, you've got plenty of company.

Nearly half of American adults take a vitamin of some kind each a day. About a third take a multivitamin.

But are they worth it?

For people in good health and without any special nutritional deficiencies, there isn't enough evidence to say it's a good idea — at least when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Doctors' Offices Get Put On Hold Trying to Find Out Who's Insured

Filling out the forms is part of the ritual of going to the doctor. But with the Affordable Care Act, it's more complicated.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 1:56 pm

Sheila Lawless manages a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly — scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty — incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges.

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Author Interviews
2:35 am
Tue February 25, 2014

'A' Is For Anxiety, 'G' Is For Guilt: The ABCs Of Breast Cancer

izusek iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 7:06 am

A few years ago, Morning Edition interviewed President Obama at the White House. At the time, it was a major news story, but there was another story going on behind the scenes.

Madhulika Sikka, now the executive editor of NPR News, had accompanied the team to the White House, and while NPR's Steve Inskeep was talking to the president, Sikka was waiting on a phone call from her doctor. She had been warned a few days before that the news might not be good.

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Shots - Health News
11:09 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Deadly MERS Virus Circulates Among Arabian Camels

Jockeys take their camels home after racing in Egypt's El Arish desert. The annual race draws competitors from around the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, where camels carry the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus.
Nasser Nouri Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 3:15 pm

Scientists have gotten close to pinning down the origin of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a dangerous respiratory disease that emerged in Saudi Arabia 17 months ago.

It turns out the MERS virus has been circulating in Arabian camels for more than two decades, scientists report in a study published Tuesday.

So far MERS has sickened more than 180 people, killing at least 77 of them — an alarming 43 percent. But scientists haven't been sure where the virus came from or how people catch it.

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The Salt
3:55 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Sriracha Chemistry: How Hot Sauces Perk Up Your Food And Your Mood

Can you name the five main ingredients in Sriracha?
Reactions YouTube

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 10:33 am

Anyone who has ever drizzled, doused or — heck — drenched their food with Sriracha knows the hot sauce can make almost any dish taste better.

But could these spicy condiments also make us a little happier?

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Shots - Health News
2:46 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Mammogram Uncertainty Gives Patients, Doctors More Reason To Talk

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:46 am

I am 51 years old and have had a yearly mammogram, more or less, since the age of 40.

I got them despite the fact that there is no history of breast cancer in my family. I did it because that was what my doctor and others, including the American Cancer Society, recommended.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in situ breast cancer after a screening mammogram. I underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy. The doctors say my prognosis is good.

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Shots - Health News
1:39 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Legal Drinking Age Of 21 Saves Lives, Even Though It's Flouted

Students drink outside the Rose Bowl during the NCAA BCS national championship game in January.
Gregory Bull AP

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:46 am

Eighty percent of college students say they drink, despite laws making it illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol. Critics of that drinking age say that lowering it would reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related deaths.

But that might be wishful thinking, a study says. Researchers from Boston University reviewed scientific literature published since 2006 and concluded keeping the legal drinking age at 21 reduces rates of drunk driving and crashes, and reduces rates of underage drinking.

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Shots - Health News
11:24 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Why Pediatricians Want To Check 9-Year-Olds' Cholesterol

Joscelyn Benninghoff, 10, goes over the results of her cholesterol test with her mother Elizabeth Duruz (right) and Dr. Elaine Urbina at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 2011.
Al Behrman AP

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 3:15 pm

The yearly pediatrician's visit can seem like the same old thing: height, weight, shots. But the rules for well child visits are changing, and the nation's pediatricians want to make sure that parents and doctors are up to speed on the changes.

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Shots - Health News
2:35 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Orphans' Lonely Beginnings Reveal How Parents Shape A Child's Brain

In the Institute for the Unsalvageable in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, shown here in 1992, children were left in cribs for days on end.
Tom Szalay

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 11:07 am

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

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Fitness & Nutrition
4:21 am
Sun February 23, 2014

Can Exercising Seniors Help Revive A Brooklyn Neighborhood?

Linda Beckford (right) exercises as part of a walking group that tries to make their neighborhood a better place to live. If nothing else, the seniors feel more confident about going outside.
Quoctrung Bui NPR

Originally published on Sun February 23, 2014 10:57 am

The Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., is known for many things, among them huge public housing projects, extremely high poverty and crime. Last summer, a one-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed as he sat in a stroller in the neighborhood.

But that's one side of life in Brownsville. Down the street from that murder, on weekday mornings, is another side.

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The New And The Next
4:00 pm
Sat February 22, 2014

Making The Coffee Shop Your Office, Without The Guilt

iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat February 22, 2014 6:18 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.

This week, Watson talks with host Arun Rath about pay-as-you-go coffee shops popping up around the world that offer a place to work "without any kind of moral shame" or pressure to spend money on coffee and snacks.

They also discuss how the rise of the bioscience sector in Cleveland is revitalizing the city's economy.

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The Two-Way
5:49 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Alcoholics Learn To Make Their Own Beer In Canadian Program

Tyler BigChild, a board member of Vancouver's Drug Users Resource Center, is also part of its Brew Co-Op. The group teaches alcoholics how to make beer and wine, in the hopes that they'll stop risky behavior such as drinking rubbing alcohol.
Portland Hotel Society

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 6:59 pm

Call it a new twist on the old "teach a man to fish" adage. A group in Vancouver, British Columbia, is teaching inveterate alcoholics to brew their own beer and make their own wine, in an attempt to keep them from drinking unsafe liquids to get an alcoholic high.

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Shots - Health News
3:25 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Overdiagnosis Could Be Behind Jump In Thyroid Cancer Cases

An ultrasound test is used to look for nodules on the thyroid gland at the front of the throat.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 3:05 pm

You go in for a checkup. The doctor feels your throat. Hmm, she says, there's a lump in your thyroid gland. We better check that out.

And that might be the start of a painful, costly and unnecessary treatment for thyroid cancer, a study says.

The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer has tripled since 1975, but many of those cases are probably due to small, slow-growing tumors that would never cause problems, the researchers say.

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Health
3:21 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

For More Organ Donors, Just Head To The Local DMV

SOEREN STACHE DPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 6:53 pm

When Kim Zaza became the volunteer coordinator for a non profit called Gift of Life Michigan only 11 percent of Michigan's population was on the organ donor registry. Her job was to increase that number.

Zasa is energetic and really likes people. So she was naturally optimistic about her ability to sell the idea of donating organs to the people of Michigan just by talking to them. "We just went out and signed up for every art fair, church event, every little podunk little thing we could possibly think of just to try to get our information out there," she says.

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The Two-Way
1:21 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Enterprising Girl Scout Sells Cookies Outside Marijuana Clinic

Thin mints, shortbreads and caramel delights. Danielle Lei, 13, sold 117 boxes outside a medical marijuana clinic in San Francisco.
Ross Hailey MCT/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 1:38 pm

If there's a merit badge for business savvy, 13-year-old Girl Scout Danielle Lei might well deserve one.

Danielle, who set up her table of Girl Scout cookies outside The Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco earlier this week, sold a whopping 117 boxes in a single day. She appears to have tapped into a niche market fueled by the drug's well-known propensity to stimulate appetite.

According to a Facebook page for The Green Cross, Danielle had "to call for back-up Girl Scout Cookies" after 45 minutes.

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Shots - Health News
11:54 am
Fri February 21, 2014

How Dogs Read Our Moods: Emotion Detector Found In Fido's Brain

Volunteers pose with the brain scanner at the MR Research Centre in Budapest.
Courtesy of Borbala Ferenczy

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:47 am

A paw on the leg. A nose nuzzling against your arm. Maybe even a hop onto your lap.

Dogs always seem to know when you're upset and need extra love, even though they hardly understand a word of what you say. How can that be?

Our four-legged friends have a little patch of their brain devoted to deciphering emotions in human and dog voices, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

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Shots - Health News
10:18 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Ads Focused On A Few Drug Risks Might Make Them Memorable

When an ad contains too much information, the most important parts may not stick.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 5:02 pm

The way that prescription drugs are advertised on TV could be better, especially when it comes to communicating the risks and side effects of medicines. Now the Food and Drug Administration is calling for research into how the ads could be improved.

The problem, as Michael Wolf, a health services researcher and cognitive scientist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine describes it, is that most ads work like this:

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Shots - Health News
2:35 am
Fri February 21, 2014

As Deadline Nears, State Insurance Exchanges Still A Mixed Bag

Oregon's road to health coverage continues to be bumpy; the website for the state's health insurance marketplace still isn't fully open to consumers.
ilbusca iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 4:53 pm

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as HealthCare.gov finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

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Shots - Health News
4:57 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Doctors Urge Patience, And Longer Labor, To Reduce C-Sections

A C-section delivery may be needed to protect the health of mother and child. But too many are done for the wrong reasons, doctors say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 9:22 am

Women with low-risk pregnancies should be allowed to spend more time in labor, to reduce the risk of having an unnecessary C-section, the nation's obstetricians say.

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Shots - Health News
12:26 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Flu Strikes Younger Adults Hard This Year

Fredy DeLeon gets a flu shot at a Walgreens pharmacy in Concord, Calif., in January.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 1:42 pm

This year's flu season is hitting younger and middle-aged adults unusually hard, federal health officials say.

More than 60 percent of flu patients who ended up in the hospital this year have been between the ages of 18 and 64. The proportion of young people among the hospitalized is much higher than usual, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 35 percent of flu patients who were hospitalized in the previous three years fell into that age group, the CDC says.

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Shots - Health News
11:41 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Tiny Iron Particles Help Find Cancer Without Using Risky Radiation

CT scans are valuable for finding cancers, but deliver a lot of radiation in the process. That's an especially big concern for children.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 9:20 am

Full body CT scans can save lives by helping detect cancer early. But the scans use high doses of radiation to create their detailed images, which means they also increase patients' risk of developing cancer later on in life.

Children and teenagers are at greatest risk, because they tend to live long enough to develop secondary cancers. And their growing tissues may be more susceptible to radiation.

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Shots - Health News
9:58 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Online Doctor Ratings About As Useful As Those For Restaurants

Would a doctor dressing neatly affect your rating?
iStockphoto.com

If you're looking to go out for dinner, see a movie or plunk down big bucks on a new TV, chances are you'll look online for help with the decision.

Lots of people are now checking out potential doctors that way, too. Online ratings are becoming part of how many Americans shop for a physician, according to a study in the latest issue of JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

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Shots - Health News
5:52 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Insurance, Not Injuries, May Determine Who Goes To Trauma Centers

For someone with a serious injury, it's not just a matter of getting in the door at the closest hospital, but getting in the door at the right hospital, says Dr. Arthur Kellermann, an emergency medicine specialist.
micheal kennedy iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 1:00 pm

When private hospitals transfer patients who don't have insurance to public hospitals, it's called "patient dumping." But a study from Stanford University published Wednesday suggests a twist: Hospitals, it seems, are less likely to transfer critically injured patients to trauma centers if the patients have health insurance.

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Shots - Health News
3:52 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Parents And Teens Aren't Up To Speed On HPV Risks, Doctors Say

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 1:17 pm

You would think that a vaccine that could prevent cancer would be an easy sell, but that's hasn't proven to be true so far with the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

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The Salt
3:52 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Americans Want Antibiotic-Free Chicken, And The Industry Is Listening

Do these chickens look medicated?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 6:34 am

In an age when consumers want transparency in how their food is produced, meat producers are under the microscope.

And the meat industry is responding: Antibiotic-free chicken is showing up everywhere you look.

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Health
3:04 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

'Bluish' Light May Help Alzheimer's Patients Find Bearings

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 8:59 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, health and electrical lighting. Last month, Mariana Figueiro showed me something she has developed to help seniors avoid falls in the night. Figueiro researches health applications at the Lighting Research Center at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Her project is a nightlight. But it's not just a single bulb. It's a string of yellow lights that border the darkened entrance to, say, a bathroom.

It's a doorway and around the frame of the doorway are the yellow LEDs?

MARIANA FIGUEIRO: That's correct.

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