Health Desk

Around the Nation
12:36 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

How Industrial Chemical Regulation Failed West Virginia

Jonathan Steele, owner of Bluegrass Kitchen, fills a jug with bottled water from a tank he installed in the back of his Charleston restaurant.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 6:55 pm

On Jan. 9, people in and around Charleston, W.Va., began showing up at hospitals: They had nausea, eye infections and some were vomiting. It was later discovered that around 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals had leaked into the Elk River, just upstream from a water treatment plant that serves 300,000 people. Citizens were told not to drink or bathe in the water, and while some people are now using water from their taps, many still don't trust it or the information coming from public officials.

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Shots - Health News
12:19 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

A Little Acid Turns Mouse Blood Into Brain, Heart And Stem Cells

A mouse embryo grows from stem cells made by stressing blood cells with acid. The blood cells are tagged with a protein that creates green light.
Courtesy of Haruko Obokata

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 6:24 am

Back in 1958, a young biologist at Cornell University made a stunning discovery.

He took a single cell from a carrot and then mixed it with some coconut milk. Days went by and the cell started dividing. Little roots formed. Stems started growing. Eventually, a whole new carrot plant rose up from the single cell.

Imagine if you could perform a similar feat with animal cells, even human cells.

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Shots - Health News
9:45 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Yoga May Help Overcome Fatigue After Breast Cancer

People practice yoga at a fundraiser for a breast cancer foundation in Hong Kong.
Ed Jones/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 10:11 am

Exercise helps recovery after cancer treatment, but fatigue can make working out hard. Yoga can help reduce fatigue for breast cancer survivors, a study finds. It's one of a growing number of efforts using randomized controlled trials to see if the ancient practice offers medical benefits.

Women who took a yoga class three hours a week for three months reported less fatigue compared with a group of breast cancer survivors who did not do yoga.

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Shots - Health News
1:59 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Ancient Plague's DNA Revived From A 1,500-Year-Old Tooth

Graduate student Jennifer Klunk of McMaster University examines a tooth used to decode the genome of the ancient plague.
Courtesy of McMaster University

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 10:11 am

Scientists have reconstructed the genetic code of a strain of bacteria that caused one of the most deadly pandemics in history nearly 1,500 years ago.

They did it by finding the skeletons of people killed by the plague and extracting DNA from traces of blood inside their teeth.

This plague struck in the year 541, under the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian, so it's usually called the Justinian plague. The emperor actually got sick himself but recovered. He was one of the lucky ones.

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Shots - Health News
4:45 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

The Strange Case Of Marlise Munoz And John Peter Smith Hospital

Erick Munoz, flanked by lawyers, walks to 96th District Court last Friday. A judge ordered a Texas hospital to remove life support from his wife, Marlise.
Tim Sharp AP

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 2:37 pm

It would have been hard to find a happier man than Erick Munoz on that Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving.

With a healthy and delightful son toddling around the house, and his beautiful and successful wife pregnant with their second child, the fire department paramedic had everything in life that's really important. So it must have been with a feeling of disbelief and horror that Munoz knelt across the nearly lifeless body of his wife, Marlise, on the kitchen floor at 2 a.m., his fingers linking across her heart, arms pumping away in vain.

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Shots - Health News
4:30 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

In Vermont, A Network Of Help For Opiate-Addicted Mothers

As Vermont expands addiction treatment services, it is also coming to grips with one of the most difficult and emotional aspects of the problem: pregnant women addicted to opiates.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 9:44 am

It came as a surprise to many people when Vermont's governor recently devoted his entire 2014 State of the State address to what he called a "full-blown heroin crisis."

While it may not fit Vermont's bucolic image, the state's addiction problem has long been acknowledged. And as the state has expanded treatment, it's also been coming to grips with one of the most difficult and emotional aspects of the issue: addicted mothers.

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The Salt
12:49 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Sushi Chefs Aren't Feeling California's New Glove Law

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 5:12 pm

On Sunday, we told you about bartenders who are up in arms about a new California law that makes it illegal for culinary workers to touch uncooked food with their bare hands. Turns out, sushi chefs are ticked off, too.

For sushi chefs, crafting sashimi or a great roll is a lot like creating art. It requires skill and feel. Bare hands are essential.

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Shots - Health News
11:35 am
Tue January 28, 2014

College Students Can Learn To Drink Less, If Schools Help

Eighty percent of college students drink, and schools have had little success reducing those numbers, or the problems caused by excessive alcohol.
Toby Talbot AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 1:20 pm

Drinking remains one of the biggest health risks for college students, with 80 percent of students drinking alcohol and more than one-third binge drinking.

This may seem like an inevitable part of student life. But there's actually a lot that schools can do to help students get their drinking under control if they're willing to offer more than generic online courses, a study finds.

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Parenting
10:48 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Teenagers Are 'Crazy' But Expert Says Behavior Is Vital To Development

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 10:50 am

Teenagers are often seen as impulsive and moody. But psychiatrist Daniel Siegel says it's time to rethink adolescence as a time of great opportunity, as well as challenge. Host Michel Martin speaks with Dr. Siegel about the teenage brain and his new book Brainstorm. Parents Leslie Morgan Steiner and Aracely Panameno join in.

Shots - Health News
10:27 am
Tue January 28, 2014

How A Divorce Can Boost Health Insurance Subsidies

iStockphoto

As the enrollment period continues for health coverage on the state health insurance marketplaces, people continue to have many questions about buying a plan there.

What happens with premium tax credits if a couple gets divorced? If the premium tax credit is based on the previous year's income when the couple filed taxes jointly, many wouldn't qualify. But once someone is divorced, one individual might have little income. What is the subsidy based on in that situation?

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The Salt
9:36 am
Tue January 28, 2014

FDA Found Drugs Used In Food Animals To Be 'High Risk'

Beef cattle in a barn on the Larson Farms feedlot in Maple Park, Ill.
Daniel Acker Landov

According to newly released documents, the Food and Drug Administration concluded years ago that many of the antibiotics farmers use on food animals are risky for human health.

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Business
3:58 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Paid Leave Laws Catch On Across the Nation

Activists hold signs during a rally for paid sick leave at New York's City Hall last year.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 11:55 am

This month, Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to offer workers paid family leave to care for a loved one. And on Tuesday, Newark, N.J., became the latest in a small wave of cities to mandate paid sick leave.

The policies cover both public and private sector workers, and a dozen more areas are considering some variation of them.

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Shots - Health News
4:24 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Key Senate Republicans Offer Their Plan To Replace Obamacare

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is one of the sponsors of a Republican proposal to rewrite the Affordable Care Act.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 8:41 am

Republicans have offered a wide array of proposals to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act since it became law in 2010. But few have come with the pedigree of the plan just unveiled by a trio of senior Senate Republicans.

The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, or CARE for short, is a proposal being floated by Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

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Mental Health
4:17 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

No Surprises: Egyptian Military Endorses Its Chief For President

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 6:56 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, to Egypt where there were more indications today that the country's top military chief is preparing to run for president. The armed forces announced on state television that Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi should, in their words, heed the call of the people and run for president in an election expected to be held within the next three months.

NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. Hi, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.

SIEGEL: And does this mean that Egypt's military chief is definitely running for president?

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Shots - Health News
4:02 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Worries About Bird Flu Curtail Chinese New Year Feasts

A vendor sells chickens at the Kowloon City Market in Hong Kong last month. As a precautionary measure against the deadly H7N9 virus, Hong Kong has temporarily stopped importing poultry from mainland farms.
Lam Yik Fei Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 12:56 pm

As China gets ready to usher in the Year of the Horse on Friday, millions of them will find it hard to buy chicken for traditional Lunar New Year feasts. That's a mark of the nation's growing anxiety about a poultry-borne flu virus called H7N9.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong agricultural workers will begin destroying 20,000 chickens. The bird flu virus H7N9 was found in a single live bird from a farm in neighboring Guangdong Province.

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Shots - Health News
2:00 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Stricter Autism Criteria Unlikely To Reduce Services For Kids

Clinical specialist Catey Funaiock took notes while observing a 5-year-old boy at the Marcus Autism Center, part of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, in September.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 12:55 pm

The clinical definition for when a child has some form of autism has been tightened. And these narrower criteria for autism spectrum disorder probably will reduce the number of kids who meet the new standard.

But researchers say the changes, which were rolled out last May, are likely to have a bigger effect on government statistics than on the care of the nation's children.

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Shots - Health News
12:52 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

You'd Think We'd Have Baby-Making All Figured Out, But No

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 6:41 am

"Oh, just put a pillow underneath your hips during sex, then you'll definitely get pregnant," a good friend told me. "That did the trick for us — twice."

Now, the friend is a smart woman. She has a Ph.D. in biology, for Pete's sake. So she must know what she's talking about when it comes to conception, right?

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Health Desk
8:52 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Credit Cards Could Be Off Limits For Medical Marijuana

Credit flickr/eggrole

People who buy medical marijuana in Illinois might find out it's cash-only.  

Lawmakers approved using cannabis for medical conditions last summer. But the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports selling and using marijuana remain federal offenses, so it's unlikely pot dispensaries will be able to open a bank account or get a line of credit.  

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Shots - Health News
2:35 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Silencing Many Hospital Alarms Leads To Better Health Care

Amanda Gerety, a staff nurse at Boston Medical Center, checks monitors that track patients' vital signs. Fewer beeps means crisis warnings are easier to hear, she says.
Richard Knox NPR

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 8:46 am

Go into almost any hospital these days and you'll hear a constant stream of beeps and boops. To most people it sounds like medical Muzak.

But to doctors and nurses, it's not just sonic wallpaper. Those incessant beeps contain important coded messages.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 am
Mon January 27, 2014

How Parents And The Internet Transformed Clubfoot Treatment

Alice Snyder, with her parents Mary and Ryan, during a checkup with Dr. John Herzenberg, who treated her clubfoot without surgery.
Jenny Gold Kaiser Health News

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 6:35 am

Mary Snyder found out at her 19-week ultrasound that her unborn baby had clubfoot. Both of the fetus's feet were completely turned inward, forming the twisted U-shape typical of clubfoot.

The condition is one of the most common birth defects, affecting about 1 out of every 1,000 babies, but that was little comfort to Snyder.

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Science
4:21 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

A Reading Teacher Who Lost The Ability To Read

Alexia is a condition often associated with the occipital lobe — the part of the brain that receives visual information.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Sun January 26, 2014 5:53 pm

Here's a medical mystery that begins with a kindergarten teacher. We're not using her full name to protect her medical privacy, so we'll call her M.

M. taught reading to 4 and 5-year-olds at a school outside Chicago, but two years ago something happened to her that changed her life: she lost the ability to read.

Her problems began a few days before Halloween. M. was helping out at a Halloween party put on by the local park district, selling tickets at the front desk.

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Shots - Health News
6:48 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

Cutting Spousal Benefits Might Not Save Firms Money After All

UPS has told workers that it will no longer offer health coverage for spouses who have their own job-based insurance. Above, a UPS driver makes a delivery in North Andover, Mass.
Elise Amendola AP

One of the latest trends for employers looking to save money on health care benefits is to cut back on coverage of their employees' spouses.

Some companies are simply charging more for spouses who work and are eligible for coverage at their own job. Others, like UPS, are dropping spousal coverage entirely.

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Health
4:04 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

West Virginians Confused About Water Safety, Despite State's All Clear

Originally published on Sat January 25, 2014 6:53 pm

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly McEvers.

This week, the company responsible for a toxic chemical leak into the Elk River in West Virginia announced that a second previously undisclosed chemical was present and may also have slipped into the water supply - this after people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, had already spent days avoiding the tap water only to have officials declare it's safe for drinking last week.

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Shots - Health News
12:12 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

How Vaccine Fears Fueled The Resurgence Of Preventable Diseases

Council on Foreign Relations

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 6:41 am

For most of us, measles and whooping cough are diseases of the past. You get a few shots as a kid and then hardly think about them again.

But that's not the case in all parts of the world — not even parts of the U.S.

As an interactive map from the Council on Foreign Relations illustrates, several diseases that are easily prevented with vaccines have made a comeback in the past few years. Their resurgence coincides with changes in perceptions about vaccine safety.

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Shots - Health News
4:22 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

The Healthy, Not The Young, May Determine Health Law's Fate

Insurers get paid more for older people under the Affordable Care Act, even if they're healthy.
Tony Ding AP

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 11:37 am

Now that the problems with the balky HealthCare.gov website are largely fixed, the Obama administration is finally feeling comfortable enough to launch some of the outreach it planned for last fall.

Its top target: young adults, specifically those between 18 and 35.

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Health Care
4:22 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Texas Sets Up Roadblock For Health Care Navigators

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 6:29 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Although the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, there are ongoing fights in many states over how to carry it out. One conflict concerns navigators, the insurance counselors who are supposed to help people learn about the law. This week saw two major developments: a federal judge put a strict Missouri law on hold, saying the state didn't have the right to regulate the work of navigators. But in Texas, state officials did just that this week.

Carrie Feibel of member station KUHF in Houston reports on the new rules in Texas.

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The Salt
2:58 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Can Mom's Pregnancy Diet Rewire Baby's Brain For Obesity?

Choose wisely: What Mom eats during pregnancy can set the stage for obesity in her baby.
Meg Vogel NPR

Originally published on Sat January 25, 2014 6:07 pm

Moms-to-be are often reminded that they're eating for two. It's tempting to take this as an excuse to go for that extra scoop of the ice cream. (Believe me, I've been there.)

But a solid body of research suggests that expectant mothers should be walking away with the opposite message: Pregnancy should be a time to double-down on healthful eating if you want to avoid setting up your unborn child for a lifetime of wrestling with obesity.

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Shots - Health News
11:43 am
Fri January 24, 2014

When Elderly Are Hospitalized, Families Face Tough Decisions

Who will help make decisions when an older family member is hospitalized?
iStockphoto

It's never easy making medical choices for family members who are too sick to speak for themselves. But researchers say families of the elderly should be ready to do so.

When people over 65 end up in the hospital, about half of them eventually need someone else in the family to make decisions for them, according to findings published in the latest issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

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The Salt
9:15 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Dry January: Giving Up Booze For A Month Does Have Benefits

Give your liver a break every now and then.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 11:37 am

As New Year's resolutions go, cutting back on food and drink are right at the top of the list. And while those resolved to change their eating habits may cut the carbohydrates or say a sweet goodbye to sugar, for regular drinkers, the tradition may involve what's known as a dry January: giving up booze for a month.

But could such a short-term breakup with alcohol really impart any measurable health benefits?

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Shots - Health News
2:42 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Life-Support Battle Over Pregnant Texas Woman Heads To Court

Erick Munoz stands with an undated family photograph of himself, his wife, Marlise, and their son Mateo. Erick Munoz is now fighting to have a Texas hospital remove his pregnant wife from life support, saying she is brain-dead.
Courtesy Munoz Family MCT/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 7:38 am

The case of the Texas woman, 22 weeks pregnant and being kept on life-support machines at a Forth Worth hospital against her husband's wishes, goes before a judge in North Texas on Friday.

Marlise Munoz has been on respirators and ventilators since she was found unconscious in her home in November, when she was 14 weeks pregnant.

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