Health Desk

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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Shots - Health News
4:30 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Texas Issues Tough Rules For Insurance Navigators

Cedric Anthony and Alysia Greer are two of the navigators working in Houston neighborhoods for United Labor Unions Local 100.
Carrie Feibel

Texas has imposed strict new regulations on the insurance helpers, or navigators, who work in the community to enroll people in health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

The navigators must register with the state, undergo a background check and fingerprinting, and complete 20 hours of additional training — beyond the 20 to 30 hours of federal training they've already received.

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The Salt
3:45 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Potential Carcinogen In Colas Has FDA Reviewing Data

4-MEI, a chemical created during the manufacturing of caramel color used to dye sodas brown, is under new scrutiny.
iStockphoto

A new study from Consumer Reports finds varying levels of a chemical compound classified as a possible human carcinogen in many popular brands of soda.

The findings have prompted the Food and Drug Administration to take a new look at the compound, 4-methylimidazole — or 4-MEI for short. It is found in the caramel color that soda makers use to dye the drinks brown.

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Shots - Health News
2:30 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Contagious Cancer In Dogs Leaves Prehistoric Paw Prints

The sexually transmitted cancer is common in street dogs around the world.
Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 11:36 am

Our four-legged friends suffer from many of the same cancers that we do. But one type of dog tumor acts like no other: It's contagious.

The tumor spreads from one pooch to another when the dogs have sex or even just touch or lick each other.

"It's a common disease in street dogs all around the world," says geneticist Elizabeth Murchison at the University of Cambridge. "People in the U.S. and U.K. haven't heard of it because it's found mostly in free-roaming dogs in developing countries."

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Shots - Health News
12:48 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

How Will Medicare Pull Back The Curtain On Pay For Doctors?

A snippet of the data ProPublica obtained from the federal government about Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit for seniors.
ProPublica

The federal government said last week that it would begin releasing data on physician payments in the Medicare program. Somehow, the move seems to have ticked off both supporters and opponents of broader transparency in medicine.

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The Salt
9:55 am
Thu January 23, 2014

An Innovative Plan To Reel In Sport Fishermen To Feed The Hungry

Students prepare fish cakes that will be part of a free dinner offered at Parkside Neighborhood Center in Portland, Maine.
Courtesy of Samantha Laster

Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 1:41 pm

Portland, Maine, native Hollis McLaughlin's recollection of his mother's fish cookery produces a wistful expression as he takes a bite of the fish cakes given to him as part of the regular Wednesday night meal he is served free of charge at the Parkside Neighborhood Center.

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Shots - Health News
7:15 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

A Growth Factor Heals The Damage To A Preemie's Brain — In Mice

A baby born too soon continues to develop and grow inside an incubator at the neonatal ward of the Centre Hospitalier de Lens in Lens, northern France.
Philippe Huguen AFP/Getty Images

A naturally occurring substance called epidermal growth factor appears to reverse a type of brain damage that's common in very premature infants.

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Shots - Health News
4:27 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

In North Carolina, Workarounds Help The Poor Find Health Coverage

John Martin, 24, was uninsured until a health care navigator told him he could get coverage through his parents' health plan.
Jenny Gold

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 7:01 pm

In the mountains of western North Carolina, Julia Buckner spends hours driving around what she calls God's country.

Buckner is a health navigator. Her job — and her passion — is to help the rural residents of some of the poorest counties in North Carolina sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

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Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

How A Little Chill In The Air Could Help You Lose Weight

Researchers say that setting your thermostat a little lower can help you burn more calories.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 7:11 am

When it comes to tackling obesity, eating right and staying active are usually the way to go. But a research team in the Netherlands says there's an environmental factor that might help and that is often overlooked: the cold.

We're not talking bone-chilling temperatures that'll make you shiver endlessly, but a milder cold between 62 and 77 degrees.

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Intelligence Squared U.S.
2:06 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Debate: Is The Affordable Care Act Beyond Repair?

Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Megan McArdle face off against Jonathan Chait and Dr. Douglas Kamerow over the Affordable Care Act in a debate moderated by John Donvan in January.
Samuel LaHoz Intelligence Squared US
  • Listen To The Full Audio Of The Debate
  • Listen To The Broadcast Version Of The Debate

The Affordable Care Act had ardent critics and supporters long before last fall's troubled launch of the HealthCare.gov website. Opponents of Obamacare say the law will reduce, not increase, the number of health plans available to Americans and that fewer consumers will be able to afford care than before. And delays in implementation of portions of the ACA, they argue, demonstrate how the Obama administration has been forced to undermine its own law in order to keep it running.

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Health
12:57 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Latino Immigrants Find A Better Life In U.S., Poll Says

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 1:41 pm

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, the compelling personal story of Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis helped raise her national profile. But she now concedes some details of that story might be inaccurate. The Beauty Shop ladies weigh in. That's later.

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Shots - Health News
12:27 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Failing To Get Off The Couch May Contribute To Heart Failure

I'll be what I am, a sedentary man.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 7:12 am

The more we learn about sitting, the more perilous it seems to be.

Flabby muscles, fuzzy thinking and all manner of cardiovascular disease can get started or get worse when we're hanging out on the couch, stuck in traffic or just parked in a chair for too long.

Now there's evidence that heart failure — when your heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood through your arteries — can be brought on by a sedentary lifestyle and also, more generally, a lack of physical activity.

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The Salt
12:24 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Long John Silver's Throws Trans Fats Overboard

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 3:22 pm

Long John Silver's has gained some notoriety in the past for serving up what the food police dubbed the most unhealthful meal in America. (aka heart attack on a hook.)

But the fast-food chain is out to change its reputation. One step in this new direction: a quick transition from partially hydrogenated oils that contain bedeviled trans fats. Today, the chain announced it is moving to a 100 percent soybean oil that is trans-fat free.

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The Salt
2:51 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Whole Foods Bans Produce Grown With Sludge. But Who Wins?

A woman shops in the produce section at Whole Foods in New York City. The company recently announced it would prohibit produce farmed using biosolids in its stores.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 5:55 pm

If you've ever shopped at Whole Foods, you've probably noticed that some of the foods it sells claim all kinds of health and environmental virtues. From its lengthy list of unacceptable ingredients for food to its strict rules for how seafood is caught and meat is raised, the company sets a pretty high bar for what is permitted on its coveted shelves.

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Shots - Health News
1:23 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Preventive Medical Care Can Come With Unexpected Costs

Insurers still charge copays for some contraceptives.
Laura Garca iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 3:42 pm

Preventive health care services are supposed to be covered under the Affordable Care Act so that people don't have to pay out of pocket to get recommended screening tests. But some people are discovering that these supposedly free services can be costly.

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