Health Desk

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.

Dennis Whittle has worked hard all his life — from teenage days delivering newspapers and scraping paint off wooden bleachers to three decades in international aid and development. In the nonprofit world, he was initially struck by all the good intentions but discovered that aid groups don't always listen to the people they aim to serve. Whittle, born in 1961, spoke with Tiny Spark about his journey from the World Bank, where he was a lead economist from 1986 to 2000, to his latest initiative that began in fall 2013, Feedback Labs.

Is coffee part of your morning routine? Then you need to thank the millions of people who make the drink their life's work.

State officials have closed both recreational and commercial fishing for Dungeness and rock crab on the California coast north of Santa Barbara to the Oregon border, due to a large algae bloom that's making the crab unsafe for consumption.

The bloom, created by an organism called Pseudo-nitzschia, produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid that can build up in marine life. It causes vomiting, diarrhea and cramping in humans — and even death, in severe cases.

Recording and mixing music are Vernon Thomas' passions, but being CEO and producer of Mantree Records isn't his day job.

He's an HIV outreach worker for a county health department outside Newark, N.J. He took what was to be a full-time job in May because the gig came with health insurance — and he has HIV himself.

But then the county made it a part-time job, and Thomas lost health coverage before it even started. "Benefits are more important than the money you're making," he says.

Today marks the 42nd day that Sierra Leone has had no new cases of Ebola. That potentially signals the end of the epidemic in that country.

I spent almost three months in Sierra Leone over the last year, both as a clinician in Ebola treatment units and as an infection control educator. Even though I am not there to witness the festivities, I stand in solidarity with the healthcare workers and communities I know in Sierra Leone that will be celebrating.

The U.S. Supreme Court justices said Friday they would hear a group of cases brought by religious hospitals, schools, and charities that object to the system devised under Obamacare to spare them from paying for birth control coverage for their employees and students.

NPR's Nina Totenberg reports:

Surgery to reduce the stomach's size is often seen as a last resort for severely obese teenagers, partly because there has been little information on the procedure's long-term effects on young people.

But a study published online Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine tracked teens for three years and suggests that bariatric surgery as part of a weight-reduction plan was not only safe, but increased their heart health and the quality of their lives.

In a video interview, actress and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson gets education activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai to do something she's never done before: call herself a feminist.

"Cholera is a neglected disease," says Dr. Dominique Legros, a medical epidemiologist for the World Health Organization.

"I was just at an international meeting about cholera and there were 25 people," Legros says, "a very low number for such a virulent infectious disease with such a huge burden globally."

"It only gets attention," he adds, "when there's a big outbreak."

Unfortunately, that is now the case.

English bursts with consonants. We have words that string one after another, like angst, diphthong and catchphrase. But other languages keep more vowels and open sounds. And that variability might be because they evolved in different habitats.

Young American adults own smartphones at a higher rate than any other age group. Researchers from Duke University wanted to see if capitalizing on that smartphone usage with a low-cost weight-loss app might help the 35 percent of young adults in the U.S. who are overweight or obese.

If you're rooting for smartphones to solve all our health problems, you're not going to like what the researchers found. The smartphone app didn't help young adults lose any more weight than if they hadn't been using the app at all.

How Do Stereotypes Of Mental Health Affect Us?

Nov 6, 2015

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Headspace.

About Alix Generous' TED Talk

Twenty-three-year-old Alix Generous describes her years-long journey through misdiagnosis in the mental health system and how it affected her sense of confidence and self-worth.

About Alix Generous

Why Is It So Hard To Talk About Depression?

Nov 6, 2015

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Headspace.

About Andrew Solomon's TED Talk

Writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon describes how he hid from — and eventually confronted — his own serious depression.

About Andrew Solomon

Is There A Healthy Way To Think About Depression?

Nov 6, 2015

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Headspace.

About Andrew Solomon's TED Talk

Writer and psychologist Andrew Solomon explains how the more he talked about his depression, the more others wanted to tell their own stories.

About Andrew Solomon

Is It Possible To Put A Band-Aid On A Bad Feeling?

Nov 6, 2015

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Headspace.

About Guy Winch's TED Talk

Psychologist Guy Winch makes the case for practicing emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.

About Guy Winch

What Can Fruit Flies Tell Us About Human Emotions?

Nov 6, 2015

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Headspace.

About David Anderson's TED Talk

Neurobiologist David Anderson explains why psychiatric drugs don't always work, and how researchers are working to find targeted forms of treatment — including his own experiments with fruit flies.

About David Anderson


Health officials in two western Illinois counties are investigating an illness affecting people who drank apple cider during a recent fall festival.

An intense debate has flared over whether the federal government should fund research that creates partly human creatures using human stem cells.

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A majority of Mexicans oppose legalizing drugs in their country so yesterday's ruling by the country's Supreme Court legalizing marijuana use took many by surprise. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

In September, we reported on a charming little study that found people who feel blue after watching sad videos have a harder time perceiving colors on the blue-yellow axis.

Now the researchers may be feeling blue themselves. On Thursday they retracted their study, saying that errors in how they structured the experiment skewed the results.

How One Woman Changed The Way People Die In Mongolia

Nov 5, 2015

Dr. Odontuya Davaasuren has one goal: to improve the way people die in Mongolia.

"My father died of lung cancer, my mother died, my mother-in-law died because of liver cancer," she says. "Even though I was a doctor, I could do nothing."

Parents, don't let your views of adolescence get you down.

Stereotypes about adolescents can make moms and dads feel less confident about their parenting skills right at a time kids need their parents to be present in their lives.

Raising teens is commonly perceived to be a total drag. Indeed, moms and dads of adolescents report feeling less capable than parents of younger children. And what parents think about adolescence can affect how competent they feel when dealing with their teens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting the Washington State Department of Health and the Oregon Health Authority in investigating an outbreak of E.coli infections linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Thirty-nine people have been sickened with a strain of E. coli known as Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) in Washington and Oregon. Fourteen people have been hospitalized in those two states.

In the latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails to be released, there was a list of topics that she presumably wanted to look into some more, dated Oct. 18, 2010. One line in particular stood out: "Plumpy'nut?"

You may be wondering: Plumpy what?

For those who work in global health, the word is instantly recognizable.

Biologist Ethan Bier runs a laboratory at the University of California, San Diego where fruit flies are used to help unravel the processes that lead to some human diseases. One day recently, a graduate student in the lab called him over to take a look at the results of the latest experiment.

Bier was stunned by what he saw. "It was one of the most astounding days in my personal scientific career," Bier says. "When he first showed me, I could not believe it."

Kentucky has run one of the most successful Obamacare individual health insurance exchanges, attracting enough people into private health plans and Medicaid to cut the state's uninsured rate by half in two years.

But Kentucky's online health insurance marketplace for small employers also created by the Affordable Care Act has mostly been a dud. Just 92 employers have signed up, and a total of 901 people, both workers and their dependents, have received coverage through the specialized exchange.

The latest front in the debate over religious freedom is all about an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper.

This particular piece of paper is a notice — one the state of California will soon require to be posted in places known as crisis pregnancy centers. These resource centers, often linked to religious organizations, provide low-cost or free services to pregnant women, while encouraging these women to not have abortions.

A group of 12 U.S. senators, led by Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., is calling for the Army inspector general to investigate the discharges of tens of thousands of service members diagnosed with mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

In January 2013, a 41-year-old man came to a hospital in Medellin, Colombia. He was in bad shape. He'd lost weight, had a fever, a tapeworm infestation and also had trouble breathing. He had HIV but had stopped taking his medications a few months before.