Health Desk

Code Switch
1:37 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

After Leelah Alcorn's Suicide, Trans Youth Fight Broader Bias

David G., who lives in Toronto, came out in the summer of 2014, announcing the news on Facebook. He has the support of his parents and many friends, but hasn't found complete acceptance at school.
David G.

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 8:42 am

In a moment many have called "the transgender tipping point," the news of Leelah Alcorn's suicide and her plea that someone "fix society" for transgender people have garnered massive attention, moving from conversations on social media to national news outlets.

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Goats and Soda
11:29 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Why Bill Gates Is Commissioning Fine Art

The birth of vaccines: Photographer Alexia Sinclair portrays Dr. Edward Jenner giving John Phipps the world's first vaccine, for smallpox, in 1796.
Courtesy of Alexia Sinclair

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 5:02 pm

Each year, about 6 million people die from diseases that are preventable with vaccines. And about 1 in 5 children around the world don't have access to life-saving vaccines.

But those are cold and dry statistics.

The Art of Saving A Life enlisted more than 30 artists to create images that bring those numbers to life — to spark conversations, interest and, ultimately, funding for vaccines.

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Shots - Health News
11:28 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Texas Abortion Case May Hinge On Definition Of 'Undue Burden'

Women with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health demonstrate Wednesday outside the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. A federal appeals court in New Orleans is considering whether a Texas law puts up an unconstitutional obstacle to women seeking abortions.
Jonathan Bachman AP

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 5:53 pm

A part of a Texas abortion law — one that requires that any clinic performing abortions meet stringent, hospital-like medical standards — is on trial this week in a U.S. appeals court.

The effect of the law has already been dramatic in Texas. Before it passed, a year and a half ago, more than 40 clinics provided abortions in the state. Now there are about 17 such facilities. If this part of the law is reinstated, about 10 facilities would close, leaving vast distances between some residents and the nearest clinic.

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The Salt
9:49 am
Thu January 8, 2015

How Food Shopping Can Turn New Year's Resolutions Into 'Res-Illusions'

Researchers created the bag on the left as an example of groceries bought in December while those on the right show groceries bought in January. After the New Year, some shoppers add healthier items to their carts but end up taking home more calories than they do during the holidays, a study found.
Robyn Wishna Cornell University

It's the time of year when many of us have promised to drink less, eat less and eat better. But a new study shows that in the first few months of the New Year, families may be piling more food into the shopping cart than they do the rest of the year.

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Goats and Soda
8:59 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Weavers Turn Silk Into Diabetes Test Strips

Using a simple wooden handloom, weavers create silk strips that diabetics can use as glucose sensors. This loom is at Achira Labs in Bangalore, India.
Courtesy of Tripurari Choudhary

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 1:47 pm

It's a new way to do silk screening, that's for sure.

Bangalore-based Achira Labs has figured out a way to hand weave diabetes test strips from silk. That sounds pretty luxurious compared to the standard materials of plastic or paper. But silk turns out to have several advantages in a country like India, where weavers who can work a handloom are abundant and the material is readily available and inexpensive.

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Shots - Health News
8:34 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Measles Makes An Unwelcome Visit To Disneyland

Health officials speculate that an international visitor to Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland must have spread measles there.
George Frey Landov

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 9:42 am

A trip to Disneyland is on many families' bucket lists, but that dream probably didn't including catching the measles.

Nine people who visited Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventure Park during December have confirmed measles cases, state health officials said Wednesday. Seven of the patients live in California and two live in Utah.

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NPR Story
4:01 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Congressional Republicans Take Another Swing At Obamacare

House Speaker John Boehner answers questions during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. The House is debating changes to the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 4:08 pm

Update at 5 p.m. E.T.: The House of Representatives passed this legislation on Thursday afternoon. It now heads to the Senate.

Taking a swing at President Obama's biggest policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is at the top of the agenda for the new Republican Congressional majority.

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Shots - Health News
2:18 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Can Connecticut Force A Teenage Girl To Undergo Chemotherapy?

Jackie Fortin's daughter, Cassandra, last summer.
Courtesy of Jackie Fortin

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 4:58 pm

Update at 3:05 ET: The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday afternoon that the state can require Cassandra to continue treatment.

Her mother, Jackie Fortin, said she's disappointed by the decision. "She knows I love her and I'm going to keep fighting for her because this is her decision," Fortin said. "I know more than anyone, more than DCF, that my daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision. If she wasn't, I'd be making that decision."

Here's our original story, reported Thursday morning:

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Shots - Health News
2:17 am
Thu January 8, 2015

Specialists Split Over HPV Test's Role In Cancer Screening

The human papilloma virus causes most — but not all — cases of cancer of the cervix.
James Cavallini ScienceSource

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 11:49 am

Two medical groups say doctors could replace the Pap smear with a different test to screen many women for cervical cancer.

But that recommendation, included in an "interim guidance" released Thursday, is highly controversial; other experts call it premature.

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The Salt
5:27 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Bite Back At Bad Cholesterol: Eat An Avocado A Day

Researchers say they think there's something in the avocado — other than just the healthy fat — that may lower bad cholesterol.
Tastyart Ltd Rob White Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 4:11 pm

New research finds that eating an avocado per day, as part of an overall diet rich in healthy fats, may help cut the bad kind cholesterol, known as LDL.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recruited 45 overweight participants who agreed to try three different types of cholesterol-lowering diets. Their study was published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Law
5:17 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Undue Burden In Texas At Issue In Federal Court

Women with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health demonstrate outside of 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday in New Orleans. A federal appeals court in New Orleans is considering whether a Texas law puts up an unconstitutional obstacle to women seeking abortions.
Jonathan Bachman AP

Opening arguments began Wednesday in the case against the Texas law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgery centers. Opponents say it would have the effect of closing a significant number of the state's clinics. Melissa Block talks to Carrie Feibel of Houston Public Media.

Shots - Health News
4:19 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Brain Scans May Help Predict Future Problems, And Solutions

By measuring activity in different parts of the brain, neuroscientsts can get a sense of how some people will respond to treatments.
John Lund Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 4:55 pm

Brain scans may soon be able to help predict a person's future — some aspects of it, anyway.

Information from these scans increasingly is able to suggest whether a child will have trouble with math, say, or whether someone with mental illness is going to respond to a particular treatment, according to a review of dozens of studies published Wednesday in the journal Neuron.

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Health
4:11 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Why The U.S. Still Bans Blood Donations From Some U.K. Travelers

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 5:17 pm

Rules governing who can donate blood in the United States have recently changed. But anyone who spent more than three months in the UK between 1980 and 1996 is still prohibited from donating. That rule is in place to minimize the risk of spreading Mad Cow Disease. Robert Siegel speaks with Dr. Lorna Williamson about how the risk is mitigated in the UK.

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Goats and Soda
3:24 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

A Cow Head Will Not Erupt From Your Body If You Get A Smallpox Vaccine

This did not really happen. Cows' heads did not emerge from the bodies of people newly inoculated against smallpox. But fear of the vaccine was so widespread that it prompted British satirist James Gillray to create this spoof in 1802.
H. Humphrey Henry Barton Jacobs Collection, Institute of the History of Medicine, JHU

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 5:17 pm

It all started with milkmaids.

Edward Jenner, an 18th-century English country doctor, noticed that they seemed to be immune to smallpox.

And that was a time when smallpox was a truly terrifying disease. Each year, it killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans. It made people terribly sick. Its oozing blisters scarred many of its victims for life. And there was no cure.

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Shots - Health News
12:19 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Scientists Hit Antibiotic Pay Dirt Growing Finicky Bacteria In Lab

You don't want to run into methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. A potential new antibiotic could help fight this bug.
CDC

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 11:39 am

Scientists say they have discovered a natural compound from bacteria that may prove to be a potent new antibiotic. This news comes at a time when many current antibiotics are losing their oomph — germs become resistant to them.

The new compound is especially intriguing because it appears that it might not lose its germ-killing potential, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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Shots - Health News
2:38 am
Wed January 7, 2015

A Bed Of Mouse Cells Helps Human Cells Thrive In The Lab

Dr. Richard Schlegel and postdoctoral fellow Nancy Palechor-Ceron use a microscope to look at human epithelial cells growing on mouse fibroblasts at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Lauren Wolkoff/Georgetown University

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 11:35 am

A drug that is used worldwide to treat malaria is now being tested as a treatment for cervical cancer. This surprising idea is the result of a new laboratory technique that could have far-reaching uses.

Our story starts with Dr. Richard Schlegel at Georgetown University Medical Center. He's best known for inventing the Gardasil vaccine to protect women from cervical cancer.

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Research News
4:00 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Kids May Not Benefit From Extended Isolation After Concussions

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 5:36 pm

New research suggests isolating children with concussions for more than two days may do more harm than good compared to adults. So what's the best approach to treating concussed children? Melissa Block talks with lead researcher Dr. Danny G. Thomas of the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

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Law
3:54 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Lawyers Try To Fight Death Penalty With New PTSD Understanding

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 5:36 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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The Salt
3:19 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

From Paleo To Plant-Based, New Report Ranks Top Diets Of 2015

The Mediterranean-like DASH and the plant-centric Ornish eating plan topped this year's rankings of diets by a panel assembled by U.S. News & World Report.
Gillian Blease Getty Images/Ikon Images

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 7:11 am

Despite the buzz about paleo and raw food diets, a new ranking of the 35 top diets puts these two near the bottom of the list.

Why?

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Shots - Health News
2:10 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Tight Control Of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It's Tough

Even with the best available technology, keeping blood sugar under control requires constant vigilance.
Mark Hatfield iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 7:06 am

Here's more evidence that for people with Type 1 diabetes, strict blood sugar control matters – in this case, it actually reduces the risk of early death. But another study reveals the grim reality: Those with the condition still die about a decade sooner than those without.

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Shots - Health News
2:02 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Many Insurers Don't Cover Drugs For Weight Loss

Belviq, a weight-loss drug from Arena Pharmaceuticals, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012. With the agency's approval of Saxenda in December, there are four new weight-loss pills available.
Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc/Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 7:07 am

In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new obesity drug, Saxenda, the fourth prescription medicine the agency has given the green light to fight obesity since 2012. But even though two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, there's a good chance their insurer won't cover Saxenda or other anti-obesity drugs.

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Goats and Soda
1:59 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Teaching Nurses How To Speak Up — And Speak Gently

Chief nursing officer Marc Julmisse (in glasses) leads nursing rounds inside the neonatal intensive care unit of the University Hospital in Mirebalais, Haiti.
Rebecca E. Rollins Partners in Health

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 11:41 am

Teach someone to fish, the saying goes, and they'll eat for a lifetime. Teach a nurse to become more involved in helping people heal, and patients could enjoy a longer life. That's the philosophy behind training nurses to mentor other nurses, says Sheila Davis, chief nursing officer and chief of Ebola response for Partners in Health, the worldwide nonprofit organization.

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Shots - Health News
12:50 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Bariatric Surgery Cuts The Risk Of Death Years Later

A lap band displayed on a model of a human stomach. It creates a small pouch at the top of the stomach that makes people feel full more quickly.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 12:23 pm

Bariatric surgery is being widely promoted as the solution for people who are extremely obese, but so far most of the studies haven't followed enough people for enough time to really know if surgery helps improve health long term.

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Shots - Health News
11:43 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Medicaid's Western Push Hits Montana

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is giving Medicaid expansion another try.
Matt Volz AP

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 11:54 am

The Affordable Care Act is on the move in Western states, with the governors of Utah, Wyoming and Montana all working on deals with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid in ways tailored to each state.

But getting the federal stamp of approval is just the first hurdle. The governors also have to sell the change to their state legislators, who have their own ideas of how expansion should go.

The latest example is Montana, where the governor and the legislature have competing proposals about how much federal Medicaid expansion cash the state should try to bring in.

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The Salt
11:15 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Going Dry: The Benefits Of A Month Without Booze

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 1:11 pm

As New Year's resolutions go, cutting back on food and drink are right at the top of the list. And while those vowing 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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NPR Story
4:00 am
Tue January 6, 2015

3 States Counter Obama's Proposal For Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 12:15 pm

Copyright 2015 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.mtpr.org.

Shots - Health News
2:54 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Addiction Patients Overwhelm Vermont's Expanded Treatment Programs

Publicity from Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin's State of the State address last January drove up demand for addiction treatment in the state.
Andy Duback AP

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 10:11 am

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin attracted national attention last January when he devoted his entire State of the State address to Vermont's opiate addiction problem.

For the first time, he said, the number of people seeking drug addiction treatment had surpassed those getting help for alcoholism, and many had nowhere to go.

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Health
4:17 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Big Data Not A Cure-All In Medicine

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 5:31 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Goats and Soda
4:17 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

In The World's Rape Capital, Doctors Fight Violence With Science

Dr Dieudonne Masemo Bihehe and Dr. Tina Amissi are physicians at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, now doing research through ICART, a new research center to support Congolese scholarship.
Gregory Warner NPR

Originally published on Mon January 5, 2015 7:17 pm

Tina Amissi grew up in a small village in the Democratic Republic of Congo with 26 brothers and sisters. When her mother insisted she drop out of school and help out around the house, it was her polygamous father — and his iron authority — who saved her.

Amissi's father supported her dream to go to medical school in the city of Bukavu. Even now, she gets so excited recounting the story that she can't stop from clapping.

"My father said, 'You'll leave your mother?' " Amissi recalls. "I said, 'Yes, yes, yes, yes, I'm going.' "

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Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

How A Position Of Power Can Change Your Voice

How would you sound in front of an NPR microphone?
Meredith Rizzo NPR

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 10:46 am

Most radio reporters, I think it's fair to say, think about their voices a lot, and work to sound powerful and authoritative. I know my voice has changed since my very first radio story 10 years ago:

Compare that with how I sound these days:

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