Health Desk

Shots - Health News
4:16 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Poll: Americans Favor Age Restrictions On Morning-After Pill

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 3:50 pm

Emergency contraception has been embroiled in controversy pretty much from the start.

But this year the legal wrangling over who can buy the Plan B One-Step morning-after pill without a prescription came to an end. A federal judge in New York ruled in April that the morning-after pill also had to be made available over the counter to girls 16 and under.

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Shots - Health News
1:36 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

How To Make Sense Of Confusing, New Blood Pressure Advice

Some people with only slightly elevated blood pressure might be able to relax a bit, if they're doctors go along new treatment guidelines.
iStockphoto

If you're confused about the latest recommendations for treating high blood pressure, take heart. Doctors are confused, too.

On Wednesday, a panel of specialists called the Eighth Joint National Committee published guidelines saying that many people over 60 don't need to start taking medications to lower blood pressure until it's above 150/90 millimeters of mercury.

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Shots - Health News
2:26 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Congress Poised To Permanently Fix Its Medicare Payment Glitch

It's health results — not the number of treatments — that should count, leaders say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 11:56 am

The two-year budget deal approved by the Senate on Wednesday is aimed at preventing another government shutdown.

It also includes a familiar annual rider — language to avert a steep pay cut to doctors who treat Medicare patients. But this time might be different, with a fix that lasts. After more than a decade of temporary solutions, it appears Congress might be on the verge of permanently solving its persistent problem in the way it makes Medicare payments to doctors.

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The Salt
2:00 am
Thu December 19, 2013

This Stanford Ph.D. Became A Fruit Picker To Feed California's Hungry

Sarah Ramirez runs an organization that brings excess produce to the hungry. Here, she gleans apples from a front yard.
Scott Anger KQED

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 9:16 am

By some estimates, we Americans throw away about 40 percent of our food, from the cabbage that's wilting in our refrigerators, to the fruit that's falling off the orange tree in our neighbor's backyard.

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Shots - Health News
7:18 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Mixing It Up 50,000 Years Ago — Who Slept With Whom?

Research excavations like these in Siberia's Denisova Cave are yielding clues to the mating choices of early hominids.
Bence Viola Nature

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 12:39 pm

In a remote cave in Siberia, scientists have found a 50,000-year-old bone from a toe that tells a story about life — and love — among some of the earliest humans.

They did it by analyzing DNA from that bone.

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Shots - Health News
5:27 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

HIV Treatment Keeps A Family Together And Growing In Kenya

When Benta Odeny was diagnosed with HIV, she started to protect her husband Daniel from the virus by taking antiretroviral medications. The same drugs also helped her give birth to an HIV-negative daughter, Angelia.
Gregory Warner NPR

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:17 pm

Daniel and Benta Odeny married late by African standards: Both were in their 30s. And they'd only just hit their third anniversary when Benta started coughing blood.

The cough lasted a couple of weeks. So Benta went to the doctor. She had HIV. But Daniel was still HIV negative.

"She thought it was the end of the world," Daniel says.

Benta thought that Daniel would leave her and she would die alone. She had seen it happen many times to other women in her situation.

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Shots - Health News
3:01 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

People Buying Health Insurance Get A Bit More Time To Pay

Oregon is still using paper applications to enroll people through the Affordable Care Act.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 5:34 pm

There are seven shopping days left until Christmas. But there are just five days until another important deadline — the last day to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if you want coverage to start January 1.

After a slow start, activity on the federal website HealthCare.gov has been heavy all month. And with the deadline approaching, some people are getting worried that they won't get signed up in time.

And this being the health care law, it's complicated. There is more than one deadline.

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Shots - Health News
1:25 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away, And Statins Do, Too

Not covered by Obamacare, but still sweet.
Cristian Baitg iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 4:17 pm

We're all supposed to be eating right, but most of us are not doing a very good job of that.

Could you eat an apple a day?

Adding in that one piece of fruit could improve cardiovascular health on a par with prescribing of cholesterol-lowering statins for everyone over age 50, according to a report published Tuesday in BMJ.

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Shots - Health News
12:17 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Trouble In Paradise: Chikungunya Outbreak Grows In Caribbean

Sun, shopping and chikungunya? A nasty virus has sickened 10 people on the island of St. Martin in the past few months.
Balalaika iStockphoto

If you're lucky enough to be heading down to the Caribbean this winter for snorkeling, daiquiris and a kick of vitamin D, you should probably think about packing long-sleeve shirts and bug repellent — especially if you'll be spending time on the island of St. Martin.

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Shots - Health News
11:22 am
Wed December 18, 2013

15-Year-Old Wants Braces: Will Obamacare Cover Them?

Hey, Mom, can I get braces like that guy?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:58 pm

It turns out that readers of all ages — from teenagers to seniors — have questions about the health law. We try to answer the latest batch.

I'm 15 years old, and I really want braces. If my mom signs me up for Obamacare, will it cover it?

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Sports
10:28 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Brain Injuries Cause For Concern In Baseball Too

Reports show former Major League Baseball player Ryan Freel, who took his own life last year, suffered from a degenerative brain disease. Injuries like that are usually associated with the hard knocks of football. Host Michel Martin talks with sports writer Pablo Torre about the prevalence of brain injuries in other sports.

The Affordable Care Act, Explained
6:16 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Your Questions About The American Health Care Act

There are many questions about the new health care law. Here are some answers.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 7:37 am

In recent months, NPR staff has published a series of questions-and-answer stories related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Now we've compiled them into an interactive so you can explore answers that are most relevant to you.

There are nearly 80 questions, ranging from who's eligible to how much insurance might cost, among two dozen topics. Filter the list by selecting categories or asking questions.

Did we miss an important question? Let us know.

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Health Care
4:37 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Questions Persist Regarding Affordable Care Act

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 7:02 am

The federal government's health care website seems to be working much more smoothly. But many people still have questions about the Affordable Care Act. For answers, they can go to NPR.org/ACA.

The Salt
1:58 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Amid Fields Of Plenty, A Farmworker's Wife Struggles To Feed Her Family

Food banks have become a primary source of nutrition for rural farmworker communities in the Central Valley.
Scott Anger KQED

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 9:25 am

California's San Joaquin Valley is one of the most productive farm regions in the world. But many farmworkers struggle to feed their families fresh and healthy food because they can't afford to buy the produce that grows all around them.

The Ortiz family in Raisin City, Calif., faces this very problem.

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Shots - Health News
4:40 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Why Glaxo Won't Pay Doctors To Sell Its Drugs Anymore

British pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline is pledging to revamp its relationships with doctors.
Sang Tan AP

Doctors talking up drugs to other doctors has been quite lucrative for pharmaceutical companies — and the physicians who moonlight as their salesmen.

Drugmakers learned long ago that deputized doctors were effective pitchmen. A doctor paid by a company to give a dinner speech or to chat over lunch with colleagues can go a long way toward changing their prescribing habits.

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Politics
3:59 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Obama Meets With Tech Leaders, Taps Microsoft Exec To Fix HealthCare.gov

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:31 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The government's health insurance website has a new Mr. Fixit. The Obama administration has hired a former Microsoft executive to oversee improvements. Kurt DelBene will take over for Jeff Zients, the former management consultant and White House staffer who was brought in in late October to help turn the troubled website around.

News of DelBene's appointment comes as President Obama met today with a group of high tech CEOs. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

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Business
3:59 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

GlaxoSmithKline To Stop Paying Doctors To Promote Its Drugs

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:31 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Today, one of the biggest drug companies in the world announced changes to its marketing practices. GlaxoSmithKline says the idea is to be more transparent about how it sells its drugs. Among the changes, the company will stop paying doctors to tout its products to other doctors.

As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, the public interest community says this is a step in the right direction for an industry that's faced many legal problems.

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Sports
3:59 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Some Competitors Say Free-Diving Needs A Safety Sea Change

Nicholas Mevoli smiles while diving in Curacao in October. He died a month later following an attempted dive in a free-diving competition in the Bahamas.
Daan Verhoeven Barcroft Media/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:31 pm

Dahab, Egypt, just north of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula, is perfect for free-diving. A diver can have tea in a simple beach cafe and then take just a handful of steps into the Gulf of Aqaba, where the seafloor plunges more than 100 yards into a wine-glass-shaped blue hole.

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Shots - Health News
3:14 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

How The U.S. Helped Fight The Global AIDS Epidemic

A mother waits with her child at an HIV clinic in Nyagasambu, Rwanda, in February 2008. The clinic was built with a grant from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative.
Shashank Bengali MCT /Landov

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 7:50 am

A decade ago, President George W. Bush announced an unprecedented global health initiative: $15 billion over five years to fight HIV in developing countries.

"There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection," Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address. "Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims — only 50,000 — are receiving the medicine they need."

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Shots - Health News
1:08 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Concussion Research Slowed By Shortage Of Donated Brains

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's body has been exhumed more than a year after he killed his girlfriend and himself so that his brain can be examined for signs of a degenerative condition linked to repeated concussions.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 3:08 pm

Former NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher's body was exhumed last week so doctors can perform tests on the remains of his brain. The family hopes to find out if a degenerative brain disease played a role in Kansas City Chiefs veteran's death last year, when he shot his girlfriend then killed himself.

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Shots - Health News
11:37 am
Tue December 17, 2013

The Case Against Multivitamins Grows Stronger

Though some people might need more of specific vitamins, multivitamins don't help most people, studies say.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:57 am

When I was growing up my mom gave me a multivitamin every day as a defense against unnamed dread diseases.

But it looks like Mom was wasting her money. Evidence continues to mount that vitamin supplements don't help most people and can actually cause diseases that people are taking them to prevent, like cancer.

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Health
11:06 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Are Americans Getting Smarter About Obesity?

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:17 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later this hour, we're going to deal with some common holiday dilemmas, such as how to deal with tantrums at the mall, how to deal with people who get a little too cute at a holiday gathering and how to move your spending habits from the naughty to nice column, at least for next year. That's all coming up.

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Parenting
11:06 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Tantrums: To Control Or Not To Control?

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:17 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. Every week, we check in with a diverse group of parents for their common sense and savvy advice. Today, we're talking about something we've all seen and perhaps experienced. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD TANTRUM)

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Shots - Health News
8:42 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Medicare Names Best And Worst Hospitals For Joint Replacements

Before you have get a new hip, you might want to check the government's list of best and worst hospitals for the operation.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:58 am

Around a million people get hip or knee replacements a year, and those operations cost Medicare and private insurers a lot of money. For the first time, the federal government is evaluating how good a job individual hospitals are doing.

Medicare has identified 95 hospitals where elderly patients were more likely to suffer significant setbacks and another 97 hospitals where patients tended to have the smoothest recoveries. (It's a long list that you can sift through here.)

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Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Doctor Helps Iowa Couple Face Illness On Their Own Terms

Dr. Tim Ihrig, a palliative care physician, treats Augie Avelleyra, 93, at his home in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Courtesy of Paula Avelleyra

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 9:49 am

When Dr. Tim Ihrig crosses the threshold of the Avelleyras home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, he steps over a doormat that says, "One nice person and one old grouch live here."

It doesn't take long to figure out who the nice person is.

Phyllis Avelleyra grew up on a farm in western Iowa and met her husband, Augie, in "the big city," otherwise known as Fort Dodge. Population 25,000. The couple has been married for 60 years. They have five daughters, the oldest of whom is already a grandmother herself.

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Shots - Health News
4:00 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

FDA Asks For Proof That Antibacterial Soaps Protect Health

There's no evidence that triclosan and other chemicals in antibacterial soaps do a better job than plain soap and water, the FDA says.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 4:32 pm

In hospitals, people are bathed with soaps containing the antibacterial triclosan to reduce the risk of serious infections in surgery. But that doesn't necessarily mean we should be using triclosan soap in the kitchen and the bathroom, the Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency on Monday took a step toward restricting the use of triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals widely used in soap, deodorant, cosmetics and hundreds of other consumer products.

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The Salt
2:45 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

In Florida, A Turf War Blooms Over Front-Yard Vegetable Gardening

Hermine Ricketts says she gardens for the food and for the peace it brings her.
Greg Allen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 7:06 pm

In tropical South Florida, it's growing season. Temperatures are in the 80s, there's lots of sun and good rain, and normally, Hermine Ricketts' plants would already be in the ground.

"By now, this should be probably Red Sails lettuce, which is a beautiful color lettuce, or purple mizuna, which is a beautiful filigreed purple leaf," she says.

But this year, Ricketts' vegetable planting has been derailed by a legal fight over what she can plant and where she can plant it.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Novice Neurosurgeons Train On Brains Printed In 3-D

A simulated patient at the University of Malaya makes use of different materials to mimic the look and feel of human tissue.
Courtesy of Vicknes Waran

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:58 am

There's no such thing as too much practice when it comes to brain surgery.

But it's hard for beginner neurosurgeons to get real hands-on experience. Most residents learn by watching and assisting experienced surgeons.

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Shots - Health News
1:27 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

As Far As Mom's Concerned, You'll Always Be The Little One

Being the littlest may mean more protection and care from parents, psychologists say.
Getty Images/Image Source

If you're a youngest child, your mother may call you "the baby," even if you're 6-foot-3. It can be endearing or annoying, depending on how you're feeling about dear old Mom.

But, it turns out, lots of parents think their youngest children are smaller than they really are, Australian researchers have found.

When they asked mothers to mark the height of their youngest child on a wall, they consistently marked it lower than the child's height. And not just by a little bit.

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Health
4:03 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Why A Regular Bedtime Is Important For Children

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 4:15 am

Children who have irregular bed times are more likely to have behavioral issues than children who have a regular bedtime routine. A survey of 10,00 children showed that irregular bedtimes are linked with difficulties such as hyperactivity, acting out and being emotionally withdrawn. Researchers think inconsistent bedtimes probably affect young children like jet lag.

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