Health Desk

The hit of Monday night's Met Gala was clearly actress Lupita Nyong'o's hair.

On Jan. 10, a healthy 49-year-old man came down with headaches and blurry vision. He was participating in the test of an experimental drug that might help dull nerve pain, and it was the fifth day in a row that he'd taken the medicine.

The symptoms were serious enough to land the man in the hospital. Despite the fact that he was experiencing stroke-like symptoms, five other healthy volunteers received a sixth dose of the experimental medicine at the highest dose used in the study the next morning.

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Instances of prescription opioid abuse have been steadily climbing in the past couple decades across the country, and here in Illinois. According to the state's department of public health more than half of the overdose deaths in Cook County in 2014 were due to heroin. 

These High School Girls Have Something To Cheer About

May 3, 2016

A group of high school girls are chanting. You could call it a cheer. But it's definitely not your typical high school cheer:

"I need my freedom, I want my rights, the right to education, the right to choose and the right to grow into the woman I want to be."

Welcome to the Sekenani Girls Secondary School, located in Kenya's Maasai Mara, a world famous game reserve known for its rolling grasslands, giraffes and safari jeeps. But not for schools.

Working through a self-help program online can prevent or delay major depression disorder in people who are vulnerable, a study finds. Similar programs have been used to treat depression, but this may be the first one tested to prevent it, the researchers say.

Online programs for mental health problems can be as effective as face-to-face treatment and offer some advantages: Low cost, available at any time and customizable. But they're not panaceas.

Cyclist Teaches Kids To Use Fun To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

May 3, 2016

Jaime Rangel holds a bike tire and begins checking with his hands for thorns and other sharp objects that might be puncturing the tire's rubber tread. His fingers, stained with black patches of oil, move quickly and seamlessly. He's done this type of work dozens of times before.

All around him, a steady stream of kids line up to get their bikes' flat tires and faulty brakes fixed at this free event at a park in southeast Fresno, Calif.

When the health insurance premiums got to the point that they were higher than her mortgage, Renee Powell started to become cynical.

"There was something in me that just kind of switched," said the mother of two from Bartlesville, Okla. "I was OK with paying $750, but when it became about $100 more than my housing costs, it upset me."

Powell is an epidemiologist and used to work for the state in Oklahoma City. She had affordable insurance through that job.

NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser turns dieting into a grueling training regime fit for gladiators. The victor this past season was Roberto Hernandez. He dropped a whopping 160 pounds to reach a body weight of 188 pounds.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has sparked a debate about abortion in both Latin America and the United States.

The virus has been directly linked to a birth defect that results in an abnormally small head and brain damage. In Latin America, where many countries have strict bans on abortion, some citizens and government officials are asking whether such bans should be reconsidered, at least in infected mothers.

Critical Drugs For Hospital ERs Remain In Short Supply

May 2, 2016

At some hospitals, posters on the wall in the emergency department list the drugs that are in short supply or unavailable, along with recommended alternatives.

Philadelphia's historic Italian Market is known for its cheeses, meats, fresh pastas and chocolate. Running 10 city blocks through south Philadelphia, it's one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in the country. But what would a tour through this vibrant neighborhood be like without the ability to see?

That's where Philly Touch Tours comes in. The guide company specializes in offering hands-on tours of Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Holmes fit into the Silicon Valley success mold. A young Stanford dropout who left school to pursue her entrepreneurial vision, she founded Theranos and said she would disrupt the world of medicine with easy and inexpensive blood tests.

Though it's the world's top infectious killer, tuberculosis is surprisingly tricky to diagnose. Scientists think that video gamers can help them create a better diagnostic test.

An online puzzle released Monday will see whether the researchers are right. Players of a Web-based game called EteRNA will try to design a sensor molecule that could potentially make diagnosing TB as easy as taking a home pregnancy test. The TB puzzle marks the launch of "EteRNA Medicine."

Hoping to keep your mental edge as you get older? Look after your heart, a recent analysis suggests, and your brain will benefit, too.

A research team led by Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami, analyzed a subset of data from the Northern Manhattan Study, a large, ongoing study of risk factors for stroke among whites, blacks and Hispanics living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Last week, NPR published a special report on suicide in Native Arctic communities. Reporter Rebecca Hersher spent 10 weeks in Greenland, the Arctic country with the highest known suicide rate in the world: 82.8 suicides per 100,000 people each year — six times higher than the U.S. suicide rate. She interviewed Inuit people in the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk, and in small towns on the country's remote east coast. She spoke with community leaders and mental health professionals who are trying to prevent suicide and come to terms with its underlying causes.

Does Addiction Treatment Require A Higher Power?

May 1, 2016

In the field of addiction treatment, already brimming with intensely personal and emotional debates, there may be nothing more controversial than the role of 12-step programs, which are based on Alcoholics Anonymous.

At least 80 percent of current American addiction treatment— for both alcohol and other drugs — is based on teaching patients the ideology of the steps and persuading them to become members and attend meetings for the rest of their lives.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

One photo of a pensive Congolese woman in her distinctive makeup could be mistaken for a Renaissance painting. Another, of a coal plant sending smoke plumes over a town in China, looks like a still from a 1950s propaganda film. And another, of a little girl yawning during an Indonesian festival, will just make you smile.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading causes of death for teenagers in the United States, and alcohol is involved in 1 out of 4 of those crashes. The stronger a state's restrictions on alcohol overall, the lower the teen death toll, a study finds.

Policies aimed at the general population were more effective than those targeting teens, the study found. They included regulations that limit the hours alcohol can be sold and the density of alcohol outlets in a particular area, as well as taxes on alcohol sales.

Just when health officials think the Ebola outbreak is over in West Africa, the virus pops up again seemingly out of the blue. It's happened at least five times so far.

Now scientists are starting to figure out why: The virus can lie dormant in a survivor for more than year and then re-emerge to infect others.

Raed Al Saleh has seen the city of Aleppo in dire straits before. As the head of the Syrian Civil Defense, he leads missions to find survivors after air raids and missile strikes.

But this week even he was shocked by the intensity of the attacks. The past few days in Aleppo are the worst the city has seen since the Syrian uprisings began five years ago, he says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Feds Act To Help More Ex-Inmates Get Medicaid

Apr 29, 2016

Administration officials moved Thursday to improve low Medicaid enrollment for emerging prisoners, urging states to start signups before release and expanding eligibility to thousands of former inmates in halfway houses near the end of their sentences.

Health coverage for ex-inmates "is critical to our goal of reducing recidivism and promoting the public health," said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria, is the latest health care facility to get blown apart.

The 34-bed hospital was tucked into the lower floors of a five-story building in the Sukkari neighborhood of Aleppo. Sandbags blocked the windows and fortified the entrance. Concrete apartment buildings pressed on either side of it. Late Wednesday night, witnesses say, a low-flying fighter jet unleashed a missile that smashed directly into the hospital.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Watching Disney's remake of The Jungle Book, based on Rudyard Kipling's stories, took me straight back to my childhood in India, and to Sunday mornings spent watching an animated series of The Jungle Book in Hindi, on India's national television channel. (It was originally a Japanese series, dubbed in Hindi for an Indian audience.)

As summer approaches, anxiety about Zika is growing in Gulf Coast states like Florida and Texas. The virus hasn't spread to mosquitoes in the region, and it may not, but experts are preparing nonetheless.

The nation's falling teen birth rate saw an even bigger drop over the past decade, with dramatic declines among Hispanic and black teens.

Birth rates are down a whopping 51 percent among Hispanics age 15 to 19 since 2006, and down 44 percent among black teens, according to a survey of census data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen pregnancy rates among whites also fell by a third.

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