Health Desk

Shots - Health News
4:02 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Overused Medical Services Cost Medicare Billions Of Dollars

Medical overtreatment is the inverse of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography: While waste is easy to define in principle, it can be hard to know it when you see it.

A treatment that is appropriate for one patient can also be unnecessary or even counterproductive for another, depending on the patient's condition. This has been a major obstacle for studies seeking to pinpoint overused services, which by the most expansive estimates may account for as much as a third of the nation's health spending.

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Shots - Health News
3:27 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Deadly MERS Virus Detected In Florida

A farmworker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, wears a mask to protect against Middle East respiratory syndrome earlier this month. The MERS virus is common in camels.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:38 pm

The second U.S. case of a dangerous new virus from the Middle East has been found in Florida, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

The patient is a health care worker from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who developed symptoms May 1 while traveling to Orlando, Fla., to visit family, the CDC said.

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Shots - Health News
2:00 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Older Women May Actually Be More At Risk For Cervical Cancer

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 9:35 am

Women are often told they don't have to get a Pap test for cervical cancer if they're over 65, but the data behind that recommendation might underestimate their cancer risk, researchers say.

That's because many studies don't take into account that many women have had hysterectomies. The surgery removes a woman's risk of cervical cancer; no cervix, no cancer. And 20 percent of the women over age 20 in this study said they had had that surgery.

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Shots - Health News
12:31 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Driving While Pregnant Is Riskier Than You Might Think

Be a bit more careful? The risk of a traffic accident rises by about 40 percent during the second trimester of pregnancy.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 4:04 pm

Don't scuba dive. Be careful about flying. Stay out of those hot tubs. Pregnancy comes with a long list of do's and don'ts.

Now it looks like we might need to add another item to that list: Drive more carefully.

Expectant mothers are more likely to have serious car crashes, a large study out of Canada finds.

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NPR Story
4:06 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Mormon Bishop Highlights Health Coverage Gap Among Utah's Poor

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 2:06 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many republican governors have taken a stand against Obamacare by refusing to expand Medicaid. Utah, which is one of the most republican states in the nation, remains undecided. But in a state where the majority of the population are Mormons, one bishop from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says helping the poor is a moral obligation. Andrea Smardon from member station KUER in Salt Lake City has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHECKOUT SCANNER)

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Shots - Health News
2:25 am
Mon May 12, 2014

Medicare Won't Always Pay For Boomers' Pricey Hepatitis C Drugs

New hepatitis C drugs can cost as much as $1,000 per pill.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 16, 2014 11:02 am

Walter Bianco has had hepatitis C for decades. He's known about it for 20 years. And now he's reaching the end of the road.

"The liver is at the stage next to becoming cirrhotic," the 65-year-old Arizona man says.

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Shots - Health News
2:24 am
Mon May 12, 2014

That Prescription Might Not Have Been Tested For Your Ailment

Leif Parsons for NPR

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 4:00 pm

It's actually quite common for doctors to write "off label" prescriptions, including using cancer drugs to treat migraine headaches or blood pressure medication for heart failure.

One study found that 1 in 5 prescriptions written in doctor's offices has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the condition it is being used for. And while some off-label drugs are used with no problems, others may not work or may increase a patient's risk of complications.

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Shots - Health News
12:37 pm
Sun May 11, 2014

Addicted And Pregnant: 'The Most Heart-Wrenching Experience Of My Life'

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 5:59 am

I bought my first and only pregnancy test when I was 26.

At the time, I had been doing a lot of meth. I was fortunate if I remembered to eat one meal a day. Refilling my birth-control prescription had become just another missed detail in a life that had ceased to have much meaning for me.

I was an addict, and I was staring at two very bright pink lines on a stick.

I showed the test to my boyfriend. "What are we going to do?" I asked. He replied, "Have a baby, I guess."

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All Tech Considered
4:40 am
Sun May 11, 2014

To Know Thyself, Collect Data On Your Dog

Whistle is a wearable device for your dog that tracks the pup's activity.
Whistle

If you walk your dog after dinner each night, does that help you sleep better? Maybe you've noticed that this seems to be the case, but access to hard data would help confirm it.

As technology advances and more people dig into the metrics of how they live, the market is exploding with wearable devices that enable deeper self-monitoring. There's even a fancy name for this: the quantifiable self, basically using technology to gather data on your life.

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Shots - Health News
11:51 am
Sat May 10, 2014

When A Cholesterol Test Becomes A Vice Instead Of A Virtue

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 4:04 pm

If you ask me to boil down the modern doctor-patient relationship to its most basic elements, cholesterol pretty much sums it up.

No single concept has permeated American medical culture to the extent of our anxiety about cholesterol.

It doesn't matter if you're old or young, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not. Whether you love American-style high-tech medical care or forswear it for an Eastern-oriented herbal approach, patients from all perspectives come to me and fret about their cholesterol.

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Shots - Health News
4:20 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Europeans Are Getting Fatter, Just Like Americans

Fried cod awaits its destiny as fish and chips in London.
Oli Scarff Getty Images

Ireland is predicted to become the fattest country in Europe by 2030, according to a study released by the World Health Organization and the UK Health Forum.

As many as 90 percent of Irish men and 84 percent of Irish women are projected to be classified as overweight or obese by then. Blame goes to the usual culprits: unhealthy diets high in sugar and fats, and a lack of exercise.

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Shots - Health News
4:05 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Keep Or Kill Last Lab Stocks Of Smallpox? Time To Decide, Says WHO

U.S. Marine Sgt. Robert Scoggin gets a vaccination against smallpox in 2003 at Camp Pendleton in California — one of the final steps before deployment overseas.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 7:45 pm

The World Health Organization is revisiting a question that's been the subject of intense debate for decades: whether to destroy the only known samples of the smallpox virus.

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Health
3:19 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

To End Addiction Epidemic, States Focus On Stopping Doctor Shoppers

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 7:45 pm

Nearly every state has a prescription drug monitoring program that's meant to end abuse of opioids and other powerful pain medicines. But critics say most of these programs have a big loophole: they're voluntary, and many doctors don't use them. States that have made participation in PDMPs mandatory say they've started to cut down on practices that allow pain meds to be diverted into the black market. But those states are the exception.

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Shots - Health News
1:41 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Health Centers Hurt In States That Skipped Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 7:18 am

More than 1 million patients who use federally funded community health centers will remain uninsured because they live in 24 states that chose not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Friday by researchers at George Washington University.

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Health
11:18 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Midwifery: A Profession Of Passion, For Men Too

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 11:39 am

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
7:34 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Hoarding Can Start Early, But Signs Are Hard To See In Teens

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 3:53 pm

Hoarding disorder is generally diagnosed in older adults, after their inability to discard things and their anxiety over possessions leave them unable to function. But it may take root much earlier in life, though psychiatrists say they're just starting to figure that out.

Hoarding symptoms may look different in teenagers than they do in adults, researchers reported at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting this week in New York.

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Shots - Health News
3:26 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Mental Health 101: Program Helps Police Intervene In Crises

A police officer stands outside the entrance to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 15, 2012.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 7:24 pm

How do you tell the difference between someone who needs to be taken to jail and someone who needs to be taken to the hospital? It can be a delicate situation to decipher, and it's been a big concern in Connecticut since the Newtown shootings of 2012.

Lance Newkirchen, a regular patrol officer in the town of Fairfield, is also specifically trained to respond to mental health calls. On a recent weekday, he headed out in his patrol car for a follow-up call.

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Shots - Health News
3:05 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Is This Save The Children Ad Too Sexy For The Cause?

Save the Children USA YouTube

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 7:18 am

The sexy male model makes bedroom eyes and says, "Malaria."

The sexy female model twirls her glossy hair in a flirtatious manner and says, "Diarrhea."

It's part of a 2 minute, 17 second public service spot called "The Most Important 'Sexy' Model Video Ever." And no, it's not a spoof.

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Health Care
3:03 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Forecast Predicts A Shift Away From Employer-Sponsored Insurance

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 6:49 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. President Obama's pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services is winning some Republican support. The president chose Sylvia Matthews Burwell to take over from the embattled outgoing secretary, Kathleen Sebelius. And today, Burwell appeared before the Senate Health Committee. That's where Arizona Senator John McCain said she is well qualified to serve as health secretary.

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Shots - Health News
3:03 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Anti-Aging Hormone Could Make You Smarter

Klotho (right) is one of the three Greek Fates depicted in this Flemish tapestry at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 6:49 pm

A hormone associated with longevity also appears to make people's brains work better.

The finding in Cell Reports could someday lead to drugs that improve memory and learning, researchers say.

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Author Interviews
12:26 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

A Cartoonist's Funny, Heartbreaking Take On Caring For Aging Parents

Roz Chast Bloomsbury

It's never easy to talk with aging parents about the end of life, but it was maybe particularly difficult for Roz Chast and her parents, which is why her new graphic memoir is called Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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Shots - Health News
11:44 am
Thu May 8, 2014

If Polar Bears Can Eat A Ton Of Fat And Be Healthy, Why Can't We?

Lots of swimming in icy seas may have helped bears evolve to eat a high-fat diet yet remain healthy.
Sebastien Bozon AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 5:20 pm

If you were a bear and wanted to make a go of it in the frozen North (think polar bear, of course), what would you need to survive?

White fur would help, to help you sneak up on prey. Also plenty of body fat to stay warm. And you'd need great stamina to swim many miles from one ice floe to the next.

And there's another important trait, researchers reported Thursday: Polar bears have genes that help them live on a diet that's overloaded with fat — without suffering the sorts of human diseases that typically come with a diet of that sort.

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Shots - Health News
11:18 am
Thu May 8, 2014

HealthCare.Gov Looks Like A Bargain Compared With State Exchanges

Peter Lee (left), executive director of Covered California, greets employees at a call center in Fresno, Calif., in February.
Scott Smith AP

Sometimes there really are economies of scale. And the nation's health insurance exchanges may be a case in point.

As rocky as the rollout of HealthCare.gov was, the federal exchange was relatively efficient in signing up enrollees. Each one cost an average of $647 in federal tax dollars, an analysis finds. It cost an average of $1,503 – well over twice as much – to sign up each person in the 15 exchanges run by individual states and Washington, D.C.

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Business
7:32 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Advocates Back Paid Sick Leave, But Opponents Won't Cough It Up

Activists hold signs during a rally on Jan. 18, 2013, at New York's City Hall to call for immediate action on paid sick days legislation in light of the continued spread of the flu. Last month, New York City began requiring employers to provide paid sick days, joining the ranks of other cities such as Washington, Seattle and San Francisco.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 1:03 pm

If you've ever seen your waiter sneeze, you may have asked for a different server. If you've seen one sneeze repeatedly, you might wonder why he's still at work, serving tainted food.

See, most restaurant workers don't get paid when they stay home sick. But, some go to work anyway, when they've got the sniffles or worse, because they need the paycheck.

For labor advocates, that's a problem.

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Business
6:58 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Drug Industry Moves To Cut Costs, Banks On Future Big Sellers

Originally published on Sun May 11, 2014 5:32 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Research News
6:58 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Study: Time Away Can Hurt Surgeons' Job Performance

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story begins with an old saying among musicians: If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days of practice, the audience will notice. A study found evidence that saying applies to surgeons, and lives may be at stake.

NPR's Shankar Vedantam has been looking at the results of that study. He's in our studios. Hi, Shankar.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was the research?

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Shots - Health News
5:20 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Snip Decision: Africa's Campaign To Circumcise Its Men

hivsharespace YouTube

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

If you turn on a radio in Zimbabwe these days, it won't be long before you hear a public service spot featuring the voice of a deejay who goes by the name "Napster the Radio Master."

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Shots - Health News
4:11 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Telepsychiatry Brings Emergency Mental Health Care To Rural Areas

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

North Carolina is facing a very big mental health care challenge — 28 counties across the state do not have a single psychiatrist. That's despite the fact that in recent years, emergency rooms in the state have seen more patients with mental health, developmental disability or substance abuse problems.

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The Two-Way
3:26 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Shinseki: Swift Action If Problems At VA Hospital Are True

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, flanked by President Obama and Vice President Biden, at the White House last month.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 7:54 pm

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki tells NPR that he's determined to get to the bottom of allegations that veterans may have died at a Phoenix VA hospital while waiting for care.

The accusations of extended delays in providing health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system surfaced last month. The facility reportedly kept two lists of veterans waiting for care, one it shared with Washington and another, secret list of wait times that sometimes lasted more than a year.

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Shots - Health News
3:04 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Seeking Better Ways To Tell If Surgery Is Too Risky

Just because surgery is possible doesn't mean it's a good idea, especially for frail older people.
Sam Edwards Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 7:02 am

Older people face higher risks in surgery, but not all 85-year-olds are alike. One may celebrate his birthday skydiving, like former president George H.W. Bush, while another may be unable to stand without help.

Since half of all surgery in the United States is performed on people 65 and older, figuring out an individual's risk is key. Measuring frailty beforehand more accurately predicts who will do well after surgery, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

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