Health Desk

When doctors told Robert Madison that his wife had dementia, they didn't explain very much. His successful career as an architect hardly prepared him for what came next.

The tiny nation of Nauru is only 8.1-square miles, and home to a population of 10,000. But in the world of public health, this Pacific island looms incredibly large.

It was in Nauru, in the mid-1970s, that researchers first identified a vexing problem that has since spread just about everywhere: sky-high rates of Type 2 diabetes — over 30 percent of the adult population.

Health care costs continue to rise, and workers are shouldering more of the burden.

The big reason? Skyrocketing deductibles.

More companies are adding deductibles to the insurance plans they offer their employees. And for those who already had to pay deductibles, the out-of-pocket outlays are growing.

As a surgeon who specializes in the care and treatment of patients with breast cancer, Elisa Port says one of the hardest parts of her job is delivering bad news to patients.

"I wish I could say it got easier as it goes along, but it certainly doesn't. ... It affects me every single time," Port tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Jason Parrott

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin wants a federal review of the state's response to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed 12 residents of a western Illinois veterans home. 

Much of the buzz over mobile health interventions seems to be about how we can use an ever-growing variety of shiny new smartphone apps and sensors to better manage our health.

But texting, that old-school technology, may deserve some of that spotlight, too.

Almost every American will experience an error in diagnosis at some point in life. But the problem has taken a back seat to other patient safety concerns, an influential panel said in a report released Tuesday.

The report from a blue-ribbon panel of the Institute of Medicine called for widespread changes in health care to improve diagnoses.

Remember Pig-Pen? The little kid from Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoons who walked around in a cloud of dirt? Well, the human body does spew a cloud, but instead of dirt it contains millions of microorganisms.

"It turns out that that kid is all of us," says James Meadow, a microbial ecologist who led research about the microbes shadowing us during postdoctoral work at the University of Oregon. "It's just a microscopic cloud that's really hard to see."

When Portland resident Doris Keene raised her four children, she walked everywhere and stayed active. But when she turned 59, she says, everything fell apart.

"My leg started bothering me. First it was my knees." She ignored the pain, and thinks now it was her sciatic nerve acting up, all along. "I just tried to deal with it," Keene says.

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One in three New York City teenagers report being verbally and emotionally abused by a romantic partner. Destiny Mabry, who is part of the Radio Rookies program at member station WNYC, was one of them. She speaks out about her own experience with domestic abuse.

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Many doctors are choosing a better-safe-than-sorry approach to heading off heart trouble in very elderly patients.

Inexpensive statin drugs are given to millions of people to reduce cholesterol, even many who don't show signs of heart disease. A recent study has found that seniors with no history of heart trouble are now nearly four times more likely – from 9 percent to 34 percent – to get those drugs than they were in 1999.

After their third son was born, Tisha Scott and her husband decided they were done having kids. So Scott, 34, of Drakesville, Iowa, decided to get her tubes tied.

"As old married people, neither of us was really interested in using condoms for the rest of our life," Scott says. "So that was the decision that we made because we knew that our family was complete."

After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., advocates for children in the state put a renewed focus on special education and children who need help.

One challenge? Getting parents and school districts to agree on what to do.

At a house in West Hartford, a young man and his grandfather are watching movies. First, it's The Love Bug. Now, it's Aliens.

"There's a lot of action scenes in it," says the young man. He's still a teenager, actually, a big 19-year-old who loves comic books and martial arts.

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It seems that with every mass shooting, two debates reliably spring up - how the country should deal with guns and how it should deal with mental illness.

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Do you keep up with international news?

This quiz will give you a chance to find out.

If you are looking for proof that Americans' vegetable habits lean towards french fries and ketchup, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has it: Nearly 50 percent of vegetables and legumes available in the U.S. in 2013 were either tomatoes or potatoes. Lettuce came in third as the most available vegetable, according to new data out this week.

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we hear from Greg O'Brien about his decision to forgo treatment for another life-threatening illness. A longtime journalist in Cape Cod, Mass., O'Brien was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

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There has been a profound — and positive — change since 1990 in how people die around the world, a new study shows. "We've made great progress in reducing the risks of maternal and child health, diarrhea, pneumonia, though there's still more work to be done," says Dr.

The wealth gap in America manifests itself not just in our pocketbooks but also in our bellies: The poor are eating less nutritious food than everyone else.

So concludes a new review of 25 studies published between 2003 and 2014 that looked at the food spending and quality of diets of participants in SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

The Lasker Award, given for outstanding contributions to medicine and medical research, is sometimes referred to as "America's Nobel Prize." Since the award was established in 1945, more than 80 laureates have gone on to win the Nobel.

The medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is one of four recipients this year, accepting the award for its contributions to the fight against Ebola. I spoke with the president of the U.S. Board of Directors, Dr. Deane Marchbein, who was in New York for the presentation.

British scientists announced Friday that they had applied for permission to edit the DNA in human embryos, a controversial step that has provoked intense debate around the world.

Kathy Niakan of The Francis Crick Institute in London and colleagues filed an application with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates experiments involving human embryos in England.

In anesthesiology, it pays – literally – to be a man.

At least, that's what's suggested by a study examining this specialty's demographics and salaries in 2007 and again in 2013. The study, by the RAND Corp., a nonpartisan research institute, was published Thursday in the journal Anesthesiology.

When it comes to sleep, fruit flies are a lot like people. They sleep at night, caffeine keeps them awake, and they even get insomnia.

Those similarities, along with scientists' detailed knowledge of the genes and brain structure of Drosophila melanogaster, have made the fruit fly extremely valuable to sleep researchers.

We talk a lot on The Salt about the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in nuts, olive oil, fish, fruits and vegetables. Scientists believe it's one of the world's healthiest patterns of eating, and can protect against a lot of chronic diseases.

In the Arctic, the typical meal looks very different. There, a traditional plate would have some fatty marine animal like seal or whale and not much else – fruits and vegetables are hard to come by in the harsh climate.

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