Health Desk

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.

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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.

Genetic Variations Help Make Fraternal Twins More Likely

Apr 28, 2016

Fraternal twins tend to run in families, and scientists think they've identified genetic variations at play. Understanding that might someday help predict who is more likely to have a risky pregnancy, and might also help treat fertility problems.

In the 1990s Chuck Slaughter built the online clothing retailer, TravelSmith, from a startup to a company with sales in excess of $100 million a year. Then he signed up to be an Avon lady.

"[Avon] is the original social network business. In some ways it's better than Twitter and Facebook because Avon figured out how to monetize the social network," Slaughter says over coffee at a café in Oxford, England.

Eight-year-old Mari Copeny from Flint, Mich., sent President Obama a message last month. She told him about her activism on behalf of those affected by Flint's contaminated water and asked if he would meet with her and others from Flint when they came to Washington, D.C., for testimony by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at a congressional hearing.

"My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things, but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people's spirits," she wrote.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed legislation that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.

Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Nashville Public Radio reported earlier this month:

Need knee replacement surgery? It may be worthwhile to head for Tucson.

That's because the average price for a knee replacement in the Arizona city is $21,976, about $38,000 less than it would in Sacramento, Calif. That's according to a report issued Wednesday by the Health Care Cost Institute.

People who sustain a concussion or a more severe traumatic brain injury are likely to have sleep problems that continue for at least a year and a half.

Stacy Bannerman didn't recognize her husband after he returned from his second tour in Iraq.

"The man I had married was not the man that came back from war," she says.

Bannerman's husband, a former National Guardsman, had been in combat and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He behaved in ways she had never expected, and one day, he tried to strangle her.

"I had been with this man for 11 years at that point, and there had never been anything like this before," Bannerman said. "I was so furious and so afraid."

Pasang Lama is one of the survivors of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal that took 9,000 lives across the country, including his parents, brother and more than 30 relatives from his home village in the Langtang Valley. To cope with his loss, the 24-year-old has turned to an unexpected hobby: photography.

"After the earthquake, we lost everything, even the culture," Lama says. He and other young survivors from Langtang have started photographing their lives post-disaster.

Take a look at some lawns this spring. You might see something that looks like a crown of thin leaves and spikey, yellow flowers shooting over the grass, particularly if you live in the South. If the stems are triangular, you've just found a sedge. Dig it up. If it's the right kind of sedge, clinging to the roots will be a few chewy, brown, marble-sized tubers called tiger nuts.

Scientists say they have made an atlas of where words' meanings are located in the brain. The map shows that words are represented in different regions throughout the brain's outer layer.

So now we know who Beyonce's favorite poet is: 27-year-old Somali-Brit Warsan Shire.

One evening in November 2014, Aissatou Sanogo's husband came to tell her some startling news.

"Aissatou," he said, "I'm leaving for Europe" — that very night. He earned a modest salary as a bakery deliveryman in Senegal but had dreams of making far more for his family in a European country.

Accidents happen, and if they are someone else's fault, you can go to court to try to get compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you win, though, the pot of gold you receive may be considerably smaller than you expect. Your health plan may claim some — or all — of the award as reimbursement for money it spent on your medical care.

At the Koforidua Regional Hospital in Ghana, Dr. Forster Amponsah is about to start an appendectomy in one of the hospital's four operating theaters. A half-dozen other patients who have been prepped for surgery lie on gurneys in the surgical ward's foyer. Amponsah is planning to do all the surgeries in quick succession — but then the entire wing of the hospital goes dark.

"The general electricity is out and our generator is broken down," Amponsah says.

When orchardist Eliza Greenman walks through a field of apple trees and gazes upon a pocked array of blemished and buckled fruits — scarred from fighting fungus, heat and pests — she feels a little thrill of joy. "I'm absolutely infatuated with the idea of stress in an orchard," says Greenman, who custom grafts and grows pesticide-free hard cider apples in Hamilton, Va. These forlorn, scabbed apples, says Greenman, may actually be sweeter.

Immunotherapy tablets are starting to edge out shots as a treatment for allergies. And it looks like the pills can help reduce the frequency of asthma attacks, too.

Scientists reported Tuesday that immunotherapy tablets for dust mite allergy reduced the risk of an attack in people with moderate to severe asthma. The results were published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

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