Health Desk

Shots - Health News
12:48 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Just A Bit Of DNA Helps Explain Humans' Big Brains

The human version of a DNA sequence called HARE5 (inserted into this mouse embryo) turned on a gene that's important for brain development. (Gene activity is stained blue.) By the end of gestation, the embryo's brain was 12 percent larger than the brain of an embryo injected with the chimpanzee version of HARE5.
Silver Lab/Duke University

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 12:57 pm

Scientists studying the difference between human and chimpanzee DNA have found one stretch of human DNA that can make the brains of mice grow significantly bigger.

"It's likely to be one of many DNA regions that's critical for controlling how the human brain develops," says Debra Silver, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical School.

It could also help explain why human brains are so much bigger than chimp brains, says Silver, who notes that "there are estimates of anywhere from two to four times as big."

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Shots - Health News
12:37 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

Humana Discloses Widening Justice Dept. Probe Of Medicare Advantage Plans

Health insurer Humana Inc. disclosed that its Medicare Advantage plans are being looked at by the feds.
Brian Bohannon AP

Humana, Inc. faces new scrutiny from the Justice Department over allegations it has overcharged the government by claiming some elderly patients enrolled in its popular Medicare plans are sicker than they actually are.

The Louisville, Ky.-based insurer disclosed the Justice Department's recent civil "information request" in an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 18. The company noted that it is cooperating with authorities.

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The Salt
2:26 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Chocolate Makeover: Nestle Dumps Artificial Colorings

Nestle announced that it is removing artificial flavors and colorings from all of its chocolate candy products — including the dyes used to give the inside of a Butterfinger, like this one, that orange hue.
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 2:14 pm

Some of America's most popular chocolate bars — including the Baby Ruth and the Butterfinger — are about to get an ingredient makeover. Nestle USA announced it is removing artificial flavors and colorings from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of 2015.

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Shots - Health News
2:23 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Why A Court Once Ordered Kids Vaccinated Against Their Parents' Will

Measles is highly contagious, and it produces fever and rash in susceptible people who become infected.
Hazel Appleton Health Protection Agency Centre/Science Source

Originally published on Sat February 21, 2015 7:14 pm

A highly contagious disease was sweeping across the United States. Thousands of children were sick and some were dying. In the midst of this outbreak, health officials did something that experts say had never been done before and hasn't been done since: They forced parents to vaccinate their children.

It sounds like something that would have happened 100 years ago. But this was 1991 — and the disease was measles.

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Injured Nurses
3:12 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Hospital To Nurses: Your Injuries Are Not Our Problem

Terry Cawthorn was a nurse at Mission Hospital for more than 20 years. But after a series of back injuries, mainly from lifting patients, she was fired. Cawthorn took legal action against the hospital and still faces daily struggles as a result of her injury.
Susannah Kay for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 4:09 pm

The case of Terry Cawthorn and Mission Hospital, in Asheville, N.C., gives a glimpse of how some hospital officials around the country have shrugged off an epidemic.

Cawthorn was a nurse at Mission for more than 20 years. Her supervisor testified under oath that she was "one of my most reliable employees."

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Shots - Health News
3:03 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Pain Really Is All In Your Head And Emotion Controls Intensity

iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 1:57 pm

When you whack yourself with a hammer, it feels like the pain is in your thumb. But really it's in your brain.

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The Salt
9:25 am
Wed February 18, 2015

How Marijuana Highjacks Your Brain To Give You The Munchies

After the pot-smoking comes the insatiable hunger. Just ask James Franco and Seth Rogen's weed-loving characters in Pineapple Express.
The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 11:20 am

Shortly after toking up, a lot of marijuana users find that there's one burning question on their minds: "Why am I so hungry?" Researchers have been probing different parts of the brain looking for the root cause of the marijuana munchies for years. Now, a team of neuroscientists report that they have stumbled onto a major clue buried in a cluster of neurons they thought was responsible for making you feel full.

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Shots - Health News
8:37 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Pregnant And Uninsured? Don't Count On Obamacare Coverage

Under the Affordable Care Act, pregnancy isn't considered a "qualifying event" that justifies enrollment at any time.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 2:58 pm

The Obama administration often touts the health benefits women have gained under the Affordable Care Act, including the option to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment periods if they're "having a baby."

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Shots - Health News
3:36 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Kids' Solo Playtime Unleashes 'Free-Range' Parenting Debate

People who practice free-range parenting say it makes kids more independent, but others see it as neglect. State and local laws don't specify what children are allowed to do on their own.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 1:57 pm

Parents have made news recently after being detained for purposefully leaving children on their own, prompting renewed debate about so-called "free-range parenting."

That includes Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, a Silver Spring, Md., couple who are being investigated after they let their children, ages 10 and 6, walk home from a park last month by themselves.

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Goats and Soda
4:59 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

The Grandpa Who Saved His Granddaughter From Ebola

A health worker with Doctors Without Borders carries a child suspected of having Ebola at the treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, last October. Ebola is especially deadly for young children and babies. About 4 in 5 infected died.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 8:55 am

A few months ago, I met a grandpa whom I'll never forget.

His name is Edwin Koryan. And he's a pharmacist in Voinjama, Liberia. Edwin remembers the moment he felt the first symptoms of Ebola. He was taking care of his 5-year-old granddaughter Komasa. They were sharing a room and a bed.

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Shots - Health News
12:59 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Many Parents Aren't Sold On Later School Start Times For Teens

The American Academy of Pediatrics says middle and high schools shouldn't start before 8:30 a.m., so students can get enough sleep.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 2:07 pm

Sleeping in probably sounds like a no-brainer to most teenagers, but their parents aren't so sure that it's worth starting school later to get the extra shut-eye.

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Shots - Health News
8:44 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Figuring Out If A Doctor Is In Your Network Can Be Perplexing

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 7:36 am

"Is this doctor in my insurance network?" is one of the key questions people ask when considering whether to see a particular doctor. Unfortunately, in some cases the answer may not be a simple yes or no.

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Shots - Health News
3:09 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Female Libido Pill Fires Up Debate About Women And Sex

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 7:35 am

For 15 years, Carla Price and her husband's sex life was great. But then things began to change.

"Before, I would want to have sex," says Price, who is 50 and lives in central Missouri. "But over the years my sexual desire has just dwindled to nothing."

Price has no idea why. She's healthy. She's not really stressed out about anything. And she's still totally crazy about her husband.

"It's not that our relationship got boring," Price says. "Because it's actually the opposite — we became closer as we got older together."

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Shots - Health News
2:44 am
Mon February 16, 2015

Satisfied Patients Now Make Hospitals Richer, But Is That Fair?

Medical Park Hospital's patients tend to be pretty happy customers, leading to thousands of dollars in rewards from Medicare.
Novant Health

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 12:05 pm

In Medical Park Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C., Angela Koons is still a little loopy and uncomfortable after wrist surgery. Nurse Suzanne Cammer gently jokes with her. When Koons says she's itchy under her cast, Cammer warns, "Do not stick anything down there to scratch it!" Koons smiles and says, "I know."

Koons tells me Cammer's kind attention and enthusiasm for nursing has helped make the hospital stay more comfortable.

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Shots - Health News
2:42 am
Mon February 16, 2015

Beyond BPA: Court Battle Reveals A Shift In Debate Over Plastic Safety

Eastman Chemical went a step beyond calling Tritan plastic BPA-free, setting off a legal challenge.
Eastman

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 3:56 pm

BPA-free isn't good enough anymore if you're trying to sell plastic sippy cups, water bottles and food containers.

The new standard may be "EA-free," which means free of not only BPA, short for bisphenol A, but also free of other chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen.

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The Salt
4:07 pm
Sun February 15, 2015

America Loves Smoothies And The Frozen Foods Industry Knows It

One of Dole Packaged Food's frozen fruit options. Over the years, frozen fruit companies have adjusted packaging to make it flashier and more colorful, and also put their products in stand-up bags, says Wall Street Journal reporter, Sarah Nassauer.
Dole.com

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 5:20 pm

Last year, frozen fruit sales in this country surpassed a billion dollars, shattering all previous records. Sales have more than doubled since 2011.

So what's behind this explosion of frozen fruit?

Sarah Nassauer, who reports on the food business for the Wall Street Journal, points to a pair of studies from the world's biggest seller of fresh fruit.

"Dole [Packaged Foods] got into this business, started selling frozen fruit in 2005," she says. "So in 2006, they did a big sort of frozen fruit usage study, and then they did another one last year in 2014."

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Goats and Soda
6:03 am
Sun February 15, 2015

He's Half-Kenyan And Half-German. And He Believes 'We're All The Same'

David Hermlin is a singer, dancer, musician and songwriter — oh, and a global activist, too. Sample lyric: "I will fight for my dream, and I will never give up."
Courtesy of David Hermlin

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 11:57 am

In Berlin, David Hermlin is a 14-year-old who wants to be a star — and is well on his way. He plays drums and guitar, dances and sings. He performs with his father's jazz orchestra. He even writes songs.

But Hermlin has another life as well — as a global activist.

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Shots - Health News
4:45 am
Sun February 15, 2015

When A Patient Says 'Everything's Fine,' A Doctor Should Be Wary

Lucinda Schreiber for NPR

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 11:44 am

Oscar buzz surrounds Julianne Moore for her role as Alice Howland in the film Still Alice. Howland is a linguistics professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer's, a cruel irony for a character who makes her living with her brain.

Howland's awareness of her fate makes her decline all the more painful to watch.

Often, though, patients and their doctors can be slow to recognize dementia, which most often progresses gradually.

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Goats and Soda
5:03 am
Sat February 14, 2015

How Long Is An Ebola Victim's Body Contagious? You Don't Want To Know

The protective gear worn by Ebola burial teams is critical: A corpse can be contagious for up to 7 days. These workers are carrying the body of a woman who died of the virus in her home in a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia.
John Moore Getty Images

People in West Africa often touch and wash the dead in their community. That's a problem when it comes to handling Ebola victims. Their bodies are known to be contagious. And so Red Cross body collectors receive careful training and protective gear before they embark, but it's tough to alter this tradition.

Now researchers have confirmed how long those bodies can be contagious. The Ebola virus can survive for up to a week in a dead primate.

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Goats and Soda
11:12 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Your Brain May Want That Bottle Of Soda Because It's Easy To Pick Up

You want that soda bottle. But it may not be because you crave soda. It might just be that you love the idea of wrapping your fingers around its enticing shape.
Ariel Zambelich NPR

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 11:41 am

Here at Goats and Soda, we can't resist a good story about goats. (See our story about how you know if your goat is happy.) The same goes for soda.

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The Salt
10:19 am
Fri February 13, 2015

How NAFTA Changed American (And Mexican) Food Forever

In 2013, the U.S. imported about 2 million tons of Coronas and Modelos, making beer Mexico's largest agricultural export to the U.S., according to a USDA report.
Scott Olson Getty Images

If you were to try and list the biggest game-changers for the American food system in the last two decades, you might note the Food Network, or the writing of Michael Pollan, or maybe even the evolution of Walmart.

But you'd probably overlook NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

And that would be a mistake, according to a lengthy report out early February from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Shots - Health News
7:07 am
Fri February 13, 2015

California Health Exchange Considers Extending Enrollment For Some

Covered California may extend the enrollment deadline for health coverage far beyond Feb. 15.
KQED

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 8:58 am

Covered California open enrollment ends this Sunday. Sort of.

For starters, the agency announced Thursday that people who start an application by this Sunday get until next Friday, Feb. 20, to finish it. That's similar to steps that Covered California has taken in the past.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Study: Black Girls Are Being Pushed Out of School

According to a new study from African-American Policy Forum, black girls and teens are disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance policies in schools.
Terry Vine Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 4:05 pm

News surrounding a confrontation in a Baltimore school is raising new questions about the role race plays in discipline for black girls. Baltimore television station WBAL has been reporting on an October incident that led to three students at the city's Vanguard Middle School being injured, and later arrested and suspended, after an altercation with a school security officer.

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All Tech Considered
4:09 am
Fri February 13, 2015

The Black Market For Stolen Health Care Data

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 8:40 am

President Obama is at Stanford University today, hosting a cybersecurity summit. He and about a thousand guests are trying to figure out how to protect consumers online from hacks and data breaches.

Meanwhile, in the cyber underworld, criminals are trying to figure out how to turn every piece of our digital life into cash. The newest frontier: health records.

I grab a chair and sit down with Greg Virgin, CEO of the security firm RedJack.

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Shots - Health News
4:03 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Fraud Case Casts Spotlight On Medicare Advantage Plans

A federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., indicted Dr. Isaac Kojo Anakwah Thompson on eight counts of health care fraud last week.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 11:45 am

As privately run Medicare health plans for seniors scramble to stave off proposed funding cuts, federal prosecutors in Florida are pursuing an unusual criminal fraud case that's likely to raise new concerns that some plans may be overcharging the government.

The criminal case is believed to be among the first to take aim at billing practices of Medicare Advantage plans, which are popular with seniors because out-of-pocket costs are lower and they provide more benefits than traditional Medicare.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Can A Computer Change The Essence Of Who You Are?

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon February 16, 2015 11:46 am

For the past month and a half, we've been exploring the invisible forces that shape our lives in NPR's newest program, Invisibilia. Now we're ending the pilot season with a visible twist — exploring the ways computers shape our behavior, and the way we see the world.

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Mental Health
4:50 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Obama Signs Act Designed To Prevent Suicide Among Veterans

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 5:26 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Around the Nation
4:50 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

With Porches And Parks, A Texas Community Aims For Urban Utopia

Solar Sunflowers, an art installation, greets visitors to Mueller's commercial and retail hub off of Interstate 35. The panels power a nightly light display and return power to the grid. When the development is complete, five miles of granite trails will connect the residents to its commercial and retail hubs.
Julia Robinson for NPR

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 8:24 pm

This is the first story in a two-part report on the Mueller neighborhood for the NPR Cities Project.

In Texas, a state where cars and private property are close to a religion, there is an acclaimed master-planned community that's trying something different.

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Goats and Soda
3:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Nigeria Is On The Verge Of Bidding Goodbye To Polio

In this 2012 photograph, Adamu Ali carries his 4-year-old son, Omar, who was stricken with polio earlier that year. They live in the Nigerian village of Minjibir.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 5:29 pm

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the three countries where polio transmission has never been brought to a halt.

Now Nigeria may be leaving this unfortunate club.

In 2006 the West African nation recorded more than 1,000 cases of polio-induced paralysis. Last year it had only six; the most recent was in July.

"This I believe is the first time in history that they've gone this long without having a case," says Gregory Armstrong, chief of the polio eradication branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Around the Nation
3:39 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Report: Despite Bans, Pregnant Prisoners Still Shackled During Birth

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 2:14 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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