Health Desk

It's a lot of money.

A big chunk of it comes from the U.S.

And it's not enough.

Those are three things you'll learn from the sixth annual report on how much money has been spent to improve health in developing countries.

The total in 2014 was $35.9 billion. As impressive as that number sounds, it's a 1.6 percent drop from 2013.

The U.S. contribution: $12.4 billion. Of course, many other countries chipped in, along with public and private organizations.

Marlene Allen thought she had decent medical coverage after she fell in December and broke her wrist. She had come in from walking the dogs. It was wet. The fracture needed surgery and screws and a plate.

Weeks later, she learned her job-based health plan would cover nothing. Not the initial doctor visit, not the outpatient surgery, not the anesthesiology. She had $19,000 in bills.

"Make sure you find out what kind of plan it is" when employers offer coverage, advises Allen, who lives in northern Minnesota. "I thought health insurance was health insurance."

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Jun 18, 2015

Increased fatigue, forgetfulness, and reduced eyesight — these are some of the declines that can come with aging.

Certain professions keep a close watch for these sorts of changes, in hopes of protecting the public. And some jobs even have a firm age cutoff: Airline pilots are required to retire at 65, for example, and some firefighters must step down by 57. But there are no nationwide age-related cutoffs, required assessments or guidelines to make sure doctors can do their jobs safely.

When an email arrived the other day promoting an "Interfaith Service Focused on Below the Belt Cancers," I was intrigued.

It turns out Thursday, June 18, is the start of the third "Globe-athon to End Women's Cancers." To kickoff this continuing campaign, there will be two days of events in New York City dedicated to making people more aware of the cancers that strike more than 1 million women a year and figuring out the best strategies for diagnosis and treatment.

Teenagers aren't exactly known for their responsible decision making.

But some young people are especially prone to making rash, risky decisions about sex, drugs and alcohol. Individual differences in the brain's working memory — which allows people to draw on and use information to make decisions — could help explain why some adolescents are especially impulsive when it comes to sex, according to a study published Wednesday in Child Development.

Do you know what broad spectrum means? What about SPF? No need to be ashamed if you can't answer those questions, because you're not alone.

In a survey of 114 people, a mere 7 percent knew that "broad spectrum" on a sunblock label means it defends against early aging.

Men'shealthmonth.org

None of us look forward to visiting the doctor.  But getting a regular checkup and telling your physician about any problems you are experiencing can save your life.

June is Men's Health Month.  Dr. Shaheen Allanee, Head of Urologic Oncology at SIU in Springfield, says men are notorious for putting off medical care.

Federal officials have spent years locked in a secret legal battle with UnitedHealth Group, the nation's biggest Medicare Advantage insurer, after a government audit detected widespread overbilling at one of the company's health plans, newly released records show.

Just over half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned.

When Elynn Walter walks into a room of officials from global health organizations and governments, this is how she likes to get their attention:

"I'll say, 'OK, everyone stand up and yell the word blood!' or say, 'Half of the people in the world have their period!' "

It's her way of getting people talking about a topic that a lot of people, well, aren't comfortable talking about: menstrual hygiene.

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

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced that food companies have three years to remove all trans fats from processed food. The long-expected move is aimed at making food more healthful.

Coinsurance? Premium tax credit? HMO and PPO?

Swimming through the health insurance word soup can be frustrating for anyone. Even though I cover health, I couldn't define "cost-sharing reduction plan" until I Googled it just now.

Although the federal government recently clarified that most insurance plans must cover prenatal care as a preventive service without charging women anything out of pocket, it didn't address a crucial and much pricier gap in some young women's coverage: labor and delivery costs.

Perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise.

In the ocean off of Massachusetts, an unlikely alliance of scientists and fishermen is on a quest. They're looking for mating codfish. The goal is not only to revive a depleted fish population but to save an endangered fishing community as well.

Cod were once so plentiful in New England waters that people used to say you could almost walk across their backs. Cod fueled a huge fishing industry. But now they're scarce, mostly from overfishing.

A North Carolina law that would require women who want an abortion to have an ultrasound scan prior to the procedure suffered a final defeat Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to review the case. A federal judge declared the law illegal in early 2014.

The controversial law had been placed under an injunction soon after it took effect back in 2011. It was struck down on the grounds that it reflected ideological, rather than medical, priorities and violated doctors' right of free speech.

It seemed like a noble idea: Declare an international day of yoga.

Who knew it would be so controversial?

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forth the proposal during his maiden speech before the United Nations last September. Modi, who himself does yoga, called the ancient practice "India's gift."

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

When we asked adults who play sports which one they play the most, golf topped the list. That's right: Our poll finds that a day on the links beat out soccer, softball and tennis.

My first reaction was: Whaaat? Golf is played by people riding around in motorized carts; how much exercise could you possibly get?

Play ball! Fore! Swish!

Americans love sports — watching them and playing them.

But as participants, Americans' relationship with sports changes as we grow older. About three-quarters of adults say they played sports when they were younger. By the time people are in their late 20s, however, only 26 percent say they've played sports in the past year.

Those are just two of the findings from the latest poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that takes a look at sports and health in America.

When James Harrison was 14, he got really sick. One of his lungs had to be removed, and he needed a lot of blood.

"I was in the hospital for three months and I had 100 stitches," he recalls.

After receiving 13 units — almost 2 gallons — of donated blood, Harrison knew right away that he wanted to give back.

"I was always looking forward to donating, right from the operation, because I don't know how many people it took to save my life," he says. "I never met them, didn't know them."

Blame it on the camels.

When scientists first detected Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012, the big question was: Where is this virus coming from?

For several years, scientists hunted the deadly virus across the Arabian Peninsula, and eventually they found at least one source — dromedary camels.

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

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

When 17-year-old Raymond Wang saw the Ebola outbreak on the news last year, it got him thinking about viruses and how they spread around the world, especially on airplanes.

Hollywood's version of science often asks us to believe that dinosaurs can be cloned from ancient DNA (they can't), or that the next ice age could develop in just a few days (it couldn't).

But Pixar's film Inside Out is an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.

Babies tend to wear their hearts on their tiny little sleeves. They cry because you took away that thing they picked up off the floor and then put in their mouths. They cry because they're tired. Sometimes, they cry just because.

Almost no one disputes that the implementation of the federal health law has helped Americans who were previously uninsured gain coverage. But exactly how much has the uninsured rate dropped?

A whole lot, says President Obama.

"Nearly 1 in 3 uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever," he told a cheering crowd at the Catholic Health Association's annual conference Tuesday. "Ever," he added for emphasis.

Some health insurance companies are asking for big price increases next year, and that has again riled critics of the federal health care law. But early analysis shows those steep hikes may not affect the majority of consumers.

In the rural pockets of India, a lifesaving device may be hidden in plain sight.

Across the country, it's not uncommon to see women sporting a small dot on their foreheads between their eyebrows. The mark is known as a bindi. And it's a Hindu tradition that dates to the third and fourth centuries.

The bindi is traditionally worn by women for religious purposes or to indicate that they're married. But today the bindi has also become popular among women of all ages, as a beauty mark. And it comes in all colors, shapes and sizes.

Young white women like indoor tanning a lot.

Nearly a quarter of them hit a tanning bed in the past year. (The beds are even found on many college campuses.)

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