Health Desk

Shots - Health News
6:44 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Debunking Vaccine Myths Can Have An Unintended Effect

Would it help you to know that your worries about the flu shot are unfounded? Perhaps not.
Darron Cummings AP

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:35 am

Remember back in October when I debunked 32 myths about the flu vaccine here?

Research published since then suggests my efforts might have been in vain, at least in part.

The post might have changed some minds, but it seems unlikely to have led legions of people to race to get vaccinated.

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The Salt
4:52 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

From Potatoes To Salty Fries In School: Congress Tweaks Food Rules

When it comes to salty french fries or pizza served at lunch, schools may get more time to dial back sodium content, thanks to a provision in the federal spending bill headed for a vote on Capitol Hill.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 10:00 am

The gargantuan budget bill that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to vote on Thursday does more than dole out federal dollars to keep the government running.

It also tweaks federal nutrition rules.

For starters, the bill — aka, the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill — includes a provision that will give school food directors more flexibility when it comes to adopting 100 percent whole grain items, such as pasta and biscuits, in school breakfast and lunch meals.

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Goats and Soda
4:25 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Boredom On The Border Between Liberia And Guinea

The bright yellow steel truss bridge over St. John's River is the official border crossing between Liberia and Guinea. The Liberian-Guinean border has been closed since the early days of the Ebola outbreak.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 8:38 am

They're from the same ethnic group. They speak the same language. And they live on both sides of the Liberia-Guinea divide in the area around Liberia's eastern border city of Ganta, in Nimba County. The families straddle the border, which is not fenced.

"Right over there is the border," says businessman Prince Haward, directing our attention to some rubber farms not too far away. "Those are the rubber farms you find in Guinea."

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Shots - Health News
3:59 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Making The Human Condition Computable

David Goldhill (second from left) talks with Dan Hilferty of Independence Blue Cross, Kevin Nazemi of Oscar Insurance and Sam Nussbaum of WellPoint in a conversation about health costs. Moderator Avik Roy is at far left.
Glen Davis Forbes

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 4:03 pm

For centuries, the central challenge in health care was ignorance. There simply wasn't enough information to know what was making a person sick, or what to do to cure them.

Now, health care is being flooded with information. Advances in computing technology mean that gathering, storing and analyzing health information is relatively cheap, and it's getting cheaper by the day. As computers continue to fall in price, the cost of sequencing a single person's genome is tumbling, too.

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Shots - Health News
10:31 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Doctors Lag In Adopting Cheaper, Faster Radiation For Breast Cancer

Radiation therapy is effective in treating breast cancer but typically requires dozens of visits over five to seven weeks. A newer protocol takes just three weeks.
Antonia Reeve Science Source

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 7:54 pm

Radiation treatment for breast cancer could take less time and cost less for many women, but doctors aren't putting that knowledge into practice, a study finds.

And one reason is that the doctors in charge of radiation treatment will make less money, according to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a study author and chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Shots - Health News
8:21 am
Wed December 10, 2014

A Crowd Of Scientists Finds A Better Way To Predict Seizures

Mathematician Phillip Adkins (left) and Drew Abbot, a software engineer at AiLive. They were members of the winning team.
Courtesy of Phillip Adkins

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 7:12 am

An online contest for data scientists has produced a great leap forward in efforts to predict when someone with epilepsy is going to have a seizure. The winning team used data on electrical activity in the brain to develop an algorithm that predicted seizures 82 percent of the time.

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Shots - Health News
3:54 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Scientists Often Skip A Simple Test That Could Verify Their Work

When the wrong cells take over, scientists' experiments can be derailed.
Chris Nickels for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:34 pm

There's a simple test that scientists could use to make sure the cells they're studying in the lab are what they think they are. But most of the time, academic scientists don't bother.

That omission is a problem. One study found that between 18 percent and 36 percent of all cell lines have been misidentified. And this kind of mistaken identity is one reason that many results from experiments run in scientific labs can't be reproduced elsewhere.

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Goats and Soda
6:44 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Why Aren't World Leaders Angrier About Violence Against Women?

Bafana Khumalo (in black jacket) carried his fight for "gender justice" to the White House today. He called on the U.S. to help fund abortions for women in other countries who've been raped.
Courtesy of Dean Peacock

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 7:58 pm

On this cold and rainy Tuesday, Bafana Khumalo stood in front of the White House with a controversial demand for President Obama: The U.S. should provide foreign aid to fund abortions for women who've been raped during conflicts and in other circumstances. Currently, the 1973 Helms Amendment prohibits the use of foreign aid money for abortions as "family planning." About 200 protesters joined Khumalo.

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Shots - Health News
4:16 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

This Nursing Home Calms Troubling Behavior Without Risky Drugs

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 4:34 pm

It's a sunny autumn afternoon and a good time to make apple crisp at Pathstone Living, a memory care facility and nursing home in Mankato, Minn. Activities staffer Jessica Abbott gathers half a dozen older women at a counter in the dining area, where the soundtrack is mostly music they could have fox-trotted to back in the day.

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Africa
3:49 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Officials Hope To Use Ebola To Build Africa's Health Care Capabilities

Community workers build an Ebola clinic on Nov. 8 in Lokomasama, near Port Loko, Sierra Leone. The community decided to organize and fight the disease — building a holding center for suspected cases, enforcing a travel ban. It created a $100 fine for a handshake and a $200 fine plus six months in jail for an illegal burial.
Francisco Leong AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 7:06 pm

Ebola has killed thousands, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in economic devastation and set off a global panic. But aid officials are hoping it also may help to address long-festering shortcomings in West Africa's health care systems.

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea all suffer a dearth of doctors, a lack of supplies and training, and a concentration of clinics in cities rather than in the rural areas where many people still live. Those same problems have thwarted global attempts to eliminate quieter killers, like malaria and tuberculosis, in poor countries.

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Politics
3:26 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Advocate's Comments On ACA Now A Liability For Law's Supporters

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 5:47 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Goats and Soda
1:20 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

A Case Of Mistaken Identity Sends Healthy Boy To An Ebola Ward

A health worker, wearing personal protective equipment, returns to her ambulance after transporting a patient to the Hastings treatment center outside Freetown. The center is the only one run exclusively by locals.
Francisco Leong AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 8:54 am

As part of Sierra Leone's broader effort to contain the deadly Ebola virus, the country opened a new ambulance dispatch center in September in the capital, Freetown. Along with a new Ebola hotline, the center is considered an important step forward in the war on Ebola.

But on the center's second day of operation, a series of errors put the life of an apparently healthy 14-year-old boy at risk.

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Shots - Health News
12:43 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Wellness At Work Often Comes With Strings Attached

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 9:05 pm

If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too. But so far there's no real evidence as to whether these plans actually improve the health of employees.

One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs to requiring comprehensive health screenings.

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Goats and Soda
12:28 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

'Ebola Must Go' — And So Must Prejudice Against Survivors

Members of the community in New Georgia Signboard greet President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Monday for the launch of the Ebola Must Go! campaign.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 1:07 pm

A visitor brought Ebola to the community of New Georgia Signboard this summer, and by the middle of August, people were sick with the virus.

Six people died. But it's what the community did for the six survivors in the family that brought Liberia's president to New Georgia Signboard, where she launched her Ebola Must Go! campaign on Monday

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Shots - Health News
4:11 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Mistaken Identities Plague Lab Work With Human Cells

Georgetown's Robert Clark says it's very difficult to say precisely how many experiments have been spoiled by contaminated cell lines.
Phil Humnicky Courtesy of Georgetown University

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 6:55 pm

There's a major flaw in many medical research studies that seems so basic that you'd think scientists would be smart enough to avoid it.

It turns out that cells studied in the laboratory often get mixed up. A researcher who thinks she is studying breast cancer cells might in fact be using melanoma cells.

It's a surprisingly common problem — even in some of the top scientific labs.

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Politics
4:00 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Obamacare Adviser Gets Set To Go In Front Of Congressional Firing Squad

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 11:27 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shots - Health News
2:35 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Nursing Homes Rarely Penalized For Oversedating Patients

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 5:26 pm

Antipsychotic drugs have helped many people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, they can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has given these drugs a black box warning, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death. Yet almost 300,000 nursing home residents still get them.

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Global Health
3:58 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Ebola Is Down, But Not Out, In Liberia

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 9:49 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Goats and Soda
2:11 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Ebola Cases Are Down, So Should Liberians Stop Worrying?

To ward off Ebola, a worker washes his hands at a construction site in Monrovia.
Pascal Guyot AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 9:42 am

For months, Liberia was the country worst-hit by the Ebola outbreak. But the wards in Liberia's Ebola treatment units now stand virtually empty. The number of newly reported cases fell from almost 300 cases a week in mid-September to fewer than 100 by mid-October.

But that doesn't mean it's time to take it easy. In fact, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has just announced a new campaign, Ebola Must Go, which focuses on the role of the community.

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Shots - Health News
12:47 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Despite Decline, Elective Early Births Remain A Medicaid Problem

The proportion of elective early deliveries under Medicaid has declined but remains a problem.
Health Affairs

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 12:00 pm

Nearly 9 percent of the births covered by Medicaid — or about 160,000 each year — were elective deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation. Early deliveries like those can lead to worse health outcomes for mothers and children and higher costs, according to a study published Monday.

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Goats and Soda
12:13 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Ebola, Schmebola — You Still Have To Look Good!

Zoe Kiadi, 25, says neither unemployment nor the presence of Ebola has dimmed her desire to look nice. What really sets her apart is her hairstyle.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 1:32 pm

Forget Ebola. In Liberia, style is everything.

"Even if poor, even if without a job, Liberians still spend money on clothes. They value appearance over everything," says Muhammed Trawally. The 33-year-old driver is wearing tightly fitted black jeans, sharp Italian-style leather shoes, a crisp orange-and-white striped polo shirt, brown-tinted aviator glasses in a gold-and-white frame and a black Casio watch.

"Looking good is business," he says — a phrase that keeps popping up.

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Goats and Soda
10:43 am
Mon December 8, 2014

When A Stray Dog's In Trouble, Katmandu's Canine Rescuers Jump To It

Ram Nagarkoti responds to emergency calls and brings injured dogs to the triage room at the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre.
Donatella Lorch for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 9:38 am

The phone calls start in early morning. They are strikingly similar.

"There is an injured dog on the street. Can you take care of it?"

Ram Nagarkoti, the 31-year-old ambulance driver at the Kathmandu Animal Treatment Centre (KAT Centre), often spends his days zigzagging through traffic, waving at police officers as he edges across chaotic intersections and squeezing into labyrinthian alleyways to find his patient — one of 20,000 stray dogs in Nepal's capital.

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Shots - Health News
10:20 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Doctors Are Slow To Adopt Changes In Breast Cancer Treatment

New evidence on the effectiveness of medical treatments can take a long time to influence medical practice.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 3:58 pm

Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren't paying attention to evidence that older women with early stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment although it doesn't increase life expectancy.

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NPR Ed
8:25 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Kids' Drawings Speak Volumes About Home

Examples of a family drawing assessment: A drawing from a child scored with minimal indicators of family dysfunction (top), and one from a child scored with elevated levels of family dysfunction (bottom).
W. Roger Mills-Koonce

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 11:10 am

When children reach 6 years old, their drawings matter.

Not because of those purple unicorns or pinstripe dragons but because of how kids sketch themselves and the very real people in their lives.

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Shots - Health News
4:08 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Medicine's Subtle Art Gives A Man The Chance To Breathe Again

Bob Smithson, 79, can now hold his head upright and breathe on his own, thanks to a medication for myasthenia gravis.
M. Scott Brauer for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 3:57 pm

Bob Smithson had been in the critical care unit at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston for more than a week. He had a rare neuromuscular disease, and his 78-year-old body was being kept alive by tubes that delivered air to his lungs and food to his stomach.

Then Bob's wife, Pat, got some really disturbing news. The hospital's medical staff wanted Bob to have a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure that would carve a hole in his neck and allow doctors to keep him on a breathing machine indefinitely.

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Shots - Health News
3:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Old And Overmedicated: The Real Drug Problem In Nursing Homes

Antipsychotic drugs aren't necessary in the vast majority of dementia cases, gerontologists say. The pills can be stupefying and greatly raise the risk of falls — and hip fracture.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 3:22 pm

It's one of the worst fears we have for our parents or for ourselves: that we, or they, will end up in a nursing home, drugged into a stupor. And that fear is not entirely unreasonable. Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia.

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Global Health
3:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

With Ebola Cases Down, Officials Worry Liberians Aren't Worried Enough

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 1:06 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
3:22 am
Mon December 8, 2014

When It Comes To Day Care, Parents Want All Children Vaccinated

According to a national poll on children's health, over 80 percent of parents believe all children in day care should be required to be up to date on their vaccines.
Alison Bruzek NPR

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 3:55 pm

There's been a lot of attention drawn to people who don't believe in vaccinating their children, but there are many more people who believe that vaccines are the best way to protect children from contagious disease. A recent poll shows just how concerned parents are about vaccines when it comes to putting their children in day care.

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Goats and Soda
3:09 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

Liberian Businesses Reopen Their Doors, But Customers Are Wary

Mrs. Mama Quaye has run Mrs. Quayes African Food Center on Ashmun St. in downtown Monrovia for over 20 years.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 11:28 am

Ebola has had a brutal impact on the economies of three West African nations at the epicenter of the outbreak. In Liberia, the World Bank has more than halved projected growth for the nation, compared to what they predicted before the epidemic.

Ebola has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia and, at the height of the outbreak, closed shops, businesses and offices. As the situation eases, many have now reopened — but it's still tough going.

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Goats and Soda
4:21 am
Sun December 7, 2014

The Decreasing Loneliness Of The Indian Long-Distance Runner

India's new wave of runners is ready to race. This crowd took off at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Nov. 23.
Zheng Huansong Xinhua /Landov

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 7:42 am

I began running about a year ago. I'd just moved to New Delhi, after living in the United States for 11 years. The stress of the move was getting to me, and I desperately needed exercise.

But finding a regular route wasn't easy. Running on the sidewalk is next to impossible here in Delhi. Every few seconds I had to get off the sidewalk to avoid bumping into a street vendor's cart or a patch of sidewalk claimed by Indian men to pee on.

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