Kara Leigh Lofton

Appalachia Health News Coordinator

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In 2016, Kara filed 140 reports aimed at healthcare consumers in West Virginia and adjacent regions, with topics ranging from health insurance policies to midwife-assisted home births. Kara’s stories were about evenly divided between her radio reports and short pieces she wrote for internet readers. Eight stories reached a national audience through NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,” including several pertaining to the impact of record-breaking flooding in West Virginia and the threatened loss of health benefits for former miners. Kara’s radio stories are often illustrated by her own photographs, posted on WVPB’s website.

Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. One of her nationally broadcast reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” garnered a first place award for a feature story from the Virginia Association of Broadcasters.

Kara’s work has been published by Kaiser Health News, Medscape.com, The Hill (the news outlet and blog serving Congress), Side Effects Public Media, Virginia Living, and Blue Ridge Outdoors among other outlets. She has also written and photographed for Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree.

Prior to and during her university years, Kara had stints living internationally, spending months in Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and England, with shorter visits to Zambia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and a half-dozen countries in western and central Europe. In the fall of 2015, she toured Guatemala (using her conversational Spanish), where she reported on its woefully underfunded health system. In her spare time, Kara enjoys hiking with her nurse-husband and their three friendly dogs, practicing yoga, and reading.

Ways to Connect

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The House Republican health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act could have a profound impact on women’s health care coverage.

The ACA reformed several insurance provisions that affect women, including requiring coverage of no-cost birth control, not allowing insurance companies to charge women more than men and expanding coverage of pre-pregnancy care. Changes to these provisions would impact all women, but especially low-income women.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The number of coal mining jobs in Boone County has halved during the past two years. Drive through the county now, and signs of depression are becoming evident in shuttered storefronts and homes in increasing need of repair.


Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On the far side of the Charleston Civic Center, about a thousand blue and red clad supporters scream their support.

Many are wearing shirts emblazoned with #Riverstrong on the back. For these fans, tonight is as much about showing a community of resilience as celebrating a team making history.

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On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the U.S. House of Representatives proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.The CBO estimates that the proposed legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. Savings would come primarily from cutting funding to Medicaid and eliminating nongroup subsidies. A third of West Virginians are on Medicaid and such cuts could have big implications for the state.

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It might sound like an infomercial, but whole-body vibration (WBV) in lieu of traditional exercise may be a real thing in the future. In WBV, a person sits, stands or lays on a machine with a vibrating platform. When the machine vibrates, muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second, which causes them to work in a low-impact way. Experts think WBV could be a good alternative to exercise, particularly for the morbidly obese. 

 

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Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office released a report that analyzes the House of Representative's proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act. The office projects that the new bill would leave 24 million people uninsured by 2026.

Such an increase could have big consequences for the more than 2 million people addicted to pain medication across the United States, including more than 200,000 in the Ohio Valley Region. 

Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, elderly, couple, worried
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Adopting healthy lifestyle practices like eating well, exercising and managing weight are challenging when also juggling full-time work, children, school or care giving. Researchers had thought that retirement may help people launch a new start to healthy living.

They found that physical activity was likely to increase after retirement, but retired baby boomers were more likely to be obese and have high blood pressure than older working adults. The retirees were also no more likely to follow a healthy diet than working adults.

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Two U.S. House committees have approved a Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Critics of the law say it will raise premiums and cause millions to lose health coverage.

The House bill does, however, preserve an amendment written into the Affordable Care Act that makes it easier for coal miners with black lung disease to qualify for compensation benefits.

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If lawmakers don't approve Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to increase taxes, representatives of the state's Department of Health and Human Resources says they will be forced to cut funding to programs. Bill Crouch is the new Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary, says some programs, like the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, might be eliminated entirely.

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On Monday night, members of the U.S. House of Representatives released their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. Possibly the biggest deal for West Virginia is that the new bill proposes changing the way that Medicaid is funded.

 

 

Medicaid is the joint state-federal insurance program that covers more than a third of West Virginians. Right now, the federal government matches state spending for Medicaid dollar for dollar. But under the proposed bill, that funding would change to a per-capita cap.  

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Despite best efforts, CPR is not always successful in a hospital. But the death of a patient after CPR can be really stressful for critical care nurses. New research tries to help identify nurses most at risk for postcode stress and post traumatic stress disorder with the hope of improving resiliency in medical providers.

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Medical debt is incredibly easy to accrue. All it takes is an accident or an unexpected bill tacked onto an expected procedure or an out-of-network charge you didn’t know was out-of-network. Nationally, almost 24 percent of nonelderly Americans have past-due medical debt, according to an Urban Institute report published this week.

State-to-state, the debt rates vary widely, from a low level of indebtedness in Hawaii at about 6 percent of the population, to Mississippi at about 37 percent. West Virginia's rate is about 33 percent.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

More than 100 people gathered outside The Culture Center in Charleston this weekend to ask representatives to save the Affordable Care Act or implement a replacement that doesn’t leave West Virginians without health coverage.

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If you are overweight and struggling with pain, eating a Mediterranean diet could help, a new study suggests. 

Researchers at Ohio State University looked at the relationship between weight, inflammation and pain. They found that eating anti-inflammatory foods, including seafood, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, helped relieve pain, regardless of how heavy someone was. 

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New research out of Johns Hopkins University has found that more than forty percent of people receiving medication for opioid addiction were also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers during the time of treatment.

The researchers looked at pharmacy claims for more than 38,000 new buprenorphine users who filled prescriptions between 2006 and 2013 in 11 states. Buprenorphine is a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

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More than 22,000 West Virginians with substance use disorders have gained health coverage through Medicaid Expansion, according to a report released earlier this month in National Health Law Program. Medicaid Expansion was a voluntary provision of the Affordable Care Act.

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If you are an early riser, you may have a leg up on fighting weight gain and obesity. New research published this month in the journal Obesity found that as a group, “morning type” people eat earlier in the day and are choosing healthier foods overall than “evening type” people. For reference – morning types are those who are most alert and energetic in the morning while evening types are most alert and energetic later in the day. Other studies have found that eating earlier in the day is associated with weight loss and a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.

 

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Rural Appalachia has some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the country -- up to 36 percent higher than what is seen elsewhere. The culprit? That’s a multi-fold answer. Kara Lofton talked about cancer rates in Appalachia with freelance reporter Lyndsey Gilpin, who wrote a story addressing the discrepancy. Data journalism website FiveThirtyEight published the story earlier this month.

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Most Americans say they want to die at home. But without the right paperwork, many end up living out their final days in institutions or hospitals. The West Virginia e-Directive Registry is trying to change that.

The e-Directive Registry includes advanced directives, living wills, medical orders and Do Not Resuscitate cards. These documents help medical providers understand West Virginians’ end-of-life wishes, including where participants want to die and what kind of treatment they want in their last days of life. 

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Although Congress hasn't presented the American public with a clear replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act – the ideas proposed so far are unlikely to make coverage more affordable or allow everyone who has coverage now to keep it. Uncertainty surrounding the ACA is also making it difficult for health plans to stay in the marketplace because they don’t know how to price their plans for next year.

But as members of Congress left Washington today for their February recess, Republicans made it clear they still intend to repeal the ACA.

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