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

Adobe Stock

Fifty years ago there were around 65 birth facilities in West Virginia. Now, there are only 24, which means pregnant women have to travel farther to give birth and, often, for prenatal care.

 

Take Deana Lucion, for example. Lucion was 20 weeks pregnant when the last remaining obstetrician in McDowell County retired, effectively closing Welch Community Hospital’s birthing services.

Adobe Stock

Lung experts at Ohio State University Medical Center are testing whether nicotine can help people with a particular type of chronic inflammatory lung disease called sarcoidosis. If left untreated, sarcoidosis can cause severe lung damage and even death.

It is not completely understood why patients develop the disease, but some experts think it may happen when your immune system responds to a trigger, such as bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Liam Rusmisel is a different kid this year. On the first day of kindergarten he walked into the classroom, head held high, according to his teachers. This is no small feat for a kid who had a bit of a rough start to last year.

 

 


Adobe Stock

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human resources announced it will use $22 million in settlement monies received from drug distributors to combat the drug epidemic in West Virginia. 

The money came from a suit that found defendant drug companies failed to detect, report and stop the flood of suspicious prescription drug orders into the state. The defendants denied any liability, but the parties agreed to the settlement to avoid litigation.

Shayla Klein / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Twelve West Virginia counties have been granted public assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) for emergency work needed after July 28 and 29 storms damaged or destroyed buildings and homes.  The severe storms caused flooding, landslides and mudslides across the northern part of the state.

Individual assistance will be made available to individuals and households in Harrison, Marion, Marshall, and Wetzel Counties.

Adobe Stock

In part one of this occasional series, Windows Into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton talks with Crittenton Services CEO and President Kathy Szafran on the issue of Trauma and Poverty.

Szafran outlines work Crittenton is doing to provide trauma-informed elementary schools - exploring ways to break the cycle of trauma by working with both kids and their families and provide insight into the effect trauma can have on the developing brain. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


When health care experts talk about the supply of nurses nationwide, they usually warn of a shortfall if more young people don’t go into the profession. But here in West Virginia, “there is a nursing shortage. It’s not coming, it’s here,” said Ron Moore, vice president and chief nursing officer for Charleston Area Medical Center.

Perry Bennett West Virginia Legislative Photography

U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins visited Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston today to hold a roundtable with local experts about how best to address addiction and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The roundtable was attended by about 20 health workers and community members, most of whom deal with addiction, including neonatal abstinence syndrome on an almost daily basis.

“The disease, yes disease of addiction is our most challenging public health and safety issue of our time,” Jenkins said during an opening statement.

Adobe Stock

A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month found a 264 percent increase in overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, tramadol, and Demerol between 2012 and 2015.

Experts think the spike is likely related to illicitly manufactured drugs, particularly fentanyl, which is often cut with heroin or cocaine, rather than pharmaceutically manufactured synthetic opioids. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with or sold as heroin. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.


https://medicine.hsc.wvu.edu

Charleston Area Medical Center plans to cut 300 positions by the end of 2017. The announcement came in a 7-and-a-half-minute video from CAMC president and CEO Dave Ramsey.

Adobe Stock

New research has found that high school athletes who specialize in one sport from an early age are at a much higher risk for injury than those who play more than one sport.

Adobe Stock

Weight gain, even among those who aren’t overweight, can causes dangerous changes to the heart, new research from the University of Texas Medical Center has found.

Researchers found that as little as a five percent increase in weight – or 6.5 pounds for a 130-pound woman, 7.5 pounds for a 150-pound man – can result in the heart getting bigger and thicker, which makes it harder for the heart to work efficiently. Thicker heart walls also reduced the amount of space the heart has to pump out blood. Thicker hearts can lead to heart failure.

Adobe Stock

Prenatal exposure to alcohol, even in low doses, may cause a wide spectrum of major problems in fetal brain development, a new study found.

Researchers studying mice found that alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause a wide and unpredictable range of deficits in fetuses. They think this might be due to differences in how fetal brain cells try to protect against alcohol and other toxins.

Adobe Stock

The cost of treating hepatitis C has dropped some in the past year or so. But price – drugs can list around 100,000 for a course – is still a barrier and can put a big burden on insurance programs like Medicaid, which has to make tough decisions about who qualifies for the lifesaving drugs.

doctor, pill, medicine, antibiotic, medical
Adobe Stock

West Virginia has joined Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and the District of Columbia in an antitrust lawsuit against six drug manufacturers.

The defendants in the multistate case are accused of violating antitrust laws, including the West Virginia Antitrust Act. The Act outlaws contracts or conspiracies that might fix, control or maintain market prices of any commodity or service.

Adobe Stock

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have tried to figure out why patients with diabetes have higher rates of hospitalization and readmission than the rest of the population and what can be done to prevent it.  

Associated Press

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and fifteen other U.S. Senators sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency yesterday urging them to further lower the amount of opioids manufacturers are allowed to produce in 2018.

The letter calls specifically for reducing opioid quotas, which are the legal amount of opioids drug companies are allowed to manufacture in the U.S.

Adobe Stock

Nimish Metha has been a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at Women and Children’s Hospital in Charleston for more than 16 years. Kara Lofton talked with Metha about what it’s like to work in the ER, what items he wouldn’t have in his own home after seeing children come into the hospital with injuries and how he’s seen the opioid epidemic impact the pediatric population.

Adobe Stock

Researchers at Stanford University have tracked physical activity by country in the largest study on human movement to date. The study used step data from anonymous smart phone users in more than 100 countries.

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, followed a 2012 estimate published in the Lancet that more than 5 million people die each year from causes related to inactivity.

Adobe Stock

Invasive pneumonia may impact life expectancy by up to ten years, according to a study from Marshall University school of medicine.

The study found that patients who recover from the most severe form of invasive pneumonia, called pneumococcal pneumonia, live on average ten years less than those who didn’t get the disease.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria that infects the lungs and can potentially spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

Pages