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

Last week, a collaborative project between West Virginia State University, the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and the World Health Organization brought thousands of scholars, researchers, professionals and students to Dubai for a conference titled “Solutions for Better Life”. Kara Lofton sat down with West Virginia Commissioner of Public Health Rahul Gupta, who was a keynote speaker at the conference, to talk about the experience.

call center, Help 4 WV
Kara Lofton / WVPB

Six months ago, First Choice Services, with funding from the Department of Health and Human Resources, launched Help 4 WV, a text, chat and call line. Although the program is new, early data shows it’s doing what it’s supposed to – connecting those in need with preexisting services.

“I smoked weed for the first time when I was 8 years old, which kind of progressed,” says Jaimee Moffitt, a phone operator at the Help 4 WV call center and a former addict. 

401(K) 2012 / www.401kcalculator.org

Seven southern and Appalachian states, including West Virginia, received Health Impact Project grants yesterday from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts to promote health in southern and Appalachian states.

The goal is to fund projects aimed at addressing health inequities in southern and Appalachian states.

Doctor, medicine
sudok1 / Dollar Photo Club

People who have a terminal illness often prefer to spend their last days at home, rather than a hospital. WVU published research this month showing there’s a way to make it easier for those people to do so. In reality, it all comes down to paperwork.  

Janet Black looks up from her bed. She is terminally ill with end-stage lung disease and is due to be discharged into hospice care any day.

Cigarette, tobacco
nikkytok / Dollar Photo Club

A new Tobacco-Free Coalition from the Tennessee Department of Health has proclaimed February 22-26 as Tennessee Quit Week.

According to a press release, “It is part of a statewide effort to raise awareness of the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine and other free resources available to help Tennesseans quit smoking and/or using other tobacco products.”

Learn more and find a calendar of Quit Week events at http://tn.gov/health/topic/FHW-tobacco. Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #QuITTInTimeTN.

Heart Disease, Cholesterol, American Heart Association, Heart, Heart Health, Body, Veins, Blood, Health, Appalachia Health News
Dollar Photo Club

The Virginia Department of Health, Mount Rogers Health District is offering cholesterol clinics to residents in Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington and Wythe counties and the cities of Bristol and Galax.

High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. In the United States, heart disease continues to be the number one killer for both men and women.

The clinics will be available at all district health department locations.

Dollar Photo Club

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the first case of Zika virus infection in a North Carolina resident today. The adult, whose name was withheld, had recently traveled to a country with ongoing Zika virus transmission. The patients’ symptoms have resolved. 

chapelboro.com

Free radon testing kits are now available to all 100 North Carolina counties, according to a press release earlier this week.

The kits are available through the NC Radon Program, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. Officials are distributing the kits through county health departments, although the press release noted supplies are limited.

401(K) 2012 / www.401kcalculator.org

The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities has announced funding opportunities for the expansion of some health services across the state.

Swimmerguy269 / wikimedia Commons

  West Virginia University office of wellness and health promotion has launched a Collegiate Recovery Program to offer addiction and recovery support to students.

The goal of the program is to connect college students who are seeking recovery from substance abuse and addictive behaviors to peer-support and services.

Dollar Photo Club

School-based fluoride rinse programs have been available to West Virginia schools for decades. Advocates argue they are still one of the cheapest and most effective tools schools have for preventing tooth decay. However, they are not well utilized. Recently, the Bureau for Public Health, which funds these programs, has begun a push to get more schools to take advantage of them.

At Mount Hope Elementary School in Fayette County, health educator Rosalie McCauley passes out toothbrushes and plastic cups of bubblegum-flavored fluoride mouth rinse to students.

Zika, United States, Mosquitos, virus, Appalachia
Dollar Photo Club

While West Virginia continues to be free of the Zika virus, the Appalachian states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Alabama and Georgia have all reported cases. The virus is spread through mosquitoes and was first dectected in South America.

Breast, Breast Cancer, Cancer, surgery, pink, pink ribbon
Dollar Photo Club

West Virginia University Cancer Institute has become the first hospital in the state to offer a specialized breast cancer treatment that can shave weeks off treatment time for some patients.

The treatment is called Intraoperative Radiation Therapy. This is how it works: Directly after surgery to remove the cancerous lump, a radiation applicator is inserted directly into the cavity previously occupied by the tumor. Specialists then apply concentrated radiation to the area. Surgery and radiation are completed in one visit.

Dollar Photo Club

Representatives from 37 citizen groups fighting for “water justice” met Tuesday at the Capitol to release a letter of solidarity with Flint, Michigan.

The letter, dated February 9th, parallels the 2014 West Virginia Water Crisis with the water crisis currently unfolding in Flint.

Dollar Photo Club

West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina have issued advisories for the Zika virus, urging caution, particularly for pregnant women traveling to areas where the disease is circulating.

WVPB

Two central Appalachian healthcare non-profits, out of eleven nationwide, were awarded grants of about 180,000 each today from AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation. The grants are intended to support already successful work in improving regional cardiovascular health. 

Sick, woman, pregnancy, thermometer, fever, flu, cold
Dollar Photo Club

Pregnant women hospitalized with the flu, especially severe cases, should be treated early with antiviral medication, according to a study published today in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The study included 865 pregnant women who were hospitalized with flu from 14 states. Sixty-three of these patients, or about 7 percent, had severe illness.

Dollar Photo Club

A report released today from Families USA found that West Virginia has one of the most successful Medicaid expansion programs in the country.

The report used U.S. Census data to compare the rate of uninsured workers in all 50 states during 2014, the first year Medicaid expansion was offered. It found that West Virginia had reduced uninsured worker rates by 30 percent – 5 points higher than the expanded Medicaid state average. Non-expansion states reduced their uninsured worker rates by 13 percent on average.

Lyme, tick, Lyme disease, IDSA, infectious disease, WVU
Dollar Photo Club

In June of 2007, Victoria Snyder, then age-nine, attended a week-long church camp. During the week she began to feel sick – muscle aches, lethargy, headaches. A doctor at the camp thought it might be the flu, but she didn’t get better. So after camp, her mother, Christine, took her to see a pediatrician.

“The pediatrician found a bullseye ring on her stomach,” said Christine. “I felt a lot of relief when they put her on antibiotics because with Lyme disease, we knew what we were dealing with.”

Health, doctor, nurse, mask, breathing, health insurance
Dollar Photo Club

The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health announced legislation today that, if passed, could modernize the state’s public health system and increase revenue.

The proposed legislation would make it easier for local health department to bill insurance companies at the maximum allowable rates. 

Currently, the state subsidizes many local programs and services. In a Tuesday press conference, Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health Rahul Gupta said that this model is unsustainable - especially considering that more WV residents than ever before are insured.

Pages