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

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders held two health care rallies yesterday in Covington, Kentucky and Morgantown, West Virginia, telling attendees to put pressure on their state representatives to vote against the GOP health care plans. Kara Lofton spoke with Sanders about his visits and what he thinks the proposed legislation would mean for Appalachia. 

WVU Medicine

WVU Medicine Children’s has established a pediatric craniofacial center that will provide plastic and oral surgery, counseling and social work for kids with skull and face abnormalities such as a cleft lip or palate. The center is the first of its kind in the state.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A vote on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has been put on hold after several Republican Senators, including West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, have publicly said they cannot support it. Nationally, opposition for the bill continues to mount as more and more groups release reports about the negative impacts the current bill could have on access to treatment in rural areas, like much of West Virginia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate lives throughout Appalachia, health officials are reporting a spike in “second wave” epidemics like Hepatitis C. One way to combat the epidemic may be more needle exchange programs like the one at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

Once a month, Jeff Crist, an employee of the free clinic West Virginia Health Right, goes there to gently waylay participants as they walk in.

“Would you like to get tested for hep. C today?” he asks patients over and over again.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Six West Virginians held a sit-in at Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office in Charleston yesterday saying they wouldn’t leave until she votes against the Senate bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. The group was peacefully arrested around 5pm.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week, the U.S. Senate debuted their GOP health bill, a plan that includes deep cuts to Medicaid. These cuts would have dramatic impacts on hospital finances in every state, according to an analysis released this morning by the Commonwealth Fund, particularly in Medicaid expansion states like West Virginia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Last year, Richwood Middle and High School were damaged beyond repair in historic flooding and the schools moved into temporary spaces for the 2016-’17 school year.

But when the schools moved, the kids didn’t just lose their buildings, they also lost their school-based health center. Now  a bureaucratic quagmire may prevent the middle school families from having a center next year.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Analysis released this week found West Virginia could be one the most negatively impacted states in the country if Congress passes the House health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.  The health policy think tank Kaiser Family Foundation reports reductions in Medicaid or block grant financing would be especially harmful to communities in West Virginia and ten other states.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia University Medicine is taking a closer look at a little-known approach to cancer treatment called narrative medicine with the aim of improving the treatment experience for doctors and patients alike.

The idea with narrative medicine is that if doctors get to know patients through their life stories, the physicians will be able to improve their ability to care for their patients, beyond simply managing symptoms.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Two major non-partisan research groups released a study this week about the impact of Medicaid on children, families and communities in small-town, rural America.

“For the country as a whole we found that the role of Medicaid and CHIP in reducing the rate of insurance for kids and adults is even more important in rural areas and small towns,” said Joan Alker during a press conference at Riverside High School in Belle. “It’s disproportionately important to these communities.”

Photo illustration courtesy Kentucky Hospital Association

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report Tuesday, June 6, saying the GOP House health bill would negatively impact Medicaid expansion by shifting costs to states -- a move the CBPP said would harm millions, regardless of timing.

Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, elderly, couple, worried
Dollar Photo Club

Last year we ran a story about the shortage of geriatricians in West Virginia. In it, we featured Todd Goldberg, the only full-time geriatrician in Charleston and head of the West Virginia University geriatrics fellowship program.

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

The Cancer Action Network -  the American Cancer Society's lobbying arm - is urging governors across the country, including West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, to voice concerns with the House-passed American health Care Act. They released a letter directed to all U.S. governors yesterday.

The group is particularly concerned with the legislation’s proposal to dramatically reduce funding to Medicaid – a move that would disproportionately affect poor states that expanded the program like West Virginia.

NIHCM Foundation

A new study published this month by the National Institute of Health Care Management found that from 2006-2015, out-of-pocket spending on health care increased 24 percent while median personal income increased only 17 percent.

The study tracked health care spending across all sectors of the health care system.

Researchers found that health care costs are on the rise across the country and everyone is bearing the burden, not just patients, but also hospitals and insurance companies.

Marshall University dentistry chariman Raj K. Khanna & Angie Settle, executive director of WV Health Right, cut the ribbon in front of Health Right's new mobile dental clinic

West Virginia Health Right launched a new mobile dental health clinic today at a Charleston ribbon cutting ceremony.

The unit will travel to six underserved West Virginia counties – McDowell, Logan, Boone, Clay, Roane and Harrison, offering services primarily for free. West Virginia Medicaid – the largest provider in these counties –  does not cover preventative dental services for adults.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In 2015, the Veterans Affairs Greenbrier County Outpatient Clinic was closed after staff found issues with air quality at the old facility. The clinic was later moved to temporary trailers. Now, almost two years later, a permanent veteran’s out-patient clinic has opened. The clinic will serve more than 1,200 veterans from Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas, and Summers counties, along with Alleghany County, Virginia.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

If you live near a mining site – either old or active - is your health at risk? That’s what a committee from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine is trying to find out.

 

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

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act – a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. All three of West Virginia’s representatives supported the bill, but ACA supporters, including the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, are concerned the bill will harm rural Americans.

Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Taking a pill to ease chronic pain is easy, at least at first. But it comes with side effects – the most well-known of which is probably addiction. One alternative to opioids for chronic pain is physical therapy.

Adobe Stock

A young mom – we’ll call her Patient A – is sitting on a couch holding her infant son at Karen’s Place, the newest in-patient treatment program for pregnant women in Louisa, Kentucky.

She smiles down at the healthy infant in her arms, then begins to talk about her older son – now 2½.

“He was actually born addicted,” she said.

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