Appalachia Health News

Appalachia Health News' goal is to increase awareness of health issues throughout the region. 

  Reporter Kara Leigh Lofton will be covering topics such as women’s health, chronic disease and substance abuse.

Her reports will document the health-related innovation, improvement and success within the Appalachian region.

Follow her on twitter at @KaraLofton and #Appalachiahealth

Appalachia Health News is produced with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum FoundationCAMC, and WVU Medicine.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders attended a rally Sunday in Charleston billed as an effort to “protect our health care.” Supporters demanded that Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., vote against the latest U.S. Senate health care bill.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators have approved a House bill that clarifies the state’s telemedicine laws, but also creates a new restriction for certain treatments.

House Bill 2509 makes it clear that doctors can treat certain diseases in minors or adults who are still enrolled in public school. 

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin held a packed town hall for miners in Matewan today, assuring attendees that he would fight for health benefits and pensions at risk of running out of money by the end of April.

Union miners who put in 20 or more years were promised lifelong health benefits and pensions decades ago. But as coal companies have gone into bankruptcy, they've sought to shed liabilities, including paying into the pension and benefit funds.

Jessica Lilly

Coal mining has touched so many aspects of life in Appalachia. The coal industry has provided more than just jobs — it’s helped build towns, bridges and it’s even provided money for many Appalachians to go to college. We also have a deep cultural connection to coal and its history.

Still, there’s no denying the coal industry has changed the landscape of our mountains, and infected many miners with a deadly disease known as black lung.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, the House of Delegates voted against a bill that would have eliminated tax credits for filmmakers and the Appalachian region voted overwhelming for Donald Trump for president, but now the President is facing push back over his plan to cut funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission.

That’s on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Vice President Mike Pence made several stops in West Virginia Saturday, March 25, including the West Virginia state Capitol and Foster Supply Company in Scott Depot, where he spoke to an audience of about 200 small business owners and their families.

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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.

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