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.

Born Addicted: The Race To Treat The Ohio Valley’s Drug-Affected Babies

Feb 4, 2017
Pregnant, woman, profile
John Ted Dagatano

She asked to not be identified. And it’s understandable given the stigma attached to addiction. For this story, we’ll call her “Mary.”

Mary lives in eastern Kentucky and has struggled with an addiction that began with painkillers and progressed to heroin.

“As soon as I opened my eyes, I had to get it,” Mary said. “And even when I did get it, then I had to think of the next way that I was going to get.”

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A new study has found that couples in which both partners are obese may take more than 50 percent longer to become pregnant than couples who aren't obese.

Last week, doctors at Mon General Hospital performed a new hybrid procedure to correct irregular heartbeats – called atrial fibrillation – in a 71-year old patient. The surgery was the first of its kind performed in West Virginia.

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Today is the last day to enroll in or change a 2017 insurance plan through the federal healthcare marketplace. But if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, this may be the last time people can sign up for insurance through the marketplace.

In 2016, more than 37,000 West Virginians signed up for health insurance through the ACA marketplaces. Nationwide, enrollment numbers for 2017 are up slightly from 2016 numbers – despite promises from President Trump to repeal the healthcare law.

Patricia Harman is the author of the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River. We last heard from her during our April, 2016 Inside Appalachia episode on home birth. Harman's latest book – the Runaway Midwife – was released today. Kara Lofton talked with Harman about how more than three decades of work as a midwife informs her writing today.  

On Being a Midwife

"One of the things about midwives is similar to a solider or someone in combat we're right on the border between life and death and I think that makes for a great hero."

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A CDC study released earlier this month found that rural Americans are dying at a higher rate from potentially preventable diseases than their urban counterpoints.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study looked at the five leading causes of death from potentially preventable diseases. They are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. The study found that the percentages of deaths from these five diseases were higher in rural areas than urban areas.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

President Trump is four days into his first term and already has made big moves to repeal former President Obama’s signature healthcare law. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act – also called Obamacare - has the potential to affect millions of Americans. In this audio postcard, three West Virginians – a former chair of the House health committee, a college student and a small business owner – talk about how they are feeling about their healthcare coming into an era of Trump.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic in Scarbro, oxygen tubes dangle from the noses of three miners slowly pedaling on stationary bikes.  All of these men have black lung – a disease caused by breathing in coal dust. Over time, the dust coats the lungs and causes them to harden. Hard lungs don’t easily expand and contract, and that makes it difficult to breath.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton looks at the Affordable Care Act and how the law makes it easier for coal miners to receive black lung benefits and Clark Davis talks with Huntington native Griffin McElroy who’s been named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list for media.

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

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Latest enrollment figures show that 32,855 West Virginians signed up for 2017 coverage under the Affordable Care Act as of Dec. 24, 2016. 

Steve Helber / Associated Press

During his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act – a move many West Virginians say they support after facing rising premiums and deductibles.  But a repeal without a replacement plan could be disastrous for the millions of Americans who have gained health insurance under the law, including 173,000 West Virginians newly covered under Medicaid expansion and 37,000 who have bought private insurance plans through the Marketplace. And Republicans have yet to release a replacement plan.

 

 

Elk River
Malepheasant / wikimedia Commons

Monday marks the third anniversary of the Elk River chemical spill that left more than 300,000 West Virginians without usable drinking water for more than a week.  The leak  originated at Freedom Industries just outside of Charleston.

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Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Sitting on top of the Bible on Pastor Brad Epperson’s desk at the Clay City First Church of God is a list of goals for his small congregation written in a looping cursive hand.

“Our community ought to see the love of God in us, not just by our understanding of a compassionate Gospel, but our public acts of love,” is near the top.

Epperson was born and raised in Powell County in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

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President Obama met with Senate Democrats today to discuss strategies to save his signature health care law. Meanwhile Senate Republicans have already introduced a budget resolution that would unravel large pieces of the Affordable Care Act with a majority vote.

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A recent study published in the international pain journal PAIN has found that patients with pre-existing psychiatric and behavioral conditions may be more likely to use opioids later in life.

Researchers used a national insurance database to identify 10.3 million patents who filed insurance claims for opioid prescriptions over a nine-year period. Researchers wanted to see if pre-existing psychiatric conditions and use of psychoactive medications were predictors of later opioid use.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Ten tiny homes lined up in two rows at the National Guard air base in Charleston recently. West Virginia high school students built the homes for victims of the June, 2016, historic flooding who were still struggling to find adequate housing.

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Anne Li / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In the decade-long court case William K. Stern, et al. vs. Chemtall, Inc., et al., workers in coal preparation and wastewater treatment sought medical monitoring for the potential increase of neurological problems caused by exposure to hazardous materials used in their jobs.

As part of the $13.95 million settlement, workers can now use a free health monitoring program. About $6 million went to plaintiffs' attorneys, according to the West Virginia Record. The legal teams decided that the remaining roughly $6 million should be divided equally between the Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute at West Virginia University and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health at Marshall University. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, experts say recovering gambling addicts are in danger of relapsing during the holidays.  Appalachia Health news reporter Kara Lofton has that story and we’ll hear some of the latest poetry from West Virginia’s poet laureate Marc Harshman.

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

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Gambling has many of the same symptoms as other addictions, including the urge to continue the behavior despite negative consequences, but it’s different in one key way.

 

 

“With problem gambling, sometimes people see the problem as the solution,” said Sheila Moran, director of marketing for the helpline 1-800-Gambler.

 

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As a Facebook friend of mine recently put it “I doubt it is too far off to believe that in the last few weeks I have consumed the same amount of sugar (if not more) that people a few centuries ago would get in their entire lifetime.”

 

But seriously. Holidays these days often equals eating lots of sugary treats. And eating lots of sugary treats sometimes spells weight gain for holiday revelers.   

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