Appalachia Health News

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, politically, the Ohio Valley is known as Trump Country. But even in this politically conservative area, most members of the U.S. Senate say the special counsel investigating President Trump should be allowed to complete his work. As Jeff Young reports, opinions differ on a bipartisan bill to protect the special counsel from being fired.

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A new study has found cigarette smoking and other environmental pollutants may increase the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cause the disease to be more severe in those who do get it.

Scientists have known for decades that people with a particular gene have an increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis. More recent studies have found that smoking further increases the likelihood that people with that gene will get rheumatoid arthritis and that it will be more severe.

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The National Institute for Early Education Research released its annual State of Preschool report today.

The report found that more young children in the United States are enrolled in public pre-K programs than were in 2002, but that not all of those programs are preparing young learners for kindergarten.

West Virginia, though, is one of 10 states that the report said has both expanded access to pre-K while maintaining high quality standards. West Virginia is also one of 10 states with the highest number of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool.

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The Journal of the American Medical Association published a 26-year study on the burden of diseases and injuries in the U.S. The report found that West Virginia has the lowest healthy life expectancy years of any state in the union. West Virginia’s rate is almost 18 years lower than the healthiest life expectancy state - Hawaii. The greatest disease burden was caused by heart disease and lung cancer.

The main risk factors associated with U.S. morbidity and mortality are poor diet, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Erika Kapin Photography

Doctor Pamela Murray is is the chief of adolescent medicine at West Virginia University. In the next installment of our occasional series "Windows into Health Care," Kara Lofton talks with Murray about the role adolescent specialists play in West Virginia, and how treating the child most effectively, sometimes means getting the whole family on board.

LOFTON: When we think about medicine, we usually think about pediatrics and then we think about adult medicine. I mean, what is young adult and adolescent medicine and kind of, how does those differ from those other two ends?

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A new study found that major adverse life events, called fateful life events by the research community, such as divorce, conflict, death in the family or financial hardship can measurably accelerate aging in the brain in middle aged men. Just one fateful event could cause the brain to appear a third of year older than their chronological age, based on an MRI.

The researchers studied almost 360, primarily white men ages 57 to 66.

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A new study has found that childhood weight gain may have a negative impact on liver health in children as young as eight.

The study found that bigger waist circumference at age 3, raises the likelihood that by age 8, children will have markers for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat accumulates in the liver and triggers inflammation, causing liver damage. It’s the most common chronic liver condition in children and adolescents.

Kara Lofton

One West Virginia city is trying a new approach to persuade more overdose patients to seek treatment. The idea is simple: Within 24 to 72 hours of an overdose, a "quick response team" fans out into the community and tries to meet with the patient to discuss treatment options. A handful of similar programs exist around the country, but West Virginia's first team launched in December in Huntington with the help of two federal grants. Health officials said it already has been remarkably successful.

 


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Yesterday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced 48 Child Protective Services positions will be added across the state.

In a press release, the DHHR said the positions will primarily serve counties with extremely high caseloads.

Kara Lofton

During the teacher strike a couple weeks ago, West Virginia educators were asking for two main things: a pay raise and for legislators to “fix PEIA.” While the prorgam’s finance board ultimately agreed to freeze proposed changes to the plan that would have increased costs, truly fixing PEIA on the long term might not be that simple.

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Dr. Michael Brumage resigned today as director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Drug Control Policy after less than two months on the job.

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The free clinic West Virginia Health Right held a press conference yesterday (Wednesday) in Charleston in response to a newspaper article that lumped Health Right’s Needle exchange program in with the City of Charleston. Charleston’s needle exchange program recently came under fire from Charleston Mayor Danny Jones and Police Chief Steve Cooper due to an increase in the number of needles found in public places.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department launched a needle exchange program in 2015 to reduce the risk of exposure to HIV and hepatitis C.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“We have a problem that’s bringing us to our knees,” said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch at a press event in Charleston. A representative from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration visited West Virginia Monday to announce an additional $330,000 of funding for opioid abuse prevention and treatment.

“The opioid problem and substance abuse problem affects virtually every family in West Virginia,” he continued.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we explore attempts to finding solutions to the region’s opioid epidemic, and we hear a story from the Ohio Valley ReSource on the potential impacts of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

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The Center for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a study on the largest cluster of complicated black lung cases ever reported. Kara Lofton spoke with WVU School of Public Health physicians Carl Werntz and Anna Allen about the study and what it means for West Virginia.

ALLEN: We actually have been noticing this trend over the last, about 18 years, that it has been going back up. And I think this might have just been the study that captured it in a, in the big picture.

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A new study has found that women with high physical fitness at middle age were nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared to women who were moderately fit.

 

The study measured women’s cardiovascular fitness based on an exercise test. When the highly fit women did develop dementia, they developed it an average of 11 years later than women who were moderately fit, or at age 90 rather than 79.

 

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LOFTON: So, you are the new director of the Drug Control Policy Office. Previously, you were executive director and health officer of the Kanwaha-Charleston Health Department. You did deal with a lot of opioid issues at the Health Department previously. Will your strategy change in this new position?

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Saturday March 17th is “Mountain State Maple Day” in West Virginia. Sugar shacks and maple operations around the state will open their doors to the public. Maple syrup has a long tradition in the high mountain regions of our state, and the industry is growing. As part of our ongoing series called “Appetite Appalachia”, this morning, we’ll hear two stories about maple syrup farmers in the Mountain State. It’s part of a new collaboration between West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. In this episode of West Virginia Morning, we meet Brandon Daniels, a producer who has been making maple syrup for nearly 30 years.   


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The 2018 County Health Rankings report was released today. It found significant health disparities across the state, particularly between the north and south.

Kara Lofton

The new Public Employee’s Insurance Agency task force met today at the Capitol. The task force was mandated by the governor in response to recent striking by teachers who demanded the state Legislature to “fix PEIA.” Teachers protested increased premiums and health costs, as well as a pay raise.

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A new survey of women from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that coverage rates for women are at all-time highs, but many women still face affordability and access challenges.

In 2013, nearly one in five women were uninsured. In 2017, after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, that number dropped to one in ten. Nationally, more than 60 percent of women were insured through private insurance. 14 percent of women were insured through Medicaid. More than a third of West Virginians – male and female - are on Medicaid.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After nine long days of a teacher and service personnel work stoppage, it looks as if it’s come to an end. Lawmakers agreed Tuesday to a five percent pay raise for teachers as well as a five percent pay increase for all public workers. Following the signing, union leaders say they are readying teachers and other school workers to get back on the job. 


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Loud dance music pours out of a historic church in downtown Bluefield, West Virginia, around 7 on a Friday evening. About 30 people are eating barbeque, beans and chicken at a newly formed support group for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer people. 

Kara Lofton

A West Virginia prevention program targeted at high risk diabetes patients is showing almost immediate results for participants such as Selena Hanshaw, a working mom of four kids ages 6 to 20.

“As a mother of four, I know for myself, you just kind of forget about yourself. You’re just so worried about care for everyone else, you kind of neglect yourself,” said Hanshaw. “I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I had diabetes. I wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist.”

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A Charleston-based law firm has filed a class action suit against 21 medical companies, including the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma to sue for damages incurred by prenatal exposure to opioids

The suit was filed this week by the firm Thompson and Barney. Kevin Thompson said the intent is to create a fund for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, meaning infants born dependent to opioids.

“In this case the equitable relief would be a medical monitoring fund,” Thompson said.

Kara Lofton

Several West Virginia health organizations, including West Virginia Prevention First and the state's Department of Health and Human Resources have joined together to launch the Health & Hope WV Initiative. Prevention First is a conglomeration of organizations that collect and disseminate information and facilitate communication, according to a press release.

Organizers say they hope the new site and media content will both serve as a comprehensive resource and help combat some of the stigma addiction still faces.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A group of West Virginia agencies launched their year-long campaign, “Year of the Child” at a kickstart event at the WV culture center yesterday. The initiative is designed to address the impact of the opioid crisis on West Virginia’s children.

Speakers represented groups such as the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia and the National Association of Social Workers.

On The Legislature Today, thousands of teachers and state workers again showed-up at the Capitol to protest low salaries and rising health care costs, as their work stoppage entered a third school day – tomorrow will be the fourth. We bring you the latest on the work stoppage. Also, in this episode, we look at a variety of health-related legislation and chat with Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

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Analysis of recent hospital billing records across the country found that charges for outpatient cancer services vary widely from facility to facility, but on average, exceed what Medicare patients are charged by two to six fold.

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A new study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has found that a significant number of e-cigarette devices generate aerosols with potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese and/or nickel. Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, as well as cancers.

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