Appalachia Health News

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

Kara Leigh Lofton

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 Foundation, CAMC, and WVU Medicine.

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President Donald Trump's Commission on the Opioid Crisis recently recommended that the president declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. The commission said that such a declaration could free up money to fight the epidemic.

Back in April, we aired a special report about the opioid epidemic here in Appalachia. So this week, we’re going to revisit that story to remember how some Appalachians became addicted, and what a battle for sobriety can be like.

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In part one of this occasional series, Windows Into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton talks with Crittenton Services CEO and President Kathy Szafran on the issue of Trauma and Poverty.

Szafran outlines work Crittenton is doing to provide trauma-informed elementary schools - exploring ways to break the cycle of trauma by working with both kids and their families and provide insight into the effect trauma can have on the developing brain. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear the first Window into Your Care -- an occasional series in which health reporter Kara Lofton speaks with people working in some little-known aspects of health care.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


When health care experts talk about the supply of nurses nationwide, they usually warn of a shortfall if more young people don’t go into the profession. But here in West Virginia, “there is a nursing shortage. It’s not coming, it’s here,” said Ron Moore, vice president and chief nursing officer for Charleston Area Medical Center.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, in Hampshire County West Virginia, there is a small mountain ridge called Ice Mountain. Historical records suggest that, years ago, ice could be found here, even in the heat of summer. Inside Appalachia producer Roxy Todd recently visited Ice Mountain to find out if ice could still be spotted, and to check out the rare plant species that have existed here since the last ice age.

Perry Bennett West Virginia Legislative Photography

U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins visited Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston today to hold a roundtable with local experts about how best to address addiction and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

The roundtable was attended by about 20 health workers and community members, most of whom deal with addiction, including neonatal abstinence syndrome on an almost daily basis.

“The disease, yes disease of addiction is our most challenging public health and safety issue of our time,” Jenkins said during an opening statement.

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A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month found a 264 percent increase in overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, tramadol, and Demerol between 2012 and 2015.

Experts think the spike is likely related to illicitly manufactured drugs, particularly fentanyl, which is often cut with heroin or cocaine, rather than pharmaceutically manufactured synthetic opioids. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with or sold as heroin. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.


Benny Becker

Back in March, Inside Appalachia aired a report about a rise in the number of chronic black lung cases. Since then, NPR’s ongoing investigation uncovered an additional 1,000 cases of the worst form of black lung disease in Appalachia. 

https://medicine.hsc.wvu.edu

Charleston Area Medical Center plans to cut 300 positions by the end of 2017. The announcement came in a 7-and-a-half-minute video from CAMC president and CEO Dave Ramsey.

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New research has found that high school athletes who specialize in one sport from an early age are at a much higher risk for injury than those who play more than one sport.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, an environmental group’s new report shows the broad range of contaminants in many drinking water systems in the Ohio Valley. As Nicole Erwin reports, the research highlights the gap between what regulations require and what health advocates recommend for drinking water purity.

Also on today's show, Kara Lofton reports on new research that has found high school athletes who specialize in one sport from an early age are at a much higher risk for injury than those who play more than one sport.

Photo courtesy of WVU

Researchers at WVU are working with 13 other universities to find out how food security and lifestyle choices affect an individual’s health.

WVU assistant professor of nutrition and foods Melissa Marra studied a telenutrition project in Harrison County.  The project assessed the use of telenutrition for weight loss and improved diets from middle- aged to older men, according to a news release from WVU.

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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.

Jim Justice
Steve Helber / AP

Gov. Jim Justice named five members to the newly reconstituted West Virginia Health Care Authority, which a new law places under the Department of Health and Human Resources.

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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.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear the conclusion to 20-year-old Kyra Soleil-Dawe’s story as part of our Struggle to Stay series. Yesterday, we heard that Kyra’s theater group, Whiskey Shine and Pantomime Productions, opened its third production to the public - William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Now, as we step back into Kyra’s story, we will hear more about Kyra’s family, and what a piece of sudden news will mean for Kyra’s Struggle to Stay.

We also hear more from Appalachia Health News about the effort to diagnose and treat hepatitis C.

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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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