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.

Ken Bennett / Wake Forest University

A new study finds weight training might be better than cardio for older adults who are trying to slim down.

Researchers at Wake Forest University found that for adults in their 60s, combining weight training with a low-calorie diet better preserves necessary lean muscle mass that can often be lost through aerobic workouts.

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Open enrollment for insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces started last week. Things are a little bit different this year and recent announcements from the Trump administration have resulted in a fair bit of consumer confusion. So there are a few major changes to be aware of. First, this is a very shortened enrollment period.

 


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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five more years. All three of West Virginia’s representatives voted in favor of the bill.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as CHIP, expired on September 30th due to Congressional inaction. CHIP provides insurance to 9 million children, including more than 20,000 West Virginians. 

A bill to fund the program has been languishing for several weeks in the Senate.

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Open enrollment for health insurance opened this week and things are a little bit different this year. 

The enrollment window this year is half what it has been. Buyers now have six weeks instead of 12 to sign up for a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Another change this year is that premiums have increased dramatically – about 29 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans and 19 percent for CareSource plans on average. The increase will affect about 15 percent of West Virginians in the marketplace.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In 2016, 40 percent of Lakewood Elementary School students were being raised by a grandparent. That’s a stunning statistic considering that kids being raised by grandparents sometimes struggle with behavioral issues, and behavioral issues can cause problems with academics.

This year, that number dropped to 15 percent, but Lakewood principal Kelly Hayes thinks that’s a temporary dip, with more in the pipeline.

Kara Lofton/ WVPB

About 2.5 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents or relatives other than their birth parents.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear a special series about grandparents raising grandchildren. Many are taking care of grandchildren who would otherwise be put in foster care, but the arrangement can be difficult for the grandparents themselves.


Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Grandchildren being raised by grandparents often spend months or even years of their lives bouncing from one home or situation to another. Inconsistency and a constant sense of the unknown can fuel anxiety, anger and aggression in them.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, if you talk to grandparents raising grandchildren, most will say it’s not an easy task. In addition to dealing with their own physical and mental health, they also have to manage the physical and mental health of their grandchildren – which often means dealing with anxiety, aggression and anger.

In the fourth installment of our series on grandfamilies, Kara Lofton reports that for some families, partnering with schools can make a big difference.

Patrick Morrisey, W. Va. Attorney General
Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, are urging health care companies to develop programs that might mitigate opioid abuse.

The letters urge the companies to adopt programs that promote better prescribing practices, such as limiting prescriptions of opioids to seven days for new patients, limiting the daily dose of opioids based on strength and requiring the initial use of immediate-release formulas.

The letters point to a similar program implemented by CVS Health Corporation as an example of work well done.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Congressman Evan Jenkins hosted a roundtable in Charleston yesterday focused on the federal response to fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic opioids that are flooding the Appalachian region. Fentanyl is one of the deadliest opioids on the streets today. Just 3 milligrams of the drug can kill an adult male compared to about 30 milligrams of heroin.

 

 

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The analysis looked at the percentage of children with Adverse Childhood Experiences – commonly known as ACEs. West Virginia scored higher than the national average of 46 percent.


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Late last week, President Trump announced the federal government would stop Affordable Care Act subsidies to insurance companies, which the White House argues are illegal.

About 19,000 West Virginians received such subsidies in 2016, with an average monthly saving to their insurance bills of a about $100, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services data.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

First Lady Melania Trump visited West Virginia yesterday to tour Lily’s Place – a facility in Huntington that serves babies born addicted to substances. Her visit sheds more attention on the Ohio Valley’s addiction crisis.

About 5 percent of all children born last year in West Virginia were affected by drugs -- the highest rate in the country. Aaron Payne has this report on efforts to treat both newborns and parents in the grip of addiction.

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At the Kanawha County circuit court, the Roberts family is celebrating. Today, Andy and Debbie have adopted their grandchildren, Preston, age 6, and Tesla,19 months.

A nursery where drug-affected babies are treated at Lily’s Place in Huntington, W.Va.
Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new federal study, called “Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,”recommends educating both health care providers and pregnant women on screening and prenatal care to address drug addiction and withdrawal in newborns.

West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito say it's the first federal study on neonatal abstinence syndrome to examine the best practices and approaches to treating infants exposed to opioids during pregnancy. 

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At the Epsworth United Methodist Church in Ripley, West Virginia, five grandparents sit around a table listening to a speaker tell them, “You are not alone.”

 

 

Although prayer is mentioned frequently at the meeting, religion is not the subject of today’s conversation - rather, how to communicate with grandchildren after grandparents are thrust into the role of primary caregivers.

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In 2014, more than a third of all children who were removed from their homes due to parental alcohol and drug use were placed with relatives. In many ways, that’s good news for kids. Research shows that grandfamilies protect against trauma and promote resilience. But the arrangement can also be incredibly difficult for the grandparents themselves - many of whom are older and dealing with their own challenges - especially when it comes to physical health.

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As the opioid crisis continues to impact Appalachia, children are being left behind. This morning we have the first of a series of stories about grandparents who take on the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren. To begin the series, health reporter Kara Lofton talks with professor Megan Dolbin-MacNab - a researcher at Virginia Tech who is studying grandparent headed families - about the health impacts of this arrangement. 

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 The University of Texas Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital released a study this month showing that diet and exercise may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Healthy eating is already encouraged during treatment but diet plans are uncommon. When it comes to physical activity, the study says, doctors are cautious when suggesting an exercise routine.

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A new health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill would fundamentally alter Medicaid financing and reduce federal spending for health coverage, according to a new analysis released today by the nonpartisan think tank Kaiser Family Foundation.

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