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.

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.

Health, doctor, nurse, mask, breathing, health insurance
Dollar Photo Club

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.

needle exchange sign
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.

Adobe Stock

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.

Adobe Stock

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.

BRNI
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.

Adobe Stock

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.

 

Adobe Stock

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.   

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, we hear some of the tributes given yesterday during a funeral service for statesman Ken Hechler and we’ll meet another inspiring West Virginian.

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

Holding Hands, Hold Hands, Baby, Baby Hand, Hand Holding
Pixabay.com

New data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources shows fewer women in the state are smoking while pregnant now compared to a few years ago. 

DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health says the rate of West Virginia women who smoke while pregnant fell by four percent between 2014 and 2016. 

Dollar Photo Club

Marshall University is boosting its fight against the opioid addiction epidemic. The University has created a coalition to coordinate strategies with the city of Huntington, as well as a new research position to study treatment options for addicts. 

Homes for West Virginia

Christmas this year will mark six months since June’s historic floods that devastated more than 4,000 homes and took 23 lives. For those still recovering, especially those who lost loved ones, the holidays can be more painful than joyful. 

”My husband loved Christmas. I mean, our house used to be decorated so bad that the electric company would send us a Christmas card,” said Deborah Nicely. You might recognize Nicely’s name. Her husband, daughter and grandson all died when the floods washed away their home.

Dollar Photo Club

The group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care hosted a conference Tuesday at Marshall University focused on the state's opioid epidemic.

The conference titled “Innovative Solutions to the Opioid Epidemic,” brought together groups from all over the state as well as national experts to discuss ways of dealing with the epidemic. Groups like the Cabell-Huntington Health Department presented their needle exchange effort and Martinsburg Police presented their Martinsburg Initiative. Dr. Anita Everett is the Chief Medical Officer for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and she was the featured speaker. Everett said it’s great to a see a state of communities trying new things and wanting to work together.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Democrats have been fighting for years for a long-term fix a struggling union miners pension and benefits fund. More than 16,000 miners are set to lose their benefits by December 31. 

Now the fund may get a 4 month extension, far less than hoped. 

"We never talked about a short term extension; we’ve always talked about a permanent fix," said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

Manchin said he and other advocates of the bill had agreed to table talk of funding pensions in return for saving the miners’ health care benefits.

Adobe Stock

PEIA is the public health insurance program that covers all state employees and retirees. Teachers, state troopers, and yes, even employees of West Virginia Public Broadcasting are covered by the insurance plans. But here’s the issue: over the past few years, funding from state government for PEIA has stayed the same, while health care costs have been on the rise. Now, PEIA needs an additional $50-60 million each year in order to keep funding the program at the same level.

 

Pages