Appalachia Health News

Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Kara Leigh Lofton

Reporter Kara Leigh Lofton covers topics such as women’s health, chronic disease and substance abuse.

Her reports 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, Marshall Health and WVU Medicine.

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A new study out of Rush University Medical Center found that eating just one serving a day of green, leafy vegetables may be linked to a slower rate of brain aging. 

The study found that people who ate at least one serving of green, leafy vegetables a day had a slower rate of decline on memory tests and thinking skills than people who rarely or never ate those vegetables. Green leafy vegetables include kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collards and spinach.

A few weeks ago, my panoramic sunroof seemingly spontaneously cracked into thousands of pieces while I was driving 70 miles an hour on I-26 W, more than six hours away from home.

 

“I mean it’s still like together,” I told my mom in a voicemail, “but a thousand pieces. I think the only reason it’s still together is because of the tape you and I put up a while ago.”

 

 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, roughly 107 million Americans will hit the road this weekend for Christmas -- the most ever for holiday travel, according to AAA. But getting in the car can be dangerous -- hazardous for your health, even. Kara Lofton reports on one phenomenon you might not be that familiar with -- exploding sunroofs.

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A United Nations expert on extreme poverty and human rights visited Charleston today for a public meeting on the systemic causes and manifestations of poverty in West Virginia.

The meeting covered social protection and the criminalization of homelessness, as well as health and rural poverty. About 40 people attended - including representatives from groups such as West Virginia Free, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.

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Brooke sits beside her mom on the couch at Rea of Hope’s New Life Apartments. Rea of Hope is an addiction and recovery center for women struggling with alcohol or drug abuse.

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A U.S. House subcommittee focused on the opioid epidemic in Appalachia during a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill. 

The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management focused on economics - specifically the impact of the opioid crisis on efforts in Appalachia to spur economic development and growth in distressed communities.

Witnesses included representatives from the economic development agency the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the science is clear -- addiction runs in families. It’s not just opioids, but alcohol and even tobacco use, too. Kara Lofton takes a look at multigenerational addiction in West Virginia and the challenges families face in breaking the cycle.

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A team of researchers at Ohio State University is trying to determine what anti-drug messages are most likely to cause potential drug abusers to say no to drugs.

28 participants watched 32 30 second PSAs while in an functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Half were at high-risk of drug abuse and half were at low-risk. Drug abuse risk was assessed with a self-report measure that the participants had completed earlier.

The researchers looked specifically at connectivity patterns between different parts of the brain while the anti-drug messages played.

Courtesy Stephanie Shumer

A West Virginia University graduate student is studying an unexplored enzyme that could lead to new diabetes treatments.

Stephanie Shumar is a graduate student in WVU's School of Medicine and is studying biochemistry and molecular biology. 


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A new report from the National Institutes of Health has found that across the United States, more than 90 percent of homes have three or more detectable allergens.

The study found that in about 73 percent of homes, at least one allergen was found at an elevated level and exposure to several elevated allergens was most prevalent in rural areas.

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Community and health advocates gathered at the University of Charleston today to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to do away with carbon pollution regulations. While the EPA’s first and so far only public hearings took place to collect comments about the proposed repeal in the capitol building, another press conference and panel discussion took place across town.

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In the next episode of Window's into Health Care - our occasional series talking with health experts from around the state - health reporter Kara Lofton sits down with  Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch to talk about his work and what he feels are the biggest health issues the state is facing.

In the transcript below, Crouch talks about how the DHHR is dealing with the opioid crisis, concerns about the state's growing foster care crisis and how chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity impact West Virginia. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we'll hear about what's being done in the Ohio Valley to fight food insecurity among veterans. Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach; troops must be fed in order to fight. But what happens when that army fights hunger back home?

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A growing number of Americans have high deductible health insurance plans – meaning they have to spring for the first few thousand dollars of care before insurance coverage kicks in. A new study suggests that despite a rise in these types of plans, most Americans aren’t shopping around for better prices.

The study used data from a national poll to examine the behavior of more than 1600 adults under the age of 65 who had high deductible health plans. 

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Tick-borne Lyme disease has spread across West Virginia over the past six years with cases reported in 52 of the state's 55 counties, according to state health officials.

Most cases are reported in the northern and eastern panhandles probably because of their proximity to the high-incidence states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Resources said.

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WVU Medicine announced today (Thursday) plans to construct at 10-story tower dedicated to women and children’s services.

The 152 million dollar project will take about three years to complete, but will add 150 beds to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Phil Saul is the Executive Vice President for hospital and children’s health at WVU Medicine.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Cooking healthy for a holiday crowd can be expensive - but it doesn’t have to be.

“So, if we think about vegetables and that kind of thing, one thing we can do for sure is instead of doing fresh vegetables up here in the produce area, we could do canned vegetables or we could do frozen vegetables,” said Marshall nutritionist Mckayla Hart. “This time of year, typically those are a lot cheaper than buying fresh.”

Hart stands in the produce aisle at the Walmart in Huntington.

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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Pregnant women today are more likely to have chronic conditions that could cause life-threatening complications than at any other time in the past decade, a new study suggests.

 

The study looked at a national sample of more than 8 million childbirth deliveries over 10 years and analyzed the how common chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and substance-abuse disorders were in the mothers.

 

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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.

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