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.

Without congressional intervention, about 16,000 retired miners in seven states will lose their health care coverage by the end of the year.

A proposal to temporarily extend the benefits is working its way through Congress. But two Senate Democrats, who are advocates for a more comprehensive plan, say the temporary provision isn't enough.

They are threatening to hold up a spending bill that needs to pass by Friday night to keep the government running.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning Kara Lofton talks with the director of the Public Employees Insurance Agency about its financial troubles and the Mountain Stage song of the week.

That's on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting - telling West Virginia's story.

AP Photo/Molly Riley

A stopgap bill by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to temporarily protect health care benefits for thousands of retired coal miners has been met with resounding criticism from Senate Democrats. 

AP Photo / Alex Brandon

Sen.  Joe Manchin is attempting to put pressure on Congressional leaders in Washington to take quick action on a bill to save the healthcare and pension benefits of thousands of coal miners. 

Health, doctor, nurse, mask, breathing, health insurance
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Almost 8,000 West Virginians signed up for healthcare during the first month of Open Enrollment under the federal Affordable Care Act this year.

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More than 160 health leaders met in Charleston today to talk about public health concerns and current efforts to improve health outcomes for West Virginians.

The conference sessions covered topics from childhood obesity and trauma, to the housing crisis and aging population. Presenters talked about where West Virginia can improve – for instance ensuring that children have access to healthy food and safe places to exercise. They also discussed new initiatives that show some promise, such as senior housing cooperatives.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

Would you go into a dangerous profession if you were assured that you and your dependents would have healthcare and pension for life? For thousands of West Virginia coal miners, the answer to that question was yes.

“When we all started in the mines, we were promised healthcare for life – cradle to grave,” said Roger Merriman. He’s referring to a deal struck between the United Mine Workers of America and the federal government in 1946. Union miners who put in 20 or more years were promised lifelong health benefits.

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A West Virginia-led team of researchers may have found a way to control the spread of rapidly growing cancers, including melanoma. The findings were published last month in the online  journal Laboratory Investigation and suggest new combinations of therapies may be more effective in treating fast-growing cancers than current practices.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, a report on the impact of natural gas drilling has on the health of people who live near these fracking sites.

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

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West Virginia University School of Dentistry will soon be one of only three schools in the United States and Canada to have a dentistry Innovation Center sponsored by the Center for Research and Technology Incorporated.

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Telemedicine has been touted as a way to fill in some gaps in health care for rural residents.  But telemedicine relies on broadband service, which parts of Appalachia still don’t have.

“Without broadband, you don’t have telemedicine,” said nurse practitioner Lindsey Kennedy. Kennedy manages the telemedicine program at Bland County Medical Center in southwestern Virginia.  

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell visited Charleston today to voice support for the Affordable Care Act.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, host Beth Vorhees talks with Moore Capito and Riley Moore, newly elected Delegates with a family legacy in politics and Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton has the story about how telemedicine is being held up by a lack of broadband.

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

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Children are still coping with the emotional aftermath of the June 2016 floods that devastated most of the central and southern parts of West Virginia, according to the nonprofit Save the Children. 

In the weeks following the floods, Save the Children provided support to more than 44,000 children and caregivers, according to a press release. Starting in December, the nonprofit will launch its Journey of Hope program in the state’s five most heavily affected counties Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas and Roane.

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The number of infant deaths in Ohio has increased from 955 in 2014 to just over 1,000 in 2015, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Health.

The data showed that black babies are dying at a rate nearly three times the rate of white babies. For both races the leading causes of infant deaths are pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects, according to a press release.

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Obesity rates among West Virginia children in low-income families have increased by 2 percent from 2010 to 2014.

West Virginia's obesity rate among young children from low-income families increased from 14.4 percent in 2010 to 16.4 percent in 2014, according to the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Although the recent presidential election has raised questions about the Affordable Care Act’s future, West Virginia University says it will continue to operate the West Virginia Healthy Start Navigator Project. The program helps people in northern West Virginia sign up for health insurance under the ACA.

Hendrix, Mary Hendrix, Shepherd University, West Virginia University, Cancer Research
Shepherd University

The new president of Shepherd University is partnering with West Virginia University to continue her cancer cell research, and she’s allowing students to watch her work as it’s happening.

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Veterans' benefits are expected to be tougher to qualify for next year, according to the Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension program, which subsidizes senior living and home care for veterans and their spouses.

The pension is designed to provide financial support to lower income veterans and their spouses who need help with daily living.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Last summer, huge hazardous algal blooms shut down drinking-water intakes along the Ohio River. Some experts say the mix of farm runoff, wastewater, and rising temperatures makes blooms like this more likely, leading to major health issues and expenditure of public dollars.


“It started to cover the river,” said local resident Ethan Wells. “It started looking like a neon [green] slime across the top of the river, and it was kind of eerie in a way to have the river alive like that.”