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.

Health, doctor, nurse, mask, breathing, health insurance
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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.”

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Shepherd University is partnering with Berkeley County Schools and the Martinsburg Police Department to help combat opioid addiction. A new initiative hopes to identify basic causes of drug abuse in at-risk families.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Federal law says all polling places must be accessible by wheelchair. But advocates in West Virginia say there is an ongoing concern that not all the polling places in the state comply with this requirement.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act states that all polling places must include at least one wheelchair accessible voting machine and an accessible route to and from the precinct. This route must be the same route that all voters take not an alternate route, for instance, in the back of a building.

Jess Mador / WOUT/Truckbeat

Kristina “Breezy” Weaver  lives in Wyoming County, which has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in a state that leads the country in drug overdose deaths. Last June, Weaver’s father died of a heroin overdose.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

What happens to a community as coal jobs go away? Here are some things you might expect: many people leave, schools empty, local businesses struggle to keep their lights on. But here’s something that may not come to mind: extra curricular sports go away.

That’s what happened to children in McDowell County over 25 years ago. They lost their local soccer league. And while the thousands of lost coal jobs may not come back, thanks to a 4-H project, and about a dozen volunteers, soccer is making a comeback in McDowell County.

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To understand how individuals respond differently to stress and exposure to herbicides like roundup, West Virginia University biologist Jennifer Gallagher is looking at small variations in humans' genetic makeup.

But instead of studying human cells, she's studying yeast.  

Yeast’s ability to grow, divide, age and metabolize food is similar to human cells and provides researchers with a nearly perfect specimen to study cell processes and genetic variation, according to a press release.

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The fourth annual open enrollment for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act begins today. Over the past year, more West Virginians than ever before have become ensured, including thousands with preexisting health conditions. But the first three years of the ACA have been far from smooth. Premiums and deductibles continue to rise, and more and more insurers are leaving the marketplace. Kara Lofton talked with Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor of law at Washington and Lee University and ACA expert about what consumers can expect for 2017.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, we profile another candidate for governor. Today we meet Phil Hudok of the Constitution Party and statehouse reporter Ashton Marra looks at the race for State Auditor.

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

Marshall Medical School Dean Joseph Shapiro
Clark Davis / WV Public Broadcasting

Marshall University announced Wednesday it’s partnering with the University of Kentucky on a multimillion dollar research grant.

The two universities are partners in a $19.8 million grant from the National Institute of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award. The money helps further clinical and translational science initiatives, emphasizing medical research relevant to the community. The goal is to speed up the process of implementing laboratory findings in patient care. Joseph Shapiro is the Dean of the Marshall University School of Medicine. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The first free health clinic offering comprehensive services ran this past weekend, with more than 600 people receiving care from about 350 volunteer healthcare providers. Motivated to help folks in communities hit by record-breaking flooding last summer, West Virginia Health Right partnered with the nonprofit Remote Area Medical to offer the free health clinic over two days.  


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Appalachia Health News Reporter Kara Lofton reports from the free health clinic held this past weekend in Elkview.

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

The West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency may be facing millions of dollars in cuts - partially due to rising drug prices. Annual PEIA public hearings about the cuts are scheduled throughout the month of November. The public is encouraged to attend the hearings to voice questions or concerns. In the meantime, Kara Lofton talked with PEIA director Ted Cheatham about the proposal. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

On what is causing the cuts

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton talks with Ted Cheatham, the head of the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency, about the provider’s financial troubles. 

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

WVU Cancer Institute

The WVU Cancer Institute is receiving $730,000 to address lung cancer disparities in the state. The funding will complement other recent grants aimed at promoting lung cancer screening. 

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Penny Hart is a single mother of two. She works full-time as a receptionist and hygienist in a small, rural dental practice.


Except for during her pregnancies, Hart lacked insurance for her entire adult life, which has made dealing with debilitating migraines particularly difficult. Imitrex – the migraine medication she takes – runs about $39 a 25 mg tablet for the brand name and about $24 for the generic.

Barbara Hollinger is allergic to yellow jackets. A few years ago, she was paying  about $50 for several packs of EpiPens, the brand name for a device that delivers a lifesaving dose of epinephrine after an allergic reaction. Then a pack of two became $300, then $600 – so she did some research online and asked her doctor to write a prescription for a generic epinephrine autoinjector. A day later, the pharmacy called and said it was ready.


Holding Hands, Hold Hands, Baby, Baby Hand, Hand Holding

The drug epidemic in West Virginia affects more than just the work force, or the number of people in a prison cell or treatment center. It’s also had a major impact on the state’s foster children. West Virginia Public Broadcasting introduces the Holben family who has seen the impacts of the drug epidemic first-hand.