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

You’ve probably heard by now that the price of the life-saving EpiPen auto-injector has ballooned by 400 percent since 2007. The EpiPen is just the latest pharmaceutical to grab headlines in a series of recent drug-price hikes that also include insulin and Albuterol, a drug used to treat asthma. While drug price hikes affect some families more than others, drug prices will impact every West Virginian, even if you don’t actually use the medication yourself.


Here’s how that works.  

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding more than $200,000 to train more mental health providers and substance abuse counselors in West Virginia.

Nationally, more than $44.5 million worth of grants have been awarded through the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program.  West Virginia will receive $211,000 of that to train behavioral and mental health professionals.

WVU Receives $1.8M for Kids’ Clinical Trials

Sep 21, 2016

The National Institutes of Health awarded West Virginia University a $1.8 million grant. According to a WVU news release, the grant will assist in building a pediatric clinical trials network across the state. 


WVU will partner with hospitals, medical practices and pediatric health programs across the state to make treatments available to severely ill children who live in rural communities. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On a recent Friday night in Beckley, the Riverside Warriors battled the Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles in the first football game of the season.

Senior Brody Bess was on the field. His appearance in the game is remarkable in that this past winter, he had not one, but two major knee surgeries following ACL tears.


The problem started in middle school.


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The organization Mental Health Matters is holding a series of panel presentations around the state to advocate for juvenile justice and community-based mental health care for youth.

Yesterday’s forum, the second of six, was held at the University of Charleston and included panelists from mental health, education and legal backgrounds. During the forum, panelists discussed West Virginia’s lack of funds for mental and behavioral health intervention, a lack of coordination of services and the statewide deficit of therapists and counselors.

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U.S. attorney General Loretta Lynch is traveling to Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 20, as part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

According to a news release, Lynch plans on holding a student town hall at a high school, meeting with parents who have lost children to heroin overdose, and speaking at the University of Kentucky on how the administration is addressing addiction through prevention, enforcement and treatment.

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Several Virginia organizations have partnered to create a voucher program to help improve access to fresh, affordable produce in Montgomery County.

The vouchers are redeemable at the Christiansburg Farmers Market and are available through the Department of Social Services, Community Health Center of the New River Valley and the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children. The vouchers can be used for eligible food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

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New studies released this week show West Virginians are experiencing slower growth in health care premiums, increased access to coverage, and higher quality of care under the Affordable Care Act.

Only 6 percent of people in West Virginia went uninsured in 2015, down from 14.6 percent in 2010, according to new Census data. That drop means 156,000 West Virginians gained coverage in five years, according to a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services press release.

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West Virginia University’s Telepsychiatry Program received a $1.2 million grant this week from the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand telemedicine services in four West Vi

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Through the window of the HealthNet helicopter, miles of stopped traffic could be seen on interstate 64-westbound. The pilot turned and it became clear why -- one semi-truck had rear-ended another, crumpling the front end of the second truck like a discarded tin can.


The helicopter landed on the road.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, the massive flood in June caused over three million dollars in damages to farms.  Roxy Todd visits one such farm in Greenbrier County and Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton spends a day with a crew from the HealthNet Aeromedical Services.

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

PunchingJudy / Flickr

The West Virginia Board of Education approved a policy last week allowing county school systems across the state to start stocking Naloxone—a medicine that reverses the effects of a drug overdose—in schools.

Addiction Stories Program
Clark Davis / WV Public Broadcasting

  People in addiction recovery came out Wednesday night in Huntington at Marshall University, to tell their story on how it’s affected their lives.

  Nick Pauken was part of the Marshall University program “Addiction in Appalachia: Our Stories”. In collaboration between the Marshall Student Health Education Program and the English Department, those in addiction recovery worked with English professors to write a monologue about their story. It was a chance for those in recovery, family members and significant others to tell how addiction impacted their lives.

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For those of you who have to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act it’s that time of year again – open enrollment is just around the corner. But finding the right plan can be both confusing and time consuming. That’s why for the second year the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are awarding grants to West Virginia organizations that support in-person help in shopping for the right plan.

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Almost 36 percent of adults in West Virginia are obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. West Virginia’s obesity rates are surpassed only by Louisiana while Colorado has the lowest percent nationwide.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, we conclude our series about food insecurity with a report from McDowell County where farmers are trying to sell their local produce but meet with certain challenges and in Wayne County pop up farmers markets are bringing fresh food where it’s needed. 

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

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Additional federal dollars are coming to West Virginia to help combat the state’s opioid epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' announcement was used to mark national Overdose Awareness Day.

Strawberry Smoothie
Ashrafi19 / wikimedia commons

More than fifty people, including at least three West Virginians in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, have tested positive for hepatitis A.  The outbreak has been traced to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt and used by the chain Tropical Smoothie Cafe. The most common way a person contracts hepatitis A is by eating something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The strawberries were linked to the outbreak in early August.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

This week, we've been hearing a series of stories from the Inside Appalachia team about the challenges that some Appalachian families face when trying to eat fresh food. Sometimes it’s the cost, or poor choices. Sometimes it’s limited access because they live in what’s called a food desert.

Seven months ago the Walmart in McDowell County closed, and this was especially difficult for the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food pantry, run by Linda McKinney and her husband Bob. They say the superstore’s closing has actually inspired their family to rethink how they get food for the pantry.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An increasing body of research is showing that students who have time for physical activity in their school day tend to perform better on tests and have an easier time concentrating.