NPR Health

The government of Nauru, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific, and the charity Doctors Without Borders are in a bitter dispute over mental health care for asylum seekers and refugees.

The controversy revolves around approximately 900 individuals sent to Nauru by the Australian government since 2013. They arrived in Australia by boat, coming from such countries as Iran, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Syria; the government sent them to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Most of them have been there four years.

As Ebola continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government has been issuing daily updates. These press releases are mainly a recitation of facts and figures: The total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak was declared August 1 — 165 as of Friday. The death toll – 90 people. The number of individuals who've been given an experimental vaccine – 15,807. And a summary of the latest efforts by responders to reach affected communities.

The rate of cesarean sections around the world is increasing at an "alarming" rate, reported an international team of doctors and scientists on Thursday.

Since 1990, C-sections have more than tripled from about 6 percent of all births to 21 percent, three studies report in The Lancet. And there are no "signs of slowing down," the researchers write in a commentary about the studies.

They claim to help you sleep, make your hair grow, speed weight loss, improve your sex life and ward off the nasty cold going around the office. Though it's often impossible to tell if dietary supplements work, consumers generally feel certain they can't hurt.

But they can.

Police in California made headlines this spring when they charged a former police officer with being the Golden State Killer, a man who allegedly committed a series of notorious rapes and murders in the 1970s and '80s.

Authorities revealed they used DNA from a publicly available genealogy website to crack the case.

In order to see the red of a sunset or the green of spring leaves, developing human eyes need to get the right hormone at the right time.

That's the finding of a team of scientists who studied how color vision develops using hundreds of human retinas grown in the lab.

Ensuring that people with pre-existing health conditions can get and keep health insurance is the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act. It has also become a flashpoint in this fall's midterm campaigns across the country.

And not only is the ACA protection, which mostly applies to people who buy their own coverage, at risk. It's also possible that pre-existing condition protections that predate the federal health law could be in play.

If you are one of the 5.7 million Americans who ends up in the intensive care unit each year, you are at high risk of developing long-term mental effects like dementia and confusion. These mental problems can be as pronounced as those experienced by people with Alzheimer's disease or a traumatic brain injury and many patients never fully recover.

In Philadelphia, a battle between local officials and the Trump administration is heating up.

In defiance of threats from the Justice Department, public health advocates in Philadelphia have launched a nonprofit to run a facility to allow people to use illegal drugs under medical supervision. It is the most concrete step yet the city has taken toward eventually opening a so-called supervised injection site.

The non-profit, called Safehouse, was formed after a political heavyweight, former Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, joined the board.

USA Today published an opinion column by President Trump Wednesday in which the president falsely accused Democrats of trying to "eviscerate" Medicare, while defending his own record of protecting health care coverage for seniors and others.

The column — published just weeks ahead of the midterm elections — underscores the political power of health care to energize voters. But it makes a number of unsubstantiated claims.

Doctors have gradually come to realize that people who survive a serious brush with death in the intensive care unit are likely to develop potentially serious problems with their memory and thinking processes.

This dementia, a side effect of intensive medical care, can be permanent. And it affects as many as half of all people who are rushed to the ICU after a medical emergency. Considering that 5.7 million Americans end up in intensive care every year, this is a major problem that until recently, has been poorly appreciated by medical caregivers.

When people living with HIV walk out of prison, they leave with up to a month's worth of HIV medication in their pockets. What they don't necessarily leave with is access to health care or the services that will keep them healthy in the long term.

If you're a first-time mother and you opt for epidural anesthesia during labor, your doctor may suggest you wait about an hour after your cervix is completely dilated before you start trying to push the baby down the birth canal.

But a study published Tuesday in JAMA, the flagship journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that might not be the best advice.

When she was in graduate school for public health, Niasha Fray found a job she loved: counseling women with breast cancer about sticking to their treatment.

She offered what's called "motivational interviewing," a type of therapy intended to help women overcome obstacles keeping them from taking their medications — which can have unpleasant side effects

"They had just given up so much of their lives, so much of their bodies, so much of their family," Fray says. "They wanted to get back to life as usual."

Fourteen-year-old Caydden Zimmerman's school days start early and end late.

He has a 90-minute bus ride to get from the homeless shelter where he is staying in Boise, Idaho, to his middle school. He wakes up at 5:45 a.m., quickly brushes his teeth and smooths some gel in his hair, and then he dashes downstairs to catch his school bus.

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As a specialist in Alzheimer's prevention, Jessica Langbaum knows that exercising her mental muscles can help keep her brain sharp.

But Langbaum, who holds a doctorate in psychiatric epidemiology, has no formal mental fitness program. She doesn't do crossword puzzles or play computer brain games.

"Just sitting down and doing Sudoku isn't probably going to be the one key thing that's going to prevent you from developing Alzheimer's disease," she says.

Paige Thesing has struggled with insomnia since high school. "It takes me a really long time to fall asleep — about four hours," she says. For years, her mornings were groggy and involved a "lot of coffee."

After a year of trying sleep medication prescribed by her doctor, she turned to the internet for alternate solutions. About four months ago, she settled on a mobile phone meditation app called INSCAPE.

Months in prison didn't rid Daryl of his addiction to opioids. "Before I left the parking lot of the prison, I was shooting up, getting high," he says.

Daryl has used heroin and prescription painkillers for more than a decade. Almost four years ago he became one of more than 200 people who tested positive for HIV in a historic outbreak in Scott County, Ind. After that diagnosis, he says, he went on a bender.

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More than two months since an Ebola outbreak was declared in an eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, health officials are still struggling to end it.

So far at least 130 people have been infected. Last week the World Health Organization declared that the risk has gone from "high" to "very high" that the disease will spread to other parts of the country and to neighboring countries.

Yet some key health officials remain optimistic that it won't actually come to that.

How is that possible?

Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello had just moved to New York when Hurricane Sandy blew in from the Atlantic and buffeted the East Coast.

She heard that the labs at New York University, where she was working — and its freezer — were losing power. So she ran to the failing freezer, took the microbiota samples she'd gathered as a researcher in Puerto Rico over the past 14 years and stored them elsewhere.

Microbiota are the bacteria colonizing the human body — the gut, skin, mouth, and so on — that often help regulate your health. Researchers call them "beneficial germs."

Gregg Gonsalves took a wild, meandering path to the Ivory Tower. His route to becoming a professor at Yale started in street protests and spanned the globe.

On Thursday he was honored with a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

Gonsalves is one of this year's MacArthur "geniuses." The award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with a $625,000 no-strings-attached stipend.

You Don't Have To Pass Out To Be Blackout Drunk

Oct 4, 2018

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Unless you've been blissfully unplugged, you must have come across the term "blackout" lately. And you may have thought it means inebriated to the point of unconsciousness. Falling-down drunk. Blotto.

The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Cow Dung Soap Is Cleaning Up In India

Oct 3, 2018

The shelves in Umesh Soni's little store in downtown Mumbai are neatly stacked with soaps. There are handmade translucent bars, brightly colored circular soaps in tropical variants and square black bathing bars. It looks like any other soap shop.

Except all the soaps include cow dung and cow urine as ingredients.

Why make soap from this stuff?

Writer and director Tamara Jenkins was in her early 40s and struggling with infertility when she and her husband began what she calls a "by any means necessary" campaign to have a child.

It was an emotionally draining time. They looked into international adoption and also began in vitro fertilization treatment. A friend in whom Jenkins confided encouraged her to write about her experiences, but Jenkins demurred.

"I was horrified and just repulsed," she says. "I would never write about this stuff."

The trauma of sexual assault or harassment is not only hard to forget; it may also leave lasting effects on a woman's health. This finding of a study published Wednesday adds support to a growing body of evidence suggesting the link.

When they're sick, Americans seem to know what they want: antibiotics. And if they don't get them, their doctors' reputations may suffer.

A study published Monday finds that patients rated themselves happiest with their doctor's visit when they got an antibiotic after seeking care for a respiratory tract infection, such as a common cold, whether they needed the drug or not.

Updated 11:00 p.m. ET

Chocolate cupcake, creme, mango, tutti frutti, "blue" — sugary-sounding flavors familiar to teenage e-cigarette users are facing more crackdowns from the Food and Drug Administration.

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