NPR Health

The number of new HIV cases reported in the Philippines has surged over the last few years, according the country's health agency. In 2007, fewer than 400 new cases were reported; in 2017, more than 11,000 new cases were identified.

NPR's "Take A Number" series is exploring problems around the world — and solutions — through the lens of a single number.

One of the places many people are first prescribed opioids is a hospital emergency room. But in one of the busiest ERs in the U.S., doctors are relying less than they used to on oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioids to ease patients' pain.

If you need cataract surgery, your eye surgeon may have to do double duty as your anesthetist under a new policy by health insurer Anthem. In a clinical guideline released this month, the company says it's not medically necessary to have an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist on hand to administer and monitor sedation in most cases.

Some ophthalmologists and anesthesiologists say the policy jeopardizes patient safety, and they are calling on Anthem to rescind it.

The Trump administration wants to allow insurance companies to offer more policies that have limited health benefits and that can reject customers if they have pre-existing medical conditions.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the plans, which don't meet the legal requirements for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, will allow consumers who can't afford insurance now to find cheaper plans.

A grocery store's baby formula aisle often stocks an overwhelming number of options. Aside from different brands of pastel-hued tins and tubs, there are specialized formulas — some for spit-up reduction, gas or colic. And in the past decade or so, companies have introduced formulas meant for toddlers who are leaving bottles behind.

It's shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in years.

If you are one of the thousands of Americans who are sick with the flu, this one's for you.

Why The AR-15?

Feb 19, 2018

After nearly every mass shooting, a few words are repeated over and over: Thoughts. Prayers. AR-15.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Food scientists at the University of Massachussetts Amherst have come up with a technique they say could make it a lot easier to avoid food poisoning.

The main piece of equipment? Your smartphone.

Currently, to identify the bacteria that can get you sick, like E. coli or salmonella, food scientists often use DNA testing.

They obtain samples from, say, raw spinach or chicken skin, by rinsing the food and collecting a tiny bit of bacteria from the water. Then they let that bacteria multiply over 24 hours to get a big enough sample.

After Virginia Harrod was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2014, she had a double mastectomy. Surgeons also removed 16 lymph nodes from under her armpit and the area around her breast, to see how far the cancer had spread and to determine what further treatment might be needed. Then she underwent radiation therapy.

Beer has fueled a lot of bad ideas. But on a Friday afternoon in 2007, it helped two Alzheimer's researchers come up with a really a good one.

In the brave new world of synthetic biology, scientists can now brew up viruses from scratch using the tools of DNA technology.

The latest such feat, published last month, involves horsepox, a cousin of the feared virus that causes smallpox in people. Critics charge that making horsepox in the lab has endangered the public by basically revealing the recipe for how any lab could manufacture smallpox to use as a bioweapon.

Earlier this week, we shared the remarkable story of Abby Beckley — and her run-in with eye worms.

When this young woman felt something crawling around in her eyes, she had the presence to remove said worm and then, over the course of a few weeks, not one, not two nor three ... but 14 nematodes came out from her eye.

At first doctors didn't believe her. Then they saw one squiggle across her eyeball.

Under the Geneva Conventions, warring parties are responsible for providing medical care to civilians in the territory they control.

But what happens if the warring parties don't have the will or the capacity to treat the civilian casualties? Or if they could not care less about the civilians?

That's a question that erupted in Iraq late in 2016, when the Iraqi military launched a massive military offensive to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIS had seized control of Mosul two years earlier.

Next month, several chain supermarkets in the U.K. will stop selling energy drinks to customers under 16. Anyone looking to buy a soft drink with more than 150 mg of caffeine per liter — a limit targeting drinks like Monster and Red Bull — will need to present an ID.

After Elizabeth Moreno had back surgery in late 2015, her surgeon prescribed an opioid painkiller and a follow-up drug test that seemed routine — until the lab slapped her with a bill for $17,850.

A Houston lab had tested her urine sample for a constellation of legal and illicit drugs, many of which Moreno says she had never heard of, let alone taken.

"I was totally confused. I didn't know how I was going to pay this," said Moreno, 30, who is finishing a degree in education at Texas State University in San Marcos, and is pregnant with twins.

In her late 20s and attending college in Texas, Elizabeth Moreno suffered from debilitating back pain caused by a spinal abnormality. "I just could not live with the pain," she says. "I couldn't get dressed by myself, I couldn't walk across my house, let alone to class, and nothing, no drug that had been prescribed to me, even dulled the pain."

Intervening Early To Stop Killers

Feb 16, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Investigators are trying to piece together what led a 19-year-old to open fire in a Florida high school this week. They're asking questions about the shooter's mental health, and that is something President Trump alluded to yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NPR and Kaiser Health News are undertaking a project to investigate and dissect real-life medical bills.

We expect that examining the bills will shed light on the often surprising prices for health care in the U.S.

Along the way, we're hoping to help people learn how to be more active and successful in managing the costs of their care.

Do you have a medical bill or explanation of benefits that you'd like us to see and scrutinize? Submit it here and tell us the story behind it.

We may use it, with your permission, in one of our monthly features.

On Christmas Day last year, a 68-year-old woman in southern China came down with the flu. A week later she was hospitalized.

The woman eventually recovered, but she spent three weeks in the hospital.

The culprit? H7N4, a new type of bird flu.

"This is the first case of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N4) in the world," the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said Wednesday in a statement.

It's barely been two weeks since Idaho regulators said they would allow the sale of health insurance that doesn't meet all of the Affordable Care Act's requirements — a controversial step some experts said would likely draw legal scrutiny and, potentially, federal fines for any insurer that jumped in.

And on Wednesday, Blue Cross of Idaho unveiled a menu of new health plans that break with federal health law rules in several ways, including setting premiums based on applicants' health.

It was Julie Liles' 17-year-old daughter, Emily, who suggested that they attend a sex education program together.

Julie was eager to go. She was just 14 when she gave birth to Emily.

"So always in the back of my mind was a worry that she would get hurt," says Julie, her voice cracking. "I worried in the back of my mind that she would find herself in the same situation."

Editor's note: This story was originally published in October and has been republished with updates following the shooting Wednesday in Florida.

It was the deadliest school shooting since a gunman took 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. On Wednesday, a shooter killed at least 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Burgers and chicken nuggets are still the mainstay of the Happy Meal. But on Thursday McDonald's announced its goal to market more balanced kids meals around the globe.

The company says by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the kids meal options listed on menus will meet new global Happy Meal nutrition criteria: Meals will have 600 calories or less; no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; no more than 650 mg sodium; and no more than 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

Germany is considering free public transit in its cities in order to curb car use, as it hurries to meet the European Union's requirements for air quality.

Nearly 40 years of violent conflict is driving a growing mental health crisis in Afghanistan.

It's a well-intentioned effort to provide men with some of the same financial protection from birth control costs that women get. But a new Maryland law may jeopardize the ability of thousands of consumers — both men and women — to use health savings accounts.

The Maryland law, which took effect Jan. 1, mandates that insurers cover vasectomies without requiring patients to pay anything out-of-pocket — just as they must do for more than a dozen birth control methods for women.

There's no Xbox or PlayStation for most of the kids in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. But there are kites.

In the late afternoon, a steady wind blows over the hills of the Hakimpara refugee camp. Young boys race to a ridge at the top of the settlement to fly homemade kites. Some of the "kites" are little more than a plastic bag flapping on a string. But some are more sophisticated with long tails and frilly tassels. "This is a new kite and I'm very happy with it," says 7-year-old Mohammed Arfat as he reels out string to a silvery kite 30 or 40 feet above him.

This year, Bill and Melinda Gates are doing something a little different with their annual letter. They are answering what they call some of the "toughest questions" from their foundation's critics.

On the list: Is it fair that you have the influence you do? Why don't you give more to the United States? Why do you give your money away?

Since its inception, the Gates Foundation has given $41.3 billion in grants, including a grant to NPR.

The maker of OxyContin, one of the most prescribed and aggressively marketed opioid painkillers, will no longer tout the drug or any other opioids to doctors.

The announcement, made Saturday, came as drugmaker Purdue Pharma faces lawsuits for deceptive marketing brought by cities and counties across the U.S., including several in Maine. The company said it's cutting its U.S. sales force by more than half.

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