NPR Health

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Growing up in a hungry household in the first couple of years of life can hurt how well a child performs in school years later, according to a new study.

An estimated 13.1 million children live in homes with insufficient food, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cancer can be caused by tobacco smoke or by an inherited trait, but new research finds that most of the mutations that lead to cancer crop up naturally.

The authors of the study published Thursday poked a hornet's nest by suggesting that many cancers are unavoidable.

It was a meeting of nerds and sharks.

The self-described "biotech nerds" and "robotic nerds" were seven high school students from Washington, D.C. The eight teens who call themselves "sharks" and flew in from Ghana. "The shark is a big fish so it means you're big. Knowledgeable," explains Stephanie Obbo of Ghana, an aspiring medical doctor.

When House Speaker Paul Ryan says he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act so that people can buy insurance that's right for them, and not something created in Washington, part of what he's saying is that he wants to get rid of so-called essential health benefits.

That's a list of 10 general categories of medical care that all insurance policies are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In 2015, when researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton discovered that death rates had been rising dramatically since 1999 among middle-aged white Americans, they weren't sure why people were dying younger, reversing decades of longer life expectancy.

Now the husband-and-wife economists say they have a better understanding of what's causing these "deaths of despair" by suicide, drugs and alcohol.

Republicans will be tested today on the strength of party unity in the Trump era and their party's ability to deliver on the promises they've made to the voters that sent them here.

"This is our chance and this is our moment. It's a big moment," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters earlier this week. "And I think our members are beginning to appreciate just what kind of a 'rendezvous with destiny' we have right here."

It's hard not to get excited about news of a potentially effective treatment for sepsis, a condition that leads to multiple organ failure and kills more people in the hospital than any other disease.

But there have been so many false promises about this condition over the years, it's also wise to treat announcements — like one published online by the journal, Chest — with caution.

In August 2016, an outbreak of mumps began in Arkansas. Since then, there have been nearly 3,000 cases of the disease across 33 counties in the state.

As a public health practitioner, I wondered: Why did this outbreak take off?

My team at HealthMap, a computational epidemiology lab based out of Boston Children's Hospital, began by rounding up as much data as we could.

It's not every day that the world gets a new tool that could save 100,000 children each year.

And it's definitely not every day that the secret to that tool is the same thing that makes space ice cream so memorable.

Sounds crazy. But bear with me a moment.

Scientists say they have a new vaccine that's about 70 percent effective against rotavirus — a nasty little pathogen that gives children bad diarrhea here in the U.S. but kills more than 200,000 children each year in developing countries.

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Before Carmencita Misa became bedridden, she was a veritable "dancing queen," says her daughter, Charlotte Altieri.

"Even though she would work about 60 hours a week, she would make sure to go out dancing once a week — no matter what," Altieri, says. "She was the life-of-the-party kind of person, the central nervous system for all her friends."

A massive stroke in March 2014 changed all that. It robbed Misa, 71, of her short-term memory, her eyesight and her mobility — and it left her dependent on a feeding tube for nourishment. Now, she lives in a nursing home.

Thursday will mark seven years since President Obama signed the now-threatened Affordable Care Act before a crowd in the jam-packed East Room of the White House. It was the signature legislative moment of his presidency, underscored by then-Vice President Biden, who whispered into the president's ear that it was a "big f****** deal." The mic picked up the remark, which created quite a stir.

The owner of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was acquitted on 25 counts of second-degree murder, but guilty of racketeering and fraud in the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and hurt more than 700.

A jury found Barry Cadden, an owner of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center, guilty of some of the charges, but decided against holding him directly responsible for the deaths, which could have resulted in a life sentence for Cadden.

The Food and Drug Administration says at least nine women have died of a rare blood cancer after receiving breast implants, and that the agency is officially acknowledging an association between the implants and the disease.

On Tuesday, the agency announced that as of Feb. 1, it had received 359 breast implant-associated reports of a rare type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL.

Men may soon be able to take their own sperm count — at home. With a smartphone. Yes, there's an app for that.

You may be asking yourself, why?

Low sperm count is a marker for male infertility, a condition that is actually a neglected health issue worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

GAO Will Investigate Skyrocketing Prices For Orphan Drugs

Mar 22, 2017

Acting on a request from three influential U.S. senators, the government's accountability arm confirmed Tuesday that it will investigate potential abuses of the Orphan Drug Act.

The Government Accountability Office still must determine the full scope of the investigation. That scope will take some months, says Chuck Young, GAO's managing director for public affairs.

Connie Dotts is a big fan of her insurance.

"I like that we can choose our own doctors," says the 60-year-old resident of Mesa, Ariz. "They also have extensive mental health coverage."

Dotts isn't on some pricey plan, either. She's among the nearly 2 million people enrolled in Medicaid in Arizona and one of the more than 400,000 who have signed up since the Republican-led state expanded Medicaid in 2013.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

One member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who intends to vote no on the Republican health care bill is Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida. Congressman, welcome to the show.

TED YOHO: Thanks for having me on.

Bangladesh has done a great job of getting more toilets to more people. Now it needs to figure out how to empty them.

If you're poor and you want to keep your health insurance, you may have to go to work.

That's the message from Republican lawmakers who Monday night released a series of changes to their plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

A key change, designed to help attract votes from conservative Republicans, would let state governors require people to work to qualify for health insurance under Medicaid.

A few years ago, Dr. Gregory Thomas thought he had finally found the Holy Grail of heart disease. And it was even found in a tomb.

He was studying the arteries of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies, and he thought this was finally it: a culture that would be free of heart disease. Heart disease couldn't be more than 3,000 years old, could it?

Man, he was disappointed.

Exercising While Pregnant Is Almost Always A Good Idea

Mar 21, 2017

Being pregnant can sometimes feel like traversing a minefield of advice: You want to do the right thing for your baby and yourself, but conflicting input from physicians, relatives, friends and even total strangers makes it difficult to know exactly what is helpful and what is potentially harmful.

A group of researchers want women to know that when it comes to exercise, there is a strong consensus of benefit for both the mother and developing fetus.

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That's the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They're using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of "synthetic biology" research might be treading into disturbing territory.

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In his late 20s, Christopher Milford of East Boston, Mass., got high on some OxyContin his friend gave him.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he was shooting heroin and Suboxone.

Milford would reuse the same needle for a week or more. Then, one day, he was so sick he couldn't get out of bed.

"It felt like the worst flu I ever got in my life," he says. "It almost felt like a dream. I started doing weird things like putting PlayStation controllers in the sink in the bathroom. It was just weird, off the wall."

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