NPR Health

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you're tired of popping pain medicine for your lower back pain, yoga may be a good alternative.

New research finds that a yoga class designed specifically for back pain can be as safe and effective as physical therapy in easing pain.

The yoga protocol was developed by researchers at Boston Medical Center with input from yoga teachers, doctors and physical therapists.

Broken teeth are all too often a punchline in conversations about poor people in rural places. But for Heather Wallace, dental problems are anything but funny.

"Basically it's just like a nerve pain. Your whole body locks up; you have to stop for a second to try to breathe," she said. "And sometimes if it hurts bad enough, you might cry."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As we just heard, Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski is among those lawmakers with reservations about the direction of the Senate's health care bill. Alaska is a deeply red state, but many of its rural residents depend on Medicaid for health care.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Diarrhea is not only a topic that makes people a bit squeamish, it turns out to be a difficult disease to put into numbers.

But two trends are clear, says an author of a new report: The number of deaths from diarrheal diseases is dropping dramatically in low-income countries – and ticking upward in wealthy nations.

In 2010, Sonia Vallabh watched her mom, Kamni Vallabh, die in a really horrible way.

First, her mom's memory started to go, then she lost the ability to reason. Sonia says it was like watching someone get unplugged from the world. By the end, it was as if she was stuck between being awake and asleep. She was confused and uncomfortable all the time.

"Even when awake, was she fully or was she really? And when asleep, was she really asleep?" says Sonia.

Updated 4:01 PM ET Tuesday

Do you know where your workplace's automated external defibrillator is located? About half of all U.S. employees don't, according to the results of an American Heart Association survey.

Emma Carpita is just two weeks old. Her parents, Federico and Loredana, have brought the crying infant to her first medical check-up.

Dr. Patrizia Franco, Emma's pediatrician, hands them a list of vaccine centers in the area. "Do you have any questions or concerns?" she asks.

"No," says Federico. "We think all parents should be obligated to vaccinate their children."

Sonia Vallabh saw her mother die at age 52 from a rare disease that causes irreversible brain damage. Then Sonia learned she has inherited the genetic mutation that killed her mother. She and her husband quit their jobs and trained to become scientists. They're now racing against time to come up with a treatment that could save Sonia's life.

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At a childbirth class at Doula Love in Portland, Ore., a half-dozen pregnant women lean on yoga balls. Their partners are right behind them, learning how to apply pressure for a pelvic massage. Together, they go over the stages of labor, birthing positions, and breathing techniques.

Cole Cooney, who is expecting his second child, says he can't imagine missing the birth. Not just because he'd miss meeting his child, but because he'd miss the opportunity to help his wife.

"They're not gonna want me to play 'babies in space'," says Greg O'Brien. "You know, where I pick 'em up in my hands and I swirl them around over my head like a rocket ship. I always say 'Babies! In! Spaaaaace!' "

It's October 2016, and he is musing about the latest O'Brien family news. His daughter, Colleen, is due to have a baby in November, and ever since he found out, Greg has been struggling with competing emotions.

Nate Kramer was a tall, quiet college swimmer when he was diagnosed with leukemia. His dad, Vince, says it was the beginning of four difficult years.

Nate battled through chemotherapy, a fungal infection of the sinuses, 30 operations, bone marrow transplants, a lung infection and the removal of his spleen. Vince says his son kept rallying back.

War-torn Yemen is now being convulsed by cholera.

Over the past six weeks, more than 124,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported. To put this in perspective, there were only 172,000 cases reported globally to the World Health Organization for all of 2015. To be fair, many cholera cases go unreported each year, but by any standard the current outbreak in Yemen is huge.

It is hard to imagine Africans would record and release an album of music with the name White African Power.

Julia Brennan grew up in a family of nearsighted people — so nearsighted that they joked they were blind as bats. She, however, had perfect eyesight.

"Julia can see around corners," her mother would say.

A one-paragraph letter, barely a hundred words long, unwittingly became a major contributor to today's opioid crisis, researchers say.

"This has recently been a matter of a lot of angst for me," Dr. Hershel Jick, co-author of that letter, told Morning Edition host David Greene recently. "We have published nearly 400 papers on drug safety, but never before have we had one that got into such a bizarre and unhealthy situation."

After surgery to treat her epilepsy severed the connection between the two halves of her brain, Karen's left hand took on a mind of its own, acting against her will to undress or even to slap her. Amazing, to be sure. But what may be even more amazing is that most people who have split-brain surgery don't notice anything different at all.

A study published Thursday shows how a bird flu virus that's sickening and killing people in China could mutate to potentially become more contagious.

Just three changes could be enough to do the trick, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

And the news comes just as federal officials are getting ready to lift a moratorium on controversial lab experiments that would deliberately create flu viruses with mutations like these.

Goats and Soda is NPR's global health and development blog. We tell stories of life in our changing world, focusing on low- and middle-income countries. And we keep in mind that we're all neighbors in this global village.

In 1974, McDonald's set its sights on opening a new franchise in Manhattan's Upper East Side at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 66th Street. This location wouldn't be anything like the ketchup and mustard colored buildings in the suburbs. It would be tasteful and blend in with the townhouses surrounding it. Regardless of aesthetics, Upper East Siders were having none of it.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's morning meeting time at Our Place Day Services, a day center for adults with disabilities, housed in a small concrete and glass building on Lovers Lane in Slinger, Wis.

About 30 people are gathered here, around a long table, reciting the pledge of allegiance. One man paces alongside the table, another sits in a wheelchair a few feet away. There's a woman holding a baby in her lap and a friendly dog — a goldendoodle — wandering around greeting people with a sniff and a lick.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Alison Kodjak, NPR health policy correspondent, is with us and has been listening in. Hi, Alison.

ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what do you make of what you heard there?

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is about to face another lawsuit.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Worries about whether her children can still get the health care they need are never far from Dawn Poole's mind. It's a constant, underlying concern.

Much of her anxiety is a direct result of living in Texas. To qualify for Medicaid in the state, most children must come from families with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2017, that's $33,948 for a family of four.

Can eating insects help people survive a famine?

Are there new ways to help farmers water their crops when drought strikes?

Isn't the basic hunger problem that there's just not enough food to go around?

Those are some of the tough questions that you submitted in April for our monthly #CuriousGoat series.

Nevadans will find out this week whether their state will become the first in the country to allow anyone to buy into Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor and disabled.

Earlier this month, Nevada's legislature, where Democrats hold the majority, passed a "Medicaid-for-all" bill, and it's now on Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval's desk awaiting his signature or veto. If he does not act by Friday, it will automatically become law.

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