NPR Health

It's a public health problem that spans the globe.

It kills close to 6 million people a year.

Teenagers are at risk.

It's not the latest epidemic or chronic disease.

It's the cigarette.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control looks at rates of smoking among 13- to 15-year-olds (most smokers start in adolescence) and how they feel about it, with a nod to the kinds of measures that work to cut rates of teen smoking.

Babies get less sleep at night and sleep for shorter stretches when they sleep in their parents' room after 4 months old, a new study finds. Parents are also more likely to engage in unsafe sleep practices, such as bringing their child into their bed or leaving pillows, blankets or stuffed animals with the baby when the infant shares their room.

For more than a decade, the number of women choosing bilateral mastectomy to treat breast cancer has been on the rise. That's the case even for women with early stage breast cancer, cancer in only one breast or non-invasive breast cancer, which has raised concerns that women are getting more surgery than they need. Now a study suggests that trend may be turning around.

Republicans are running way behind schedule.

In the dream scenario outlined by party leaders back in January, President Trump would have signed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, months ago. By early June, Republicans were supposed to be in the thick of overhauling the tax code.

To understand why teen pregnancy rates are so high in Texas, meet Jessica Chester. When Chester was in high school in Garland, she decided to attend the University of Texas at Dallas. She wanted to become a doctor.

"I was top of the class," she says. "I had a GPA of 4.5, a full-tuition scholarship to UTD. I was not the stereotypical girl someone would look at and say, 'Oh, she's going to get pregnant and drop out of school.' "

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Now to Kenya and a growing food crisis. Ugali is a doughy, sticky food made from corn that's a staple there. Over the past few months, the price of corn, though, has soared, making ugali unaffordable. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports on what's behind the shortage.

Alan Alda's father wanted him to become a doctor, but it wasn't meant to be. "I failed chemistry really disastrously ... " Alda says. "I really didn't want to be a doctor; I wanted to be a writer and an actor."

Which is exactly what happened, but Alda didn't leave science behind entirely. His new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?, is all about communication — and miscommunication — between scientists and civilians.

The Millennial Obsession With Self-Care

Jun 4, 2017

Each morning at 8, 24-year-old Mariatu Kamara puts on her jeans, jacket and bright yellow helmet. She climbs onto her motorbike and rides up the mud path beside her house in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

As she passes, children nudge one another and whisper, "That's a woman."

She parks on the edge of the main road, next to four men on bikes. This is where the motorbike taxis (locally known as "okadas") wait for their customers.

There is a whole range of feelings that happen with the delivery of bad news. In my case, like many others, knees lock, the heart speeds up and the hairs on my arms get a funny little tingle. My circumstances, however, were a little less expected.

When my dad told my husband and me that he and my mom wanted to come into Manhattan for dinner, I was excited to see them and quickly made a plan for an 8 p.m. dinner at Café Orlin — my favorite for Middle Eastern food. As soon as we sat down, I knew something was very wrong.

In a tragic turn in South Sudan, an effort to protect 15 children ended up killing them.

The children, all under age 5, died of severe sepsis and toxicity due to a botched vaccination campaign, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Renée Fleming and Francis Collins have something unexpected in common: music.

Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, plays guitar. Fleming, of course, is a renowned soprano.

After a lifetime of smoking, Juanita Milton needs help breathing.

She's tethered to an oxygen tank 24/7 and uses two drug inhalers a day, including Spiriva, which she calls "the really expensive one."

"If I can't afford it, I won't take it," Milton says.

The 67-year-old's chest was heaving one recent morning from the effort of walking down the hallway into the kitchen. Her voice was constricted as she loaded medication into a device about the size of her palm.

Do Carrots Really Help Your Vision?

Jun 2, 2017

Many lifelong carrot eaters feel a little betrayed.

"There is no way [carrots] affect eyesight," says Silvio Fontecchio, a project manager at a print shop in Tallahassee, Fla., whose parents told him when he was young that munching the orange veggie would help his eyes. "As a kid, my go-to snack was carrots and ranch [dressing], and I have really bad nearsighted vision."

Missy Hart grew up in Redwood City, Calif. — in gangs, on the street, in the foster care system and in institutions.

"Where I'm from," the 26-year-old says, "you're constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight."

But at age 13, when she was incarcerated in juvenile hall for using marijuana, she found herself closing her eyes and letting her guard down in a room full of rival gang members.

Reyna Gordon was an aspiring opera singer fresh out of college when she began contemplating the questions that would eventually define her career.

"I moved to Italy when I finished my bachelor of music, and I started to take more linguistic classes and to think about language in the brain, and music in the brain," she says. "What was happening in our brains when we were listening to music, when we were singing? What was happening in my brain when I was singing?"

Those questions led her to a graduate program in neuroscience in Marseilles, France.

Most people have an uncanny ability to tell one face from another, even though the differences are extremely small. Now scientists think they know how our brains do this.

In macaque monkeys, which share humans' skill with faces, groups of specialized neurons in the brain called face cells appeared to divide up the task of assessing a face, a team at the California Institute of Technology reports Thursday in the journal Cell.

The Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 by no means settled the controversy over a woman’s right to an abortion. It remains a hot political topic today — and some new voices have emerged in the contemporary debate.

Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion rights advocate — and outspoken Christian — not only provides abortions, he also offers new insight and perspective on access to the procedure. Opponents of his view are heartened by federal legislation that allows states to restrict funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.

Emotions, the classic thinking goes, are innate, basic parts of our humanity. We are born with them, and when things happen to us, our emotions wash over us.

"They happen to us, almost," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Welcome to Invisibilia Season 3! The NPR program and podcast explores the invisible forces that shape human behavior, and we here at Shots are joining in to probe the often tenuous line between perception and reality. Here's an excerpt from Episode 1.

Leon Watts III stands out among his fellow gerontology students at the University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology. They all look to be under 25. Watts is 66. What led up to his return to school was decades spent rehabbing homes in Los Angeles. Over that time, his clients have aged and he's seen their needs change. Watts decided he'd be able to do a lot more for them with a master's degree in gerontology.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Trying to make out what someone is saying in a noisy environment is a problem most people can relate to, and one that gets worse with age.

At 77, Linda White hears all right in one-on-one settings but has problems in noisier situations. "Mostly in an informal gathering where people are all talking at once," she says. "The person could be right beside you, but you still don't hear them."

"Should America Keep Giving Billions Of Dollars To Countries In Need?"

That was the headline of a story NPR published in early May, looking into a former Trump campaign adviser's claim made during an interview on Morning Edition. Stephen Miller said there's "zero evidence" that U.S. foreign aid has had an effect on economic development.

Two Florida Medicare Advantage insurers have agreed to pay nearly $32 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged they exaggerated how sick patients were and took other steps to overbill the government health plan for the elderly.

When it comes to health care, Americans may be having buyer's remorse.

More adults approve of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, than the alternative health care bill passed this month by House Republicans, according to a poll published Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Senate is under more pressure this morning to come up with a health care plan that will satisfy their constituents.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New Rules May Make Online Health Insurance Sales Simpler

May 31, 2017

Signing up for coverage on the health insurance marketplace should be easier for some people this fall because new federal rules will allow brokers and insurers to handle the entire enrollment process online, from soup to nuts.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The controversial Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" dramatizes a teen's suicide.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

KATHERINE LANGFORD: (As Hannah Baker) Hey, it's Hannah. Hannah Baker.

Pages