NPR Health

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Toothbutter: noun. Butter spread so thickly as to reveal teeth marks upon biting.

The fact that this word exists in the Danish language should help to explain what politicians were up against when they introduced the "fat tax" just over a year ago. This is a country that loves it some butter (and meat, and all things dreadful to the arteries).

Last week's election may have settled the fate of the federal Affordable Care Act, but its implementation after months of uncertainty has caught many of the players unprepared.

There's more than deer lurking in the New England woods these days.

Diseases carried by ticks that hitch rides on deer are rising in the Northeast, researchers said Monday at a meeting about tropical diseases.

In particular, babesiosis — a disease that mimics malaria — is catching up with Lyme disease in some communities.

Hundreds of health care workers in Georgia are losing their licenses to practice because of a problem created by a new immigration law in the state.

The law requires everyone — no matter where they were born — to prove their citizenship or legal residency to renew their professional licenses.

With too few state workers to process the extra paperwork, licenses for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals are expiring.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later, if you wonder what Olympian Leo Manzano listens to, to get fired up or cooled down, you need not wonder anymore. We'll find out in a few minutes.

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.

With most Americans fat or fatter, you'd think we'd be lightening up on the anti-fat attitudes.

Alas, no. Even doctors often think their overweight patients are weak-willed.

But changing negative attitudes about body size might be as simple as changing what you see. When women in England were shown photos of plus-sized women in neutral gray leotards, they became more tolerant.

The public health world has waited for the results for more than a year. After a half-billion dollars in R&D, would the front-runner malaria vaccine protect the top-priority targets: young infants?

The results are disappointing. The vaccine — called RTS,S for its various molecular components — reduced infants' risk of malaria by about a third.

Malaria remains a huge problem in much of the world, but over the past decade the number of people getting sick and dying from the disease has gone down dramatically.

Health workers attribute much of this progress to the widespread use of artemisinin-based drugs. The problem now is that resistance to these drugs is starting to develop in Southeast Asia.

The promise of a quick boost has made caffeine-rich energy drinks all the rage among soldiers in combat zones.

The troops endure long hours under difficult conditions. But those convenient pick-me-ups could come with a steep price: difficulty sleeping.

Soldiers in Afghanistan who consumed three or more energy drinks daily were more likely to sleep fewer hours and have their sleep disrupted because of stress or illness, researchers found.

Maybe I've got too many election results on my brain.

But the Pew Research Center's report about how people are using their mobile phones to get health information sent me to the data from the exit polls. Really.

Why?

The bottom line of the Pew report is that cellphone "owners who are Latino, African American, between the ages of 18-49, or hold a college degree are also more likely to gather health information" than other people on their mobile phones.

Nigeria is the world's epicenter for polio. It's the only place where cases are ticking up, and it's been the source of outbreaks in other countries since 2003.

There was a disappointing update from public health officials Thursday about the polio situation in Nigeria. Despite beefed-up efforts to vaccinate kids and a flood of new resources, Nigeria still hasn't turned the corner on polio.

In an election that highlighted the political divide over abortion, female voters turned out to be a key to victory for President Obama.

Public outcry over Republican Todd Akin's comments on "legitimate rape" ultimately gave Democrat Claire McCaskill a U.S. Senate victory in Missouri. And in Indiana, Republican Senate hopeful Richard Mourdock lost his race at least in part because of his comments about pregnancy resulting from rape.

The Republicans' comments pushed the abortion issue to the forefront — and also united and motivated abortion rights activists.

When Stephen Wheeler realized he had an aching, swollen finger, he called his primary care doctor, who works for MedStar Health. The doctor referred him to PromptCare, an urgent care clinic in a strip mall in the Baltimore suburbs.

Wheeler says he probably would have ended up waiting a long time if he'd gone to the doctor. And even longer at the emergency room.

President Obama's re-election and the retention of a Democratic majority in the Senate means the likelihood of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act has receded.

So what now?

"The law is here and we should at this point expect it to still be here Jan. 1, 2014," says Alan Weil, executive director of the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy.

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