NPR Health

For a doctor, learning that a patient has died is often an emotional moment. Emergency room physician Roneet Lev wondered if telling doctors when their patients die of an overdose might motivate them to rethink their prescribing behavior.

"I asked other physicians if they would want to know if a patient had died," says Lev. "They said yes. I needed to help make that happen."

Researchers have discovered why some stomach bugs hit us so hard — and spread so fast.

New research published Wednesday in Cell Host & Microbe found that stomach infections, like norovirus and rotavirus, are more contagious and more potent when the virus particles cluster together.

These findings may help treat — and even prevent — these viruses more effectively.

Medicaid home care aides — hourly workers who help elderly and disabled people with daily tasks like eating, getting dressed and bathing — are emerging as the latest target in the ongoing power struggle between some conservative lawmakers and organized labor.

If you've ever seen someone with testicles get kicked in the groin, then you probably know that male genitals — often portrayed as a symbol of male strength and virility — aren't actually that tough.

But can testicles — or rather, the sperm they produce — be harmed by something as seemingly innocent as a pair of briefs?

Healthy women with normal pregnancies can opt to have labor induced without worrying that the decision will make a cesarean section more likely, according to a major study published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

Several states are questioning the cost of using pharmacy middlemen to manage their prescription drug programs in a movement that could shake up the complex system that manages how pharmaceuticals are priced and paid for.

Despite a dip in shootings and murders for the year, Chicago suffered one of its bloodiest weekends in recent history last weekend. Police say 33 shootings occurred between Friday and Sunday nights, fueled mostly by gang violence. The incidents left a dozen people dead and dozens wounded. Now, the city's mayor and police superintendent say the city's residents who live in troubled areas of the city should do more to help stop the bloodshed.

The violence occurred between 6 p.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. Nearly 70 people including several children were wounded.

Since Zika emerged as a threat to babies, it has been a mystery exactly how much of a danger the mosquito-borne virus poses to children.

But now, the largest study to follow kids who were exposed to the virus in the womb is providing more answers.

The study involved 1,450 babies who had been exposed to the virus, and who were 1-year-old by February 2018. Six percent were born with birth defects, and 14 percent developed problems that could be blamed on the virus by the time they turned 1, the study found.

Taking a genetic test in your 20s or 30s could, indeed, affect your ability to get long-term-care insurance later — or at least the price you'll pay. And people who are considering enrolling in Medicare after age 65 would do well to read the fine print of the sign-up rules. Readers have insurance questions on these topics this month, and we have answers:

Q: Can getting a genetic test interfere with being able to buy long-term-care insurance in the future? If you do get a plan, can the insurer drop you after you find out the results of a genetic test?

The antipsychotic drug Seroquel was approved by the FDA years ago to help people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses. But too frequently the drug is also given to people who have Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. The problem with that? Seroquel can be deadly for dementia patients, according to the FDA.

Lisa Iezzoni was in medical school at Harvard in the early 1980s when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She started experiencing some of the symptoms, including fatigue, but she wasn't letting that get in the way of her goal. Then came the moment she scrubbed in on a surgery and the surgeon told her what he thought of her chances in the field.

"He opined that I had no right to go into medicine because I lacked the most important quality in medicine," Iezzoni recalls "And that was 24/7 availability."

BuzzFeed host Tracy Clayton recently asked her Twitter followers to share a picture that they had uploaded to social media — one in which they looked great, but were actually going through a very difficult time.

The tweet went viral. An outpouring of smiling snapshots, accompanied with heart-wrenching behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

Mankaprr Conteh is one of the hundreds who responded. She remembers when the picture she shared was taken, two years ago, when she was 22. She was in the Caribbean.

Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo has announced that she is stepping aside as CEO after some 12 years at the helm.

Nooyi plans to stay on as chairman until early 2019. The company's board announced Monday that it elected Ramon Laguarta, president of the company since 2017, to succeed her as CEO. PepsiCo prides itself on tapping its leadership from within — every other chief executive has come from its own ranks.

Have you ever been on a diet but didn't hit your goal weight? Your gut bacteria may be part of the explanation.

New research suggests the mix of microbes in our guts can either help — or hinder — weight-loss efforts.

"We started with the premise that people have different microbial makeups, and this could influence how well they do with dieting," explains Purna Kashyap, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The first prescription medication extracted from the marijuana plant is poised to land on pharmacists' shelves this fall. Epidiolex, made from purified cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant, is approved for two rare types of epilepsy.

Its journey to market was driven forward by one family's quest to find a treatment for their son's epilepsy.

There are 18 wildfires now blazing across California, which means many of the state's residents are waking up to the smell of smoke and hazy skies. The Carr fire near Redding has scorched at least 145,015 acres and killed seven people, and three fires in Mendocino County are all less than an hour away from Santa Rosa — where some neighborhoods burned to the ground last year.

It's 'Shark Tank' For Global Health Inventions

Aug 4, 2018

What would happen if global health innovators appeared on "Shark Tank," the reality TV show that judges business concepts from straightforward to zany?

President Trump has consistently declared that the Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — is a broken mess, and after several unsuccessful attempts to repeal the national health care law, he has eagerly anticipated that it will "fail" and "implode."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America told NPR on Thursday it will be joining officials in a growing number of states to oppose a Trump administration proposal to withhold federal funds from family planning clinics that provide information about or refer women seeking an abortion.

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo comes just a week after the last outbreak there was declared over. Making things worse for Congolese health officials, this new cluster of Ebola cases is in the volatile North Kivu province, where heavily armed militants have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

Mental Illness: [Enter Stage Right]

Aug 2, 2018

With guest host Celeste Headlee.

In “Dear Evan Hansen,” the hit Broadway musical, we see a main character who struggles with severe social anxiety. “Fun Home,” another Tony Award-winner, digs deep into paralyzing depression.

Musicals about mental illness are a lucrative artistic trend in theatre. And these productions are breaking new ground with their honest, entertaining portrayals of disorders that 1 in 5 Americans live with.

In the early 2000s, hospitals across Australia began installing more hand-sanitizer dispensers in their rooms and hallways for staff, visitors and patients to use. Research showed these alcohol-based disinfectants helped battle staph infections in patients and certain kinds of drug-resistant bacteria. And rates of these infections went down.

But other infections didn't drop when people started using the sanitizer stations. In fact, certain infections went up.

Leaders can have many different styles — just compare President Donald Trump to Malala Yousafzai to your boss or the coach of your kid's soccer team.

With the country on course to expand the rights of transgender Americans, college student Wren Vetens introduced herself as a woman for the first time in January 2016, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. After being raised as a boy and grappling with her gender identity for years, she says it felt liberating to be referred to as "she."

Getting Micro: The Deal With Stem Cells

Aug 1, 2018

Stem cells represent an exciting frontier with a lot of potential to change science and medicine.

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

Embryonic stem cells are the starter cells of the human body. They are undifferentiated, which means they have not matured and specialized, and they are able to become any other kind of cell in the body.

Let's Talk About Sex

Aug 1, 2018

Talking about sex can be hard — even unthinkable. Often, it's easier to have it than discuss it.

So, in this upcoming series, NPR's All Things Considered is going to try talking — candidly and unself-consciously — about how sex shapes our self-perception, relationships and culture. We want to know from you: What's missing from conversations about sex?

Your responses may be used in an upcoming story, on air or on NPR.org. A producer may reach out to you to follow up on your response.

People who don't get insurance through their jobs will now be able to buy short-term policies that may be cheaper than Affordable Care Act coverage. These plans won't have to cover as many medical services and are exempt from covering people with pre-existing conditions.

The departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury announced new rules Wednesday that make it easier for consumers to replace ACA insurance with these short-term policies.

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

Blue tarps still dot rooftops, homes lack electricity needed to refrigerate medicines, and clinics chip away at debts incurred from running generators. Yet despite these residual effects from last year's devastating hurricanes, Puerto Rico is moving ahead with major cuts to its health care safety net that will affect more than a million of its poorest residents.

Each year, more than 100,000 Americans are shot. And the wounds to bone and tissue caused by specially designed bullets also are getting more severe, according to surgeons.

Pages