NPR Health

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Firsts can be life changing — think about your first kiss, your first time behind the wheel of a car. But what about the first time you got a prescription for a narcotic?

James Hatzell, from Collingswood, NJ, is now a technology officer for a college addiction treatment program. He didn't realize it at the time, but that spring day of his junior year of high school — seven years ago — was a pivotal moment in his life.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When Lucille Horn was born in 1920, the odds of her managing to live out the year were long. A premature infant, Horn was just 2 pounds — small enough to be held in her father's hand. Her twin had died at birth, and at that point it looked for all the world as if she would soon, too.

Instead, with the help of an enterprising doctor and a rather odd sideshow at New York's Coney Island, Horn would go on to live another 96 years. She died on Feb. 11, according to Hungerford & Clark Funeral Home, nearly a century after nearly every expert told her parents she would.

It was a balmy Sunday evening in early 1999, and Dr. Kaw Bing Chua hadn't had lunch or dinner.

There wasn't time to eat. Chua was chasing a killer. And he thought maybe he had finally tracked it down.

He slid the slide under the microscope lens, turned on the scope's light and looked inside. "A chill went down my spine," Chua says. "The slide lit up bright green, like bright green lanterns."

The notion of dog years stems from the common belief that one year for a dog equals seven years for a human. Although canine aging is more nuanced than a simple formula, any dog lover knows that dogs' lives pass far too quickly.

Even so, America's 70 million dogs, like their human companions, are living longer, on average, because of better medical care and nutrition. Caring for elderly dogs can be heart-wrenching. Many pet owners struggle to understand when to pursue aggressive care and when to stop and help a beloved pet pass on.

Many studies designed to try out new drugs simply languish. They don't attract enough patients, and they aren't completed. That slows medical progress.

But here's a story of one study that has bucked that trend — in fact, it is so popular, scientists had to put the brakes on it for a while.

In the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles, residential streets dead end at oil refineries. Diesel trucks crawl through, carrying containers from nearby ports. Longtime resident Magali Sanchez Hall says the pollution from all that has taken a toll, right on the street where she lives.

"The people that live here, the mother died of cancer," she says, pointing to a modest one-story home. "The people that live here, three people died of cancer."

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Spirit Of Inquiry.

About Kevin Jones' TED Talk

Sometimes, doctors just don't have the answers. Surgeon Kevin Jones says having the humility to acknowledge this leads to better medicine.

About Kevin Jones

Indiana expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in 2015, with a few extra conditions that were designed to appeal to the conservative leadership in the state. The Federal government approved the experiment, called the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0, and it is now is up for another three-year renewal.

This week United Nations officials declared that a famine in South Sudan is growing — fueled by a deadly combination of drought and conflict. They estimate that nearly 4 million people are already struggling to get enough food. And officials expect the famine will spread to more areas in the coming months affecting an additional 1 million people.

Meanwhile the threat of famine is looming over three other countries: Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, putting a total of 1.4 million children at risk of death this year.

Some students, principals, parents and attorneys have condemned the Trump administration's decision to remove some federal protections for transgender students.

Those protections had been issued by President Barack Obama, who cited the federal Title IX law, and instructed public schools last year to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a local law that protected people in the city of Fayetteville from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Arkansas is one of a handful of states where it is illegal for local governments to pass anti-discrimination laws that cover classes of people not already protected under state law.

When winter freezes Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota, the landscape becomes dotted with sturdy wooden or metal shacks and canvas shelters. Inside them, people are ice fishing.

The sport attracts people to the frigid winter lakes in Canada and the northern United States. Some take it seriously enough to partake in official competitions. But for most people, it is a way to enjoy time with family, friends and perhaps a bottle of schnapps, and ultimately a delicious fish dinner from the day's efforts.

To Test Zika Vaccines, Scientists Need A New Outbreak

Feb 23, 2017

Researchers are eager to test promising vaccines against Zika, the virus that sparked a global health emergency last year.

But uncertainty over whether the Zika epidemic will continue affects researchers' ability to finish testing vaccines. They need locations with an active viral outbreak to conduct large-scale human trials and make sure the vaccine actually protects against disease.

For nearly a century, people have reported mysterious epidemics of permanent paralysis in rural regions of Africa. In 1990, Hans Rosling a Swedish epidemiologist and pop-star statistician, who died of pancreatic cancer earlier this month, linked the malady to cyanide in the staple crop, cassava.

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, health care under the Affordable Care Act is going to change in the next few years. The Republican-led Congress has vowed to "repeal and replace" the health law known as Obamacare.

That has left many people anxious and confused about what will happen and when. So NPR's Morning Edition asked listeners to post questions on Twitter and Facebook, and we will be answering some of them here and on the radio in the weeks ahead.

Scientists around the United States are getting ready to do an unprecedented experiment: They plan to march en masse in Washington, D.C., and other cities on April 22, to take a stand for the importance of public policies based on science.

Some researchers predict that this March for Science will release much needed energy and enthusiasm at a time when science is under threat; others worry it will damage science's reputation as an unbiased seeker of truth.

The Trump administration is rescinding protections for transgender students in public schools.

The move by the Justice and Education departments reverses guidance the Obama administration publicized in May 2016, which said a federal law known as Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

Disability rights activist Nick Dupree died last weekend. Tomorrow would have been his 35th birthday.

Back in 2003, he told NPR: "I want a life. I just want a life. Like anyone else. Just like your life. Or anyone else's life."

He got that life.

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked an attempt by state health officials to remove Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood, allowing the women's health provider to remain in the federal program at least until a lawsuit is settled.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he will appeal the decision, which he said "is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency," the Dallas Morning News reported.

Dozens of not-for-profit organizations have formed in the past decade to promote free or low-cost heart screenings for teens. The groups often claim such tests save lives by finding abnormalities that might pose a risk of sudden cardiac death.

Treating people for free or for very little money has been the role of community health centers across the U.S. for decades. In 2015, 1 in 12 Americans sought care at one of these clinics; nearly 6 in 10 were women, and hundreds of thousands were veterans.

Health Insurance Woes Add To The Risky Business Of Farming

Feb 21, 2017

There are many challenges to farming for a living: It's often grueling work that relies on unpredictable factors such as weather and global market prices. But one aspect that's often ignored is the cost of health care.

A University of Vermont researcher found that nationally, most farmers cited health care costs as a top concern.

As a Seattle-based fiction writer and a part-time stay-at-home dad, Josh Mohr, 40, spends his days in the world of make-believe.

His routine begins at approximately 5:30 a.m. when his 3-year-old daughter, Ava, waves a magic wand to turn him into a children's storyteller.

Mohr cozies up to his toddler, who's dressed for the occasion in a purple princess dress and a sparkly crown with rainbow jewels. After they've finished a few readings of Curious George, Ava asks her dad to read the story again.

"Again, Daddy. Let's do it again," she says.

Welcome to the bat cave. No, we're not talking about the secret headquarters of a superhero.

This is Gomantong — an ancient cave carved out of 20 million-year-old limestone in the middle of the Borneo rain forest in Malaysia. It's part of a vast network of tunnels and caverns. And it's the perfect hideout for bats.

Up at the top are millions of bats. Literally millions. They hang upside down all day long from the cave's ceiling, sleeping and pooping.

Creating some form of art is commonly believed to help older people stay mentally and physically healthy. Scientific research hasn't quite caught up with that belief.

But that hasn't deterred the dozen or so older adults in Janet Hoult's poetry workshop. She refers to them all as "my poets." They meet weekly at the Culver City Senior Center in Culver City, Calif. Hoult is 80. Her eldest pupil, Ruth Berman, is 91.

Most of us suffer back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many of us also probably reach for medication. Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say try exercise, yoga, or massage first.

That's a pretty big change for both doctors and patients, but a welcome one, some doctors say.

A Foster Parent For Terminally Ill Children

Feb 19, 2017

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

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Children's Relief Ministry orphanage sits at the end of a dirt road in Paynesville, Liberia. There's no running water or electricity. Many of the 40 or so boys and girls who live there lost their parents in the country's civil war or to the more recent Ebola epidemic.

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