NPR Health

After President Trump blocked U.S. aid money from supporting any group that provides or "promotes" abortion in other countries, The Netherlands announced it would launch a fundraising initiative to support any affected organizations.

Now, several other countries — including Sweden, Finland, Belgium and Canada — have signaled their participation.

Cary Dixon's 29-year-old son has struggled with opioid abuse for years. At first, Dixon says, it was hard to know how to support him as he cycled through several rounds of treatment and incarceration. She says her life revolved around his addiction.

"It's kind of like you're on a parallel track with them," she says. "You wait for the next crisis; you wait for the next phone call. You're upset when you don't get a phone call. You're just — you're desperate, and you're in a state of fear and anxiety so much of the time."

Ask anyone about his or her health care and you are likely to hear about doctors, hospitals, maybe costs and insurance hassles. Most people don't go straight from "my health" to a political debate, and yet that is what our country has been embroiled in for almost a decade.

A study published Thursday tries to set aside the politics to look at what makes or breaks health insurance markets in five states.

Getting people to change what they eat is tough. Changing a whole farming system is even tougher. The southern Indian state of Karnataka is quietly trying to do both, with a group of cereals that was once a staple in the state: millet.

Until about 40 years ago, like most of India, the people of Karnataka regularly ate a variety of millets, from finger millet (or ragi) to foxtail millet. They made rotis with it, ate it with rice, and slurped it up at breakfast as porridge.

Jay Zimmerman got his first BB gun when he was 7, and his first shotgun when he was 10.

"Growing up in Appalachia, you look forward to getting your first firearm," he said, "probably more so than your first car."

His grandfather taught him to hunt squirrels and quail. Zimmerman, who lives in Elizabethton, Tenn., said pretty much everyone he knows has a gun. It's just part of the culture.

"When I went into the military, that culture was reinforced," he said. "Your weapon is almost another appendage. It's part of who you are."

Each year, fish farms produce a massive amount of carp — so much that if you put all that fish on one side of a scale, and all the people living in the U.S. on the other side, they'd pretty much balance each other out by weight.

But for the past couple of decades, carp have been plagued by a type of herpes virus, known as Koi herpesvirus.

Premiums for Obamacare plans sold by New Mexico Health Connections could rise as little as 7 percent next year, said Martin Hickey, the insurance company's CEO. Or they might soar as much as 40 percent, he said.

It all depends on what happens in Washington. Such is the vast uncertainty about how the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress are approaching their promises to repeal, repair and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Since its founding in the 1950s, the Indian Health Service has provided medical care for many Native Americans. But the service has been chronically underfunded, so often pays for care only if someone is in immediate danger of losing life or limb.

Ten thousand years ago, at the dawn of the agricultural revolution, many of our worst infectious diseases didn't exist.

Here's what changed.

Decorations are sparse at Recovery Point, a residential treatment center in Huntington, W.Va. That's why the bulletin board covered with photos of men stands out. The men spent time here, but didn't survive their addictions. They're all dead now.

"We keep a constant reminder in here for individuals who come into our detox facility. We have, 'But for the grace of God, there go I,'" says Executive Director Matt Boggs, pointing to the words on the board.

Seeing a great work of art might quicken your pulse, but now New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is hoping you'll break a sweat, too. The Met is currently offering a "Museum Workout" — part performance, part workout, part art tour.

On a recent morning, 15 of us gather in The Great Hall before the museum opens. We line up behind two tour guide dancers — both wearing sparkly cocktail dresses and sneakers. A guy with a portable speaker stands nearby.

If you've heard of interval training, you can probably thank Martin Gibala, professor and chair of the kinesiology department at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, whose research has helped popularize the time-saving exercise technique.

Women with breast cancer who are at high risk for having a BRCA mutation that raises cancer risk often don't get genetic testing, or even a chance to speak with a genetic counselor who'd help them weigh the necessity of such a test, a study finds.

A widely used blood test to measure blood-sugar trends can give imprecise results, depending on a person's race and other factors. This test means diabetes can sometimes be misdiagnosed or managed poorly.

Doctors have been cautioned before that results from the A1C test don't have pinpoint accuracy. A study published Tuesday underscores that shortcoming as it applies to people who carry the sickle cell trait.

Everyone expects Congress to change the Affordable Care Act, but no one knows exactly how.

The uncertainty has one group of people, the homeless, especially concerned. Many received health coverage for the first time under Obamacare; now they're worried it will disappear.

Joseph Funn, homeless for almost 20 years, says his body took a beating while he lived on the street.

Now, he sees nurse practitioner Amber Richert fairly regularly at the Health Care for the Homeless clinic in Baltimore.

This week, we're returning to our archives to grapple with the troubling history of medical experimentation on African Americans and how that history connects to the unequal medical care African Americans still receive today.

Why does female genital mutilation (FGM) — a practice that the U.N. has classified as violence against women — remain so entrenched in parts of the globe?

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don't know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopic plastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.

This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters' synthetic microfibers?

Minnesota Moves To Shore Up Health Insurance Market

Feb 6, 2017

What's going to happen to the federal health law? The quick, accurate answer is that no one knows.

But amid the uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, states still have to manage their insurance markets. Most states have muddled through the 2017 enrollment season without making changes.

Minnesota, for its part, took three unusual actions that are worth a closer look.

In January, Minnesota:

  • passed a one-time bailout for some consumers in the individual insurance market dealing with skyrocketing premiums;

Most of us have reached for a painkiller, at one time or another, only to discover the date on the label shows it has expired. But what does an "expiration" date on medicine really mean? Is it dangerous if you take it anyway? Less effective?

By the time Kay Schwister got her diagnosis last summer, she couldn't talk anymore. But she could still scowl, and scowl she did.

After weeks of decline and no clue what was causing it, doctors had told Schwister — a 53-year-old vocational rehab counselor and mother of two from Chicago — that she had an incurable disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD.

The disease was shrinking Kay's brain, and riddling it with holes. She would likely live only a few more weeks, the doctors said.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Why Immortality Is Overrated

Feb 4, 2017

Helen was 82. She'd survived both breast cancer and outlived her husband.

One summer day she began bleeding from her colon and was admitted to the hospital. We assumed the worst — another cancer. But after she endured a series of scans and being poked with scopes, we figured out that she had an abnormal jumble of blood vessels called an arteriovenous malformation in the wall of her colon.

President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have been working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. And the millions of Americans who have health insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces aren't the only ones wondering about their fate. Leaders of insurance companies are, too.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Through years of acrimony over the relative merits of Obamacare, one kind of health insurance has remained steady, widespread and relatively affordable: Employer-sponsored plans.

Job-based medical plans still cover more Americans than any other type, typically with greater benefits and lower out-of-pocket expense. Recent cost increases for this sort of coverage have been a tiny fraction of those for Obamacare plans for individuals.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Federal health officials may be about to get greatly enhanced powers to quarantine people, as part of an ongoing effort to stop outbreaks of dangerous contagious diseases.

The new powers are outlined in a set of regulations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published late last month to update the agency's quarantine authority for the first time since the 1940s.

Humans get along pretty well with most microbes. Which is lucky, because there are a lot more of them in the world than there are of us. We couldn't even live without many of them. But a few hundred have evolved, and are still evolving, to exploit our bodies in ways that can make us really sick. These are the microbes we call germs. Think plague, flu, HIV, SARS, Ebola, Zika, measles.

This is a series is about where germs come from. In this first of three episodes, we see what our early encounters with germs may have been like — and how germs first got the upper hand.

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