NPR Health

Editor's Note: If you like this article, you should check out Life Kit, NPR's family of podcasts for navigating your life — everything from finances to diet and exercise to raising kids. Our new sleep guide is out Monday. Sign up for the newsletter or email us at lifekit@npr.org.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the most widely used drugs in the world isn't really a drug, at least not in the usual sense.

It's more like a dye.

Physicians call this drug "contrast," shorthand for contrast agent.

Contrast agents are chemical compounds that doctors use to improve the quality of an imaging test. In the emergency room, where I work, contrast is most commonly given intravenously during a CT scan.

Dr. Mitchell Creinin never expected to be in the position of investigating a treatment he doesn't think works.

And yet, Creinin will be spending the next year or so using a research grant from the Society of Family Planning to put to the test a treatment he sees as dubious — one that recently has gained traction, mostly via the Internet, among groups that oppose abortion. They call it "abortion pill reversal."

A new drug to treat postpartum depression is likely to reach the U.S. market in June, with a $34,000 price tag.

There are 111,616 incarcerated women in the United States, a 7-fold increase since 1980. Some of these women are pregnant, but amid reports of women giving birth in their cells or shackled to hospital beds, prison and public health officials have no hard data on how many incarcerated women are pregnant, or on the outcomes of those pregnancies.

Trying To Do Good

Mar 21, 2019

It's always better to help someone than not, right?

We begin this episode in a virtual classroom. Several years ago Kellie Gillespie took an online course in social psychology, taught by Scott Plous of Wesleyan University. Hundreds of thousands of other people enrolled in the same online course.

One in nine women in the United States suffer from depression after childbirth. For some women, postpartum depression is so bad that they struggle to care for their children and may even consider or attempt suicide.

Precision medicine promises to tailor the diagnosis and treatment of disease to your unique genetic makeup. A doctor may use the presence of certain genetic markers to diagnose a disease, or choose one drug for treatment over another.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Gun control advocates in the United States sometimes ask, how many mass shootings will it take before the country acts? New Zealand's government has now given its own answer to that question.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Six months ago, I found myself preparing for battle.

I was lying in bed at 5:30 a.m., going over in my head how to handle the next encounter with my 3-year-old daughter, Rosy.

Goodness knows, I love her so much. But there's a fire in that little belly. And to be honest, I have no idea how to handle all the anger — the tantrums, the screaming and, most of all, the hitting.

When she's angry and I pick her up, she has a habit of slapping me across the face. Sometimes it really hurts. I've even started ducking like a boxer when I lift her up.

Men are dying after opioid overdoses at nearly three times the rate of women in the United States. Overdose deaths are increasing faster among black and Latino Americans than among whites. And there's an especially steep rise in the number of young adults ages 25 to 34 whose death certificates include some version of the drug fentanyl.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A recent study that questioned the healthfulness of eggs raised a perpetual question: Why do studies, as has been the case with health research involving eggs, so often flip-flop from one answer to another?

The truth isn't changing all the time. But one reason for the fluctuations is that scientists have a hard time handling the uncertainty that's inherent in all studies. There's a new push to address this shortcoming in a widely used – and abused – scientific method.

The Sackler family's $1.3 million donation to the U.K.'s National Portrait Gallery will not go ahead as planned, as both sides say they're concerned that allegations of opioid profiteering against the family could overshadow the gift and become a distraction.

"It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work," a spokesperson for the Sackler Trust said.

States. They're just as perplexed as the rest of us over the ever-rising cost of health care premiums.

Now some states — including Montana, North Carolina and Oregon -- are moving to control costs of state employee health plans. Their strategy: Use Medicare reimbursement rates to recalibrate how they pay hospitals. If the gamble pays off, more private-sector employers could start doing the same thing.

A San Francisco federal jury unanimously agreed on Tuesday that Roundup caused a man's cancer — a potentially massive blow to the company that produces the glyphosate-based herbicide currently facing hundreds of similar lawsuits.

After five days of deliberation the jury concluded the weed killer was a "substantial factor" in causing non-Hodgkins lymphoma in Edwin Hardeman, a 70-year-old Sonoma County man.

Weed use is taking off as more states move to legalize it. And with all the buzz over medical marijuana, it's starting to gain an aura of healthfulness. But there are some serious health risks associated with frequent use. One of the more troubling ones is the risk of having a psychotic episode.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Naturally a parent whose child is addicted to opioids would want them in rehab and would want their insurance to cover them for as long as it takes. But for Becki Sarnicky's son Nick, what seemed like the best way to help him wasn't.

The U.S. surgeon general's office estimates that more than 20 million people have a substance-use disorder. Meanwhile, the nation's drug overdose crisis shows no sign of slowing.

Yet, by all accounts, there aren't nearly enough physicians who specialize in treating addiction — doctors with extensive clinical training who are board certified in addiction medicine.

When Frans de Waal started studying nonhuman primates, in the Netherlands more than 40 years ago, he was told not to consider the emotions of the animals he was observing.

"Thoughts and feelings — the mental processes basically — were off limits," he says. "We were told not to talk about them, because they were considered by many scientists as 'inner states' and you only were allowed to talk about 'outer states.' "

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A decade ago, the U.S. government claimed that ditching paper medical charts for electronic records would make health care better, safer and cheaper.

Ten years and $36 billion later, the digital revolution has gone awry, an investigation by Kaiser Health News and Fortune magazine has found.

Veteran reporters Fred Schulte of KHN and Erika Fry of Fortune spent months digging into what has happened as a result. (You can read the cover story here.)

As head of New York City's correctional health services, Dr. Homer Venters spent nine years overseeing the care of thousands of inmates in the jails on Rikers Island. Though he left Rikers in 2017, what he witnessed on the job has stayed with him.

"What's important to consider about jail settings is that they are incredibly dehumanizing, and they dehumanize the individuals who pass through them," Venters says. "There is not really a true respect for the rights of the detained."

In the U.S., older people with dementia are usually told they have Alzheimer's disease.

But a range of other brain diseases can also impair thinking and memory and judgment, according to scientists attending a summit on dementias held Thursday and Friday at the National Institutes of Health.

These include strokes, a form of Parkinson's disease and a disease that damages brain areas that regulate emotion and behavior.

For 18-year-old high school senior Ellie Rapp of Pittsburgh, the sound of her family chewing their dinner can be ... unbearable.

"My heart starts to pound. I go one of two ways. I either start to cry or I just get really intensely angry. It's really intense. I mean, it's as if you're going to die," she says.

Rapp has been experiencing this reaction to certain noises since she was a toddler. She recalls a ride home from preschool when her mother turned on the radio and started singing, which caused Rapp to scream and cry hysterically.

Copyright 2019 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The Risks Of A Cesarean Section

Mar 17, 2019

It happened almost a decade ago, while Dr. Salome Maswime was doing her medical internship at a small hospital in rural South Africa.

She was in a morning staff meeting when a junior doctor burst in, in a panic.

A young woman in need of an emergency cesarean section had reacted badly to the epidural, or spinal anesthetic, the doctors had administered. The anesthesia had spread farther than it was meant to.

John Boehner has been known to enjoy the occasional adult beverage. He famously nicknamed his negotiations over raising the nation's debt ceiling in 2011 the "Nicorettes and Merlot sessions." Nicorette because that's what President Obama would chew during the talks. Merlot because that was the drink of choice for the former speaker of the House.

Eggs have made a big comeback. Americans now consume an estimated 280 eggs per person per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And that's a significant increase compared with a decade ago.

Pages