NPR Health

Long before he began studying for a career in health care, Marlon Munoz performed one of the most sensitive roles in the field: delivering diagnoses to patients.

As an informal interpreter between English-speaking doctors and his Spanish-speaking family and friends, Munoz knew well the burden that comes with the job. He still becomes emotional when he remembers having to tell his wife, Aibi Perez, she had breast cancer.

Puerto Rico's sole provider of electricity for 1.5 million residents says power has been returned to all homes that lost electricity from Hurricane Maria last September.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority identified a family near the mountainous, rural barrios of Real and Anón, in Ponce, a city and municipality in the island's south, as their final customers to receive returned power. PREPA tweeted their image.

Florida this week declared a state of emergency because of a slow-moving natural disaster — red tide.

Red tide is toxic algae that have persisted off Florida's Gulf Coast for nearly a year. In recent weeks, the algae bloom has worsened, killing fish, turtles and dolphins and discouraging tourism on some of the state's most beautiful beaches.

Life With Lyme Disease

Aug 14, 2018

Across the country, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are documented every year, but there are as many as 300,000 cases annually that meet the definition of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For people who make too much money to qualify for health insurance subsidies on the individual market, there may be no Goldilocks moment when shopping for a plan. No choice is just right.

A policy with an affordable premium may come with a deductible that's too high. If the copayments for physician visits are reasonable, the plan may not include their preferred doctors.

These consumers need better options, and in early August federal officials offered a strategy to help bring down costs for them.

In the marble halls of Mumbai's Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, patients are greeted by chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling French windows.

There are autism and Alzheimer's clinics, genetic testing, clinical trials of new drugs and private rooms. Spinal injuries are treated in a special robotics rehabilitation unit, where patients are hooked up to robots to exercise their limbs.

And visitors can grab a Starbucks latte in the lobby.

Women struggling with symptoms like vaginal dryness and pain during sex, may be drawn to treatments, marketed as "vaginal rejuvenation," that claim to fix such issues.

Providers who offer the treatments, often dermatologists or plastic surgeons' offices, often claim they can not only cure discomfort, but also tighten the vagina and give it a more "youthful appearance."

Ask A High Schooler

Aug 13, 2018

High school.

What kind of memories does it dredge up for you? Good, bad or something in-between? Would you go back if you had the chance? Depending on when you were enrolled, it's probably a lot different now than what lives in your nostalgic recollections.

Teachers report that unprecedented access to social media and other forms of technology is making it hard for kids to focus, and educators are constantly asking for students' attention. And with mountains of homework and early start times, many students might not be getting enough sleep.

My back hurts when I sit down.

It's been going on for 10 years. It really doesn't matter where I am — at work, at a restaurant, even on our couch at home. My lower back screams, "Stop sitting!"

To try to reduce the pain, I bought a kneeling chair at work. Then I got a standing desk. Then I went back to a regular chair because standing became painful.

I've seen physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons and pain specialists. I've mastered Pilates, increased flexibility and strengthened muscles. At one point, my abs were so strong my husband nicknamed them "the plate."

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An estimated 12.8 percent of adolescents in the U.S. experience at least one episode of major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. According to previous studies, many of those teens' mental health is linked to depression in their parents.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Chasing A Dream: An Ambulance Service That People Can Trust

Aug 12, 2018

When Jamil Bangura realized that he and his family had signs of Ebola, in September 2014, he did what he had been told to do.

Following instructions from the Sierra Leonean government, he didn't try to treat himself or walk to a clinic. He didn't go to a traditional healer or stay at home.

He called an ambulance.

It came — two days later.

"I kept calling, and they kept saying, 'Wait, we'll come and take you people,'" recalls Bangura, who now helps lead a chapter of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES).

Debbie Dobrosky noticed a peculiar hue in the sky on August 6 — "a very ugly yellow casting" — as she peeked outside. A large cloud of smoke had begun to cover the sun.

By the next day, the smoke was so heavy that "even inside my apartment I've had to use my inhaler twice this morning, which is not a normal thing," says Dobrosky, a Riverside County, Calif., resident who lives about 30 miles from a fast-growing fire in the Cleveland National Forest.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's a sunny day, and a woman walks past a young man on the street. He mutters an obscene catcall. In the video, the woman smiles and says, "Thank you!" But then, the camera pans to her fantasy. What she really wishes she could do: the video goes on to show her in her imagination, pulling out a knife and stabbing him.

It was Bea Duncan who answered the phone at 2 a.m. on a January morning. Her son Jeff had been caught using drugs in a New Hampshire sober home and was being kicked out.

Bea and her husband, Doug Duncan, drove north that night nine years ago to pick Jeff up. On the ride back home, to Natick, Mass., the parents delivered an ultimatum: Their son had to go back to rehab, or leave home.

Jeff chose the latter, Bea says. She remembers a lot of yelling, cursing and tears as they stopped the car, in the dead of night, a few miles from the house.

A key initiative of the Affordable Care Act was a program designed to help control soaring Medicare costs by encouraging doctors and hospitals to work together to coordinate patients' care. This led to the formation of what are known as accountable care organizations or ACOs.

The program was expected to save the government nearly $5 billion by 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It hasn't come anywhere close.

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."

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