Appalachia Health News

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In the next episode of Window's into Health Care - our occasional series talking with health experts from around the state - health reporter Kara Lofton sits down with  Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch to talk about his work and what he feels are the biggest health issues the state is facing.

In the transcript below, Crouch talks about how the DHHR is dealing with the opioid crisis, concerns about the state's growing foster care crisis and how chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity impact West Virginia. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we'll hear about what's being done in the Ohio Valley to fight food insecurity among veterans. Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach; troops must be fed in order to fight. But what happens when that army fights hunger back home?

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A growing number of Americans have high deductible health insurance plans – meaning they have to spring for the first few thousand dollars of care before insurance coverage kicks in. A new study suggests that despite a rise in these types of plans, most Americans aren’t shopping around for better prices.

The study used data from a national poll to examine the behavior of more than 1600 adults under the age of 65 who had high deductible health plans. 

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Tick-borne Lyme disease has spread across West Virginia over the past six years with cases reported in 52 of the state's 55 counties, according to state health officials.

Most cases are reported in the northern and eastern panhandles probably because of their proximity to the high-incidence states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the Department of Health and Human Resources said.

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WVU Medicine announced today (Thursday) plans to construct at 10-story tower dedicated to women and children’s services.

The 152 million dollar project will take about three years to complete, but will add 150 beds to Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Phil Saul is the Executive Vice President for hospital and children’s health at WVU Medicine.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Cooking healthy for a holiday crowd can be expensive - but it doesn’t have to be.

“So, if we think about vegetables and that kind of thing, one thing we can do for sure is instead of doing fresh vegetables up here in the produce area, we could do canned vegetables or we could do frozen vegetables,” said Marshall nutritionist Mckayla Hart. “This time of year, typically those are a lot cheaper than buying fresh.”

Hart stands in the produce aisle at the Walmart in Huntington.

Ken Bennett / Wake Forest University

A new study finds weight training might be better than cardio for older adults who are trying to slim down.

Researchers at Wake Forest University found that for adults in their 60s, combining weight training with a low-calorie diet better preserves necessary lean muscle mass that can often be lost through aerobic workouts.

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Open enrollment for insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces started last week. Things are a little bit different this year and recent announcements from the Trump administration have resulted in a fair bit of consumer confusion. So there are a few major changes to be aware of. First, this is a very shortened enrollment period.

 


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Pregnant women today are more likely to have chronic conditions that could cause life-threatening complications than at any other time in the past decade, a new study suggests.

 

The study looked at a national sample of more than 8 million childbirth deliveries over 10 years and analyzed the how common chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and substance-abuse disorders were in the mothers.

 

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program for five more years. All three of West Virginia’s representatives voted in favor of the bill.

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, more commonly known as CHIP, expired on September 30th due to Congressional inaction. CHIP provides insurance to 9 million children, including more than 20,000 West Virginians. 

A bill to fund the program has been languishing for several weeks in the Senate.

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Open enrollment for health insurance opened this week and things are a little bit different this year. 

The enrollment window this year is half what it has been. Buyers now have six weeks instead of 12 to sign up for a plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Another change this year is that premiums have increased dramatically – about 29 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans and 19 percent for CareSource plans on average. The increase will affect about 15 percent of West Virginians in the marketplace.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In 2016, 40 percent of Lakewood Elementary School students were being raised by a grandparent. That’s a stunning statistic considering that kids being raised by grandparents sometimes struggle with behavioral issues, and behavioral issues can cause problems with academics.

This year, that number dropped to 15 percent, but Lakewood principal Kelly Hayes thinks that’s a temporary dip, with more in the pipeline.

Kara Lofton/ WVPB

About 2.5 million children in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents or relatives other than their birth parents.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we hear a special series about grandparents raising grandchildren. Many are taking care of grandchildren who would otherwise be put in foster care, but the arrangement can be difficult for the grandparents themselves.


Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Grandchildren being raised by grandparents often spend months or even years of their lives bouncing from one home or situation to another. Inconsistency and a constant sense of the unknown can fuel anxiety, anger and aggression in them.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, if you talk to grandparents raising grandchildren, most will say it’s not an easy task. In addition to dealing with their own physical and mental health, they also have to manage the physical and mental health of their grandchildren – which often means dealing with anxiety, aggression and anger.

In the fourth installment of our series on grandfamilies, Kara Lofton reports that for some families, partnering with schools can make a big difference.

Patrick Morrisey, W. Va. Attorney General
Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, are urging health care companies to develop programs that might mitigate opioid abuse.

The letters urge the companies to adopt programs that promote better prescribing practices, such as limiting prescriptions of opioids to seven days for new patients, limiting the daily dose of opioids based on strength and requiring the initial use of immediate-release formulas.

The letters point to a similar program implemented by CVS Health Corporation as an example of work well done.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Congressman Evan Jenkins hosted a roundtable in Charleston yesterday focused on the federal response to fentanyl and other dangerous synthetic opioids that are flooding the Appalachian region. Fentanyl is one of the deadliest opioids on the streets today. Just 3 milligrams of the drug can kill an adult male compared to about 30 milligrams of heroin.

 

 

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The analysis looked at the percentage of children with Adverse Childhood Experiences – commonly known as ACEs. West Virginia scored higher than the national average of 46 percent.


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Late last week, President Trump announced the federal government would stop Affordable Care Act subsidies to insurance companies, which the White House argues are illegal.

About 19,000 West Virginians received such subsidies in 2016, with an average monthly saving to their insurance bills of a about $100, according to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services data.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

First Lady Melania Trump visited West Virginia yesterday to tour Lily’s Place – a facility in Huntington that serves babies born addicted to substances. Her visit sheds more attention on the Ohio Valley’s addiction crisis.

About 5 percent of all children born last year in West Virginia were affected by drugs -- the highest rate in the country. Aaron Payne has this report on efforts to treat both newborns and parents in the grip of addiction.

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At the Kanawha County circuit court, the Roberts family is celebrating. Today, Andy and Debbie have adopted their grandchildren, Preston, age 6, and Tesla,19 months.

A nursery where drug-affected babies are treated at Lily’s Place in Huntington, W.Va.
Aaron Payne / Ohio Valley ReSource

A new federal study, called “Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,”recommends educating both health care providers and pregnant women on screening and prenatal care to address drug addiction and withdrawal in newborns.

West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito say it's the first federal study on neonatal abstinence syndrome to examine the best practices and approaches to treating infants exposed to opioids during pregnancy. 

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At the Epsworth United Methodist Church in Ripley, West Virginia, five grandparents sit around a table listening to a speaker tell them, “You are not alone.”

 

 

Although prayer is mentioned frequently at the meeting, religion is not the subject of today’s conversation - rather, how to communicate with grandchildren after grandparents are thrust into the role of primary caregivers.

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In 2014, more than a third of all children who were removed from their homes due to parental alcohol and drug use were placed with relatives. In many ways, that’s good news for kids. Research shows that grandfamilies protect against trauma and promote resilience. But the arrangement can also be incredibly difficult for the grandparents themselves - many of whom are older and dealing with their own challenges - especially when it comes to physical health.

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As the opioid crisis continues to impact Appalachia, children are being left behind. This morning we have the first of a series of stories about grandparents who take on the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren. To begin the series, health reporter Kara Lofton talks with professor Megan Dolbin-MacNab - a researcher at Virginia Tech who is studying grandparent headed families - about the health impacts of this arrangement. 

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 The University of Texas Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital released a study this month showing that diet and exercise may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Healthy eating is already encouraged during treatment but diet plans are uncommon. When it comes to physical activity, the study says, doctors are cautious when suggesting an exercise routine.

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A new health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill would fundamentally alter Medicaid financing and reduce federal spending for health coverage, according to a new analysis released today by the nonpartisan think tank Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Joseph Reed has been a family doctor in Buckhannon, West Virginia for more than 50 years. Now in his early 80s, Reed continues to see patients a couple days a month at St. Joseph’s hospital. In our next installment of our occasional series, Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton talks to Reed about his career and how he’s seen medicine change over the last half century. 

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A new study indicates that children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy may have less risk of developing asthma.

Previous studies found that reducing exposure to things that aggravate asthma like pet dander can help control the condition. But the new study, published today in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that exposure to certain allergens before asthma is established, may help prevent kids from developing asthma at all.

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A bipartisan coalition of 37 states and territories are calling on health insurance companies to help find solutions to the nation’s opioid crisis.

West Virginia and Kentucky attorney generals Patrick Morrisey and Andy Beshear announced the coalition in press conference at Marshall University Monday afternoon.

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