Appalachia Health News

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A new regional medical school campus is expected to launch next June in Charleston.

 

The initiative is a collaboration between the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and Charleston Area Medical Center who announced the two organizations had signed a letter of intent earlier this week.

 

Charleston Area Medical Center is providing space for the campus, including use of its existing training facilities, according to a press release.

 

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Over the past 30 years, the annual Kids County Data Book has been tracking things like low birth-weight babies, children in poverty and young children not in school. Researchers track if states do better, worse or the same among 16 markers of health, education, economic well-being and family life.

The new report, released this week, found that from 2016 to 2017, West Virginia improved on 10 of the 16 markers and did worse on 6. Nationally, America saw improvements on 11 of the 16 markers.

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For a variety of reasons, breastfeeding is just not possible for everyone. Formula was a lifesaving development when it was first created. Before formula, a lot of babies who did not have access to adequate breast milk starved to death. 

Sometimes wet nurses provided babies with nourishment, if their mothers could not, or did not want, to breastfeed. These were usually women who earned an income by breastfeeding other women’s babies. In some cultures around the world, even today, milk sharing is a socially accepted practice among sisters and close friends who support each other by feeding a baby if the mother cannot produce enough milk. 


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Only 17 percent of Americans have paid family leave from their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the early 1990s, the Family Leave Act was passed. It requires most employers to offer workers 3 months off after the birth of a baby — both men and women. But here’s the catch, employers don’t have to pay them for the time off.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear more from this week’s Inside Appalachia episode on breastfeeding. We explore the guilt mothers can sometimes face when trying to breastfeed and why many low-income mothers often choose formula over breastfeeding. We also have a discussion with Matthew Ferrence, author of “Appalachia North.”

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In the United States, breastfeeding rates are lower among low-income women and higher among high-income women. This is despite research that shows breastfeeding can provide lifelong health benefits to a baby and potentially save new parents money.

Andrea Reedy is one of nine children. Her mother breastfed Andrea and the rest of them. So when Reedy got pregnant, she wanted to breastfeed too.

“It was just kind of something that I knew was there, knew I was capable of, because I had that example,” she said.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months after birth, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing research that says breastfeeding is healthy for infants. It protects against diseases, obesity and stomach issues, helps the mother lose weight, and decreases risk of some cancers. But although breastfeeding is “natural,” for many women, it’s not “easy.”

When Emma Pepper got pregnant, she was totally on board with breastfeeding -- until her son was born.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Doctors point to overwhelming evidence that breast milk is superior to formula. But breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to be low. Reasons for that may be lack of paid maternity leave in the U.S., challenges breastfeeding at work, the role of WIC in subsidizing formula and the fact that for many women, breastfeeding, although natural, is a learned skill and there aren't enough people teaching techniques. 

In this episode more than a dozen women will share their stories about motherhood, breastfeeding, and society’s demands. 


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An initiative to combat the rise of hepatitis C infections has launched in West Virginia.

News outlets report a five-year program called HepConnect launched Wednesday at West Virginia University. It was created by California-based biotech company Gilead Sciences.

A handful of health science students from across West Virginia are receiving help to pay for their final year in graduate education.

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West Virginia officials and the U.S. Department of Justice announced they’ve reached a settlement after an investigation found West Virginia to be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The state was found to have too many children with serious emotional or behavioral disorders in out-of-state residential facilities. The settlement will bring those children in state over the next five years.

At a press conference, officials called the agreement “landmark” and said that it will affect generations to come.

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across most of central Appalachia, the population is declining as young people leave to find work. Those who stay, are rapidly aging. In West Virginia, for instance, about 16 percent of the population is 65 or older, according to a Department of Health and Human Resources report. Seniors are expected to be about a quarter of the total population by 2030. 


Photo courtesy of Lauren Headley

The United States has some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world -- and unlike most other first-world countries, our rates are going in the wrong direction.

American women are three times more likely to die during or after birth than women in Great Britain and eight times more likely than women in Scandinavian countries.

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A California advocacy organization is trying to reinvent America’s approach to children’s mental health. The idea is to remove mental health care from the traditional medical system and instead integrate resilience and community supports into the very fabric of society.

 

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A new study found that very few patients at high risk of an opioid overdose are being prescribed the opioid reversal drug Naloxone when seen in a health care setting.

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Direct care providers work with some of our most vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. But recruiting and retaining quality caregivers like Taylor Reynolds is becoming increasingly difficult in West Virginia.

Reynolds has been working as a caregiver for people who have severe Autism for five years and says she loves her job at a care provider called Autism Services. But three years ago, she went back to school to prepare for different work.

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A new study found that when pregnant moms quit smoking during pregnancy – especially early in pregnancy – their babies are less likely to be born preterm.

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West Virginia youth who need intensive non-family residential treatment have traditionally been served out of state. Now, the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families will try and move some of those kids back in state to comply with new federal regulations.

In February, President Donald Trump signed the Family First Prevention Services Act, which included major reforms for child welfare. The legislation is essentially designed to help keep kids with their families or in a family-like setting.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For families struggling with Alzheimer’s in Appalachia, the road can be lonely and long. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. Patients with the disease can live as long as 20 years after diagnosis.

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A new study found that from 2015 to 2017, the number of fentanyl-related deaths rose sharply while deaths involving prescription opioids began to decline.

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Birth control has been covered by insurance since the Affordable Care Act took effect, but states like West Virginia still have high numbers of unintended pregnancies. So in the 2019 legislative session, West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that will allow pharmacists to distribute birth control without a prescription from a doctor’s office.

 

 

The idea behind the legislation was simple – reduce the barriers to birth control and the number of unintended pregnancies might fall.

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A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report examined a 2018 outbreak of Hepatitis A in West Virginia associated with drug use and homelessness.

Between January 1 and August 28, 2018, the Kanawha Charleston Health Department identified 664 cases of Hepatitis A. In August of 2018, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health requested assistance from the CDC to deal with the outbreak. According to the report, the majority of patients testing positive for the disease reported current or past illicit drug use.

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A new study has found visits to rural emergency departments increased by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2016 with the most dramatic usage changes among non-Hispanic white patients, Medicaid beneficiaries and those without insurance. This increase is putting more pressure on already strained safety-net hospitals.

Researchers found the increase may be, at least in part, due to an increase in patients using the emergency department for illnesses that require less care or those that are chronic in nature.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, 800 elementary school students gathered at Marshall University on Thursday for the 11th annual Brain Expo. Kara Lofton reports the expo is designed as an opportunity to bring science out of the classroom and give third-sixth graders hands-on learning.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At the 11th annual Brain Expo, Marshall University sophomore Katie Ghiz is showing fourth graders a video to test how well they pay attention.

You might have seen the video before – in it, six people – three in white shirts, three in dark shirts, pass a basketball. The viewers have to count how many times the people in the white shirt pass the ball.

In the next installment of our occasional series Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton spoke with hospice nurse Lori Carter. Carter has been a hospice nurse for 20 years. She said for her and for many of the hospice nurses she knows, the work is a calling. She said some of what she does is straight-up nursing -- managing pain, dressing wounds, and addressing symptoms of end-stage disease. But the most subtle part of the job is helping families navigate one of the most intimate and emotional times of their lives.

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A West Virginia program designed to reduce infant mortality has received almost 5.5 million dollars in continued federal funding for the next five years.

The Healthy Start Appalachian Parents and Infants Project aims to reduce preterm labor and low birth weight babies by focusing on improving health for women and families. Initiatives include screening and counseling for depression, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, breastfeeding support, and parenting support.

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WVU Prevention Research Center is one of 25 academic instutitions to receive five years of funding for public health prevention research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers will use the grant to develop youth substance abuse prevention programs in two West Virginia counties based on an Icelandic model.

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The National Institutes of Health has begun a clinical trial on a drug designed to treat cravings associated with opioid use disorder. 

There are a handful of drugs already on the market that are commonly used to treat OUD such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. But these are either synthetic opioids or have little impact on cravings specifically. The new drug, if successful, will focus on targeting the cravings felt by some patients who have OUD – and hopefully help them maintain sobriety.

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West Virginia University researchers have found that suicide rates are higher among some Medicaid-insured youth than those with private insurance. 

 

The researchers analyzed suicide trends among 10-to-18-year-olds in 16 states. They found that the suicide rate for Medicaid-insured youth ages 10-to-14 of both sexes was higher than in non-Medicaid youth.

 

Lead researcher Dr. John Campo said the difference may be because kids in the Medicaid population may be exposed to more trauma than wealthier peers. Trauma is associated with suicide risk.

 

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