Appalachia Health News

The Appalachian Regional Commission held six recovery-to-work listening sessions throughout the region, including this session in March in Pineville, Kentucky.
Courtesy Appalachian Regional Commission

 


The Appalachian Regional Commission put the stamp of approval this week on recommendations to help people struggling with substance use disorder get back into the workforce.

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A new study has found that suicide is on the rise – especially in rural areas. 

Researchers from West Virginia and The Ohio State Universities looked a national suicide data over a 17-year period. They found that during that time, suicide rates jumped 41 percent with the highest rates in rural, low-income counties. West Virginia, for instance, has the 8th highest suicide rate in the nation.

Heart Disease, Cholesterol, American Heart Association, Heart, Heart Health, Body, Veins, Blood, Health, Appalachia Health News
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A new report shows that West Virginia is one of five states with the highest death rates in the country. The leading cause is heart disease.

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New West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources data suggests fatal drug overdose deaths might be leveling off or even decreasing slightly.

The preliminary data from 2018 suggests a 6 percent decline in overdose deaths from 2017, according to a press release.

Opioids are still the most common type of drugs seen in overdose deaths, with the most deaths coming from Fentanyl and heroin. 

Those numbers are decreasing, though. 

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced more than 1.8 billion dollars in funding to states and territories for combating the opioid epidemic.

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Representatives from WVU and WVU Medicine say they are “very close” to announcing a solution to some of the job and health care losses projected in the northern panhandle after two hospitals announced they were closing earlier this month.

 

In an interview with WV Metro News Thursday, WVU President Gordon Gee said there are plans to expand on what WVU Medicine is already doing in the northern panhandle.

 

Corey Knollinger / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Earlier this month, two rural hospitals -- one in Wheeling, one just across the river in Ohio -- announced they were closing. Since then, stakeholders have been meeting to discuss strategies for maintaining at least some of the services the hospitals provided -- especially mental health care. Because in rural states like West Virginia, losing a facility doesn’t just impact the community but can have ripple effects across the state. 

 

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West Virginia has the highest rate of heart disease in the nation. But a new study has found eating healthy foods -- regardless of specific diet -- can help reduce the risk for heart disease. 

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Elderly women with breast cancer who are also battling anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions are more likely to use opioids and die, according to a new study. 

In a press release from the University of Virginia, the researchers said their findings point to a need for better mental health care for patients with breast cancer. And that physicians should consider alternative pain management techniques such as physical therapy, massage and acupuncture. 

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A new study has found that patients undergoing heart and lung surgery are almost twice as likely to develop an opioid dependence as patients undergoing general surgery. 

The study, published this month in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, found that about 16 percent of patients who had lung surgery and 13 percent of patients who had heart surgery became persistent opioid users. 

Persistent opioid use describes someone who was not taking opioids before surgery, but continued to use the opioid prescription after physical recovery is complete.

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Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity is associated with a lower risk of several cancers. But a new study has found that weightlifting can also help reduce risk for certain kinds of cancers.  The study, published in the most recent issue of the journal for the American College of Sports Medicine, looked at the impact of weightlifting and cancer risk in 10 common types of cancer.  Researchers found weightlifting significantly reduced risk of colon cancer. For kidney cancer, weightlifting caused risk to trend downward.

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In the wake of mass shootings more public health officials are calling for gun violence to be treated as a public health concern. Health reporter Kara Lofton spoke with West Virginia University sociology professor and former police officer James Nolan about whether taking guns away or incarcerating more people would increase public safety. He argues reducing violence may be a matter of building stronger, more engaged communities. Here's part of that conversation.

 

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A West Virginia woman has sued the nation's largest e-cigarette maker, claiming the company uses a deceptive marketing campaign to intentionally target teenagers.  

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Charleston. It names San Francisco-based Juul Labs along with Altria Group and Philip Morris USA.

  

The lawsuit claims Juul violates state consumer protection law by using fraudulent and deceptive marketing practices to "exploit themes that resonated with teenagers.

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Five hospitals in West Virginia have been recognized as high performing by the annual U.S. World and News Report “Best Hospitals” report. 

Charleston Area Medical Center was ranked overall number one in the state followed by WVU Medicine. 

Mon Health and St. Mary’s Medical Center were tied for third and Thomas Memorial was fifth. 

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A new study has found that for patients with heart disease, exercise may prevent or improve artery stiffening that is associated with heart failure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in West Virginia — mostly from heart attacks or heart failure. Heart failure occurs when arteries in the heart become stiff — due to a combination of reduced elasticity and the buildup of harmful chemicals. 

But a new study published last month in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that exercise could prevent or improve artery stiffness. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, nationally, nearly a quarter of all rural hospitals are struggling to stay open. In West Virginia, almost 40 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closure. There are several reasons for that. 

“Inability to recruit physicians to small communities, declining population base, roughly 10,000 people a day go on Medicare and Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of care in a hospital environment,” Dave Ramsey, CEO and president of Charleston Area Medical Center, said.

WVU Medicine

Nationally, nearly a quarter of all rural hospitals are struggling to stay open. In West Virginia, almost 40 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closure. There are several reasons for that. 

 

 

“Inability to recruit physicians to small communities, declining population base, roughly 10,000 people a day go on Medicare and Medicare [which] doesn’t cover the cost of care in a hospital environment,” explained Dave Ramsey, CEO and president of Charleston Area Medical Center. 

This van is used by the JCESA to transport deceased who are non-medical examiner cases and who have no prior death arrangements. JCESA purchased this van in 2017 to tackle an increase in calls and manage a loss in local resources.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

One of the angles of the opioid epidemic we don’t often hear about is what happens to the bodies of those who become overtaken by addiction. West Virginia Public Broadcasting looks at one group under strain – the state’s forensic pathologists who are charged with performing autopsies.

We also explore one West Virginia community’s efforts to efficiently transport the dead.

Charles Glover outside the Clarksburg Mission, where he serves as a mentor.
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Charles Glover doesn’t mince words when assessing Clarksburg, West Virginia, the town where he was raised and still lives today.

“It’s not Clarksburg anymore,” Glover says. “It’s Methburg.” 

Methburg. As in methamphetamines, a drug that ravaged his community more than a decade ago and today is coming back just as strong.

New Data Show Opioid Deaths May Have Peaked, and Reveal Scale of Past Pain Pill Sales

Jul 18, 2019
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Two newly released sets of government data show that the death toll from the nation’s opioid crisis may finally be dropping and also reveal the scale of the pain pill sales that help set the crisis in motion. The data for the Ohio Valley show how hard the region was hit and how hard people in these communities have been fighting to save lives.

AMA President Dr. Patrice Harris (center) stands with the immediate past president Dr. Barbara McAneny (left) and president-elect Dr. Susan Bailey.
Courtesy of AMA

Dr. Patrice Harris took the oath in June to become the first African-American woman to serve as president of the powerful American Medical Association, the largest professional association for physicians in the United States.

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The fate of the Affordable Care Act was back in federal court today after a lower court judge ruled the law unconstitutional. If the ruling is upheld, the entire United States healthcare system would undergo massive changes. In Charleston, supporters of the Affordable Care Act held a mock trial in front of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office in support of the law.

Physician attentively looks at mans brain x-ray results
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Mon Health System and WVU Medicine have announced a collaboration to provide round-the-clock teleneurology services at three hospitals. The initiative is designed to provide quicker care to urgent stroke patients. 

 

The services will be available at the three Mon Health hospitals in Morgantown, Kingwood and Weston. As part of the collaboration, Mon Health physicians will have access to Board Certified Neurologists from WVU who will quickly assess and recommend treatment for urgent stroke patients, according to a press release. 

Courtesy of the Department of Education

In one year, from 2017 to 2018, tobacco usage among American youth skyrocketed by almost 40 percent. The culprit? E-cigarettes. 

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Low-income Americans are dying at a higher rate than high-income Americans. In fact, the life span of low-income Americans is becoming shorter – a trend largely attributed drug and alcohol related deaths, which has been called deaths of despair.

“The least well-off Americans have seen their wages become stagnant, their jobs become obsolete, their neighborhoods crumbling in various ways. And so there’s a thought that that leads to despair for less educated Americans and they turn to drugs or suicide,” explained University of Michigan professor Arline Geronimus.

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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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