Health & Science

The Ohio Valley’s Decade In Data

Jan 2, 2020
Ohio Valley ReSource

The year: 2009. A Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama has just made history upon taking the presidential oath of office. The national economy is at a low point of the Great Recession. And the Pittsburgh Steelers are the first NFL team to win six Super Bowls.

Ten years later, as 2019 gives way to a new decade, the country is a radically different place, and the Ohio Valley is no exception.

A health-surveillance system put in place after the terrorist attacks of September 2001 has been used to pinpoint the cause of the vaping-related lung injuries that have killed 54 Americans and sent more than 2,500 people to the hospital.

Using this system, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that the lung injuries rose sharply in June of this year.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET Thursday

Fifteen horses were shot and killed in the woods of Eastern Kentucky in what authorities call a cruel and inhumane crime that they're now working to unravel. Local authorities are offering a $1,500 reward — an amount boosted by donations from people who want the killer brought to justice.

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

"They've actually gotten worse in my old age," says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn't stay on them.

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Gov. Jim Justice announced Friday that he is directing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to immediately initiate a formal study to determine options for eliminating the waitlist for the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Waiver (IDDW) program.


Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Accessing Better Health.

About Michael Hendryx's TED Talk

For over a decade, Michael Hendryx's research has shown mountaintop removal is connected to cancer and other diseases in nearby towns. He says awareness is key for changing policy around the practice.

About Michael Hendryx

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The rate of preterm births in the U.S. has risen over the past four years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new report card from March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to help mothers and babies in the United States, has given West Virginia an F grade in the percentage of live births that are premature. 

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses
Howard Berkes / NPR

A new report from the nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense says that an expired coal tax is effectively a taxpayer subsidy for the coal industry. The analysis reflects a growing concern about the fiscal health of a federal fund that supports tens of thousands of disabled coal miners. 

Study Shows Surface Coal Miners Are Exposed To Toxic Dust That Causes Black Lung

Dec 10, 2019
Vivian Stockman / Southwings

Appalachian surface coal miners are consistently overexposed to toxic silica dust, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and surface mine dust contains more silica than does dust in underground coal mines.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we’ll hear about a 70-year-old music festival serving a different kind of Christian music. Also, we hear the latest on the debate over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a new study on the risks of black lung disease.

Mountain Air: Youth Help Identify Causes Of Ohio Valley’s High Lung Disease Rates

Dec 9, 2019
Participants documented many exposures to cigarette smoke. Kentucky and West Virginia have the nation’s highest smoking rates.
Photo courtesy of the Mountain Air Project

Isabella Back, 18, pulls her jacket tight around herself as she crosses the gravel driveway. “So we’re going about 10 feet from my house to my dad’s workshop,” she says, and pushes through a door in a big, red barn.

The Kona, Kentucky, shop is crowded with cluttered work tables and hulking machines, and the sound of whirring and grinding fills the air. The shop smells of paint and other chemicals. Back’s dad, Rod, started this metal fabrication shop after he got laid off from coal mining. He mostly makes signs for local businesses. He waves a friendly hello.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, flea markets are a common feature across Appalachian landscapes. Maybe you even remember going as a kid with your family. There’s usually something for just about everyone. 

Well, one West Virginian artist mines flea markets regularly to find material for his work. Old photographs, children’s toys and tin cans of all kinds become elements in his abstract art -- art that is uniquely Appalachian. Our folklife reporter, Caitlin Tan, brings us the story.

December 8, 1984: Naturalist Earl Core Dies in Morgantown

Dec 8, 2019
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Naturalist Earl Core died in Morgantown on December 8, 1984, at age 82. The Monongalia County native received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and served on West Virginia University’s biology faculty for nearly a half-century: from 1926 to 1972. 

As an undergrad at WVU, Core had collected thousands of specimens for the WVU herbarium, of which he became the longtime curator. On his first botanical expedition, Core discovered a new species—at the time considered the rarest plant in the world. In 1936, he organized the Southern Appalachian Botanical Club.

Brittany Patterson/ WVPB

Adding plants and trees to the landscape could reduce air pollution by an average of 27 percent, according to a new study. Specialists in environmental science, engineering and geography spent three years analyzing thousands of counties across the country. They found that adding more plants is cheaper than most technologies at reducing air pollution. One of the lead researchers is an engineering professor at Ohio State University named Bhavik Bakshi.


The High Cost Of Living Rural: A Q&A With A Journalist Covering Healthcare In Appalachia

Dec 3, 2019
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Rural hospitals across the country are closing in large numbers, making emergency and speciality services harder and harder to come by for Americans who don’t live in urban centers. One hundred and thirteen rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and about a third of the remaining, some 670, were at risk of closing in 2016.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, across Appalachia, and even rural America more broadly, hospitals are closing. Faced with increasing costs and aging, sicker and poorer patients, health care systems are consolidating their services, and in the process, increasing travel times for patients seeking specialized and emergency care. Freelance reporter Mason Adams recently dug into the impacts these changes are having on Appalachian communities in a story for In These Times. He spoke with 100 Days in Appalachia’s student editor Kristen Uppercue about his reporting.

The Five Loaves and Two Fishes Foodbank has 24 hydro-panels for water-gathering in Kimball, West Virginia.
Emily Allen / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In McDowell County, access to clean water can be a challenge. Aging infrastructure, a shrinking tax base and lack of oversight affect the region’s water quality. That is why one community food bank is trying something different, to provide cleaner water to some who are in need.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, abortion can be a hot button topic to avoid around the Thanksgiving table. But it’s a key issue at the heart of a highly polarized political climate. Several states now have abortion restrictions in place. Some states have signed abortion bans, but those aren’t in effect yet. And next year, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that could change the right to legal abortion.

When Matthew Braun gets out of medical school, he'll be able to prescribe opioids.

A decade ago, he was addicted to them.

"The first time I ever used an opioid, I felt the most confident and powerful I'd ever felt," Braun says. "So I said, 'This is it. I want to do this the rest of my life.' "

Opioids took away his anxiety, his inhibitions, his depression. And they were easy to get.

"I just started breaking into houses," Braun says. "I found it amazing how trusting people were in leaving windows open and doors unlocked, and I found a lot of prescriptions."

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, earlier this fall, Bob Hansen, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, said the state looks forward to creating new job opportunities for West Virginians in recovery from addiction. For some of these opportunities, being in recovery is actually a qualification.

The state has been certifying and paying peer recovery support specialists through its Bureau for Medical Services since July 2018. As Report for America corps member Emily Allen reports, this is just one example of the state’s recent investments in peer support.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the combination of climbing medical costs and stagnant wages can make it hard for many working people struggling with chronic health problems. Statistics show medical bills contribute to more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the country. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Mary Meehan has the story of one woman who lost her home while fighting cancer. It’s a story becoming all too common as medical bankruptcy threatens people’s ability to keep a home.

Matthew Shreve / WVU

The Boy Scouts of America is teaming up with West Virginia University to tackle an ambitious goal: getting all sixth-graders in West Virginia learning outside. A pilot program took place this fall at the scouts’ Summit Bechtel Reserve high-adventure property.


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New research from West Virginia University suggests too much light, instead of too little, may cause depression in hospitalized individuals. 

Researchers Randy Nelson and Courtney DeVries at the Department of Neuroscience in the WVU School of Medicine studied two groups of mice for three nights. One group was exposed to total darkness, while the other was exposed to dim light – the equivalent of a child’s night light.

Jesse Wright/WVPB

Increasingly, teachers are finding that spending time in nature with their students is essential to learning. In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from educators who are knocking down classroom walls so that kids can get some fresh air and exercise, and improve test scores in the process.


Electronic Cigarette, E-Cigarette, E-Cig, Vapes, Vape
Pixabay

A West Virginia state senator has asked Gov. Jim Justice to end sales of flavored e-cigarette products.

Monongalia County Democrat Bob Beach asked Justice in a letter to issue an executive order declaring vaping to be a public health emergency.

Roxy Todd/ WVPB

A new study finds that planting trees to reduce air pollution is cheaper than investing in most emissions reducing technologies. 


Doctor, Health, Doctor with tablet, Doctor with iPad
Public Domain Pictures

Women in Appalachia face some of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country. They are also among the groups of women least likely to receive cancer screenings. 

The Ohio State University Professor Electra Paskett has dedicated much of her career to understanding the reasons behind why women in Appalachia are more likely to contract and die of cervical cancer. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Appalachian women face some of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country. They’re also among the groups of women least likely to receive cancer screenings. Ohio University Professor Electra Paskett has dedicated much of her career to understanding why. 

This year, she and her colleagues received a multi-million-dollar grant aimed at cervical cancer prevention. Paskett recently presented her work at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health. Reporter Brittany Patterson talked with Paskett about her research.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Jim Dahlman set out to learn more about Appalachia in 2013 by walking Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road from Tennessee into Kentucky. He is a journalist and professor of Communications at Milligan College in Tennessee, and decided to document his walk. 

In this Aug. 17, 2018 file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses protest outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
Jessica Hill / Associated Press File Photo

A federal bankruptcy judge on Wednesday agreed to keep nearly 2,700 lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and hundreds more against the family members who own the company on hold until at least April so the sides can keep working toward a settlement.

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