Health & Science

Priscilla Bogema lives in a rural town called McGregor, Minn., in a part of the state that has more trees and lakes than people.

She came here about 20 years ago seeking solitude during a major crisis in her life. She had just gotten divorced and was dealing with some health problems. "So I came to a place where nobody could see me," she says.

Complex Factors Create Lack of Health-Insurance Competition in Rural Areas

Aug 7, 2019
The small city of Hazard, Ky., shown Tuesday, May 26, 2015.
David Stephenson / Associated Press File Photo

If policymakers use market-based approaches to solve healthcare access problems, they need a better understanding of how rural markets work, says one researcher.

A lack of competition among health insurers in rural areas has reduced the ability of market-based approaches to increase insurance enrollment, a new study says.

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.

ZngZng / wikimedia Commons

People recovering from substance abuse disorder can get rides to appointments under a project set to begin in West Virginia.

The Green Bank Telescope at Green Bank Observatory
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s Green Bank Observatory will continue operating under the National Science Foundation.

Green Bank Observatory Director Karen O’Neil announced the foundation’s decision in a statement Tuesday, July 30.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the latest episode of Inside Appalachia focuses on some of the region’s waterways.

While the Mountain State is blessed with an abundance of beautiful streams and rivers, it’s not hard to find areas littered with trash, too. And rainy weather can easily wash these remnants into the waterways, contaminating the river ecosystems, and posing a health risk to people.

One man in Morgantown has taken it upon himself to clean up the trash in his area, sometimes using unconventional methods. Folklife reporter Caitlin Tan brings us the story.

Scientists don't know much yet about the long-term effects of "vape juice," the liquid used in e-cigarettes and vaporizers. But researchers analyzing the liquid and the vapor produced when it's heated say some kinds of e-liquids are reacting to form irritating chemicals called acetals while they're sitting on shelves.

Methamphetamine, an illegal drug that sends the body into overdrive, is surging through the United States. Federal drug data provided exclusively to NPR show seizures of meth by authorities have spiked, rising 142% between 2017 and 2018.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, across Appalachian coal country, people are looking for productive ways to reuse land damaged by surface mining. A 2018 study found that an area roughly the size of Delaware has been mined over the years. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Liam Niemeyer reports that some researchers see promise in fast-growing grass that can help restore damaged lands and maybe help both the economy and environment.

On a hot Maryland summer day, two toddlers play in the wading area of a community pool. Their glee is uncontainable as they dump water-filled plastic pails over each other's heads. A few weeks earlier, these little ones would not come close to the water.

The doors open wide, you enter, and they close behind you. As the elevator begins its ascent, you realize it's just you and one other person taking this ride. The silence soon grows uncomfortable.

Pop quiz. What's your go-to move?

A) Stare at your shoes.

B) Pull out your cellphone.

C) Make brief eye contact.

D) Initiate chitchat.

If your answer was B, you're like far too many of us, eyes glued to our phones, attention focused on the digital world.

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.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, one of the aspects of the opioid epidemic we don’t often hear about is what happens to the bodies of those who become overtaken by addiction. This morning, Liz McCormick takes a look at one group under strain -- the state’s forensic pathologists who are charged with performing autopsies.

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

Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday to provide additional funding for coal miners suffering from black lung. The bills came as a contingent of Appalachian miners afflicted with the disease lobbied lawmakers for more support. 

“It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity,” Barry Johnson said of the disease. Johnson is a fourth-generation coal miner from Letcher County, Kentucky, who made the trip to Washington with his oxygen tank in tow. 

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
Adobe Stock

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.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, a decade ago, not many people had heard much about fracking for natural gas. Since then, the gas industry has literally changed the landscape in northern West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. 

For some people, that has meant new jobs or payments to lease their land. But the thousands of new well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and waste injection wells haven’t been welcomed by everyone. Thousands of complaints have been filed with the state about everything from gas leaks and crumbling roads to odors and noise people blame on energy development.

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.

The number of cases of children entering the foster care system due to parental drug use has more than doubled since 2000, according to research published this week in JAMA Pediatrics.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the American Medical Association marked a milestone last month. The largest professional association for physicians in the United States inaugurated its first African American woman as its leader. The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Aaron Payne recently spoke with the newly elected president, who has a unique understanding of West Virginia. And she says the organization will work for patients and physicians as they face some of the nation’s toughest health challenges.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

In Washington, D.C., the House of Representatives passed amendments to end military use of toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, and to expand efforts to monitor for PFAS pollution.


Hand dryers are ubiquitous in public restrooms, but according to research recently published in the Canadian journal Paediatrics & Child Health, the noise they make may be harmful to children's ears.

And the study's author can speak from personal experience.

"Sometimes after using hand dryers my ears would start ringing," 13-year-old Nora Keegan from Calgary, Canada, tells NPR. "I also noticed that children would not want to use hand dryers, and they'd be covering their ears."

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, from 2017-2018, tobacco use among American youths rose by almost 40 percent. The culprit? E-cigarettes. Health reporter Kara Lofton takes a look at how vaping is reversing West Virginia’s slow progress toward fewer tobacco users.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, in nearly one third of Ohio Valley counties, low-income residents are paying 20 percent or more of their income in utility bills. Energy costs are making housing harder to afford in some rural places where incomes are not keeping pace with rising costs. As part of a series on rural housing, Ohio Valley ReSource reporter Sydney Boles takes us to eastern Kentucky, where the cost burden is among the highest. She found a community working to keep their old Kentucky homes affordable.

Marshall Health & the Bernard McDonough Foundation

A recent report explores the variety of methods and programs implemented in Huntington to fight substance use disorder. Organizations who created the document hope to share ideas throughout the state.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, West Virginia’s film tax credit was eliminated by the West Virginia Legislature in 2018 after a legislative audit report deemed the credit as providing only “minimal economic impact.” But people who work in the film industry don’t agree. An attempt to resurrect the credit failed this past legislative session, but Liz McCormick reports supporters are hopeful it will make it through next year’s session.

Anyone who has tried to shop around for hospital services knows this: It's hard to get prices in advance.

President Trump signed an executive order Monday that he says would make such comparisons easier, and make the pricing process more transparent.

Rural Homelessness, Made Worse By Opioid Crisis, Presents Special Challenges

Jun 24, 2019
Charles “Country” Bowers revisits the wooded patches where he once lived.
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Charles “Country” Bowers takes long, quick strides down a worn dirt path and is soon in front of a thicket of bushes made deep and tall by spring rains.

He’s leading me on a tour of camps made by homeless people in wooded corners of Fayette County, Kentucky. He stops and lifts a hand to signal that he’s spied something.

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Not everyone looks at the increased availability of alcoholic beverages quite the same way. Some people struggle with it. Alcohol is, after all, a socially acceptable, legal drug.

An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.
Adelina Lancianese / NPR

Nearly $2 million in federal funds will be awarded to West Virginia to help support the state’s black lung clinics.

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