Ongoing Coverage:

Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:54 am
Thu October 20, 2011

After A Half-Million Cholera Cases, Vaccination Will Begin In Haiti

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last month spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.

Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 10:38 am

A year after cholera burst upon earthquake-weary Haiti, plans are afoot to begin vaccinating people against the highly contagious disease.

Nearly half a million Haitians — about 5 percent of the population — have already been afflicted and more than 6,500 have died.

But the goal of the vaccinators isn't to stop cholera in its tracks. They can't do that in Haiti with just 200,000 doses — enough for only 100,000 people — that's all the manufacturer can offer.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:06 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 2:33 pm

After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.

In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

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Health
3:00 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Americans Urged To Reconsider Use Of Dietary Supplements

There's been an explosion in the number of Americans who take vitamins and other dietary supplements. But do they do any good? And might they actually be doing harm? Two new studies raise serious questions.

Shots - Health Blog
3:35 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

Vitamin E Pills May Raise, Not Lower, Prostate Cancer Risk

iStockphoto.com

Vitamins seem like such a good thing that drugstores have whole aisles devoted to them, including products that promise a healthy prostate.

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Shots - Health Blog
6:00 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Women Exposed To Hormone In Utero Face Lifelong Health Problems

A still from A Healthy Baby Girl, a 1996 documentary in which filmmaker Judith Helfand chronicles the health consequences of her own in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Courtesy of Women Make Movies

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 9:51 am

Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, doctors prescribed a hormone called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, to millions of pregnant women in the unfounded belief it would prevent miscarriages.

Smack in the middle of this period, the deformed thalidomide babies demonstrated the terrible things that can happen when drugs are casually prescribed during pregnancy.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:33 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Surprise In Your Sewage: Lots Of Exotic Viruses

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 9:03 am

You think your job is tough? Some scientists examined sewage from Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa in a hunt for unknown viruses.

They found scads. How many? At least 43,381.

To put that number into perspective, consider that up to now scientists have charted only about 3,000 viruses. And among the known viruses found in the sewage samples, only 17 were bugs that cause human disease — things like the common cold virus, diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus and human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.

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Shots - Health Blog
7:22 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Nobelists Showed How Immune Defenses Work And Go Awry

Bruce A. Beutler was the only American winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year.

Mosimann for Balzan

Working with grasshoppers, fruit flies, mice and human cells, the three scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine opened important windows on how all these creatures defend themselves against microbial invaders and refrain from attacking their own cells – except when they don't.

It's intricate and complicated stuff, but the two main concepts you need to know are: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Sun October 2, 2011

Shortages Lead Doctors To Ration Critical Drugs

Laura Zakhar connects her son, Kevin, 15, to the "feedbag" that contains his nutrition. Lately, Zakhar has had trouble getting the calcium solution Kevin needs, in part because hospitals have been reserving limited supplies for patients who need it even more desperately than he does.
Elizabeth Larkin for NPR

Drug shortages mean a growing number of Americans aren't getting the medications they need. That's causing drug companies and doctors to ration available medications in some cases.

"We're now at 213 shortages for this year," says Erin Fox of the University of Utah, who tracks national drug shortages. "That surpasses last year's total of 211. And it doesn't seem like there's an end in sight."

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Shots - Health Blog
5:59 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Predicting Sexual Function After Prostate Treatment

A study should help men facing prostate cancer treatment get a better sense of how good their sexual function will be down the road.
iStockphoto.com

Up to now doctors couldn't tell a man much about his chances of maintaining sexual function after surgery or radiation for prostate cancer.

"We'd say about half recovered or maintained their function," says Dr. Martin Sanda of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "And we'd be able to turn that up or down a little bit based on age."

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Your Health
11:01 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

HPV Vaccine: The Science Behind The Controversy

Experts disagree about whether girls as young as 11 should get the HPV vaccine.
Mike Kemp iStockphoto.com

The first vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, came out five years ago. But now it's become a hot political topic, thanks to a Republican presidential debate in which candidate Michelle Bachmann inveighed against "innocent little 12-year-old girls" being "forced to have a government injection."

Behind the political fireworks is a quieter backlash against a public health strategy that's won powerful advocates in the medical and public health community.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:03 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

The 'Next Big Step': Preventing 1 Million Heart Attacks And Strokes

iStockphoto.com

They're calling it Million Hearts – a newly launched campaign to put a half-dozen simple and proven public health strategies into wider practice. Federal health officials say it can prevent a million heart attacks and strokes between now and 2016.

Federal officials call it "the next big step" in cardiovascular prevention. There's lots of evidence it's an achievable goal.

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