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.

If a heart attack sends you to an American hospital, you'll probably go home after only two or three nights. That's faster than virtually anyplace else in the world.

But your chances of needing to go back into the hospital within the next month are also higher than they are for heart attack patients in 16 other countries. That's the finding from a Duke University-led study in this week's JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.

The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who's infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It's nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.

Debra Meyerson was hiking near Lake Tahoe 15 months ago when a stroke destroyed part of the left side of her brain, leaving her literally speechless. It happens to more than 150,000 Americans a year.

But now Meyerson is learning to talk again through an approach that trains the undamaged right side of her brain to "speak." Specifically, it's a region that controls singing.

For more than 100 years, it's been known that people who can't speak after injury to the speech centers on the left side of the brain can sing.

Harvard researchers say they've uncovered a big problem among the nation's 700,000 police officers: a serious lack of sleep.

In what's believed to be the first study of its kind, the researchers queried nearly 5,000 municipal and state police officers in the U.S. and Canada about their sleep habits and symptoms of possible sleep disorders. Then they assessed their on-duty performance for two years.

Forty percent had sleep disorders, and the vast majority of these were undiagnosed before.

Doubts have been growing about Yasmin, Yaz and their sister contraceptives for several years now. And those doubts reached full flower at a Food Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday.

A federally convened panel of experts says most men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer should be offered the chance to put off treatment in favor of medical monitoring of their condition.

In fact, the panel went so far as to say doctors should stop calling most of these low-risk tumors cancer at all.

If all goes according to plan — the plan President Obama laid out on Thursday — the HIV pandemic may reach an important tipping point by the end of 2013.

"We believe that with 2 million more people in treatment, we will reach a point where the number of new infections is less than the number going into treatment," says Dr. Eric Goosby.

AIDS activists haven't always been happy with Barack Obama. But many of them were on this Worlds AIDS Day.

The president used the occasion to pledge a 50 percent increase in the number of HIV-infected people getting treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — from around 4 million now to 6 million by the end of 2013.

The United States is doing a pretty miserable job of treating people with HIV.

The latest numbers show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective treatment — that is, antiviral medications to keep the virus in check.

Turns out Howard Hughes was right. The world is a very germy place, especially public restrooms.

The reclusive billionaire, who had the world's most notorious case of so-called germophobia, would go to just about any length to avoid contamination. He wore tissue boxes on his feet. He burned his clothing if someone near him got sick. He wrote careful instructions to his staff on how to open a can of peaches without contaminating them.

When it's time to renew her son's prescriptions for medicine to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Roxanne Ryan prepares for another wild goose chase.

The Philadelphia mother says she typically has to call around to 10 to 15 different pharmacies to find where the prescriptions can be filled. And when 10-year-old Sergey doesn't get his medication, he's a bundle of uncontained energy.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a half-dozen years ago that preteen girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, two things happened.

A lot of parents and some conservative groups were jarred by the idea of immunizing young girls against a sexually transmitted virus. And uptake of the vaccine has been poor — only about a third of 13- to 17-year-old girls have gotten the full three-shot series.

Federal officials say they're making headway in their push to stem abuse of addictive painkillers. Still, they say, U.S. doctors are prescribing enough narcotics to medicate every American around the clock for a month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses may soon overtake car crashes as the nation's leading cause of fatal injury.

President Obama is wielding a unilateral prerogative of his office – the executive order – to get something done about a worsening shortage of essential drugs.

It's a problem that earlier this month one administration official called "a dire public health situation." Many thousands of patients with cancer, life-threatening infections, cardiac disease, severe gastrointestinal disorders and many other conditions aren't able to get the drugs they need.

It's the season for stomach bugs again. And if you want to know just how contagious those bugs can be, just ask the National Basketball Association.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the play-by-play on an outbreak of gastrointestinal misery that afflicted as many as 13 NBA teams a year ago, spreading rapidly from player to player and from players to team staffers.

Hey guys, feeling confused about the fuss over PSA screening for prostate cancer?

Listen up. A couple of docs who ponder such medical dilemmas say there's a middle ground between business-as-usual and throwing PSA tests out altogether.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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."

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."

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.

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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