Health & Wealth Desk

Wednesday mornings during Morning Edition, and Wednesday afternoon during All Things Considered

KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a short weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

 

It was a busy summer for environmental safety workers at the school district in Rochester, New York, where employees sampled over 2,000 school water fixtures and replaced nearly 20 percent of them, after finding problematic levels of lead.

 

29-year-old Zach Heath was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer on Christmas Eve last year. His response was to bury himself in his basement with a PlayStation 4 and Call of Duty. 

“[I] just shot people in video games for about eight hours, and that was how I kind of released my frustration,” he says.

Twice a day, Angela and Nate Turner of Greenwood, Indiana, take tiny strips that look like colored scotch tape, and put them under their tongues.

“They taste disgusting,” Angela says.


At a small studio theater on the campus of the University of Indianapolis in June, it was standing room only for a performance of the original play, “Altered”,  an adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Lesli Butler played the role of Arachne, an expert weaver whose pride in her art had offended the goddess Athena.

“Without weaving I would not have found my identity, my life’s work,” recited Butler, “and to find one’s self in an art form is perfection.”

The trial of 23 people who protested Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid began today in Jefferson City with jury selection.

The so-called Medicaid 23 defendants include many notable Kansas City clergy members, among them Sam Mann, Wallace Hartsfield and Vernon P. Howard Jr. They are accused of trespassing and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.

At 44-years-old Dave Adox was facing the end of his two year battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He needed a ventilator to breathe and couldn’t move any part of his body, except his eyes. Once he started to struggle with his eyes – his only way to communicate – Adox decided it was time to die.

Deana Kilpatrick smoked crack for the first time when she was 13 years old. “From there,” she says, “I really just spiraled down hill.”

For the next 30 years, drugs and alcohol were part of her life. Then last November, at the age of 43, she moved to Branson, Missouri looking for a new start. It was going pretty well until loneliness drove her to relapse a few months ago. She got a fourth DWI and faced up to four years in jail.


Eric Peters / U.S. Department of Agriculture

There's been a national spike in the number of deaths from opioid drug overdoses over the past 15 years and some of the biggest increases have come in the Midwest. Missouri is no exception and also holds the distinction of being the only state without a prescription drug monitoring database—a common tool for preventing abuse.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack head's the nation's initiative on rural opioid addiction. On Friday, Vilsack and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill will host a town hall meeting in Columbia to discuss the epidemic with media and invited guests. 

KBIA spoke with Secretary Vilsack earlier this week. 

Indiana governor Mike Pence is in the spotlight this week as the man Donald Trump has chosen as his running mate. His decisions about health and healthcare in Indiana have drawn attention from within and outside the state. And his record could be important in November, because his running mate doesn’t have a legislative record at all.

Promotional Video / MU Health

Every year, the US Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention administer the National Health Interview Survey to help track the health of the various demographic groups that make up the county's population. But it wasn’t until 2013 that the survey included questions about sexual orientation.

One finding that emerged was that lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to be obese than their heterosexual counterparts. Jane McElroy, associate professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the first to publish research on interventions to specifically address the issue. Her study was published in the current issue of Women’s Health Issues, and she came by the KBIA studios to discuss her findings.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Kristin Metcalf-Wilson said the activist in her couldn’t help leading cheers of “What do we want? Access. When do we want it? Always.” with those gathered Monday at Glenn’s Café to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Hellerstedt.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

In April the US Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] released new guidelines about the use of criminal records when denying or terminating a housing agreement.

To find out more about the new guidelines and what it could mean for Columbia residents, Rebecca Smith, from the KBIA Health and Wealth desk, sat down with Phil Steinhaus, the CEO of the Columbia Housing Authority.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Tiffany Seda-Addington has been fighting for expanded access to naloxone for nearly three years. Ever since her best friend James Carmack died of a heroin overdose at his mother’s house.

“When James died,” Tiffany said. “It was immediately we have to do something.”

That “something” that she and others in Pulaski County, Missouri, decided to fight for was expanded access to naloxone, also known as Narcan. It’s the opioid overdose antidote that essentially brings a person dying from a heroin or opioid overdose back to life.


Services for Independent Living

Karla Gordon could barely contain her excitement. She had a surprise for her aunt, 96-year-old Helen Judah. Helen had recently fallen and was recovering at The Bluffs, a rehab facility for senior citizens in Columbia, but it was time for her to leave - and she was concerned about where she would get the necessary tools and equipment, like a walker, that allowed her to live independently.


Earlier this year, 69-year-old Aneita McCloskey needed her two front teeth filed down and capped.

“They were kind of worn down and they were also getting little tears and cavities,” she recalls.

Without dental insurance, McCloskey is on the hook for the full $2,400 cost of the procedure. She was given 18 months to pay it before she gets charged interest. That’ll be hard to do on her fixed income.

In years past she would have had to wait to see the dentist again until she could afford it.


Ryan Levi / KBIA

The Central Pantry on the north side of Columbia looks like a small grocery store. Ten aisles full of non-perishable food cut diagonally across the middle of the room. Crates of avocados, tomatoes and other fresh produce line one wall.

Jamie Sloan walks a cart full of groceries through the aisles to the checkout counter where she’s asked if she receives food stamps.

“Not anymore,” she says.


Esteem Website

The University of Missouri’s Ear, Nose and Throat Center is now offering a new solution to hearing loss, becoming the only health provider in the state to offer a new fully implantable hearing device to patients.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

In stories about premature birth and premature babies you might have heard the term NICU? But what exactly is a NICU and what goes on there?

To find out, KBIA visited the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, at University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital here in Columbia.


At Richard Logan’s pharmacy in Charleston, Missouri, prescription opioid painkillers are locked away in a cabinet. Missouri law requires pharmacies to keep schedule II controlled substances—drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl with a high addiction potential—locked up at all times.

Logan doesn’t stop at what the law requires.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Richard Logan’s pharmacy has been on the same street in Charleston, Missouri, for 40 years. Picture rows of wrist wraps, antacids and the like in front of the counter, and rows of prescription medications behind it.

It’s your typical pharmacy with one big “except.”


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Premature Birth affects about one in 10 infants in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pre-term birth is a major factor in infant mortality and is also one of the leading causes of long-term neurological disabilities in children.

There is a huge range of potential outcomes for premature infants and no two babies have the same trajectory – just like the Mondy twins.

Cauy and Skylee were born at just 24 weeks and one day. Cauy weighed one pound, six ounces and Skylee weighed one pound, five ounces. Though they started life at the exact same place, Skylee with practically no repercussions from their premature birth while complications have left Cauy with a cerebral palsy diagnosis. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

We’ve all seen the stories: "Premature baby goes home after spending 100-something days in the hospital," but what happens next? Do babies born pre-term end up just like their full-term counterparts or are there lasting health complications resulting from prematurity?

To explore this questions, I spoke with David Beversdorf and his son William, a four-year-old that was born at 22 weeks and one day and weighed just one pound, three ounces. William was considered extremely premature, and is one of the youngest babies to have survived their birth and their time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Premature birth is a problem throughout the nation including here in Missouri. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2014, it affected about 1 in 10 infants.

Rebecca Smith, from the KBIA Health and Wealth Desk, sat down with Trina Ragain, the State Director of Program Services for the Missouri March of Dimes to discuss the problem.


Giant Microbes

Boone County is seeing a rise in the number of reported cases of a fairly common sexually transmitted disease – Chlamydia.  According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Boone County had 1000 reported cases in 2015 alone.

And this rise in infections has some experts asking why.


Jason Pratt / flickr

Expectant parents might considering hiring a doula to assist with the childbirth process, but to many, the role doulas play in that process remains a mystery. To learn more about doulas's work, KBIA's Sara Shahriari spoke with local doula and student midwife Sabrina Bias – who became interested in the profession after hiring a doula and midwife to assist with one of her own births. 


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

One year ago, while reporting on infant mortality rates in Kennett, Missouri, I met a 27-year-old expectant mother named Marylouisa Cantu. She was pregnant with her seventh child.

Her sixth child, a daughter named Alyssa, was born two years earlier and had spent two weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit due to complications from premature birth.


McCallum Place

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, but treatment for these mental illnesses can still be hard to find.

So in an effort to reach people suffering from eating disorders, a new clinic, McCallum Place that specializes in the treatment of eating disorders has opened in Columbia.  


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

In January, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced the state would expand dental benefits to an estimated 282,000 Medicaid recipients for the Fiscal Year 2016. The expansion is being funded with money collected from a one-time tax amnesty for delinquent taxpayers.

This marks the first time dental benefits have been included in Medicaid coverage in Missouri since 2005.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Few inventions have had as dramatic an effect on policing as the Taser stun gun. The tool is billed as a "smart weapon" and often called a non-lethal alternative to guns for the thousands of law enforcement agencies that have adopted them across the country and the world. In fact, the company's website estimates more than 160,000 lives have been saved by use of the weapon.

But just how safe are the Taser weapons actually, and what is the public health cost of assuming they are non-lethal? Those are among the questions Nick Berardini asks in the documentary Killing Them Safely.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2014 alone, there were more than 1.3 million Americans living in nursing homes. One research group in Columbia is working on developing technology that will help the elderly age better, more safely and hopefully - at home.


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