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.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

On the heels of a decision made last Thursday that could leave Columbia - once again - without a doctor able to perform abortions, about 1000 people gathered on the University of Missouri campus Tuesday to voice their support of Planned Parenthood.

Speakers at the event ranged from a religious leader, to politicians, to MU graduate students and Planned Parenthood leadership. This event was a part of a national “Pink Out Day” and similar events were being held around the country.

Michaela Tucker / KBIA

The medical abortion services at the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic have been available since August – for the first time since 2012 – but following an announcement made by the University of Missouri Health Care system on Thursday, this may not be the case for much longer.

MU Health Care announced they would be eliminating the “refer and follow” privileges that had been granted to the doctor at Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic and one other provider. This decision will be effective December 1, 2015.

Justin Connaher / Flickr

Weightlifting is a common activity used to meet many different exercise goals, from young guys looking to get “swoll” to older men working to maintain muscle.

And new research from the University of Missouri shows that stronger bones is another reason for men to hit the gym and pump some iron.

A few years ago, Dr. Pam Hinton conducted a study on the overall health of men who participate in different types of exercise.

Association of American Universities

Nearly 31 percent of University of Missouri female undergraduate students reported being victims of nonconsensual sexual contact involving physical force or incapacitation. This ranges from unwanted kissing to assault.

This was one of the many findings that were released Monday by the Association of American Universities and the University of Missouri. The results were from the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct the AAU conducted last April.

United States Census Bureau

The number of uninsured residents in Missouri and throughout the U.S. is down, according to the 2014 American Community Survey. The United States Census Bureau released the survey Wednesday as the first compilation of data since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.

The survey showed 8.8 million fewer Americans were uninsured under the first year of the Affordable Care Act. Dr. Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis, said it's the first national report on the ACA.

2014-2015 Annual Report / MU Title IX Offfice

During the last 18 months, the University of Missouri has made changes in an effort to protect students from sex-based discrimination. This included opening a Title IX office and hiring staff, requiring all staff and faculty to act as mandatory reporters, as well as the entire University of Missouri system revising its policies in regards to sex-based discrimination.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

During this summer’s White House Conference on Aging, the U-S Department of Agriculture announced the start of a new pilot program to increase low-income seniors’ access to healthy food. The USDA hopes to allow seniors to use food stamp benefits on grocery delivery programs, a service that could help low-income seniors remain at home rather than moving to an assisted-living facility.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said lack of transportation to grocery stores is one of the biggest reasons almost 3 million seniors struggle to access healthy foods. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can help low-income seniors afford groceries, but less than half of eligible seniors use the program.

Two local agencies will be receiving more than $400,000 to continue programs that work to prevent homelessness in the veteran populations of Mid-Missouri. Phoenix Health Programs is one of the programs and has been awarded more than $200,000, while Welcome Home, Inc. has been awarded more than $190,000.  

L.E.A.D. Institute Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Logan sits at her desk, the same one she's had her whole career at L.E.A.D.
Michaela Tucker / KBIA

The deaf community has its own language, culture and set of obstacles, and most hearing people will never interact with it. But Dr. Stephanie Logan was thrust into the deaf community when she lost her hearing at the age of 23.

Logan was studying psychology at the University of Georgia when she contracted spinal meningitis. In less than a week, her hearing was completely gone.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

As mobile health technologies like Fitbits and Apple Health become more common, better health seems inevitable. But much of the data that users can now track never actually reaches their doctors.

That’s one of the problems University of Missouri psychiatrist Dr. Ganesh Gopalakrishna faced while treating his patients with various mental illnesses. While some of his patients were logging their activity, both mental and physical, he couldn’t get a good record of it.

When 85-year-old retired farmworker and grandmother Amparo Mejia needed surgery on her spine because of a rare form of tuberculosis, she was able to pay for the procedure through emergency Medicaid. She was lucky. For many low-income immigrants – even those authorized to work in the US – it can be challenging or outright impossible to get health insurance. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Heroin continues to be a serious problem throughout the county. The Centers for Disease Control released data earlier this month that showed heroin use increasing among nearly every group – age, income, gender, etc. And according to the CDC’s report, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths heave nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.

The White House announced earlier this month that it was determined to do something about this problem. It introduced the Heroin Response Strategy, which works to promote public health and public safety partnerships through a 15-state area. This new project aims to focus more on treating heroin addicts than on punishing them.

Tyler Adkisson / KBIA

More than a 1000 graduate students and their allies – faculty, staff, undergraduate students and families – gathered at noon Wednesday in support of graduate students and their demands.

Some graduate students also took part in an all-day walk-out to illuminate the role they play in the education of undergraduate students and in research.

The rally and walk-out were planned as a response to the health insurance subsidy issue that has been taking place over the last two weeks. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Following outcry from both students and faculty, University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Friday that the University will "defer implementation" of its decision last week that would have stopped graduate student health insurance subsidies.

The University will pay previously promised health insurance subsidies to eligible graduate students.

MU says this reversal of the decision comes after “conversations with external experts and leadership, along with consultation with peer institutions, compliance experts and internal constituents.” 

But, as the phrase "defer implementation" implies, the complicated issues behind MU's original decision have not changed. MU has just adjusted its current plan.

cindyt7070 Flickr

University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Friday that the University will “defer implementation” of its decision last week that would have stopped graduate student health insurance subsidies.

The University will continue to pay health insurance subsidies to eligible graduate students.

When asked what had changed between last Friday and this Friday, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said simply “time.”

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Updated 8/21/15 at 12:40 p.m.

The University has reinstated previously promised health insurance subsidies for graduate students. 


Original Post:

University of Missouri- Columbia graduate students are considering walking out of classes next week, after finding out the university would stop providing health insurance subsidies. And some departments across campus are standing with those students.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

At the beginning of the summer, the US Department of Agriculture announced its goal to serve 200 million meals to low-income children through the summer meals program, which is 13 million more than it served last year. The USDA is also highlighting several new ways of reaching kids in rural areas of the country.

As the summer comes to a close, I spoke with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the program’s growth and the USDA’s success in serving rural communities.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

On Friday, many University of Missouri graduate students found out via email they would no longer receive help from the university to pay for their health insurance. The response on social media was strong and on Monday graduate students from across campus gathered to discuss their concerns and plan for their next step. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

More than 1,700 people waited in line for hours to get free dental care at a clinic in Columbia, Mo. this month. The turnout for this clinic, called the Missouri Mission of Mercy, reveals a hidden crisis: the expense of dental care and lack of access are major obstacles for many throughout the state and the country.

Throughout the event, held July 31st - August 1st, a team of reporters from the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk spoke to the patients receiving treatment at the event, and the volunteers who made it all possible.

Heroin use and overdose rates are rising across many demographics, including race, age, gender and income.  One former addict, Jude Hassan, works at a St. Louis-area treatment center and is working to raise awareness of drug abuse and addiction.

Jude Hassan was once a typical high school student– active in school extracurriculars and just wanting to fit in. But before he completed his time at St. Louis-area Lafayette High School, he was using heroin eight to 10 times a day.

Now, after more than eight years of sobriety, he's sharing his personal experiences of heroin addiction with high school students and working to educate parents and teachers about how to spot opioid use. 

Rosemary / Flickr

  Nine cases of mumps have now been confirmed in Columbia.

Andrea Waner with the Columbia/ Boone County Department of Public Health said the department is waiting on test results for three other suspected cases.

MU Health Care / University of Missouri Health System

A program at the University of Missouri is training social workers to bring behavioral healthcare into primary care clinics. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program is run through the MU School of Social Work and completed its first year in July.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

One Saturday afternoon at a backyard cookout, St. Louis architect Dan Rosenberg enjoyed a cheeseburger – a food he’d enjoyed many times before.

That night, a couple hours after he went to sleep, he woke up with a searing pain in his stomach.

“Let’s be clear here,” Rosenberg says, “this was like a nine on the ten-scale.”

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said June 26 was a busy morning for her.

That’s when the US Supreme Court announced their decision requiring all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Dietzel said she got a call almost immediately from one couple who’d had their application on file for almost a year.

Jack Howard / KBIA

The Veterans Health Administration has reported it found PTSD in almost one in three soldiers since 2001. Examining the disorder in veterans and how it is treated was the subject of 'Of Men and War,' a film shown at this year's True/False Film Festival. 

Lt. David Wells, a Columbia native, is one of the soldiers profiled in the film. He spoke with KBIA's Jack Howard about how an innovate treatment center in California helped him and how others with PTSD can find help. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Mark Stringer, the new Director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health began his job last week. This follows eight years as the Director for the Division of Behavioral Health and more than 28 years of experience in the mental health field.  KBIA’s Rebecca Smith sat down with Stringer to discuss his goals for the department and the challenges he expects to face. 

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When Darvin Bentlage needed colon surgery in 2007, he had an expensive stay at the hospital.

“The room alone for a week was $25,000,” Bentlage says. Add in the cost of the procedure and, “it added up to about $60,000 or $70,000.”

Hope Kirwan / KBIA

TaNisha Webb points out a leak in the furnace room of an apartment in Kansas City, Mo. She explains the damp conditions are not ideal, especially right next to the system that circulates air throughout the home.

"It's going to pull in any other issues, airborne mold spores, bacteria growth potentially through the furnace and kind of distribute it in other places," Webb said.

Hope Kirwan / KBIA

Several months remain until the next open enrollment period for health insurance, but any insurance company looking to raise the cost of their plans next year had to submit their proposed increase by June 1.

In Missouri, seven insurance companies submitted rate increases for 11 different plans, with proposed raises ranging between 11 and 28 percent. Almost every company who submitted a rate increase cited the rising cost of healthcare as a reason for the change.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When cattle farmer Greg Fleshman joined the board of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in rural northern Missouri in 2011, the hospital was on the brink of closing.

“Things we just falling apart financially and the morale of the employees. And it just seemed to get worse and worse,” he recalls. “Those were the darkest days.”