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. Reporter Katie Hiler 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.

Pumkpins, melons and corn

May 30, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Columbia has lots of community gardens, and several school gardens. But school-community gardens? On Tuesday at Ridgewood Elementary, the school and community worked together to start planting the city's first community garden at a public school.

'Cocaine? No thanks!'

May 23, 2012
Boone County Courthouse
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Back in the late 1980s, while the nation was in the grips of the war on drugs, some courts started experimenting with alternative sentencing programs they hoped would be cheaper and more effective than incarceration.  This week, the most recent batch of offenders graduated from the Boone County drug court, which is seen as a national role-model.

7000 miles bicycling and banjo-ing against war

May 16, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Afghan war veteran Jacob George is a self-proclaimed hillbilly farmer from the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. After three tours as a combat engineer, he now spends his days bicycling around the country protesting U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. He recently passed through Missouri on his way to protest the NATO summit taking place in Chicago next week.

Stories from prison: roar!

May 15, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In Missouri state prisons, about 60 percent of inmates have kids. That's 18,000 moms and dads behind bars – and tens of thousands of kids on the other side. To help those parents and kids connect, volunteers make their way through the metal detectors at Missouri state prisons with big tubs of blank tapes and CDs, stamped envelopes, and lots of children's books. 

Long distance running, one state at a time

May 9, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Planning a road-trip this summer? In this week's Health & Wealth update, the best way to see the country might be to run across it.

If you tax them, they will quit

May 2, 2012
tobaccofreekids.org

You have probably heard the statistic: Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation – just 17 cents a pack, compared to the national average of $1.46. In this week's Health & Wealth update, public health advocates want to raise Missouri's tobacco tax to deter people from smoking, and to help offset the costs that tobacco incurs.

Three interviews on health disparities

Apr 30, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

At the health equity conference in Columbia last week, between the steady stream of PowerPoints and pie charts, I had the chance to talk with some smart folks who spend their time thinking about health disparities and how to end them:

Health equity: zip code, not genetic code

Apr 27, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Health experts gathered in Columbia today to discuss ways to address disparities in health and access to health care.

Contraception debate moves to the Missouri House

Apr 25, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Debate continues in the Missouri legislature over the Obama administration's "contraception mandate," which will require health insurance to include coverage for birth control. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a House committee hears testimony on a largely symbolic bill, opposing the mandate.

Rising autism rate means more parents getting help

Apr 4, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 88 children in the United States has autism, almost double the rate ten years ago. In this week's Health & Wealth update, while more children are being diagnosed with the disorder, more parents are getting the help they need to treat it.

Payday loans: credit option or debt trap?

Apr 3, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Missouri is fertile ground for payday lenders. With some of the loosest regulations in the nation, we are among the states with the most payday lending stores per capita. In this Health & Wealth report, the payday lending industry in Missouri fights for its life, as activists aim for the November ballot to try to rein in these lenders they say trap the working poor in a cycle of debt.

Missouri awaits Supreme Court ruling on health reform

Mar 28, 2012
David Sachs / SEIU

Health care reform is in the cross-hairs at the U.S. Supreme Court this week. In this Health & Wealth update, as the nine justices hear oral arguments on Obama's 2010 health reform, implementation of some aspects of the law are on hold in Missouri.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Sixty-two percent of working-age women have jobs, but they still earn just 74 cents on the dollar, compared to men. But that disparity varies by region; in some rural counties, women earn fully half what men do. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a new report on how women in Missouri are faring in health, work, education, and civic engagement. With a state legislature that's three-quarters men, will lawmakers do anything about the disparities?

Politicians tussle over health care for the blind

Mar 14, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Governor Jay Nixon told reporters yesterday that lawmakers in Jefferson City are trying to balance the state budget on the backs of some of the state's neediest: poor blind people. But members of the House budget committee said cuts to health care for blind Missourians are necessary to pay for higher education, which the governor wants to trim. 

Why 10,000 steps might save your life

Mar 7, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Everyone knows exercise helps you lose weight, build up muscles, and fit in the swimsuit next summer. But why, exactly, does it lower your risk of diabetes? In this Health & Wealth update, MU researchers look into the relationship between inactivity and spikes in blood sugar that can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Bill would require coverage of eating disorders

Feb 29, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In 1995, Rick Stream's 18-year-old daughter died in bed. For several years she'd been struggling with bulimia and that night her heart finally heart stopped beating, weakened from low potassium levels. Now, Stream is a state representative, and he's sponsoring a bill in the Missouri House that would require health insurance companies to cover treatment for eating disorders -- treatment he says could have saved his daughter's life if his insurance had paid for it.

New program eases debt for rural medical students

Feb 22, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

The average medical school student graduates with close to $160,000 in debt. That heavy burden is one reason why there is a long-running shortage of primary care doctors in rural America. More and more graduating students choose higher-paying specialties over rural primary care. In this weekly update, a new pilot program helps medical students pay off loans as soon as they start residency, so it's easier to choose a lower-paying, but possibly more fulfilling career path.

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Today the U.S. House of Representatives is debating a Republican-backed transportation bill, which would authorize $260 billion for the next five years. More money would go to highways, but at the expense of stable funding for public transportation, and the elimination of pedestrian and cycling programs. In this Health & Wealth update, among the proposed cuts is a pilot project in Columbia that's responsible for many of the new bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks around town.

'Obamacare' opposition helps Santorum in primary

Feb 8, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Rick Santorum trounced Mitt Romney yesterday in Missouri's "beauty contest" presidential primary. The state's delegates won't be chosen until caucuses on March 17, but the vote added to Santorum's momentum as he also swept Minnesota and Colorado. In this week's Health & Wealth update, how conservative opposition to Obama's Affordable Care Act may have helped Santorum in the Show-Me State.

Andy Dandino / USDA

Following up on President Obama's State of the Union address last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is touring the country, touting his boss's job-creation efforts in rural America -- Missouri was his latest stop. In this week's Health & Wealth update, a conversation with Secretary Vilsack: we talk rural jobs, USDA office closures, and the fate of the farmer's safety net in the face of natural disasters and shrinking budgets. 

Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Ever since Mormon prophet and founder Joseph Smith revealed the Book of Mormon in 1830, his followers have struggled for acceptance. If you want to understand the "why" behind this rocky relationship, the rolling farmland of northwest Missouri might be the best place to start -- the birthplace of the human race, according to Joseph Smith, and the place where Christ will first step down in the second coming. 

Who's at fault when an emu attacks?

Jan 25, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Agriculture and tourism are two of Missouri's biggest industries. But when the two activities meet -- think wine tastings or hay rides -- legal complexities ensue. On this week's Health & Wealth update, farmers in Missouri want the legislature to pass a law clarifying who is liable if someone gets hurt in the corn maze.

foodpolitics.com

In this extended interview with food and nutrition writer Marion Nestle, we discuss Michelle Obama's anti-childhood obesity campaign, what food companies are doing to fight it, and how to get kids to eat their broccoli.

The exercise commonly known as 'jumping jacks'

Jan 18, 2012
kids jumping
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

In all the political coverage lately, you may have missed Missouri House Bill 1063: it would make "the exercise commonly known and referred to as 'jumping jacks'" the official exercise of the state of Missouri. In this week's Health & Wealth update, could getting more kids jumping help reduce childhood obesity?

Another roadblock for Missouri health exchange

Jan 11, 2012
missouri capitol
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Last session, Republicans in the Missouri Senate blocked the creation of a state-run health insurance exchange. The online insurance marketplace is required under Obama's health reform law, but has become a political football in states like Missouri, with a Republican-controlled legislature. In this week's Health & Wealth update, Republican senators move to put one more roadblock on the path to a state exchange.

Smoking in the LGBT community

Jan 4, 2012
Willem van de Poll / flikr

Missouri has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation -- at 21 percent, it's double the rate in states like Utah and California. But some segments of the population smoke even more. In this week's Health & Wealth update, I talk with MU researchers who have found that the smoking rate among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Missourians is much higher than in the population at large.

Missouri's health slips to 40th in the nation

Dec 28, 2011
americashealthrankings.org

Each year, the United Health Foundation ranks states' health. And almost every year, Missouri drops in the rankings. This year, the Show Me State fell from the 39th spot, to 40th. In this week's Health & Wealth update, why we're getting less healthy and what we can do about it. I speak with Thomas McAuliffe, policy analyst with the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Dollars, doctors, and drug companies

Dec 21, 2011
propublica.org

In this week's Health & Wealth update, a story about both health and wealth: drug companies have paid doctors in Missouri close to $19 million over the past few years, according to data compiled by the investigative nonprofit, ProPublica. KBIA's Jessica Pupovac has been looking into the financial relationships between Missouri doctors and drug companies, and I sat down to talk with her about what she's found out.

Telemedicine: Adventures in time and space

Dec 14, 2011
nih.gov

In April 1924, Radio News Magazine ran a splashy futuristic cover story: "The Radio Doctor – Maybe!" Kids sit around a new-fangled doohickey and say "ahhh" for a distant doctor on  a video screen. In this weekly Health & Wealth update, the future is now! Telemedicine is expanding to rural hospitals across the country.

Lydia Mulvany / KBIA

Health is generally poorer in rural Missouri compared to urban areas, yet there is a distinct shortage of primary care physicians in rural Missouri. KBIA’s Jacob Fenston has reported that the shortage is only expected to worsen over the next ten years as the elderly population expands.

This graphic shows some of these inequalities--click through for more detail.  Created by Lydia Mulvany.

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