Health

Today is my 22nd day back from Liberia, which, as any reporter or health worker who has been in this Ebola hot zone will tell you, is a good day. Yesterday was the last day that I had to report my temperature to the CDC. I've passed the 21-day incubation period for the virus. My temperature is 98.6 degrees. I'm in the clear.

But three weeks ago, I wasn't feeling so good.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

When Mary Ratliff moved to Columbia from Mississippi in 1959, she was leaving one of the epicenters of American segregation and the burgeoning civil rights movement. But that doesn’t mean she escaped experiences of racism and segregation in her new home.

“It was subtle here when I first came," Ratliff said. "In fact I've made the comment many times, that Columbia is 'Big Little Dixie.' It wasn’t a whole lot different from Mississippi.”


Update at 3:05 ET: The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday afternoon that the state can require Cassandra to continue treatment.

Her mother, Jackie Fortin, said she's disappointed by the decision. "She knows I love her and I'm going to keep fighting for her because this is her decision," Fortin said. "I know more than anyone, more than DCF, that my daughter is old enough, mature enough to make a decision. If she wasn't, I'd be making that decision."

Here's our original story, reported Thursday morning:

New research finds that eating an avocado per day, as part of an overall diet rich in healthy fats, may help cut the bad kind cholesterol, known as LDL.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recruited 45 overweight participants who agreed to try three different types of cholesterol-lowering diets. Their study was published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Jason Hoffman / KBIA

On the eve of the new legislative session, a group of community and faith leaders gathered in Jefferson City to demand action from lawmakers on Medicaid expansion. 

Images of Money via Flickr

The Affordable Care Act included a temporary bump in the Medicaid fees paid to physicians for certain primary care services. The intention behind the two-year, federally-funded increase was to encourage more physicians to participate in Medicaid to accommodate an expanding pool of Medicaid patients anticipated by the law.

But a 2012 Supreme Court decision opened a window for states to reject Medicaid expansion – Missouri is one of 23 states that have chosen not to expanded coverage – and as of Jan. 1, the Medicaid fee bump is expired as well.

I spoke with Dave Dillon and Andrew Wheeler of the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) about the impact the fee increase expiration will have on Missouri hospitals.


When your kid's ear is throbbing at 2 a.m., you might want to grab the car keys and head to the emergency room. But now you can pick up your iPhone instead.

A startup called CellScope has built a little ear probe that you clip on top of your iPhone camera. The footage streams into an app where you can view the inside the ear.

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

The Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies (MoALPHA) was founded in 1994 to support the  city and county public health agencies in the state. I spoke with the incoming chair of the association, Gary Zaborac, about the public health challenges facing Missouri in 2015.


j. stephenconn / Flickr

Cancer medicine that previously could cost thousands of dollars soon will cost Missourians at most $75 a month. 

healthcare.gov

More than 100,000 Missouri residents have signed up for health insurance through a federally run website during the first month of enrollment. 

Missouri lawmakers pre-filed more than 500 bills over the past month that they plan to take up during the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 7. Here’s a selection of bills related to health care that St. Louis Public Radio’s Health Desk will be keeping an eye on in 2015:   

HB 282: Consumer Rate Review on Health Insurance Plans

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forwardstl / flickr

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is planning to install air monitors near two power plants that officials say are the largest sources of sulfur dioxide emissions in the state. 

The state agency that provides Medicaid coverage to more than 840,000 Missourians does not have proper oversight over contractors in charge of certain aspects of payment processing, according to an audit released Monday of MO HealthNet.  

The report by the office of Tom Schweich, the Missouri state auditor, identified four areas of concern:

Intel Free Press / flickr

As the use of telemedicine expands it is also growing the footprints of medical professionals, and when doctors licensed in one state begin consulting in another, it presents a problem for state medical boards. KBIA’s Hope Kirwan spoke with Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, about how states are regulating telemedicine.


On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

Katie Hiler / KBIA

This week the EPA will make a final decision on a proposed new rule for the disposal of coal combustion residuals, called CCRs, or coal ash.


Some researchers who study the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome got an early Christmas present: permission to resume experiments that the federal government abruptly halted in October.

Katie Hiler / KBIA

If you’ve ever lived in - or even visited - a small town, you know they can be pretty quaint. And Milan, Mo, population 1,881, is no exception.

Milan’s local hospital, Sullivan Country Memorial, has been around since 1953. Joe McCarty, a local resident and now patient in Sullivan’s long-term care unit, has lived in Milan almost his entire life – he’s turning 100 this year. Joe made his living as a cartoonist and up until just a few months ago he worked for the local newspaper.

Intel Free Press / Flickr

  Dr. Karen Edison is a dermatologist with the University of Missouri Health system. She has been using telemedicine for over 20 years to see patients at clinics in underserved areas of the state, and to follow-up with her rural patients in their homes. She can see photos of her patient’s skin, answer their questions through email, as well as talk with them through video calling.

Edison says telemedicine is a useful tool because it can save rural patients a trip to her office.

But rural patients aren’t only the ones looking to save time and money.

PMC1stPix / flickr

A proposed Missouri bill would give legal amnesty to those seeking emergency medical help for drug overdoses.

Missouri Foundation for Health

  Open enrollment for health coverage in 2015 is underway, and some Missourians satisfied with their current health insurance may be surprised to learn that parts of their plans, including premiums, are changed for the coming year. The Cover Missouri Coalition, a program of the Missouri Foundation for Health, is encouraging consumers to review their options during this year’s open enrollment period.

I spoke with Ryan Barker, Missouri Foundation for Health’s Vice President of Health Policy, about changes in this year’s health insurance marketplace.


   

Remember when Cheerios and Grape-Nuts went GMO-free? That was about a year ago, when their corporate creators announced that these products would no longer contain ingredients made from genetically modified organisms like common types of corn, soybeans or sugar beets.

healthcare.gov

  Last week marked the beginning of open enrollment for the federal health insurance marketplace, and on the surface it appears not much has changed. By some measures premiums before tax credits are just as affordable as last year - decreasing on average by about one percent according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But to be a savvy shopper, many consumers should give the marketplace a second look.

Many girls are beginning puberty at an early age, developing breasts sooner than girls of previous generations. But the physical changes don't mean the modern girls' emotional and intellectual development is keeping pace.

Two doctors have written a book called The New Puberty that looks at the percentage of girls who are going through early puberty, the environmental, biological and socioeconomic factors that influence when puberty begins, and whether early puberty is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Philippe Put / Flickr

  Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is cutting back on a $32 million-a-year special program for the blind.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the program offers monthly pension-like payments. The Department of Social Services has told all 3,847 people receiving the pension checks to expect a $33-a-month cut in January. The cut will save the state an estimated $730,000.

The Ebola outbreak started in rural areas, but by June it had reached Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

By August, the number of people contracting the Ebola virus in the country was doubling every week. The Liberian government and aid workers begged for help.

Enter the U.S. military, who along with other U.S. agencies had a clear plan in mid-September to build more Ebola treatment units, or ETUs. At least one would be built in the major town of each of Liberia's 15 counties. That way, sick patients in those counties wouldn't bring more Ebola to the capital.


Obesity is the number one public health issue in Missouri – it affects more than 30% of adults and nearly one in seven children between the ages of ten and seventeen.

by LarimdaME /Flickr Creative Commons

As Thanksgiving approaches, organizers of Almeta Crayton’s annual Thanksgiving Day meal are seeking donations.

Kentrell Minton said the demand for turkeys this year is greater than it’s ever been in the organization’s 17 years in Columbia.

“I think the economy definitely took a toll on the community,” Minton said.

Every year, the organization delivers Thanksgiving baskets to the elderly and disabled as well as hosts a free dinner on Thanksgiving Day for the community.

  

The Healthcare Equality Index is a national benchmarking tool that ranks hospitals based on whether their policies and practices include equal treatment for the LGBT community. Missouri’s standing in this index jumped from 37th  in the nation to 6th in just one year.

I spoke with Andrew Shaughnessy, Public Policy Manager of the Missouri LGBT advocacy organization PROMO, about why this ranking is so important and what it means for Missouri. 

    

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vitualis / Flickr

Missouri health advocates are trying to encourage more minorities and rural residents to sign up for insurance through a federally run website.

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