Health/Science/Tech | KERA News

Health/Science/Tech

Every week, KERA explores the latest in health, science and technology in North Texas through two main series, Vital Signs and Breakthroughs.

University of North Texas Ph.D candidate Ethan McBride prepares the precursor to the illegal drug PCP in a trailer.
Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Vital Signs

In Vital Signs, Sam Baker taps into the expertise of local health care leaders to provide insight into your everyday health and well-being.

Breakthroughs

In Breakthroughs, KERA reporters delve into the latest health-related technologies developed in North Texas and across the state. From the Zika virus to fried chicken, no scientific topic is off limits. 

Learn more in-depth multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau present the most detailed picture yet of the dramatic rise in the number of people covered by health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

County-level data going back to 2010, when the law was signed, show a patchwork of people living without health insurance that ticked down slowly for the first three years under the ACA. But once the online insurance exchanges opened at the end of 2013 and Medicaid expanded, the population living without coverage dropped noticeably.

Courtesy of Baylor, Scott & White Health

For a parent, battling cancer is tough enough. Having to explain it to your kids can be a whole other challenge. That's why Baylor Scott & White Health has created a program that helps terminally ill parents talk to their young children about disease, treatment and death. A Dallas mother turned to Baylor specialists for help telling her son she had breast cancer.

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The term "cardiomyopathy" refers to diseases of the heart muscle that make it difficult over time for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. As many as one in 500 people may have the condition. One form of it – dilated cardiomyopathy — contributed to the death of singer George Michael.

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Fish oil is among the most widely used supplements in the U.S. An estimated 20 percent of Americans consume them, but some nutritionists recommend sticking with the real thing – an oily fish like salmon or tuna. 

Jeff Fitlow / Rice University

Tens of millions of Americans use inhalers each day. Many of them aren’t doing it right. That’s what new research from Baylor College of Medicine shows. Pulmonologists identified critical errors that are causing many inhaler users to get only about half as much medicine as they should from each puff.

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Tonsils serve as sort of a filter in your body. Chances are many of you have had them removed, but two recent studies differ on when and if that’s necessary. 

Courtesy of Hydronalix

Robots aren’t just in our living rooms vacuuming rugs or in warehouses moving boxes. They’re everywhere: connecting pipes on offshore oil rigs, harvesting marijuana in Colorado and replacing batteries outside the International Space Station. They're even helping rescue refugees who are trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Miami are conducting a clinical trial of over-the counter meds – in this case, for people with bipolar disorder who have a drinking problem. 

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Over the past month, Baylor Scott & White Health has been distributing free diabetic shoes to its uninsured, low-income patients to combat and prevent what doctors see as a diabetes crisis in North Texas. The shoe distribution is just one part of a Baylor program that takes its own medical surplus and gives them to the needy at home and abroad.

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An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, which is very treatable, according to the American Thyroid Association. But more than half the people with thyroid disease don’t know they have it.

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It's 2017, but medical records are still mostly stuck in the dark ages. Most hospitals use electronic health records, but if you want your primary care doctor to share information with your allergist or surgeon, it’s a pain.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

A cotton nightgown for your child seems like a pretty simple thing to track down. But it wasn't for John Rodakis, a dad living in Dallas. He’d heard about dangerous chemicals once common in kids pajamas, and out of precaution, he wanted a nightgown that was made from all natural materials. He’s not the only one. There’s a whole underground market for them. 

Flickr Creative Commons / Pan American Health Organization

Effective screening and prevention have limited deaths from cervical cancer to about 4,000 each year. But a recent study of a dozen states over 10 years found experts may have underestimated the risk of dying from the disease.

Courtesy of Parkland Foundation

Any hospital stay can be traumatic. But 30 to 80 percent of patients in intensive care units go through a period of profound confusion known as ICU delirium that can have long-term negative health effects. 

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We all need protein — it's an essential nutrient for the body. But consuming too much protein, in regular food or supplements, may have consequences.

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Many have had it: that feeling of dread at the thought of returning to work on Monday. A behavioral science counselor says there’s more to the "Monday workplace blues" than you might think.

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Most adults support routine childhood vaccinations for children. That’s the conclusion of a new, nationwide Pew Research Center survey. Still, in Texas, there’s a growing group of parents who oppose mandatory childhood vaccinations. 

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At one point, a heart surgical procedure required opening your chest. Technology’s now made it possible in some cases to avoid open heart surgery in favor of minimally invasive procedures that are actually better for some patients. 

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A lot of us think rushing from task to task and packing our schedules is a necessary evil. It turns out being busy might be good for your brain. That’s the conclusion of a new study led by North Texas researchers in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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Most of us experience stress at some point in our lives, personally or professionally. Here's a look at what actually causes that reaction in the body and some steps to relieve stress.

David Ham

Spending time in space changes people: not just their outlook on life, but also their eyesight in general. For years, a North Texas doctor has been trying to find out what is causing this vision change among astronauts. His latest research provides some clues — and connects astronauts on the International Space Station, cancer patients on a roller coaster plane flight and high-tech sleeping sacks.

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One of the most common and potentially life-threatening food allergies, peanut allergy tends to develop in childhood and is usually lifelong. But new recommendations offer the chance to reduce the risk of children developing peanut allergy. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA

Traditionally, ambulance crews arrive with sirens blaring — ready to rush someone to the hospital. In Fort Worth, some paramedics are doing the opposite and scheduling visits to treat patients in their homes. It's known as "mobile integrated health care," and a ride along shows it's gaining traction.

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You may remember chlorophyll from biology class as helping plants convert sunlight to energy.  It’s now a popular food supplement and additive, but you need to exercise some caution.

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Texas allows parents to have their kids opt out of vaccinations for measles, mumps and other diseases. Two years ago, California stopped allowing those exemptions; a similar Texas effort fell short. This session in Austin, the sponsor of that bill isn't trying to end the "conscientious" exemption. His allies are using a different strategy.

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This week, President-elect Trump called for a quick repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The majority of Texans get healthcare through their employers, but over the past few years the number of people in Texas who’ve signed up through the Affordable Care Act has grown. Changes in the White House and Congress will affect both groups of Texans.

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The New York Times recently reported on an ongoing health problem: People once vigilant about vaccinating their children aren’t nearly as careful about protecting themselves as they age – even though some diseases are particularly dangerous for older people. 

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In the past few months there have been several outbreaks of mumps — a handful of cases linked to a Halloween party in Dallas and more to cheerleading contests in North Texas. As for measles, there have been fewer cases in Texas. But in 2013, there was an outbreak tied to a church northwest of Dallas. 

With that in mind, some experts predict Texas could soon be at the center of a nationwide debate over highly contagious diseases and vaccinations.

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Eating healthier and smarter is good for us overall. But there’s evidence it helps those with an age-related eye disease. 

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In Texas, the number of adults with diabetes is expected to quadruple over the next 30 years. Currently, about one in 12 adult Texans – about 2 million people – have been diagnosed with diabetes, with more than 700,000 in North Texas alone.

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