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. 

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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.

To get a glimpse of where Medicaid may be headed after Donald Trump moves into the White House, it may be wise to look to Indiana.

That's where Seema Verma, Trump's pick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, comes from. And that's where she put her stamp on the state's health care program for the poor.

Stephanie Kuo/KERA

Doctor-patient interactions are typically routine, with doctors understanding little of their patients’ lives beyond the exam room. But medical schools are ushering in a culture shift in medicine – one that’s focused on more than just a patient’s symptoms.

In a study that is sure to rile male doctors, Harvard researchers have found that female doctors who care for elderly hospitalized patients get better results. Patients cared for by women were less likely to die or return to the hospital after discharge.

Previous research has shown that female doctors are more likely to follow recommendations about prevention counseling and to order preventive tests like Pap smears and mammograms.

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Most years, Texas sees only about 20 cases of mumps statewide. But the current outbreak in North Texas includes more than twice that many in Johnson County alone. Cases also have been reported in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. 

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When a patient’s heart stops, responding quickly is a matter of life or death. A new study out of UT Southwestern shows some hospitals respond faster than others — with a life-saving medication.

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Tens of millions of Americans currently use statin drugs. Doctors have based that on cholesterol levels and various lifestyle factors. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests age should also figure into the decision. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Last year, a federal judge declared the Texas foster care system broken. That’s no small-scale problem. There are more than 30,000 children in Texas foster care each year, and national studies indicate up to 80 percent of them have at least one chronic medical condition. 

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After a downturn in 2015, a rare disease affecting the nervous system is on the rise again. The CDC says 89 cases of acute flaccid myelitis has been confirmed this year in 33 states, including Texas. Five of those were in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. 

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According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis now kills more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, and cases of the disease have increased in Texas. In 2015, there were more than 1,300 cases of tuberculosis reported in the state.

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Osteoporosis doesn't only affect older women. Men can also develop the bone-thinning disease, although at a lesser rate.

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Everyone makes mistakes — even doctors in emergency rooms and anesthesiologists during surgery. Despite safety checklists and top-of-the-line technology, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 250,000 Americans die annually due to medical errors. That’s more deaths than from lung and prostate cancer combined.

How Doctors Are Using Data To Predict Child Abuse

Nov 21, 2016
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Doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth are experimenting with data technology that could help predict neighborhoods where kids are most likely to be abused.

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Many of us assume the over-the counter medicines we buy will work for anyone, but you have to read the label to know if they’re really safe for you. A toxicologist explains what you'll see.

Texas Blows Bid For Funds To Combat Opioids, Tries To Keep Records Secret

Nov 20, 2016
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Faced with a rising death toll from opioid abuse, Texas public health officials in May decided to apply for a $1 million federal grant to purchase Naloxone, a drug that, if administered during an overdose, can save the life of a person addicted to heroin or pain pills. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

In the wake of the election, President Obama’s signature health care law is back in the spotlight. Republicans, including prominent Texans, have wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law in 2010. Now, with control of the White House and Congress, Republicans have a better chance than before to dismantle it. 

The Future Of Medicare

Nov 15, 2016
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For half a century, Americans age 65 and older have relied on Medicare to pay for health care. Rising costs, though, have some wondering if the program will last.

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They're two problems that go well beyond mere “tummy trouble.” Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease sound similar – and share some similar symptoms – but one can have far greater consequences. Here's the difference between the two.

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On Monday, the full moon will be the biggest and brightest it’s been in almost 70 years.

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A recent CDC study found seven out of 10 U.S. adults, ages 65 and older, have hypertension, but nearly half do not have it under control.  A hypertension specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center says the reasons go further than just forgetting to take needed medication.

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President Obama may be leaving office, but his landmark healthcare legislation is still law of the land. Enrollment for the fourth year under the Affordable Care Act began on Tuesday. We traced Obamacare in Texas through the story of one family.

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It's often used as a major ingredient in sweets: desserts, lattes, even ale. But put all the sugar and cream aside, and pumpkin can also be a healthy food choice. 

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