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.

Charts at UNT Health Science Center's Human Movement Performance Lab.
Credit Stephanie Kuo / 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. 

Courtesy of Cindy Johnson

One of the toughest things about dealing with depression can be finding the right medication. It can take months, even years. As part of KERA’s Breakthroughs project, here’s a look at one woman’s struggle and the North Texas doctor who hopes to make the medication matching process less like trial and error.

Shutterstock

Before Angelina Jolie told the world about her decision to have a double mastectomy, you might not have heard of BRCA1 or BRCA2. These are two genes where mutations are known to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Jolie’s health risk was raised because of a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.  

Scientists say we need to look beyond BRCA – to other genes that also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. KERA’s Lauren Silverman talks with Linda Robinson, assistant director of the Cancer Genetics Program at UT Southwestern about the future of genetic testing for breast cancer. 

Shutterstock.com

Phony falls in basketball just got serious. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has teamed up with biomechanics experts at Southern Methodist University to study "flopping" -- when a player deliberately falls to deceive referees into thinking there's been a foul. 

Maybe we shouldn't be mimicking our caveman ancestors. The Scientific American published a piece raising questions about the evidence behind the "Paleo" diet. The diet, which is popular among the CrossFit crowd, consists of mostly meat, nuts, fruits and vegetables -- no dairy or processed grains.

BJ Austin / KERA News

A technology with roots in World War II is now enabling amputees to program their prosthetic hands.  It’s RFID, radio frequency identification. 

We already know that black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than their white peers, but a new study could explain why. Research shows one in five black women with breast cancer have a genetic mutation tied to the disease.

Lauren Silverman

There is a serious doctor shortage in Texas. Nationwide, the state ranks near the bottom when it comes to doctor-patient ratios, and that’s only expected to get worse as more people gain access to insurance with the Affordable Care Act. For decades, nurse practitioners have argued they can help fill the gaps in primary care – if only there were fewer restrictions. Now, legislation giving nurses more autonomy has been signed into law.

Suzanne Tucker / shutterstock.com

Seven percent of school-age kids have attention deficient/hyperactivity disorder. And last week, the American Psychiatric Association's Manual of Mental Disorders broadened the criteria for ADHD. The changes will better describe the course of symptoms over a lifetime. In this week’s Vital Signs, KERA’s Sam Baker talks with Dr. James Norcross, a psychiatrist with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

dallasisd.org

Dallas County Health officials are investigating a suspected case of tuberculosis at Thomas Edison Middle Learning Center.  County Health director Zach Thompson says a hospital notified officials of the suspected case in a student.

Sanofil Pasteur / flickr.com

State health officials are warning consumers not to eat Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen mixed berries. They may be contaminated with hepatitis A.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Souce: Dartmouth Atlas Project at The Dartmouth Institute For Health Policy And Clinical Practices.

When you’re leaving the hospital, the last thing you want to think about is being readmitted in a couple weeks. The odds of that happening are surprisingly high. Starting in October, as part of the Affordable Care Act, more than 2,000 hospitals will be penalized for high readmission rates. Two hospitals in North Texas are trying to tackle the problem of high readmissions, with technology.

Scott Camazine/Phototake, Alan Boyde/Visuals Unlimited, WebMD.com

It’s estimated about one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis – or low bone density. But it’s not just an older woman’s disease. About one in four men over 50 will meet the same fate. And the disease isn’t limited to older people. KERA’s Sam Baker talked with Dr. Joseph Borrelli of Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital about how osteoporosis works in this edition of Vital Signs.

For years, Texas ranked last in the nation for spending on mental health care. According to a consortium of sheriffs from across the state, the lack of spending led to an unprecedented number of people with mental illness ill in jails, instead of treatment facilities. Now, lawmakers have allocated $259 million to mental health care.

theseoduke / Flickr.com

Recent reports of a so-called "sex superbug" - a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea - reaching the U.S. turned out to be false. The H041 strain hasn’t been detected since a case in Japan several years ago. But even though gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, the health community remains concerned about the threat of drug-resistant strains of the sexually transmitted disease. Dr. Cedric Spak, with North Texas Infectious Diseases Consultants and Baylor Medical Center Dallas, explains why in this week’s edition of Vital Signs.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

North Texas women are grateful Angelina Jolie shone a light on genetic cancer risk and now they hope local ladies will tap into that knowledge.

The Dallas area chapter of the group FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered) meets tonight a 6 p.m. at Medical City in Suite A100. The meeting is completely open, so anyone with questions is encouraged to attend.

Shutterstock

Researchers have known that having diabetes raises a person's risk of dying, but now there is a simple tool to calculate which diabetic patients are at the greatest risk.

Vital Art and Science Incorporated

You can use your iPhone to play games, find restaurants, even friends. Now, some people in North Texas are using their iPhones to prevent blindness.

mfrissen / Flickr

North Texas hospitals are already doing the kind of genetic testing Angelina Jolie is bringing to light in a very personal New York Times editorial.

Jolie revealed that she got a double mastectomy earlier this year as a preventative measure. She has a mutation in her BRCA1 gene that makes her breast cancer risk over 80 percent and her chance of ovarian cancer about 50/50.

Shutterstock

May 12th through May 18th is National Women’s Health Week. And it’s a good time to clarify how the Affordable Care Act impacts women.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The number of wounded amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan prompted the Pentagon to do the first sweeping overhaul of prosthetics since the 1940’s. And, it’s not only wounded veterans who are benefiting. A  “Battlefield Breakthrough” is making it possible for one  young North Texan to conquer dental school with a state-of-the-art prosthetic arm.

Shutterstock

Who says you can’t have fun and a get a mammogram? This week is National Women’s Health Week, and you can celebrate here in North Texas a few ways:

12_Tribes / shutterstock.com

When medication fails to bring relief to people with chronic sinusitis, the alternative to open the flow of mucus is usually surgery. The traditional type calls for removing bone and tissue to clear sinuses. But there’s also the option of balloon sinuplasty. It’s similar to angioplasty used to open arteries. Dr. Kenny Iloabachie talked about the procedure with KERA’s Sam Baker in this edition of Vital Signs.

According to Dallas Police, a man called this morning saying he wanted to harm himself. As a precaution, the campus of Southern Methodist University and Stonewall Jackson Elementary briefly went on lockdown. Officers took the man into custody and no one was harmed. Here's a reminder of mental health resources both on, and off campus.

As states gear up for the Affordable Care Act, they're trying to figure out if there will be enough providers of health care to meet demand from the newly insured.

California is one of 15 states expected to consider legislation this year that would give advanced practice nurses more authority to care for patients without a doctor's supervision.

Tina Clark is a nurse practitioner at Glide Health Services, a clinic in San Francisco's Tenderloin district, a low-income section of the city.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released data for the first time comparing average hospital charges for the 100 most common Medicare claims. A Washington Post analysis of the 10 most common medical procedures showed hospitals in Texas routinely had higher prices than the rest of the country.

House Committee on Education / flickr.com

The Texas House has passed a measure that would create a pilot program offering concussion insurance for parents of public high school students in football and girl’s soccer.

Democrat Eddie Lucio of Brownsville says the Texas Education Agency and the UIL, University Interscholastic League would choose participating schools and run the pilot program.

Lucio says the voluntary insurance would cost about $5 and could pay off in the long run. 

Lauren Silverman

Former Dallas Cowboy Daryl Johnston is using his fame shine a light on brain injuries in sports. He says all athletes should get a baseline assessment test before playing sports, and is working with the Center for BrainHealth in Dallas to promote awareness. 

Courtesy of Taylor Roth

Two years ago, a 21-year-old Baylor student from Plano learned she had a brain tumor. Taylor Roth thought she had only a year to live. But new technology at UT Southwestern showed her prognoses was actually much better. She not only returned to school, but made it all the way to TV’s Jeopardy!

Maridav / Shutterstock

After finding mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus earlier than usual in at least two cities, Dallas County officials have begun urging outdoor use of mosquito repellent containing DEET. But what is DEET? And is there any reason to be concerned about using it any time we’re outdoors? Some answers in this edition of Vital Signs from David Jefferson, Tarrant County’s Environmental Health Manager.

Some North Texas health care companies are starting to practice what they preach. Baylor Health Care - known for its exceptional cancer treatment programs – now screens job seekers for nicotine use. If applicants applying online respond that they are smokers, they are re-directed to resources to help them stop smoking before they can reapply. As Susan Ladika reports for Workforce, Baylor joins the 4 percent of companies that follow a policy to not hire nicotine users. In Texas, 18.5% of the adult population are current cigarette smokers. Across all states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults ranges from 9.3% to 26.5%. In Texas, 17.4% of high school students smoke.

Pages