Health

Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

It’s only been about three weeks since the Federal Drug Administration changed the label for the country’s most widely used abortion drug, mifepristone. In Texas, advocates expected this would be a big deal, because Texas law mandates physicians administer the drug exactly like it says on the label—even though those methods weren’t common medical practice.


Chan Lone/Texas Tribune

There are fewer children in Texas without health insurance these days, but the state still has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country. And according to a new study, certain races and ethnicities in the state are more likely than others to be uninsured.


via Texas Tribune

State government has been slow to respond to a rise in opioid deaths in Texas. But, with an ongoing epidemic in the state, university students have taken things into their own hands. Last week, they convinced the University of Texas System to change its own medical amnesty policy.


You’ve probably heard of the credentials M.D. and Ph.D. -- maybe RN or NP. How about PSc.D. or D.PSc.? Those letters signify someone practices pastoral medicine -- some call themselves doctors of pastoral medicine.

Todd Wiseman for the Texas Tribune

Hospitals around the state are in a serious time crunch. Administrators are currently drafting their budgets for the next fiscal year, but a big chunk of federal funds they’ve relied on in years past isn’t a sure thing this time around.


James Gathany/CDC

Mosquito season is looming and Texas public health officials are preparing for the possibility of the Zika virus infecting the state’s mosquito population. Following missteps during the Ebola crisis in Dallas less than two years ago, officials say they are applying what they learned during that ordeal to a new infectious disease threat.


flickr/jamesjordan

Despite two confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne virus Zika in Travis County, the city of Austin says it will not make any big changes to its mosquito control strategy as the warm season opens – a time ripe for insect breeding. 


Texas Tribune

Pretty much everyone on Medicaid here in Texas receives care through a Medicaid Managed Care Program. It’s a big program serving the state’s most vulnerable populations, but there are some big problems. Mostly, there aren’t enough doctors taking part in the program to help serve these populations, and state lawmakers are trying to address that. 


Todd Wiseman for the Texas Tribune

Texas’ nursing home and elder care industry got a hard look by a state health panel Thursday. Lawmakers and stakeholders discussed whether state regulators are being tough enough on nursing homes that are out of compliance with state and federal standards.

Ashley Lopez for KUT News

As in most of the country, opioid abuse is a serious problem in Texas. A growing number of people in the state are becoming addicted to and even dying from the use of heroin and prescription pain medications.

Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill aimed at curbing opioid overdoses, but some advocates say the state has been moving too slowly—especially since the problem doesn't seem to be getting any better.


A patient acquired Zika virus in the U.S. through sex with a person who had traveled to a place where the virus is circulating, Dallas County, Texas, health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

This is not the first time that the virus has been sexually transmitted, and it most likely isn't the first time it's been sexually transmitted in the U.S.

thespeakernews via flickr

Public health officials in Dallas County have confirmed the first sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus, which is said to be linked to birth defects.

The virus is typically transmitted by mosquitoes, but Dallas County Health and Human Services said Tuesday that an unidentified person had been infected by sexual transmission — the first confirmed case of a person acquiring the virus in the continental United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the transmission Tuesday.

thespeakernews via flickr

Texas has at least six confirmed cases of the Zika virus, according to state health officials.

The World Health Organization declared Monday that the "explosive" spread of the virus in the Americas should qualify as an international emergency.

For the past five years, the Texas Legislature has done everything in its power to defund Planned Parenthood. But it's not so easy to target that organization without hurting family planning clinics around the state generally.

Of the 82 clinics that have closed, only a third were Planned Parenthood.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

“Mommy, where are we going?” Marley Bedford, 5, asked her mother Crystal. “Are we going to the doctor?”

“It’s not really the doctor,” Crystal told her. “It’s an appointment.”

Texas Hopes to Lower Infant Mortality Among African-Americans

Nov 23, 2015
Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

The rate of infant mortality in Texas is almost six per 1,000 births, but the infant mortality rate for the black population statewide and in Travis County is twice as high, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Health officials in Texas are trying to reduce the rates with a new statewide partnership to close that gap.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Hundreds of thousands of Texas women may have attempted to self-induce abortions, according to a “first of its kind” study released Tuesday by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP). The study, which estimates between 100,000 and 240,000 women have attempted self-induction, also indicates that these rates of self-induction may be higher in Texas than in other U.S. states. 


Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Setting up what could be a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up a legal challenge to Texas’ 2013 abortion law, which could shut down about half of the state’s 19 remaining abortion clinics.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

There's a simple way to protect against severe spinal cord birth defects: You can eat a bowl of cereal. If the cereal was processed in the U.S., it's been fortified with folic acid, and getting about 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday can help prevent those birth defects.

Most U.S. cereals have 100 percent of the daily value, but products made from corn masa flour are not fortified, because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t allow it.

Some groups are trying to change this and get corn flour masa included.


Sarah Jasmine Montgomery / KUT

Most cancer survivors disclose their health history in job interviews, according to researchers at Rice and Penn State Universities. And, researchers have found that if cancer survivors talk about their cancer history when seeking a retail job, they’re less likely to get a callback from the store manager.

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman/TexasTribune

Doctors in Austin are trying to urgently match five-year-old Leland with a new kidney. He’s on dialysis, and in the highest and most urgent category of patients needing a new organ.

His situation is an example of the pressing need for organ donors in Texas and across the U.S.


Vegan Foods Go Mainstream, Adding Many Newcomers to the Fold

Nov 2, 2015
Pu Ying Huang/KUT

The recent news from the World Health Organization about processed meats and red meats – and associated cancer risks – might have you thinking about your diet. One group that’s probably not affected: vegans.

Vegans don’t eat anything that involves animals. No meat. No dairy or eggs. Many even avoid honey, too.

For a long time, they were considered extremist vegetarians living on the fringe, but that’s begun to change. In Austin, some vegan products are so popular, chain grocery stores can’t even keep them in stock. 


Folic Acid, Tortillas & the Importance of Prenatal Vitamin B

Oct 28, 2015
flickr/mydailymorsel

Researchers are in Austin this week for the International Conference on Neural Tube Defects. It coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act — a law that led to the U.S. government acknowledging a link between folic acid deficiency during pregnancy and neural tube defects, like spina bifida.

The law also led to mandatory enrichment of certain foods with folic acid, but not all foods — particularly, tortillas. 


Image credit Sarah Montgomery/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this week, as the state of Texas moved to kick Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program, Gov. Greg Abbott hinted there might be more to come.

Tamir Khalifa/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Days after Texas health officials announced they want to kick Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program, state investigators on Thursday visited Planned Parenthood facilities in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas.

Image via Sarah Montgomery/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Earlier this year, a three-person group calling itself the Center for Medical Progress started releasing surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood officials from across the country – including Houston.


Tamir Khalifa/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Texas health officials say they are kicking Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program entirely over what they called "acts of misconduct" revealed in undercover videos filmed earlier this year.

Image courtesy Dr. Edward Wozniak/DSHS

You know how some bugs – like mosquitos – can transmit illnesses, like the West Nile virus or malaria, through a bite?


If you're struck by a macaw, sucked into a jet engine or are having relationship problems with your in-laws, fear not: Your doctor now has a medical diagnosis code for that.

On Thursday, doctors, hospitals and health insurers must start using the ICD-10, a vast new set of alphanumeric codes for describing diseases and injuries in unprecedented detail.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

People struggling with alcoholism can trace their addiction to a population of neurons in the brain that, when stimulated, influence whether one drink leads to two.


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