Health

The X-ray of nurse Tove Schuster's spine shows the metal cage and four screws her surgeon used to repair a damaged disk in her back. Terry Cawthorn underwent a similar procedure.
Daniel Zwerdling / NPR

A little-known epidemic has swept through hospitals across the country: thousands of nursing staff suffer debilitating back and arm injuries every year. 

An NPR investigation into the injuries shows most happen as a result of on-the-job incidents. Hospitals can reduce the rate of injury if administrators invest time and money into prevention and training mechanisms. 

Smile
Eric McGregor http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericmcgregor/124313181 / flickr.com

Sure, it's more or less a given that we smile when we're happy and we smile when our picture is taken.  But do we also smile automatically throughout the day when we make eye contact with strangers?  How often do we smile in conversation? 

Today's program is a rebroadcast of an earlier show.

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

Roughly 480,000 people in North Carolina have signed up or been automatically re-enrolled for Obamacare plans by the end of January using the healthcare.gov system, according to government data released Friday. Almost 7.5 million in total have signed up across the country.

Image from Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Flickr/Herald Post

Public incidents in the NFL in the past year sparked a national conversation about domestic violence. But millions of Americans are struggling with this issue in private. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in four women and one in seven men in the United States will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetimes.

gloved hands holding blood packet and needle
Fotos GOVBA / Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you about to have a medical procedure? Have you chosen a provider yet? Before you do, you might consider taking a look at what the procedure will cost. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of North Carolina now has an easy online tool  to help you do just that.

We used the tool to search for a variety of common procedures. The user can enter a town or zip code, and the number of miles s/he is willing to travel.

Penelope Easton ventured to the Alaskan territory as a young woman in 1948. It would have been an intimidating move for many young women in that era. But for Easton, the move was just another in a series of adventures across the globe.

A picture of a blood pressure cuff.
Medisave UK / Flickr

Doctors often start treating patients for high cholesterol after age 55. But new research from Duke University shows each previous decade of high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease 39 percent.

Bio-statistician Michael Pencina is a lead author of the report.

“Higher level of cholesterol in the 30s and 40s, still leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease at age 55.”

An artist rendering of the ATT bridge over I-40.
City of Durham

That pedestrian and bike bridge over I-40 near the Streets at Southpoint Mall has made a world of difference to the users of the American Tobacco Trail. That’s according to a before-and-after study by N.C. State University’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

Program manager Sarah O’Brien says from spring 2013 through spring 2014, the number of trips on the trail rose by 133 percent.

A picture of a woman with a hand on her face.
Send me adrift / Flickr

Cape Fear Valley's new Roxie Avenue Behavioral Healthcare Center is up and running.

Behavioral Health Services Director Doug Webster says the Fayetteville facility is meant to free up beds in the hospital, where people can wait days for mental health treatment.

Webster says, left untreated, such crises can escalate.

North Carolina also has behavioral health centers in Durham and Raleigh. In Fayetteville, Webster says they’re serving members of the military and civilians alike.

flu shot
samantha celera, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Thirty people died from the flu last week in North Carolina - about three times more than died the previous week. 

"And those numbers are going to continue to rise. Because we always see those numbers lag behind our flu activity numbers by a few weeks," said Dr. Zack Moore, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Moore says people should use basic prevention methods like staying home from work when sick and staying away from people who are ill. He points out that vaccination is still an option.

A picture of George Poehlman and other aid workers
Dr. George Poehlman

Doctor George Poehlman recently returned from an eight-week aid mission in Liberia.  Upon his return, the retired Durham, N.C. family physician put himself in voluntary quarantine at a time when some other doctors around the country have refused such quarantine, noting that it's not necessary.

A picture of Tamiflu tablets.
Alcibiades / Wikipedia

Flu season has pharmacies scrambling to keep an antiviral drug called Tamiflu in stock.

Duke University Pharmacy Professor Richard Drew says unlike vaccines, Tamiflu works to treat and stop the spread of the disease.

“It's both a preventative and a treatment strategy,” Drew explains. “And, certainly, for those people who have a serious illness and require hospitalization, it's a very important drug.”

Sarah Lee manages the pharmacy supply chain for UNC Hospitals. She says this time each year, the demand for Tamiflu goes up exponentially.

Image of a nurse checking vitals.
Flickr/Londa Dudley

Note: This is a rebroadcast of a show that aired May 5, 2014. 

A picture of a homeless person sleeping on the street.
Franco Folini / Creative Commons

Dozens of people are waking up outside in Greensboro today.

A vigil was held last night to honor nine people who died in that city this year, while living in homelessness.

Michelle Kennedy is executive director at the Interactive Resource Center. She says that number might be higher.

“So it’s hard to ever really have an accurate number of how many people we've lost while experiencing homelessness in this city, or really any other city,” Kennedy says.

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

Dozens of people advocating for and against abortion rights filled a room at the North Carolina health department headquarters on Friday morning to respond to proposed rules that will apply to the 14 clinics that provide abortion in the state.

A picture of a hand in a fingerless glove.
ADRIGU / Flickr

Charities are urging shoppers not to forget the less fortunate during the winter holidays.

The Durham Rescue Mission and Salvation Army are collecting gifts for children.

Other shelters are asking people to drop off essentials for people who are out in the cold.

“In our winter ministry, in which we distribute clothes out in the community, we need scarves and hats and gloves and coats,” says Lynn Daniel.

Ebola Sign
Leoneda Inge

North Carolina boasts many resources when it comes to combating the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa. Two pharmaceutical companies are developing potential vaccines. Duke University Hospital has proven its ability to treat potential Ebola patients, while UNC has students helping to track the spread of the disease in Liberia. Soldiers from Fort Bragg have been enlisted in the ground effort.

All these resources are part of not only fighting the virus overseas, but protecting North Carolinians.


Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren't paying attention to evidence that older women with early stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment although it doesn't increase life expectancy.

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

Duke Medicine research shows that most elderly, low risk breast cancer patients receive radiation therapy after surgery. That's despite evidence that the costly and physically-taxing treatment isn't very effective with that group.

Radiation Oncologist Rachel Blitzblau authored the new study.

She says some doctors might be skeptical of the data, but patients might also push to get the treatment anyway.

beer bottle
Gary Simmons / Flickr/Creative Commons

Almost twice as many middle and high school students compared to parents think that underage drinking is a serious issue, according to a survey commissioned by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

"North Carolina has an underage drinking problem," ABC Chairman Jim Gardner said on Wednesday. "What’s worse: Our state’s children think underage drinking is a much bigger problem than their parents do."

Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

North Carolina health officials have proposed updating regulations governing clinics that provide abortions, in compliance with a 2013 law that requires them to be treated like outpatient surgery centers.

Image of Amanda Holliday with her grandmother Celeste Sawyer.
Amanda Holliday

Many kids grow up spending time after school with other kids in their neighborhood playing pick-up soccer, videogames or capture the flag. 

Linwood Watson, MD, Rex Express Care of Knightdale
Still from Youtube video

Several area doctors star in a new video that is getting some buzz online. The video aims to answer the question of when it's appropriate to go to urgent care, and when one should head to the emergency room:

The video features doctors from Rex Express Care in Knightdale, Holly Springs, Wakefield and Cary.

A picture of a syringe.
Zaldylmg / Creative Commons

Nurses gathered outside the VA Hospital in Durham Wednesday to raise awareness about the risk Ebola poses to healthcare workers. It was part of an international effort, urging hospitals to adopt the highest preparedness standards for staff who might potentially treat a patient with Ebola. 

Pages