WMKY

Kara Leigh Lofton

Kara Leigh Lofton is the Appalachia Health News Coordinator at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Previously Kara was a freelance reporter for WMRA, an affiliate of NPR serving the Shenandoah Valley and Charlottesville in Virginia. There she produced 70 radio reports in her first year of reporting, most often on health or environmental topics. One of her reports, “Trauma Workers Find Solace in a Pause That Honors Life After a Death,” circulated nationally after proving to be an all-time favorite among WMRA’s audience.

Kara is also a photographer and writer, whose work has been published by Kaiser Health News, The Hill (the news outlet and blog serving Congress), Virginia Living, the Augusta Free Press, and Sojourners, among other outlets. A large body of her work has appeared on the news website and in the magazines of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from which she graduated in 2014.

Prior to and during her university years, Kara had stints living internationally, spending months in Morocco, Spain, Turkey, and England, with shorter visits to Zambia, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and a half-dozen countries in western and central Europe. In the fall of 2015, she toured Guatemala (using her conversational Spanish), where she reported on its woefully underfunded health system. In her spare time Kara Leigh enjoys reading, practicing yoga and hiking with her two loyal dogs.

A few weeks ago, community members  and physicians gathered for a town hall in Beckley, West Virginia. On the agenda? Whether a new psychiatric clinic downtown should be allowed to do medication-assisted treatment from their building.

About ten years ago, the National Park Service noticed that fewer kids and families were using the parks. And they wanted to change that.

A little over a decade ago, a psychologist named Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder,” meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, to the detriment of their mental and physical health.

color:#444444">A new study finds that medications used to treat opioid use disorder are greatly underutilized even though they’re proven to significantly reduce chances of opioid-related deaths

Kandi Messinger is a health educator for WVU Cabell County Extension Service. She teaches a nutrition and cooking basics class for those going through the Cabell County drug courts program. Kara Lofton spoke with Messinger about why alternative education and life skills training is an important piece of recovery. 

LOFTON: Why is it important to teach people in recovery nutrition and cooking skills?

Nancy Abrams is the author of a new memoir The climb from Salt Lick published by WVU press. The book is about her experience as a young photojournalist from the Midwest moving to Preston County to live and work. Abrams documents how she came to love West Virginia and the people who live here. Kara Lofton spoke with Abrams about the new book and what it means to write honestly about one's own life. 

color:#444444">A new study from the National Institues of Health has found that gestational diabetes may put women at a higher risk of developing early-stage kidney disease. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a 26-year study on the burden of diseases and injuries in the U.S. The report found that West Virginia has the lowest healthy life expectancy years of any state in the union. West Virginia’s rate is almost 18 years lower than the healthiest life expectancy state - Hawaii. The greatest disease burden was caused by heart disease and lung cancer.

The main risk factors associated with U.S. morbidity and mortality are poor diet, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

A new study found that major adverse life events, called fateful life events by the research community, such as divorce, conflict, death in the family or financial hardship can measurably accelerate aging in the brain in middle aged men. Just one fateful event could cause the brain to appear a third of year older than their chronological age, based on an MRI.

The researchers studied almost 360, primarily white men ages 57 to 66.

One West Virginia city is trying a new approach to persuade more overdose patients to seek treatment.
 
The idea is simple: Within 24 to 72 hours of an overdose, a "quick response team" fans out into the community and tries to meet with the patient to discuss treatment options. A handful of similar programs exist around the country, but West Virginia's first team launched in December in Huntington with the help of two federal grants. Health officials said it already has been remarkably successful.

 


A group of West Virginia agencies launched their year-long campaign, “Year of the Child” at a kickstart event at the WV culture center yesterday. The initiative is designed to address the impact of the opioid crisis on West Virginia’s children.

Speakers represented groups such as the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia and the National Association of Social Workers.

West Virginia will be the first state in the nation to allow Medicaid to fund treatment for newborns exposed to opioids in the womb.

When their exposure to opioids ends at birth, infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome experience withdrawal symptoms. They include tremors, vomiting, seizures, excessive crying and sensitivity to loud noises, lights and colors. Infants are weaned from opioid dependence by using small doses of morphine or methadone.

New research by the Chartis Center for Rural Health has found that current and pending federal health policies are putting a bigger financial strain on already struggling rural hospitals. 

The report found the percentage of rural and critical access hospitals working at a negative operating margin has increased from 40 to 44 percent. 

A new study of more than 6,000 first graders across the U.S. has found that the number of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is larger than previously thought. 

Over a six-year period, researchers collected data from more than 6,000 children in four communities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast and Pacific Southwest that were thought to represent an accurate sampling of the United States. There is no state-by-state specific data available.

West Virginia passed the Medical Cannabis Act in April 2017, qualifying patients with a written doctor’s certification to use medical cannabis and to buy it from registered dispensaries. The bill was a big shock – no one thought it would actually pass.

A new study published this month in The Journal of Pain found that as little as a 10 percent reduction in body weight helps obese pain patients reduce chronic pain.

Several previous studies have shown that people who are obese tend to have higher levels of pain.

But pain related to obesity is usually associated with joint and weight-bearing body parts such as knees, hips and lower back.

The new study found that reducing body weight in obese patients can help improve not only joint pain but also abdominal, arm, chest and jaw pain.

Kristin Phillips is one of two physical therapists in West Virginia specializing in women’s health. In this episode of our occasional series, Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton talks with Phillips about the main issues she sees in her practice. A warning to listeners, this episode includes detailed descriptions of women’s health issues and may not be appropriate for all listeners. The interview runs about eight minutes.

West Virginia’s drug epidemic may be leading to increases in what’s called “familial sex trafficking.” Family members trading sex with a child in their family for drugs or money. But spotting the problem and prosecuting the offenders is very difficult.

A new study has found that moderate exercise can reverse heart damage caused by age and a sedentary lifestyle – if it’s begun early enough and performed with enough frequency. 

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern studied a group of about 50 participants over the course of two years.

The study found that in order for exercise to help reverse heart damage, the exercise regimen needs to start before the age of 65 when the heart retains some plasticity – meaning it is still able to remodel itself.

If you look at the data, West Virginia has enough pediatricians to cover the number of children here. What there aren’t enough of is many pediatric specialties such as pediatric allergists, neurologists or rheumatologists. And that’s forcing many families like the Laxtons to seek care out of state.

At the St. Joseph’s Hospital women’s health clinic in Buckhannon, midwife Kathy Robinson is using a doppler to look for a heartbeat during a prenatal visit.

Millennials may be less likely to use opioids to manage chronic pain than older generations, a new nationwide survey has found.

One in five millennials who used opioids to manage pain say they regretted it.

Instead, millennials report preferring lifestyle changes to improve pain management such as exercising, eating right, quitting smoking and losing weight.

Liam Rusmisel is a different kid this year. On the first day of kindergarten he walked into the classroom, head held high, according to his teachers. This is no small feat for a kid who had a bit of a rough start to last year.

 

 

A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month found a 264 percent increase in overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, tramadol, and Demerol between 2012 and 2015.

Experts think the spike is likely related to illicitly manufactured drugs, particularly fentanyl, which is often cut with heroin or cocaine, rather than pharmaceutically manufactured synthetic opioids. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often mixed with or sold as heroin. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.


Invasive pneumonia may impact life expectancy by up to ten years, according to a study from Marshall University school of medicine.

The study found that patients who recover from the most severe form of invasive pneumonia, called pneumococcal pneumonia, live on average ten years less than those who didn’t get the disease.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria that infects the lungs and can potentially spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

West Virginia University Medicine is taking a closer look at a little-known approach to cancer treatment called narrative medicine with the aim of improving the treatment experience for doctors and patients alike.

The idea with narrative medicine is that if doctors get to know patients through their life stories, the physicians will be able to improve their ability to care for their patients, beyond simply managing symptoms.

West Virginia Health Right launched a new mobile dental health clinic today at a Charleston ribbon cutting ceremony.

The unit will travel to six underserved West Virginia counties – McDowell, Logan, Boone, Clay, Roane and Harrison, offering services primarily for free. West Virginia Medicaid – the largest provider in these counties –  does not cover preventative dental services for adults.

A new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report analyzed health across West Virginia, categorizing each county as “most healthy” (Jefferson County) or “least healthy” (McDowell). A variety of factors contributed to a county’s health status, such as environment, access to resources, education and youth disconnection.

The number of coal mining jobs in Boone County has halved during the past two years. Drive through the county now, and signs of depression are becoming evident in shuttered storefronts and homes in increasing need of repair.


If lawmakers don't approve Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to increase taxes, representatives of the state's Department of Health and Human Resources says they will be forced to cut funding to programs. Bill Crouch is the new Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary, says some programs, like the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, might be eliminated entirely.

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