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.

Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months after birth, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, citing research that says breastfeeding is healthy for infants.

In the United States, breastfeeding rates are lower among low-income women and higher among high-income women. This is despite research that shows breastfeeding can provide lifelong health benefits to a baby and potentially save new parents money.

Across most of central Appalachia, the population is declining as young people leave to find work. Those who stay, are rapidly aging. In West Virginia, for instance, about 16 percent of the population is 65 or older, according to a Department of Health and Human Resources report. Seniors are expected to be about a quarter of the total population by 2030. 


A new study found that when pregnant moms quit smoking during pregnancy – especially early in pregnancy – their babies are less likely to be born preterm.

A new study has found visits to rural emergency departments increased by more than 50 percent from 2005 to 2016 with the most dramatic usage changes among non-Hispanic white patients, Medicaid beneficiaries and those without insurance. This increase is putting more pressure on already strained safety-net hospitals.

Researchers found the increase may be, at least in part, due to an increase in patients using the emergency department for illnesses that require less care or those that are chronic in nature.

In the next installment of our occasional series Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton spoke with hospice nurse Lori Carter. Carter has been a hospice nurse for 20 years.

West Virginia University researchers have found that suicide rates are higher among some Medicaid-insured youth than those with private insurance. 

 

Several studies have shown that being exposed to light at night can throw off our biological rhythms. A WVU neuroscientist is now exploring whether limiting exposure to light at night may be a new way to treat weight gain.

Randy Nelson, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, found that exposure to light, even in small doses like a nightlight, can cause weight gain in animal models.

A new study has found that Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act led to a profound impact on diagnosis and survival rates of colorectal cancer in parts of Appalachia.

This story is part of an ongoing series examining aging in Appalachia.

The percentage of West Virginia adults aged 60 and older is growing more rapidly than any other part of the

We all know that exercise is good for physical health, but a new study has found that it may also help you focus, pay attention and achieve goals as you age as well.

A new study has found that older adults who weren’t sedentary did better on thinking and memory skills tests. Exercise didn’t have to be complicated – it could be walking or even moderately physical housework, but the researchers found that movement may be essential to preserving thinking and memory skills when there are signs of dementia in the brain.

Age-related hearing loss is associated with conditions such as cognitive impairment and dementia. A new study has found it may have one more association -- depression.

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Report found that across the United States, drug overdose deaths involving opioids continue to increase. And West Virginia still leads the nation in the number of overdose deaths, but the drug of choice seems to have changed from prescription opioids to synthetic opioids.

A new study from Duke Medical Center has found that just three days a week of moderate aerobic exercise may improve thinking skills in older adults with cognitive impairments.

Almost all major holidays around the world revolve around eating special foods together.

A dozen fifth-graders from Valley Elementary School in Fayette County have been exploring radio in a youth reporting project with health reporter Kara Lofton this semester.

The idea was to help kids learn how to ask questions about health issues in their community, while also teaching interview and reporting skills. At the end of the semester, students interviewed one another about their favorite holiday traditions. The result can be heard in the following two audio postcards. 

A new study has found that cardiology patients with opioid use disorders have more complications, longer hospital stays and costlier surgeries.

The study looked at 5.7 million patients who underwent cardiac surgery and compared outcomes of those who had opioid use disorders and those who didn’t. While there wasn’t a significant difference the rate of death between the two groups, patients with opioid use disorders had more complications, longer length of stay in the hospital and higher costs.

Results from a new small study found that more than one in four patients report underusing prescribed insulin because of the high cost of the drug.

At a diabetes center at Yale, Researchers surveyed around 200 patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes. They asked six variations on the questions – do you ever used less insulin than prescribed or don’t take insulin because of cost. They found that a quarter of patients reported using less insulin than they needed because of the high cost of the drug.  

Current best practices for harm reduction programs include a couple provisions: No retractable needles should be distributed, patients should get as many needles as possible regardless of how many they bring back, and barriers to accessing needles should be as low as possible. But sometimes those recommendations are at odds with community acceptance for the practices.

In December  2015, with support from the city of Charleston, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department launched a harm-reduction program that included a needle exchange. The primary goal was to reduce the risk of diseases commonly spread by sharing needles.

West Virginia is in crisis. As the opioid epidemic grows, we are producing a generation of children impacted by addiction. In October of 2018, more than 6600 children were in the foster care system. And as of May 2018, 83% of open child abuse/neglect cases involved drugs.

An analysis of 130 metropolitan areas found that Appalachia has some of the highest rates of pre-existing health conditions in the nation. The report comes in the midst of continued federal proposals to weaken pre-existing condition requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Among other things, the ACA guaranteed people access to insurance regardless of how healthy they are. Prior to the ACA, insurance companies could decline to provide insurance to people with type two diabetes or cancer, for instance.

For friends, Becka, Holly and Katie, findings spaces where they feel safe to speak, act and think the way they want can be hard to find.

 

A new study found checking work email during nonwork hours may be detrimental to your health.

The report out of Virginia Tech found that when employers expect personnel to monitor work email after hours, the result was increased employee anxiety, which affected not only the worker themselves, but their families as well.

The study found that employees don’t actually need to spend time on work in their off hours to experience harmful effects – just the expectation of availability was enough to increase strain for employees and their significant other.

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

Pages