Robert Joiner | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Joiner

Health Reporter

Robert Joiner has carved a niche in providing informed reporting about a range of medical issues.  He won a Dennis A. Hunt Journalism Award for the Beacon’s "Worlds Apart" series on health-care disparities. His journalism experience includes working at the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he was a beat reporter, wire editor, editorial writer, columnist, and member of the Washington bureau.

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This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Missouri hospitals are expected to avoid about $27 million in cuts in federal reimbursements.

The Obama administration's next budget eliminates about $500 million nationally in what’s known as disproportionate share payments, or DSH, to hospitals under Medicaid. These payments are made to certain urban and rural hospitals that treat large percentages of poor patients lacking health insurance. Ozark Medical Center in West Plains, Mo., was among rural hospitals concerned about the cuts. It was set to lose more than $600,000 in DSH payments, starting in the next federal fiscal year, beginning on Oct. 1.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Talking about the problem of obesity on the north side of St. Louis, a public health professor told the Beacon in 2009, "There are fried chicken places but not a Subway where people can get something healthy fast."

Her point: Outsiders shouldn't be too surprised that obesity is more pervasive in a section of the city where eateries offering low-calorie food are generally nonexistent. The professor might be pleased to know that some Subway shops have since opened on the north side. But obesity is still out of control.

John Jones, Steve Foster and Johnny Morgan at Feller's Family Restaurant, Willow Springs, Mo.
Robert Joiner | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: While  enjoying a plate of gravy and biscuits at Feller’s Family Restaurant last Friday morning in Willow Springs, Mo., Johnny Morgan energized the breakfast conversation with examples of what he regards as unwarranted government intrusion into people’s lives.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In spite of the Saturday morning chill, customers began lining up early in front of Crown Candy Kitchen, 1401 St. Louis Ave., awaiting turns to enter the crowded eatery, known for its sundaes, assorted chocolates and "heart stopping BLT" sandwiches.

The crowd there was in contrast to the absence of people a block away at another store that should have been full: the Old North Grocery Co-op. But business there continues to be weak, stirring fears among some that the store might be forced to close its doors by summer. Others are hoping that a combination of aggressive marketing to attract more customers and recruit more volunteers will help the store survive.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: William Shortall is among 50,000 Missourians who are in a bind because they don't have sufficient insurance to cover treatment for their mental health problems.

“Approximately five years ago, I was diagnosed with a mental illness, bipolar disorder,” he said. Shortal's plight isn’t unusual, pointing to federal data showing that about one in four Americans is coping with some form of mental illness. Most don’t get timely help, he says, because they lack health insurance.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Gov. Jay Nixon decided to visit the Metropolitan St. Louis Psychiatric Center to make a case for expanding Medicaid, few people in the audience were more pleased than Dr. Roy Wilson, the center’s medical director. He says the visit helped to shed more light on the fact that facilities like his often lack the money for services to head off the adverse consequences of being mentally ill and uninsured.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: St. Louis area residents may not know the meaning of sequestration, but they may soon feel its impact through a loss of federal dollars for programs ranging from home-delivered meals for the elderly to vital research at area universities and other institutions.

Those are among the potential consequences of sequestration, Washington jargon for across-the-board budget cuts, beginning tomorrow, unless Congress and the White House find an alternative to the indiscriminate spending reductions now mandated under federal law.

Jamala Rogers
Provided by Jamala Rogers

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Long before most St. Louisans knew about Kwanzaa, paid close attention to gay rights, thought seriously about local control of the St. Louis Police Department or even were willing to consider putting the brakes on capital punishment, Jamala Rogers was working on these issues, mostly at the grass-roots level.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Psychiatric Center
Missouri Department of Mental Health

After overcoming some delays, operators hope to open a short-term facility next year to accommodate people needing help for a mental-health crisis.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Time has turned out to be the best therapy for many who were traumatized by the sight of jetliners crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during a terrorist attack a decade ago, mental health experts say.

While post-traumatic stress disorder was common among eyewitnesses in New York's Manhattan to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2011, many experts say there has been no long-term emotional effect on those who watched the events unfold on television.

This year produced promising medical advances in the battle against Alzheimer's disease. First came word that scientists had come up with a new test for making more precise diagnoses of the disease. That news was followed this month by the announcement of a discovery of a relationship between an abnormal level of a plaque-forming substance in the brain and Alzheimer's.

Both developments are said to be important to long-term efforts to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's with new drugs even before the disease's symptoms become apparent in patients.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: At a time of much talk about health disparities and programs to improve public health, Missouri stands out for what it isn't doing. The state dropped another notch in health rankings this year while some other states improved their showings, according to a report by United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Enisa Muratovic didn't quite know what to make of the charade-like sight of her son's pediatrician looking at her and banging on a lead pipe in the examination room.

The scene turned out to be the doctor's well-meaning but futile attempt to inform Muratovic that her son had an elevated level of lead in his blood. But the incident was bewildering to Muratovic, a Bosnian immigrant who spoke limited English at the time. She left the doctor's office still unsure what was wrong with her baby.

"I felt confused and afraid," she said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Click flash ... click click, flash flash ... clickflashclickflashclickflash ...

The sharp sounds and bursts of light come from a disposable camera in the hands of Carolyn Dickerson. When Healthy Start, a maternal health group, gave cameras to her and other at-risk pregnant or postpartum women, they told the women to show how the world looked through their eyes. The organization might have been a little surprised by some of the results.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: So-called "outreach moms" are among the most important links in the Healthy Start program for pregnant women, infants and families. Their work isn't easy; each of the three moms is expected to be available 24/7 to respond to problems that might crop up among at-risk women.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With its two-story brick and siding homes, black metal mail boxes on the lawns, and sturdy sidewalks out front, the quiet stretch of St. Ferdinand, west of North Vandeventer, looks more like a slice of suburbia than a piece of north St. Louis. In a part of town where the quiet of some neighborhoods is interrupted by occasional gunfire, this street offers a safe haven for youngsters like Derriyon Hobbs.

A chubby kid with a ready smile, Hobbs often spent his summer days pedaling his bike up and down St. Ferdinand without the watchful eye of his mother, Sherita Calvin. Both are grateful to have come to a neighborhood where people walk at their leisure rather than at their peril.

graphic about monthly WIC food supplements
Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article first appeared in the St. louis Beacon: The low-rise building at Cass Avenue and 14th Street is now a used-car lot, but many neighborhood residents still remember it as Salama, a corner grocery. It stocked some nutritious foods and infant formula as part of the federal government's WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program to help disadvantaged residents raise healthy young children.

About four years ago, federal officials accused the store and a half dozen other corner markets of mismanaging WIC and removed them from the list of approved vendors.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: He got his education in the streets, and she got hers at the University of Texas School of Public Health. She left a job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to join the St. Louis Health Department. He also got a job in the department after he decided to turn his life around and focus on encouraging inner city youngsters to go straight and steer clear of at-risk behavior.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The 12-story building between Powell Symphony Hall and the Third Baptist Church in midtown seemed like an odd place to house the city's main clinic for treating sexually transmitted diseases. Yet, for a long time, some city residents wishing to get help, counseling or advice for an STD had few options besides visiting the public clinic on the second floor of the building at 634 North Grand.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Milton and Leona Scott, both in their late 50s, normally don't spend time at the Four Seasons Hotel adjacent to Lumiere Place Casino in downtown St. Louis. But they were among 250 people who gathered in the hotel's elegant ballroom one Saturday morning last April to learn more about coping with and combating diabetes.

Hosting a free diabetes education program at a 5-diamond hotel may seem unusual, but it's just one of the ways the St. Louis Diabetes Coalition is taking its message out of doctors' offices and to the public. The group also is taking diabetes education to many community-gathering spots, such as churches and coffee shops.

chart showing diabetes mortality
St. Louis Beacon archive 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The genealogy bug first bit Anita Jenkins in the 1970s when she saw the television series "Roots." She takes pride in having traced her family's history at least as far back as antebellum days, and she hopes to turn to DNA to move even further back in time.

In the process of her search, however, she also turned up a family history of diabetes. She mentions this as she stands next to pictures of relatives that line the mantel above the living room fireplace in the family's two-story brick home on the north side. On this day the house is quiet, save for the hum of an air conditioner, on a bright summer afternoon. But she's in a gloomy mood as she introduces the faces in the photographs and talks about how diabetes has affected many of those lives.

graphic of childhood lead poisoning in the st. louis area
Brent Jones | St. Louis Beacon | 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A St. Louis University scholar thinks it's time for cities to refine the way they address lead hazards.

The attack on lead poisoning often begins with the discovery that a child has an elevated level of lead, usually exceeding 10 micrograms for each deciliter of blood. The next step involves a little detective work to find the source of the lead. It usually turns out to be peeling lead-tainted paint and lead dust in an older home. This approach, some say, amounts to making kids the equivalent of canaries in coal mines.

graphic about monthly WIC food supplements
Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Nothing speaks louder to a mother than a silent child.

When Larry Chavis was about 2, he'd sit in the middle of the floor in a room full of teddy bears, toy cars and trucks, but he didn't seem interested in playing with them. His perplexed mother, Achaia Robinson, sensed something wasn't quite right with her son; she was confused by his dazed look and his tendency to keep to himself.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The lobby of the Winston Churchill Apartments at Cabanne and Belt avenues undoubtedly reminds some visitors of the elegance of a bygone era. It's a massive room with green and beige walls, a fireplace, eight comfortable sofas and lots of chairs, all on a shiny, marbled floor. The soft colors and quiet setting recall the time when the building and surrounding neighborhood were home to upper-middle class St. Louisans.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: There have been times when Tracy Blue's mood was a perfect match for her last name. She was often irritable and occasionally depressed as she coped with Type 2 diabetes and the burden of carrying as much as 254 pounds on her 5'4" frame.

During the past year, however, her health has improved and her weight has dropped, thanks in part to an exercise and counseling program tailored to African Americans like herself. Called BODDY, the program operates out of the Monsanto YMCA in north St. Louis and is run by Washington University's Health and Nutrition Center.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: With plenty of trails for walking and jogging, biking and rollerblading, Forest Park stands out as one of the nation's largest urban green spaces for recreation. It's also safe and well-maintained, factors that explain why people find it an inviting, carefree place for putting their hearts and limbs through robust exercise.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Using his fingers to rake away ankle-high weeds on a plot next to his house, George Banks finally looks up with a smile after spotting something that a visitor doesn't immediately see.

"There," he says as he slowly straightens his stout body. "Watermelon vines. Got some collards coming up, too."

Whenever his arthritis, heart disease and diabetes cooperated last spring and summer, Banks, 63, spent time tending his garden in Old North St. Louis.

Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: In 1875, amid steamboats churning the muddy waterway, a tugboat came up the river from New Orleans and docked in St. Louis with an unexpected problem on board. In addition to a load of sugar from Havana, the boat carried a sick passenger. He was taken to City Hospital where the worst fears of doctors there were confirmed: yellow fever.

Alex Sciuto | St. Louis Beacon 2010

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Larry Chavis, George Banks, Tracy Blue and Carolyn Dickerson are from different neighborhoods in north St. Louis, but all four have at least one thing in common. They have health problems that are largely preventable and far more prevalent among African Americans than the rest of the city's population.

Coping with lead poisoning has turned Larry into an unusually quiet 4-year-old. His mother hopes treatment will help him ward off any long-term consequences.

Federal stimulus dollars continue to provide additional financial underpinning for St. Louis' system of health care for the needy. Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers is a recent beneficiary of stimulus money, and it has used those funds to replace and upgrade two of its facilities.