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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

The Illinois Department of Corrections continues to flounder in its efforts to care for inmates with mental illness, according to a new report authored by Dr. Pablo Stewart, a psychiatrist and court-appointed monitor on a 2016 settlement agreement on a class-action lawsuit.

From left, Patrick Ishmael, Dr. Ed Weisbart and Wendell Potter joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the future of U.S. health care and its implications for the region.
Show-Me Institute & St. Louis Public Radio

Until a few years ago, Wendell Potter frequently crafted arguments against the idea of the U.S. government becoming more involved in health care.

“I wrote a number of speeches for my CEO and delivered some myself that the government should get out of the way and let the free market work its magic in health care,” the former Cigna executive said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “I came to realize the free market doesn’t work in health care like it does in other sectors of the economy … and that’s one of the reasons why we saw so many people who were uninsured and now a growing number of people who are underinsured.”

Potter discussed the status of advocacy efforts toward universal health care as well as the opposition at regional and national levels. Patrick Ishmael, director of government accountability for the Show-Me Institute, and Dr. Ed Weisbart, chair of the Missouri chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, also participated in the conversation.

St. Louis Public Radio's science and environment reporter Eli Chen and John Hickey, director of the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club, joined Thursday's segment to talk about the effects climate change is having in the region.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A national climate report issued Friday predicts a bleak picture for the state and region as a result of climate change: increased flooding, hotter temperatures and intensified storms – all of which can hurt the agriculture industry, infrastructure and human productivity.

St. Louis Public Radio's science and environment reporter Eli Chen joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to expand on how climate change is affecting the state, as well as what is being done to try and prevent its most harmful effects.

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Updated at 4:35 p.m. with comments from the ACLU — A U.S. appeals court has upheld a federal judge’s decision to include thousands of Missouri Department of Corrections inmates with hepatitis C in a class-action lawsuit that could change how the disease is treated inside the state’s prisons.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the state on behalf of three inmates with the virus in 2016. The plaintiffs allege that the state didn’t treat their condition properly or quickly enough and only gave treatment to the people with the most serious symptoms. Those actions, they argue, violate the U.S Constitution and constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

NASA engineers celebrating the successful landing of the Mars Insight spacecraft at the Mission Support Area in Pasadena, California on Nov. 26, 2018.
NASA/B. Ingalls

Engineer Brooke Harper has spent the last four and a half years making sure that the Mars lander InSight would make a graceful descent on the red planet. When the day finally came on Nov. 26 for InSight to land, she recalled feeling “extremely tense” in Mission Control.

When the announcer declared that InSight had landed, engineers and scientists celebrated. Harper and her colleague, Gene Bonfiglio, performed a touchdown dance, which was caught on NASA’s livestream camera. The elaborate routine has drawn widespread public attention to the mission.

Mike Parson
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson thinks the state is “long overdue” for a statewide prescription-monitoring database for doctors.

Parson, a Republican, said Wednesday he hopes state legislators will pass a bill legalizing such a program next year. Missouri remains the only state without such a database, which proponents say helps cut down on opioids being sold on the street.

Parson made his remarks during a St. Louis stop on a weeklong statewide tour focusing on health issues. He met with state health officials and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to discuss Missourians’ addiction to opioids. The drugs in 2017 killed 760 people in the St. Louis region alone, and 951 in the entire state. One in every 65 deaths in Missouri that year was due to an opioid overdose, according to the the state’s health department.

(L-R) Experts Anneliese Schaefer, Deanna Barch and Susan Appleton discussed how neuroscience can help non-scientists understand the impact of early adversity on developing brain.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The early development of the human brain begins in utero and continues into a person’s early-to-mid-20s. In that time, various environmental factors such as poverty, toxins and violence can influence that development. Among adolescent youth, who are susceptible to engaging in risky behavior, the impact of such stressors can also potentially lead to criminal activity.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by a panel of experts to further explore what goes on in the adolescent brain, what may cause some to turn to criminal activity and how the justice system is, or is not, responding. 

A radiologic technologist clears a trauma bay at St. Louis University Hospital's emergency room.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A coalition of six medical organizations has recommended that hospital doctors take more caution when prescribing opioids for patients with pain.

To cut down on unnecessary prescriptions of addictive painkillers, the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, the Missouri Hospital Association and other groups want hospital doctors to limit prescriptions, in some cases to a week's supply.

The guidelines, which update a 2015 list that applied only to emergency departments, now include all hospital personnel who prescribe medicine.

Dr. Rupa Patel (left) and Jesse Milan discussed the past, present and future of HIV/AIDS in St. Louis and beyond on Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air.
St. Louis Public Radio & AIDS United

Every year on Dec. 1, the international community mourns those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and celebrates the ongoing progress in treating, preventing and researching the disease.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, president and CEO of AIDS United Jesse Milan told host Don Marsh that the day of commemoration is “an opportunity to remind people that this is still an epidemic nationally and globally.”

Two elk in Missouri
The Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri’s elk herd has grown so much in recent years that state conservationists want to allow hunters the chance to hunt them.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is hosting three public meetings this week to take feedback on a limited elk hunting season that could take place in 2020. There are 170 elk that roam in Reynolds, Shannon and Carter counties. State officials want the population to grow to a minimum of 200 elk in Missouri before they allow hunting.

Hunting would help manage the elk population and reduce conflicts between elk and humans, said Barbara Keller, the department’s cervid program supervisor.

Nichole Dawsey, at left, is the executive director of NCADA, a local organization that has been providing education and prevention services related to drugs and alcohol since 1965. Nisha Patel is an assistant superintendent for the Fox C-6 School  Distric
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic among U.S. adults, one organization in the St. Louis region is seeing some more positive trends among younger people when it comes to substance use.

On Monday, NCADA announced that of the nearly 600 St. Louis-area adolescents who have participated in its Transitional Counseling Program since 2014, more than 75 percent successfully abstain from substance use throughout their enrollment in the grant-funded program, and more than 65 percent are still abstaining six months later.

“That’s pretty significant,” executive director Nichole Dawsey said of the numbers while talking with host Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air. “The biggest area of impact that we have seen – and this is both anecdotally and in the quantitative data – is the improved relationships between teens and their caregivers as a direct result of this program.”

Cleaning Up After A Tornado Strikes Taylorville

Dec 3, 2018

Sunday brought daylight and a chance to view the magnitude of damage in Taylorville.  Many residents spent the day removing debris and helping neighbors after a tornado roared through the Christian County community on Saturday afternoon.

The "tip room" at Republic Services' processing plant in Hazelwood, where trucks bring in recycling.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The stuff we’re throwing into recycling bins is getting so dirty that it’s driving up costs and forcing recycling companies to shut down.

In St. Louis, several municipal governments began sending their recycling to other processing plants. O’Fallon officials told residents they were no longer going to pick up paper and cardboard.

China, which has long accepted a large portion of paper and plastics from western countries, last year started rejecting paper and plastic from the United States. That’s because single-stream recycling contains too much contamination, such as food residue and rain-soaked paper.

Babies classified as average weight based on current recommendations still had a higher risk of dying if they weighed less than their older sibling, according to SLU researchers.
Fabio Consoli | NPR

For more than 80 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has identified newborns as underweight if they weigh less than 5 and a half pounds.

But some researchers argue this one-size-fits-all approach ignores the fact that infants vary naturally in size based on their genes and environment.

St. Louis University researchers compared birth weights of siblings and found younger siblings who weighed at least a pound less than their older sibling at birth, were twice as likely to die in the first month of life.

A tentative deal for the next farm bill is on the table, congressional leaders said Thursday without providing many details.

What is clear is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell got his wish to legalize industrial hemp. And Politico and Bloomberg both reported that House Republicans backed off of a controversial proposal to place stricter work requirements on federal food aid recipients.

Wikimedia Commons

Nearly two thirds of voters in the Texas County town of Houston decided to stop adding fluoride to the city’s water, but dentists serving the area are saying the change will lead to an increase in tooth decay.

An illustration of climate change's impacts in St. Louis, Missouri.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

A national climate report released last Friday from 13 federal agencies predicts increased flooding and hotter temperatures in Midwestern states like Missouri — and that unless carbon emissions are significantly reduced, changing climate patterns could be costly.

The historic, Gothic revival church on Tower Grove and Chouteau avenues would need to be demolished for Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis to build their new 60-bed facility.
St. Louis Preservation Board

Officials from Ronald McDonald House Charities of St. Louis thought they found a perfect spot to build a new facility to house families of hospitalized children. But their plan for a 60-bedroom building has hit a snag.

Earlier this year, the charity bought 2.6 acres of land in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood — a nearly equal drive from the city’s two children’s hospitals. But the plot of land includes an abandoned 19th century church, and the city’s Preservation Board has said the organization’s plan can’t justify tearing down a historic building.

Donato Maffin | U.S. Marine Corps

Children with concussions should be able to continue exercising and using electronics, according to new treatment guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For years, doctors have recommended children who suffered a concussion stay in a dark room with few distractions with the belief it would speed up healing. The new guidance encourages pediatricians to recommend that children engage in moderate exercise and electronics use.

Missouri Department of Conservation staff in Weldon Spring test a deer for chronic wasting disease. Nov. 10, 2018
The Missouri Department of Conservation

Deer hunters are helping out Missouri families again this year.

Since 1992, the Share the Harvest Program has collected more than 3.5 million pounds of venison from deer hunters across the state.

The program aims to lessen the burden of food insecurity for people by distributing deer meat to hundreds of food banks throughout the St. Louis region and statewide. It’s a collaborative effort between the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, meat processors, hunters and local organizations.