Public Health | St. Louis Public Radio

Public Health

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

At a free drop-in clinic for sexually transmitted disease screening in Pine Lawn, just north of St. Louis, people wait outside the door before the doors open at 8 a.m. That’s because the spots usually fill up in about an hour.

“I’d be more concerned if it didn’t fill up,” said Dr. Fred Echols, director of communicable disease for the St. Louis Department of Public Health.  “I definitely think we’re moving the needle.”

Tahwii Spicer gave birth to her son Reece almost two years ago at home with the help of a midwife. She said almost as soon as he was born, he "army-crawled" up her body to start feeding.

“He was so ravenous!” she said. “He was hungry.


Mizzou researchers studied fossils of clams called Abra segmentum valves that had been infected by trematodes, collected from nothern Italy.
Scientific Reports

Fossil records suggest that there could be another consequence of climate change and rising sea levels: an increase in parasitic worm infections. 

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Bologna studied clams collected in northern Italy that date back to the Holocene Epoch, a time when the planet was warming up after the Ice Age. Parasitic worms called trematodes, also known as flukes and flatworms, would attempt to feed on these ancient clams and the clams would respond by developing pits to keep them out.

By looking at the pits, the researchers learned that the presence of trematodes increased during relatively short periods of sea level rise.

Beating the heat
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

With high temperatures expected in the St. Louis region on Saturday, the heat index — a measure of temperature and humidity — could break 100, according to the National Weather Service. That means it’s a good time to take precautions against dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Twenty-five people died of heat-related causes in Missouri last year, including an 85-year-old woman who died while sunbathing at her St. Louis County retirement home. Seniors, children, and people with chronic medical conditions are at the highest risk for heat stroke.

Medical cannabis related products are sold at a medical cannabi outreach clinic in Shelbyville, Ilinoia on April 29, 2017
Jeff Bossert | Illinois Public Media

Medical marijuana has been available in Illinois for about 18 months. But many people around the state, particularly in Southern Illinois, say they can't find a doctor in their area to help them. A few groups have found a way to change that — they're now bringing doctors directly to the patients with qualifying conditions. More than 30 hopeful patients registered for a recent clinic in Shelbyville, held by Medical Cannabis Outreach.

Army Veteran Gabrielle Hyde suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which often means sleep deprivation and frequent panic attacks. And that means she’s limited in what she and her family can do.

Kristen Alexander lines up with her classmates at Missouri School of Dentistry to receive her degree June 10, 2017. The Poplar Bluff native has accepted a job at a community health center in her hometown.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The first class of dentists trained at a St. Louis community health clinic is ready to put its new skills to use.

A.T. Still University-Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health held its first graduation ceremony Saturday, conferring Doctorates of Dental Medicine to 42 graduates.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

The Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club plans to put pressure on state lawmakers to make sure St. Louis and Kansas City are better represented on the Missouri Air Conservation Commission. 

The commissioners are responsible for enforcing the Clean Air Act in Missouri. Members are appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate. There are currently five commissioners and two vacant seats, which have been empty for some time. 

Environmental activists say that the current commissioners have been ineffective at addressing air quality in Missouri's metro areas. The St. Louis area doesn't meet federal air quality standards for ozone and Jackson County, which includes Kansas City, does not meet the federal air quality standards for sulfur dioxide. Both pollutants at elevated levels can pose a risk to children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues.

Toya Williams of St. Louis picked up a gun lock at the National Council of Jewish Women's Back-to-School Store Sunday, July 24, 2016. She said she liked the suggestion to wear the key around her neck.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri state representative from St. Louis County is launching a coalition to prevent the shooting deaths of children who find a loaded weapon in the home. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance will work with Washington University researchers to build a database tracking accidental shootings nationwide.

“First of all, you need to know what the numbers are. You need to know what the incidents are. We also need to know if adults are charged with anything in their states,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

At least 95 children in the United States have been shot and killed accidentally so far this year, according to the database.

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Samples of radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Bridgeton placed in contact with high heat did not increase production of a radioactive gas, according to a new study released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tom, via Flickr

Local health departments are using their own resources to boost mosquito prevention efforts, as Congress remains split over a funding bill to boost preparation and research for the Zika virus.

Most preparations are well practiced after years of dealing with West Nile: health departments set traps, spray for mosquitoes, and encourage residents to wear long-sleeves and insect repellent.

There have been no cases of Zika transmitted by local mosquitoes so far in the continental United States, but the northernmost ranges of the two mosquito species that carry Zika do cross through Missouri. Seven Missourians have been diagnosed with the virus after traveling to affected areas, including two pregnant women.

North Side community school classroom
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The We Live Here team is still on hiatus, creating new episodes for our second season. Meanwhile, we revisit one of our favorites from season one

A single school can tell us a lot about the health of the community in which it exists. It can also tell us a lot about how systemic problems with transportation, food, housing and crime adversely impact impoverished communities and the health of the people who live there.   

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

For a long time, physicians at the major trauma centers in St. Louis say they have cared for an alarming number of people with gunshot wounds — including many children.

“Some weeks we’ll operate more on gunshot wounds than we will for simple things like appendicitis,” said Dr. Pamela Choi, a surgery resident at Washington University.

Metro riders wait for the Red Line at a station beneath Grand Avenue in Midtown.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Two Metro passes and a flu shot, please.

The parent company of Metro Transit St. Louis is looking into the possibility of building health clinics at Metro stops, particularly in north St. Louis County. Project manager John Wagner says the concept makes sense; transit stops are easy to get to, there’s parking and they get a lot of foot traffic.

“It would be using existing infrastructure that’s already in place,” Wagner said. “We couldn’t find any negative aspects of it.”

As homicides continue to tick up in St. Louis, many officials say gun violence should be approached as a public health issue.
Tony Webster | Flickr

The nationwide debate about gun control, mass shootings, and violent crime was once again jump-started in the wake of recent massacres at a county center in California and at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado that left several people dead.

But here in St. Louis, officials are concerned with a different type of gun violence — the kind that happens almost routinely and usually takes one life at a time.

Federal environmental health scientist Erin Evans speaks to area residents at an open house about Coldwater Creek on Wednesday.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:00 p.m., Dec. 3 with information on the county study - Federal scientists were in St. Louis County on Wednesday to talk with area residents about a planned public health assessment related to contamination along Coldwater Creek.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) announced last month that it would be launching the study to evaluate people’s potential exposures to radiation and other hazardous substances in and around the creek.

Using an online survey, the Coldwater Creek Facebook group has been collecting information on illnesses in the communities around the creek. Close to 2,000 cases of cancer have been reported.
Coldwater Creek - Just the Facts Please Facebook group

St. Louis County is teaming up with federal scientists to assess health risks from radioactive contamination in and around Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County.

According to county public health department director Faisal Khan, the collaboration with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will give a big boost to local efforts to study those risks, both in terms of financial resources and technical expertise.

Public health emergencies can range from weather-related emergencies to disease outbreaks to civil unrest.
Robert Boston | Washington University

The St. Louis region faces a wide range of potential public health crises, including natural disasters like tornados and floods, infectious disease epidemics and civil unrest.

Our ability to respond to such emergencies will be the focus of a conference on Thursday hosted annually by Washington University’s Institute for Public Health.

Erica Jones, right, and Theodis Rush, left, listen to a press conference to announce more money for an anti-gun-violence program run out of Better Family Life. Jones’s 24-year-old daughter, Whitney Brown, was killed in a drive-by shooting in August.
Nassim Benchaabane|St. Louis Public Radio

On Monday morning, St. Louis detectives began work on the city’s 145th homicide case since January. The body of a 25-year-old man was found in a car with multiple gunshot wounds in the Mark Twain neighborhood, an area less than two miles square that has already experienced six murders in the past nine months. 

The Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church organizes NightLIFE walks three times a week in two north St. Louis neighborhoods.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Three nights a week, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., half a dozen St. Louis clergy members walk the streets in a line.

Led by Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church, they visit the Fountain Park and Lewis Place neighborhoods to act as a “ministry of presence,” as McKoy calls it. It’s a violence prevention effort that began on a grassroots level and is now on the cusp of expanding. McKoy calls it NightLIFE.

Jamyla Bolden's photo for a GoFundMe site created to pay her funeral costs. A private donor later stepped forward to pay the full costs.
Cropped | Provided by the Bolden family

Over the weekend, the family of Jamyla Bolden buried their daughter — a bubbly fourth grader who loved to sing, dance and spend time with her friends.

An asthma field inspector checks a heating and air conditioning system during a home assessment.
Institute for Environmental Health Assessment and Patient Centered Outcomes

It takes John Kraemer about two hours to finish an asthma home assessment. He interviews the family, checks each room for allergens and records air quality data with a particulate counter. By identifying potential triggers for a patient’s asthma in their home, Kraemer said he keeps patients healthier and away from the emergency room.  

A cluster of patient chairs in the adult dentistry unit on the second floor. Community health clinics are waiting to see if dental coverage will be extended to adults in Missouri's Medicaid program this year.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

With three floors and 92 chairs for dental appointments, the new St. Louis Education and Oral Health Clinic has the equipment to fill some of the region’s oral health needs. 

Kirksville’s A.T. Still University built the $24 million facility in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis to train third-year students in its recently established dentistry school.

Attendees listen to a Trauma Awareness presentation at Jennings High School on June 9, 2015.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Traumatic events—such as child abuse, surviving a natural disaster or witnessing a crime—can have a long-term effect on a person’s mental health and well-being. The depth and scope of that pain is often hard for others to recognize, but two St. Louis-area agencies hope to change that.  

Affinia Healthcare employees listen to a press conference held by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. Affinia has increased its staff by 16 percent in the past four years with an influx of funding from the Affordable Care Act.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt visited a community health clinic in north St. Louis Thursday and pledged support for the model, which uses federal funds to provide basic healthcare services for people who are uninsured or living in poverty.   

The Affordable Care Act included an increase in funding to community health centers over the past five years. Congress has extended the funding for another two years.

Rosie and Holly Nauheim stand outside their home in St. Louis on May 18, 2015.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When her health insurance provider told Holly Naunheim that it wouldn’t cover her daughter’s stay in a residential treatment facility for an eating disorder, she was furious.  

“I was hysterical,” Naunheim said. “My husband and her therapist said, ‘We’re going to fight this.’”

Naunheim's daughter, Rosie, 15, had struggled with anorexia for three years, going in and out of doctor’s offices and a treatment center. In the eighth grade, she was so sick that she had to attend her graduation with a feeding tube taped under her nose.  

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Johnetta Craig, walks to a meeting at the Carondalet location of Family Care Health Centers in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite the efforts of healthcare advocates, hospitals and notable former legislators, the Missouri legislature did not pass Medicaid expansion this year, or even bring it to the debate floor. That means an estimated 147,000 Missourians will have another year without health coverage, and the community health clinics that care for the uninsured will continue trying to bridge the gap.   

(via Flickr/M Glasgow)

A panel of community organizers, anti-violence experts and Washington University professors are seeking solutions to reduce the number of shooting deaths by identifying gun violence as a public health crisis.

Gun violence hits the St. Louis region in a profound way. Here are just a few of the numbers: 

St. Louis Health Department

The director of the St. Louis City Department of Health, Pam Walker, has announced her retirement after eight years in the position.

In that time, she has overseen health initiatives, a citywide, secondhand smoking ban, and major changes in St. Louis’ healthcare landscape — including the closure of Connect Care, a clinic that provided urgent care and specialty appointments to people without insurance.  

Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill are used to burn off smelly underground gases.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

The Saint Louis County Department of Health is launching a survey to assess the health of people living near the Bridgeton Landfill.

An underground fire has been smoldering at the Bridgeton Landfill since 2010, causing odors emanating from the landfill to increase.

A Level I Trauma Center at St. Louis University Hospital.
Provided by Saint Louis University Hospital

Get in a car crash, take a gunshot, or survive a farm machinery accident in rural Illinois or parts of the Metro East, and you’ll likely be taken to St. Louis University Hospital, across the river.   

“The quicker you get somebody here, the better they’re going to do,” said Helen Sandkuhl, who directs the Emergency Department. More than half of the hospital’s trauma patients come from Illinois, and the trip can be a long one. Broad swaths of the state do not have certified trauma centers within 50 miles, creating "trauma deserts" in southern and central Illinois.

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