Public Health

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. 

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.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

The state agency that provides Medicaid coverage to more than 840,000 Missourians does not have proper oversight over contractors in charge of certain aspects of payment processing, according to an audit released Monday of MO HealthNet.  

The report by the office of Tom Schweich, the Missouri state auditor, identified four areas of concern:

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

A female nurse who was admitted to Mercy Hospital Jefferson with a fever after returning from Liberia has returned home, officials confirmed Saturday night. 

Adrian Clark | Flickr

After test results confirmed that a nurse in Dallas had contracted the deadly Ebola virus from a patient, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told hospitals to ‘start thinking Ebola’ when patients present flu-like symptoms.

Hospital officials in the St. Louis region say they’ve already done so. They've been working to determine protocols, train health workers and buy protective equipment. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids.

Dr. Farouk / Flickr Creative Commons

A relatively rare virus strain that can cause respiratory problems in children has been confirmed in St. Louis. It has sent dozens to pediatric intensive care units in Kansas City and Chicago.

Late last week, St. Louis Children’s Hospital ran in-house tests and confirmed Enterovirus-68, or EV-D68, in a small sample of three patients who had been admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit.

via NASA

A new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns that smoke from wildfires poses health risks to people living far from the actual blaze.

The study used data from 2011, an especially bad year for wildfires in the US, to rank states with the greatest number of residents affected by wildfire smoke for longer than a week.

Illinois and Missouri were ranked second and fourth respectively, despite having no wildfires of their own.

(via Google Maps)

Updated at 3:45 p.m. on August 14, 2013 and at 11:10 a.m. on August 15, 2013 (to add comment from Ameren).

Another St. Louis County official is calling for tighter pollution controls at Ameren's Meramec power plant.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley today released a letter he sent to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging the agency to pursue sulfur dioxide controls at the Meramec plant.

(via Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Illinois' first case this year of West Nile virus in a bird has been confirmed. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) the infected starling was collected by the Monroe County Health Department on June 27 in Waterloo, Ill.

This pattern of detection is part of an annual trend seen by health officials in which the West Nile virus is first detected in mosquitoes, followed by birds, and then, people. No cases have been reported so far this year in humans. However, according to health officials, it is only a matter of time before a person is infected.

Gary Weil/Washington University School of Medicine

Researchers from all over the world are gathering today at Washington University for a conference on global health.

The event is the first to be organized by the university’s recently-created Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease. St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra spoke with the Center’s director Bill Powderly about its mission.