KASU

Health & Science

Arkansas Licensed Lay Midwives are regulated by the Arkansas Department of Health. Current rules require mothers to prove they are medically fit to endure a midwife-assisted birth by undergoing two medical assessments with a qualified medical provider or public health clinician. Midwives must relinquish care of any client found to be at risk, or risk losing their license.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Kentucky woman was sickened by Legionnaires' disease after staying at a hotel near the Tennessee home of famed singer Elvis Presley, and an autopsy says the pneumonia caused her death.

pixabay stock photo of obese women
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A report released by two nonprofit groups shows West Virginia has the highest rate of obesity among adults in the nation.

The report released Thursday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analyzed figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found West Virginia had an obesity rate of 37.7 percent. Mississippi was second at 37.3 percent and Alabama and Arkansas were tied for third at 35.7 percent.

More than 13,000 Arkansans identify as transgender, according to a recent report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. That's a larger percentage of the population than the national average and puts Arkansas 18th in the nation.

Barriers to healthcare for these Arkansans remain a significant struggle. That’s especially true for those who want sex reassignment surgery, are on hormone therapy, or are seeking mental health services.

Willie Freeman says he used to avoid smiling, and if he did, it was in a way almost no one could see, with his mouth closed. He was embarrassed of his rotten teeth.

“I wouldn’t go around people and if I did smile, you know, nobody would see me smile,” said Freeman. “My teeth was so messed up, you know, I had gaps everywhere,” he said sitting in an office at Little Rock’s low-income, non-profit Harmony Health Clinic, waiting for an appointment.

About one in three Arkansas residents is obese, and doctors say it’s leading to people dying much younger than they need to, and leading unhealthier lives in the meantime.

“They have more co-morbidities, which means they have other disease processes that basically can shorten their lifespans, such as diabetes and hypertension and heart disease,” said Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the New York Institute of Technology's College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University.  He said since the human body is not meant to carry hundreds of extra pounds, morbidly obese humans may suffer severe hip, joint, knee or ankle pain.

A recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count data center finds that heart disease is the fifth-highest cause of death for children and teenagers in Arkansas. 

At five-percent, heart disease is dwarfed by other causes, such as accidents, which account for 34 percent of childhood deaths. But doctors say heart disease can still endanger kids and put many others at risk for problems in adulthood and lead to heart attacks under the age of 40.

Summer vacation season is heating up with residents venturing into woodlands to hike and camp, but danger may be lurking in the forest, in the form of infected ticks.

Arkansas has some of the highest rates of tick-borne illness in the country. And this summer a new disease has been confirmed by state health officials: the Heartland virus, so-named because it’s spreading across America’s heartland.

The Heartland virus was first detected eight years ago, in Missouri, after two farmers were hospitalized with a mysterious debilitating illness.

The Arkansas Department of Health will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana patient cards at the end of the month, according to an agency news release. The cards will be distributed to qualifying patients and caregivers in order to allow the purchase of medicine from licensed dispensaries. The Health Department says it will distribute the cards approximately 30 days before medical marijuana is available for sale in the state. That could be next year.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin in early June pronounced the American veterans health care system to be in “critical condition.” 
 
One northwest Arkansas VA hospital, however, appears to be thriving, and that prompted U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-3rd District) to invite Shulkin to take a look.

After an early morning tour of the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville Monday, Shulkin, at a press conference on the grounds, characterized the forested campus facility as extraordinary.

 
 “It is a five-star facility. That means it is the very top of performance across the country in VA’s.”
 

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas will soon begin taking applications from those who hope to grow and dispense medical marijuana, though the state's strong religious heritage and restrictions imposed by the Legislature will limit where greenhouses and distributors can operate.

The 3rd Annual Tracking Report from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds that the state is having success with a new health care business model that puts the focus on improved outcomes and cost savings.  

Unlike fee-for-service, the model used by the vast majority of health care providers, the Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative offers no financial incentive for ordering unnecessary tests.  Providers instead earn bonuses for improved outcomes for patients and for reducing costs.

It’s already saved the state some $54 million in Medicaid costs, according to Mike Motley, assistant policy director at ACHI.  The tracking report found that total Medicaid costs predicted at $660.9 million came in at $606.5 million in 2015, due to cost avoidance.  The savings were then shared between the state and the providers who helped avoid unnecessary costs.

Motley said the value-based model benefits patients as well by emphasizing outcomes and putting them in closer contact with their caregivers.

The U.S. Senate plans to spend the summer writing health care legislation to repeal, replace, or tweak the Affordable Care Act. The House has passed a bill that congressional analysts say would reduce the deficit and cut 23 million people from their insurance. Arkansas Public Media’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek spoke with Senator John Boozman about his goals for health care.

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JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas food distributor has recalled nearly 100,000 pounds of precooked sausage products that might contain metal.

The recall was announced Wednesday by Armour Eckrich Meats in Junction City.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service says the recall includes more than 8,000 cases of 16.6 ounce packages of "Eckrich Smok-y Cheddar Breakfast sausage, Naturally Hardwood Smoked." The labels have the case or UPC code and a "27815 17984" with a use-by date of Aug. 17. The products also have the number "EST. 3JC" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Brandon Tabor, KASU News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Board of Health has unanimously approved rules that govern the issuance of marijuana-user registration cards, and the labeling and testing of the drug.

Robert Brech, the Department of Health's chief attorney, tells the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2ptmqy5) the department's staff made a few technical revisions since receiving board approval in January before submitting the final version of the rules Thursday.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say 54 cases of mumps have been confirmed among students at Southeast Missouri State University.

KFVS-TV (http://bit.ly/2oR3hD5) reports that there also are another 23 probable cases among students at the Cape Girardeau school. School leaders believe the peak of the mumps outbreak has passed, but expect to see more positive cases on campus and in the community. Students are being urged to receive a booster dose of the vaccine that protects against mumps, as well as measles and rubella.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a Memphis meat packer has recalled some ready-to-eat ham products due to possible bacterial contamination.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Health officials say the state's first human case of West Nile virus this year has been found in west Tennessee.

The health department in Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said Friday the virus was recently confirmed in a person who lives in the county. Officials did not identify the patient.

Officials said there were six human cases of the virus in Tennessee in 2016. One case was fatal.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas health panel has recommended limiting coverage of opioid prescriptions in health plans that cover tens of thousands of state employees and teachers.

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Encouraging lawmakers to make informed policy decisions when it comes to legislation about science…that is the goal of a march that occurs this month at the state capitol in Little Rock.  The theme for the event is “Stand Up for Science.” Dr. Michele Merritt is assistant professor of philosophy at Arkansas State University.  She came up with the idea of a March for Science. 

"You don't have to be a scientist to appreciate science," says Merritt.  "I am not a science professor, but I rely on science and I wanted to protect what I see is valuable research that is going on."

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says despite proposed changes to the federal healthcare bill introduced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, he still cannot back the measure. He also doesn't think it will have the support needed to pass in the Senate.

In a statement Tuesday, the Republican said:

Despite the proposed amendments, I still cannot support the House health-care bill, nor would it pass the Senate. The amendments improve the Medicaid reforms in the original bill, but do little to address the core problem of Obamacare: rising premiums and deductibles, which are making insurance unaffordable for too many Arkansans. The House should continue its work on this bill. It’s more important to finally get health-care reform right than to get it fast.

A host of bills have been filed in the 91st General Assembly that direct Arkansas’s voter-approved medical marijuana program in small and moderate ways, but two senate bills would prohibit smoking, eating or drinking medical marijuana products. Monday, the smoking ban failed a Senate floor vote by 14 votes, 10-15, but it could come up again.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment, Issue 6 on the ballot Nov. 8, passed with better than 53% support.

Arkansas Public Media spoke to the amendment’s author Monday afternoon just before the Senate floor vote. Little Rock attorney David Couch specializes in nursing home litigation and regulation.

We began with the legislation banning smoking and ingesting marijuana, sponsored by Republicans Jason Rapert (Bigelow) and Gary Stubblefield (Branch) in the Senate, and House Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs).

Last May, sisters Anais, Elise and Emory Bowerman spent the night at a Girl Scout slumber camp in Lowell. The girls came home the next day covered with ticks. 

“One second my life was going great," says Anais, 11. "Then a tick bites me and it’s all ruined.”

Anais, a budding artist, says her hands started to shake. Her sisters Elise, 10, and Emory, 7, also started to feel ill.

“I threw up twice," Emory says. "I felt sluggish and my head was kind of dizzy.” 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the Trump Administration for approval to make changes to the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program. They include lowering the eligibility cap, which would reduce the number of beneficiaries by about 60,000 people, and adding a work requirement for recipients.

The Republican governor’s announcement came the same day that Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released a long-awaited plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. Whether that will get the needed support for passage isn’t known yet.

An attempt to ban the smoking of medical marijuana fell short in the Arkansas Senate while a bill to ban edibles was deferred. But both measures altering the voter-approved constitutional amendment could come up later this week.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, Republican Jason Rapert of Bigelow said inhaling smoke is not good medicine.

“You mark my word. People will be hurt, they will be injured, and some will die as a result of this loose amendment,” said the senator.

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