Fitness, well-being, disease, medical research and issues related to Seton and St. David's Healthcare, Austin Regional Clinic and other health care providers in Austin and Central Texas

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Rising summer temperatures could lead to expanded waistlines, according to a study announced today by University of Texas researchers.

Research from Paul von Hippel, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, has shown that adults living in counties with the highest and lowest temperatures are the least active and by extension, the most obese. This especially holds true for areas with humid summers and dark winters.

Hippel and co-author Rebecca Benson, a UT doctoral student, studied each of the 3,000 counties in the United States, assessing different variables that could predict why some counties were more obese than others. Many of the counties in the Southeast account for areas with the highest rates of obesity. The mountain West, with cool, dry summers, represents the lowest proportion of obese adults.

In just 12 years, the oldest members of the huge baby-boom generation will turn 80. Many will need some kind of long-term care. A new study from AARP says that care could vary dramatically in cost and quality depending on where they live.

There were times a few years back when the emergency room at SUNY Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse looked like a scene from a zombie movie. Dr. Ross Sullivan, a physician there, recalls one afternoon when staff wheeled in a man with dilated pupils who was covered in sweat.

"The patient was screaming obscenities, and anybody he would pass, he was threatening and saying he was going to kill them," Sullivan recalls.

Police suspected the patient had taken "bath salts," the notorious synthetic stimulants that were ravaging scores of American communities at the time.


Update: The City of Kyle has banned the possession of e-cigarettes by minors.

The Kyle City Council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance – making it illegal for minors to use e-cigarettes and for businesses or individuals to sell or distribute them to anyone under 18.

The ordinance was researched and development by the Kyle Youth Advisory Council – made up of local high schoolers – who say they were concerned about the trend.

Those who break the rule could face a fine of up to $500 and be required to perform community service or attend a tobacco-awareness program.

Eat this, not that. Exercise daily – but don’t overdo it. Go easy on the salt. Limit your caffeine. Take the white pills in the morning with food and the yellow ones in the evening with water.

Wait – what?

Following the doctor’s orders isn’t always so easy – especially for people with chronic conditions, who often have multiple medical providers. Sometimes it's just plain confusing. Bur now a new app's come along to help with all that – and it could be a lifesaver.

Patient IO is being developed by Texas-based Filament Labs, a healthcare technology company headquartered in Austin. The new app promises to bridge the gap between patients and doctors. 

Laura Taylor

More low-income Texas children have access to free and reduced price lunch over the summer than they did in 2012, according to a new report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), based in Washington D.C.

FRAC says Texas added 297 "summer meal sites" across the state in 2013. Those are places at schools or non-profit organizations where children whose families make less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level can get reduced-price meals through the federal Summer Food Service Program or the National School Lunch Program. Children from families earning less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level get free meals.

Spencer Selvidge/KUT

In Texas, about 400,000 people are on both Medicare and Medicaid. Right now, they’re on separate health plans: the state handles Medicaid, while the federal government oversees Medicare. 

But a pilot effort is underway to shed some redundancy and unnecessary cost – by folding the plans into one.  

Combining services under one plan would help people get the care they need in an appropriate facility – a nursing home instead of a hospital, for example, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Spokesperson Stephanie Goodman says it increases cost-saving incentives if one plan is not making decisions that are paid for by the other plan. "By combining it, you can get people better care in the right setting, lower costs generally, and the savings can be shared by both the state and federal government," Goodman says.

The inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs has affirmed that some 1,700 patients at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on unofficial wait lists and subjected to treatment delays of up to 115 days.

In an interim report released Wednesday, the inspector general's office reported it had "substantiated that significant delays in access to care negatively impacted the quality of care" at Phoenix HCS.

Gilead Sciences

A new treatment for hepatitis C is considered a breakthrough for people with the liver disease. But the high cost of the drug — about $1,000 a pill — has complicated efforts to get the medication to Texans who receive government-subsidized health care.

The state’s prison system and the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program, which covers poor children and people with disabilities, are trying to determine who qualifies for the drug, which is 80 to 90 percent effective but can cost $84,000 for a 12-week regimen.

In Texas, where roughly 300,000 people have chronic hepatitis C and many more may carry the virus, the treatment has raised ethical questions about who gets the drug.

Mexico City health official launched a new campaign this month to boost the image of nursing mothers. But posters of topless toned actresses weren't exactly the message women's groups and health advocates had hoped for.

"We were very surprised once the campaign was launched," says Regina Tames, of the reproductive rights group GIRE.

She was taken aback by pictures of topless actresses and one of the female boxer known as "La Barbie." She was shirtless, too — although she did have on her boxing gloves.

Last year, the Republican playbook for keeping control of the House of Representatives in 2014 and winning the Senate consisted of a fairly simple strategy: Run against Obamacare.

But now that the 2014 races are starting to take shape, that strategy isn't looking quite so simple. Democrats are fighting back. They're focusing on Republican opposition to the health law's expansion of Medicaid as a part of their own campaigns.

Another month, another apocalyptic news report of some weird substance that kids are abusing in pursuit of a high.

The most recent example is "beezin'," which supposedly involves smearing Burt's Bee's lip balm on one's eyelids. The tingling allegedly heightens the sensation of being drunk or high, according to the Oklahoma Fox News affiliate that first declared this a "viral trend."

The virus with the mysterious name has been making headlines this spring, with a mysterious increase in cases. Here's an update on what we know about MERS.

What is it? Middle East respiratory syndrome, a new and potentially fatally virus from the same family as the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome virus (SARS).

Kids under 18 can't buy cigarettes in the U.S., but they can legally work in tobacco fields when they're as young as 12.

One of those kids is Eddie Ramirez, 15, who works the fields in the summer.

"It just sticks to my hand," he says of the plant. "It's really sticky, you know, and really yellow." It's nearly impossible to wash off, he says.

Marijuana advocates will march on the Texas Capitol Saturday as part of the annual Worldwide Marijuana March. In Austin, the marchers will include members of Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA), a newly-founded organization which describes itself as a conservative Christian group calling for the legalization of medicinal marijuana use in Texas.

“We are working now with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. They’re a group out of Harris County. They are drafting a bill,"  says MAMMA co-founder and executive director Thalia Michelle. "We believe that Marijuana Policy Project will also be introducing a medicinal cannabis bill."

The Texas Youth and Runway Hotline has answered more than one million calls from youth and parents who are in crisis. Now youth and parents in crisis can access its services through text and chat. (The text number is 1-512-872-5777.)

The hotline, a service of the The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, launched new features last month. Despite fielding over a million phone calls, calls have been declining since 2010 as communications habits change.

The Food and Drug Administration Thursday proposed regulating e-cigarettes for the first time.

The agency unveiled a long-awaited rule that would give it power to oversee the increasingly popular devices, much in the way that it regulates traditional cigarettes.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

On the surface of the Onion Creek neighborhood, there’s progress.

The community is slowly recovering from 2013's deadly Halloween floods. Many families are back in their homes, even though most homes have yet to be fully rebuilt. But scratch the surface, and people are still suffering the psychological effects of that night.

Often when we hear about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it's in the context of war. But David Evans, CEO of Austin/Travis County Integral Care, says PTSD can affect those who survive any traumatic experience. 

If you bought health coverage through one of the online insurance marketplaces, you might have a tough time determining whether your plan covers abortion services.

Though Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius got an earful from members of Congress about the problem at a hearing last November, little's been done yet to clear up the confusion in some states.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has borne the brunt of criticism for the troubled rollout of the website, said Friday that as she prepares to leave that agency she is thankful to have had the chance to work on "the cause of my life."

Her agency, Sebelius said, has been "in the front lines of a long overdue national change — fixing a broken health system."