Health

Health
8:11 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Child is Season's 9th Travis County Flu Death

H1N1 virus as seen through an electron microscope
CDC

Nine deaths from influenza in Travis County this flu season represent just one measure of how severe the season has been.

Dr. Phil Huang, Medical Director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, notes that cases started showing up earlier in the season, toward the end of 2013, and that patients under the age of 60 were among the most severely affected. 

"Definitely what we're seeing is worse than what we've seen in some past seasons," Dr. Huang said, "and also the population that's being affected with some of the more severe illness is a younger population than what we were seeing." 

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Health
5:30 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Pregnant Woman Kept On Life Support Despite Family's Wishes

Erick and Marlise Munoz are pictured with their first child, Mateo, who is now 15 months old. (Courtesy of the family)

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 4:13 pm

A 33-year-old Texas woman named Marlise Munoz has been connected to life support machines for more than a month, after she collapsed on the kitchen floor of her home.

Her husband says she would not have wanted to be kept alive this way, but the hospital has refused to follow that wish, citing a Texas law that forbids medical officials from cutting off life support to a pregnant patient.

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Health
7:03 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Power for Parkinson's Inspires Patients to Step Into an Active Life

At a Power for Parkinson's class, patients stay active by dancing to the music of 'Singin' in the Rain.'
Phoebe Flanigan

With a vibrant live music scene, a bustling tech sector and a top-flight university, Austin seems like an oasis for young people.

However, the seemingly youthful Texas capital isn't wasted on the young. 

The Austin-Round Rock area has the fastest growing population of people between ages 55 and 64, and the third-fastest growing for those 65 and over, according to U.S. Census data. 

An organization called Power for Parkinson's is offering those affected by the disease a chance to step forward into an active, healthy life. 

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Health
1:46 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Defibrillators Save Lives, But Experts Say They're Scarce in Austin

Photo via http://www.flickr.com/photos/mloberg/

All the holiday stress, dehydration and alcohol consumption at this time of the year can lead to something called “holiday heart syndrome.” It’s an irregular heartbeat that often presents in people who are otherwise healthy.

If someone collapses around you, you might be able to save their lives with an automated external defibrillator, or AED. But public health experts say there aren’t nearly enough of them out there. 

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Health
5:00 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

H1N1 Causes Early Spikes in Flu Cases

Five deaths have been attributed to the flu in Texas, one of the hardest hit states in the nation.
CDC

The flu season has hit unusually early this year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, Texas is one of the states hardest hit. Physicians are urging everyone to get a flu shot. 

Typically, the flu season peaks in January, but so far this year at least five deaths have already occurred in Texas. At a press conference Monday, medical experts at Seton Medical Center Austin said the number of positive flu tests has doubled over the past two weeks.

Dr. Irfan Hydari, the medical director of emergency services at Seton, said the flu strand that is responsible for the vast majority of illnesses is H1N1, or swine flu. That strand became notorious in 2009 when it caused a flu pandemic

But Hydari said vaccine technology continues to improve, and this year it has been adapted to combat H1N1.

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Affordable Care Act
12:12 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Faith-Based Alternatives To Obamacare Are Taking Off In Texas

Shutterstock

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 10:30 am

Under Obamacare, nearly every American has to have health insurance or pay a penalty. One of the few exceptions is for people who are members of what’s called “health care sharing ministries.” The two largest sharing ministries – Samaritan and Medi-Share – have both nearly doubled their membership in Texas since the Affordable Care Act.

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Affordable Care Act
3:57 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Microsoft Executive Will Now Run HealthCare.gov

Kurt DelBene, former president of the Microsoft Office Division, talks about Microsoft Office 365 at a news conference in San Francisco, in 2010.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 11:49 am

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene will take over the operation of the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

DelBene will take over for Jeff Zients, who was appointed by President Obama to rescue the site after it launched with crippling problems. Zients, who Obama had turned to in the past to fix sticky issues, had made it clear that he was not going to stay on the job past December.

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Health
7:52 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Heroin In The 'Burbs: Women Moving From Pain Pills To The Hard Stuff

Sara Kendall, 26, lives in Oak Cliff with her son Jaxon. Kendall got hooked on prescription pain pills in high school, and then heroin. She got sober with the help of Nexus Recovery Center in Dallas, which she still visits to share her story.
Lauren Silverman KERA News

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:57 am

When a heroin epidemic swept through North Texas in the 1990s, it left at least two dozen young people dead. Then the drug seemed to go into hibernation.

Now the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it’s seeing an alarming number of women from affluent Dallas suburbs buying heroin. And, for many, the addiction begins with prescription pain pills.

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Texas Abortion Lawsuit
1:37 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

After SCOTUS, Abortion Providers Work to Secure Access

Activists on either side of the abortion debate clash inside the Capitol on June 12, 2013. The Texas Senate approved new abortion restrictions that night.
Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUT News

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday not to intervene in Texas’ ongoing abortion litigation, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are working to secure access to the procedure for women across the state.

“We’re working to help make sure that our patients and women across Texas can get the services that they need,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. He said Planned Parenthood staff is predominantly working to secure hospital admitting privileges for physicians who don’t have them. Staffers are also helping women who must now travel long distances to access abortion; in some cases, they are helping to offset the costs of transportation and lodging.

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Affordable Care Act
10:27 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Oregon Shines On Medicaid, As Texas Stalls On Sign-Ups

Kyle Thompson and his family are all going to have health coverage in Oregon, thanks to the state's successful effort to enroll people in Medicaid.
Kristian Foden-Vencil

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:29 pm

Oregon might be seen as a complete failure or a surprising success when it comes to its health insurance exchange.

One the one hand, the state's website has yet to allow a single person to enroll. That's a big problem for the folks who are hoping to qualify for subsidies and buy insurance that will start Jan. 1.

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Health
2:01 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Maps: Austin Health Disparities at Birth

In areas that are orange and red, the percentage of women with inadequate prenatal care exceeds the Travis County average.

A new study shows how Travis County’s low-income areas are home to inadequate prenatal care and troublesome birth outcomes – including a racial disparity in neonatal intensive care unit admissions.

The study, released at the Birth Outcomes Summit at Dell Children’s Hospital, uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Texas Department of State Health Services.

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Affordable Care Act
10:54 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Obama Moves To Delay Cancellations Of Insurance Plans

President Barack Obama speaking at the White House on Thursday.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 12:18 pm

  • LISTEN: The president's news conference and NPR coverage of it

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

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Affordable Care Act
4:02 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Under 3,000 Texans Sign Up for Insurance on Obamacare Website

Fewer than 3,000 people in Texas signed up for health plans in the first month of enrollment through the Affordable Care Act website, according to data released today [PDF] by the Health and Human Services department.

Other Texas findings in the data:

  • 11,682 Texans were determined to be eligible for CHIP and/or Medicaid through the federal health care marketplace, HealthCare.gov.
  • Almost 54,000 Texans actually completed applications. Those applications would cover more than 108,000 individuals.
  • Most of those applicants – over 80,000 – are eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan available through the federal marketplace– but they haven’t done so yet.  
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Affordable Care Act
10:10 am
Wed November 13, 2013

HealthCare.gov's Mystery Lady Says She's Been Cyberbullied

HealthCare.gov

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 12:21 pm

The woman whose smiling face adorned the HealthCare.gov website in the first days after its launch has stepped forward to tearfully address those who she says cyberbullied her as they took potshots at the Obama administration's troubled online health exchange.

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East Austin
12:54 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Huston-Tillotson Aims to Ease African-American Mental Health Stigmas

An unidentified person photographed at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless in 2011. East Austin’s Huston-Tillotson University hopes to open a community mental health clinic next year.
KUT News

Robert Winston knows he has a mental disorder – but he didn’t know that for a long time.

He’s convinced his life would’ve turned out much differently had he been diagnosed as a young adult. He probably wouldn’t have left his wife and kids in California. He probably wouldn’t have become dependent on alcohol. He probably wouldn’t have ended up homeless in Austin.

Winston is African-American and he is 52-years-old. “[I’ve] tried to commit suicide twice,” he says. “And I couldn’t understand why I was having a hard time dealing with just the basic things of life.” 

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