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

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."

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Is Resigning

Apr 11, 2014

Health Secrerary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after a five-year term that will no doubt be remembered for the calamitous implementation of President Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

If you remember, when the federal government unveiled, where Americans could buy health insurance mandated by Obamacare, the site was essentially useless for weeks after it launched in October.

Laura Rice, KUT News

It’s becoming more common for kids at school to share a classroom – or a lunchroom – with a student with food allergies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says as many as one in 15 kids in the U.S. have food allergies – and those numbers appear to be on the rise.

The issue is a serious one because kids can become very sick or die from exposure to certain foods. But kids also may feel isolated or be bullied because of the precautions they have to take.

Some local schools and parents are taking a unique route towards promoting awareness and acceptance.

Whooping cough made a comeback in California last year, which researchers have linked to vaccine refusals. And with new measles outbreaks in Southern California, New York and British Columbia, the debate over vaccination is also spreading.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Update: South Texas spa owner Elva Navarro pleaded guilty at her trial on June 9, 2014 in a federal court in McAllen to injecting a liquid silicone substance into her clients. This allegedly took place at the Bella Face and Body Spa, also in McAllen.

Navarro could face up to three years in prison at her sentencing, expected to take place in August.

Original Story (April 7, 2014): A few weeks ago officials arrested a spa owner in the Rio Grande Valley for allegedly giving clients injections of liquid silicone – a procedure which is not approved by the FDA.

The injections were allegedly sold as sort of quick plastic surgery: buttocks enhancements. 

No one knows yet how many women in the Rio Grande Valley have gotten the illegal silicone injections. Investigators say the procedures have led to lengthy hospitalizations.

This post was updated at 4:40 p.m. ET. with Obama's comments.

President Obama emerged from the White House on Tuesday to rousing applause. He announced that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health care through the federal exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

"This law is doing what it's supposed to do," Obama said at the Rose Garden. "It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast."

The last day of sign-ups for health insurance on the website is turning out to have a lot in common with the first: lots of computer problems.

But there are some big differences, too. Back in October the not-ready-for-prime-time website was only able to enroll six people on its first day.

KUT News

Austin nonprofits are trying to sign up as many people as possible before tonight’s deadline to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Insure Central Texas has four enrollment centers in the Austin area. Program director Elizabeth Colvin says the demand for their services is exceeding their capacity; this morning they had 100 people lined up by the time they opened at 6 a.m.

The deadline to begin signing up is 11 p.m. tonight. Colvin advises people to at least start the application this evening, as those who do start then can finish the process at a later time.

With this year's deadline to register for individual health insurance just a weekend away, much attention is being lavished on two numbers — the 6 million Americans who have signed up so far, and the percentage of those folks who are (or aren't) young.

But experts say the national numbers actually don't mean very much.