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

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

When the University of Texas’ new Dell Medical School opens its doors in 2016, it will be the first new medical school at a leading research university in over fifty years. And its creation offers significant possibilities for doctors, educators and public health advocates. 

“We see this as an exciting opportunity to rethink medical education from the ground up,” says New York University professor Helena Hansen, one of the participants at this week’s conference on racial and ethnic health disparities. “Because you’re starting a program from scratch here in Austin, you can think very big.” 

Update at noon ET. It's Over:

Saying that "it's fitting that this debate concludes with a prayer" because he believes Americans are pleading with Congress to defund President Obama's health care law, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just wrapped up his marathon protest on the Senate floor.

Cruz began speaking just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday and abided by Senate rules when he finished at noon today.

"The pleas from the American people," he said of what he sees as the public's opposition to Obamacare, "are deafening."

Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released preliminary costs for health insurance in the marketplaces opened under the Affordable Care Act.

The marketplaces are slated to open Oct. 1. These numbers are expected to change in the coming months after the marketplaces open, and before the Affordable Care Act goes into effect on Jan. 1.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

In a former storefront in Central Austin’s Highland Mall, a health care enrollment center is getting set up.

It’s one of dozens of centers in Texas where certified application counselors will help answer people's questions about buying health insurance via the new federal marketplace.

By October 1, we should know how much health insurance plans purchased through the new federal marketplace will cost.

Texas has declined to implement the marketplace itself, but new regulations of insurance plans and their rates will still be in effect here. So if you plan to buy insurance through the marketplace when it launches next week, Lisa McAdams with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Dallas suggests you keep the following two things in mind:

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

As the Oct. 1 launch of the federal health insurance marketplace nears, people may have questions about how it works.

Some Texans may get a visit from volunteers – such as those with the Get Covered America campaign of Enroll America  – going door to door to answer those questions. But consumers can also turn to counselors, websites and phone numbers for answers. 

Ben Philpott for KUT News

A handful of clinics in Texas have closed, or are planning to, just weeks after a controversial bill restricting abortions passed the state legislature.

Planned Parenthood says the closures will hurt the women who came to the clinics for general healthcare services. Anti-abortion groups say there are other doctors for the women to go to. So who's right?


You won’t find the Marlboro Man pushing tobacco on TV anymore, but you will find other familiar faces flaunting electronic cigarettes. Celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, Stephen Dorff and Courtney Love have signed on to pitch the devices, and national sales of e-cigarettes have caught fire.

In North Texas, e-cigarettes are big business, even though physicians worry they aren’t as benign as we’re being told. There are very few rules on where you can use them, so usually, it’s inhale before you inquire.

Four abortion clinics are preparing to close in the coming months as a result of stricter requirements imposed by a new state law regulating abortion. The Dallas Morning News reports that one of the main obstacles the clinics face is a requirement that doctors who perform the procedure obtain admitting privileges at hospitals. The clinics that will close are in Bryan, Harlingen, San Angelo and Midland. Two others closed earlier this year.

Launching a new medical school is a major undertaking. But launching the University of Texas’ new medical school – in tandem with a new model of treating the sick and preventing illness – is even bigger.

When Austin voters approved Proposition 1 last year, increasing the property tax collected by Central Health, the measure was commonly referred to as the medical school initiative. But instead of financing the building of a medical school, taxpayer dollars are going toward a new medical program aiding the uninsured and under-insured. And yes, UT’s Dell Medical School is a part of that.

In a very sweet gesture, President George H.W. Bush shaved his head to show solidarity for Patrick, the two-year-old son of one of the members of his Secret Service detail.

Patrick, Bush's spokesman Jim McGrath said on Twitter, is undergoing treatment for leukemia, so he lost his hair.

McGrath tweeted this picture of Bush with the little guy:

And this one of Patrick with Bush and the entire Secret Service detail:

Healthy People, Healthy Places Austin

This month marks the one-year anniversary of a project between the City of Austin and the UT's School of Public Health to reduce the gap in public health between ethnic groups in Austin.

Guys can really get hammered, can't they? I mean, totally trashed. Not me. I may have gotten a little buzzed at that birthday party, but that's it.

The words people use to describe their drinking behavior can say a lot about how they perceive drinking, a perception that may not match reality, researchers say.

And the language may also reveal risks that may not be obvious to the drinkers themselves.

Roy Varney for KUT News

Death Cafe may sound like a new Tim Burton film or goth band. But instead, it’s a growing group of meetings where participants spend hours discussing their hopes and fears surrounding death and dying.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States. More than three times as many children are obese today compared to a generation ago. 

In Central Texas, some of the highest childhood obesity rates can be found in the Southeast Austin neighborhood of Dove Springs. The area has attracted the attention of social scientists who are looking at everything from the built environment, to the number of parks, to the socio-economic demographics, to the availability of healthy food.

It’s that last item – access to fresh produce in particular – that is the focus of an effort by Austin’s Sustainable Food Center. The non-profit has partnered with other groups to set up a temporary produce stand at the Dove Springs Recreation Center for three hours on Wednesdays for part of the summer.

After an unprecedented outbreak of West Nile virus in Texas last year, the state has seen half of the reported cases compared to this time last year.

But, despite the decrease, the Department of State Health Services says environmental factors and the disease's unpredictability don't necessarily guarantee a safe summer for Texans.

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates progress and societal advancement of African-Americans in Texas. While there is plenty to celebrate, some advocates in Austin are still trying to promote mental health and overcome treatment barriers for African-Americans in Austin.

And, although African-Americans are just as likely to encounter mental health problems as the rest of the population, there are fewer options when it comes to seeking help.

Austin resident Alyshia Foster grew up outside Dallas. When she was nine, she started taking medication to deal with depression.

“There had been this festering ugliness and self-hatred and I felt it was killing everything beautiful about it and I didn’t know what it was," Foster said.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the nation. About 75 percent of Americans will contract the virus during their lifetime, and younger populations face the greatest risk.

Research indicates that almost three quarters of new HPV infections occur in people between 15 and 24 years old. But a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas State University found that many college students are unaware of or misinformed about the risks posed by HPV.

Todd Wiseman/Blake Thompson

Texas received federal approval in May to begin more than 1,100 experimental projects that could transform the way health care is delivered to the state’s poor and uninsured.