Health & Science

Ways to Connect

Designing skateboards is just one of Luke Franco's gigs. He has just enough time before his next shift to chat at a café in downtown Providence, R.I.

"I work at the YMCA Monday through Friday with kindergartners through fifth graders. It's split shift; seven to nine, two to six daily," he says. "With the rest of my day, I also work at a local pizza place. And in addition to that, I also own and operate a small skateboard company."

But none of his jobs offers health insurance. I ask him if he worries about that.

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Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Remember Google Glass?

They're the headsets that look like regular glasses but have a small computer on the side to speak to and access the Internet. If that's not ringing a bell, it could be because Google Glass fizzled out and was discontinued in the consumer market.

But now, it's getting a second life in the manufacturing industry.

Teen Drug Use Is Declining, But Why?

Mar 18, 2017

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Teen drug use in the United States is in decline. A government study finds that the overall use of alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications and illicit substances dropped among American teens last year, but why?

The St. Patrick's parade is over and the Irish (and honorary Irish) have gone home to sleep off their annual bout of intemperance, but the multi-generational marchers of the Italian-American St. Joseph Society in New Orleans are only just dusting off their tuxedos and straightening their bow ties. Once the shamrocks and shenanigans have vanished from the narrow streets of the French Quarter, and the keg of green beer is empty, another parade — in honor of an entirely different saint — is beginning to gear up.

Got an idea for a new world order? Swedish billionaire Laszlo Szombatfalvy will pay you at least a million for it.

A competition from the Global Challenges Foundation, founded in 2012 by the Szombatfalvy, is calling for solutions to the world's most pressing problems, like conflict, climate change and extreme poverty.

­Last September, a tiny, itchy welt appeared just above my left hip. I thought I had an insect bite. I was visiting New York City at the time, and I worried it might be a sign of bed bugs.

But after I flew home, the welt began to swell. Soon it was as big as a blueberry. But rather than being blue, the lump turned scarlet. Because I am the type of person who can't leave well enough alone, I tried to pop it. That just made the lump angry. It began to ache.

David Higginbotham contracted hepatitis C more than 35 years ago. He'd like to rid his body of the virus, but Colorado's Medicaid program says he's not sick enough to justify the cost.

And he's not alone.

No matter how you slice it, outbreaks are becoming more common. Overseas, there's been Ebola, Zika and yellow fever. And here at home, we're seeing a surge in tick-borne diseases, with Lyme leading the way.

For the past month, NPR has been looking at why this is the case. Deforestation lets animal viruses jump into people. Factory farming amplifies the problem. And then international tourism spreads the new diseases around the globe.

But throughout our series, there's been something else on people's minds.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22.

It's an occasion to think about the risks we all face from climate change — and to recognize the toll these problems take on the people in the developing world, who are especially vulnerable. When oceans rise, when drought strikes, the consequences can be dire. People are losing their homes and becoming climate refugees, losing their crops, losing their water sources. Disease-carrying insects are moving into new territory.

This Friday is Match Day, an annual rite of passage for seniors in medical school, when they find out at noon if they've "matched" with a residency in the specialty and location of their choice.

But many of those being matched will be happy to go pretty much anywhere. They are international medical graduates — either U.S citizens who've attended school out of the country (think the Caribbean or Mexico) or doctors who are citizens of other countries and want to train here.

The 1,500-mile Appalachian Mountain range stretches so far that those on the northern and southern sides can't agree on what to call it: Appa-LAY-chia or Appa-LATCH-ia. The outside perspective on the people who live there might be even more mangled. Stories about Appalachia tend to center around subjects like poverty, the opioid epidemic and coal, but since 1966 a series called Foxfire has been sharing food, culture and life as it's actually lived in the mountain region.

Common Blood Tests Can Help Predict Chronic Disease Risk

Mar 17, 2017

A score based on common blood tests may someday help people gauge their risk of developing a chronic disease like diabetes or dementia within three years of taking the test.

Another cardiology meeting, another big prevention trial – and questions abound. People at risk for cardiovascular disease will be wondering about the implications for them. So are the doctors. New trials take some time to digest – and yet our news cycle wants quick, succinct answers. Sometimes it is not an easy call.

Speak of the Emerald Isle, and you picture verdant rolling hillsides. But there's another green bounty — not just on Ireland's soil, but off its coast. We're talking about seaweed. And if some Irish have their way, it'll be making its way back onto plates.

We hear a lot about U.S. companies laying off workers and shipping jobs overseas.

So, amid the global pressures to downsize, how do you hang onto your workforce?

We went looking for answers in Chelsea, Mich., home to a family owned manufacturer that's managed to thrive over four generations, since the company's founding in 1907.

The Chelsea Milling Co. is better known as the manufacturer of Jiffy baking mixes. You know the ones. They come in those signature little blue and white boxes: mixes for muffins, cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, brownies and more.

Many in Texas are keeping a close eye on the Republican bid to replace the Affordable Care Act. One of the big changes is how it would affect low-income people, seniors, and people with disabilities who get help from Medicaid. And people on both sides of the political spectrum say the Lone Star State is not going to fare well.

As the GOP bill, the American Health Care Act, works its way through Congress, Anne Dunkelberg with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin says she's a little stumped.

In 2016, a mass bleaching event caused unprecedented destruction to the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world.

Now, a new study in Nature has concluded that securing a future for coral reefs "ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming."

It finds that local measures, such as protecting reefs and water quality, ultimately yield little protection against bleaching caused by higher water temperatures.

Environmentalists love "cover crops." These are plants that tolerate cool weather and grow on farm fields after the crops are harvested. They hold the soil in place and are probably the most effective way to keep nutrients in fields, rather than polluting nearby streams.

Forget basketball.

March Mammal Madness may be more thrill-packed than the NCAA's version of March Madness.

Sure, basketball players can jump. But can they jump like the giant pouched rat, which leaps 5 feet in the air? Not only that, the mega-rodent, weighing in at around 3 pounds, can sniff out land mines and identify TB in sputum samples.

Nearly five years ago, the nation's leading group of obstetricians and gynecologists issued a policy statement saying the time had come for oral contraception to be available without a prescription.

We wrote about it and everything.

This frog really lights up a room.

The South American polka dot tree frog initially appears unremarkable. But researchers in Argentina recently got a huge surprise when they shone an ultraviolet light on it, revealing that the creature is actually fluorescent and glows bright blue-green.

Rising drug prices are one of the biggest challenges in health care in the United States. More people are using prescription drugs on a regular basis, and the costs of specialty drugs are rising faster than inflation.

President Donald Trump has promised over and over again to drive down drug prices.

Surely, Oakhurst Dairy would have done well to heed the immortal words of the '80s hair band Cinderella: "Don't know what you got (till it's gone)."

The milk and cream company based in Portland, Maine, likely never appreciated the serial comma — also known as an Oxford comma — so much as it did Monday, when the lack of that little curved stroke cost the company an appeals court ruling that centered on overtime rules for drivers.

In the introduction to his proposed federal budget, President Donald Trump states clearly that he plans to spend far less abroad and on international issues than did previous administrations.

One of the five bullet points in the introduction to the document "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again" states that the fiscal plan "puts America first by keeping more of America's hard-earned tax dollars here at home."

Microscopic, bear-shaped animals called tardigrades are one of the most resilient animals on earth. Known colloquially as water bears, they can survive freezing temperatures, radiation, even a trip to outer space.

The creatures are famous for their ability to withstand extremely dry conditions. Water bears can go without water for 10 years, surviving as a dessicated shell. Just how they come back to life when their environment is friendlier has baffled scientists for years.

When Policing And Race Cross Paths In Silicon Valley

Mar 16, 2017

Silicon Valley, a region that attracts a diverse population from across the country and world due to its thriving tech sector, faces an existential question with real-world consequences: how might its mix of cultures change local policing?

Some recent history has created fertile ground for such a question.

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