Health

The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

VPR reporters Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel cover health issues from the Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Follow them on Twitter for the latest health and Vermont health industry news.

Explore our coverage by topic or chronologically by scrolling through the list below

Aging Well | Homelessness & Housing | Opioid Addiction | UVM Medical Center

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The exterior of the Vermont Department of Health office in Burlington at 108 Cherry Street
Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

Vermont has declared an outbreak of hepatitis A. The state's Health Department saw 12 cases of hepatitis A last year, compared to an average of three cases per year during the previous five years.

ErikaMitchell / iStock

In his State of the State address, Gov. Phil Scott outlined his 2020 legislative agenda, including a proposal to make K-12 after-school programming more accessible to Vermonters. On this Vermont Edition: universal after-school. We dive into the research, and consider what it would take to make Governor Scott's proposal a reality for Vermont.

A person smiles wearing a ski helmet and goggles with a pair of skis over their shoulder.
Lisa Rathke / Associated Press

A study authored by trauma surgeons at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center looks at the effect that wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding has on injuries. As one might expect, the research found that helmet use reduces some types of injury. It also found, however, that serious head injuries actually went up with helmet use.

"Crazy," "hysterical," "overreactive," "hormonal." These are stereotypes many women still have to fight to be taken seriously. And that fight can be especially challenging because so many women do face very real symptoms such as bloating, headaches, irritability and mood changes — often on a monthly cycle.

An estimated 1.4 million adolescent girls and young women in the U.S. might have received an unnecessary pelvic exam between 2011 and 2017, according to a new study. And an estimated 1.6 million might have received an unnecessary Pap test.

More Americans are ordering more rounds, and that's leading to more funerals, according to a new study on alcohol-related deaths.

Looking at data from the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers estimate deaths from alcohol-related problems have more than doubled over the past nearly 20 years.

Death certificates spanning 2017 indicate nearly 73,000 people died in the U.S because of liver disease and other alcohol-related illnesses. That is up from just under 36,000 deaths in 1999.

A sign that says Brattleboro Retreat: We'll help you find the strength. Snow on the ground and buildings in background.
Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR

The Brattleboro Retreat says it doesn't have enough money to finish a 12-bed expansion that's underway. The recent announcement that the state won't add any more funding to the project is putting more pressure on the financially-strapped hospital.

Cancer death rates in the United States took their sharpest drop on record between 2016 and 2017, according to an analysis by the American Cancer Society.

Cancer death rates in the U.S. have been falling gradually for about three decades, typically about 1.5% a year. But during the latest study period, the cancer mortality rate dropped 2.2%, "the biggest single-year drop ever," says Rebecca Siegel, scientific director for surveillance research at the cancer society.

Doctors are less likely to prescribe narcotics if a patient is black, according to a recent study published in Epidemiology.

Paying attention to gender differences in why people become addicted to opioids can improve treatment, according to a UMass Amherst study.

The teenager was just 15, and recovering from a rape, when she realized she was pregnant. This young woman, whom NPR has agreed not to name, says she knew right away that she wanted to terminate the pregnancy. But like a lot of states, Massachusetts required — and still requires — minors to get a parent's consent before obtaining an abortion.

"I knew I couldn't tell my mom or my immediate family members," she says, "because my pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault from a family friend." Her home, she adds, "wasn't necessarily a safe or healthy one at the time."

A green alcohol-free cocktail on a black bar napkin.
Lydia Brown / VPR

January marks 100 years since the 18th Amendment banned alcohol across the United States. Vermont tried its own alcohol ban decades earlier. Today, the state boasts about its craft beer and spirits, even as Vermont has high rates of excessive drinking. And sober-curious drinkers can increasingly find alcohol-free beer and cocktails on the menu. We look at how our relationship with alcohol continues to evolve.

In homes in which a family member has autism, day-to-day tasks can be challenging. One family is now trying to solve some of those issues, by pairing up with engineering students from the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Angela Gatzke-Plamann didn't fully grasp her community's opioid crisis until one desperate patient called on a Friday afternoon in 2016.

"He was in complete crisis because he was admitting to me that he had lost control of his use of opioids," recalls Gatzke-Plamann.

The patient had used opioids for several years for what Gatzke-Plamann calls "a very painful condition." But a urine screening one week earlier had revealed heroin and morphine in his system as well. He denied any misuse that day. Now he was not only admitting it, but asking for help.

Hunger once seemed like a simple problem. Around the globe, often in low-income countries, many people didn't get enough calories.

But increasingly, hunger exists side-by-side with obesity. Within the same community, some people are overweight while others don't have enough to eat.

And the tricky part: You can't "fix" hunger by just feeding people empty calories. You've got to nourish people with healthy, nutrient-dense foods, so they don't become obese.

Congress is set to pass a $1.4 trillion spending package this week, which President Trump has said he'll sign. The legislation includes policy changes and funding increases that public health advocates are celebrating, as well as the permanent repeal of three key taxes that were designed to pay for Obamacare — a win for industry groups.

screenshot of Vermont Eldercare Navigator search function, at eldercare.sevendaysvt.com
Screenshot of Vermont Eldercare Navigator

A VPR and Seven Days investigation has uncovered instances of inadequate care, neglect and five untimely deaths at Vermont’s assisted living and residential care homes. Behind that joint reporting is a database of inspection reports and citations that took months to build.

Sunday was supposed to be the final deadline to enroll in health coverage for 2020 on HealthCare.gov, the federal marketplace for buying individual health insurance. But website glitches — that may have caused enrollment problems — prompted an outcry, and the government restarted enrollment Monday.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET

Practically everyone is frustrated by high prescription drug prices. Voters have made clear they want Congress to do something about them.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that tries to deliver on that. It was a mostly party line vote — all Democrats voted to pass it, along with two Republicans.

A hand holds onto a cane
James Buck / For Seven Days & VPR

In early 2014, a caller to the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living reported that at Owen House, a residential care home in Fair Haven, a resident's foot was "rotting from the inside out" due to neuropathy and poor care.

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