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How To Be Less Lonely

Dec 23, 2019
Alex Smith / KCUR

A nationwide campaign is looking for solutions to loneliness.

For some of us, the holidays are full of family and friends. But this can also a lonely time of year for many. Health experts say loneliness can be hazardous to our health, though, and researchers in the United Kingdom are taking it seriously.

Join KCUR health reporter Alex Smith for an exploration of the UK's national program to address loneliness and find out what we in the Midwest can learn about fixing the problem.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — What if researchers could go to a single hub for vast deposits of information on a range of issues from water quality to court rulings to the medicinal powers of marijuana?

Armed with all that existing research, they might begin to draw conclusions that apply across the country. They might also avoid repeating the work of other researchers.

Rashelle Bernal never expected to end up in the hospital because she vaped. But she could be part of a nationwide outbreak of a severe lung illness that’s sickened more than 1,000 people. Researchers suspect those illnesses, and some deaths, are linked to vaping. Now, they're trying to find the precise cause.

Some consumers credit vaping and electronic cigarette products with helping them kick their cigarette habit. But the technology behind the devices, as well as the e-liquids they use, has changed over the years ― and with little standardization, health researchers say.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Cigarettes are so yesterday.

Or yesteryear.

That’s why that old-fashioned, combustible path to a nicotine buzz wasn’t the top concern for a small group of high schoolers in Sabetha — a 2,500-person town about an hour north of Topeka near the Nebraska border — when they got city council to hike the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21.

“I don’t really know anyone that smokes cigarettes around here because they’re really gross,” Sabetha High senior Kinsey Menold said. “Then, like, Juuls came in.”

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The Olathe School District on Monday filed suit against the nation’s leading maker of e-cigarettes, charging it deliberately markets its products to school-age children and misleads them about their dangers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas, says that Juul Labs Inc. has “succeeded in addicting a generation of youth to nicotine” by adopting the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Dozens of primarily elderly or disabled Kansans lost their Medicaid coverage because of errors made by Aetna. Staff at the state health department discovered the problem, restored their insurance and stopped further cancellations.

Months later, state workers are still double-checking the work of Aetna Better Health — one of the three companies that helps run the state’s privatized Medicaid system — while Aetna puts together a permanent fix.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School District on Friday voted to authorize a lawsuit against the nation’s leading maker of electronic cigarettes, saying the widespread use by students of vaping devices is endangering their health and disrupting their education.

In a news release issued after it approved the suit, the district said that it “understands the threat to student health and is taking action against the epidemic.”

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A Johnson County, Kansas, resident has filed a class action lawsuit claiming the country’s leading electronic cigarette maker, Juul Labs, fraudulently concealed the addictive nature of its vaping products and misrepresented their safety.

Isaac Gant says he began vaping as a senior in high school four years ago and now is addicted to nicotine, suffers from respiratory problems, bouts of anxiety, coughing fits and the need to take frequent breaks at work to satisfy his nicotine cravings.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — Aetna is bringing in new leadership to run its Medicaid operations in Kansas after chronic complaints from hospitals and others put it at risk of losing its contract.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Friday that Aetna Better Health of Kansas CEO Keith Wisdom is no longer in that role. But the insurer declined to answer questions about whether it had replaced Wisdom.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA ― The “Kidney Stone Belt” is a thing, and it’s coming for Kansas.

Climate change is expanding that swath of America, currently in the south and southeast, that suffers much higher rates of this sometimes-excruciating renal complication.

By 2050, the belt will include Kansas, according to a new review by the Kansas Health Institute.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA ― Aetna remains in hot water with the state of Kansas, which recently threatened to cancel the company’s Medicaid contract.

Segment 1: While the rest of the nation has seen a decrease in the number of drug overdose deaths, Missouri and Kansas have seen a rise.

In 2018 death by drug overdose declined 4.2% in the United States, but Missouri saw an increase of 17% while Kansas saw a 5.6% rise. Public health officials from each side of the state line offer their thoughts on what was behind the respective upswings.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE — Before starting his CBD company, Chris Brunin researched the competition, the labs they used, the products they sold.

He checked out ingredient suppliers and organic hemp farmers. He took everyone’s pitches with a heapful of salt.

“The hemp industry is like the Wild West and Wall Street had a baby,” said Brunin. “You have to vet everything and everybody … to make sure you’re not getting messed with or lied to.”

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

This spring, abortion rights supporters scored a massive legal victory: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to abortion under the state constitution.

That means even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, lawmakers won’t be able to ban abortion in Kansas unless voters amend the state constitution.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA — Kansas schools will require two new vaccines come August, including one against a virus that’s hospitalized 13,000 people and killed 200 across the country since 2016.

Segment 1: Educators see more vaping in schools, and researchers are beginning to understand how e-cigarettes affect lungs

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Many people figure vaping spares their health because it lets them inhale nicotine in aerosols instead of sucking in smoke from burning cigarettes.

New research from the University of Kansas casts doubt on that, raising the specter that vaping nicotine may cause some of the same respiratory problems that plague and even kill smokers today.

“Vaping is just considered not harmful, even though there are no data to support that statement,” researcher Matthias Salathe said. “There are more and more data to actually oppose that statement.”

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

COFFEYVILLE — More than one in 10 kindergartners in Kansas in the 2017-2018 school year lacked at least some of the shots that the state requires to shield students against outbreaks of measles, whooping cough and more.

The state’s most recent annual report pegged the figure at 15%.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado.

The national measles outbreak — numbering more than 1,000 cases so far — hasn't hit Kansas yet, but it has crept awfully close to home.

Segment 1: A New York Times reporter sees votes for Quinton Lucas as votes for neighborhoods.

The weekend before Kansas City's mayoral election, a story appeared in the New York Times suggesting that this election came down to a choice: continued emphasis on downtown, or a shift toward prioritizing neighborhoods struggling in downtown's shadow. The author joins us to reflect on the outcome.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

Hutchinson building official Trent Maxwell recalls the city, years back, inspecting the home of a woman whose gas had been shut off for nearly a year.

“She was using one burner on the electric stove to heat water to bathe her little kids,” he said.

The woman finally got fed up and called city officials. She’d held off, she said, because her landlord threatened to land her in jail if she summoned inspectors. That wasn’t true. But she believed the threat.

“No one,” Maxwell said, “should have to live like that.”

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It's still about a year out, but there's a new grocery store coming to downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and Katherine Carttar, director of economic development for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said it's long overdue.

KCMO Homeless Period Project

Menstruating isn't just having a monthly period. It's also having a monthly bill, because buying proper hygiene products such as pads and tampons can be costly.

"It may cost $7 for 22 pads. That's pretty expensive," says Jessica McClellan, founder and president of a Kansas City non-profit called Giving Hope and Help, which provides funds and resources, including menstrual hygiene products, for domestic violence shelters.

Seg. 1: Lice Removal Services. Seg. 2: Steamboat Sunken Treasure.

Oct 11, 2018

Segment 1: Did you know that lice prefer O+ bloodtypes and round hair follicles?

There is a stigma around having lice, but keeping quiet about the issue can actually be detrimental to public health. We learn some fun facts about lice, as well as a non-toxic way to treat them in Kansas City.

Segment 2, beginning at 15:37: The Steamboat Malta is an historic treasure buried in our own backyard.

Bed Bugs Are On The Rise In Kansas City

Oct 1, 2018
British Pest Control Assocation/Flickr

Bed bugs are back, and they’ve become a problem in Kansas City.

The Shawnee branch of the Johnson County Library has been closed since Friday after librarians discovered bed bugs inside the pages of a returned book. Since then, library officials have been working to deep clean the branch of bed bugs, including using bug-sniffing dogs, working with a fumigator, and baking the infested materials.

Boxes are piled high in Anne Hickman’s hallway. Family photos peek out from behind the stacks in her one-bedroom Indianapolis apartment.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Tourniquets may be an old concept; they may also be the key to keeping gunshot victims from bleeding to death.

Health professionals at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, have been training Kansas City police officers and school administrators how to "Stop the Bleed." It's a campaign out of the White House to raise awareness and train first responders and civilians on basic practices to stop life-threatening bleeding.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says gun violence survivors don't just fall through the cracks.

"They're not cracks. They're gaping holes in our criminal justice system," she says.

That's why Baker, along with the AdHoc Group Against Crime and Jackson County COMBAT, has launched a new program called Caring for Crime Survivors.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Amid a rise in homicides in Kansas City, Missouri, the Violence-Free Kansas City Committee (VFKCC) is urging community members to take a short online survey on violence in the metro. 

This is the final phase of a two-year project, spearheaded by the Kansas City Health Department in partnership with the Prevention Institute, a nonprofit group which takes a public health approach to violence and has worked in cities like Minneapolis and Oakland.

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