dorkboycomics via flickr Creative Commons

Products like goji berries and quinoa are part of a fast-growing health-food industry – just last year, products derived from the Brazilian açaĺ-berry grossed 200 million dollars in the United States alone. The aggressive marketing of these superfoods are backed up by often misleading, or overblown, claims of their healthful benefits. Tom Philpott is the co-founder of Maverick Farms, a center for sustainable food education in North Carolina. His work on food politics has appeared in Newsweek and The Guardian…he wrote about superfood myths for Mother Jones.

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control shows a huge jump in the number of American kids with food and skin allergies. Some are so severe, they’re life-threatening. There are several theories about why this is happening, including the proliferation of anti-bacterial soaps. We’ll talk about that, and why advances in treatment has been so frustratingly slow.


New Hampshire's Health Exchange Monopoly

Jun 10, 2013
via WUKY

It wasn’t exactly a victory lap, but the president was in California last week praising an early success of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking in San Jose on Friday, Obama touted the California health insurance exchange--one of the new online marketplaces where individuals and small business employers can shop for coverage and apply for subsidies starting October 1.

California's exchange will have 13 companies competing for business and rates far below what experts predicted.

State public health officials say another person has tested positive for Hepatitis C stemming from last year’s outbreak at Exeter Hospital. 

That brings the total number to 33.

A former hospital employee was arrested last July in connection with the spread of the virus inside the cardiac catheterization lab. Prosecutors say David Kwiatkowski reused syringes on patients after injecting himself with powerful pain killers.

Dr. Jose Montero, the state’s public health director, says it appears this latest case, though, is from sexual contact.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

Supporters of Medicaid expansion filled the lobby of the Legislative Office Building in Concord for a mid-morning press conference. The show of force comes in advance of Thursday’s budget vote in the Senate.

Flanked by reform advocates, hospitals administrators and doctors, Governor Hassan pressed lawmakers to take advantage of the federal government’s promise to pay 100% of the costs of expansion for the first three years.

She quoted New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, who supports expansion and says it will save money for taxpayers in his state.

One of the biggest and most contentious issues of this spring’s budgeting process remains whether or not the state should expand Medicaid. When the Supreme Court ruled last summer on the Affordable Care Act, it said the Federal government can’t force states to expand. Instead, states must be given a choice about growing the health care program for the poor.

Governor Hassan and the Democratically controlled House favor expansion, and the House included it in its proposed spending plan.

Group Prenatal Care Takes Root In New Hampshire

May 29, 2013

Just off from a circle of cushioned chairs, behind a privacy screen, Jessica Densmore greets patients inside a Cheshire Medical Center conference room, in Keene.

“Let’s take a listen and see if we can hear this baby today,” she says, positioning a fetal heart monitor.

Today’s mothers, ten in total,  are all between 22 and 29 weeks pregnant. They come once a month, and then every two weeks as due dates approach, for their Centering Pregnancy appointment: basically a group check-up.


We dug up this interview from 2008 with Jason Crigler, the composer of the musical score for Make Sure it’s Me.

In August of 2004, Jason Crigler, a highly-regarded guitarist, suffered a brain hemorrhage during a gig in New York City. His pregnant wife rushed him to the hospital and got the bad news: doctors told Jason’s family that he might not live through the night, and if he did, little of the Jason they knew would be left.

krishram27 via Flickr Creative Commons

For years, fear of skin cancer has had us slathering 50+ SPF sunscreen, donning hats or avoiding prolonged sun exposure under umbrellas or shade. Some unexpected research recently out of Edinburgh University could shift the perception of sun as unrelenting enemy. In the study, UV rays were found to release a compound that lowers blood pressure. On the line to explain how we might weigh the sun’s benefits and drawbacks is Doctor Richard Weller,  Senior Lecturer of Dermatology at Edinburgh University.

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control shows a huge jump in the number of American kids with food and skin allergies. Some are so severe, they’re life-threatening.  There are several theories about why this is happening, including the proliferation of anti-bacterial soaps.  We’ll talk about that, and why advances in treatment has been so frustratingly slow. 


State officials continue to press for action on $340,000 in federal money meant to help implement the health exchange in New Hampshire. 

Speaking to the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee, Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny repeated the need for quick acceptance of the grant money. Last month, a different legislative body, the Joint Fiscal Committee, delayed the funds, citing concerns over a lack of information.

Sevigny says the money would help "put flesh on the bones" of his Department's effort to help consumers understand the new health law.

<Autumn> via Flickr Creative Commons

Impaired sight often requires glasses – impaired hearing, a hearing aid.  But what about people who suffer from an impaired sense of smell or taste?  Depending on the source, somewhere between two and five million people suffer in varying degrees from anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell.  Here to tell us more is rhinologist Dr. Carl Philpott – Director of the Smell and Taste Clinic at James Paget University in Norfolk,  the only clinic devoted to smell and taste disorders in the United Kingdom. 

We read about his work in New Scientist, and invited him on the program to tell us more.

There are many ways to ease the pangs of loneliness, illness, and old age –among them, spending time with a friendly animal companion. More than ten thousand animals are currently registered as care workers in the United States - only fourteen of them however, are llamas. I recently spoke with llama trainer Niki Kuklenski of J.N.K. Llamas about how this unusual animal is playing a role in human therapy.

Check out a video from Colors Magazine that shows Niki's llamas in action.

New Hampshire Not Alone In Health Exchange Setbacks

May 6, 2013
via WUKY

The new health exchanges are often described as something akin to Orbitz or Travelocity. A central place--a website--where insurance can be researched, compared, and purchased.

“Competition in markets, of course, is the way in this country we try to make reasonable prices and good quality available to people and so that is one of their roles,” says Professor Timothy Jost with Washington and Lee University in Virginia.

Jost says another key role of the exchanges is subsidies.

robson / Flickr/Creative Commons

As part of the Affordable Care Act, pharmaceutical company payments to doctors will become public information starting in 2014. But a slice of those disclosures is already available, and the impact of transparency is being felt across New Hampshire.

In the last four years, New Hampshire doctors and nurse practitioners have taken in $5.8 million in money from drug companies.

But in 2012, for the highest earning doctors, there was a noticeable decline. In fact, every one of the top 10 recipients in the state saw his or her total compensation go down or hold flat last year.

N.H. Residents Breathing Easy

Apr 24, 2013

A report out today from the American Lung Association says that New Hampshire’s air quality continues to improve.

The level of smog is falling in Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties. Both received a grade of ‘C’ this year compared to a ‘D’ in 2012.

Cheshire and Grafton earned an ‘A’, ranking them among the cleanest areas in New England. Coos County also saw its grade improve.

The figures come from readings taken by the Environmental Protection Agency between 2009 and 2011.

State lawmakers today put off a key vote on whether to accept Federal funds meant to support a partnership health exchange.

Earlier this month, the Feds awarded the state’s Insurance Department $5.4 million to pay for implementation of the Consumer Assistance portion of the new health exchange marketplace.

But on an 8-2 vote, members of the Joint Fiscal Committee tabled the motion, effectively delaying use of the portion of funds allocated for this fiscal year, roughly $340,000.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

“I have Crohn’s Disease, I have diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and I had a stroke. From all of this, I am on medication for depression as well.”

Chalk it up to bad genes: Amanda St-Amour struggles with a lot of health conditions.

She’s 30, lives in Merrimack, and pulls out a small laundry basket full of pill bottles.

“Basically, I take about 1, 2, 3…15 pills a morning.”

Recently, one pill has gone missing from the stack. It’s a drug called Trilipix, which St-Amour has taken for years to keep her triglyceride levels down.

A report out today estimates that 96,000 New Hampshire residents will be eligible for health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The credits will be available starting in January, 2014, when the individual mandate kicks in.

Forest Pharmacy

Apr 12, 2013
Forest Society

The Chairman of the Society of Forest Medicine at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan Dr. Qing Li, studies nature’s effect on the human immune system. A person’s natural immune cells called “NK cells” can be reliably measured in a lab. NK cells function like white blood cells to increase resistance to illness including cancer by sending self-destruct messages to tumors and virus-infected cells. Stress, aging and pesticides reduce NK counts.

Todd Bookman / NHPR

With an October 1st deadline looming, the state continues to move forward with implementation of a partnership health exchange.  In agreeing to that partnership, state Republicans say they were promised input on a planning document called a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU.

But last week, the Feds said partner states don’t have to submit an MOU. Republicans say that shuts them out of the legislative process.

Knee And Hip Replacement Goes Robotic

Apr 4, 2013
Todd Bookman / NHPR

It’s been two weeks since Bonnie Parker had her hip replaced.

She is 50, petite, a tattoo artist. So she’s no stranger to pain, but says the past few years have been really tough.

“I watched my mother suffer from arthritis, and she sat down one day and never got back up. And I found myself sitting down more and more and not getting up, and I thought, ‘No, I can’t do this.’"

After non-surgical solutions failed to help, Parker spoke with her doctor, and decided to try a new robot-assisted procedure: something called MAKOplasty.

Michael Brindley / NHPR

On Thursday, the New Hampshire State Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that’s getting a lot of attention in the dental community. The measure would expand the role of some hygienists. Advocates say this could help increase access in the state, but dentists argue it’s a misguided solution for a problem that may not exist.

Bill To Ban Medicaid Expansion Voted Down

Mar 20, 2013

The New Hampshire House has killed a bill intended to block the state from expanding its Medicaid program.

Opponents of expansion argue that the state can’t afford to grow the health care program for the poor.

But Thomas Sherman, a doctor and Democrat from Rye, told lawmakers the issue is one of social responsibility.

Sherman: “These are New Hampshire people. Our constituents. These are your family, your neighbors, and my patients.”

Leo Reynods via Flickr Creative Commons

Our niftiest and spiffiest content, all in one great show. This week, a look at the shifting human condition. Holocaust survivors being turned into holograms, a Russian "Swiss Family Robinson" that missed most of the 20th Century, corporate anthropologists, transplant "tourism," the nasty effect of internet comments, and a former professor pens a memoir about being stalked by an ex- student online.

Medicaid Overhaul Plan Hits A Road Block

Mar 15, 2013

It’s been three years since state lawmakers began touting managed care as the salvation of Medicaid.

The number of dangerous infections acquired at hospitals in New Hampshire is falling. A new report shows that there were 110 acquired infections in 2011. That’s a 20% decrease from 2009 levels.

State law mandates that hospitals report infections following certain procedures, including heart, colon and knee surgeries.

Beth Daly, Chief of Infectious Disease Surveillance at the state Health Department, says these are important numbers to track.

Today we sit down with New Hampshire's Health and Human Services Commissioner, Nick Toumpas.  After many years of budget cutting, Toumpas may see some funds restored to his budget... from mental health to children in need of services.  Also, he's working on figuring put what the Affordable Care Act could mean for his department, with the 2014 deadline of full-implementation looming.  We'll talk to him about that and take your calls and emails as well.


A day after the Federal government approved the state’s application for a partnership health exchange, the public had its chance to weigh in on the new insurance marketplaces.

Small business owners, parents and advocates lined up in Concord at an event organized by AARP and NH Voices for Health. Speakers expressed concerns about affordability.

Many called for more transparency.

Another fear is the sheer complexity of shopping for health insurance. Lisa Kaplan Howe with NH Voices hopes the new marketplaces will streamline the process.

The Federal government announced today that New Hampshire’s application for a partnership health care exchange has been approved. Exchanges are the new marketplaces where individuals and small businesses will shop for health insurance starting in October of this year. 

The partnership means the N.H. Insurance Department will continue to regulate plans sold in the state. The Federal government will pay for and control the new marketplace website and the '1-800 call center'.