KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Where Patients Awaiting A Liver Transplant Live Can Be Difference Between Life And Death

But a new plan aims to fix that geographical disparity. In other public health news: flu shots, salt, cancer patients and fertility support, the secret to happiness, vaccines, a medical mystery, the problem with sitting, and tanning salons.

The Washington Post: Who Deserves A Liver? Officials Try To Make Organ Transplants Fairer.
His belly swollen, his energy flagging, 45-year-old Jorge Perez Remache waits in his Queens apartment for word that his turn has come to receive a lifesaving liver transplant. Though he has suffered from cirrhosis for 10 years, the chance of that happening is virtually zero. A thousand miles south in tiny Morven, Ga., Katryna Grisson — equally sick, just three years older and, like Perez Remache, on Medicaid — awaits the same miracle. (Bernstein, 9/1)

NPR: Pediatricians Say The Best Way To Beat The Flu Is To Get The Vaccine
The arrival of a new school year and cooler temperatures also means the arrival of flu vaccines in doctors' offices, pharmacies, clinics, work places, and school campuses. With flu season on its way, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued updated recommendations Monday for the flu vaccine — but without the needle-free option so many parents were hoping for. (Haelle, 9/4)

NPR: Has Salt Gotten An Unfair Shake?
For such a simple compound, salt is complicated. Sodium is a key element in table salt, and it's also essential for life. It helps regulate our blood volume. It shuttles nutrients into our bodies and brains. It allows our muscles to contract and our nerves to pulse with electricity. Yet for decades, we've been told to avoid it. (Stetka, 9/3)

Reuters: Cancer Patients Lack Access To Fertility Support
Up to half of cancer patients of reproductive age do not receive adequate information about the impact of treatment on their fertility, decreasing their options for family planning and support, a new study suggests. “When we look at studies of regret after cancer treatment, one area that is always mentioned is reproductive regrets. Women come back and say they never got the chance to discuss their fertility and now it is gone,” Donald Dizon, clinical co-director of gynecologic oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, said. (Weinstock, 9/1)

Kaiser Health News: The Secret To Chronic Happiness As You Age
By all rights, Fletcher Hall should not be happy. At 76, the retired trade association manager has endured three heart attacks and eight heart bypass operations. He’s had four stents and a balloon inserted in his heart. He has diabetes, glaucoma, osteoarthritis in both knees and diabetic neuropathy in both legs. He can’t drive. He can’t travel much. He can’t see very well. And his heart condition severely limits his ability to exercise. On a good day, he can walk about 10 yards before needing to rest. (Horovitz, 9/5)

Stat: Meet The Uber Driver On A Mission To Troll The 'Vaxxed' Anti-Vaccine Road Trip
He’s the protester holding a homemade sign declaring that vaccines save lives. He’s often wearing a T-shirt with the name of the polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, stylized like the logo of a rock band. You might even spot him filming a lighthearted video updating his online followers on his quest to chase down the Vaxxed bus tour, which grew out of a controversial anti-vaccination documentary with the same name. Craig Egan estimates he’s put 7,000 miles on his Toyota Prius subcompact this summer following the bus tour everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Missouri. And no, he does not mind being called a troll. In fact, he embraces it. He even plans his T-shirts to be as annoying as possible. (Robbins, 8/5)

The Washington Post: Medical Mystery: She Felt As If She Was Dying. The Truth Was Astonishing.
In an awful way, it all made perfect sense, Gail T. Wells remembers thinking as neurologist Thy Nguyen matter-of-factly explained that she was ordering tests to check for an underlying cancer. Cancer would explain the worsening symptoms — abdominal pain, incessant cough, weight loss and crushing fatigue — that had plagued Wells, to the puzzlement of her doctors. (Boodman, 9/2)

NPR: Prolonged Sitting And Binge TV-Viewing May Take A Toll On Ability To Walk
Count the number of hours you sit each day. Be honest. "If you commute an hour in the morning and hour after work — that's two hours, and if you sit at an eight-hour-a-day desk job that's 10," says epidemiologist Loretta DiPietro of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. (Neighmond, 9/4)

The Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com: As Public Health Campaigns Cast A Cloud On Indoor Tanning, Salons Are Going Dark
In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and across the country, a slew of salons are permanently turning out the (ultraviolet) lights, burned by public health efforts to discourage indoor tanning and warn of its skin cancer hazards. In case you haven’t kept track: In 2009, a World Health Organization research group declared UV-light-emitting tanning bed use to be a risk factor for all forms of skin cancer, including deadly melanomas. The next year, U.S. salons were hit with the 10 percent federal “tanning tax” as part of the Affordable Care Act. Then the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on marketing that claimed indoor tanning had health benefits. (McCullough, 9/1)

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