HPPR Health, Education & Welfare


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‐state policies‐income levels‐wellness‐quality of life

High Plains Hunters Help Needy Families

Dec 16, 2015
@thekevinchang / Creative Commons

Hunters in the Texas panhandle are doing their part to help needy families this holiday, reports The Amarillo Globe-News. The Hunters for the Hungry program provides processed deer meat to families across the Texas Panhandle. The charitable endeavor is an effort in association with the High Plains Food Bank and Clint & Sons.

Texas Leads the Way in Bite-Mark Forensics

Dec 16, 2015
Brandon Thibodeaux / New York Times

In 1987, Texas inmate Steven Mark Chaney was sentenced to life after a dental expert testified that his teeth had caused marks on the arm of a murder victim. This same expert has now repudiated his testimony as unfounded, reports The New York Times. More than a dozen Americans have now been exonerated in cases involving debunked bite-mark testimony. And Texas is leading the way in this little-recognized corner of forensics.

Creative Commons
Grant Gerlock / NET News

There are fewer than seven persons per square mile in the Nebraska panhandle. That officially classifies the region as a “frontier area.” It also makes it a mental health shortage area, reports Nebraska Public Radio.

Rural Schools Pay Significantly More for Internet

Dec 14, 2015
Lars P / Flickr Creative Commons

In recent years Internet access in public schools has become an integral part of the education experience. But a new report by Education Week shows how rural school districts are frequently charged 2.5 times their urban counterparts for Internet. According to the Center for Rural Affairs, rural schools disproportionately lack access to fiber-optic connections and other modern technologies.

CDC / Washington Post

At least 23,000 people die as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant infections. This number is expected to rise drastically in the future as antibiotic-resistant bacteria continues to evolve. Some experts predict the death rate could rise to 10 million by 2050. Much of the problem comes from the overprescribing of antibiotics.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

North central Kansas has been dealing with soaring Alzheimer’s rates. There are well over million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Almost all of them are 65 and over and on Medicare. That number is expected to grow by almost two million in the next 10 years. And Clay County, Kansas, is the most deeply affected in the nation. A staggering 23 percent of Clay County’s Medicare population has Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia. That’s the highest recorded rate among Medicare beneficiaries in the United States — just above Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

DennisSylvesterHurd / Flickr Creative Commons

A new report says rural health care providers should be required to participate in federal pay-for-performance programs, reports The Rural Blog. The study was requested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Pay-for-performance plans reward healthcare providers for meeting certain measures for quality and efficiency. These programs penalize caregivers for poor outcomes, medical errors, or increased costs.

Will Libraries of the Future Be Book-Free?

Dec 8, 2015
Bill Kelly / NET News

A new type of library in Omaha has Nebraska Public Radio asking, will libraries of the future contain no books? Do Space, a self-described “community technology library,” comes equipped with high-end computers loaded with professional software, gaming and electronic gizmos for kids.

Leslie Corbly / KGOU

Oklahoma’s home schooling laws are some of the loosest in the nation, reports member station KGOU. And as a result, some former home schoolers are having trouble acclimating to society as adults.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Since enrollment opened Nov. 1 for 2016 health insurance in the federal marketplace, an effort called Cover Kansas has branched out across the state to help Kansans find a plan that best suits their needs.

KeotaHopesForHillary Twitter Account

Three high school students in Iowa recently launched a successful social-media campaign to urge Hillary Clinton to visit their town. The campaign is part of an effort by the students to spark a national conversation on the challenges facing rural schools, reports The Rural Blog and The Huffington Post. The students’ town of Keota, Iowa, has 1,000 residents.

Kansas K-12 Committee Grapples with Conflicting Data

Dec 1, 2015
Jared Tarbell / Creative Commons

A Kansas legislative committee studying options for K-12 funding has run into a problem, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. As the committee decides how to fund schools, they have competing research trying to influence them. Rival interest groups are flaunting a clash of studies to promote their positions. First there’s the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank in Wichita.

Report: Potential Health Effects of Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Kansas

Dec 1, 2015
Creative Commons

Oklahoma has been issuing emergency teacher licenses over the past few months, reports Public Radio Tulsa. The move comes after Oklahoma started the year with over 1,000 unfilled teaching positions across the state. Not long ago, emergency certificate requests were so rare that applicants were summoned before the state Board of Education to make their case. But Oklahoma has approved 948 emergency certifications for teachers since July.

John Moore / Getty Images

Colorado has been a trailblazer in the legalization of marijuana, and now the state is looking to break new ground in health care. Next year Coloradans will vote on whether to become the first state to set up a single-payer system similar to Medicare. The move would mean opting out of ObamaCare, reports The Guardian. No state currently has free statewide healthcare.

Gosia Wozniacka / AP photo

Pot smokers may soon encounter new warning labels, reports the AP’s Business Insider. That is, if the nation's most influential doctors’ group has its way. The cautionary label will read: “Warning: Marijuana use during pregnancy and breast-feeding poses potential harms.” The American Medical Association agreed Monday to push for regulations requiring such warnings.

Martin do Nascimento / Texas Tribune

The Texas State Board of Education has rejected the option of creating an expert panel to identify errors in textbooks. Several weeks ago a Houston mother sparked a nationwide uproar over a caption in her son’s textbook that described African slaves as “workers.” The new proposal would have created oversight to prevent inaccurate information from being printed in textbooks. But that the 15-member panel narrowly voted down the measure, reports The Texas Tribune.

Seliger's Education Bill Draws Criticism

Nov 23, 2015
Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

A Texas state senate bill by Amarillo Sen. Kel Seliger is drawing a good deal of criticism, according to The Texas Tribune. Senate Bill 149 allows Texas high school seniors to graduate without passing all five state exams, and instead being cleared by a panel of teachers, counselors, and parents.

John Savage / Texas Observer

12 out of every 10,000 Texans are living homeless, reports Texas Standard. And a lot of these have intellectual disabilities. For many homeless, wait times for state services have proven daunting. When it comes to helping those with intellectual disabilities, Texas consistently falls near the bottom in state rankings.

Andy Marso / Kaiser Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

‘Right to Try’ bill would ease access to trial drugs, but some worry about potential consequences.

Signs of the toll amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has taken on Kelli Johnsen’s body are scattered throughout the living room of her Emporia home.

A wheelchair in one corner. A lift in another. A walker near the television.

Five Syringes Is Five too Many

Nov 17, 2015
Layton Ehmke

While abandoned farmsteads are quite common and are one of our links to the past, at the same time, they represent a link to the present that I’d like just as soon to go away.

Here on our farm in Lane County, we’ve got a number of those farmsteads complete with abandoned farm homes, outbuildings and barns. In several cases, we’ve burned or buried them. And judging by a recent experience, we’ve got more work to do in that department.

Colorado Health Co-Op Folds

Nov 13, 2015

Rick and Letha Heitman, of Centennial are customers of the cooperative Colorado HealthOP, which is folding.Credit John Daley / CPR NewsEdit | Remove

Susie Fagan

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Three Republicans will not be returning to the House Health and Human Services Committee next year.

The reason: Their support for Medicaid expansion.

Website Ranks Health of Counties Across the US

Nov 12, 2015

The website countyhealthrankings.org has posted interactive maps showing the health rankings of every county in the US. Delving into the maps, HPPR made some interesting discoveries.

For example Randall County, which covers the southern part of Amarillo, is shown to be among the healthiest in Texas, ranking 27th in the state. But Potter County, which contains Northern Amarillo, is among the worst, ranking 209th out of almost 240 counties. Adjoining Carson County is slightly healthier that Randall, at number 26.

Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

When it comes to providing summer meals to low-income children, Kansas ranks among the worst states in the nation. In fact, only Oklahoma fares worse in feeding poor children during the summer, reports The Hutchinson News.

Tobacco Use in Oklahoma Is Declining

Nov 10, 2015
Pixabay / Creative Commons

The smoking rate among adults in Oklahoma has reached a new low, reports member station KGOU. According to a press release from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the number of adult smokers dropped by almost 80,000 between 2013 and 2014. Over the last four years, the number of smokers in Oklahoma has declined by almost 20 percent.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor
Shane Torgerson / Wikimedia Commons

In regional news, new evidence suggests that use of the fertilizer ammonium nitrate has significantly dropped recently, reports StateImpact Texas. Ammonium nitrate provides plants with nitrogen so they can thrive. But the fertilizer can also be deadly when mixed with substances like diesel fuel. Timothy McVeigh used ammonium nitrate to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City 20 years ago.


Groups working to boost health insurance enrollment in Kansas are concerned their efforts could be undermined by the last-minute departure of one of the state’s largest insurers.