HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

Health

‐state policy‐impact of federal policy‐rural health care delivery‐access & availability

Education

‐state policy‐programs and opportunities‐access & availability

Welfare

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

Susie Fagan / Kansas Health Institute

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas won’t require customers who need outpatient mental health services to get prior authorization going forward, but it can recoup payments from providers if their treatment is significantly different from that of their peers.

Matthew Rutledge / Flickr Creative Commons

In the past, hormone therapy was only available to Texas transgender prisoners who were already undergoing it before they were incarcerated. But now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is making it easier for these prisoners to access hormone therapy. The updated policy took effect in August, reports The Texas Observer. Prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in custody are now eligible to receive treatment.

USDA

Rural High Plains students have a higher chance of graduating these days, reports The Rural Blog. That’s according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 Rural America at a Glance report. The number of rural adults with a four-year college degree has increased by 4 percent since 2000. And the number of rural residents without a high school diploma or GED has decreased by nine percent in the same period.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno / Getty Images

With all the turmoil surrounding abortion rights in this country, sometimes it’s helpful to take a global view of things. The Guardian reports that, when it comes to accessibility of abortions, the U.S. falls somewhere in the middle. For example, it’s easier for a woman to get an abortion in Texas than it is in Northern Ireland. In Greece, however, abortions can be carried out on demand up to a limit of 12 weeks. 

Susie Fagan / KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

A Lawrence businesswoman has become somewhat of a poster child for the Affordable Care Act.

Meg Heriford, owner of the Ladybird Diner, didn’t seek the spotlight but has been thrust into the role by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

Sebelius, who also served two terms as Kansas governor, still has a home in the state as well as one in Washington, D.C.

KanCare.ks.gov

Three years ago the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback privatized Kansas’s $3 billion Medicaid system and named it KanCare. Since then, the program has been the subject of a great deal of criticism. Last week a number of individuals testified before the joint House and Senate oversight committee, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. Those who spoke before the committee provided “unvarnished critiques” of the program.

John Hanna / AP photo

Unemployment is down and wages are up in Kansas. But one sector is struggling. Corrections officers are leaving the state in large numbers because of low pay, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. The exodus has triggered a public safety crisis. Legislators are grappling with the issue on top of trying to fix the state’s budget crisis. Starting pay for Kansas corrections officers is 33 percent lower than the state’s average hourly wage of just over $20.

Kansas City Star

Kansas hepatitis C patients who drink alcohol or stop using their medications could be in trouble, reports The Kansas City Star. A Kansas legislative panel recommended last week that these Hep C patients should lose their Medicaid coverage. The KanCare Oversight Committee also recommended that the state health department use “step therapy.” This is a process that requires Medicaid patients to try cheaper treatments first and receive more expensive treatments only if the other medicines fail.

Cyrus McCrimmon / The Denver Post

In the past year Colorado’s child abuse hotline received over 200,000 calls. That’s a large number, considering this was the hotline’s first year of existence. But the number is deceiving, reports The Denver Post. Almost 80 percent of those calls came from law enforcement, school officials, and others required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. That means everyday people, neighbors and community members, simply aren’t picking up the phone.

RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER / Minneapolis Star Tribune

When dating, we often look for that perfect combination of good looks, ambition, and a sense of humor. But according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, there’s another factor you may be considering without realizing it. That extra element is kindness. Researchers have found that benevolence is one of the most important qualities in a romantic partner. 

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

On Christmas Eve the Colorado Department of Education announced that the state would switch its mandatory standardized high school test from the ACT to the SAT, reports Channel 9 News Denver. The ACT had been given to Colorado students since 2001. Some parents and educators weren’t pleased with the timing of the announcement.

Flickr Creative Commons

Recent evidence suggests that clean drinking water might not be so clean after all, according to The Daily Mail. Researchers have discovered that a glass of tap water contains 10 million bacteria. Our drinking water contains about 80,000 bacteria per milliliter.

Joe Southern / KTRK

The battle over gun control recently made an unusual foray into a Texas middle school classroom. Earlier this month, Rosenberg seventh-grader Colton Southern was asked to cover his Star Wars t-shirt, reports ABC affiliate KTRK. The shirt depicted a storm trooper aiming a laser rifle. Southern was asked to zip up his jacket to hide the shirt.

Spanking Still a Common Practice in Many US States

Dec 29, 2015
Kathy WIllens / AP photo

A new report by The Atlantic details the still-widespread use of corporal punishment in public schools across the country. Education groups, activists, and parents—including those victimized by the practice—are demanding that corporal punishment be outlawed in schools. The groups insist outlawing the practice will protect children’s physical and emotional health.

Wikimedia Commons

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas lawmakers say they won't consider increasing funding to public schools until they’re sure the money already spent on education is finding its way into the classroom. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that GOP lawmakers don't yet have a clear definition of what makes up classroom spending. Brownback said: “Right now, you've got this high percentage that's not getting to the classroom.”

Amazing Medical Discoveries of 2015

Dec 25, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

Amid all the political bickering, many good things also came out of 2015. The Huffington Post has published a list of amazing things we learned about the human body in 2015. For example, scientists discovered a virus that has the potential to permanently cure blindness. Doctors are on track to being able to detect schizophrenia by using a simple throat swab.

Merriam-Webster Reveals This Year's Most Looked-Up Word

Dec 24, 2015
Simon Robertson / Flickr Creative Commons

Every year Merriam-Webster releases their most-looked-up word for the year. This year’s winner? “Socialism.” The dictionary associates the word’s popularity with the rise of dark horse Democratic political candidate Bernie Sander, a self-described “democratic socialist.” The word sparked “intense” curiosity this year, reports The Guardian, with an increase in look-ups of almost 170% compared to last year.

NNSA / Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of workers at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant outside Amarillo who’ve been compensated and treated for exposure to plant hazards. Pantex workers have been exposed to a number of harmful substances, according to Insurance Journal. These substances include chemicals in the maintenance warehouse, toxins on a production line and beryllium, a cancer-causing metal used in the production of nuclear warheads.

Tom & Katrien / Creative Commons

Rural children are more likely to experience health problems based on their surroundings, according to The Rural Blog.  A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services details how rural children are more adversely affected by their environment, their socioeconomic status, their own and their families’ health behaviors, and their access to quality clinical care. For example, rural children are more likely to be obese and live with someone who smokes.

Pipestone Veterinary Services / Harvest Public Media

Veterinarian and researcher Scott Dee doesn’t much look the part of a detective, in his jeans and company polo shirt.

But when a virus never before seen in North America swept through the network of hog farms where he works, Pipestone Veterinary Services, in January 2014, he had his first clue.

“These farms had the same pattern of infection,” Dee said.

Oklahoma Marks 100 Years of Executions

Dec 22, 2015
Paul B. Southerland / The Oklahoman

Oklahoma recently reached a grim milestone. As pf this month, the state has been executing criminals for a century, according to The Oklahoman.

Teen Drunk Driving Numbers Falling

Dec 22, 2015
Colorado Public Radio

Colorado Public Radio gave us a bit of good news this week. Decades of public service announcements and school documentaries about drunk driving appear to be working. There are far fewer young people drinking and driving than there were a decade ago. 2002, there has been almost a 40 percent drop in the number of young adults of legal drinking age who drive under the influence of alcohol. The drop was even more dramatic among teenagers.

Not All Altitude-Sickness Remedies Are the Same

Dec 21, 2015
Getty Images / New York Times

The holidays mean travel, and for many of us traveling to the mountains, that can mean altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness is caused by the lack of oxygen in the lower air pressure that exists at higher altitudes. But treating altitude sickness can be a tricky business, reports The New York Times. There are many types of treatment these days, including oxygen therapies, oils, pills and wristbands.

Rising Livestock Antibiotic Sales Cause Concern

Dec 21, 2015
USDA / Creative Commons

Sales of antibiotics for livestock have been steadily rising over the past few years, reports The Rural Blog. Antibiotic sales increased 23 percent from 2009 to 2014, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Texas Panhandle Has Shortage of Large Animal Vets

Dec 19, 2015
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

The recent announcement of a proposed Texas Tech veterinary school in the Texas Panhandle has split interested parties into two camps. But there’s one thing they can all agree on: The area could use more veterinarians who specialize in large animals. West Texas clearly has a need for more vets for feed animals. But economics have make it difficult to attract large animal veterinarians to rural communities, reports Amarillo.com.

Map Provides a Window into U.S. Gun Violence

Dec 18, 2015
Small Arms Survey / Washington Post

A map in The Washington Post last week helped to explain the continuing surge of mass shootings in the U.S. According to the Post, the frequency of killings “is closely tied with America's very high rate of gun ownership.” According to a 2007 Small Arms Survey, the U.S.

Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel

Dec 18, 2015
Matt Campbell / EPA

45 million customers are predicted to fly this holiday season. The average American will spend more than seven hours getting somewhere. If you’re traveling, USA TODAY has some helpful hints to make your trip as stress-free as possible.

First, pack early and pack light. Knowing you’re ready to go will ease your mind. And packing light will save you the frustration of trying to find space for your bulky luggage.

Tamir Kalifa / Texas Tribune

Two months ago Texas Republican leaders announced they would kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid. But the organization is still receiving state funds to provide health care for low-income women, reports The Texas Tribune. And now the state officials who called for cutting the funding have fallen silent.

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.

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