health

A proposed measure in Wyoming’s legislature would give terminally ill patients access to drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Patients would be able to access drugs and devices that have already successfully completed clinical trials and shown promise to be effective, but are not yet approved by the FDA. The drug’s manufacturer would then work with patients and doctors to provide the experimental drug.Republican State Senator Bruce Burns is sponsoring the bill. He says this bill could offer hope to patients who have run out of options.

The United Health Foundation says Wyoming has fallen 8 in spots in the organization’s annual health rankings.

Wyoming ranks 25th for overall health in 2014.  Foundation spokeswoman Kristin Hellmer says Wyoming lost ground in the number of people who consider themselves physically active and the numbers of people who are obese.  She says obesity can lead to chronic illness.  Hellmer urges health officials to be proactive.

Wyoming Department of Health

Diabetes in Wyoming has spiked in recent years. The Wyoming Department of Health says almost 9% of adults in Wyoming now have the disease, up from 4.5% in 2001.

Joe Grandpre is an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and says while that rate is already high, some areas of the population have been affected even more.

“So we have about 7.9 percent in white non-Hispanics in Wyoming," says Grandpre. "But in our American Indian population it’s 19.5, so almost one on five of our American Indian adults has been told they have diabetes. And with Hispanics it’s 13.7.”

C European Union 2012

If you live right next to a drilling rig, or your kids go to school beside a fracking site, or your county is suddenly littered with well pads  -- are there health risks? That’s a question that’s been asked from Pennsylvania to North Dakota, from Colorado to Texas as more and more people find themselves and their towns in the midst of an unprecedented energy boom.

Obesity rates around the country are rising drastically, and Wyoming  is no different - that’s according to a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Around 27.8% of the adult population in Wyoming is obese, nearly double the rate 20 years ago.

Between 2012 and 2013, the state’s obesity rate rose 3.2%. That was one of the biggest spikes in the nation.

Joe Grandpre with the Wyoming Department of Health says the reasons for the state’s growing waistbands are simple.

We're joined now by Kathryn Collins. She's a former emergency room physician from Jackson and author of a book called "How Healthy Is Your Doctor?" The book makes the case that eating healthier foods and getting more exercise, people can avoid a lot of common medical problems. Collins says she decided to write the book because she wanted people to know how much power they have to impact their own health.

Andrew Link | Winona (Minn.) Daily News

It’s been called miner's phthisis, grinder's asthma, potter's rot. Silicosis is a disease of the lungs that’s caused by inhaling tiny particles of crystalline silica dust, basically sand. Those particles cut the lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring that make it difficult to breathe.

Lawmakers finishing up work on the state budget have accepted a compromise amendment that encourages the Governor and other members of state government to figure out a way to expand Medicaid under Wyoming terms. 

Conference Committee members accepted a version of a House amendment that now says the state may work with federal officials on an expansion plan, as long as Medicaid Expansion doesn't harm Wyoming businesses.  Dan Neal of the Equality State Policy Center credits the public for convincing lawmakers to do something.

Wyoming Democratic Party leaders have criticized Governor Matt Mead for opposing a full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. There are over 17,000 low-income adults in the state and State Democratic Party Chairman Pete Gosar says it's not right to oppose the expansion, since Mead isn’t proposing another option.

At a press conference last week, Mead said that on that count, Gosar is right.

Wyoming ranks as the 17th healthiest state in the nation.  The rankings from the United Health Foundation say the state has a low percentage of children in poverty, low violent crime rate, and low levels of air pollution. But the Foundations’ Bill Mandell says there are three main areas of concern:

The nonprofit organization Wyoming Dementia Care received a five thousand dollar grant from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America last week.

Wyoming Dementia Care provides cost-free social support and information to dementia sufferers, their families, and their caregivers.

Carol Crump with WDC says that the organization’s most popular service is a series of support groups for caregivers, who are often the dementia sufferer’s family.

Wyomingites who want to quit tobacco have new tools available to them.

Wyoming Department of Health has partnered with National Jewish Health, a Denver hospital specializing in respiratory health, to beef up the Cowboy state’s tobacco cessation program.

The health department already offers nicotine patches and gum, coaching, and some financial help to cover smoking-cessation drugs. Now, it also offers counseling for pregnant tobacco users and people who chew.

University of Wyoming

With help from a five million dollar USDA grant, the University of Wyoming and two local groups are conducting a study of the health benefits of gardening.   They found fourteen volunteers with significant medical issues to start growing food in their own backyards.  The goal is to see if gardening improves their health.  Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards reports.

[Fade up Ambi of background garden sounds]

The Wyoming Department of Health has recorded a sharp increase in cases of pertussis – also known as “Whooping Cough”.

The illness has cold-like symptoms, and after a week or two, infected people usually develop a loud, persistent cough and spasms. Sixty-three cases have been reported this year already, four more than in all of 2012.

Health department spokeswoman Kim Deti says pertussis is most dangerous to babies under a year old. More than half need to be hospitalized if they catch whooping cough, and some die.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Housing Authority has received a $1.1 million Indian Community Development Block Grant. The competitive grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Grant administrator for the Northern Arapaho tribe, Patrick Goggles, says the money will be used for upgrades to the Fort Washakie Health Center on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“It’ll expand the number of patient rooms and it’ll expand the amount of healthcare that it dispenses to the clientele on the reservation,” says Goggles.

Tony Alter / Creative Commons

A new report shows that Wyoming’s obesity rate dropped slightly in the last year.

The Wyoming Department of Health has come up with a plan meant to increase the number of people who can receive services because of developmental disabilities.


The department’s Chris Newman says they currently provide extensive services, including around-the-clock care, for many individuals. But the waiting list to get those services is long. Now, they want to start providing a more limited array of services to people with less acute cases.

The Wyoming Insurance Commissioner says he has no idea how the federal health insurance marketplace, also known as an insurance exchange, will change the health insurance landscape in Wyoming. Tom Hirsig says he has no idea how many companies are considering offering insurance to state residents as part of the exchange.

“Probably companies are going to have to pick the states where they do the most business to start with, but in the future we are hoping that with time there will be more activity inside the exchange or marketplace.”

A new project on the Wind River Indian Reservation seeks to reduce diabetes rates by helping tribal families grow their own vegetables. More than 11% of the people on the reservation have diabetes.

The project is a collaboration between community health groups on the reservation, and the University of Wyoming.

Virginia Sutter with Blue Mountain Associates is one of the leaders of the project. She says diabetes rates are high because tribal members have very different diets than they have historically.

Biochemist and nutritionist - Kevin Meehan

Apr 27, 2013

Kevin Meehan: Biochemist, Kevin Meehan, has a thriving acupuncture and naturopathic health practice here in Jackson Hole.  He shares with us his journey from childhood diabetes to a flourishing business producing a variety of health products

Ozone spikes lead to doctor visits, study finds

Apr 11, 2013

A study by the Wyoming Department of Health found that ozone in Sublette County causes and exacerbates health problems.

Ground-level ozone is a type of pollution, and in Sublette County, it’s caused by emissions from the oil and gas industry. The report found that as ozone levels increased, more people went to local health clinics with respiratory complaints.

Kerry Pride with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says other studies have shown the same thing, but this is the first time they’ve done a research specific to Sublette County.

Teton county residents are the healthiest in Wyoming. That’s according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s County Health Rankings. The least-healthy county was Fremont.

Population Health Institute researcher Kate Konkle says, overall, people in Fremont County died at a younger age, had more sick days, and were less mentally healthy than residents of other counties. Konkle says researchers considered several factors that influence the health of a community, including obesity, access to dentists, and graduation rates.

The State Senate has given initial approval to a bill that will allow out-of-state health insurance companies to offer policies in Wyoming.  The goal of the legislation is to encourage competition and possibly lower health insurance costs.

Wyoming consumers have limited health insurance choices and supporters hope the bill will fix this. However,  Senator Bill Landen of Casper says he is worried that the legislation could harm Wyoming insurers, by bringing in unwanted competition. 

Albany County saw more prescription drug overdoses in the first three months of 2012 than in all of 2011. In fact, a third of non-natural and accidental deaths in Albany County last year can be linked to prescription drug overdoses, according to County Coroner Kathleen Vernon-Kubichek, nearly triple the amount seen in 2011. 

The Natrona County health department is investigating and outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness, often known as the “stomach flu.”

State epidemiologist Tracy Murphy says several people who have reported the problem had eaten at the same Casper restaurant, but he declined to name the restaurant until the county has wrapped up its investigation. Murphy says it it’s premature to blame the outbreak on food poisoning.

A public meeting today will present preliminary results of an Environmental Health Initiative study being conducted on Wind River Indian Reservation. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center initiative aims to assess environmental risks on the reservation, and develop remediation strategies. Communities on the Wind River Reservation complained of high cancer rates. Folo Akintan directs the Epidemiology Center and says they distributed surveys on the reservation and in communities immediately surrounding it, and reviewed national and local data going back up to fifty years.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional deaths of children under the age of 19 declined by 29-percent nationally between 2000 and 2009.

However, Kelly Weidenbach, an epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, says there has not been a similar drop in Wyoming.

This week is Wyoming’s annual “Through with Chew Week,” a campaign to get people to stop chewing tobacco. Wyoming has the nation’s highest rate of smokeless tobacco use among adults. And a 2011 study shows that 1 in 5 Wyoming high school boys chewed.Wyoming Department of Health Spokesperson Kim Deti says the Wyoming Quit Tobacco Program provides folks who want to quit with an important support system—and maybe even some free gas.