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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.