health

Health insurance premiums can vary widely in Colorado depending on where you live — it's just one of the factors health insurance companies use to calculate prices. Mountain regions continue to have some of the highest premiums in the country. At the statehouse, House Bill 16-1336 [.pdf] would look at treating the entire state as one region, rather than continuing to group regions separately.

"Our current insurance payment of $1,508 a month is equivalent to our mortgage payment. We can't afford it," said Richard Backe, a Garfield County small-business owner. "There are numerous people in the mountain district with the same story. We are the healthiest counties in the state, and we have the highest insurance rates."

Colorado is, overall, one of the healthiest states in the country – but things are starting to change as the population grows and ages. One of the unintended side effects is a widening disparity between the healthiest and least healthy counties.

New data indicates disparities across geographic regions; with people living in the mountain communities generally ranking as the healthiest in Colorado. In part due to the things that attract people to the state to begin with.

"The amount of sunshine, the world class skiing, hiking, fly fishing, the ability to go right outside your backyard and experience nature," said Democratic Summit County commissioner Dan Gibbs.

Colorado residents have vastly different health outcomes, based in part on where they live in the state. Rocky Mountain PBS News analyzed health data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to rank each of the state's 64 counties based on a variety of health indicators from obesity, to amount of exercise, to smoking and premature deaths.

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  • A look at the growing disparity in health across the state  
medical equipment, health
flickr.com/adrianclarkmbbs

A coalition in Montrose is working to create a nonprofit health center that provides physical, mental and dental services under the same roof.

The Community Dental Clinic is collaborating with the Center for Mental Health and the Delta-Montrose Technical College on the project. 

Melanie Hall, the executive director of the clinic, says the new site will be called PIC Place, which stands for Partners in Integrated Care.

It's often a split-second decision.

You're in the produce aisle, and those organic apples on display look nice. You like the idea of organic — but they're a few bucks extra. Ditto for the organic milk and meat. Do you splurge? Or do you ask yourself: What am I really getting from organic?

cigarette, smoking
Flickr via Raul Lieberwirth

Cigarette sales in Colorado are up for the first time in nearly a decade.

The decline in cigarette sales started in 2004. That’s when Colorado voters approved boosting the excise tax on a pack of cigarettes by 64 cents. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said after that cigarette sales plummeted from around 300 million packs a year to a low of 193.2 million in 2014. 

However, last year sales ticked up by 1.1 million packs. 

The crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich., is making a public health message like this one harder to get across: In most communities, the tap water is perfectly safe. And it is much healthier than sugary drinks.

That's a message that Dr. Patty Braun, a pediatrician and oral health specialist at Denver Health, spends a lot of time talking to her patients about.

Law enforcement officials would love to have a clear way to tell when a driver is too drugged to drive. But the decades of experience the country has in setting limits for alcohol have turned out to be rather useless so far because the mind-altering compound in cannabis, THC, dissolves in fat, whereas alcohol dissolves in water.

smoking, no smoking sign
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. 

In Colorado, it kills more people than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and murder combined. It claims about 5,000 lives in the Centennial State every year. Despite this fact, state data shows nearly 16 percent of Colorado adults smoke. 


Editors' note, Feb. 1, 2016: On Jan. 20, we reported on a statement from the American Psychological Association that a research paper, "Chronic Adolescent Marijuana Use as a Risk Factor for Physical and Mental Health Problems in Young Adult Men," had a statistical error. The APA now says that statement, which was titled "APA Corrects Article Regarding Teen Marijuana Use," should not have said there was an error in the paper. Jim Sliwa, a spokesman for the APA, told NPR: "There was no error.

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The World Health Organization made an announcement Monday that's likely to come as a blow to anyone whose favorite outdoor snack is a hot dog.

Processed meats — yes, hot dogs, plus sausage, ham, even turkey bacon — are cancer-causing, a committee of scientists with WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded. And it classified red meat as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

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Montrose County in western Colorado is an agricultural community. Everything from apples to zucchini is grown there. However, not everyone knows what’s in season, how they can access it or how to prepare it.

The Local Farmacy Rx program is trying to change that. Through it low-income families learn how to eat healthy locally. 

medical equipment, health
flickr.com/adrianclarkmbbs

A significant increase in syphilis cases in Colorado has health officials concerned.

Between January and July of last year, there were 164 early stage syphilis cases recorded in the state. During the same period of this year, there were 255 early syphilis cases. That’s a 56 percent increase.

 

Dr. Daniel Shodell, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, says across the U.S. infection rates are going up including here in Colorado. 

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The number of Coloradans who don't have health insurance has dropped by about half since President Barack Obama's signature health care law went into effect. The state's uninsured rate fell from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015. Not only does the Colorado Access Health Survey say that the uninsured are at a record low, it also finds that more people have enrolled in Medicaid.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday ordered three tobacco companies to stop claiming their cigarettes are "additive-free" or "natural."

The agency said those claims could mislead smokers into thinking those cigarettes are safer than others.

  

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Mesa County Health Department

Mosquitoes in Mesa County tested positive for West Nile Virus.

Local officials say this is the first confirmed activity of the virus in area mosquitoes this year. 

However, other counties across Colorado have already reported positive tests to the state health department. 

Jennifer House is a state public health veterinarian.  

"We've recently had an increase in the number of positive mosquitoes," House says. "So far we have been able to find West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes in Boulder, Denver, Larimer, Mesa, Pueblo, and Weld counties."

A year and a half ago, Dr. David Casarett did not take medical marijuana very seriously. "When I first started this project, I really thought of medical marijuana as a joke," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

After nearly 30 years, the Obama administration wants to modernize the rules nursing homes must follow to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid payments.

The hundreds of pages of proposed changes cover everything from meal times to use of antipsychotic drugs to staffing. Some are required by the Affordable Care Act and other recent federal laws, as well as the president's executive order directing agencies to simplify regulations and minimize the costs of compliance.

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

There's a renaissance in local and regional food, and it's not just farmers markets in urban areas that are driving it.

soil, dirt
NRCS Soil Health

A Delta County man is recovering after contracting tularemia. Although it’s the first reported case of the disease on the Western Slope this year, health officials are concerned.

Last year in Colorado 16 people were diagnosed with tularemia.

That's the second highest number of cases in Colorado since 1983 when there were 20 cases, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

People who buy medical marijuana products might not be getting what they paid for, a study finds. And evidence remains elusive on benefits for most medical conditions, even though almost half the states have legalized medical marijuana.

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