Kentucky Leads Nation In New Lung Cancer Cases

23 hours ago

Kentucky has the nation’s worst rate of new lung cancer cases, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.

The state also has one of the lowest five-year survival rates after diagnosis: only 17.6 percent of Kentuckians diagnosed with lung cancer live for at least five years after their diagnosis. That means the majority of people die within five years.

Tennessee Health Care Campaign Facebook page

A key health care advocacy group in the state is reinventing itself amid federal funding cuts. After losing a grant to hire Obamacare insurance navigators, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign has decided to just start selling plans itself.

The Affordable Care Act included funding to have so-called navigators help people sort through all of the newly available insurance plans. But the Trump administration slashed that funding.

Instead of competing for what’s left, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign has applied with the state to become a nonprofit insurance broker. Executive director Jacy Warrell says one former navigator has already passed the licensing exam with potentially more to come.


When the first cases of vaping-related lung injuries came to the attention of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer, they knew this was a potential curveball.

Disease detectives, more accustomed to stopping food-borne illnesses or tracking the annual influenza cycle, realized that they'd need a unique approach to take on a health crisis that has so far sickened 1,604 and killed 34.

Hannah Norman/KHN Illustration

TennCare will soon cover ride-hailing services to ferry patients to and from doctors visits. On Thursday, Lyft announced an expansion of its medical transports in five states, including Tennessee.

Medicaid programs like TennCare already fund transportation for patients. But many have complained of rigid schedules and rules, like not allowing parents to bring along their kids. The issue was a key takeaway in Gov. Bill Lee’s health care listening tour over the summer.

Megan Callahan, vice president of health care at Lyft, says her drivers can’t accommodate every patient with special medical needs.


Erica Peterson

It’s in food packaging, non-stick pans, paint, cleaning products and firefighting foams.

It’s likely in your blood. It’s probably in my blood. And if it wasn’t there before, it could be there now. That is, if you’re drinking Louisville tap water.

The Environmental Working Group, an organization that tracks environmental pollutants in consumer products, found 10 PFAS compounds in a sample of Louisville drinking water taken from a home in July, according to data from the group.


The Kentucky Department for Public Health says more than a third of students haven't received the mandated Hepatitis A vaccination.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports immunization rates released Tuesday show about 65% of the 209,904 mandated students have received the shot. The state's target compliance rate is 85%.

Results show seniors had the lowest compliance rate at 46% and kindergartners had the highest with 84.3%.

Federal Agency To Hear Comment On Silica Dust As Black Lung Epidemic Rages

Oct 16, 2019
Erica Peterson

The Mine Safety and Health Administration will host a public meeting Thursday as it considers action on regulating respirable silica, one of the major contributors to Appalachia’s skyrocketing rates of black lung disease. 

MSHA issued a request for information in response to calls for increased regulation after a 2018 investigation from NPR and PBSFrontline. That investigation found that the agency had failed to adequately protect miners despite knowing that silica, or quartz dust, was contributing to an  epidemic of black lung.


The University of Louisville

The University of Louisville Brown Cancer Center will start enrolling some patients with cancer in clinical trials for an innovative gene therapy.

Doctors at the Cancer Center will remove a patient’s immune system cells, and then those cells will be genetically engineered and reinserted to better fight cancer cells.

Robert Emmons, a Blood and Marrow Transplant physician at the cancer center, said the process involves removing and changing a patient’s own immune system cells.


New Kentucky Memorial Honors Miners Who Died From Black Lung

Oct 12, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal miners and family members of miners who have died from black lung disease gathered Sunday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to dedicate a new memorial to miners who perished from the workplace disease.

While Appalachian coal country has several memorials to mining disasters, this is believed to be the first memorial to remember the thousands of men and women who died from black lung.

The engraved black stone memorial stands at Riverside Park in Whitesburg and will list the names of some 200 Letcher County coal miners who died of the disease.

Kentucky’s Department for Public Health announced Tuesday that it is now investigating 25 cases of a lung disease associated with vaping. One case has been confirmed. The state also recommended against using vaping products while a nationwide outbreak continues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said there are now more than 1,080 cases of these lung illnesses across 48 states. The federal agency says almost a quarter of sickened patients are between the ages 25 and 34. Another 39 percent are between ages 18 and 24. 

Department for Public Health Commissioner Angela Dearinger said in a press release that the state is working with the Food and Drug Administration, local health departments and the CDC.

Mary Meehan | Ohio Valley ReSource

Eight Kentucky-based organizations will share a $1.05 million grant to fight hepatitis C infections spread by the opioid crisis.

Kentucky’s grant is part of a $5.3 million regional grant from Gilead Sciences, a for-profit biopharmaceutical company based in California. Organizations can use the money to provide new services or educate communities on ways to fight infection. Of more than 120 applicants, Gilead picked 44 projects to receive a grant.


KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration hired a physician to lead the state’s infectious disease office just months after the Department of Veterans Affairs dismissed that doctor for “egregious” medical misconduct.

Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services hired Dr. John “Mel” Bennett in the same month that the VA’s Inspector General published a report highly critical of Bennett’s actions.

The VA’s IG report found that between Oct. 1, 2015, and Dec. 27, 2017, Bennett repeatedly entered the same blood pressure reading of 128/78 in order to bypass a clinical alert system. The alert required the doctor to enter additional information that involved follow-up work with the patients, such as blood tests and changes in medication.

Blake Farmer WPLN

Tennessee’s two-day waiting period to get an abortion is on trial this week in Nashville's federal court, and abortion rights supporters say the stakes are much higher than when the law took effect four years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled waiting periods of one day are constitutional, even they require two trips to the abortion clinic. But the abortion providers challenging Tennessee's law argue in a pre-trial brief that each previous case challenging a waiting period has depended on the circumstances in that state.

Blake Farmer WPLN

Vanderbilt cardiologists are finding some benefits in keeping things simple to reduce the risk of heart disease. Their study of a four-in-one pill was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Vanderbilt researchers had to make their own "polypill," as they’re known. They put three kinds of low-dose blood pressure medication and a cholesterol drug in a purple capsule.

And participants, like Lula Williams, 65, of Gautier, Miss., found it much easier to take as prescribed than her current cocktail of medication.

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to launch a new three-digit hotline for people who are feeling suicidal or are going through any other mental health crisis. It recommends making 988 the new national number to call for help, replacing the current 10-digit number.

The agency presented the idea to Congress in a report earlier this month and is expected to release more information and seek public comment about the proposal in the coming months.