December 31, 2019

Vaping, Medicaid and Opioids -- Top Health Stories Of 2019

Article origination WFYI-FM

A wide range of healthcare issues drew headlines in 2019, affecting the lives of millions of Americans. Here are some highlights from Side Effects Public Media's coverage across the Midwest:


Vaping devices and e-liquids confiscated from students at North Newton Junior/Senior High School in Morocco, Indiana. (Leigh DeNoon/Side Effects Public Media)

In the second half of the year, this crisis exploded onto America's consciousness. 

Hundreds of people were stricken with vaping-related lung illnesses, and dozens of deaths were recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Side Effects told the story of one Kentucky woman who lapsed into a coma. And beyond the medical concerns, Americans struggled to address the problem. In Indiana, for example, schools debated whether to handle vaping as an issue of discipline or public health.


An Indianapolis boxing class helps people get through their grief. (Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media)

As addiction continued to ravage America -- and governments sought compensation from drug makers -- communities searched for creative solutions. In Kentucky, new programs helped grandparents and others caring for the children of mothers and fathers who were struggling with addiction. In Indiana, a group handled their grief in an unusual way: by boxing in a small gym. And a Side Effects investigation highlighted the questionable claims of a therapy touted as a sure-fire way to overcome addiction. 


Kentucky's capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky. (Daderot/CC-0)

States in the Midwest continued to wrestle with the health insurance program aimed mainly at low-income residents. In Kentucky, a new governor rejected a plan for work requirements. In Indiana, work requirements were challenged in court, prompting the state to put the idea on hold. But Missouri doubled down on limiting Medicaid expenses, knocking thousands of people off the program.


A measles vaccine. (Courtesy U.S. Army)

Measles cases continued to pop up around the Midwest, triggering fears of an outbreak at major events such as the Kentucky Derby. Parents worried about the impact on children with compromised immune systems, and some doctors vowed to drop patients who refused vaccinations. 


Marshfield Medical Center-Neillsville in Neillsville, Wisconsin, has 17 hospital beds that remain mostly empty. (Coburn Dukehart/ Wisconsin Watch)

Side Effects also highlighted broad problems in the U.S. healthcare system, including rural hospital closings and the barriers faced by refugees and other immigrants. Specific groups confronted serious problems, such as the high rates of maternal and infant mortality among African-Americans. 

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