Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Courtesy of Derek Gunn

It's an easy punch line when someone makes a strange noise or makes a random body movement to joke about Tourette syndrome. But for some Iowans, it isn't funny.

Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition that affects body movement, and one out of every 360 children in the United States is diagnosed each year. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Dr. Samuel Kuperman of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who treats patients with TS and two Iowans who live with the syndrome. 

Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission says more than $700,000 in grants will be awarded to 16 healthcare professionals who work in rural Iowa. The grants will be matched by the communities where the recipients are employed.

Danielle Weber is a physical therapist who lives and works in Jefferson, the seat of Greene County. With more than $80,000 in debt she says the grant is like winning the lottery.

She explains that while her tuition at Des Moines University was “not cheap,” salaries in rural communities tend to skew lower.

Pat Blank/IPR

Eagle Lake in Evansdale is home to the nationally-ranked competitive water ski team known as the Water Hawks.  The lake is small, only 15 feet deep. It’s usually buzzing with skiers practicing for their next show, but one day each July it’s transformed into a playground for people with mobility limitations.  

Fourteen-year-old Suzanne Shoemaker has cerebral palsy and earlier this week, was here at the adaptive ski clinic near Waterloo for the second time.

Kevin Schuchmann/Wikimedia Commons

Many of us turn to nature for peace, recreation, and inspiration, and research is starting to support how interaction with the natural world can improve health and decrease stress.

Dr. Suzanne Bartlett is an Integrative Medicine Specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. When she started practicing medicine, she worked as an obstetrician. Today, she’s incorporating what she calls nature therapy into her new integrative medicine practice.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment/Flickr

Scientists have discovered a third instance of a bacteria resistant to one of the strongest antibiotics available, raising concerns about the spread of so-called "superbugs."

Researchers found E. coli bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin in a pig at an Illinois slaughterhouse, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson said earlier this week. Colistin is often used against bacteria that fail to respond to more common antibiotics.

Some Blood Types Running Low in Iowa

Jun 16, 2016

Blood supplies often decline during the summer months, and a regional blood center says it has only a one-day supply of several blood types on hand. LifeServe blood center in Des Moines says it tries to keep more than a three-day supply on hand for the more than 100 hospitals it serves in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

The blood types with less than a two-day supply are: O positive and negative, AB positive and negative, and A negative.  Life Serve has about a two-to-three day supply of A positive and B negative.

Dean Borg/IPR

Jason Schroeder is praising a new prosthetic leg with a motorized, flexing ankle that distinguishes it from others that he has used.

“I have quite the collection,” explains the 45-year-old Schroeder, of Colona, Illinois. “One for every occasion. Water skiing, snow skiing, running."

Schroeder had to make the amputation decision in 2005 after a rail car crushed his left foot.

“So we went in,” he said, “decided to amputate the leg, about nine inches below the knee.”

Credit Zach Bouden-Holmes / The Des Moines Register

Just over a year ago, Daniel Finney, metro columnist for the Des Moines Register, made a big decision--to try to lose 300 pounds. Shortly after that decision, he made an even braver choice--to share the journey publicly in the state capital's paper of record. 

A group of public health, health insurance, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations has released a set recommendations to improve overall community health in the Greater Des Moines area.

The 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment makes recommendations in several areas, including expanding healthcare access, especially mental health services. It also calls for a greater focus on both education and immigrant services.

Photo Courtesy of Jamie Burch Elliott

For some Iowans, the idea of doing yoga is appealing, but the idea of walking into a yoga studio is not.

Jamie Burch Elliott identifies with that sentiment. She’s curvy and doesn’t have a typical “yoga body." She says she remembers one of the first yoga classes she attended well. 

Photo Courtesy of Alyssa Leicht

If you dreamed about running away to join the circus, it’s not too late. In fact, you don’t even have to run away. There’s a growing community of circus performers right here in Iowa. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Felicia Coe and Laura Ernst, who are the co-founders of the Iowa Circus Academy in Des Moines. 

They are offer circus fitness classes for beginners, flexibility classes, and more advanced courses as well. 

Courtesy of John Little

Between the ages of 55 and 62, John Little completed 15 Ironman triathlons. For the last three years, he could only power-walk the leg of the race where he was supposed to run due to the pain in his knees.

“I finally went in and had my knees x-rayed. My surgeon told me, ‘I don’t understand how you’re walking right now.’”

Frankieleon / Flickr

While Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were filmed sleeping in separate twin beds back in the 1950s, not sharing a mattress is seen as a sign of a troubled marriage.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with sleep doctor, Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorders Center, fielding several questions about the benefits and drawbacks to sharing a room with a sleeping partner.

Kids on Hawk-I, Iowa’s Medicaid program for low income children, are receiving new insurance cards in the mail. But they might not put them to much use, since Iowa’s Medicaid program is scheduled to go into privatized management on March 1.

Initially the transition to privatization was scheduled for New Year’s Day. In anticipation of this date, insurer Wellmark scaled back its Hawk-I resources; but now the transition is scheduled for March so Wellmark’s Hawk-I contracts need a new home.

Flickr / John M

It might not help you burn off that large Thanksgiving meal, but a new study from the University of Iowa says people who use desks designing for sitting and standing at work do burn about 87 more calories a day, compared to coworkers who only sit.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A statehouse committee spent the day Tuesday hearing about what’s being called a massive change in how health care in Iowa is delivered to the poor and disabled. 

Private companies are scheduled to take over management of the state-federal health care program known as Medicaid which serves more than 560-thousand Iowans.  

Critics worry about the effect on the state’s most vulnerable populations.  

Wikipedia / Wapcaplet

The University of Iowa’s Heart and Vascular Center will become the first facility in the state to provide a recently-FDA-approved procedure that decreases the risk of stroke in patients with a type of irregular heartbeat. 

University of Iowa

Women's health pioneer Byllye Avery has for more than 40 years been on the front lines of the women's heath movement in the United States.  It was her husband's sudden death at age 33 that was the catalyst for her commitment to improve the health of the African-American community.   She told IPR that it was 1970 and she and her husband, who was close to getting his doctorate, had two small children and a third child on the way.  But she says the health care system at the time did not make it clear to them how deadly high-blood pressure could be and her husband tragically died of a massive h

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A clinical trial vaccinating people in Guinea exposed to Ebola virus has been found to have a 100 percent efficacy. That means none of the 2,000-plus people researchers immediately vaccinated got the virus.

Part of this vaccine was developed at Ames-based New Link Genetics. Swati Gupta is an executive director of Merck Vaccines which licensed the Ebola vaccine from New Link. Gupta says now, more trials are underway to administer the vaccine to people who need it.

Penguin Random House

Dr. David Casarett was a skeptic when he set out to write Stoned. But in his quest to determine what medical evidence exists for medical marijuana, the palliative care physician found more questions than answers. Host Ben Kieffer talks with him about the book and the research needed to answer those questions.

Casarett and listeners tell stories of how cannabidiol oil has helped children with seizure disorders.  He explains what science knows about the compounds found in cannabis, and the most effective means of extracting and administering those compounds. 

National Institutes of Health

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act Friday morning, which increases funding to the National Institutes of Health by $8.75 billion over the course of five years.

This announcement is particularly exciting for biomedical researchers in Iowa and across the country. When taking inflation into account, NIH funding has dropped by more than 22 percent since 2003.

Flickr / ceiling

The benefits of exercise are well documented, but it can difficult to make time to hit the gym. But when developing a good workout schedule, is it more important to focus on forming habits on how you exercise, or habits that make you decide to exercise?

According to ISU health psychologist L. Alison Phillips, it's the latter. She says strong patterns that prompt you to initiate exercise are key to frequent workouts. 

Stop Bugging Me!

Jun 15, 2015

Summer’s official start is right around the corner and with it comes an increase of pesky insects. State Health Department officials are warning against lathering on too much insect repellent.  IDPH Medical Director Patricia Quinlisk says a little spray goes a long way. “You want to use the lowest concentration that you need,” she explains. “Concentrations don’t tell you how well they work, they tell you how long they’re going to last.”

(Not So) Gross Anatomy

Jun 2, 2015
IPR's Pat Blank

For medical students enrolled in Gross Anatomy class, a rite of passage is dissecting human bodies. But putting hands on a real body is impractical for students who won’t eventually become doctors, however, technology is providing some new options.

Pan American Health Organization

Earlier this month, a team of researchers released a study that found one major difference between life and death for extremely preterm infants—those born from 22 to 26 weeks of gestation—was how aggressively the doctors attempted to save the babies’ lives.

Flickr / Joshua Smith

Just because an infant is extremely premature, it doesn't mean he or she can't survive. That's according to new New England Journal of Medicine study from University of Iowa researchers, which suggests some babies as young as 22 weeks premature are viable.

Researchers complied data from thousands premature births at 24 academic hospitals nationwide. The mortality rate for babies under 1000 grams birth weight, bit over 2 lbs, was as high as 50 percent in hospitals, and as low as 10 percent in others.

Aaron Hall

About half to two-thirds of adults in the U.S. use dietary supplements on a regular basis, contributing to an industry that generated more than $6 billion in 2013.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with experts about an investigation, led by New York’s Attorney General, which found that only 21 percent of common supplements actually had DNA from the plants advertised on the labels.

Liz West / Flickr

There was the cabbage soup diet and the grapefruit diet, and more recently the paleo and gluten-free diets. Whatever way you slice it, most “fad diets” are just that: fads. 

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with three dieticians about fad diets over the years and how diet trends shape our thinking about nutrition. Joann Miller, University of Iowa Student Health and Wellness Dietician; Anne Cundiff, Registered Dietician at HyVee; and Sue Clarahan, Registered Dietician in Iowa City with her own nutrition consulting practice join the show.

Morgan / Flickr

When Jim McGough was diagnosed with hepatitis C, his wife Sheryl was dumbfounded.