Patti Neighmond

Award-winning journalist Patti Neighmond is NPR's health policy correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition.

Based in Los Angeles, Neighmond has covered health care policy since April 1987. She joined NPR's staff in 1981, covering local New York City news as well as the United Nations. In 1984, she became a producer for NPR's science unit and specialized in science and environmental issues.

Neighmond has earned a broad array of awards for her reporting. In 1993, she received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of health reform. That same year she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for a story on a young quadriplegic who convinced Georgia officials that she could live at home less expensively and more happily than in a nursing home. In 1990 she won the World Hunger Award for a story about healthcare and low-income children. Neighmond received two awards in 1989: a George Polk Award for her powerful ten-part series on AIDS patient Archie Harrison, who was taking the anti-viral drug AZT; and a Major Armstrong Award for her series on the Canadian health care system. The Population Institute, based in Washington, DC, has presented its radio documentary award to Neighmond twice: in 1988 for "Family Planning in India" and in 1984 for her coverage of overpopulation in Mexico. Her 1987 report "AIDS and Doctors" won the National Press Club Award for Consumer Journalism, and her two-part series on the aquaculture industry earned the 1986 American Association for the Advancement of Science Award.

Neighmond began her career in journalism in 1978, at the Pacifica Foundation's Washington D.C. bureau, where she covered Capitol Hill and the White House. She began freelance reporting for NPR from New York City in 1980. Neighmond earned her bachelor's degree in English and drama from the University of Maryland, and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

We're constantly hearing messages that we're eating too much and not moving around enough. Now researchers suggest that we're actually not eating more than we did 20 years ago, it's that we're much less active. And that includes not just middle-aged workers tied to their desks, but also young men and women who spend their days sitting in front of their laptops.

We know that happiness and social connection can have positive benefits on health. Now research suggests that having a sense of purpose or direction in life may also be beneficial.

Many people are intensely interested in how publicly funded charter schools affect children, and that includes not just their academic achievement but their health.

Researchers from UCLA and the Rand Corp. wanted to know whether attending a high-performing charter school reduced the rates of risky health behaviors among low-income minority teenagers.

If anyone can handle the stress of parenting in the teen years, you'd think it would be a high school teacher.

That's how Amy Myers felt. She teaches high school English in a suburb of Boise, Idaho, where she says she has "pseudo parented" about 3,000 teenagers "who I have talked to, given advice to, guided, directed, even lectured about teenage issues," she says.

Stress is part of the human condition, unavoidable and even necessary to a degree. But too much stress can be toxic — even disabling.

And there's a lot of toxic stress out there.

A national poll done by NPR with our partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health finds that more than 1 in every 4 Americans say they had a great deal of stress in the previous month.

As a child, Diany Levy was called lazy and unfocused. She remembers that teachers called home on a daily basis to tell her parents she was not paying attention in class. Now, at the age of 23, Diany has finally been diagnosed with the cause of her problems – ADHD.

Children are increasingly anxious, stressed out and overly worried. Part of that has to do with increased pressures to excel in school, sports and extracurricular activities. But part of it has a lot to do with parents.

Like other mental and physical health problems, anxiety can be inherited. And some children are more vulnerable because of the way their anxious parents "parent."

It's actually quite common for doctors to write "off label" prescriptions, including using cancer drugs to treat migraine headaches or blood pressure medication for heart failure.

One study found that 1 in 5 prescriptions written in doctor's offices has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the condition it is being used for. And while some off-label drugs are used with no problems, others may not work or may increase a patient's risk of complications.

If you're a man and you're concerned about low levels of testosterone, doctors say there are a key steps to take before you go with testosterone supplementation.

It's not just kids who are overdoing screen time. Parents are often just as guilty of spending too much time checking smartphones and e-mail — and the consequences for their children can be troubling.

Cancer patients often lose their appetite because chemotherapy can cause nausea. But it does something else to make food unappetizing – it changes the way things taste.

Hollye Jacobs was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, at the age of 39. As a nurse she expected the extreme nausea that often accompanies powerful chemo therapy drugs. But as a patient, she wasn't expecting the taste changes.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

When you think about casinos, you probably think about excess: smoke-filled rooms, too much alcohol, and endless buffets filled with piles of high-fat and high sugar foods.

But as NPR's Patti Neighmond reports, a new study suggests casinos may actually have a health benefit for children who live in nearby communities.

Teenagers put a lot of stock in what their peers are doing, and parents are forever trying to push back against that influence. But with the advent of social media, hanging out with the wrong crowd can include not just classmates, but teenagers thousands of miles away on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

While electronic cigarettes may be marketed as alternatives that will keep teenagers away from tobacco, a study suggests that may not be the case.

Trying e-cigarettes increased the odds that a teenager would also try tobacco cigarettes and become regular smokers, the study found. Those who said they had ever used an e-cigarette were six times more likely to try tobacco than ones who had never tried the e-cig.

The teenager's brain has a lot of developing to do: It must transform from the brain of a child into the brain of an adult. Some researchers worry how marijuana might affect that crucial process.

"Actually, in childhood our brain is larger," says Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. "Then, during the teenage years, our brain is getting rid of those connections that weren't really used, and it prunes back.

You would think that a vaccine that could prevent cancer would be an easy sell, but that's hasn't proven to be true so far with the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

In inner cities and poor rural areas across the country, public health advocates have been working hard to turn around food deserts — neighborhoods where fresh produce is scarce, and greasy fast food abounds. In many cases, they're converting dingy, cramped corner markets into lighter, brighter venues that offer fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sure, you think, my kid's on a football team. That takes care of his exercise needs, right? Probably not.

"There are these bursts of activity," says Jim Sallis, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego. "But if you think about it, one hour of playing football out on the field means that the vast majority of that time is spent standing around waiting for the next play."

Latino immigrants in the U.S. say the quality and affordability of health care is better in the U.S. than in the countries they came from, according to the latest survey by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. But many report having health care problems.

More than 1 in 4 adult Americans say they've recently suffered a bout of low-back pain. It's one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. And more and more people are being treated for it.

America spends more than $80 billion a year on back pain treatments. But many specialists say less treatment is usually more effective.

About one-third of American adults say they have problems falling asleep. And prescriptions for sleeping medications are on the rise, with about 4 percent of people using the drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But sleep specialists say people should exercise caution before deciding to take medication to help them sleep.

A teen's relationship — or lack of good relationship — with parents, pals or teachers may have a lot to do with why most kids aren't getting the nine to 10 hours of sleep that doctors recommend. The hormonal disruptions of puberty likely also play a role.

When high school junior Nora Huynh got her report card, she was devastated to see that she didn't get a perfect 4.0.

Nora "had a total meltdown, cried for hours," her mother, Jennie Huynh of Alameda, Calif., says. "I couldn't believe her reaction."

Nora is doing college-level work, her mother says, but many of her friends are taking enough advanced classes to boost their grade-point averages above 4.0. "It breaks my heart to see her upset when she's doing so awesome and going above and beyond."

It's really only a sliver of time when humans build the bulk of their skeleton. At age 9, the bones start a big growth spurt. And by the time puberty ends, around 14 or 15 years old, the adult-sized skeleton is all but done, about 90 percent complete.

But doctors say a lot of children aren't getting what they need to do that. Calcium and vitamin D are essential, sure, but so is lots of time jumping and running.

If you're among the estimated 27 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, then perhaps you've tried the nutritional supplements glucosamine and chondroitin. They've been marketed for joint health for about 20 years, and sales are still brisk. But do they help?

Some horses might say yes. The supplements were first tried in horses, and there's some evidence that the supplements might improve joint function for them.

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