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.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Clinical Psychological Science finds that increased time spent with popular electronic devices — whether a computer, cell phone or tablet — might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts over the last several years among teens, especially among girls.

For most people, buying a "fragrance-free" or "hypoallergenic" moisturizer that turns out to be neither might be frustrating, but not harmful. But for people with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or psoriasis, it can be a big problem.

"I will start to itch and I have to get it off my body right away," says 62-year-old Kathryn Walter, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Walter has a severe case of eczema and chooses moisturizers that claim to be free of fragrance and allergy-causing additives. But more often than not, Walter ends up with a product that clearly isn't.

Ariana Marciano is adding to her collection of about 75 tattoos at Body Electric, a tattoo and piercing studio on trendy Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. "I think they're so cool and I think they're visually really nice to look at," she says. There's a ram's head, an elk, a green-and-peach praying mantis, a love bug and a moth. Today she's getting a ladybug.

"I love bugs," Marciano, 23, says. "I think they're kind of overlooked." In about 20 minutes, a small ladybug with dots on its back and a bit of rusty orange takes its place on her elbow.

Count the number of hours you sit each day. Be honest.

"If you commute an hour in the morning and hour after work — that's two hours, and if you sit at an eight-hour-a-day desk job that's 10," says epidemiologist Loretta DiPietro of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

"Then you come home at, say, 6 p.m., eat dinner and crash into your recliner for another three to four hours," says DiPietro. "That's 13 to 14 hours of sitting."

Walk down the aisle of your local pharmacy or grocery store and you'll be bombarded by a dizzying array of bleaching products, from gels and strips to paint-on bleach.

Many more boys are diagnosed with autism every year than girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disorder is 4.5 times more common among boys than girls. Boys appear to be more vulnerable to the disorder, but there is some evidence that the gender gap may not be as wide as it appears.

For more than a decade, the number of women choosing bilateral mastectomy to treat breast cancer has been on the rise. That's the case even for women with early stage breast cancer, cancer in only one breast or non-invasive breast cancer, which has raised concerns that women are getting more surgery than they need. Now a study suggests that trend may be turning around.

Sleek, high-tech wristbands are extremely popular these days, promising to measure heart rate, steps taken during the day, sleep, calories burned and even stress.

This is a story about conflicting medical advice.

One group of doctors, represented by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommends yearly pelvic exams for all women 21 years of age and older, whether they have symptoms of disease or not.

When 18-year-old Hannah Vanderkooy feels extremely tired or anxious, she heads to a spacelike capsule for a nap — during school. Like many teens struggling to get good grades and maybe even a college scholarship, Vanderkooy doesn't get enough sleep.

And she's not alone. Various studies indicate that chronically sleepy and stressed-out teenagers might be the new normal among U.S. adolescents who are competing for grades, colleges and, eventually, jobs.

"Yo-yo dieting" — where people lose weight and gain it back again — doubles the risk of a heart attack, stroke or death in people who already have significant heart disease.

That's the conclusion of an international study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Four out of five older Americans with hearing loss just ignore it, in part because a hearing aid is an unwelcome sign of aging. But what if hearing aids looked like stylish fashion accessories and could be bought at your local pharmacy like reading glasses?

That's the vision of Kristen "KR" Liu, who's the director of accessibility and advocacy for Doppler Labs, a company marketing one of these devices. She thinks a hearing aid could be "something that's hip and cool and people have multiple pairs and it's fashionable."

One of the most common reasons people go to the doctor is lower back pain, and one of the most common reasons doctors prescribe powerful, addictive narcotics is lower back pain.

Now, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers the latest evidence that spinal manipulation can offer a modestly effective alternative.

New research published Monday adds fuel to an ongoing debate in the public health community over whether a few extra pounds are good, or bad, for you.

Earlier research found that being somewhat overweight, but not obese, may result in a longer life.

When Kathleen Muldoon had her second child everything was going smoothly. The delivery was short, the baby's APGAR score was good and he was a healthy weight.

"Everyone said he was amazing," says Muldoon.

An influential advisory panel says there's not enough evidence to determine whether annual pelvic exams should be routine for women who aren't pregnant and have no symptoms of disease.

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Many men over 65 with low testosterone levels say their sense of well-being, not to mention sexual function, isn't what it used to be.

That's why some doctors prescribe testosterone replacement. But the effectiveness of testosterone has been controversial. Studies of the risks and benefits have been mixed, and the Food and Drug Administration beefed up its warnings about cardiac side effects of testosterone supplementation in 2015.

Most of us suffer back pain at some point in our lives. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Many of us also probably reach for medication. Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians say try exercise, yoga, or massage first.

That's a pretty big change for both doctors and patients, but a welcome one, some doctors say.

It's no surprise that most women with breast cancer consider hair loss one of the most traumatic aspects of chemotherapy. That has led to a big market for cooling caps, which are purported to limit hair loss.

But cooling caps haven't been extensively studied in the U.S., and womens' experiences with the caps have been hit or miss. And just one cooling cap, the DigniCap, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

It's tough to be a teenager. Hormones kick in, peer pressures escalate and academic expectations loom large. Kids become more aware of their environment in the teen years — down the block and online. The whole mix of changes can increase stress, anxiety and the risk of depression among all teens, research has long shown.

Most of us have reached for a painkiller, at one time or another, only to discover the date on the label shows it has expired. But what does an "expiration" date on medicine really mean? Is it dangerous if you take it anyway? Less effective?

When Ali Andrew Li was born on Jan. 7, he was gently placed on his mother's chest, where doctors cleaned and examined him and covered him with a warm blanket.

"I just loved it," his mother, Salma Shabaik, a family physician who lives in Los Angeles, says. "It was really nice to have the baby right there beneath my eyes where I could feel him, touch him, kiss him."

So far, more than half of all U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and eight (plus the District of Columbia) have legalized the drug for recreational use. Varieties of cannabis available today are more potent than ever and come in many forms, including oils and leaves that can be vaped, and lots of edibles, from brownies and cookies to candies — even cannabis gummy bears.

Creatine, a chemical constituent of meat and fish that's legally been sold online, in supermarkets, health food stores and vitamin shops for at least a couple of decades, may be the most commonly used muscle-building supplement marketed.

A full decade after the Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to fight the sexually transmitted, cancer-causing human papillomavirus, almost half of all adolescents have still not received their first dose. This low vaccination rate is dramatic when compared to other routine childhood immunizations like polio and measles, mumps and rubella, where compliance is above 90 percent.

Every year when Morton Pollner had his checkup, he worried that doctors would find something on his lung. For years, they didn't. Then his luck ran out.

"My reaction was, 'Well, you smoked for 30 years. You got away with it for another 30 years and this is it.' I thought it was a death sentence," he says.

Peanut allergies can be among a parent's biggest worries, though we've had good evidence for more than a year that when most babies are 6 months old or so, introducing foods that contain finely ground peanuts can actually reduce babies' chances of becoming allergic to the legumes. Even so, many parents are scared to do that.

There are rating systems for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors. So why is it so hard to compare providers of child care?

Part of the reason is that there are no nationally agreed-upon standards for what determines the quality of child care. The standards that do exist are formulated in each state, and they vary widely.

For example, some states require that child care workers have a teaching certificate. Others require certain college courses. Some have strict ratios of how many caregivers are required per child.

Most parents have experienced sticker shock when they find out just how much it will cost to care for their infant or toddler full- or even part-time. For parents who have little choice, this can be a big financial strain.

In fact, the most common challenge parents face when looking for child care is the high cost. That's the finding of a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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