The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

It's back to school time for kids, of course (and teachers). But perhaps it's time to head back into the classroom or lecture hall yourself.

Need a refresher course in keeping healthy? Strategies for coping with chronic disease? Or perhaps you'd like to learn more about the vaccinations you need, or how to be a brand new parent. Whatever your curiosity or particular health challenge, there's probably a class, lecture, or program out there to help you.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

In honor of Labor Day, I decided to check the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on workplace injuries. What are the most dangerous industries in Rhode Island?

Health care, beat only by trucking, being a messenger/courier, or working in some retail outlets. Surprised?

Health care includes nursing homes, which seem to have some of the highest number of work days missed because of injury. That's partly because of all the heavy lifting.

Rhode Island Department of Health

The state health department has just published some striking data on numbers of prescription painkillers, stimulants, and other controlled substances prescribed in Rhode Island over a 10 year period.

In January 2014, according to the health department, 1.8 million doses for painkillers were filled in Rhode Island. The numbers have been on a steady incline for 10 years. Check out the red line, below.

Here are a few asthma resources in the community to help you or a loved one manage your asthma. Did you know you can attend classes to learn more about managing your or your child's asthma, arrange a home visit to help reduce triggers where you live, and more - often for free?

The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RI-CART) is trying to enroll 2000 kids and adults with autism spectrum disorders in a confidential statewide registry.

Researchers from Brown University, Bradley, and Women and Infants Hospital hope to gather data from registrants to conduct multiple studies over the coming years. Why?

There's news today that the late, great comedian Robin Williams had Parkinson disease. We may never know whether that influenced his decision to take his own life. But I thought I'd take this opportunity to let you know a bit more about the disease - in particular the depression that can accompany it - and the resources available in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island health department officials do not expect to see any Ebola cases in the state. But they’re preparing anyway.

Rhode Island’s health department director Dr. Michael Fine says his agency knows how to handle an infectious disease outbreak. And one of the first lines of defense against Ebola includes health care workers and hospitals.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone understands what they have to do should a traveler come here from an endemic area," said Fine.

The state health department has announced more funding for a home visiting program for families and children at risk. The Healthy Families America program aims to prevent child maltreatment before it starts.                                                        

Local efforts to prevent drug overdose deaths could get a boost, if Congress passes new legislation to expand funding to such programs.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill that would make funding available to community organizations and public health agencies to buy and distribute naloxone, or Narcan. That’s a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose on prescription painkillers or heroin.

There's an informal but vital network of health care providers, toiling away in neighborhoods and towns everywhere. They may not be doctors or nurses, or CNAs, or techs, but they care for elderly parents and spouses with dementia, children with disabilities, and relatives with injuries. They're family caregivers, and sometimes they need a break.

Here's some help, or at least some promising news, for them.

Baby boomers are five times as likely to have chronic hepatitis C as any other age group. That's why the CDC launched a public health campaign to encourage boomers to get screened for the disease. And so, in honor of World Hepatitis Day, I invite---no, I encourage--boomers to get tested for hepatitis C. Why C and not the others? Because we've got effective vaccines for hepatitis A and B, but not for hepatitis C. So let's focus on that one. More information for boomers, below.

A new program aims to connect people who have accidentally overdosed on opioids with addiction treatment – before they leave the emergency room. The state’s largest nonprofit mental health service organization, The Providence Center, is providing what it calls “recovery coaches” to Kent Hospital through a program called AnchorED.

For babies, healthy brain development is like a tennis game. A caregiver "serves" up an interaction, like a facial expression, a coo, or a word, and the infant "returns" that serve, imitating the expression or sound.

Screen shot / Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have announced the second round of Health Care Innovation awards. These are big grants for projects that are trying to reduce the cost of health care and/or improve care delivery, often for some of the sickest or most complicated patients.

Bart Everson / Flickr

A law aimed at protecting children from unsafe levels of lead in their homes is working, according to a new study. But only when landlords comply with it.