A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Judge Blocks New Abortion Licensing Regs in Kansas.

Jul 4, 2011
Photo by Elana Gordon

KANSAS CITY, Ks. – A federal judge has temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing new abortion regulations that took effect Friday. The regulations, which are temporary, would have prevented two of the state's three abortion providers from continuing to offer such services.


A new law in Kansas requires that abortion providers be licensed by the state. Health officials issued the updated licensing rules June 17. Planned Parenthood was the only place granted a license.

OVERLAND PARK, Ks. – Another Kansas abortion provider is trying to join a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking new state licensing laws and health department regulations.

Aid for Women, a clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, filed a request Wednesday to intervene in a lawsuit filed by two doctors who perform abortions at their own office.

"I'm all for patient safety," says Jeffrey Pederson, manager of Aid for Women. "This is not about patient safety. This is all about making it [accessing abortions] more difficult."

LAWRENCE, Ks. – A little-known provision in the new federal healthcare law is starting to save senior citizens a lot of money. The provision, contained in the Affordable Care Act, took effect at the beginning of this year and now, senior citizens are starting to take notice. As Kansas Public Radio Bryan Thompson reports, that could translate into stronger support for the embattled law.

OVERLAND PARK, Ks. – Kansas may soon be the only state where women can't get an abortion. A new law requires that clinics which provide abortions be licensed by the state. Officials recently indicated no existing abortion providers have met the new state licensing rules, which take effect Friday. But as KCUR's Elana Gordon reports, the measure is being challenged in federal court.


Photo by Elana Gordon

Cigarette Tax Proposal Draws Scrutiny

Jun 24, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Secretary of State has approved a petition for circulation that would raise the state's cigarette tax by a dollar. But as KCUR's Elana Gordon reports, the petition is not gaining popularity among some long-time tobacco-tax supporters.


More Missouri Hospitals Going Electronic

Jun 21, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – More and more hospitals in Missouri are going electronic. That's based on a new report from the Missouri Hospital Association.


Nine out of ten Missouri hospitals now have some sort of electronic health record system in place.

SALINA, Ks. – With the prospect of several weeks of flooding along the Missouri River, many people may be tempted to wade into the water in areas where they think they know the underlying terrain. But the advice from the Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment, Robert Moser?: Don't do it! Bryan Thompson has more.


Photo by Elana Gordon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A new law in Kansas is making it easier for kids who aren't covered under their parent's plans to get health insurance. Finding such child-only health policy plans hasn't always been a problem in Kansas. But as KCUR's Elana Gordon reports, difficulties emerged after a federal policy aimed at expanding health coverage to children recently took effect.


KU Gets $20 Million for Translational Research

Jun 14, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Ks. – The University of Kansas Medical Center has been awarded $20 million from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to build up its clinical research projects.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Governor Jay Nixon signed legislation today reauthorizing the state's prescription drug assistance program for low-income seniors for three more years.

Missouri Rx pays half of the cost of prescription drugs, including co-pays and deductibles, for eligible seniors. It's designed to cover the gap in Medicare prescription drug benefits known as the donut hole. The governor says the program will still be needed, even as President Obama phases in his overhaul of the health care system.

Photo by Elana Gordon

OLATHE, Ks. – About one in four adults has a mental health condition, and in places like Johnson County, Kansas, community mental health centers provide important support to such individuals. But lately, such agencies have been trying to do more with less: a growing number of people are turning to them for care; fewer dollars are coming in to pay for it. KCUR's Elana Gordon has more on how the region is dealing with the strain.


Horse Virus Postpones Pony Express Ride

Jun 6, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – "Neither rain nor sleet," as the old postal slogan goes, would have stopped the Pony Express from its delivery route 150 years ago. But now, after 32 years of consecutive re-enactments, the threat of an equine herpes virus is delaying the mail relay.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – US Senator Claire McCaskill wants to gather more feedback about veterans think about the VA hospital in Kansas City. The Missouri Democrat stopped at the World War One Museum in Kansas City this morning.

Sanitation issues at a VA hospital in St. Louis prompted the first survey there. McCaskill said she'd like to see it expanded.

SALINA, Ks. – A new law that went into effect May 19 allows law enforcement officers in Kansas to find out whether someone they've arrested has been treated for a mental illness. Kansas Public Radio's Bryan Thompson has more.


The law is meant to stear suspects with mental illnesses toward treatment programs rather than jail. Previously, mental health centers could not tell officers whether someone had been a patient in most cases.

SALINA, Ks. – A new report from the Pew Center on the States says Kansas is not making any progress in addressing the dental needs of children. As Kansas Public Radio's Bryan Thompson reports, Kansas met only four of the eight benchmarks in the "Making Coverage Matter" report card again this year.


Springtime Asthma Brings More Kids to ER

May 23, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Now that spring is underway, asthma is bringing a growing number of children to the emergency room.


About one in ten kids has asthma.

Despite efforts to help manage the illness, Children's Mercy Hospital has experienced a spike in asthma-related ER visits over the last few weeks, seeing about four to five kids a day.

But the hospital's asthma and allergy chief, Dr. Jay Portnoy, says he's is not surprised.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The FDA has approved a new drug to treat hepatitis C, a virus that can cause liver damage and cancer. A second drug is expected to get approval soon, and researchers say both new medications should improve recovery rates for this hard-to-treat disease.

In the U.S., existing medications cure only about 50 percent of patients with Hepatits C. Most have what's known as the genotype 1 form of the virus.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri lawmakers have passed legislation to renew the state's prescription drug program for senior citizens and the disabled.

Missouri RX covers half the co-pays and deductibles for individuals earning up to $21,000 a year and married couples making just over $29,000 a year.

The program's renewal was added onto a separate bill sponsored by GOP House Member Jason Smith of Dent County:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House has passed a bill supporters say would end so-called "late-term" abortions in the state.

The measure would ban abortions after 20 weeks unless two doctors verify that a fetus is either not viable or is a medical threat to the mother.

GOP House member Jeff Grisamore of Lee's Summit called the practice barbaric:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Children's Mercy Hospital has opened a new center for environmental health. The head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, joined local health leaders yesterday for the announcement.

Dr. Jennifer Lowry is medical director of the new center and says it will better coordinate already existing hospital programs, like home assessments for children with asthma and environment-related drug research. The center will also operate a clinic focused on identifying and caring for kids with environmental exposures to substances like lead.

Photo by Elana Gordon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Environmental Protection Agency wants to clamp tighter regulations on pollutants that can cause asthma and other chronic health problems. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Kansas City today, promoting the proposed regulations. KCUR's Elana Gordon caught up with Jackson by phone this morning, just prior to her visit. Jackson said the U.S. is at critical point when it comes to environmental health.

Find more Health Coverage on KCUR.

Photo by Elana Gordon

Countywide Health Initiative Gets Underway

May 2, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Ks. – A broad effort to improve the health of Wyandotte County residents is getting underway.

Joe Reardon, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, called for the creation of a health task force last year, in response to a study ranking Wyandotte as the least healthy county in all of Kansas.

TOPEKA, Ks. – A conference committee meeting today at the Kansas Statehouse will continue efforts to finalize a budget bill. Mental health organizations, meanwhile, are bracing for possible cuts in state funding.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Health officials in Johnson County, Kansas have identified a case of measles, a disease they haven't seen there in more than five years.

Lougene Marsh, director of Johnson county's health department, says the disease, which is airborne, used to be pretty common.

"From my own personal experience, it was almost a right of childhood that you got measles and stayed home from school and were treated, and in general, recovered and went about your life," Marsh says.

TOPEKA, Ks. – The Kansas Senate has approved a bill putting new regulations on abortion clinics in the state. The legislation would also require inspections two times per year for the clinics.

Supporters of the bill say adding the requirements and inspections will ensure the safety of women. Senator Mary Pilcher Cook, a Shawnee republican, brought the bill to the Senate floor.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is among a handful of Blue Cross plans that federal authorities are looking to determine whether agreements with hospitals stifle health care competition.

Spokeswoman Sue Johnson said the local Blue Cross plan received a "civil investigation demand" from the Justice Department last month, asking for information about its use of so-called "most-favored-nation" provisions in contracts with hospitals and other care providers.