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.

Participation in sports by girls and young women has soared in recent decades — by 560 percent among high school students since 1972, and 990 percent among college students, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. Highly committed young female athletes now run track and play soccer, basketball, water polo and other demanding sports that require strong bodies.

Five years ago, New Orleans attorney Ermence Parent was struggling to find out what was wrong with her leg. She was 58 years old, and her right leg hurt so much that she needed a cane. That was not only painful, but frustrating for a woman who routinely exercised and enjoyed it. Parent sought advice from several doctors and a chiropractor, but got no diagnosis.

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 most residents evacuated safely. But thousands lost homes, careers, and the lives they had known. Since then, many seem to have recovered emotionally from the trauma. But some have not.

Playing sports has always been important to 31-year-old Erik Johanson, a city planner in Philadelphia. Johanson thrived in baseball and ice hockey as a kid, he says — "one of the best players on the team in high school."

Today, Johanson is married and expecting his first child but is still passionate about ice hockey — and about winning. He plays on a highly competitive team of guys who got together after college and still play weekly in an adult league; they hope to take the crown this year.

If you had chickenpox as a child, then you're at risk for shingles. As you age, the risk increases, probably because the immune system weakens over time.

The varicella zoster virus can hide in the body over a lifetime and suddenly activate, causing a painful, blistery rash. Even when the rash disappears, pain can linger and worsen, causing a burning, shooting, stabbing pain so severe it can leave people unable to sleep, work or carry on other activities.

Some antidepressants may increase the risk of birth defects if taken early in pregnancy, while others don't seem to pose the same risks, a study finds.

The question of whether antidepressants can cause birth defects has been debated for years, and studies have been all over the map. That makes it hard for women and their doctors to make decisions on managing depression during pregnancy.

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

Parents, take note! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine committee has expanded its recommendation for immunization against meningitis B, a rare but potentially deadly strain of meningitis.

The committee's revised guidance, issued late last week, broadens the group of young people that the CDC thinks should consider getting the shot, and increases the likelihood that health insurance policies will pay for the injection.

Fryman Canyon is one of those special places in the city of Los Angeles — a bit of country and canyon nestled just off the crest of Mulholland Drive, with gorgeous views of the valley and mountains.

It's favored by the canine set — my two dogs love it here — and on any given morning I'm sure to run into fellow canyon lovers, like Stacy Maes and her energetic weimaraner, Astrid.

We all know that listening to music can soothe emotional pain, but Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys can also ease physical pain, according to a study of children and teenagers who had major surgery.

Medical researchers have known for several years that there is some sort of link between long-term depression and an increased risk of stroke. But now scientists are finding that even after such depression eases, the risk of stroke can remain high.

Terri Bradford has suffered debilitating headaches all her life. Some days the pain is so bad, she says, "By 11 o'clock in the morning, I'm on the couch in a darkened room with my head packed in ice."

Over the years, Bradford, who is 50 years old and lives in Bedford, Mass., has searched desperately for pain relief. She's been to the doctor countless times for countless tests. "Everything I've had, I've had twice," she says. "I've had two spinal taps; I've had so many nerve blocks I've lost count."

We know that sitting all day is hazardous to our health, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation and atherosclerosis. It all sounds pretty dismal, since many of today's jobs require us to be nearly glued to our computer screens. But a tiny two-minute break may help offset that hazard, researchers say.

People who got up and moved around for at least two minutes every hour had a 33 percent lower risk of dying, according to researchers the University Of Utah School Of Medicine.

This makes total sense: When you're engaged in an activity you truly enjoy, you're happy. And, when you're happy you're not dwelling on all the negative things in life, nor are you stressed about obligations or problems. Certainly this is a good thing from an emotional point of view, but it also has physical benefits.

We know exercise reduces stress, but it turns out that more simple stationary things, like doing puzzles, painting or sewing can help, too.

There's no question mammograms can save lives by detecting breast cancer early. But they can also result in unnecessary testing and treatment that can be alarming and costly.

In fact, each year the U.S. spends $4 billion on follow-up tests and treatments that result from inaccurate mammograms, scientists report in the current issue of Health Affairs.

First off, I need to be upfront: I have a treadmill desk. I got it about two years ago, prompted by all the studies showing the dangers of sitting all day. The idea is to get people more active and walking while working. The problem is, I don't use it. In fact, I probably only used it for a few months. I still stand all day, but I'm not walking.

Suicide rates in the U.S. have gone up considerably in recent years, claiming an average of 36,000 lives annually.

Most people take their lives in or near home. But suicide on the job is also increasing and, according to federal researchers, suicide risk changes depending on the type of work people do.

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health analyzed census data and compared suicide rates among different occupations.

Faiza Ayesh giggles with delight as she describes her brand-new two-bedroom apartment in Oakland, Calif. She shares her home with her husband and three little girls, ages 3, 2 and 5 months. Ayesh, 30, says she just loves being a stay-at-home mom. "It's the best job in the world."

When you ask people what impacts health you'll get a lot of different answers: Access to good health care and preventative services, personal behavior, exposure to germs or pollution and stress. But if you dig a little deeper you'll find a clear dividing line, and it boils down to one word: money.

As California's measles outbreak continues to spread beyond state borders, many doctors nationwide are grappling with how best to convince parents to have their children vaccinated. Inviting a collaborative conversation doesn't work all that well, many are finding. Recent research suggests that being more matter-of-fact can work a lot better.

Pediatrician Eric Ball, who practices in southern California, says, in his experience, the families skeptical of vaccines can be divided into two types.

Dr. Bob Sears, a pediatrician in Capistrano Beach, Calif., says that he strongly believes in the protective power of vaccines to save lives. But he's also well-known in Southern California as a doctor who won't pressure parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, or who refuse some vaccines, or who want to stray from the recommended schedule of vaccinations.

"They all come to me because, I guess, I'm more respectful of their decisions, more willing to listen to them," Sears says, "[and to] discuss pros and cons and acknowledge that there are some side effects to vaccines."

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For most of her life Fran Friedman struggled with compulsive eating. At 59 years old she was 5 foot 2 and weighed 360 pounds. That's when she opted for bariatric surgery.

The surgery worked. Friedman, who is now 70 and lives in Los Angeles, lost 175 pounds. "It was a miracle," Friedman says, not to feel hungry. "It was the first time in my life that I've ever lost a lot of weight and was able to maintain it."

People who try to reduce the stress of a long work day with a drink or two, or three, may be causing more health problems for themselves.

Around the world, people working long hours are more likely to drink too much, according to a study that analyzed data from 61 studies involving 333,693 people in 14 countries.

They found that people who worked more than 48 hours a week were 13 percent more likely to engage in risky drinking than people working 35 to 40 hours a week.

It's a big concern during the holiday season — drunken drivers on the roads and highways. Every year, 10,000 people are killed in crashes in the United States involving a driver under the influence. Now researchers say there are steps communities can take to decrease the number of drivers who are drunk.

When it comes to teenage drinking, the typical venue is a party — where some teens play drinking games and binge. It may surprise you to learn that the majority of parents are aware that alcohol is flowing at these events.

On any given weekend, some teenagers receive three to four text messages about parties, says Bettina Friese, a public health researcher at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, Calif.

Cancer doctors want the best, most effective treatment for their patients. But it turns out many aren't paying attention to evidence that older women with early stage breast cancer may be enduring the pain, fatigue and cost of radiation treatment although it doesn't increase life expectancy.

Draft federal recommendations don't usually raise eyebrows, but this one certainly will — that males of all ages, including teenage boys, should be counseled on the health benefits of circumcision.

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men's risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men's risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus.

Lots of things can trigger an asthma attack, but one of the most common causes is odor — anything from the heavy scent of perfume to a household cleaner.

The symptoms of the flu are familiar: fever, chills, cough, congestion, feeling very, very tired. If you're a healthy adult under 65, you'll most likely recover in a week or two.

But for those older than 65, things can get worse fast, says Dr. H. Keipp Talbot, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

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