© 2024 WHRO Public Media
5200 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk VA 23508
757.889.9400 | info@whro.org
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Health roundup: New health rankings, a year of N.C. Medicaid expansion and more

A sign reading "Medicaid accepted here."
(Image: Shutterstock)

N.C. Medicaid: expansion one year on, and new coverage for syphilis treatment

March 27 marked one year since North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation expanding Medicaid.

"Nearly 400,000 people have been able to get the care they need to stay healthy, support their families and have peace of mind knowing health care is within reach,” Cooper said this week.

North Carolina became the 40th state to expand Medicaid coverage last year, extending benefits to adults between 19 and 64 years old who make too much money to be covered under traditional Medicaid but too little to afford subsidized private insurance. 

Of the remaining 10 states in the country that haven’t expanded coverage, Kansas may be next — its governor said she modeled her Medicaid expansion proposal on Cooper’s.

In more North Carolina Medicaid news, the drug Extencilline will now be covered by the state’s Medicaid program for people with syphilis. 

That’s as state health officials say congenital syphilis rates are the highest they’ve been in two decades.

Here’s reporting from WHRO partner station WFDD:


2024 health rankings show connection between civic engagement and health outcomes

Civic engagement is connected to how healthy a population is, according to 2024 numbers from the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute.

The annual study breaks down four categories of health factors: health behaviors like diet, exercise and alcohol use; access to clinical care; socioeconomic factors and physical environment. Together, they influence health outcomes — the quality and length of people’s lives.

Norfolk Health District director Dr. Susan Girois said localities with higher levels of civic engagement — such as voting and volunteering —  were generally healthier.

“The involvement of communities in voting processes, in volunteerism, in civic groups, in the decisions that affect them — those are communities that can have different health outcomes,” Girois said.

Norfolk ranked lower overall than cities like Virginia Beach and Chesapeake — who both had much higher voter turnout.

Tes La Dieu is population health manager for the Virginia Department of Health’s Hampton and Peninsula Health District. She covers York and James City counties, whose high rates of voter turnout correlated with high overall health scores.

“We can all be healthier when everyone has a say and opportunity to shape community decisions, and the County Health Rankings is the first step in that,” La Dieu said.

Both Girois and La Dieu said structural and institutional factors influenced civic participation and health outcomes.

See the data on Virginia and its regions here.

UVA Health research says COVID-19 antibodies could explain long COVID

Researchers at the University of Virginia published new research that may explain some of the reasons behind long COVID cases.

Doctors found that COVID may prompt some people’s systems to make antibodies that act like enzymes, which help regulate things like blood pressure. 

These “abzymes” may be part of what causes long COVID — and doctors say if they find a way to treat them at the source, long COVID symptoms might clear up.

Read the full study here and more about long COVID here.

Virginia free clinics await first funding increase in years

Media partner Capital News Service reports the network of free clinics in Virginia may receive its largest state funding bump in eight years. The network includes nine clinics in Hampton Roads, from Gloucester to Chesapeake.

The increase is $1.5 million annually over the next two years, bringing total funding for the clinic network to about $16.6 million.

The funding isn’t locked in. The legislature will reconvene in April to review any changes or vetoes Gov. Glenn Youngkin makes to the budget.

Read the full story here.

The world changes fast.

Keep up with daily local news from WHRO. Get local news every weekday in your inbox.

Sign-up here.