Health & Science

Millions of years ago, a little beetle lived among beeches and buttercups on a sparely vegetated tundra at the head of a fjord in Antarctica.

The beetle was small — less than a centimeter long — and it was brown with the typical six legs and two antennae attached to a body protected by a hard shell.

The Obama administration has issued a sweeping final rule banning smoking in all public housing units nationwide, extending a smoke-free environment to nearly a million units.

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences says it's hard to know how many people in the U.S. actually have food allergies or whether they're on the rise.

Part of the challenge is this: Food allergies are often self-diagnosed and symptoms can be misinterpreted. Sometimes people can't distinguish a food allergy from other conditions such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, which don't fit the medical definition of an allergy.

In the race for video streaming domination, Netflix surges forward. On Wednesday, Netflix announced and implemented in its latest update, the ability to download TV and movie titles on mobile devices.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The federal ethics watchdog isn't the kind of agency that typically airs its positions on Twitter — let alone in a snarky tone, with exclamation points.

But it's been an all-around weird day at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

An annual study released by the Brazilian government estimates that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 29 percent over last year.

That's the second year in a row that deforestation in the Amazon quickened; last year, the pace rose by about 24 percent.

There's no shortage of speculation about how the incoming Trump administration, whose appointees so far are staunch abortion opponents, might crack down on access to the procedure.

But reproductive rights groups say the big picture is getting lost: Women in large parts of the country already have limited access to abortion, due to hundreds of Republican-backed laws passed by state legislatures over the past half-decade.

mementosis, flickr

On Thursday, the City of Milwaukee announced the first-ever Drug Mail Back Program. It will allow you to easily dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs stashed in your medicine cabinet. At select CVS pharmacies, you will find envelopes addressed to the police department. In them, you can pour unwanted medicines and drop the envelopes in the mail.

“While in one way, it is just a small initiative, it is certainly a vital one to stemming this growing crisis,”  says Milwaukee Alderman Jim Bohl.

Joint replacements. Cardiac care. Chemotherapy.

What do those things have to do with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act?

Well, an often overlooked part of Obamacare is a test kitchen within the Department of Health and Human Services that experiments with new ways for the government to pay for some expensive and frequently used health care services, including those three.

A nonprofit research group is giving scientists a new way to study the secret lives of human cells.

On Wednesday, the Allen Institute for Cell Science provided access to a collection of living stem cells that have been genetically altered to make internal structures like the nucleus and mitochondria glow.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The number of people who have trouble paying their medical bills has plummeted in the past five years as more people have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and gotten jobs as the economy has improved.

A report from the National Center for Health Statistics released Wednesday shows that the number of people whose families are struggling to pay medical bills fell by 22 percent, or 13 million people, in the past five years.

It's Never Too Late To Quit Smoking, Even In Your 60s

Nov 29, 2016

Older people who smoke may think there's no reason to give up the habit. After all, hasn't the damage to their bodies already been done?

But it turns out there's a benefit to quitting even later in life. Research published Wednesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that older adults who quit smoking in their 60s had a lower chance of dying in the years that followed than contemporaries who kept smoking.

President-elect Donald Trump unveiled two big health care decisions Tuesday.

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