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On Sound Medicine: Changes in health care policy, barefoot running, and kidney exchanges


INDIANAPOLIS — The award-winning “Sound Medicine” announces its program for May 19 with segments focusing on the art of balance, infant heart regeneration, and kidney exchanges. Please check local listings for broadcast dates, times and stations.

“Sound Medicine” covers controversial ethics topics, breakthrough research studies and the day-to-day application of recent advancements in medicine. It’s also available via podcast and Stitcher Radio for mobile phones and iPads and posts updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Why are employers offering health care incentives? “Sound Medicine” health care policy analyst Aaron Carroll, M.D., M.S., weighs in on the actions employers are considering to reduce health care costs. Some companies have begun offering incentives like gym memberships to employees who lose weight; others have raised the cost of insurance for those who smoke. Some, like Honeywell, fine employees up to $1,000 for an elective procedure if they don’t seek a second opinion. According to Dr. Carroll, the companies are offering incentives in hopes of avoiding future costs caused by heart attacks from obesity, for instance, or smoking-related illnesses. Dr. Carroll is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the Center for Health Policy Professionalism Research.

How do we balance? Standing up doesn’t seem like a complicated task; neither does walking to the next room. But according to Jake Streepey, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology at Indiana University, maintaining balance is harder than it looks. Balancing requires coordination between our eyes, ears, sense of touch and positioning of joints. When all of these  work together, the body is able to maintain balance; however, if the body senses something is off balance, it needs raw muscular strength to be able to right itself. Because the elderly may experience loss of vision and diminished sensory information from the ears, which lead to problems with balance, Dr. Streepey recommends staying physically active.

Are minimalist running shoes safe? Many runners have embraced minimalist “barefoot” running shoes — shoes that are essentially a piece of rubber with five toe slots. Sarah Ridge, Ph.D., recently conducted a study on the potential injuries minimalist shoes could cause. The study looked at 36 runners with no prior leg or foot problems; half of the group was given barefoot running shoes and half of the group used normal running shoes. After 10 weeks, MRI results showed that most of the runners using the minimalist shoes showed early signs of bone injuries in their feet, such as increased bone marrow edema, as opposed to the runners wearing normal shoes. Those wearing the minimalist running shoes also decreased the amount of weekly running mileage. According to Dr. Ridge, running barefoot or using minimalist shoes isn’t ideal, but a slow transition into the process  is the key to running safely and preventing bone injuries. Dr. Ridge is an assistant professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University.

How close are researchers to regenerating infant hearts? Each year, one out of every 125 babies born in the United States has a heart defect. The March of Dimes recently awarded its March of Dime Prize in Developmental Biology to Eric Olson, M.D., a doctor and biologist whose studies focus on mammal and infant heart regeneration. In his studies, Dr. Olson removed large parts of the hearts of infant mice, which were able to regenerate those parts and develop into fully functional adult mice. Dr. Olson found that the younger mice are able to regenerate their hearts early in life, but as they age, the window of regeneration closes. Dr. Olson says these promising results could eventually be used to solve the mystery of human heart regeneration. Dr. Olson is the professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

How do kidney exchanges work? Many people in need of kidney transplants have family members or loved ones who are willing to donate a kidney. However, willing donors often aren’t matches. Kidney exchanges allow people who need transplants but have an incompatible donor to pair with families with the same problem and exchange kidneys. According to Sommer Gentry, Ph.D., kidney exchanges can be done between two families or can be done on a much larger scale. Dr. Gentry and her husband, Dorry Segev, M.D., developed an algorithm to allow kidney exchanges on a national scale. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which governs the national transplant distribution system, is considering adopting the algorithm for kidney exchanges nationally. Dr. Gentry is a professor of mathematics at the United States Naval Academy and a research associate for the Department of Surgery at John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Sound Medicine,” co-produced by the IU School of Medicine and WFYI Public Radio (90.1 FM) and underwritten in part by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is aired on the following Indiana public radio stations: WBSB (Anderson, 89.5 FM), WFIU (Bloomington, 103.7 FM; Columbus, 100.7 FM; Kokomo, 106.1 FM; Terre Haute, 95.1 FM), WNDY (Crawfordsville, 91.3 FM), WVPE (Elkhart/South Bend, 88.1 FM), WNIN (Evansville, 88.3 FM), WBOI (Fort Wayne, 89.1 FM), WFCI (Franklin, 89.5 FM), WBSH (Hagerstown/New Castle, 91.1 FM), WFYI (Indianapolis), WBSW (Marion, 90.9 FM), WBST (Muncie, 92.1 FM), WBSJ (Portland, 91.7 FM), WLPR (Lake County, 89.1 FM) and WBAA (West Lafayette, 101.3 FM).

“Sound Medicine” is also broadcast on these public radio stations across the country: KSKA (Anchorage, Alaska), KTNA (Talkeetna, Alaska), KUHB (Pribilof Islands, Alaska), KUAF (Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.), KIDE (Hoopa Valley, Calif.), KRCC (Colorado Springs, Colo.), KEDM (Monroe, La.), WCMU (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), WCNY and WRVO-1 (Syracuse, N.Y.), KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).