Side Effects

Our reporting focuses on the impacts of environment, policy and economic conditions on Americans' health. Please contact us if you are interested in republishing these stories for free. Learn more about joining our network here.

Michael McFadden

Six-year old Jason Green squirms in a dental chair at a clinic in Sodus, New York while a hygienist probes his mouth with an unusual instrument. It looks like an electric toothbrush, but it is a camera and it’s capturing images that allow Jason’s dentist to inspect his teeth in detail--from 30 miles away. The dentist, Dr. Sean McClaren, practices at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health in Rochester, NY, but he sees several patients a week in this rural community, via a secure internet connection and a video call.

At 59 years old, Michael Froome just got a new heart.  His problem goes back 20 years after a chest pain led his doctor to order a cardiac stress test.

“When they put on the last electrode so the monitor comes live with your data, someone in the room goes, ‘Oh! That’s not good,’” Froome recalled.

Spencer Rosero, a cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is one of Froome’s doctors. He has an idea that could cut the number of hospital visits patients like Froome have to make.

Seth Herald / Side Effects Public Media

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.


Andrew Chambers is one of five addiction psychologists in the state of Indiana.
Andrew Chambers

Containing the nation’s growing heroin addiction and ongoing prescription opioid abuse epidemic, is often presented as a law enforcement problem. But behavioral health specialists say the addiction treatment side of the equation is equally urgent. And it’s an uphill battle in many states where addiction psychiatrists are few and funding is lacking.


Gabriela Garbero poses outside Britches Clothing, in Columbia, Mo., while she is beta testing the accessibility app Compeer.
Jack Howard / KBIA

A new accessibility app called Compeer is currently being beta tested and may soon be able to help those with disabilities navigate cities more easily. Based in Missouri, the app is being tested in two cities in that state: St. Louis and Columbia.

The Indiana State Department of Health promotes safe sleep habits as part of its efforts to reduce infant mortality.
Daniel Rothamel via Flickr/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Indiana is focusing resources on some of the state’s most vulnerable communities to address a major health inequity. Earlier this month, Governor Mike Pence signed legislation to authorize $13.5 million over the next two years to a grant program aimed at reducing infant mortality, a problem which disproportionately affects African Americans.

Be.Futureproof / flickr

Several years ago, Missouri State Representative Holly Rehder’s daughter struggled with prescription drug abuse. “She had cut her thumb at work and went and got stitches and got a prescription,” Rehder recalls. When her prescription ran out she continued using the pain killers, says Rehder, “because they were so easy to obtain.”

Now, Rehder is sponsoring a bill to make it harder for addicts to obtain drugs in Missouri.


Nursing students at Crowder College's Jane campus practice on medical dummies.
McDonald County Instructional Center

McDonald County, in the rural far southwest corner of Missouri, ranked last in the 2014 County Health Rankings for clinical care compared to other Missouri counties, a measure which includes access to doctors, dentists, number of residents who are uninsured, and a few other factors.


Dentists see patients at a free dental care event sponsored by the Indiana Dental Association. More than 1200 people attended, many of whom hadn't seen a dentist in years.
Jake Harper

Antionette Salifou is a school bus driver in Indianapolis. She recently went to a dentist because of a pain in her mouth. She was told she needed a root canal, and along with the other care she needed, it was going to cost $2000 -- way more than she can afford, since she doesn't have insurance to cover it. 

“It’s just hard to fit in there with paying bills and everything," she said.

Salifou’s problem is not uncommon. About one in three Americans lacks dental insurance, and those that have it still may not be getting the care they need.

naloxone kit
Andrea Muraskin

  A bill to expand access to the overdose intervention drug naloxone was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence Friday, after passing both the house and the state senate unanimously. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can instantly save the life of a person who is overdosing. It was previously only available to medical personnel and public safety officials, and opioid drug users with a prescription from their doctor.

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