Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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10:01pm

Sun December 25, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Singing Therapy Helps Stroke Patients Speak Again

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 8:39 am

Laurel Fontaine, 16, (left) and her twin sister Heather. When Laurel was 11 years old, she suffered a stroke that destroyed 80 percent of the left side of her brain. The singing therapy helped her regain the ability to speak.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Debra Meyerson was hiking near Lake Tahoe 15 months ago when a stroke destroyed part of the left side of her brain, leaving her literally speechless. It happens to more than 150,000 Americans a year.

But now Meyerson is learning to talk again through an approach that trains the undamaged right side of her brain to "speak." Specifically, it's a region that controls singing.

For more than 100 years, it's been known that people who can't speak after injury to the speech centers on the left side of the brain can sing.

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4:22pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Many Police Officers Are Sleep Deprived, Risky For Them And Us

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 4:33 pm

Sleepy police were likelier to fall asleep while driving, a new survey of nearly 5,000 officers in the U.S. and Canada finds. About 40 percent of officers surveyed reported sleep disorders, with various health implications.
Sean Locke iStockphoto

Harvard researchers say they've uncovered a big problem among the nation's 700,000 police officers: a serious lack of sleep.

In what's believed to be the first study of its kind, the researchers queried nearly 5,000 municipal and state police officers in the U.S. and Canada about their sleep habits and symptoms of possible sleep disorders. Then they assessed their on-duty performance for two years.

Forty percent had sleep disorders, and the vast majority of these were undiagnosed before.

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7:56am

Fri December 9, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

With Doubts, FDA Panel Votes For Yaz And Related Contaceptives

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 2:52 pm

Katie Anderson, shown with her mother, Beth, in 2010, suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Her symptoms started within a month of taking the birth control pill Yaz.
Jane Greenhalgh NPR

Doubts have been growing about Yasmin, Yaz and their sister contraceptives for several years now. And those doubts reached full flower at a Food Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday.

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1:51pm

Wed December 7, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Why Observing Prostate Cancers Is Gaining Ground On Surgery

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 2:26 pm

A federally convened panel of experts says most men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer should be offered the chance to put off treatment in favor of medical monitoring of their condition.

In fact, the panel went so far as to say doctors should stop calling most of these low-risk tumors cancer at all.

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2:33pm

Fri December 2, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

US AIDS Chief Says Tipping Point Is In Sight

Originally published on Fri December 2, 2011 2:51 pm

Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, sees a turning point for HIV coming soon.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

If all goes according to plan — the plan President Obama laid out on Thursday — the HIV pandemic may reach an important tipping point by the end of 2013.

"We believe that with 2 million more people in treatment, we will reach a point where the number of new infections is less than the number going into treatment," says Dr. Eric Goosby.

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4:59pm

Thu December 1, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Obama Embraces 'End of AIDS,' Promises To Accelerate HIV Treatment

AIDS activists haven't always been happy with Barack Obama. But many of them were on this Worlds AIDS Day.

The president used the occasion to pledge a 50 percent increase in the number of HIV-infected people getting treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — from around 4 million now to 6 million by the end of 2013.

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10:05am

Wed November 30, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

HIV Treatment Lags In U.S., Guaranteeing More Infections

The latest numbers from CDC show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective antiviral treatment; effective treatment rates are lowest among African-American men.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

The United States is doing a pretty miserable job of treating people with HIV.

The latest numbers show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective treatment — that is, antiviral medications to keep the virus in check.

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3:01pm

Wed November 23, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists Bag Small Game In Bathroom Germ Safari

Originally published on Wed November 23, 2011 3:03 pm

Right this way, ladies and germs.
iStockphoto.com

Turns out Howard Hughes was right. The world is a very germy place, especially public restrooms.

The reclusive billionaire, who had the world's most notorious case of so-called germophobia, would go to just about any length to avoid contamination. He wore tissue boxes on his feet. He burned his clothing if someone near him got sick. He wrote careful instructions to his staff on how to open a can of peaches without contaminating them.

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10:01pm

Sun November 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Shortage Of ADHD Drugs Has Parents, Doctors Scrambling

The scarcity of ADHD medications is a problem faced by an untold number of children and adults with the disorder.
GoodMood Enterprises iStockphoto

When it's time to renew her son's prescriptions for medicine to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Roxanne Ryan prepares for another wild goose chase.

The Philadelphia mother says she typically has to call around to 10 to 15 different pharmacies to find where the prescriptions can be filled. And when 10-year-old Sergey doesn't get his medication, he's a bundle of uncontained energy.

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10:01pm

Sun November 6, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Why HPV Vaccination Of Boys May Be Easier

Connor Perruccello-McClellan, a senior at Providence Country Day School in Rhode Island, has been vaccinated against HPV, something less than 1 percent of U.S. males can say.
Richard Knox NPR

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a half-dozen years ago that preteen girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, two things happened.

A lot of parents and some conservative groups were jarred by the idea of immunizing young girls against a sexually transmitted virus. And uptake of the vaccine has been poor — only about a third of 13- to 17-year-old girls have gotten the full three-shot series.

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3:34pm

Tue November 1, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

CDC: Time To Curb 'Shocking' Epidemic Of Narcotics Overdoses

Originally published on Tue November 1, 2011 4:14 pm

Federal officials say they're making headway in their push to stem abuse of addictive painkillers. Still, they say, U.S. doctors are prescribing enough narcotics to medicate every American around the clock for a month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses may soon overtake car crashes as the nation's leading cause of fatal injury.

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11:02am

Mon October 31, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Obama Tackles Rx Drug Shortages

President Obama is wielding a unilateral prerogative of his office – the executive order – to get something done about a worsening shortage of essential drugs.

It's a problem that earlier this month one administration official called "a dire public health situation." Many thousands of patients with cancer, life-threatening infections, cardiac disease, severe gastrointestinal disorders and many other conditions aren't able to get the drugs they need.

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9:54am

Mon October 31, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Stomach Bug Has A Field Day At NBA

Locker rooms and clubhouses should be disinfected regularly with a solution such as bleach that's effective against the stubborn norovirus, researchers say.

iStockphoto.com

It's the season for stomach bugs again. And if you want to know just how contagious those bugs can be, just ask the National Basketball Association.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the play-by-play on an outbreak of gastrointestinal misery that afflicted as many as 13 NBA teams a year ago, spreading rapidly from player to player and from players to team staffers.

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4:59pm

Wed October 26, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Advice To Guideline-Writers: Keep Patients Involved in PSA Decision

Hey guys, feeling confused about the fuss over PSA screening for prostate cancer?

Listen up. A couple of docs who ponder such medical dilemmas say there's a middle ground between business-as-usual and throwing PSA tests out altogether.

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8:54am

Thu October 20, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

After A Half-Million Cholera Cases, Vaccination Will Begin In Haiti

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 9:38 am

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last month spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.

Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

A year after cholera burst upon earthquake-weary Haiti, plans are afoot to begin vaccinating people against the highly contagious disease.

Nearly half a million Haitians — about 5 percent of the population — have already been afflicted and more than 6,500 have died.

But the goal of the vaccinators isn't to stop cholera in its tracks. They can't do that in Haiti with just 200,000 doses — enough for only 100,000 people — that's all the manufacturer can offer.

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11:06am

Tue October 18, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 1:33 pm

After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.

In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

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2:00am

Mon October 17, 2011
Health

Americans Urged To Rethink Dietary Supplement Use

There's been an explosion in the number of Americans who take vitamins and other dietary supplements. But do they do any good? And might they actually be doing harm? Two new studies raise serious questions.

2:35pm

Tue October 11, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Vitamin E Pills May Raise, Not Lower, Prostate Cancer Risk

iStockphoto.com

Vitamins seem like such a good thing that drugstores have whole aisles devoted to them, including products that promise a healthy prostate.

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5:00pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Women Exposed To Hormone In Utero Face Lifelong Health Problems

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 8:51 am

A still from A Healthy Baby Girl, a 1996 documentary in which filmmaker Judith Helfand chronicles the health consequences of her own in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Courtesy of Women Make Movies

Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, doctors prescribed a hormone called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, to millions of pregnant women in the unfounded belief it would prevent miscarriages.

Smack in the middle of this period, the deformed thalidomide babies demonstrated the terrible things that can happen when drugs are casually prescribed during pregnancy.

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1:33pm

Tue October 4, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Surprise In Your Sewage: Lots Of Exotic Viruses

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 8:03 am

You think your job is tough? Some scientists examined sewage from Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa in a hunt for unknown viruses.

They found scads. How many? At least 43,381.

To put that number into perspective, consider that up to now scientists have charted only about 3,000 viruses. And among the known viruses found in the sewage samples, only 17 were bugs that cause human disease — things like the common cold virus, diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus and human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.

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