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This Week In Public Health: Why Does This Stuff Cost So Much?

Steve Burns

The costs of health care in the United States continue to rise. Sometimes the solutions to these costs are simple. For example, a 3-D printed hand can be made for a tiny fraction of the cost of a traditional prosthetic. Other issues — such as the cost of insulin — elude easy fixes. Plus ... what's the medical billing code for a hippo IV? 

This week from Side Effects:

A 3-D Printed Hand For Less Than The Cost Of A Movie For Two For children especially, prosthetics can be costly and uncomfortable. Kids are always getting bigger Just as with clothes, they grow out of an artificial limb quickly — a replacing one of those is way more expensive than buying a new pair of shoes. But with 3-D printing, kids can get inexpensive, custom-fit prosthetics that cost less than $50 to manufacture. WFIU's Lindsey Wright hung out with 9-year-old Violet, who showed her her new hand.

When A Daily Shot Hits You Right Where It HurtsFor many diabetics, insulin is what makes their lives liveable. But in the past decade, the hormone's price has more than doubled — squeezing patients to the point of outrage. In Indianapolis, protestors marched in front of Eli Lilly headquarters — one of the world's big three insulin manufactuers — to demand more transparency and lower pricing. (Side Effects)

Credit Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

Time For Med Students To —Literally — "Get On The Bus." For past 15 years, a group of first-year medical students in St. Louis, Missouri have boarded buses and taken tours through the some of the city's impoverished neighborhoods — a trip their professors hope will make them better, more empathetic doctors. For some first-year students, this bus tour is their first time in a neighborhood with a high poverty rate. It might not click immediately, but when the lessons kick into place, professors hope it will help them give better care. (Side Effects)

What our reporters are reading elsewhere around the web:

This is what an epidemic looks like: This summer, the Cincinnati Enquirer sent five dozen reporters, videographers and editors into the streets to chronicle one week in the life of a city beset by heroin use. What they found was both routine and devastating. Minute by minute, the massive digital project documents people affected on all sides — and shows the human faces inside a problem often talked about in the abstract. (

How do you bill for a hippo IV?Despite — or perhaps because of — the dark problems in Cincinnati, the city has cultivated a bright spot of light by celebrating Fiona, the premature baby hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo, most recently with the web series "The Fiona Show." One particularly tear-jerking moment: When the zookeepers were having trouble with the teeny hippo's IV, they enlisted preemie specialists from the nearby children's hospital to find a vein and help get her healthy again. View the entire saga in the recently-released Episode 2. (

Protect your animal from monkey business and quackery Pets deserve evidence-based treatment too, says SkeptVet blogger Brennen McKenzie, who was recently profiled by NPR. McKenzie has found just as with human health advice, there's no shortage of bogus information about how to treat dogs and cats available online. How does one protect a fluffy friend from psuedoscience? (NPR)

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