Anders Kelto

A couple of weeks ago, our global health team was stumped by a final question on Jeopardy!: "After the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011, this became the largest country in Africa by area."

We thought maybe it was Nigeria.

Or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Or South Africa.

Wrong and wrong and wrong.

The correct answer: Algeria.

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

Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made headlines this week by saying he wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He previously said he would "strongly consider" shutting down some mosques in the U.S.

Imagine picking up the U.S. and dropping it into a different part of the world. How would its record of gun deaths compare to its neighbors?

Pope Francis is often seen as a champion of the downtrodden. He frequently speaks about poverty and the injustice of inequality.

During his upcoming visit to Africa — from Nov. 25 to 30 — he'll visit three countries with high rates of poverty and rapidly growing economies: Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic.

His presence is certain to attract a lot of attention. But will his visit benefit poor people in these countries? What kind of difference, if any, can a visit from the pope make?

You're at the grocery store, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. You've grabbed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cans of pumpkin. If you're from the Midwest like I am, you're also gearing up for green bean casserole.

But when you approach a refrigerated section of the store piled high with turkeys, you're suddenly inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on. Pretty soon, your head is spinning, so you grab the nearest one. As you head to the checkout line, you wonder if you've just made an ethical choice or been duped.



On a recent episode of What's Up Africa, comedian Ikenna Azuike is pointing out a statement by Tunisian transportation minister Mahmoud Romdhane that wearing a hijab reduces hearing by 30 percent and is therefore dangerous.

When Sani Muntari was 2 years old, he loved to run around and play games with his older siblings and cousins.

They lived in Sokoto, a hot, dusty city in northern Nigeria known for its deep Islamic roots. Sometimes, Muntari would go with his mother to the central market where she worked as a trader, peddling everything from vegetables to T-shirts to soap.

The Lasker Award, given for outstanding contributions to medicine and medical research, is sometimes referred to as "America's Nobel Prize." Since the award was established in 1945, more than 80 laureates have gone on to win the Nobel.

The medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) is one of four recipients this year, accepting the award for its contributions to the fight against Ebola. I spoke with the president of the U.S. Board of Directors, Dr. Deane Marchbein, who was in New York for the presentation.

By now, you've probably seen the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old refugee from Syria who died with his 5-year-old brother and mother after their small rubber boat capsized on its way to Greece. You might remember his Velcro shoes. His red shirt. His lifeless body lying face down in the sand.

On the way to his son's baseball game on Long Island, sports writer J.R. Gamble tells me that his son, J.C., is quite a ball player.

"I have a lot of clips and highlights that I show people of him doing amazing things — jumping over catches, hitting balls right-handed, hitting balls left-handed," Gamble says.

Part of the reason his son is so good at baseball, Gamble explains, is that he started at an early age — a very early age.

Imagine you're on a tropical island in the Caribbean. There are coconut trees, rocky cliffs, blue-green waters. But now, imagine there are hundreds of monkeys on this island. And, these monkeys have a disease that could kill you, if you're not careful. What you're picturing is a real-life island off the coast of Puerto Rico.

The island of Cayo Santiago hosts the oldest research center in the world for wild primates. Scientists from all over the world come to the island to study questions of primate behavior, cognition and ecology.

Imagine that you're a judge, and you're asked to decide the case brought by Mary and Dave Wildman.

Back in 1997, Mary took the couple's 1-year-old son, Nicholas, to the doctor for the combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Right after the MMR shot, Mary says, Nicholas started crying uncontrollably.

"This was unbelievable screaming," she says.

Mary and her mom started driving Nicholas back to their home in Evans City, Pa.

It was a beautiful Saturday in the fall of 2005. The leaves in Cincinnati were changing colors, and Lisa Smith had just finished watching her son's soccer game.

She ran some errands, including something she'd been meaning to do for a week — get a flu shot. She stopped by her local pharmacy.

She didn't think about the shot again until a few days later, when she woke up feeling a bit strange. She had an odd tickle in her throat and her leg muscles were sore.

"Almost like I'd been exercising," she says.

Is a good family doctor one who treats your knee pain and manages your recovery from heart surgery? Or is it one who refers you to an orthopedist and a cardiologist?

Those are questions at the heart of a debate about primary care – one with serious health and financial implications.

When patients show up in the hospital without health insurance, they often receive charity care — the hospital treats the person and then swallows some or all of the costs.

It's central to the mission of many nonprofit hospitals, particularly those serving low-income areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the U.S. epidemic of opioid abuse could lead to more severe outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C nationally, much like the outbreak now seen in Indiana. A health advisory the agency released Friday outlines steps that state health departments and medical providers should take to minimize the risk of that happening.

For all their talk about evidence-based medicine, a lot of doctors don't follow the clinical guidelines set by leading medical groups.

Consider, for example, the case of cataract surgery. It's a fairly straightforward medical procedure: Doctors replace an eye's cloudy lens with a clear, prosthetic one. More than a million people each year in the U.S. have the surgery — most of them older than 65.

Some women may be paying hefty fees for birth control pills, vaginal rings and emergency contraception, despite a federal requirement that insurers pay their full cost. And some women only have coverage for a less effective type of emergency contraception, according to a report released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In February, Medicare announced that it would pay for an annual lung cancer screening test for certain long-term smokers. Medicare recipients between the ages of 55 and 77 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years are now eligible for the annual test, known as a spiral CT scan.

Johnny Reynolds knew that something was wrong as far back as 2003. That's when he first started experiencing extreme fatigue.

"It was like waking up every morning and just putting a person over my shoulders and walking around with them all day long," says Reynolds, 54, who lived in Ohio at the time.

In addition, Reynolds was constantly thirsty and drank so much water that he would urinate 20 or 30 times per day. "And overnight I would probably get up at least eight or nine times a night," he says.

Dr. Jeremy Greene sees a lot of patients with diabetes that's out of control.

In fact, he says, sometimes their blood sugar is "so high that you can't even record the number on their glucometer."

Greene, a professor of medicine and history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, started asking patients at his clinic in Baltimore why they had so much trouble keeping their blood sugar stable. He was shocked by their answer: the high cost of insulin.

Ella Barnes-Williams is dealing with a lot right now.

For starters, her government-subsidized house in Northeast Washington, D.C., leaks when it rains. She points at a big brown splotch on the ceiling.

"It's like mold, mold, mold all over," she says. "I've got to clean that now 'cause that just came back."

Barnes-Williams is 54 and lives with her 30-year-old daughter and three young grandchildren. All three grandkids have severe asthma, which makes the mold a serious problem. And she and her daughter are diabetic.

Ebola hasn't been in the news much lately.

That's because the number of new cases has plummeted since the height of the epidemic late last year. In fact, the turnaround has been so dramatic that Liberia, once the hardest-hit country, is now on the brink of declaring itself Ebola-free.

But two headlines from Sierra Leone this week caught our attention.

According to reports, a boat with sick fishermen sparked a new outbreak in the capital. Meanwhile, the vice-president of Sierra Leone was under quarantine after his bodyguard died of Ebola.

#NPRreads is a new feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we share with you three longish reads.

From Didrik Schanche, NPR's deputy international editor:

A highly contagious disease was sweeping across the United States. Thousands of children were sick and some were dying. In the midst of this outbreak, health officials did something that experts say had never been done before and hasn't been done since: They forced parents to vaccinate their children.

It sounds like something that would have happened 100 years ago. But this was 1991 — and the disease was measles.

Javier Villa has worked at his family's used car dealership in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ever since he finished high school.

Villa, 35, always assumed the insurance plan he had through work would take care of him and his family. But a couple years ago, he ran into a problem.

He was taking a shower one morning when he noticed a lump on the side of his throat. "Very big, like maybe a tennis ball," he says.

The worst traffic accident I've ever seen happened on a highway in Kenya.

A friend and I were returning to Nairobi from Lake Naivasha when the cars in front of us came to a halt. I pulled onto the shoulder and spotted a 15-passenger van — a matatu in local speak — on its side, split open like a coconut. Another matatu was sideways in a ditch, its front end smashed inward. People were stopping, getting out of their vehicles and rushing to help.

On a typical Sunday, the pews in Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. are almost full. But a few months ago, the large stone church with stained glass windows in northwest Washington, D.C. began looking rather empty. Roughly a quarter of the congregation — 50 people — had stopped showing up.

At first, Rev. John Harmon, the head of the church, wasn't sure what was going on. Then he started getting phone calls from parishioners. "Some folks called to say, I'm not coming to church because I don't know who's traveling [to West Africa]," Harmon says.

Pages