Sarah Fentem

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.

The chief doctor at Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic testified during a high-profile regulatory hearing on Wednesday that the abortions performed there are safe and that the facility has an above-average record of successful procedures.

State health officials earlier this year decided not to renew the license for Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic, citing concerns about patient safety.

The four instances of patient care that caused state regulators alarm were in line with acceptable legal and medical standards of care, said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services. The clinic performs thousands of procedures a year, she said. 

On the first day of an administrative hearing that could determine the fate of Missouri’s sole abortion clinic, attorneys for the state questioned the safety of Planned Parenthood’s clinic and said state regulators acted with patients in mind when they did not renew its license.

The lawyers spent hours attempting to prove through witness testimony the state’s Department of Health and Human Services acted legally when it did not issue a renewed license to Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services in St. Louis last June.

A member of the Administrative Hearing Commission, a nonpartisan state body that resolves regulatory disputes, will decide if the department acted properly.

More than 12% of Missouri children are obese, but the 2018 rate held steady from the year before, according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Although obesity among Missourians age 10-17 is relatively unchanged, doctors say the stabilizing rate is a sign that public awareness campaigns and other health initiatives are working. 

“I think the fact it’s not going up is a great thing to see,” said Julie Benard, a Columbia pediatrician who specializes in treating childhood obesity. “It’s a great thing to see, at least for our initial efforts in making sure we’re at least curbing the trend of childhood obesity.”

Public health experts are urging Missourians to get a flu shot ahead of a flu season that could likely arrive earlier and be more severe than last year’s. 

The vaccine is the most effective way for people to protect themselves and others in the community from the flu, state health officials said. 

“Herd immunity” also can protect at-risk people including the elderly, young children and people who cannot safely receive vaccines, but only if high numbers of people who can receive the shot are immunized.

Missouri health officials have confirmed two cases in the state of a mysterious vaping-related pulmonary illness that has sickened hundreds of people across the nation. 

Missouri officials are investigating the cases of seven other patients to determine if their symptoms match the criteria for the illness. They’re also warning consumers not to tamper with vaping products.

Patients with the illness report nausea, shortness of breath, fever and elevated heart rates. The nine Missouri patients have reported modifying pre-packaged vaping products to smoke other substances such as vitamin E or THC, said Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

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