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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Shots - Health News
6:29 am
Mon March 3, 2014

Evidence On Marijuana's Health Effects Is Hazy At Best

C. Nash smokes after possession of marijuana became legal in Washington state on Dec. 6, 2012.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 9:23 am

Colorado opened its first pot stores in January, and adults in Washington state will be able to walk into a store and buy marijuana this summer. But this legalization of recreational marijuana is taking place without much information on the possible health effects.

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Shots - Health News
7:19 am
Wed January 8, 2014

50 Years After Landmark Warning, 8 Million Fewer Smoking Deaths

Tobacco companies incorporated doctors in their ads, such as this 1930 Lucky Strike campaign, to convince the public that smoking wasn't harmful.
Stanford University

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 3:22 pm

Saturday marks an important milestone in public health – the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health.

Few if any documents have had the impact of this one — both on the amount of disease and death prevented, and on the very scope of public health.

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Shots - Health News
6:50 am
Wed November 27, 2013

2009 Flu Pandemic Was 10 Times More Deadly Than Previously Thought

PLOS Medicine/Michaeleen Doucleff/NPR

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 10:10 pm

By the World Health Organization's official tally, the flu pandemic of 2009-10 killed 18,449 people around the world. Those are deaths of people who had laboratory-confirmed cases of the so-called swine flu.

But a fresh analysis says the real toll was 10 times higher — up to 203,000 deaths. And maybe it was twice that, if you count people who died of things like heart attacks precipitated by the flu.

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Shots - Health News
6:45 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Shift In Cholesterol Advice Could Double Statin Use

Statin drugs to lower cholesterol have become among the most widely prescribed prescription medications in the United States.
Bill Gallery ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 2:57 pm

After decades of cajoling Americans to know their cholesterol level and get it down as low as possible, the nation's leading heart specialists are changing course.

Cholesterol is still important. But new guidelines published Tuesday afternoon throw out the notion that a specific blood cholesterol level should automatically trigger treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs.

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Shots - Health News
7:02 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Lyme Disease Far More Common Than Previously Known

Black-legged ticks like this can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 6:58 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 300,000 Americans are getting Lyme disease every year, and the toll is growing.

"It confirms what we've thought for a long time: This is a large problem," Dr. Paul Mead tells Shots. "The bottom line is that by defining how big the problem is we make it easier for everyone to figure out what kind of resources we have to use to address it."

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Shots - Health News
6:50 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Obama Administration Seeks To Ease Approvals For Antibiotics

These staph bacteria are resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic that is one of the last lines of defense.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 5:15 pm

Every day in hospitals all over America, thousands of patients die of infections that used to be curable. But the antibiotics used to treat them aren't working anymore.

It's called drug resistance, and it's largely a consequence of antibiotics overuse. The more germs are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they mutate to evade being vanquished.

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Shots - Health News
6:36 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Officials Prepare For Another Flu Pandemic — Just In Case

Scientists in the U.S. are growing the H7N9 virus in the laboratory to help with vaccine development.
James Gathany CDC/Douglas E. Jordan

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 11:43 am

There's been a buzz of activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta since scientists got their first samples of a new bird flu virus from China four weeks ago.

Already they've prepared "seed strains" of the virus, called H7N9, and distributed them to vaccine manufacturers so the companies can grow them up and make them into experimental flu vaccine.

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Shots - Health News
5:09 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Researchers Find Hormone That Grows Insulin-Producing Cells

A microscopy image of a rat pancreas shows the insulin-making cells in green.
Masur Wikimedia.org

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 5:04 pm

The work is only in mice so far, but it sure is intriguing.

A newly found hormone revs up production of cells that make insulin — the very kind that people with advanced diabetes lack.

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Health
7:28 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Scientists Race To Stay Ahead Of New Bird Flu Virus

Workers prepare an H7N9 virus detection kit at the Center for Disease Control in Beijing on April 3.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 9:01 am

A precious package arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Thursday afternoon.

Inside, packed in dry ice to keep it frozen, was a vial containing millions of viruses derived from a 35-year-old Chinese housewife who died last Tuesday of respiratory and kidney failure.

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Shots - Health News
9:53 am
Mon April 1, 2013

As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death

When Melissa McCann (left) suffered a stroke in 2007, her twin sister, Terry Blanchard, helped her make a full recovery. McCann is now back to work as a flight nurse with Life Flight at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
David Wright/Redux Pictures for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 8:50 am

Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.

In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.

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