Arkansas Health

Republican John Cooper has won a northeast Arkansas state Senate seat, giving Republicans an extra seat in the Legislature in a race that was viewed as an early bellwether for this year's general election.

Cooper defeated Democratic nominee Steve Rockwell and replaces Democratic state Sen. Paul Bookout.

Bookout resigned last year after he was fined by the Ethics Commission for spending thousands in campaign funds on personal items such as clothing and theater equipment.

Complete but unofficial reports showed Cooper winning 57 percent of the vote.

The outcome of a special election Tuesday for a northeast Arkansas Senate seat could be a factor in the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid expansion.

The race will determine whether Democrat Steve Rockwell or Republican John Cooper will serve the remainder of former state Senator Paul Bookout’s term. Bookout, a Democrat, vacated the post due to ethics violations.

Political analyst Jay Barth from Hendrix College says Bookout voted for the "private option" plan to expand Medicaid, a plan that will be under review by lawmakers during next month's fiscal session.

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday show the rate of lung cancer is in decline around the nation. The same is true in Arkansas. After a steady increase for a number of years, the state has seen a sharp decline in lung cancer from around 84 cases per 100,000 people in 2007 to 70 cases per 100,000, according to Dr. Gary Wheeler of the Arkansas Department of Health. Though he says the state struggled for many years to prevent a rise in lung cancer.

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Cases of Influenza are widespread this year in Arkansas. Health officials say the virus has been spreading rapidly throughout the southeast.

Kerry Krell of the Arkansas Department of Health says the most prevalent strain this year is H1N1, which is known to affect young, healthy people more often than other strains. She says this season’s flu outbreak has shown a pattern of severity that should lead people to take precautions as it has already led to some fatalities in the state.

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

For the past decade, Arkansas health officials have taken significant steps to curb obesity in the state. But Arkansas still ranks third nationally in the percentage of obese adults, at nearly 35 percent of its total population last year. On Thursday and Friday, more than 60 public health experts and officials from around the state will convene at Petit Jean Mountain for a summit to assess ideas for dealing with the epidemic over the next ten years.  KUAR’s Chris Hickey spoke with two officials about previous policy efforts and what Arkansas can do about obesity in the future.

UAMS campus / UAMS

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says it has received a $1 million gift for a new breast cancer center.

UAMS said Wednesday that a member of its Cancer Institute Auxiliary, Stuart Cobb, was donating the money to support construction and services. 

The breast cancer center will be on the third floor of the Cancer Institute when completed.

Chancellor Dan Rahn said the gift will give Arkansans access to an advanced facility for mammography and other outpatient services.

On Dec. 7, a group of surgeons will perform a marathon day of surgery at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, replacing hips and knees for more than two dozen patients who have no insurance and can't afford the procedures.

Everything and everyone involved in the process - from the surgeons and nurses to the artificial joints - comes free of cost to the patients, many of whom have been suffering from debilitating pain for decades.

Authorities in northeast Arkansas say 18 people were sent to hospitals after a suspected chlorine dioxide leak at a steel mill in Blytheville.

Blytheville Fire Chief Mike Carney says the fire department responded to Nucor Steel at about 10 a.m. Sunday.

Carney says the department's hazardous materials team decontaminated the workers and contractors who were exposed to the gas before sending them to a hospital.

A decade-old lawsuit filed against the tobacco company Phillip Morris USA  was approved to proceed in Little Rock Tuesday.

Plaintiffs are seeking to represent every Arkansan who smoked Marlboro Lights over a 38-year period. 

Yesterday's hearing had been delayed for years over jurisdictional questions. However, in a ruling,  Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox granted the class-action status over the objections of Philip Morris lawyers who wanted any aggrieved customers to file individual lawsuits.

Arkansas Capitol
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

Senate President Michael Lamoureux has named four lawmakers to a task force created as part of a package of laws aimed at overhauling and increasing funding to the health insurance program for thousands of public school teachers. 

Lamoureux on Tuesday named Republican Sens. Cecile Bledsoe of Rogers and David Sanders of Little Rock and Democratic Sens. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock and Eddie Cheatham of Crossett to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task force.