WXXI AM News

Brett Dahlberg

Health reporter and producer

Brett is the health reporter and a producer at WXXI News. He has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, and before landing at WXXI, he was an intern at WNYC and with Ian Urbina of the New York Times. He also produced freelance reporting work focused on health and science in New York City. 

Brett grew up in Bremerton, Washington, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. 

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Apple’s newest watch also offers a new medical device: one of the first over-the-counter electrocardiograms, or EKGs.

Apple watches have had onboard heart-rate monitors since their introduction in 2014, but the fourth generation watch, due to be released Sept. 21, offers an FDA-approved ability to analyze heart rhythm, too.

Heart rhythm analysis allows the watch to detect signs of conditions including atrial fibrillation, which the Centers for Disease Control and prevention says affects millions of Americans.

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Childhood lead exposure is down in Monroe County, according to the public health department’s most recent data, even as children in some areas remain much more susceptible than others.

The data, which come from blood samples taken from children less than 6 years old in Monroe County last year, showed that elevated blood lead levels are concentrated in the city of Rochester.

Of the 20 children whose tests measured the highest blood lead level, 19 of them were in the city. That’s no surprise, said county health commissioner Michael Mendoza.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Federal officials called it a blitz — “the largest coordinated enforcement effort in the FDA’s history” in response to concerns that e-cigarette use has become an “epidemic” among youths.

After a nationwide undercover operation aimed at identifying stores selling e-cigarettes to people under 18 years old, the agency sent more than 1,300 fines and warning letters to businesses that it said violated the rules.

Eight of those letters went to businesses in New York state: two in Buffalo; one in Getzville in Erie County; two on Long Island; one in Rockland County; and two in New York City.

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A Monroe County resident has died from West Nile virus.

It’s the only death from the disease in New York state so far this year, according to the most recent data from the state health department.

Only two other counties in the state outside of New York City, where data is tracked separately, have documented a case of the virus this year. Both of those are downstate counties, with one reported case each.

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

A Rochester startup is looking to solve a medical problem with a global scope. VisualDx is building a database of what diseases look like on all skin colors, in an effort to correct persistent racial inequalities in diagnosis.

Scientists have known for decades about racial inequalities in access to medical care. A landmark 1985 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for example, found that minority Americans lived further from doctors and had less ability to pay for medical care compared to white people.

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August was a month of extremes in Monroe County’s fight against opioids: The lowest number of overdose deaths recorded since the sheriff’s office started keeping track in January, and the highest number of Narcan uses to reverse an overdose.

The commander of the county’s heroin task force, Andrew DeLyser, said the month could be a statistical anomaly, and he said the numbers — even the decrease in fatal overdoses — are still cause for concern.

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Fifteen new detox beds are coming to Monroe County, where advocates and families have long been calling for additional addiction treatment facilities.

The additional beds, funded by a $1 million state grant, will not quite double the 25 currently available in the county. The new beds will be administered by Helio Health, which changed its name from Syracuse Behavioral Healthcare in June.

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Families and friends of people addicted to drugs marked International Overdose Awareness Day in Rochester by sharing messages of hope and support, and calling for more addiction treatment options locally.

Thursday's event at the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Park drew hundreds of people, including addiction recovery service providers and representatives of the city of Rochester, surrounding towns and counties, and the state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services.

Many American soldiers who attempt suicide have no prior mental health diagnosis, according to the most recent study to make use of data collected by the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health.  

The study, published Wednesday in the psychiatry journal of the American Medical Association, looked at anonymized records of more than 9,000 American soldiers who attempted suicide while on active duty. More than a third of them had not been diagnosed with a mental illness.

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People with special needs will have access to new ID cards that state Sen. Pam Helming says will help them communicate with emergency responders.

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