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Inequity Remains Pittsburgh's Biggest Health Risk, Hacker Says

Allegheny County Health Department
Dr. Karen Hacker is leaving the Allegheny County Health Department this week to begin work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On today’s program: Pittsburgh's health outcomes are improving, but not for everyone; what a proposed merger between Pfizer and Canonsburg-based Mylan could mean for area jobs; a vulnerable butterfly species finds refuge in an unusual place; and a peek into Squonk Opera's latest public arts fest debut. 

Allegheny County Health Department director heads to the CDC
(0:00 – 16:40)

Outgoing director Dr. Karen Hacker says she's worked hard to build the county's data resources, which should better equip the office to deal with ongoing health concerns like opioid use, obesity, pollution and more.

But the culture of health inequity could take decades to change, she says. Hacker suggests adopting a targeted intervention approach that looks at the most affected communities first.

Hacker leaves Thursday for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She says her time in Pittsburgh will directly inform how she approaches national prevention efforts on issues big and small.

County officials say the search for Hacker's replacement is ongoing. Deputy director Ronald Sugar will lead in the interim.

Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Mylan make a deal
(17:50 – 25:43)

A proposed merger between pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s Upjohn company and Canonsburg-based generic drug maker Mylan was announced Monday. The merger would create a new hybrid drug company focused on manufacturing generic and off-patent drugs. Analysts tell Pittsburgh Business Times reporter Paul Gough that Upjohn and Mylan are better together than they are apart. Gough says it's not yet clear what's next for Pittsburgh's Mylan employees after Chairman Robert J. Coury said the new company would be headquartered in Delaware. 

Rare butterflies find home in an unexpected location
(25:46 – 29:33)

The regal fritillary is a rare butterfly that has nearly disappeared from the eastern United States. But the butterflies have found refuge in one surprising place: a U.S. National Guard training base in central Pennsylvania. For StateImpact Pennsylvania, Marie Cusick reports that the butterfly’s decline in recent decades fits in with a pattern of species loss driven by human activities.

Squonk Opera lends a helping hand to the Regatta (maybe?)
(29:36 – 38:59)

The Pittsburgh troupe Squonk Opera has been delighting audiences with their lively, melodic art rock and surreal props for almost three decades. Their shows have been performed in Pittsburgh scrapyards, and on and off Broadway, and their newest show, “Hand to Hand,” was scheduled to make its debut at the Three Rivers Regatta this weekend. Ahead of the premiere, 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll got to see how the piece came together.

But the Three Rivers Regatta may not happen at all. City and county officials tell WESA's Kathleen J. Davis that the festival is cancelled due to an events management company's "failure to deliver on promises." Squonk is still assessing whether they'll relocate their weekend performances.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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