Helen Chickering

All Things Considered Host, Reporter

Helen Chickering is a reporter and host of All Things Considered on Blue Ridge Public Radio.  She joined the station in November 2014.

Helen grew up in Texas.  Her broadcast career began in television news in 1985 at WLBT, the NBC affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi.  There she did everything from news to weather and found her niche in medical reporting.  Over the next 20 years she covered health and science news on both local and national levels, including 5 years in Charlotte at the CBS affiliate, WBTV.   In 1998, Helen helped launch the health and science desk at NBC News Channel, the network's affiliate news service.  She became the first journalist to serve as president of the National Association of Medical Communicators and was on the founding board of the Science Communicators of North Carolina.  

In 2012, Helen and her family moved to Asheville from Chapel Hill and she started working as a freelance producer and as a Montessori teaching assistant.  A longtime NPR listener, she was thrilled to land a job at Blue Ridge Public Radio.   Helen is an active member of the Asheville Science Tavern and a guest lecturer and an advisory board member at the University of North Carolina's Medical and Science Journalism Program.

Ways to Connect

“This is something that just doesn’t happen. It is being deliberately mischaracterized to shame women and to make a court case to overturn Roe V. Wade.” - Buncombe County Democratic state senator Terry Van Duyn during Senate Judiciary Committee's heated debate over SB 359

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

With no discussion and little opposition the North Carolina Senate quickly passed S.B 154 that would allow sports and off-track betting at the Cherokee and Murphy casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  

Asheville is hosting North Carolina’s tenth annual communicable disease conference this week. Public health professionals are learning about the latest infectious disease trends and the tools they need to prevent, detect and treat them.   This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Public Health Nurses in North Carolina.     

NC health officials say the meeting provides an opportunity to share evidence-based information and best practices for addressing public health problems and and communicable disease investigations. 

Executives, entrepreneurs, climate scientists, and students from across the country are converging on Asheville to tackle the business of Climate Change.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has details.

countyhealthrankings.org

When it comes to the health of its counties Western North Carolina gets mixed reviews. BPR’s Helen Chickering has the latest results from the annual County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report.

BPR News

Local faith communities gathered outside of the Islamic Center of Asheville Friday afternoon to show their support for the Muslim community in the wake of the mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand.   BPR's Helen Chickering spoke with supporters and members. 

wfae.org

Last Fall Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order directing North Carolina to step up its efforts to combat and adapt to Climate Change. This week, state officials are in Asheville gathering public input as they shape a plan to meet those goals.  BPR’s Helen Chickering talks with Department of Environmental Quality Public Information Officer Sharon Martin about the upcoming meeting.

governor.nc.gov

 Asheville’s Brandi Hillman, co-owner of Hillman’s Beer and Josh Dorfman, CEO of the nonprofit climate business incubator The Collider are among the sixteen members of governor Roy Cooper’s new entrepreneurial council.  The group is charged with helping design policies that encourage entrepreneurship, foster economic development and support sustainable high quality jobs.                             Josh Dorfman says an important part of the council’s mission is helping shape the state’s entrepreunial bra

BPR

Last month Asheville City Council members and school officials gathered to address  the growing  gap in discipline rates and academic achievement between  black and white students in the district.

High school students have had a lot to say about racial disparity on campus.

STR Inc.

Keep the momentum going is the message from the latest analysis of Buncombe County’s lodging market by hotel industry tracker STR Incorporated.  The report was presented on Friday by STR’s Bennjin Lao at an event hosted by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority and the Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

BPR

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a pair of living teddy bears make their debut at the  Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.     BPR’s Helen Chickering has a preview.

The Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament is in back in Asheville this weekend with the U-S taking on Australia.  The first match is Saturday, but action has been happening all week with events and activities designed to get kids interested in tennis.  BPR’s Helen Chickering stopped in on a Fed Cup tennis clinic at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The National Park Service is asking  visitors for patience while crews clean up nearly a month's worth of debris from winter weather and lack of maintenance.   BPR’S Helen Chickering checked in with two people who have deep connections to the national parks here in Western North Carolina.  

BPR

You’ve probably heard about the movement to reduce the use of plastic straws, which can’t be recycled and end up in landfills and in the environment. As BPR’s Helen Chickering reports, local environmental groups are on a mission to expand that campaign here in Western North Carolina.

In 2018, the nonprofit Asheville Greenworks kept more than 161,000 pounds of hard to recycle materials out of the landfills in Western North Carolina.  During free events held throughout the year in Buncombe County,  volunteers collected everything from televisions to empty toothpaste tubes.  The organization is kicking off it's first  Hard 2 Recycle event of 2019, on Saturday, January 19th in West Asheville. 

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A few weeks ago, we introduced you to biologist Rebecca Helm who moved to Asheville to study jellyfish.  While working on the piece, BPR’s Helen Chickering connected with  another marine pioneer  -  who brought sharks  and marine science to Hendersonville. 

mountainjellyfish.com/Rebecca Helm

Tourists flock Western North Carolina for the mountain views, hiking trails and attractions like the Biltmore House.  Sea life is not on the list, but that could change.  BPR’s Helen Chickering has the story of an unexpected find in the Western North Carolina waters that prompted a marine biologist to move to the mountains. 

Good news for last minute insurance shoppers. Pisgah Legal Services, in partnership with Mission Health is hosting a free enrollment event Saturday, December 15 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.  at the Mission Health/AB Tech Conference Center at 16 Fernihurst Drive.  No appointment is needed.

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Last year, more than half a million North Carolina residents signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  With less than two weeks left in the 2019 open enrollment period, there is concern that those numbers will be down.  BPR’s Helen Chickering checked in with Pisgah Legal Services managing attorney Jackie Kiger . 

The chicken pox outbreak at the Asheville Waldorf School has triggered a legal challenge.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

(Update: 11/29/18) The chicken pox outbreak that began at an Asheville private school in late October is far from over according to the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services.  The latest numbers show 37 students at the Asheville Waldorf School along with 4 people in the community have contracted the virus.  Health officials are not releasing details about the additional cates, saying only rhat they are connected to the  outbreak at the school .  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a chicken pox outbreak is not declared over until 42 days have passed without a new case. 

In a statement on its website, the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says based on the timing of the most recent case in the community, the outbreak will continue into 2019.  The state health department says it's the largest chicken pox outbreak in the NC since the vaccine was introduced in 1995.  

The Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services says the chicken pox outbreak at an Asheville private school has now spread to more than 30 students. (update: 11/19/2018 - 36)   And as BPR’s Helen Chickering reports,  the school has a history of high vaccine exemption rates.

Lilly Knoepp

Just like any region, the opinions of Appalachians range across the political spectrum. Two topics came up the most: honesty and healthcare.

“Healthcare is a big issue right now,” says William Johnson of Whittier. “We tried universal healthcare with Obamacare and that just kind of went belly up.”

Johnson is looking out for how Congress can compromise to improve the current healthcare system.

Carrie Beth Livingston says that her number one issue is climate change.

A number of familiar names and offices are on the 2018 midterm election ballot, and there are those 6 amendments everybody is talking about.   What is likely not so familiar are the county races for  Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.   If you haven’t heard about it, you are not alone.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports. 

Open Enrollment for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is now underway.  The nonprofit Pisgah Legal Services held a press conference this week and urged consumers to get educated before enrolling.  BPR’s Helen Chickering reports.

“Number one, the ACA is still the law, and it is working”

BPR

State health officials have extended the immunization deadline for public school students to November first - to give more time to families impacted by Hurricane Florence.  Meantime, in Western North Carolina, health officials are facing a different kind of vaccination challenge – the growing number of parents who are choosing not to immunize their children.   BPR’s Helen Chickering has been following the newly formed immunization coalition as it works to reverse that trend.  She checked in with them in September, during one of their meetings.

Last week, Hurricane Florence quickly grabbed the headlines from a major sporting event happening right here in Western North Carolina. The World Equestrian Games kicked off just as the storm was moving towards the coast.  After a short delay earlier this week, the spotlight is once again shining on the Tryon Equestrian Center. But as Helen Chickering reports, the real horse story is down the road.

Jason deBruyn WUNC

The latest numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services show for the 2017-18 school year, Buncombe County once again had the highest number of unimmunized students, who opted for a religious exemption.

On a busy Thursday morning at Asheville Children's Medical Center, Dr. Sam Kohn made the rounds. It was toward the end of summer break, so there were lots of back-to-school check-ups and vaccines on the schedule that day.

Many visits were easy, following the simple routine of parents bringing their tots in for their shots.

USFS

An increase in bear encounters has prompted  the U.S. Forest Service to consider clamping down on food storage rules for campers in parts of Western North Carolina. BPR's Helen Chickering has details. 

BPR

The Tryon birthplace of singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone has been named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The nonprofit is teaming up with the four New York City artists who bought the small wooden cottage in 2017.  The organization will devise a plan to rehabilitate the house so that it might be used by future artists.

Federal officials say treatment is underway to clean up contaminants at the former CTS Corporation factory in Asheville.  

Below is the news release from The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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