Opinion writers weigh in on these health topics and others.
The Washington Post: Giving Smokers More Options Is Not Worth Endangering A Generation
Every year, the number has gone up — from 11 percent in 2017 to 21 percent in 2018 to 25 percent this year. That is the share of high school seniors who admit to having used e-cigarettes in the past month. And it’s not just almost-18-year-olds who are vaping: A fifth of 10th-graders report doing so in the past month. E-cigarettes vaporize a nicotine-rich — or, increasingly, a THC-laced — liquid, and when they first came on the market, all that many people saw was their upside. Finally there was a product that allowed smokers to mimic the act of smoking a traditional, combustible cigarette but with apparently fewer toxic chemicals. When the Food and Drug Administration moved to regulate the industry, critics warned that the federal government was poised to crush mom-and-pop e-cigarette purveyors selling innovative products that improve their customers’ health. (9/30)
Stat: Burning Fossils Fuels Needs To Be Treated Like The Killer It Is
Imagine driving into a gas station to fill up your car’s gas tank and seeing this stark notice affixed to the pump: “Warning: Burning fossil fuels kills.” Tobacco packages all over the world display warnings like that. It makes sense, since tobacco kills as many as 8 million people a year around the globe. Burning fossil fuel doesn’t get the same kind of attention, even though the toxic air pollution it creates kills 7 million people a year. Burning oil, natural gas, and coal releases gases and tiny particles that harm human health, leading to respiratory diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and more. In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized air pollution as a major health risk factor, alongside tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity. (Lourdes Sanchez and Nina Renshaw, 10/1)
San Francisco Chronicle: Newsom Takes A Back Seat On Environmental Legislation
Gov. Gavin Newsom insisted he takes “a back seat to no one” on environmental advocacy just before he vetoed the most significant environmental-protection bill of the legislative session. His rejection of Senate Bill 1 puts Newsom squarely at odds with just about every major conservation group in the state in fortifying defenses for endangered species against the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken federal law. (9/30)
Stat: Drug Dosing In Newborns: FDA Guide Helps Remove The Guesswork
When we need to give medicine to newborns in our hospital, we often have to guess at the correct dose to give them. That’s a problem: give too little and the medicine might not work; give too much and it might cause harm. Dosing newborn babies with greater precision has been a challenge because it is difficult to conduct studies in this population, many of whom are very small and often critically ill. For researchers trying to determine the appropriate dosing for a medicine for adults, the FDA has clear guidelines on how to give the medicine, collect blood samples, examine the drug level in the blood, apply math to analyze how the level changes over time, and make decisions based on these analyses. But these guidelines don’t necessarily work for studying drugs in full-term and premature babies, who could weigh as little as 1 pound. (Michael Cohen-Wolkowiez and Kanecia Zimmerman, 10/1)
The Hill: We Must Treat The Obesity Epidemic Like The Public Health Crisis It Is
We are living in an era of epidemics. From communicable diseases like Ebola and measles that have the potential to become true epidemics, to other health threats that are branded epidemics like opioids and vaping, serious health threats are in the news and on our minds almost every day. And for good reason. These public health crises seem to arise quickly and circulate rapidly through the population, prompting swift action to stem their spread. But there are other health problems that have reached epidemic proportions that haven’t captured our attention or inspired action in the same way. Among these is obesity, which is a real epidemic with significant consequences now and in the future in the United States and around the world. (Brian B. Parr, 9/30)
Dallas Morning News: Social Media Spreads False Information About Health Care That Is Hurting Patients
One subgenre in the fake news section that we cannot keep ourselves from visiting is health care. Patients are no longer content with being passive consumers of health information. They want to play an active role in their own health and the health of others, and their main vehicle for delivering that information is social media. At times, social media can be a harbinger for good — think of GoFundMe pages, online support groups and heartwarming stories about overcoming a disease. But the spread of false claims and fake news can have damaging effects on patients’ health, their relationship with doctors, and the very foundation of our health care system. (Brian Carr, 10/1)
The Washington Post: Caregiving For A Sick Loved One Can Be Stressful, Harrowing, Depressing — And Rewarding
It was the most important thing I would do that week. One morning, I walked around the hospital introducing myself to patients. I stopped by the room of a woman in her late 80s with dementia. Her ability to swallow — to ensure that food and water and saliva reached her stomach and not her lungs — had grown tenuous: This was her third bout of pneumonia in as many months. After restricting her diet for fear of worsening her breathing, her family had now decided that she should enjoy what she could in the time she had left. (Dhruv Khullar, 9/30)
Kansas City Star: It Only Took A Few Hours Of Headache, And A Drive Through A Fast-Food Chain, To Show That It’s Time To Do Something Radical With Health Care.
No one in America should have to fund his or her healthcare with a red bucket placed at a drive thru window. And it’s not just the working poor who can’t afford health care. I have friends who have lost their jobs and when it’s between paying for COBRA or keeping a roof over their family’s head (because COBRA was more than their mortgage). Guess what wins? (Sherry Kuehl, 10/1)
The Hill: What If We Had A Mathematical Equation For Cancer?
Developing effective treatments for cancer is perhaps the greatest health care challenge facing modern society. One-third of adults will develop some form of this disease within their lifetime. Because it touches so many of us, we are all invested in trying to find cures. But in this pursuit, we must avoid the risk of over-investing emotionally, scientifically and financially in one approach at the expense of another.I fear a trap we have fallen into is our commitment to the philosophy of “Big Data” and “machine learning” in attacking cancer. The belief is that if we collect enough data on enough patients, then we will be able to find statistical patterns indicating the best way to treat patients and find cures.This is fundamentally misguided. (Thomas Yankeelov, 9/30)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.