Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Report] How Scientists Engage the Public

From the 15 February 2015 Pew Report

American scientists believe they face a challenging environment and the vast majority of them support the idea that participation in policy debates and engagement with citizens and journalists is necessary to further their work and careers.

A survey of 3,748 American-based scientists connected with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) finds that 87% agree with the statement “Scientists should take an active role in public policy debates about issues related to science and technology.”Just 13% of these scientists back the opposite statement: “Scientists should focus on establishing sound scientific facts and stay out of public policy debates.”

PI_2015-02-15_science-engagement_02

This widely held view among scientists about active engagement combines with scientists’ perspectives on the relationship between science and society today in several ways:

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February 17, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big government — or good neighbors — can improve people’s health

Big government — or good neighbors — can improve people’s health.

Study explores connection between ideology, social capital and health

Lincoln, Neb., March 20, 2014 – The nation’s left-leaning citizens might be pleased by the findings of a new University of Nebraska study that finds those who live in liberal states tend to be healthier.

But conservatives could also take satisfaction in the same study’s conclusion that strong communities also foster better health.

“Some people might like the argument that liberal government automatically leads to healthier people, because it supports their worldview,” said Mitchel Herian, a faculty fellow with the university’s Public Policy Center and lead researcher on the new study. “But in the absence of a liberal government, you also see better levels of health if you have a strong community.”

The study, published in the March issue of the journal Social Science and Medicine, combined data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to measure health, a 2009 Gallup Healthways Survey to measure levels of social trust and a 2010 index that rates liberalism in state government. In all, the study involved data collected from more than 450,000 people from across the country.

It found that states with high levels of liberalism and those with high levels of social trust have higher levels of health and well-being.

The two factors – liberalism and social trust – are not interchangeable. People who live in a California city might have liberal political beliefs but mistrust their neighbors, Herian said, while those who live in a small Texas town might mistrust government but count on their neighbors.

To measure a state’s social capital, Herian and his colleagues used data from a survey that asked “If you lost a wallet or purse that contained $200 and it was found by a neighbor, do you think it would be returned with the money in it or not?”

To assess states’ political profiles, the study used an index that scores each of the 50 states on their relative liberalism vs. conservatism. The index is based upon factors such as interest group ratings of congressional members, voting records and election results in congressional races. It is designed not only to assess partisanship, but the extent to which politicians favor liberal social policy.

Health and well-being were measured with questions from the behavior risk survey that asked respondents to rate their health and to report how frequently poor physical or mental health prevents them from carrying out daily activities. The researchers also took smoking habits and body mass index into consideration.

Herian authored the study with psychologists Louis Tay of Purdue University, Ed Diener of the University of Illinois and UNL graduate student Joseph A. Hamm.

“Liberals argue for government programs and conservatives argue for individual responsibility,” Diener said. “When government programs are in place, people tend to be healthier. But when government programs are weaker, a person with lots of close ties and social capital can still be healthy. Their wife can get them to exercise, their friends can help them not drink too much, and their support for each other may directly affect their health. Loneliness is bad for health.”

The researchers said the study has implications for health policy at the state and local levels. Herian, who has studied how social trust influences public policy, said he expects to do more research on how to measure social trust.

Tay said the study shows two pathways to improving people’s health: Strong communities can provide good health outcomes, but government social programs also have a strong connection to good health and could be necessary to serve more fragmented and isolated communities.

Diener said the research demonstrates that good health is not just a matter of individuals “doing the right thing” like quitting smoking, exercising more and losing excess weight.

“Social factors have an influence, too,” he said. “It might be government programs, or it might be ‘social capital’ – having supportive others around us – that can influence our health beyond just each of us doing the right things.”

 

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March 28, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Society must come to a conclusion on how important human suffering is

Society must come to a conclusion on how important human suffering is

Very interesting thoughts on the goals of Western medicine. Should medicine be about alleviating suffering? Totally eradicating disease through industrializing medicine (thing drug companies)? If global health is indeed largely affected by socioeconomic factors, should medicine drive policies?

Click here to read the article

January 12, 2013 Posted by | environmental health, health care, Public Health | , , | 1 Comment

To Protect U.S. Residents, Physicians Call For Improvements To Country’s Public Health System

From the 23 April 2012 Medical News Today article

To strengthen the public health infrastructure, ACP presents seven public policy positions:

  • Position 1: ACP supports investing in the nation’s public health infrastructure. Priority funding should be given to federal, state, tribal, and local agencies that serve to ensure that the health care system is capable of assessing and responding to public health needs. ACP is greatly concerned that recent and proposed reductions in funding for agencies responsible for public health are posing a grave risk to the United States’ ability to ensure the safety of food and drugs, protect the public from environmental and infectious health risks, prepare for natural disasters and bioterrorism, and provide access to care for underserved populations.
  • Position 2: In the current economic environment, it is particularly important that federal, state, tribal, and local agencies prioritize and appropriately allocate funding to programs that have the greatest need for funding and the greatest potential benefit to the public’s health. All programs that receive funding should be required to provide an ongoing assessment of their effectiveness in improving population health. ACP recommends that priority for funding be given to programs based on their effectiveness in improving the health of the public.
  • Position 3: Having a health care workforce that is appropriately educated and trained in public health related competencies is essential to meet the nation’s health care needs. The education and training of sufficient numbers of physicians, nurses, allied health personnel, clinical scientists, health services researchers, public health laboratorians, and public health practitioners is an important part of the public health infrastructure. Accordingly, priority funding should be devoted to educational and training programs that prepare physicians, nurses, and allied health personnel that are in short supply and that help meet the health care needs of underserved populations.
  • Position 4: The public health workforce should educate the public on new health care delivery models and the importance of primary care. It is also important for the public health sector to promote the need to have a doctor or health center so care can be better coordinated.
  • Position 5: To address current and looming pharmaceutical therapies and vaccine shortages, the federal government should work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that there is an adequate supply of pharmaceutical therapies and vaccines to protect and treat the U.S. population.
  • Position 6: Programs to inform the public of the benefit of vaccinations for children, adolescents and adults, to counter misinformation about the risks of vaccinations, and to encourage increased vaccination rates, particularly for vulnerable populations, are especially important for the health of the population. Evidence-based educational strategies should be used to influence behavior and increase vaccination rates.
  • Position 7: ACP encourages the development and implementation of a comprehensive, nation-wide public health informatics infrastructure, sharable by all public health stakeholders. This will require significant investments in new and improved technologies, standards, methodologies, human resources, and education.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , | Leave a comment

Aging In America: Future Challenges, Promise And Potential

United States Senate Special Committee on Aging

From the 26 December Medical News Today article

Fifty years after its inception, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging will have a more important role than ever as America’s senior population continues to grow, according to the newest issue of the Public Policy and Aging Report (PPAR)

[Click here for the full text of the report : “America’s Opportunity : The Potential of an Aging Society]

…The PPAR starts with a piece by Hudson, who chronicles the committee’s history. John W. Rowe, MD, chair of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society, then calls on policymakers to appreciate the positive aspects of life extension and to understand population changes in society-wide, rather than cohort-specific, terms – in order to avoid growing tensions between generations, between the haves and have-nots, and between the more- and the less-educated.

Writing from Germany’s University of Mannheim, Axel Boersch, PhD, Gabriel Heller, and Anette Reil-Held use data from Europe, where population aging is more pronounced than in the U.S., to explore how prevalent intergenerational concerns may be. Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and the Stanford Center on Longevity’s Jane Hickie draw attention to the quality and affordability of community life for tomorrow’s elders. They advocate for containing community-living costs, increasing and integrating housing, health, transportation, and support services, and making special efforst directed toward improving the purchasing capacity of elders with disabilities. A final analysis by the Urban Institute’s Richard Johnson, PhD, focuses on work, retirement, and labor market conditions for older workers. He writes that both employers and public policy can and should be modified to meet the needs and preferences of older workers. …

Read the entire Medical News Today article

Click here for…..

  • A video by one of the article’s contributors, Dr. Laura Carstensen  on the potential of an aging society and how elected officials must prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
  • A video from the Senate Special Committee on Aging Forum titled “Aging in America: Future Challenges, Promise and Potential on December 14th, 2011

December 26, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Global Obesity Pandemic – Lancet articles & related articles (including press coverage)

From the 26 August edition of The Lancet

This four-part Series critically examines what we know about the global obesity pandemic: its drivers, its economic and health burden, the physiology behind weight control and maintenance, and what science tells us about the kind of actions that are needed to change our obesogenic environment and reverse the current tsunami of risk factors for chronic diseases in future generations. …

Series Papers**
The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments

Boyd A Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Kevin D Hall, Klim McPherson, Diane T Finegood, Marjory L Moodie, Steven L Gortmaker

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Health and economic burden of the projected obesity trends in the USA and the UK

Y Claire Wang, Klim McPherson, Tim Marsh, Steven L Gortmaker, Martin Brown

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Quantification of the effect of energy imbalance on bodyweight

Kevin D Hall, Gary Sacks, Dhruva Chandramohan, Carson C Chow, Y Claire Wang, Steven L Gortmaker, Boyd A Swinburn

Summary | Full Text | PDF

Changing the future of obesity: science, policy, and action

Steven L Gortmaker, Boyd A Swinburn, David Levy, Rob Carter, Patricia L Mabry, Diane T Finegood, Terry Huang, Tim Marsh, Marjory L Moodie
Summary | Full Text | PDF
Media Coverage
  **Do not have a subscription to The Lancet? Click here for suggestions on how to get these articles for free or at low cost.

 

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

   

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