San Francisco's housing crisis is also (of course) a homelessness crisis, and homelessness crises beget public defecation crises -- and San Francisco has a serious public defecation crisis. Read the rest
A research team from Imperial College London have published promising results of an experiment in which Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes -- responsible for the spread of malaria -- were genetically modified with a stable, gene-drive-based CRISPR modification that caused them to go extinct in the lab. Read the rest
The record on "active shooter" fatalities is fragmented; as a result, the AMA researchers who published Lethality of Civilian Active Shooter Incidents With and Without Semiautomatic Rifles in the United States in JAMA (Sci-Hub Mirror) had to piece together their own data from disparate sources. Read the rest
In Deposition of respiratory virus pathogens on frequently touched surfaces at airports, published in BMC Infectious Diseases, a University of Nottingham team reveal that the airport security trays they swabbed in the Helsinki airport contained more infectious agents than the airport's toilets. Read the rest
Imagine my surprise to see my old friend, Pagan Kennedy, being talked about Friday night in a "New Rules" segment on Real Time with Bill Maher. Pagan's opinion piece in the Times, and Maher's Real Time bit about it, make the rather obvious, but still important, point that you can obsess all you want over your own personal health, but if the environment around you and the public policy that governs it are diseased, your health is still in jeopardy. As Kennedy puts it in the Times: "It’s the decisions that we make as a collective that matter more than any choice we make on our own."
In the article, Pagan catalogs many of the paragons of health nuttery (Pritikin, Rodale, Euell Gibbons, Adelle Davis, Clive McKay) and how they didn't even live an average lifespan. Maher makes funny work of this, and the rest of piece, while making sobering points about the health perils we all face. Maher: "No matter what you do for yourself, how right you eat, if the air is full of lead and the bug populations are out of control and your city is under water, it doesn't matter. You can eat kale until it comes out of your ears. You can stay hydrated, slather on sunblock, steam your vagina, eat your placenta, work at a standing desk, and put a healing crystal up your ass, but there is no escaping the environment we all live in.
(My favorite line from the bit: "Back [in the 1970s] when Scientific American was the name of a magazine. Read the rest
Dr Ben Maruthappu, a senior public health researcher from University College London is the lead author on a forthcoming peer-reviewed paper in the BMJ Open which attempts to quantify additional deaths attributable to the UK Conservative Party's austerity measures under the 2010-2015 coalition government and the Tory governments since; Maruthappu and his co-authors attribute 120,000 deaths to austerity, and call them "economic murder." Read the rest
The Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise worked with Houston's National School of Tropical Medicine to sample "soil and water...blood and faecal samples" from Alabama's Lowndes County, a poor rural area. Read the rest
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs like Truvada before having unprotected sex with HIV+ people can significantly reduce the risk of infection (the drugs can also be taken after potential exposure); though this use is approved in England, the NHS does not yet cover Truveda prescriptions, so people who wish to take the drug are expected to pay £400/month. Read the rest
My latest Locus column, "Peak Indifference", draws a comparison between the history of the "debate" about the harms of smoking (a debate manufactured by disinformation merchants with a stake in the controversy) and the current debate about the harms of surveillance and data-collection, whose proponents say "privacy is dead," while meaning, "I would be richer if your privacy were dead." Read the rest
The deadly infectious diseases that were eradicated in America during the 20th century are now roaring back, thanks to growing poverty, failing sanitation, and underinvestment in science and health research and regulation. Read the rest
Slate is doing a series of articles on life expectancy in the United States, both how it's changed and why. It kicks off with a piece that gives a broad overview of the medical and public health factors involved in our increased longevity — from clean water and the germ theory of disease, to generally increased wealth and nutrition, to vaccination. But author Laura Helmuth also offers up a morbidly fun challenge, asking you to think about how many times you might have already died had you been born before all these revolutionary changes happened.
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It’s a fun conversation starter: Why are you not dead yet? It turns out almost everybody has a story, but we rarely hear them; life-saving treatments have become routine. I asked around, and here is a small sample of what would have killed my friends and acquaintances:
Over the past 18 years the life expectancy for white women who didn't finish high school has dropped precipitously. Today, those women can expect to die five years earlier than their counterparts a generation ago. It's one of the biggest magnitude losses in life expectancy ever recorded, and nobody knows what's causing it. At the American Prospect, Monica Potts reports on scientists efforts to untangle the knot of correlations at the heart of this public health mystery and tells the story of one woman, Crystal Wilson, whose life and death mirrors the statistics. Read the rest
Short version: There is LOTS the FDA doesn't want to tell you about livestock antibiotic use. And that matters. As I reminded you yesterday, the antibiotics we use to keep ourselves alive and healthy are rapidly losing their effectiveness against a whole host of diseases. Antibiotic resistance to disease is driven by overuse of antibiotics — both in humans and in animals. And there are lots of antibiotics being used on animals. The trouble is, public health researcher know very little about that use. Because the FDA refuses to release more than the bare minimum of data. For added fun, last year, they stopped even trying to regulate antibiotic use on livestock — opting instead for voluntary self-control systems. Read the rest
It is very hard, and very weird to try to get a handle on how human health has changed between the 19th century and today. Obviously, the way we live has changed dramatically. But understanding how that impacts health (or doesn't) is complicated by the fact that healthcare, science, and public health research changed dramatically during those years, as well.
And all that science hasn't happened in a vacuum. The names we give various disorders change. Whether or not we consider something to be a disorder, at all, might change. And our cultural understanding changes, too—especially when it comes to mental illness.
At the Mind Hacks blog, Vaughn Bell has an excellent breakdown of two recent studies that try to put the modern diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into a cultural and historical context. Many people assume that PTSD is just a new name for something that has always existed—look at shell shock, which made it onto Downton Abbey last season. But these new papers suggest that the distinction between what soldiers experienced in the past and what they experience today might go deeper than naming conventions.
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The diagnosis of PTSD involves having a traumatic experience and then being affected by a month of symptoms of three main groups: intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidance of reminders or emotional numbing ... there has been a popular belief that PTSD has been experienced throughout history but simply wasn’t properly recognised. Previous labels, it is claimed, like ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’, were just early descriptions of the same universal reaction.