Viewpoints: The Societal Roots Of An Epidemic Shouldn’t Be Overlooked; When You Run For President In Your 70s, Your Medical Records Must Be Released
Editorial pages address these and other health care topics.
The New York Times: Why Did The Coronavirus Outbreak Start In China?
The new coronavirus disease has a name now: COVID-19. That took a while. The virus’s genome was sequenced within two weeks or so of its appearance, but for many weeks more, we didn’t know what to call it or the disease it causes. For a time, in some quarters, the disease went by “Wuhan pneumonia,” after the city in central China where the first human infections were detected. But guidelines from the World Health Organization, which christened COVID-19 recently, discourage naming diseases after locations or people, among other things, to avoid “unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities.” (Yi-Zheng Lian, 2/20)
The Washington Post: What Did Xi Jinping Know About The Coronavirus, And When Did He Know It?
The early phase of the coronavirus outbreak in China remains an important and still poorly understood lacuna. Prompt, early action could have saved lives and averted enormous disruption. Instead, the Chinese people were exposed to danger in the first weeks of the epidemic when their officials failed to sound the alarm, even though they knew something was afoot. (2/19)
The Washington Post: Who’s Afraid Of Bernie Sanders?
The latest Post-ABC News poll, which shows Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with a 16-percentage-point lead over his nearest Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden, should settle at least one important question. It refutes the notion that most Democrats are focused single-mindedly on defeating President Trump — and that everything else is secondary. It turns out that everything else isn’t secondary, because whatever else is true of Sanders, he isn’t focused single-mindedly on dumping Trump. From the outset, he has championed a host of proposals, most prominently Medicare-for-all, that would implement his vision of a democratic-socialist America. He assumes that his agenda would be so popular that it would automatically defeat Trump. (Robert J. Samuelson, 2/19)
The Washington Post: We Need More Than Medical Records From Candidates
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has reneged on his prior offer to share his complete medical records after his heart attack last fall. We will see if he gets away with the same bait-and-switch that President Trump used to deny access to his tax records. In fact, all candidates in the race — including the president — should provide complete data on their medical history and allow their doctors to respond to questions. (Why did President Trump make an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed medical center? Have any of the other candidates had a history of diabetes, heart disease or cancer?) (Jennifer Rubin, 2/19)
The New York Times: How Common Mental Shortcuts Can Cause Major Physician Errors
It’s tempting to believe that physicians are logical, meticulous thinkers who perfectly weigh the pros and cons of treatment options, acting as unbiased surrogates for their patients. In reality, this is often far from the case. Bias, which takes many forms, affects how doctors think and the treatment decisions they make. Racial biases in treatment decisions by physicians are well documented. One study found that black patients were significantly less likely than white patients to receive pain medication in the emergency department, despite reporting similar levels of pain. (Anupam B. Jena and Andrew R. Olenski, 2/20)
Los Angeles Times: A Tax Hike Is Inevitable To Address Homelessness In California
OK, I’m waiting to hear about the tax increase that will be needed to pay for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious plan to solve homelessness. A tax hike is inevitable, but the T-word was conspicuously missing from Newsom’s frequently applauded State of the State address on Wednesday to a joint session of the California Legislature, which is tightly controlled by fellow Democrats. (George Skelton, 2/20)
The Washington Post: Is Vaping A Source For Good Or For Evil? Both.
Depending on whom you ask, e-cigarettes are either a marvelous technology that could save thousands of lives by helping people quit smoking or the cause of a scourge of nicotine addiction among teenagers. Surprise! Both are right, and both should inform public health policy on vaping. There’s no question that the vaping industry has behaved in genuinely outrageous ways. Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit accusing Juul, the nation’s largest e-cigarette manufacturer, of pushing its vaping products to children. (Robert Gebelhoff, 2/19)
The Hill: Global Response To A Growing Epidemic: The UN At Work On Coronavirus
Earlier this month, I attended the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board Meeting in Geneva. Despite many pressing health issues to respond to, one topic dominated: the novel coronavirus outbreak. Daily reports show that the number of cases of coronavirus — now known COVID-19 — is growing to nearly 73,000 in 25 countries (as of Feb. 18). (Kate Dodson, 2/19)
Stat: Digital Therapeutics Vs. Digital Care: Defining The Landscape
The conversations I had at this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference were a microcosm of a dominant narrative coming out of one of the industry’s most influential weeks: How do we categorize digital health, an increasingly large, crowded, and diverse field? “Digital health” is an umbrella term that’s grown to include everything from electronic health records to wellness apps and clinically validated therapeutic interventions that mirror or improve upon existing in-person therapies. It’s an area of intense interest and investment. But it is also a space in which many of the investors who have committed billions are still seeking clarity as to how the puzzle of diffuse digital health offerings fit together. (Sean Duffy, 2/20)
The Hill: When The Doctor Is Sick: Tough Choices To Make
Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath that states, “First do no harm.” Unfortunately, many physicians consistently execute this statement for the well-being of their patients but ignore its tenets when it is necessary to look after themselves. (Dr. Shikha Jain, 2/19)
Stat: Innovation In Complex Care Requires Systems And Design Thinking
I was a second-year medical school student when I encountered my first patient with GRID — gay-related immune deficiency. The year was 1982, and the disease that would soon be called AIDS was an epidemic still in its infancy. With his skin shedding in sheets, the man was dying in an isolation room. Alone. (Ken Coburn, 2/20)
Los Angeles Times: Speeding Cars Kill. Why Won’t California Reform Speed Limits?
The way California cities are required to set speed limits is outdated, absurd and downright dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists — and it’s not even backed up by scientific research on safety. That’s why, at a time when many communities are seeking to slow down cars to save lives, cities are still being forced to raise speed limits as a condition of enforcing their traffic laws. It’s dangerous and counterproductive, and it’s about time state lawmakers fix the problem. They will have another chance to do so this year, and they should seize it. (2/19)
Stat: For African Women At Risk Of HIV, A Woke World Is Still Sound Asleep
The arrival in 2012 of a daily pill to prevent HIV infection was widely hailed as a breakthrough that could drive new infections worldwide to very low levels. Eight years later, it is having a strong impact in some places and little or none in others. The real-world impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP for short, certainly isn’t living up to its high expectations among young women in sub-Saharan Africa, who account for more than one-quarter of the 800,000 new HIV infections that occurred last year in the region. (Kundai Chinyenzef, 2/17)
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