KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: More NIH Funding; Fall, Football And Brain Damage?; America’s Other Addiction Crisis

A selection of opinions on health care issues from around the country.

Los Angeles Times: Why The Federal Government Urgently Needs To Fund More Cancer Research
I consider myself lucky. Fewer than 5% of cancer patients will get into potentially beneficial clinical trials this year, and I am one of them. Since 2003, under Democratic and Republican administrations, the National Institutes of Health budget has been cut by 15.5%, after inflation. This has left far too little NIH money for basic research and prevention, including for oncology trials. Drug companies now underwrite about 71% of the thousands of cancer trials that are conducted in the U.S. each year. This sets back basic cancer research in several ways. (Frank Lalli, 9/5)

USA Today: Are You Ready For Some Football Brain Damage?
With another football season getting underway, parents of players anywhere from college down to the peewee leagues are undoubtedly uneasy about the latest reports linking the sport to brain damage. Researchers reported in July that the degenerative brain disease known as CTE was diagnosed in 99% of 111 deceased NFL players whose brains were donated for research. This latest Boston University study — while strengthening the link between pro football and the devastating disease — raised as many questions as it answered. (9/4)

USA Today: Don’t Overlook Football’s Benefits
Football is tough. It takes strength — the physical strength to compete and the mental strength to master your fear of violence and failure. But the game gives back as much as it takes. It teaches tenacity, teamwork, respect and appreciation for a strenuous and healthy life. ... I think it’s smart to keep adjusting the game as we learn more. We haven’t lost anything by protecting defenseless players or benching players who fail a sideline concussion test. ... There are undeniable risks in playing football. But the benefits of football in transforming energetic youth into productive citizens cannot be overlooked. (Dick Butkus, 9/4)

The Washington Post: Football’s Enjoyment Is On A Fade Pattern
Autumn, which is bearing down upon us like a menacing linebacker, is, as John Keats said, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Actually, Keats, a romantic, did not mention that last part. He died before the birth of the subject of a waning American romance, football. This sport will never die, but it will never again be, as it was until recently, the subject of uncomplicated national enthusiasm. CTE is a degenerative brain disease confirmable only after death, and often caused by repeated blows to the head that knock the brain against the skull. The cumulative impacts of hundreds of supposedly minor blows can have the cumulative effect of many concussions. (George F. Will, 9/2)

Bloomberg: America's Overlooked Addiction Crisis
As alarms over the opioid crisis sound ever louder, a larger and more expensive substance problem in the U.S. is quietly growing much worse. One in eight Americans abuses alcohol, a new study finds, a 50 percent increase since the start of the century. (9/1)

Modern Healthcare: Invest More In Emergency Preparedness
Early news reports from southeast Texas suggest healthcare facilities weathered Hurricane Harvey far better than their counterparts in New Orleans in 2005 or New York and New Jersey in 2012 when they were hit by hurricanes. More than a decade of rising awareness about the need for emergency preparedness, which began in southeast Texas after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, appears to have paid off. ... But this is no time for congratulatory backslapping. This was Houston's third "500-year flood" in three years. Last summer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded eight such 500-year events in the previous 15 months. (Merrill Goozner, 9/2)

Des Moines Register: Why Can't Red Cross Say How Much Of Your Donation Goes To Harvey Relief?
A thistle to a continuing lack of transparency by the American Red Cross as it responds to another disaster. The organization — which is a congressionally chartered instrumentality of the U.S. government — has a history of failing to accurately account for its spending or respond to requests for information. The Red Cross’ vice president of disaster operations, Brad Kieserman, could not tell National Public Radio last week what portion of its donations go to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief. ... In a statement provided to the Register, the American Red Cross said it segregates donations for Harvey so it goes to the communities affected. ... Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., called on the Red Cross to spend donations given for Hurricane Harvey relief wisely and transparently. The senator has co-sponsored the American Red Cross Transparency Act to give the Government Accountability Office access to Red Cross records. (9/4)

Los Angeles Times: By Tossing A Richard Simmons Libel Case, A Judge Strikes A Blow Against Transgender Discrimination
[Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gregory] Keosian places sexual identity on the same plane where imputations about race and homosexuality have been for years — as not inherently defamatory. The ruling is potentially important for several reasons. As Keosian observes, it’s the first such ruling in California, which makes it seem like a harbinger of legal rulings to come nationwide. It also chips away at what may be the last legally acceptable standard of prejudice under the law, which is that directed at transgender persons and those exploring their gender identity. (Michael Hiltzik, 9/1)

Sacramento Bee: Drug Price Bill Is Bad For Business, Patients
As a longtime entrepreneur in this sector, I am concerned that Senate Bill 17 will harm our ability to afford the costly and time-consuming process of bringing these therapies to market. ... Legislation that forces us to share corporate information with our competitors is harmful to small companies like ours. (William Newell, 9/4)

Boston Globe: Dentists To Poor People: Drop Dead
The women and men who fix your teeth now make more money per capita than doctors. ... Now dentists are resolutely — some would say fanatically — opposing efforts to let dental hygienists and dental therapists deliver prophylactic care to children, the elderly, and to poor and underserved regions in America. (Alex Beam, 9/5)

WBUR: Why Patients May Be Put In Charge Of Their Own Post-Operative Care
A surgical staple remover looks a bit like a handheld hole punch. Not the alligator-mouth contraption used for paper staples. I know this because my father recently had a radical prostatectomy to treat early-stage prostate cancer. Less than 36 hours after his surgery, he was sent home with instructions on how to remove his Foley catheter, and a shrink-wrapped metal contraption to remove his own surgical staples. ... It turns out my father is on the leading edge of a growing trend for routine surgical patients with no complications and no other complex medical problems: Get out and stay out. (Alicair Peltonen, 9/1)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Understand HIV Threat Through Testing
Northern Kentucky has the third highest number of individuals infected with HIV in the state, with about 30-35 new cases each year. ... We don’t know yet: The number of Northern Kentucky residents that are infected with HIV, as seven of 10 Kentuckians have never been tested for HIV. At the Northern Kentucky Health Department, where I serve as medical director, we are working with local health care providers to increase routine screening for HIV. According to guidelines from the CDC, all Northern Kentucky adults should get an HIV test once per lifetime, and those with risk factors, which can include substance abuse or sexual activity, should be screened yearly. (Gerry Tolbert, 9/3)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.