KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Talking About Suicide; Military Life’s Toll On Women; Listening To Patients

Here's a review of editorials and opinions on a range of public health issues.

The New York Times: Let’s Talk About Suicide
Chester Bennington, the lead singer of the band Linkin Park, was found dead on Thursday in his home near Los Angeles. The coroner’s office has confirmed that the 41-year-old died of suicide. That’s something I — and so many millions of other Americans suffering from mental illness — have considered. ... more often than not, we don’t talk about mental health. And shows like Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” or artists like indie pop singer Lana Del Rey have sensationalized or glamorized mental illness and suicide rather than taking it seriously. Worldwide, 350 million people (that’s 5 percent of the population) suffer from depression every day. And they are suffering – and sometimes dying – in silence because we can’t seem to talk openly about mental health. (Robert Rigo, 7/24)

Stat: Protecting Interns And Other Physicians From Depression And Suicide
This month, more than 25,000 medical school graduates will begin working at hospitals and medical centers across the United States. By the end of September, nearly one-third of these new doctors could become depressed and 24 percent could have thoughts of suicide. First-year interns often move away from family and friends to start the next chapter of intensive training. It is an exciting time, but also a difficult time. A recent study in Academic Medicine confirms that their suicide risk is highest in the early months of training. (George Keepers and Mary Moffit, 7/24)

Los Angeles Times: What Military Recruiters Aren't Telling Women: You'll Face Disproportionate Health Risks
Recently, 18 brave women graduated from the U.S. Army Infantry School, pioneers headed for fully gender-integrated “ground close-combat” units. Women have long served valiantly and effectively in almost every military role, but now they are tackling extremely physical combat jobs that, until recently, were designated men-only. ... In this push for more female recruits, it’s not at all clear that young women — or the civilian population in general — understand the unique, disproportionate health risks women face in combat roles. The dangers, which have been known for decades, will undoubtedly be exacerbated as women serve in the most physically demanding units. (Julie Pulley and Hugh P. Scott, 7/25)

Bloomberg: Trump's Quiet Progress On Veterans Affairs
[I]n one area, Veterans Affairs, there actually has been progress. Since the Senate approved his appointment unanimously in February, Secretary David Shulkin has sought to improve accountability at hospitals by publicly posting wait times and care-quality data, and has extended much-needed mental health services to veterans with less-than-honorable discharges. Even Congress has made a contribution, passing a bill to streamline the agency’s hiring and firing processes -- legislation that Trump signed and tweeted about three times. (Mark Whitehouse, 7/24)

WBUR: Against Medical Advice: Sometimes, When Patients Defy Accepted Wisdom, So Must Doctors
Keeping the whole patient in view, including the social challenges they will return to after their short stint in a hospital, is as much a part of medical decision-making as the understanding of disease, or selection of the right medication. While this lesson is far from new — you'll hear it taught to every medical student across the country — it is much harder to apply it in practice than to learn in principle. (Abraar Karan, 7/24)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Heroin Epidemic Must Be A Priority
Currently, human services funding is allocated towards increasing gainful employment, reducing homelessness, and preventing violence, all in need of our attention. Heroin is often a component of these other issues but the acute nature of this crisis demands prioritized attention not secondary. (Amy Murray, 7/24)

RealClear Health: Ending The Opioid Epidemic: Only The US Can Stop China’s Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Trade
The United States is facing an explosion of counterfeit opioids from China. Illegal synthetic opioids like carfentanil and fentanyl are being packaged as legal prescription opioids (like oxycodone) and sold on the black market. The US has dealt with counterfeit drug scandals before, notably in 2008 when 149 Americans died from a counterfeit blood thinner found to have originated in China. Today, counterfeit opioid compounds with carfentanil and fentanyl are blamed for the sudden increase in overdose deaths in the United States, making drug overdoses the current leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. (Emily Foecke Munden, 7/25)

Sacramento Bee: Reparations For Drug War? Consider It California
The same people who went to prison in disproportionate numbers for selling marijuana are on the verge of being cut out of California’s multibillion-dollar legal marijuana industry – and, without help, could even become victims of it. ...Together, they are demanding that local governments adopt a reparations strategy that would begin to repair the damage done to communities of color. (Erika Smith, 7/24)

The Kansas City Star: Scrutiny Of Overland Park Pain Doctor Highlights Challenge Of Fighting Opioid Addiction
An Overland Park doctor is in the crosshairs of an expanding investigation into the business practices that are fueling American’s addiction to opioids. The records of Steven Simon of The Pain Management Institute have been seized by the FBI. He earns more than only a handful of other doctors in the U.S. from payments by drug manufacturers to promote both opioids and the medications that treat side effects of the drugs. It’s a revenue stream that can influence doctors to write more prescriptions. (7/23)

USA Today: Trump Budget Would Set Back Global AIDS Fight Just When We're On Track To Win It
When we started our HIV/AIDS Initiative at Saddleback Church 13 years ago, we reminded our congregation, “If you’re going to be like Jesus, you have to learn to be compassionate toward people when they’re sick.” Even in this time of tight budgets, America’s leaders should show precisely this kind of compassion for our brothers and sisters living with HIV and AIDS in Africa and around the world. (Rick and Kay Warren, 7/25)

The New York Times: Fixes: The Tasmanian Hep C Buyers’ Club
In 2014, when Greg Jefferys’s urine started smelling like dead meat, he knew there was something seriously wrong. For weeks, Jefferys, an Australian then 60 years old, had felt fatigued and noticed that just a slight bump would leave a dark purple bruise on his skin. Blood tests revealed to Jefferys that he had chronic hepatitis C – a disease he’d never heard of. (Sophie Cousins, 7/25)

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