KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Viewpoints: The Alzheimer’s Conversation; A Trauma Doctor Leads By Example, Cuts Opioid Prescriptions

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

The Wall Street Journal: With Every Alzheimer’s Diagnosis, The Same Bleak Conversation
On an overcast Tuesday morning last October in Northford, Conn., I sat in a second-row pew in a quiet church and watched my father tell a heartwarming story about his older sister, Martha. He recalled an incident from his childhood when, as he recovered from a bike accident that injured his jaw, Martha had baked him a chocolate cake and lovingly cut it into tiny pieces so he could eat it through his stitched mouth. My father told the story that morning as part of his eulogy for Martha, the fourth and final one he delivered for his nuclear family. His father, his mother and his two older sisters all succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. (Jeremy Abbate, 8/25)

Lexington Herald Leader: Trauma Doctor Cut Opioid Prescriptions In Half. Others Should Follow His Lead
In 2013, Dr. Phillip K. Chang had what he calls an “eye-opening moment.” Chang had used his prowess as a trauma surgeon at the University of Kentucky to repair a young man’s injuries from a vehicle crash, only to have the pain medicine he prescribed leave his patient addicted to opioids. ... Chang and his team began thinking about less risky ways to treat acute pain, and this weekend he will tell the Kentucky Medical Association how they were able to halve the amount of opiates given to trauma patients without increasing their pain levels. (8/25)

San Jose Mercury News: Trump Ignoring His Opioid Panel's Recommendations
The advice President Trump received from his commission on the nation’s opioid crisis wasn’t what he wanted to hear. So he seems to be ignoring it. Which denigrates not only commission members he appointed but also the addicted and their loved ones whom he promised during the campaign to help. (8/25)

Columbus Dispatch: Pediatric Research: Public Health Advances Important, If Not Always Glitzy
When we think of innovation in modern biomedical research, what likely comes to mind is development of new high-tech drugs, biologics, surgical techniques and devices. Far less often do we include public health research and policy. We have it wrong. For proof, we need look no further than the extraordinary success of taking a simple vitamin supplement, folic acid, to prevent disease. (John Barnard, 8/27)

Stat: It's Past Time To Include Mental Health Into The Doctor's Office Visit
Treating mental illness is expensive. But the cost of not treating it is enormous. It affects our population’s health in ways that range from obesity to homelessness and addiction. Treating mental illness has traditionally been separate from treating physical illnesses. But that doesn’t really make sense, given what we know about both today. (Marc Harrison, 8/25)

Stat: My Compulsive Hair Pulling And Skin Picking Could Be Solved With A Precision Medicine Approach
President Obama’s call for the scientific community to embrace a precision medicine revolution gave me hope for some forward motion on two disorders I’ve quietly struggled with since my adolescence: trichotillomania and dermatillomania. Taking a precision medicine approach to these two conditions, which run under the radar of the medical establishment, could answer some longstanding clinical questions and potentially identify the first-ever effective treatments for them. (Kimi Vesel, 8/28)

Lexington Herald Leader: Clinic Patients Should Not Face Threats To Get Abortions
Kentucky is one of seven states that, as a result of medically unnecessary restrictive laws and administrative actions intended to shut down clinics, have a single abortion clinic to serve the entire population. Not only is my home state facing the possible closure of our only clinic, but our community has, for many years, been subject to extreme and sometimes violent demonstrations by both local and national anti-abortion activists. (Caitlin Willenbrink, 8/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Talcum Tort Stick-Up
Plaintiff attorneys are naturally opportunistic, so it’s not surprising that they’re responding to tort reforms by searching for new vulnerabilities in the legal system. See the spread of talcum powder torts to California and other friendly forums. A Los Angeles jury this week awarded a 63-year-old woman with advanced ovarian cancer a $417 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson . The plaintiff claimed that the company’s Baby Powder, which she had been using for more than 50 years, caused her terrible cancer. Her attorneys compared the company to the tobacco industry, which failed to warn consumers of cigarettes’ carcinogenic risk. (8/25)

Stat: To Protect Students' Health, Colleges Need To Ban Tanning Beds
Fortunately, my daughter attends a college that doesn’t allow tanning beds on campus. Other students aren’t as fortunate — almost half of U.S. colleges have tanning beds available in school facilities, and 14 percent let students pay for tanning beds with campus cash cards. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has labeled indoor tanning devices to be “carcinogenic to humans.” So why do so many college campuses have them? (Beth Allgaier, 8/25)

The Washington Post: D.C.’s Report On Child Fatalities Shows Progress — And More To Be Done
There is much to celebrate in the D.C. auditor’s recent report on child fatalities. The District, for years ranked among the worst major U.S. cities for child mortality, saw significant improvement in its child fatality rates between 2008 and 2015. The number of child fatalities per year dropped by 32 percent, from 182 deaths to 124. This was largely fueled by a 53 percent decline in the deaths of 15- to 19-year olds, though infant mortality rates also improved substantially. Given the city’s long and troubled history with child safety, these figures are a heartening sign of progress. (8/27)

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