KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Embarrassing Accolades; Mapping the Brain; Physician Pay

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: Of Medical Giants, Accolades And Feet Of Clay
Medicine honors its heroes in many ways. But sometimes high accolades can turn out to be highly embarrassing. Consider the annual award for lifetime achievement in preventing and controlling sexual infections, given since 1972 by the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association. The prize is named for an authentic giant of medicine: Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., the nation's sixth surgeon general (from 1936 to 1948) who used what was then a supremely powerful position to lift American public health to the front ranks. He defined the basic epidemiological principles of tracing all sexual contacts of infected individuals so they could be treated. ... Beyond that, he fought to clean up polluted waterways, crusaded for truth in radio drug advertising and was an architect of the World Health Organization. But if Dr. Parran was ahead of his time, he was also complicit in two of the most egregious medical scandals of the 20th century. And that blight on his record is now endangering his honored place in the world of public health (Lawrence K. Altman, 4/1).

Slate: Unfit To Bear Arms
In the last few days, investigators in Connecticut and Arizona have released thousands of pages of documents about the Tucson and Sandy Hook massacres. The documents, coupled with investigative leaks and with testimony about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., paint a clearer picture of what caused these tragedies. It isn't just high-capacity magazines or defenseless victims. It's a failure to link firearms access to mental health information (Will Saletan, 4/1).

The New York Times: Diagnosis: Human
The news that 11 percent of school-age children now receive a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — some 6.4 million — gave me a chill. My son David was one of those who received that diagnosis. ... As a 21-year-old college senior, he was found on the floor of his room, dead from a fatal mix of alcohol and drugs. The date was Oct. 18, 2011. No one made him take the heroin and alcohol, and yet I cannot help but hold myself and others to account. I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable (Ted Gup, 4/2).

The Atlantic: Why Spend A Billion Dollars To Map The Human Brain?
In January, the European Commission pledged 500 million euros to work towards creating a functional model of the human brain. Then, yesterday, Barack Obama officially announced an initiative to advance neuroscience, funding a large-scale research project aimed at unlocking the secrets of the brain that involves over $100 million in federal spending in the first year alone, as well as investments from private organizations. Both projects are geared towards creating a working model of the brain, mapping its 100 billion neurons. ... However, there is a long list of obstacles these projects must overcome before we get too excited, not the least of which are the 100,000,000,000,000 connections that need to be measured and modeled. That's over one million times as many neurons as there were genes to map in the Human Genome Project, the closest approximation to the current endeavors (Dana Smith, 4/3).

New England Journal Of Medicine: Phasing Out Fee-For-Service Payment
In March 2012, the Society of General Internal Medicine convened the National Commission on Physician Payment Reform to recommend forms of payment that would maximize good clinical outcomes, enhance patient and physician satisfaction and autonomy, and provide cost-effective care. The formation of the commission was spurred by the recognition that the level of spending on health care in the United States is unsustainable, that the return on investment is poor, and that the way physicians are paid drives high medical expenditures (Steven A. Schroeder and William Frist, 3/27).

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