KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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High-Risk Drinking In Older Adults A Growing Problem

The scientists who ran the study didn't investigate causes, but speculate that anxiety caused by the recession, which hit right between the two surveys, may have played a part. In other public health news: lupus, nail-biting and other tics, end-of-life discussions, cervical cancer and more.

The New York Times: Alcohol Abuse Is Rising Among Older Adults
In the summer, Henry Wrenn-Meleck likes to sit on the stoop of his building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, observing the passing urban parade. One day in late July, “one of my neighbors could see something was wrong,” he recently recalled. “I was sort of rolling around, obviously in a lot of pain. He said, ‘I have to call 911,’ and he did.” (Span, 9/14)

The Washington Post: Selena Gomez’s Kidney Transplant: Young, Minority Women Disproportionately Affected By Lupus
In the world of celebrities, there are diseases such as HIV/AIDS and breast cancer that are very “popular” and well understood, thanks to years of fundraising and awareness campaigns by stars. And there are those diseases that are less so. Lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can damage organs, is in the second category. When Selena Gomez shocked her 126 million Instagram followers on Thursday by revealing that she had disappeared from the public eye this summer because she was getting a kidney transplant because of lupus, her fans had many questions. (Cha, 9/14)

The New York Times: Are You A Hair-Twirler, Nail-Biter Or Knuckle-Cracker?
Are you a toe-tapper, hair-twirler, eye-blinker, head-nodder, nail-biter, knuckle-cracker, skin-picker, lip-licker, shoulder-shrugger or a chin-stroker? Call it a nervous habit or tic, almost everybody has at least one — whether they are aware of it or not. Tics exist on a spectrum ranging from barely noticeable to extremely annoying to potentially injurious. (Murphy, 9/14)

Stat: End-Of-Life Decisions Can Be Difficult. This Doctor Thinks ‘Nudges’ Can Help
For tax payments, “nudges” have helped municipalities increase revenues and decrease collection-related costs. For energy consumption, “nudges” have helped homeowners save money and utilities preserve capacity. But in health care, the technique has been slower to catch on. First described by the pioneering economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (who is also a legal scholar), a “nudge” is a way of framing a set of choices to essentially steer people toward a particular option without shutting out other options. (Tedeschi, 9/14)

Stat: Armed With Data, And Twitter, This Doc Takes On The Medical Establishment
Dr. Vinay Prasad is a professional scold:  He takes to Twitter each day to critique this cancer drug as ineffective, or blast that one as overpriced, or dismiss the clinical trial of another as completely irrelevant. ... Just 34, Prasad has become an influential voice in the medical community through his prolific, high impact publishing, a steady stream of media cameos, and — of course — his vociferous Twitter presence. Among his main arguments: Drug costs have spiraled out of control. Conflicts of interest run amok in health care. We don’t have any idea how well new cancer drugs and diagnostics work, thanks to ill-designed clinical trials. And more than half of all practiced medicine is based on scant evidence — and possibly ineffectual. (Keshavan, 9/15)

The New York Times: New Product Is First To Claim It May Reduce Peanut Allergies
A new powdered peanut product is the first food item allowed to claim it may reduce peanut allergies in infants, though parents of susceptible babies are urged to consult a doctor before trying it. The product, called Hello, Peanut, can be mixed into puréed baby food to expose infants to peanuts starting around five months old. (Rabin, 9/14)

Stat: 6 Things That Happen At TV Hospitals That Don't Happen In Real Life
Medical storylines have riveted television viewers since the earliest days of the medium — and for just as long, TV writers and directors have had to navigate the age-old tension between truth and storytelling. One early solution, beginning in the 1950s, was a group of doctors who advised television producers directly. The group, known as the Physician’s Advisory Committee (PAC) on Television, Radio, and Motion Pictures, reviewed scripts, helped find props, and showed actors how to properly hold a scalpel. (Samueal, 9/15)

NPR: Public Isn't Adequately Protected Against Misuse Of Biomedical Research
For years, the government has been trying to reduce the risk that legitimate biological research could be misused to threaten the public's health, but those efforts have serious shortcomings. That's the conclusion of a report released Thursday by the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that examined existing practices and policies on so-called dual-use biological research. (Greenfieldboyce, 9/14)

NPR: Just The Perception That Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Can Make You Sad
When you feel like everyone around you is having more fun and spending more time with friends, it can make you feel bad about yourself — even if it's not true. But according to Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies how our view of the world affects our view of ourselves, this perception can challenge us to become more social and make more friends. (Fulton, 9/14)

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