KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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In A Place Where Suspicion Has Dug In Roots, Researchers Want To Demystify Science

A small community in Georgia sees a nuclear plant as the source of their health woes. Scientists know otherwise, but getting that message across isn't going to be easy. In other public health news: natural disasters, mental health clues on Instagram, obesity and depression, sinus cancer, hospital violence and more.

Stat: The Feds Are On An Unusual Mission Here: Getting Locals To Trust Science
Testing required by independent and federal regulators has repeatedly found no sustained heightened risks of contamination. But officials at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site recognized that all the suspicion itself was toxic. For some locals, it’s become a force that’s made life feel as unstable as a radioactive atom. So the federal government has launched an unusual effort to put residents at ease — by teaching them to trust science.In the final year of the Obama administration, the University of Georgia received a grant of nearly $665,000 to send a team of ecologists and educators to this poor, rural stretch of northeast Georgia, where life revolves around farms and faith. Launched this summer, the program is designed to demystify the science that officials use to monitor the air and water for radioactive contamination — and explain to residents of Burke County why there’s no need for alarm. (Blau, 8/11)

Stat: Prepare For Natural Disasters, Experts Urge Biomedical Researchers
Biomedical research centers are not at all prepared for natural disaster. That’s the conclusion of a new National Academies of Science report released Thursday that analyzed the disaster resilience of the biomedical research community. The expert panel came up with 10 recommendations. Among them: Mandating disaster resilience education for students and staff, developing shelter and evacuation procedures for research animals, and giving researchers incentives to duplicate critical samples and data and store them offsite. (Thielking, 8/10)

The New York Times: Your Instagram Posts May Hold Clues To Your Mental Health
The photos you share online speak volumes. They can serve as a form of self-expression or a record of travel. They can reflect your style and your quirks. But they might convey even more than you realize: The photos you share may hold clues to your mental health, new research suggests. From the colors and faces in their photos to the enhancements they make before posting them, Instagram users with a history of depression seem to present the world differently from their peers, according to the study, published this week in the journal EPJ Data Science. (Chokshi, 8/10)

Kaiser Health News: Obesity And Depression Are Entwined, Yet Scientists Don’t Know Why
About 15 years ago, Dr. Sue McElroy, a psychiatrist in Mason, Ohio, started noticing a pattern. People came to see her because they were depressed, but they frequently had a more visible ailment as well: They were heavy.McElroy was convinced there had to be a connection. “Many of my [depressed] patients were obese. And they were very upset by obesity,’’ McElroy recalled. ”I looked into the literature, and it said there was no relationship. It didn’t make sense.” (Luthra, 8/11)

Chicago Tribune: Blood Test Can Screen For Rare Sinus Cancer
new DNA blood test can catch a rare but deadly form of cancer that occurs in the sinuses, researchers report. The test, which looks for DNA evidence of Epstein-Barr virus in blood samples, was 97 percent accurate at detecting the presence of nasopharyngeal cancer, according to the results of a clinical trial. (Thompson, 8/10)

Chicago Tribune: As Hospital Violence Grows, Nurses Seek Reforms: 'Too Many Of Us Are Being Hurt' 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the rate of hospital employees intentionally injured on the job at the hands of another person is significantly higher than the rate across all private industries. In 2015, the most recent year available, there were 8.5 cases of injuries per 10,000 full-time hospital workers, versus 1.7 cases for all private industries. The data also shows that injury number for hospital workers steadily rose from 2011 to 2014 but dropped slightly the following year. (Thayer and Leone, 8/11)

The New York Times: ABC’s ‘Pink Slime’ Report Tied To $177 Million In Settlement Costs
The Walt Disney Company said in its latest quarterly financial statement that it had $177 million in costs related to settling litigation. The announcement came just weeks after ABC News, a Disney unit, reached a settlement with a meat producer that accused the network of defamation for its reports about so-called pink slime, a processed beef product used as low-cost filler. (Hauser, 8/10)

Los Angeles Times: Food-Borne Parasite Infections On The Rise In L.A. County
Health officials warned this week that an unusually high number of patients in Los Angeles County have been infected with a parasite that causes a severe stomach illness and can last for months if not treated. Between June and Aug. 1 this year, 14 people in the county had been diagnosed with the intestinal infection cyclosporiasis, according to local health officials. (Karlamangla, 8/10)

NPR: Hospice, Designed For The Dying, Is Discharging Many Live Patients
Hospice care is for the dying. It helps patients manage pain so they can focus on spending their remaining time with loved ones. But in recent years, nearly one in five patients have been discharged from hospice before they die, according to government reports. A study published last month in the journal Health Affairs finds that hospices with the highest rate of so-called "live discharges" also have the highest profits. The lead author is Rachel Dolin, a David A. Winston fellow researching health policy. Her paper found an association between high live discharge rates and high profit margins, but it didn't determine the cause. (Jaffe, 8/11)

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