Viewpoints: CDC Needs New Way To Provide Information; Climate Change Causing Health Issues
Editorial writers tackle these public health issues.
The CDC Should Be More Like Wikipedia
Much as his predecessors warned Americans against tobacco and opioid abuse, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a formal advisory last Thursday that misinformation—such as the widespread propaganda now sowing doubts about coronavirus vaccines on social media—is “an urgent threat to public health.” It is, but the discussion soured quickly. After President Joe Biden said social-media platforms that turn users against vaccines are “killing people,” an anonymous Facebook official told CNN that “the White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.” When Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House is “flagging problematic posts for Facebook,” conservatives and Twitter contrarians inferred that the government was telling the company to censor people. The journalist Glenn Greenwald described the effort as “fascism.” (Renee DiResta, 7/20)
Wildfires, Heat Strokes And Deaths: Unite To Fight The Climate Crisis
Parking at the Northern California hospital where I work, I quickly break into a sweat during the 80-foot walk to the entrance. It’s 100 degrees outside, and it’s only 8 a.m. Outdoors, I can feel the intense sunlight on my skin, but inside the cool wards of the hospital, I experience the effects of the recent heat wave in my soul: My first patient of the day is gravely sick from severe heat stroke. A healthy athlete, he became severely lightheaded, disoriented and unable to put together a coherent sentence. He had only spent 15 minutes in a car driving without air conditioning, but these effects were lasting hours. At one point, we thought he was developing a true stroke in his brain and not just heat stroke. (Dr. Thomas K. Lew, 7/21)
Weight-Loss Drug Wegovy Could Help Millions. Will Insurers Buy In?
A drug that can help obese people safely cut an average of 15% of their body weight sounds like a miracle for those who can’t keep pounds off with diet and exercise alone. Wegovy, a Novo Nordisk A/S drug that the Food and Drug Administration approved in early June, appears to do exactly that. It helps people lose substantially more weight than with existing drugs and showed sustained benefit with limited side effects in clinical trials. Despite that exciting data, it’s not clear that many of those who could use the drug will end up taking it because of uncertain insurance coverage and the baffling values of the U.S. health-care system. (Max Nisen, 7/19)
My Stupid Elbow And The Crisis In Health Care
I’ve been hard on American medicine. Americans are overtested, overdiagnosed and overtreated, I’ve argued, because physicians and hospitals in our capitalist culture care more about profits than patients. In 2019, I touted Medical Nihilism by philosopher Jacob Stegenga. Most medical interventions work poorly, if at all, Stegenga contends, and many do more harm than good; we should therefore resort to tests and treatments far more sparingly. Stegenga’s diagnosis and prescription seemed sensible to me. (John Horgan, 7/20)
Explainable Artificial Intelligence: Easier Said Than Done
The growing use of artificial intelligence in medicine is paralleled by growing concern among many policymakers, patients, and physicians about the use of black-box algorithms. In a nutshell, it’s this: We don’t know what these algorithms are doing or how they are doing it, and since we aren’t in a position to understand them, they can’t be trusted and shouldn’t be relied upon. A new field of research, dubbed explainable artificial intelligence (XAI), aims to address these concerns. (Boris Babic and Sara Gerke, 7/21)
The Washington Post:
The Latest Special-Interest Category Requiring Workplace Seminars: Menopause
Wage-earning women in Britain have found their voices in yet another singularly female affliction requiring workplace concessions — menopause. Apparently, women of a certain age, roughly 45-55, are suffering consequential menopause symptoms in sufficient numbers to warrant accommodation. A report found that “droves” of women are leaving jobs and careers because they can’t take the heat, so to speak. Hot flashes, which occur when estrogen supplies naturally decrease with age, is the most-oft cited complaint. (Kathleen Parker, 7/20)