KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Viewpoints: Puerto Rico’s Public Health Challenges; An ‘8-Step Program’ To Treat The Nation’s Opioid Epidemic

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Miami Herald: Puerto Rico Could Become A Public Health Catastrophe
In the days since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, conditions on the island continue to deteriorate and become a humanitarian and public health catastrophe that could rival the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The fact that the power grid failed creates many obvious problems and some that are not so evident. When the sewer system stops working, wastewater—aka human feces and urine—and seaborne bacteria contaminate the water supply. (Tomás R. Guilarte, 10/2)

The New York Times: America’s 8-Step Program For Opioid Addiction
Opioid addiction has developed such a powerful grip on Americans that some scientists have blamed it for lowering our life expectancy. Drug overdoses, nearly two-thirds of them from prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids, killed some 64,000 Americans last year, over 20 percent more than in 2015. That is also more than double the number in 2005, and nearly quadruple the number in 2000, when accidental falls killed more Americans than opioid overdoses. (9/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Addiction Shouldn’t Excuse Criminal Acts
Julie Eldred admitted stealing jewelry last year to support her opioid habit. A condition of her probation was that she refrain from using drugs. When she tested positive for fentanyl 11 days later, the judge ordered her to prison until an inpatient treatment bed was available. Ms. Eldred, 29, now claims the order to remain drug-free was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, because her drug use was a symptom of her addiction. In other words, she couldn’t help herself. On Monday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear her case. A ruling in her favor could make it much harder to administer justice and get addicts the help they need. (Stephen J. Morse and Sally Satel, 10/1)

The Charlotte Observer: What’s Happening To My Children Is A North Carolina Tragedy
As a therapeutic foster parent for the past 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of being part of the lives of 19 children. Due to no fault of their own, these children have been abused, abandoned, left behind, and worst of all, unloved. Their young brains have had the crap beaten out of them. I’ve also had a front row seat to the mental health system in North Carolina. In the past year, we’ve had two children with severe trauma-related mental conditions, and we’ve fought like hell to get these kids help. In each case we’ve witnessed what can only be described as a tragic comedy. (Billy Maddalon, 10/1)

The Kansas City Star: How To Improve The Life Expectancy Of Kansas Citians
Health department research estimates that 40 percent of Kansas City’s deaths each year can be attributed to six social factors the health department has been monitoring, overlaying the data on ZIP code maps: high school graduation rates, racial segregation, low social support, individual poverty, income inequality and community poverty. If we want to see more Kansas Citians live well into their 80s, we shouldn’t focus only on the usual suspects, including chronic health issues like diabetes and heart disease. (10/1)

USA Today: As Cancer Closes In, Where Do I Draw The Line On Experimental Treatments?
My path to the Egress from my brain cancer may be a bit shorter than I’d hoped even a few weeks ago. But I figure I can still complain about the way some human research makes me feel like a rat in a cage. I’ve known a lot about the value of research in medicine. Even back when I was a college student, I knew more than a few people who used critters to test possibilities. I don’t have a moral objection to research on rats. But people as the target? I can still handle a “yikes.” (Jeffrey Weiss, 10/1)

Bloomberg: Extreme Early Detection Intrigues Cancer Researchers
There’s only so far you can go toward preventing cancer with a healthy lifestyle. Bone tumors in fossils show that people have been getting cancer since prehistoric times -- before smoking, before modern diets, even before the dawn of our species. And the race to cure cancer with drugs is up against another barrier: Many cancers can’t be diagnosed until they’ve had years to grow and spread through the body. (Faye Flam, 9/29)

Chicago Tribune: Rauner's Stunning Betrayal Of His Conservative Base
For more than 30 years, we had a pact in this state. Abortion would be legal and safe, but tax dollars would not fund it, except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life or health of the mother. That was the bright line imposed and respected since the state of Illinois adopted the framework of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, restricting federal funding of abortion. (Kristen McQueary, 9/29)

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