KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Longer Looks: Mississippi Learns From Iran’s Health Care System

Every week, KHN reporter Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: The Short Life And Lonely Death Of Sabrina Seelig
Sabrina Seeling seemed too young to die. ... One night she stayed up all night translating a Latin text into English for a college paper. ... During the all-nighter, Ms. Seelig took Ephedra, a stimulant diet drug that had been banned by the Food and Drug Administration three years earlier, and had a few beers. ... When she felt sick, she called Poison Control for help, and spoke very clearly, a recording of the call shows. She arrived by ambulance at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, long regarded as one of the most troubled hospitals in the city, at 11:05 a.m. on May 30, 2007, conscious and alert but complaining of vomiting and dizziness. She was given a sedative that put her into a deep sleep, and her wrists were tied to the bed. None of her friends or relatives knew that she was there, and medical records show no measurements of her vital signs for hours that afternoon, suggesting that she was left unattended by the medical staff. By that evening she was brain damaged and on life support, with little hope of recovering (Anemona Hartocollis, 7/28).

The New York Times Magazine: What Can Mississippi Learn From Iran?
Dr. Aaron Shirley ... three years ago found inspiration for health care reform in an unlikely place: the primary health care system created in the 1980s in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main issue in Iran back then was "disparities in health between its urban and rural populations," he told me recently. "In the U.S., these disparities exist. The Iranian model eliminated the geographic disparities, so why couldn’t this same approach be used for racial and geographic disparities in the U.S.?" Shirley created HealthConnect in 2010 because — and, in part, to prove to others that — poor people in Mississippi still have health problems, even if they have Medicaid or health insurance, even if there are clinics in their communities, even if they get home health services. They don’t get better, and the diseases born of poverty and obesity are not prevented (Suzy Hansen, 7/27).

CNN: Dogs: A Medicine For Mental Health Problems?
His name is Valor. He's half Labrador retriever, half Great Dane, and goes everywhere with Sgt. Charles Hernandez. But Valor is more than a pet -- Hernandez considers the dog a personal physician. When Hernandez was having seizures, Valor would nibble on the side of Hernandez's leg before the veteran realized anything was wrong. And the dog pulls him away from conflicts and jumps on him during anxiety attacks to calm him down. In combination with medications, Hernandez says the dog has helped his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. ... A growing number of Americans are getting dogs for mental health needs, experts say. In the case of psychiatric service animals, such as Valor, they are trained specifically to help people with mental illnesses, in much the way seeing-eye dogs are taught to help to blind people (Elizabeth Landau, 8/1).

The Washington Post: 'The World’s Most Important Bake Sale:' One Patient's Plan To Pay For Chemotherapy
Arijit Guha is a 31-year-old who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. He is pursuing a doctoral degree in sustainability at Arizona State University. He recently got married. And, since February, he has sold tee-shirts to pay for his own chemotherapy. Guha has Stage 4 colon cancer, a diagnosis that comes with an 8.1 percent survival rate. While he does have health insurance, a student plan through Arizona State, it has a lifetime limit of $300,000 in medical expenses. Guha has spent all of that, largely on chemotherapy sessions that cost $11,000 each (Sarah Kliff, 7/29).

The Economist: Teenage Pregnancy: Setting Aside Childish Things
Between 1990 and 2008, according to a June 2012 report from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the teenage-pregnancy rate dropped by 40% nationally. ... It is now nationally at its lowest recorded level in more than 40 years. If the birth rate had stayed where it was in 1991, an additional 3.4m babies would have been born to teenagers between 1992 and 2010. The progress has been national and thorough. Nearly every state has seen a decline, as has every ethnic group. The drop has been particularly precipitous among black teenagers, although black and Latina teenagers continue to have a much higher pregnancy rate than Anglos and Asians. It is also that rare phenomenon, a public-health victory for which no one is claiming credit (7/28).

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