Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed
Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week's selections include stories on mental health, covid, addiction, HIV, homelessness, menopause, coffee drinking and more.
Did George Floyd, Daniel Prude Change 911 Mental Health Call Response?
Nearly 8 in 10 voters support diverting 911 calls related to mental health and substance use to trained, non-police responders, according to a June survey by the Alliance for Safety and Justice. In turn, a growing numbers of localities are exploring mental health emergency response programs that do not involve police officers. At least three are now operating civilian programs dispatched through 911, and many more are drafting or piloting programs. However, while advocacy groups have praised the work as an important first step, some, including in New York City, have raised concerns around how pilot programs have been designed and the role still given to police in them. (Miller and Hauck, 4/5)
The Broken Front Line
In Los Angeles County, as in many parts of the U.S., for-profit companies operate the ambulance system. The contract for the north part of LA is held by American Medical Response, the largest ambulance company in the nation. Along with paramedics from the fire department, EMTs employed by American Medical Response handle all of the emergency medical calls in this “exclusive operating area,” a roughly 1,500-square-mile dominion that includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, a smattering of quarries and aerospace factories, and swaths of the Mojave desert. Spending as little as possible is crucial for all parties involved. The government, which pays for the majority of ambulance trips in many parts of the country, wants to save money. And AMR, of course, makes more if it keeps costs down. Diaz is particularly attuned to this dynamic: He represents around 350 AMR employees as president of an EMT union’s local. (Kofman, 4/7)
A City Wrestled Down An Addiction Crisis. Then Came COVID-19
Larrecsa Cox steered past the used tire shop, where a young man had collapsed a few days before, the syringe he’d used to shoot heroin still clenched in his fist. She wound toward his house in the hills outside of town. The man had been revived by paramedics, and Cox leads a team with a mission of finding every overdose survivor to save them from the next one. ... As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what was before it one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 88,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in August 2020 — the latest figures available. That is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year. (Galofaro, 4/8)
The New York Times:
The City Losing Its Children To H.I.V.
One day in February 2019, Nazeer Shah carried his 1-year-old daughter, Eman, into a medical clinic [in Ratodero, Pakistan]. The doctor there, Imran Arbani, was immediately alarmed: The girl was limp and lethargic, her head flopped over on her father’s shoulder. Her breathing was shallow and fast. She was asleep, hard to rouse, except when she woke to cough. She drooled from her mouth. Her tongue was covered with a thick white coating, which Arbani recognized as thrush, a condition that usually indicates a weakened immune system. At around 11 pounds, she was frighteningly underweight. (Ouyang, 4/2)
Forgotten Memories Of Traumatic Events Get Some Backing From Brain-Imaging Studies
When adults claim to have suddenly recalled painful events from their childhood, are those memories likely to be accurate? This question is the basis of the “memory wars” that have roiled psychology for decades. ... Warnings about the reliability of a forgotten traumatic event that is later recalled—known formally as a delayed memory—have been endorsed by leading mental health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The skepticism is based on a body of research showing that memory is unreliable and that simple manipulations in the lab can make people believe they had an experience that never happened. ... But clinicians who also do research have been publishing peer-reviewed studies of dissociative amnesia in leading journals for decades. A study published in February in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the flagship journal of the APA, highlights the considerable scientific evidence that bolsters the arguments of trauma therapists. (Kendall, 4/6)
Clowning Is Serious Business For Doctor To Homeless In Brazil's 'Crackland'
In his white doctor's jacket, psychiatrist Flavio Falcone could not get homeless drug addicts to talk.But costumed as a jester with a bright red nose, he has become an icon in Brazil's "cracolandia," or crackland: a dangerous wasteland of about eight blocks in the historic center of Sao Paulo where addicts twitch and pushers roam. Falcone's patients know him as The Clown, not as a doctor. He treats a growing number of Brazilians, driven onto the street by the COVID-19 pandemic which has devastated the country's economy. Early government support, a lifeline for many, has also wavered. (Perobelli, 4/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
Could You Go For A Month Without Coffee?
Ramadan was still more than a month away when Shabana Mir began her strict, step-by-step plan in mid-March to wean herself off coffee before the Muslim month of fasting begins.The Illinois-based professor of anthropology started by trading in her usual 16-ounce cup of regular coffee for half-decaf brews. From there she slowly cut back her daily coffee consumption, bit by bit. ... Caffeine withdrawal can be debilitating for some during the first few days of Ramadan, during which Muslims don’t eat or drink from dawn to dusk. That means no coffee when people most need it: in the morning to kick off the day, or for a mid-afternoon pick-up. So to prevent a phenomenon called “First of Ramadan Headaches,” Muslims like Ms. Mir undertake weeks of careful preparation. (Abdulrahim, 4/7)
The New York Times:
Why Modern Medicine Keeps Overlooking Menopause
Sometime around age 40, the changes begin. Maybe hair frizzes. Perhaps nails become brittle. The tummy might sprout an additional layer of fat. Periods may get shorter, or longer, or heavier, or lighter, or could become wildly unpredictable. ... There are at least 34 symptoms of perimenopause — a stretch of time that can last anywhere from a couple of months to 14 years, when the body transitions toward menopause. (Menopause — literally: the ceasing of menstruation — occurs when it has been one year since the last period.) ... But the medical industry hasn’t figured out how to provide proper care during or after this transition, or even which kind of doctor should do so, Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion says. (Davis, 4/6)
The Wall Street Journal:
Goaded By A Robot, Students Took Greater Risk Than They Otherwise Would
Can a robot encourage risk-taking behavior? A new study, titled “The Robot Made Me Do It,” suggests it may be possible. The researchers looked to see if a 3-foot, 9-inch robot named Pepper could influence students’ inclination to make risky decisions in a laboratory setting. Better understanding how people interact with robots, especially the influence the machines may exert in certain contexts, could be increasingly important as robots start to become more present in everyday life—including delivering packages, giving directions at airports and motivating rehabilitation patients during physical therapy. (Ward, 4/4)
The Washington Post:
Free Films Festival Tells Stories Of Global Health
Movies can improve your mood or expand your horizons. But can they help improve your health? At the World Health Organization’s “Health for All Film Festival,” the answer is yes. The virtual festival features health-themed shorts from around the world — and thanks to the Internet, you can dive in from your laptop or phone. The WHO commissioned short films in three categories for the 2021 festival: universal health coverage, health emergencies, and better health and well-being. Worldwide, nearly 1,200 filmmakers responded. More than 40 percent tackled the coronavirus pandemic, the agency says. But the films, all under eight minutes in length, cover all types of health-related topics. (Blakemore, 4/3)
Take It From Dr. Temple Grandin: 'Explore And Experiment'
For Dr. Temple Grandin, curiosity and exploring have always come naturally. “As a kid, my sister and I had rock collections where we would bust rocks apart to see what they look like inside,” Grandin told “Good Morning America.” ... Grandin recalls from an early age being frustrated with not being able to speak. Like many people with autism, she experienced delays with developing verbal communication skills. “I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk and it was absolutely terrible,” she said. (Linendoll and Singh, 4/5)