Opinion writers weigh in on these health topics and others.
The Hill: The Surgeon General’s Deafening Silence On Gun Violence
Last week the head of the Association of American Medical Colleges called gun violence a “public health crisis” in America. To address it, Dr. David J. Skorton wrote, “[t]hose of us in the health care field have a central role to play.” His voice adds to the increasing chorus of leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Surgeons, demanding action on the issue. Yet there is one high-profile figure conspicuously absent from this growing symphony of doctors calling for change: The Surgeon General of the United States. (Lyndon Haviland, 9/26)
JAMA: High Unintended Pregnancy Rate Spurs Efforts To Ease Contraceptive Access
Although the US rate of unintended pregnancies has declined in the last few years, it’s still at 45%, with inconsistent use and lack of use of contraception the main causes. That’s why efforts are under way to make birth control pills—for years the most popular reversible contraceptive method—and other hormonal contraceptives more easily accessible in the United States. One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining oral contraceptives has been the need for a clinic or physician’s office visit and a prescription, requirements that would be eliminated if birth control pills were sold over the counter (OTC), as they are in most of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. (Rita Rubin, 9/25)
The New York Times: Trump’s E.P.A. Chooses Rodents Over People
This month, Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that the agency would significantly curtail its reliance on the use of mammals in toxicological studies conducted to determine whether environmental contaminants have an adverse impact on human health. Under this plan, the E.P.A. will reduce its requests for, and funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate them altogether by 2035, though some may still be approved on a case-by-case basis. The new policy is likely to have adverse impacts on public health. (Richard L. Revesz, 9/26)
Stat: Research On Concussions Can’t Say If Football Is Bad For The Brain
Awareness about concussions has never been greater among high school athletes and coaches, thanks to the spotlight shone on some former NFL players who’ve experienced problems later in life. But a downside to this heightened awareness is the fear it has sown among parents that their children who play sports like football, soccer, or hockey may end up the same way. (Munro Cullum, 9/27)
JAMA: Integrating Social Care Into The Delivery Of Health Care
It has long been known that social factors influence health. However, a recent upsurge of interest in addressing social needs within the context of health care delivery has emerged,1-3 driven in part by a recognition that achieving high-quality, high-value health care may require attention to nonmedical factors such as housing, food, and transportation. Addressing social determinants of health may be important for any person during periods of increased need (eg, after discharge from the hospital) and particularly important for addressing health disparities in communities with greater social need.A new report4 from a consensus committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides recommendations to guide practice and policy discussions in this area. (Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, 9/25)
The Wall Street Journal: Big Tobacco Needs An E-Cigarette Crackdown Too
Worries about vaping are starting to hit tobacco giants’ financial results. Tighter regulations are now in their best interest. Imperial Brands , which owns Rizla rolling paper and the Davidoff cigarette brand, on Thursday said revenue and profit for the year through September would be lower than expected. A “marked slowdown” in U.S. vaping sales is a key reason. Revenue from its portfolio of so-called next-generation products, which includes blu e-cigarettes, will increase by roughly 50% over the period, half the rate of earlier estimates. (Carol Ryan, 9/26)
Boston Globe: Two Cheers For Walmart
Could Walmart, that category-killing, land-grabbing, union-busting retail behemoth, be growing a social conscience? The corporate colossus declared last week that it will stop selling all e-cigarettes in its US stores, amid concerns of a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine products and an uncertain regulatory environment. This comes on the heels of Walmart’s decision earlier this month to stop selling ammunition that can be used in assault-style weapons, and to discourage its customers from openly carrying guns inside its stores, even in the 40 states where doing that is legal. Walmart is also engaged in an effort to reduce carbon emissions all along it supply chain by one gigaton (one billion tons) by 2030; it joined the “We Are Still In” commitment after the United States pulled out of the Paris climate accords; and last year it diverted 78 percent of its global waste from landfills and incinerators. (Renée Loth, 9/26)
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes In Ohio
Lawyers for Gov. Mike DeWine are researching whether he has the authority to ban flavored e-cigarettes in Ohio by executive action. If he doesn’t, then the General Assembly should give him that authority. A ban is needed. (9/27)
St. Louis Post Dispatch: Missouri Won’t Track Opioids Or Restrict Guns. Death Rates Surge Accordingly.
Missourians’ average life expectancy dropped by about one-tenth of a year in 2018, says a new state report. It sounds insignificant but for this detail: Virtually all that change comes from deaths among young people. For Missourians 15 to 44, life expectancy has dropped by an astounding 30% since 2012 — with the bulk of it attributable to opioid overdoses and firearms. In all, Missouri’s life-expectancy rate is fully 1½ years shorter than the national average.In the dry language of data, the report by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Bureau of Vital Records presents an alarming portrait of a state in which people die too young from drugs and gun violence run amok. (9/26)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.