The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new report on e-cigarettes that summarizes the findings of 800 peer-reviewed studies. Evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are “far less harmful” than traditional cigarettes, and may, under certain circumstances, help adults scale down their use of traditional cigarettes. Strong evidence shows that vaping acts as a gateway for children and young adults to smoking traditional cigarettes.
Former sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison this week after being found guilty of sexual abusing over 150 girls and young women who went to him for medical treatment. His abuse spanned several decades and was reported by many girls and young women. ThinkProgress focused on the role that lack of information about women’s health has when it comes to identifying and responding to sexual abuse: "Aside from the fact that such basic improvements should be a priority in a field where “do no harm” is rule number one, when the standard of good care is already far from ideal, it impedes a child’s ability to distinguish between unpleasant but benign discomfort and actual abuse. Even a well-intentioned adult could find herself dismissing a teenager who thinks she was violated during her OB-GYN exam, especially if that girl reports by using the vague, uncertain language with which our culture has equipped her: ‘It felt wrong, it really hurt.’ She could use more specific language about her body and her experience, but she lives in a society that discourages such precision. Our elected officials have a history of treating the word “vagina” as profanity, its use deemed offensive even for a sex-ed teacher in the normal course of class. A recent study in the U.K. found that two-thirds of young women aged 18-24 were too embarrassed to even say the word “vagina” to their doctor, and one-fourth “avoided their doctor purely because they didn’t know what words to use” to describe their own bodies and health. The resulting environment is one in which silence is more comfortable than self-expression and abuse like Nassar’s can more easily flourish.”
The Children’s Health Insurance Program has been extended for another six years as part of a continuing resolution passed this week. This ends 114 days of uncertainty over the program’s funding. However, community health centers and other vital health programs that expired at the same time are still without funding. Community health centers, which provide a diverse range of healthcare services and are the primary provider for one in 12 Americans, stand to lose out on $3.6 billion in funding this year. Senior Vice President Dan Hawkins of the National Association of Community Health Centers said that, “while we have supported and are very pleased that CHIP relief is included, the failure to do the same for health centers leaves them increasingly anxious that many more will face a loss of clinical health professionals, who are seeking other more stable work options, and some are facing closure of their clinic facilities because they cannot sign longer-term lease agreements. This will only get worse if relief is not forthcoming very soon.”
An estimated 5.3 million Americans live in “absolute poverty” by global standards, according to research into needs-based absolute poverty conducted by an Oxford professor. In a wealthy country like the United States with a limited social safety net, absolute poverty means living on less than $4 per day. In a New York Times op-ed, Angus Deaton writes, “It is hard to imagine poverty that is worse than this, anywhere in the world. Indeed, it is precisely the cost and difficulty of housing that makes for so much misery for so many Americans, and it is precisely these costs that are missed in the World Bank’s global counts.”
This week marked 45 years since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion nationwide. Colorlines reported on the impact of immigration status on reproductive healthcare access: “One’s citizenship status can have an impact on their reproductive health decisions in a number of ways. For the four young undocumented women who’ve been detained over the last few month, known only by their pseudonyms Jane Moe, Jane Doe, Jane Roe and Jane Poe, being undocumented became a literal barrier to accessing the abortions they wanted. All are minors who were held in shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), and all were prevented from getting an abortion by ORR Director Scott Lloyd, who is publicly anti-abortion. These young women had to fight in court, with support of the ACLU, to be granted access to the legal abortions they wanted while in ORR custody.”
In Quartz, Kevin Hines writes about the experiences that led him to attempt to end his life by jumping off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge—and how that moment could have been avoided if just one person had stopped to ask if he was ok. “Had any one of the hundreds of passersby engaged with me, it would have given me permission to share my darkness, and potentially have showed me that I had the ability on that day to choose life,” he writes. Speaking out on behalf of The Movember Foundation’s “Unmute” suicide prevention campaign, Hines says that for too long, men have been conditioned to “man up” and silence their pain, when in fact they need and want to share their feelings. All it takes, he says, is for someone to ask, listen, encourage action, and check in.
As if on cue, the City of Austin, Texas has launched “Hi, How are You?” Day to promote community support, connection, and mental health, NPR reports.
Katharine Q. Seelye reveals the constant stress that weighs on families of people grappling with drug addiction. In the New York Times, she profiles the family of Patrick, a 34-year-old man who on one day overdoses four times in the space of six hours. He and his family live in New Hampshire, which leads the nation in the rate of deaths from the drug fentanyl. “It’s a merry-go-round, and he can’t get off,” [his mother] Sandy said of Patrick and his overdoses. “The first couple of times, I started thinking, ‘At least he’s not dead.’ I still think that. But he’s hurting. He’s sick. He needs to learn to live with the pain of being alive.” Patrick and his family struggle to wrest him from a cycle in which his addiction has led to drug sales and incarceration, which then result in difficulty finding a job, medical coverage, and providers to help him recover when he’s released. Patrick said he’s not looking for pity. “But I don’t want to lie to people about my past, either. I have a hard time asking for help. I always say, ‘I got this.’ But I never got this.”
An accompanying article looks at what has fueled the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire, the state with the highest median household income in the country. Among the potential contributors: access to an ample supply of drugs over the border in Massachusetts, limited investment in treatments for addiction, historically high rates of opioid prescriptions, and the state’s Live Free or Die ethos.
In a Health Affairs blog, Doctors from the Veterans Administration—noting that they are expressing their own opinions, not that of the VA—express concern that we have overcorrected in cutting back opioid prescriptions, leaving some patients experiencing unnecessary pain and despair that in some cases has contributed to deaths by suicide.
Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive and Bush administration staffer, was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services this week.
Taylor Weyeneth, a 24-year-old who rose to a senior position at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will be stepping down after a Washington Post investigation raised questions about his experience and qualifications, the Post reported.