A new study suggests that growing up poor affects brain development at an early age, and those brain changes can have huge effects on academic achievement. Researchers from Duke University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison tracked nearly 400 children and young adults in a longitudinal study over the course of six years, between 2001 and 2007. Every two years, the researchers met with the participants, whose socioeconomic backgrounds ranged from far below the poverty line to far above it.
The early days of the Obama administration were a chaos of uncertainty, between the historic housing bust, historic market crash, and historic armada of stimulus. But one thing was clear about the U.S. economy in 2008 going forward: Healthcare would keep on keeping on, in its insatiable way, adding more jobs, soaking up more tax dollars, and demanding a growing share of an American family's budget. In the worst recession in 80 years, it was the one industry that seemed truly recession-proof.
Here's some good news: the latest report from the CBO has reduced its estimate of the cost of Obamacare. This is due partly to a slight decrease in the number of people CBO expects to be covered, but mostly due a lower estimate of the cost of insurance premiums. Thanks to this, federal subsidies are estimated at $209 billion less over a ten-year period, and the cost of CHIP and Medicaid is estimated at $73 billion less. However, there are also reductions in expected revenues from Obamacare's excise tax, so the net reduction amounts to $142 billion over ten years. The table below tells the story. Sarah Kliff has more details here.
There are few political careers more varied than James Webb’s. He served in Ronald Reagan’s administration — first as assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs, and then as secretary of the Navy from 1984 to 1988. After leaving politics to write, he returned in 2006 as the Democratic Party’s great veteran hope: a war hero and ex-Reagan official who opposed the Iraq War and never seemed weak doing it. He upset an incumbent to take a Senate seat in Virginia, and then, six years later, at the outset of an election he likely would have won, he retired from the Senate. No reelection campaign. No talk of higher office. He just seemed finished with Washington. But in recent months, Webb has begun exploring a presidential campaign.
Do you like watching Internet videos and then drawing broad, sweeping, pseudoscientific conclusions about the people involved? If so, congratulations, you might be qualified to join the Pentagon’s secret team investigating the nonverbal cues of powerful world leaders. Yesterday, following Freedom of Information Act requests by a group of news organizations including Politico, the Pentagon released two studies, both published here in full for the first time, analyzing Vladimir Putin's inner demons—or at least those inner demons that you can observe from watching a ton of publicly available videos.
Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), asked Monday to comment on the ongoing measles outbreak, at first opted not to affirmatively recommend that parents vaccinate their children. Instead, the likely presidential candidate said parents should have "some measure of choice" in deciding whether their children are vaccinated, according to multiple reports.
Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward. For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state. “It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.” Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S.
You don’t generally think of Bill and Melinda Gates as pundits. But with their foundation pouring billions of dollars into global development, in effect the two are in the (highly data-driven) prediction business: placing bets on which investments will change the world the most. In their annual letter, released today, the two hazard some fairly specific guesses about the biggest changes in the world over the next 15 years, from cutting the number of childhood deaths in half and reducing deaths in childbirth by two-thirds to eradicating polio and a farming revolution to make Africa self-sufficient.
Fifteen children have died from complications of the flu so far this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted, as it officially declared the illness an epidemic. The number of states reporting a high amount of “influenza-like” illness activity has increased from 13 to 22 since last week’s report from the agency, with outbreaks in every region of the country.
Politically, Obamacare has had a terrible past few weeks. First there was inaccurate enrollment data (the administration wrongly included dental plans). Then there were Jon Gruber's comments on "the stupidity of American voters." And it was capped off with Sen. Chuck Schumer saying that passing the law was a mistake. That led to headlines like: "Dark days ahead for Obamacare," "The Obamacare controversy grows" and my own "Obamacare's terrible, horrible, no good very bad month."
Every day seems to turn up opportunities to abuse science in new and perverse ways, especially when it comes to health. You open a newspaper or news site, and you read about a health claim making the rounds: a diet that will give you the energy of a teenager, an exercise routine that will elongate your legs, a policy that will protect Americans from scary viruses. Many of these claims — even the ones that come from the lips of the most esteemed doctors and public officials — aren't backed by any good evidence. Some even run in the opposite direction of what the best-available evidence tells us.
The Senate has confirmed Vivek Murthy as United States Surgeon General, overcoming fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association that has blocked the doctor's nomination since February. Obama nominated Murthy, co-founder of the pro-Obamacare group Doctors for America, in November 2013. At 37, he will be the country's youngest surgeon general, and the first of Indian-American descent. The NRA, however, has long opposed Murthy's nomination.
On Friday, October 24th, during the busy lunch hour in the school cafeteria of Marysville-Pilchuck High School, in Marysville, Washington, Jaylen Fryberg opened fire on his classmates, killing one student and wounding four others, three of whom later died from their injuries. Then he killed himself. Just a week earlier, Fryberg had been crowned prince of the school’s homecoming court—he was a community volunteer, student athlete, and all-around “good kid.” But within hours of the shooting, that picture had changed. Quickly, media outlets analyzed his tweets, Facebook page, Instagram account, and his text and Facebook messages. He was “full of angst” and “anguished.” One media report concluded that “he just wasn’t in the right state of mind.
Surgeon Martin Salia, who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, died Monday in a Nebraska hospital, becoming the second person to die of the virus in the U.S. Meanwhile, an estimated 540,000 people have died of cancer so far this year, and another 100,000 from conditions related to obesity. But a Gallup poll released Monday found that Americans consider Ebola a more urgent health problem than either cancer or obesity. Respondents ranked only healthcare costs and healthcare access higher than Ebola.
Democracy isn't just good for political rights — it's good for public health. A recent paper, written by Princeton economist Thomas Fujiwara, found that, when Brazil made it easier for poor people to vote, the percentage of Brazilian babies born at low birth weight (a strong predictor of infant mortality) declined. In other words, expanding voting rights made babies healthier.
Writing for The Atlantic in 2011, CDC director Thomas Frieden weighed in on the release of Contagion, the modestly successful Matt Damon flick about the outbreak of a deadly and mysterious virus. After clarifying that the movie is not a documentary, Frieden comments: Contagion shows that fear is also contagious. To address concerns, it's crucial that government promptly communicates what we know, what we don't know, and what we're doing to find out.
In 1983, when the Department of Health and Human Services assembled the first task force to examine women’s health issues, the appointed experts made it clear that the defining challenges weren’t only related to differences between men and women but also to inequality between some women and others. One fact the panel noted in its final report was that Hispanic women died in childbirth three times as often as white women; black women died four times more frequently. “If a woman is a member of an ethnic or a cultural minority,” the report stated bluntly, “her health is at risk.” Thirty years later, that’s still the case. A new report from the Alliance for a Just Society found that women of color in the United States still face higher barriers to accessing care and leading healthy lives.
In early March of 2003, when SARS swept into Hong Kong from Southern China, the streets of one of the world’s most densely populated areas were practically deserted. Venders in kiosks sold face masks and hand sanitizer to anyone brave, or foolish, enough to leave home. The fear of a new highly contagious disease is understandable, and, with no effective treatment or vaccine for SARS, it was difficult to know what to do. The World Health Organization recommended that officials in the countries most affected warn people with a fever to stay off international flights. Hong Kong went further, using infrared scanners and thermometers to take the temperature of more than thirty-six million passengers as they arrived.
In 2010, the top five causes of death in the United States were 1) diseases of the heart, 2) cancer, 3) chronic lower respiratory diseases, 4) cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), and 5) unintentional injuries (1). The rates of death from each cause vary greatly across the 50 states and the District of Columbia (2). An understanding of state differences in death rates for the leading causes might help state health officials establish disease prevention goals, priorities, and strategies. States with lower death rates can be used as benchmarks for setting achievable goals and calculating the number of deaths that might be prevented in states with higher rates.
Thanks to the US Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare, states do not have to participate in one of its signature initiatives: The expansion of the Medicaid program to cover more individuals. And once the Supreme Court opened this door, there was a clear pattern to which states ran out of it: From Mississippi to Oklahoma, the states that didn't get on board tended to be more politically conservative. And so they in effect denied many of their residents, especially the working poor, access to affordable health coverage. Thanks to the US Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare, states do not have to participate in one of its signature initiatives: The expansion of the Medicaid program to cover more individuals.