Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week’s selections include stories on skittish scientists, mental health professionals, eating better, how to improve the medical system and more.
When Scientists Become Allergic To Their Research
Bryan Fry’s heart was pounding as he stepped back from the snake enclosure and examined the bite marks on his hand. He had just been bitten by a death adder, one of Australia’s most venomous snakes. Its neurotoxin-laced bite could cause vomiting, paralysis and — as the name suggests — death. Fry, at the time a graduate student, had kept snakes for years. Oddly, the neurotoxins weren’t his biggest worry; the nearby hospital would have the antivenom he needed, and, although data is limited, people who receive treatment generally survive. Anaphylactic shock, on the other hand, might kill him within minutes. (Thomasy, 2/8)
Mental Health Professionals Are The Ones Taking Care Of Us: Who’s Taking Care Of Them?
When a world in pandemic shut down, the mental health professionals did not. They kept working, many more than ever, counseling patients on how to survive something they’d never seen before, something they feared themselves. They counseled while the virus ravaged their neighborhoods, with their children in the background, through months of racial unrest and a presidential election that was the most polarizing in many of our lifetimes. “This has without a doubt been the toughest year of my life, let alone my career,” said Michael Mandel, a licensed clinical professional counselor who works with adults and adolescents. (Dastagir, 2/11)
US News & World Report:
Social Robots, Toys Help Kids Battle Disease And Anxiety
Prompted by a competition that challenged students to design something to improve the lives of diabetics, [Aaron] Horowitz and his team created a diabetic bear for kids with Type 1 diabetes and won a prize for creativity. The same year, he was named a Dell Social Innovation Fellow, and in 2012 he co-founded Sproutel, a company that researches, designs and launches products to improve health. A year later, Jerry, the bear with diabetes, hit the market. Since then, the company has created a duck for kids with cancer and a purring creature that addresses anxiety. Sproutel also developed an immersive video chat device for lonely and isolated seniors, and this summer will launch a toy for children with sickle cell disease. (Kaplan, 2/8)
The New York Times:
Can Technology Help Us Eat Better?
A new crop of digital health companies is offering consumers an unusual way to transform the way they eat, with the promise of improving metabolic health, boosting energy levels and achieving a personalized road map to better health. Their pitch: Find the foods that are best for you by seeing how they impact your blood sugar levels. The companies, which include Levels, Nutrisense and January, provide their customers continuous glucose monitors — sleek, wearable devices that attach to your arm and measure your body’s glucose levels 24 hours a day, no skin pricks required. The devices transmit that data to your smartphone, allowing you to see in real time how your glucose levels are affected by your diet, sleep, exercise and stress levels. (O’Connor, 2/8)
The Washington Post:
Michelle Obama Launches A Netflix Cooking Show For Kids, Starring Puppets
Michelle Obama’s mission of encouraging kids to eat healthier is getting a global spin — and a few puppet allies. The former first lady is launching a kids’ cooking show on Netflix as part of the production deal between Netflix and the production company she founded with her husband, former president Barack Obama. In addition to executive producing “Waffles + Mochi,” which debuts March 16, she’ll play the proprietor of a “whimsical supermarket” that employs the titular puppets, who are best friends and aspiring chefs. (One is an adorably small orb formed like the Japanese rice cake and the other a creature whose ears are shaped like the griddled breakfast treat.) “I’m excited for families and children everywhere to join us on our adventures as we discover, cook, and eat delicious food from all over the world,” she wrote in a tweet on Tuesday. (Heil, 2/9)
The New York Times:
Pandemic Lessons In Improving The Medical System
If there is a silver lining to the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, it likely lies in the glaring inadequacies and inefficiencies it exposed that are inherent in traditional American medicine. At the same time, it suggests ways to improve medical practice that can ultimately give us more bang for our health care buck. The Biden administration currently faces overwhelming challenges to stifle Covid-related disease and deaths, responsibly regrow the economy and curb the environmental and dollar costs of climate change. But as the new president and his team strive to get a handle on these critical issues, they might also confront the myriad failings and needed improvements to health care exposed by the pandemic. We’ve paid too high a price for wasteful procedures and inconsistent medical care delivery in this country. And too many people paid with their lives as a result. (Brody, 2/8)
Tragedy, Loss And Hope: Overseeing New York Hospitals During A Pandemic
No matter who you are, it is a safe bet that this past year has been challenging and traumatic. Now imagine that you faced a pandemic while in charge of a New York City hospital that is one of the largest in the nation. Dr. Steven Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian, has helped steer a network of 10 hospital campuses through the biggest public health crisis in generations. (Taylor, 2/11)