KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Weekend Reading: Humanizing Hospitals, Splurge Of Health Data and Huge Sodas

Every week reporter Ankita Rao selects interesting reading from around the Web.

The New York Times: Intensive Care
Our son was born healthy, large and pink-skinned, with a newborn assessment score of a perfect 10, but an hour after his birth, a nurse told us that something was wrong. He was jaundiced. It was not a typical case of jaundice; his bilirubin levels kept increasing at an alarming rate. I’d only seen him for a few moments -- he'd been delivered by C-section, then whisked away for the usual tests and procedures -- but now, as I was moved to a recovery room, the doctors couldn't tell me when I might see my baby again. ... At that point in my life, hospitals and I weren't on the best of terms. When I walked through their sliding doors, a version of the slogan from Roach Motel ads ran through my head: They check in, but they don't check out. More than 20 years ago, when I was still in my teens, my mother had been admitted to New York University Medical Center with stomach pains. Doctors initially thought she had an ulcer, and then they suspected hepatitis. They finally diagnosed it as melanoma that had metastasized to her liver. She died nine days later (Margo Rabb, 3/10).

The Atlantic: Human Connection And The Downside To Private Hospital Rooms
In a March 4 Atlantic article, Lindsay Abrams asks how much should be spent beautifying hospitals. She reviews evidence that making the hospital experience more appealing and comfortable can actually improve health outcomes. For example, natural lighting can ease pain and elevate mood. But the issue of how hospitals are designed goes far beyond creature comforts. Most notably, the move from shared to private hospital rooms has major implications for what the hospital experience means to patients. Given the choice, who wouldn't opt for a private room? But on closer analysis, the choice for many turns out not to be quite so clear (Richard Gunderman, 3/14).

Time: Will Collecting Data About Your Body Make You Healthier?
Not familiar with the "Quantified Self?" It's latest trend in obsessively tracking every possible health measure, in real time, that emerged as a major theme at South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival this year. With more body-tracking gadgets that can record everything from running blood pressure to respiration to perspiration rates and more, the next question is -- so what? ... There are a new generation of medical monitoring devices originally meant to evaluate patients in the hospital that have been made over into sexier, wearable versions for the health conscious or merely health-curious. The result? Sophisticated and personalized health monitoring that may be generating a lot of information that we are still learning to interpret (Alexandra Sifferlin, 3/14).

Mother Jones: Too Big To Chug: How Our Sodas Got So Huge
When McDonald's execs first struck up their lucrative business partnership with the Coca-Cola Company in 1955, they were thinking small -- literally. At the time, the only size of the beverage available for purchase was a measly 7-ounce cup. But by 1994, America's classic burger joint was offering a fountain drink size six times bigger. And that's not even the worst of it. Franchises like 7-Eleven, Arco, and the unfortunately named Midwestern chain Kum & Go have all offered drinks upwards of 85 ounces. (To put this in perspective, this is around three times the capacity of a normal human stomach.) Studies have shown that consumers have a hard time gauging sizes properly, so as fountain drinks continue to get bigger and bigger, it's less and less likely that we're able to make informed choices. But how did this problem get so big in the first place? Here's a look at how super sizes became the status quo (Azeen Ghorayshi, 3/14).

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