KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Weekend Reading: A Researcher’s Quest To Lower Suicide Rates

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

Newsweek: The Body-Data Craze
Today, I've been on the phone four times, for an average of 24 minutes a call. My last phone call was 22 minutes 23 seconds long, according to the digital time device on my landline. It took me exactly 45 minutes and 10 seconds on the train to reach Brooklyn the other night: I counted the seconds off on my smart phone. My average mile when I ran 5K yesterday was 8 minutes and 45 seconds that showed up on the pedometer. (Nothing to boast about, I know.)  ... I am able to hold my plank at the gym for 54 seconds rather than the minute I always thought I could, which I know thanks to my phone’s stopwatch. My optimal sleep time is seven hours and 20 minutes and I wake up twice a night: I discovered that from a wristband that measures sleep duration and intensity. ... Welcome to my biography, 2013-style. It includes more data points than it possibly could have 20 years ago. And it's part of a national obsession of a people who, literally, number our days. According to a recent nationwide survey for Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project, 7 out of 10 people self-track regularly – using everything from human memory to a memory stick – some aspect of health for themselves or for someone else (Alissa Quartz, 6/26).

Wired: Healthcare Is Broken. And This Designer Thinks She Can Fix It
Healthcare is notorious for being technophobic, clunky and downright ugly. No one knows this better than Gretchen Wustrack, who is trying desperately to change that. Wustrack, who leads the Active Health group at the design and innovation firm IDEO in San Francisco, has spent 12 years trying to give the healthcare sector a much needed facelift through design. Her approach is part of a growing movement called human-centered design, which aims to redefine how people experience healthcare by focusing on their specific needs (Daniela Hernandez, 6/24).

The New York Times: The Suicide Detective
For reasons that have eluded people forever, many of us seem bent on our own destruction. Recently more human beings have been dying by suicide annually than by murder and warfare combined. Despite the progress made by science, medicine and mental-health care in the 20th century — the sequencing of our genome, the advent of antidepressants, the reconsidering of asylums and lobotomies — nothing has been able to drive down the suicide rate in the general population. … That curiosity has made [Matthew K. Nock, the director of Harvard University’s Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research] 39, one of the most original and influential suicide researchers in the world. In 2011, he received a MacArthur genius award for inventing new ways to investigate the hidden workings of a behavior that seems as impossible to untangle, empirically, as love or dreams (Kim Tingley, 6/26).

The Atlantic: The LGBT Health Movement, 40 Years Since Homosexuality Was A Mental Illness
At the time of the 1973 declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness, people joked that never in history had so many "sick" people been cured so quickly. Forty years later, health researchers across the U.S. are still assessing the ongoing fallout of discrimination on LGBT health. ... While we are learning that most members of the LGBT community cope remarkably well, considering what many have lived through, there's also promise in several health movements that are developing evidence-based interventions to further optimize resilience (John-Manuel Andriote, 6/26).

The New York Times: American Way Of Birth, Costliest In The World
Seven months pregnant, at a time when most expectant couples are stockpiling diapers and choosing car seats, Renée Martin was struggling with bigger purchases.  At a prenatal class in March, she was told about epidural anesthesia and was given the option of using a birthing tub during labor. To each offer, she had one gnawing question: "How much is that going to cost?"… Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 6/30).

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