Viewpoints: Trump Undercuts His Commission’s Advice On Opioids; The Bieb, Mental Health And The Power Of Celebrity

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A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Washington Post: Trump Ignores His Own Commission’s Advice On Opioids
Credit President Trump with appropriate timing. On the day that updated government statistics confirmed that deaths from opioid overdoses continued to set records in 2016, he convened a meeting on the issue at his New Jersey vacation spot. Whatever welcome sense of urgency might have been demonstrated by that decision, though, was quickly undercut by what the president said during the public portion of the gathering. (8/9)

Stat: Thank You, Justin Bieber. Your Honesty About Mental Health Helps All Of Us
This “celebrity effect” may be especially true for adolescents, who may be more influenced by these media figures. Bieber’s announcement made me think of a teen in Northern Canada I had interviewed for a story on youth mental health. When I asked about who inspired her, she quickly named Kendall Jenner, a social media celebrity and supermodel a few years older than her. Describing the things they had in common, like their height and hair color, the teen also mentioned their shared mental health challenges. “Another thing I have in common with Kendall is that she talks about her anxiety, and I have anxiety too.” Perhaps Jenner’s openness about her anxiety made it less shameful for others to talk about. (Amitha Kalaichandran, 8/9)

JAMA: Health And Spirituality
For centuries, physicians and other healers have witnessed how illness focuses attention on “ultimate meaning, purpose, and transcendence, and … relationship to self, family, others, community, society, nature, and the significant or sacred.”1 Patients often discover strength and solace in their spirituality, both informally through deeper connections with family and friends, and formally through religious communities and practices. However, modern day clinicians regularly overlook dimensions of spirituality when considering the health of others—or even themselves. (Tyler J. VanderWeele, Tracy A. Balboni and Howard K. Koh, 8/8)

Stat: When There Aren’t Enough Surgeons, Other Health Care Workers Can Fill In
In districts where there are no surgeons, we are investing in nonspecialist surgical care providers — health care workers like nurses, clinical officers, general practitioners, and midwives who are already on the job. They aren’t surgeons but can be trained to work as teams to perform certain emergency procedures in their community facilities. This would relieve the burden from the limited number of surgeons who work primarily in larger urban hospitals. The thinking is that teams in the trenches are well positioned to identify medical problems that require surgery and take the lead on delivering uniquely creative solutions. (Tigistu Adamu Ashengo, 8/9)

JAMA: Prisoner Of My Preconceptions
It was an unusually tranquil day in our medical intensive care unit (MICU). Ventilator alarms were not blaring, intravenous drips were not urgently beeping, and vital sign monitors were not alerting us to any unstable patients. Certainly this calm could not last for long—and it didn’t. I soon overheard our charge nurse mention that a prisoner from a regional correctional facility was in the emergency department (ED) with “really bad sepsis.” “Ugh,” I muttered in quiet annoyance. In my experience, these patients never fared well. Moreover, my cynical side suspected that more wasteful use of limited health care resources was on the horizon. Perhaps I would have felt differently if the patient were not a prisoner; I have no doubt a large part of my reaction was that part of me assumed that anyone who winds up in prison probably is a “bad person.” (Jason Chertoff, 8/8)

The Kansas City Star: In Kansas And Missouri, Sometimes Government Actually Does Good Stuff
One of the problems with the cut-taxes-first approach to governing in Kansas and Missouri is that sometimes basic, block-and-tackle functions of government get slashed in the process and left by the side of the road. Case in point: the lack of inspectors in Kansas to certify new kidney dialysis centers, which The Star reported on last week. The result is a state with eight nearly new dialysis clinics that can’t be heavily used because Kansas is so far behind on inspections. Ask Martha Voss of Olathe, who’s legally blind and uses a motorized wheelchair, what that means. She’ll tell you that it translates to multiple trips to a center in Lenexa each week instead of the new dialysis center in her neighborhood. The ridiculous inconvenience costs her 1 1/2 hours per trip. (8./9)

Chicago Tribune: Madam President, Abolish The Soda Tax
Cook County’s soda tax turned one week old on Wednesday. Happy birthday! Not exactly. County officials knew the penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages was unpopular, but we suspect they underestimated the public wrath it would provoke once shoppers saw how much it added to the cost of their daily purchases. (8/9)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.