Posts tagged with "public health"

Digital Divide illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Digitally Disconnected

DIGITALLY DISCONNECTED

13 TIPS FOR HELPING BRIDGE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE FOR CHILDREN DURING COVID-19

While social, racial, and economic disparities have always existed within the educational system, the COVID-19 pandemic is exasperating these inequities and widening gaps between students at a drastic rate. For families who can’t afford home computers, laptops, or high-speed internet access, remote learning is nearly impossible, and for students who already found themselves struggling before the pandemic, the prospect of more than a year of lost classroom time is a devastating blow. However, there are steps parents can take to shrink this digital divide, and there are resources available via schools, non-profits, and government initiatives that can help children access the technological tools they need to succeed. Indeed, Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder of Children and Screens, notes that “the inclusion of 17.2 billion dollars for closing the ‘homework gap’ in the recently passed American Rescue Plan is a watershed moment for digital equity.”   
 
Several of the leading figures in the fields of public health, education, psychology, and parenting have weighed in with their suggestions on the best ways to combat the digital divide, and many will participate in an interdisciplinary conversation and Q&A hosted by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development on Wednesday, March 24, at 12pm ET via Zoom. Moderated by the Director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center Lee Rainie, the panel will engage in an in-depth discussion about the digital divide and actionable steps we can all take to bridge the gap. RSVP here.
 
1. DON’T WAIT, ADVOCATE 

While schools across the country are doing everything they can to make sure that children have access to the technology and connectivity they need for remote learning, the unfortunate reality is that many families still lack adequate resources. If your family is among them, says author and MIT Assistant Professor of Digital Media Justin Reich, know that you’re not alone and that there are steps you can take to advocate for what your children need. “Start with your school staff,” Reich recommends. “They’re often overwhelmed during this challenging time but be polite and persistent. If you run into a dead-end with your school system, consider reaching out to school libraries and youth organizations like The Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA to see what kind of support they might be able to offer.”
 
2. SCALE DOWN 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Professor Dr. Wayne Journell agrees, pointing out that sometimes, despite their best efforts, teachers and administrators may not always know which students are struggling with connectivity issues. “Let teachers know if you have slow internet at home,” says Journell. “Sometimes detailed graphics and animations that look cute but have little relevance to the actual lessons being delivered can cause problems for students with unreliable internet. If teachers are aware, then they can scale down the ‘frilly’ stuff and still get the important content across.”
 
3. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF  

While it’s important for parents to speak up on behalf of their children, RAND Senior Policy Researcher Julia Kaufman, Ph.D., highlights the importance of encouraging children to express their needs, as well. “If your child does not have access to technology at home and is falling behind, make sure your child’s teacher knows the obstacles they’re facing and ask what accommodations will make it easier for your child to do assignments offline,” says Rand. “At the same time, help your child feel comfortable expressing any technology concerns or confusion to their teachers, including cases where they have the technology but cannot use it well.”
 
4. CHECK YOUR ASSUMPTIONS 

One critical step that educators and policymakers can take in addressing the digital divide is to check their assumptions. They cannot – and should not – assume that students do or do not have access based solely on demographics such as family income level. “In addition, they cannot assume that providing access alone creates equity,” adds Dr. Beth Holland, a Partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) and Digital Equity Advisor to the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN). “This is a complex and nuanced challenge that needs both a technical and a human solution to ensure that students not only have access to sufficient high-speed internet and devices but also accessible systems and structures to support their learning.”

5. SURVEY AND MODIFY  

For teachers who are on the ground and in the classroom, checking your assumptions can be as simple as asking a few basic questions at the start of the term. “Survey students to determine the percentage of your population that doesn’t have home Internet access,” recommends former AAP President Dr. Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Once you know the divide, you can address it,” adding, “When planning 1:1 projects and choosing devices, for example, you can consider a device’s capacity for offline use. For those without Wi-Fi, a public library in the child’s neighborhood can also be an excellent resource.”

6. VOTE FOR CHANGE 

That parents and teachers need to worry about the digital divide at all is a failure on the part of our elected leaders, says Bates College Associate Professor of Education Mara Casey Tieken. “Contact your elected officials—local, state, and federal—and complain,” she suggests. “Write letters, call their offices, attend their legislative sessions, and make your voice heard. Join with other families whose children are impacted by this divide to amplify your message and use your vote to support lawmakers who understand the impacts of this divide, have a clear plan to address it and are willing to take action.”
 
7. MAKE BROADBAND A UTILITY  

Reich agrees, reminding those families who already have their needs met that they share in the responsibility to advocate for the less fortunate. “It’s our job as citizens to demand that we as a society give families and children the tools and resources that they need for remote learning now and in the future,” says Reich. “We need to advocate for a society where broadband is treated as a utility rather than a luxury good, and young people enrolled in schools and educational programs have access to computers for learning.”

8. CONCRETE INITIATIVES  

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, advocates four concrete initiatives. “Establish a permanent broadband benefit, increase access to affordable computers, digital literacy and technical support, improve broadband mapping (including residential cost data), and support local and state digital inclusion planning.” By implementing these changes, Siefer says, policymakers can start to mitigate the digital divide. 

9. USE TECH FOR GOOD 

There are many reasons to consider equitable solutions along a “digital continuum” rather than the “digital divide;” a binary description leaves less room for nuanced and customized interventions. It may be imperative to fortify existing institutions, implement new governance structures and promulgate policies to confront disparities regarding working families. Antwuan Wallace, Managing Director at National Innovation Service, suggests that legislators consider a Safety and Thriving framework to increase family efficacy to support children with protective factors against the “homework gap” by utilizing technology to train critical skills for executive functioning, including planning, working memory, and prioritization. 
 
10. LEVEL THE FIELD 

Emma Garcia of the Economic Policy Institute emphasizes that guided technology education will be of great value after the pandemic. She says, “it will need be instituted as part of a very broad agenda that uses well-designed diagnostic tests to know where children are and what they need (in terms of knowledge, socioemotional development, and wellbeing), ensures the right number of highly credentialed professionals to teach and support students, and offers an array of targeted investments that will address the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on children’s learning and development, especially for those who were most hit by the pandemic.”
 
11. APPLY FOR LIFELINE 

Research also shows that the digital divide disproportionately affects Latino, Black, and Native American students, with the expensive price of internet access serving as one of the main obstacles to families in these communities. “Eligible parents can apply for the Lifeline Program, which is a federal program that can reduce their monthly phone and internet cost,” suggests Greenlining Institute fellow Gissela Moya. “Parents can also ask their child’s school to support them by providing hotspots and computer devices to ensure their child has the tools they need to succeed.”
 
12. GET INVOLVED 

Learning remotely can be difficult for kids, even if they have access to all the technological tools they need. Research shows that parental encouragement is also an important aspect of learning for children, notes London School of Economics professor and author Sonia Livingstone. “Perhaps sit with them, and gently explain what’s required or work it out together.” She adds that working together is a great way that parents with fewer economic or digital resources can support their children. “And if you don’t know much about computers, your child can probably teach you something too!”
 
13. NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL 

When it comes to encouraging your children, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. “Reflect on the more nuanced ways your children learn and leverage accessible resources (digital and non-digital) to inspire their continued curiosity,” says University of Redlands Assistant Professor Nicol Howard. Leaning into your child’s strengths and interests will help them make the most of this challenging time.
 
While the move to remote learning may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for families that can’t afford reliable internet or dedicated devices for their kids, there are a variety of ways that parents can help connect their children with the tools they need. For those privileged enough to already have access to the necessary physical resources, it’s important to remember that emotional support is also an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to children’s educational success, especially during days as challenging as these. Lastly, it falls on all of us to use our time, energy, and voices to work towards a more just world where the educational playing field is level and all children have the same opportunity to thrive and succeed, regardless of their social, racial, or financial background.
 
About Children and Screens
Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness. For more information, visit Children and Screens website or contact by email here.
 
The views and opinions that are expressed in this article belong to the experts to whom they are attributed, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, or its staff. 

Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development image for use by 360 Magazine

Ten Takeaways About Parental Controls

Keeping children safe while still giving them room to grow and develop can feel like a delicate tightrope walk for parents, especially during the pandemic. Parents often wonder when to introduce screens and devices into their children’s lives, what kind of restrictions to enforce, how closely to monitor their kids’ behavior, and how to respect privacy while still looking out for their children’s social, mental, cognitive and physical wellbeing.

To help parents navigate these thorny issues, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development has compiled nine key takeaways from its recent article on parental controls, monitoring apps, and media plans, provided by leaders in the fields of public health, education, psychology, and parenting, which featured several prominent experts in the field. Read on below, and be sure to watch the experts discussing this important topic at the Ask the Experts webinar, “All in the Family: A Conversation about Media Rules, Parental Controls, and Family Media Plans,” which covered the latest evidence-based advice about these topics, and provided practical tips on how to structure and supervise digital media use for years to come. Watch here!

1. WALK THE WALK

Your children are imitating the behavior you model, so start by setting a good example. If you often speak with your children while looking down at your phone, they will do the same. If you are on your tablet first thing in the morning and at the dinner table, they will want to do the same. Establish your household rules, and stick to them yourself.

2. MAKE A PLAN

Take time to speak with your co-parent(s) and establish what matters to you with regard to how your children spend their time at different ages, what their needs are and what they are seeing and doing when they are on a screen. It’s critical for you to consider the whole child, including their social-emotional and physical well-being, and to integrate tech into the larger picture of family life and values. Take a look at existing family media agreements, such as the one posted on the AAP website, and cut and paste what will work for your family and your expectations. Then, pick a moment when everyone is fed, rested, calm, and cooperative to begin a conversation about digital media use.

3. REMOTE THE CONTROL 
Appropriate control of your kids’ devices and the content your kids see will be determined by the age and maturity level of your children, as well as your own values and parenting style. Children benefit from having firm rules around screen time, as well as from seeing healthy attitudes and behaviors regarding screen use modeled by the adults in their lives. If you have younger children or children who are just acquiring a device, you should monitor their use more heavily in order to help them navigate options and make good choices. As your children get older, re-evaluate your strategies and adapt to your unique family needs and circumstances.

4. TALK IT OUT

Depending on their ages, involve your children in the parental control set-up and rule-setting, which models the open and honest conversation and behaviors that you expect from your children. In addition, take the time to speak with your whole family about whether parental control or monitoring apps are right for you, and keep the conversation going throughout use so that you can make adjustments as appropriate. Ongoing discussions aimed at supporting children’s development of self-regulation skills should focus on positive features of the digital world, including learning prosocial digital skills. Encourage your children to share their concerns with or objections to parental controls, and try to address them head on.

5. FIND THE RIGHT TIME

How early is too early? The first three-to-five years of life is a sensitive time for the wiring of children’s brains, so it’s best to delay exposure to screen time as long as possible, and then to select slow, developmentally appropriate shows with minimal screen transitions to avoid overstimulation. In middle childhood, be mindful of your children’s growing brain and your family values, keeping a close eye on the content your children watch and the games they play. Most social media platforms require a minimum age of 13, and experts agree that children under this age should not have their own online accounts.

Most experts agree that teens aged 12-15 are the most vulnerable group for cyber safety risks, so it can be helpful to give children their first personal device at around eleven, so that you can set rules around screen use when your children are more receptive and willing to comply with them. Remember that your job as a parent is to prepare them to be self-regulated, responsible adults; at some point during their teenage years, the time will come for you to loosen your restrictions. The key is to keep the conversation open and consider your teens’ requests for autonomy and agency with an open mind, reminding them what you need to feel comfortable and what they need to do to keep themselves safe.

6. SCREENS AREN’T THE NEW TIME OUT

Experts recommend against using screen time as a punishment or reward, since it can increase your children’s attraction to digital media, and decrease their attraction to other required activities like chores and homework, as well as other fun activities such as reading, sports, or music. In fact, research shows that when families use screen time as a reward for good behavior, children end up engaged in more screen time overall. Sticking to pre-determined boundaries around screen usage, regardless of good or poor behavior, will help children accept your guidelines.

7. UP AND APP’EM

If you decide to choose a monitoring app for your family, there are four key areas to consider: control, coverage, simplicity and value. A helpful app will allow you to specify limits for particular activities and manage devices and apps that don’t require internet data, as well as provide wide coverage, addressing the multi-device and multi-platform reality of family life. It should be simple, providing parents with easy ways to solve complex problems, without long manuals or hours of set-up. Finally, it should provide value, freeing up your time and reducing the amount of arguing about tech.

8. KNOW THE PITFALLS

It’s important to consider the risks of using monitoring apps, including how the data obtained by the control application is being used and stored. Additionally, parental control apps may slow the development of self-regulation skills in children or sidestep the impulse to have open conversations about the positives and negatives of technology, if you rely on technology to control problematic screen usage. In addition, you may wonder whether it is okay to track your children’s locations. If your children feel they are being tracked because you don’t trust them to make good decisions, using GPS tracking technologies will only create more tension in your relationship. If your kids know they are being tracked and feel safer because of it, it can be a helpful and supportive tool. As your children get older and want to find their own independence, it’s vital to be honest and open with them; tell them whether you’re tracking their movements or not, and explain the reasons why. For all of these apps, ask yourself if the reason you feel the need to use parental control apps in the first place is that, deep down, you know your children aren’t actually ready for the device or technology they’re using.

9. SIGN THE CONTRACT

Once you have considered all of the options and taken the time to speak with your co-parent(s) and children, it’s time to make a media plan and/or contract. Both lay out expectations about when, where, and for how long devices can be used, as well as the kind of content that can be consumed. Even though they are designed for children, they are equally helpful for parents, encouraging you to think about ideal situations for your family. Creating a contract allows you the opportunity to address topics you may otherwise not talk about until after there’s already an issue, while allowing your kids to see and understand where your boundaries are.

10. HIT “RESET”

If you are struggling to reach an agreement and convince your children to find a screen-life balance, you are not alone! When it comes to reevaluating your screen time rules and hitting a “reset button,” consider taking a digital detox for twenty-four hours each week, adjusting the whole house rules to include no media use after 10:00pm, putting your phones to bed in a common space, laying the phone down to “take a nap” while you go out for a bike ride, downloading mindfulness apps that remind kids to “stop the scroll”.  No matter your circumstance or how long you’ve had a media plan in place, take time to reconnect and reevaluate frequently and ditch the rules that aren’t working for you and try something new.  You can always keep your children busy the old fashioned way: encourage other activities such as bike riding, a building project, a safe summer camp, a walk, reading a book together, baking a cake – the possibilities are endless!

The Institute wishes to thank the experts who contributed their insights and expertise to “All in the Family: How Parental Controls, Monitoring Apps, and Media Plans can Support Health Digital Media Use,” from which these key takeaways were extracted.

About Children and Screens

Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness. For more information, see their website.

Healthcare Equity article illustrated by Rita Azar for 360 MAGAZINE

The Importance of Education for Advancing Healthcare Equity

By: Maria Hernandez, Ph.D.

If you’ve been tracking the nation’s progress in the fight against Covid-19, physicians and public health officials of color have been highlighting the need for health equity in the national dialogue. As the data on mortality rates becomes clearer, there is no mistake that the pandemic is impacting African American and Latino communities to a much greater extent. Current mortality rates for Blacks and Latinos is almost 2.8 times that of whites suggesting significant health inequities exist. The discussion about why these inequities are taking place has been less clear and even less clear is how to address this reality.

The key may be in educating healthcare providers about the root cause of these inequities and empowering patients that access healthcare systems.

Health inequities are the differences in health outcomes due to unfair conditions or factors that different populations may face. These factors can include access to quality care, inadequate housing, lack of access to quality food, poverty and systemic racism. Public health researchers and healthcare providers have known about health inequities in the US for over 40 years and the research about what to do point to a confluence of factors that center on economic, educational and social change. Even before the pandemic, Native American and Black women are 2.5 times more likely to die in childbirth than Whites. Women are under diagnosed for heart disease.

Research points to the presence of unconscious and systemic bias as well as a lack of culturally competent care.

https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/tracking-the-covid-19-recessions-effects-on-food-housing-andThe pandemic exacerbated the impact of these factors in profound ways. If we look at the fact that essential front line workers–cashiers, bus drivers, food service providers, healthcare workers, postal carriers, warehouse workers, receptionists–have high concentrations of Black and Latino workers, it becomes much easier to understand why so many victims of Covid-19 are from these communities. And if we also explore the role poverty plays in the pandemic, we know that crowded housing conditions where social distancing is not possible has been a factor. The reality is that low income, hourly workers are not able to do their jobs remotely using telecommuting or video conferencing. Many of these workers also experience a harder time finding personal protective equipment that can be a burden for tight household budgets.

The pandemic has set the stage for profound changes in healthcare and its about time.

Two important responses that have emerged in the nation’s healthcare systems is an awareness that physicians, nurses and other caretakers must accept that–like all other human beings–they suffer from unconscious biases. It’s those snap judgements about a person’s race, ethnicity, age, ability, and socioeconomic status that enter into each encounter which can influence the recommended course of care. Those biases can be positive or negative but we all make those associations. The pandemic has accelerated the

extent to which hospitals are seeking training for front line staff and providers in order to reduce the likelihood of these biases and provide more culturally competent care.

These programs include an awareness of how bias impacts the experiences of patients and what may be important factors to consider in working with different populations. Culturally competent care encourages staff to look at how the patient may be experiencing their illness and what their own understanding of how to improve their health. It means taking into account the patients cultural of reference and listening to their unique needs.

Another response is the effort hospitals are making to partner with community clinics, faith based organizations and community organizations to win the trust of patients. This was present before the pandemic, but it has taken on a new sense of urgency as vaccine adoption rates have faltered in Black and Brown communities. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, not for profit hospitals which are the majority of facilities in the US have been asked to report what community benefits they provide to address known community needs.

Despite all of these approaches for improved healthcare services for diverse patients, it will take years before all health systems are aligned on their approach to advance health equity.

The most vulnerable patients need quality care now.

A visit to the doctor—even on-line—may require some key steps to ensure the best care is made available. Three steps that can make a big difference for patient visits. First, bring an advocate with you–a family member or friend who will join you in your visit and support your being heard or to help you ask the right questions. You’ll have to give them permission to be with you given privacy rules in healthcare but it’s worth it. Having a trusted advocate can be a big relief if there’s a lot of options to explore or if there’s different treatment steps involved. There’s a growing field of professional Patient Advocates — sometimes called Patient Navigators that help individuals with navigating treatment options, getting insurance payments, and arranging for home health care if needed. Your health may rely on having someone who understands the complexity of healthcare systems to support you.

Next, review the information your physician provides about the condition or illness and the medicines you may be asked to take. Ask your doctor what information you most need to understand for your treatment or what to do to support your health. Most physicians will provide information on a condition or point you to a reputable website for more information like the Mayo Clinic Review what your physician provides to be informed about the options and treatments presented.

Last, communicate with your care team throughout the course of your treatment or care. If you are struggling with side effects in your treatment or symptoms worsen, call your doctor or the nurse practitioner assigned to your care. Take an active role–with your advocate–to look at options for continued treatment. Poor communication with your physician can put you at greater risk for poor health outcomes. During these challenging days, preparing for each time you visit your physician can set the stage for you to receive the very best care available

About the author -Maria Hernandez, Ph.D., President and COO of Impact4Health is a thought leader in health equity and pay for success initiatives designed to address the upstream social determinants of health among vulnerable populations.  Maria currently leads the Alameda County Pay for Success Asthma Initiative which is testing the feasibility of reducing asthma-related emergencies using health education and proven home-based environmental interventions for children.  

Opioid Crisis Takes a Turn with Death of Founder

By: Elle Grant

The opioid epidemic is one of the great public health crises facing the United States today. Over the past two decades, the crisis has ebbed and flowed in different moments, but overall deaths, especially amongst younger people, have increased at an alarming rate. One of the most distinct drugs at the root of the problem is OxyContin from the company Purdue Pharma, a substance now known to be distinctly addictive and dangerous.

OxyContin, also known on the street as killers, OC, Oxy, poor man’s heroin or Oxycotton, is dangerous particularly due to its most active ingredient; “a 12-hour, time-released form of oxycodone, a synthetic form of morphine that is found in common painkillers like Percodan and Percocet.” Alarmingly, OxyContin can have as much as ten times the amount of oxycodone as an average Percodan or Percocet. Approved by the FDA in 1995, the National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts the “chronic use of drugs such as OxyContin can lead to physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped, including insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. Large doses can cause severe, potentially fatal, respiratory depression.” Intended to be taken orally, many patients and addicts chose to inject or snort the pills (after being modified) to quicken and heighten the effects. Oxycodone is intensely addictive, requiring more frequent and stronger doses as the body becomes dependent.

Efforts were being made to hold OxyContin owners and Purdue Pharma executives accountable for their actions. Thousands of lawsuits had been filed against the Sackler family, one of America’s wealthiest with an estimated combined net worth of about $13 billion. One of the main pillars of the family was Jonathan Sackler, son of one of the three Sackler brothers that transformed the small drug company Purdue Frederick into a hugely profitable pharmaceutical firm. Sackler passed away on the June 30 due to cancer, complicating many of the lawsuits as he was often named a defendant. Other members of his family have been named other defendants, depending on the case.

The famed OxyContin pill launched in the mid-1990s and was continually and thoroughly promoted by the Connecticut based family. The members of the family are charged with the accusation that “eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the US opioid epidemic” due to an unethical, irresponsible, and often illegal scheme. Furthermore, “the actions of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma included sharing studies that they knew were misleading, claiming that this was an effective, long-term treatment that didn’t give rise to risks of addiction,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told reporters at a news conference last year. “Those claims were verifiably false and ignored expert warnings. And they even undermined studies suggesting that there were addictive effects.”

Purdue as a company as well as the Sackler family deny any wrongdoing. Currently, Purdue seeks bankruptcy protection in order to counteract nearly 3,000 lawsuits that attribute blame to Purdue for beginning the opioid crisis. A Department of Justice criminal investigation is ongoing, relating to this process.

The opioid crisis, an epidemic that has spanned from 1999 to the present, has killed almost 500,000 individuals, potentially more. This count includes those that have died from an overdose involving an opioid, including both prescription and illicit opioids. Said epidemic can be characterized in three waves. The first beginning with the rise of prescribed opioids in the 1990s, including “natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone.” The second wave is marked by an increase of overdose deaths specifically related to heroin. The third commenced in 2013, with alarmingly stark increases in overdose deaths due to synthetic opioids, especially those “involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl” Unfortunately, “the market for illicitly manufactured fentanyl continues to change and it can be found in combination with heroin, counterfeit pills, and cocaine.”

Many Americans are unaware of the impact of the opioid crisis, or the fact that it is becoming increasingly, not decreasingly relevant to society. Yet, there are signs of positive change. Overall opioid-involved death rates decreased by 2% from 2017 to 2018, with sharper drops in prescription and heroin-involved deaths. Yet the increase in synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by 10%, proving more work must be done to protect Americans. Currently, the Center for Disease Control combats this epidemic by monitoring trends, advancing research, equipping states with resources, supporting providers, partnering with public safety officials, and increasing public awareness.

Apart from crooked doctors, big pharmaceuticals, especially Jonathan Sackler, the Sackler family, and Purdue Pharma have received a majority of the blame for the epidemic. Jonathan Sackler’s death marks the death of who many see as a villain, but before justice was served in the American court system.

The opioid crisis, two decades in, has captivated the American imagination through film and media, as many crises often due. Netflix in particular has made efforts to document the crisis, including with the true crime series The Pharmacist and the limited series The Business of Drugs. Coming to Netflix next month is the long-awaited Hillbilly Elegy, starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams, both nominated for six Academy Awards each. The film lends a careful eye towards Appalachia, an area ravaged by the opioid epidemic, and features Adams in the role of a struggling addict. The film has already generated major Oscar buzz and will certainly bring further attention to a crucial issue.

Addiction is an incredibly difficult disease to combat. If you or a love one is struggling, please consider contacting the national hotline.

banging gavel illustration

Georgia Governor Sues Atlanta Mayor

By Eamonn Burke

Amidst a large spike in Covid-19 cases across the United States, the governor of Georgia has sued the mayor of Atlanta, a hotspot for the virus. The lawsuit, filed yesterday, is filed against the mayor for mandating strict health measures, meaning masks. Governor Brian Kemp (R) claims that the mayor’s “disastrous policies threaten the lives and livelihood of our citizens.” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), accepted the decision, saying “We’ll see him in court.” She also suggested that the governor had crossed a line with this challenge.

This comes as Georgia’s cases and deaths are rising, reaching numbers that the state has not yet seen since the pandemic began. It is evidence of a growing political polarization surrounding masks and other Covid-related health measures. Governor Kemp claims legal authority to set state-wide measures, while Mayor Bottoms defends her actions as following the course recommended by health experts.

The two also disagree on re-opening measures, as Kemp opened Georgia before any other state, when even President Trump thought it was “too soon.” Mayor Bottoms, however, is pushing for Georgia to return to phase one of re-opening. Kemp dismissed it as a “recommendation”, and extended his own executive order to overrule any local mandates for masks.

“While we all agree that wearing a mask is effective, I’m confident that Georgians don’t need a mandate to do the right thing,” the governor said at a news conference yesterday.

politics, business, red, tie, blue

Politics Hindering Public Health

Partisan divisions about the pandemic are negatively affecting public health and economic recovery, according to experts at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Christopher Kulesza, research analyst for the Child Health Policy program, and Quianta Moore, fellow in child health policy at the institute, are available to talk to the news media about the intersection of politics and public health.

“Public health should not be a political issue,” they wrote in a recent Baker Institute blog post. “The division between the public across party lines is hinderingour progress as a nation to restore the health and vitality of our country and its residents. We must set aside political ideologies and follow data, evidence and science.”

Polling between Republicans and Democrats conducted since March has documented a partisan divide in response to the pandemic, according to the authors. For instance, a recent Pew Research poll showed that most Americans are wearing masks, but rates differ by individual party identification – half of Republicans said they wear a mask most or all of the time compared to 76% of Democrats.

The authors argue there is overwhelming evidence now, as opposed to the beginning of the year, that masks can be highly effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. Yet “there is still a wide gap between recent medical research findings on COVID-19 and public opinion.”

State and federal leaders on both sides have become more open to public mask requirements, according to the authors. However, “none of the Southern or Western governors have publicly considered instating a lockdown similar to that which brought the New York City epidemic under control.”

Kulesza and Moore argue it is more critical now than at any time during the pandemic to set aside partisanship and to direct policy using an evidence-based approach.

“State and local policy officials may need to make decisions that are unpopular with their respective voter base to ensure a safe return to work,” they wrote. “If they do not, we risk prolonging the pandemic and further delaying our economic recovery and experiencing a greater loss of life.”

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Climate Crisis × COVID-19

In a new interview, Dr. Roland Kupers, author of A Climate Policy Revolution, discusses the ways the pandemic helps the Climate Crisis

During Covid-19, the world was able to see the impact a lockdown can have on our environment. Since quarantine, people no longer drove to work, school, nor any other locations. Despite the tragedies of the pandemic, one positive can be found in research showing that carbon monoxide levels were reduced by nearly 50%, compared to levels in the same period last year. In addition, emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 also fell sharply.

Roland Kupers is an advisor on Complexity, Resilience and Energy Transition and the author of the book A Climate Policy Revolution – What the Science of Complexity Reveals about Saving Our Planet. Kupers and C.M. Rubin, founder of CMRubinWorld, discuss 10 ways the pandemic helped to fight the climate crisis.

From psychology we know that it takes 3-6 weeks for new tastes to remain. Our new pandemic habits of less travel, video meetings and valuing cleaner air just might stick,” says Kupers.

Read all 10 ways the pandemic is bettering the climate change here.

Alison Christensen, illustrations, pandemic, 360 MAGAZINE

Mask Wearing Risks

A New York City doctor is available to discuss the long-term health impacts of wearing a N95 or similar mask to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. While studies have shown that masks cause dizziness caused by restricting oxygen flow, Dr. Stephen T. Greenberg, M.D., has also issued a warning about serious, permanent damage to the face, nose, jawline, and skin, caused byincreased pressure from mask wearing. Ranging from infections and allergic reactions to permanent, premature wrinkling of the skin on the face, a mask worn improperly or for long-periods of time can cause adverse health conditions for the wearer.

While these conditions may once have been industry-specific, impacting those who must wear a mask in the workplace, Dr. Greenberg can discuss the more widespread occurrences of these conditions caused by requirements of Americans to wear a mask while in public. The doctor can discuss treatment, prevention, and additional concerns at greater length.

Dr. Stephen T. Greenberg, M.D., F.A.C.S. is a nationally renowned cosmetic plastic surgeon with practices in New York, the Hamptons, and Boca Raton. Ivy-League educated with degrees and training at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center, Greenberg is the author of A Little Nip, A Little Tuck. Greenberg has been featured in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan, FOX News, and Harper’s Bazaar.

KBO Player Interview

As the U.S. grapples with how to bring back professional sports amidst a pandemic, one nation serves as a model: South Korea, where the wildly popular Korean Baseball Organization returned earlier this month. Correspondent Jon Frankel interviews current and former KBO players and public health expert about the country’s remarkable turnaround and what it could mean for Major League Baseball and American sports in general.

For up-to-the-minute updates about REAL SPORTS, follow on Twitter at @RealSportsHBO or join the conversation using #RealSports, and on HBO.com/realsports and facebook.com/realsports.

Rapidly detecting invisible dangers to food

When food is recalled due to contamination from bacteria such as salmonella, one may wonder how a tainted product ended up on store shelves. New technology being developed at the University of Missouri could give retailers and regulators an earlier warning on dangers in food, improving public health and giving consumers peace of mind.

The biosensor provides a rapid way for producers to know if this invisible danger is present in both raw and ready-to-eat food before it reaches the store. Annually, more than 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses in America, such as salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Current tests used to determine positive cases of salmonella — for instance culturing samples and extracting DNA to detect pathogens — are accurate but may take anywhere from one to five days to produce results,” said Mahmoud Almasri, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the MU College of Engineering. “With this new device, we can produce results in just a few hours.”

In this study, researchers focused on poultry products, such as chicken and turkey. The biosensor uses a specific fluid that is mixed with the food to detect the presence of bacteria, such as salmonella, along a food production line in both raw and ready-to-eat food. That way, producers can know within a few hours — typically the length of a worker’s shift — if their products are safe to send out for sale to consumers. The researchers believe their device will enhance a food production plant’s operational efficiency and decrease cost.

“Raw and processed food could potentially contain various levels of bacteria,” said Shuping Zhang, professor and director of the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our device will help control and verify that food products are safe for consumers to eat and hopefully decrease the amount of food recalls that happen.”

Researchers said the next step would be testing the biosensor in a commercial setting. Almasri said he believes people in the food processing industry would welcome this device to help make food safer.

The study, “A microfluidic based biosensor for rapid detection of Salmonella in food products,” was published in PLOS ONE, one of the world’s leading peer-reviewed journals focused on science and medicine. Other authors include Ibrahem Jasim, Zhenyu Shen, Lu Zhao at MU; and Majed Dweik at Lincoln University. Funding was provided by a partnership between MU, the Coulter Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

This study details the latest findings for this interdisciplinary team of researchers who have developed multiple biosensors and published results of their previous findings in Scientific Reports, Biosensors and Bioelectronics and Electrophoresis.