Three Types of Health

Public health in the U.S. tends to focus on chronic diseases (like cancer or diabetes), but in other parts of the world, much of the focus is on drugs that either no longer afflict the U.S., or aren’t cost-effective to treat.

Sickle cell anemia can be treated when it’s identified early. But that doesn’t happen much in the developing world, it is still a serious issue. So a diagnostic test that is simple, fast, and cheap is ideal, and currently in development.

Malaria isn’t a disease most Americans think of unless they’re going somewhere in Africa for a trip. A new diagnostic test (developed with technology that is also used in missile detectors) can diagnose malaria in four minutes in patients that don’t even show symptoms yet, and doesn’t even need a specialist to interpret the results.

Ebola is yet another disease that is more of an edge case–devastating, but rare, especially in the United States. For pharmaceutical companies, this means that it isn’t fiscally worth it to produce a treatment for ebola:

“When pharmaceutical companies are deciding where to direct their R. & D. money, they naturally assess the potential market for a drug candidate. That means that they have an incentive to target diseases that affect wealthier people (above all, people in the developed world), who can afford to pay a lot. They have an incentive to make drugs that many people will take. And they have an incentive to make drugs that people will take regularly for a long time—drugs like statins.”

Cancer is widespread across the globe, and has been around for millennia. For some kinds of cancer, however, genetic treatment is experimentally promising. Rather than attempting to destroy the cancerous cells, targeted treatments have been shown to cause cancerous cells to mature into non-cancerous cells.

Eat an apple a day, keep the doctor away… wear an Apple Watch, send your doctor your health data?

If you didn’t hear, Apple announced a bunch of new products. Most-hype among them was the Apple Watch, with lots of sensors to track your health. It remains to be seen whether anyone beyond Apple fanboys will buy them, but you may be tricked into wanting one.

The best thing I read about the watch is this analysis by Ben Thompson:

“I believe Apple’s long-term plan for Apple Watch is to own the wrist and to confer prestige and status with options like premium bands and 18-karat gold. To do that, though, they must compete not on technical merit but on the sort of intangible benefits that they always win with; chief among these is the user experience. A premium smart watch will win by yes, being fashionable, and yes, conferring status, but above all by doing a few things better than any other product on the market, and – this is critical – dispensing with everything else in the pursuit of simplicity.”

Aside from the watch, Apple announced two new phones– the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6+. A current iPhone screen size (iPhone 5S) is 4 inches diagonally, while the iPhone 6 will be 4.7 inches and the 6+ will be 5.5 inches.

This means iPhones will gain a bigger screen, but with a relative cost for many:

“there are a lot of iPhone owners out there for whom — relative to the size of their hands — their iPhone is already bigger than the Galaxy Note was for the men who wrote those articles. It didn’t occur to those authors that their hands were probably larger than most women’s hands, and that the experience they had with the Note wasn’t altogether unlike how many women feel while using their iPhones today.”

Zeynep Tufekci wrote about large phones last November, making the case that larger phones are a product of gender-biased product design:

“Increasingly, on the latest versions of the kinds of phones I want to use, I cannot type one-handed. I cannot take a picture one-handed. I can barely scroll one-handed—not very well, though. I can’t unlock my phone one-handed. I can’t even turn on my phone one-handed as my fingers cannot securely wrap around the phone while I push a button with a finger.”

A darker form of health is mental health. Not much discussed, but for victims of domestic abuse, a vital element in their stories and their recoveries.

Football player Ray Rice was kicked out of the NFL after a video of him beating his (then-fiancee, now-wife) Janay Rice unconscious was released. After seeing or hearing about the video, many wondered why Janay Rice is married to him. Twitter decided to explain**. Scores of domestic violence sufferers told their stories about #WhyIStayed**, or in some cases, #WhyILeft. It’s powerful stuff, and if you are a survivor of domestic abuse, you may not want to read on.

A powerful TED talk from Leslie Morgan Steiner shares her very personal explanation for why domestic violence victims don’t leave.

When #YesAllWomen was trending on Twitter, Rachel Sklar shared her own story.

“And, crucially, it’s not just anger. It’s anger wrapped in fear, guilt, self-doubt, helplessness, sadness —so you shift from defensive mode into comfort mode, where you are the person who is calm and caring and reassuring. You’re the one who has it together. He’s the one who needs help, and you’re the one who’s helping. You learn to work around his triggers and do the things to soothe him and to leave parties quickly and to pick your battles.”

Kelly Sundberg wrote about her experience with beautiful language, but it didn’t make her story any less heart-wrenching to read.

“My counselor said, “You are taking everything he says, and playing it on repeat over and over again. You have to stop the tape.” But I couldn’t stop the tape. "

Jason Kottke linked to some more important links about why women stay with abusive partners: One anonymous account, another perspective from someone who worked at a battered women’s shelter, and a resource from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The most important fact that he pointed out was that “the National Domestic Violence Hotline has seen an 84 percent increase in phone calls” after the Ray Rice video was made public.

If you, like me, are feeling somewhat helpless in the face of all this suffering, you can do what I did and donate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. According to the article about their phone volume, they didn’t have enough staff to answer all the calls they received even before this incident. They need all the help we can give them. Alternatively, you can donate to a battered women’s shelter near your home. If you don’t have the cash to spare to donate, do what you can to educate yourself about domestic violence – both how to recognize it, and how to help.

To make up for ending on such a somber note, here is HAERTS with their song Giving Up. Listen especially if you are a fan of HAIM or CHVRCHES.