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.

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(Mental) Health, Poetry, and Media

Here’s what was important this week…

The Super Bowl was this past weekend, as you probably know. With the Olympics starting it’s old news, but one of the big topics in journalism in the lead-up to the event was how football (both the sport and the NFL) handles concussions. Football isn’t the only sport with a concussion problem– hockey and soccer are two other notables, and many more can be assumed (rugby, anyone?). But what makes football different is both its presence in the American consciousness–it’s a truly American sport–and the prominent deaths and deteriorations of former stars. In the LA Review of Books, a devoted football fan reflects on the sport and injury risk, while an essay in The New Inquiry sheds light on the reactions of the NFL. At one point, the essay sardonically quotes a co-chair of the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (MTBI):

““Anecdotes do not make scientifically valid evidence,” he stated, thus reducing evidence of CTE in former football players to the status of that story you tell about your cat. “

Both essays draw heavily from the “League of Denial” documentary and book, but they take slightly different perspectives and analyses, and are both worth the read.

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