Category: Science and Other News

Castro’s Death and Cuban Health Care

cuba-flagThe recent death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro brought forth a grotesque encomium from the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who asserted “Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

Michael Moore, producer of propaganda dressed as documentaries, made a film in 2007 called Sicko, in which he also praised Cuban health care. The reality was different. According to a U.S. intelligence cable published by WikiLeaks, a local person employed by U.S. intelligence covertly observed:

  • Many young cancer patients reportedly have become infected with Hepatitis C after their surgeries. Contracting Hepatitis C after surgery indicates a lack of proper blood screening prior to administering transfusions. All blood should be screened for Hepatitis B, C, HIV and Syphilis prior to use. Patients have no recourse and are not fully informed of the seriousness of such an inadvertent infection.
  • Patients had to bring their own light bulbs if they wanted light in their rooms. The switch plates and knobs had been stolen from most of the rooms so one had to connect bare wires to get electricity. There was no A/C and few patients had floor fans. Patients had to bring their own sheets, towels, soap and supplemental foods. Hospital food service consisted of rice, fish, rice, eggs, and potatoes day after day. No fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat were available.
  • The laboratory equipment is very rudimentary – a simple CBC (complete blood count) blood test is calculated manually by a laboratory technician looking through a microscope and counting the individual leucocytes, lymphocytes, monocytes, etc.

The White Man’s Burden: More Drinking, Drugs, and Suicides Since 2000

Senior Man ThinkingMore nonsense has been written about white nationalism/supremacy in the wake of Donald Trump’s election than anyone should have to read. So, it is a pleasure to find some actual data analysis on the role of non-college educated white citizens in the success of the Trump candidacy, especially versus Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 campaign.

The Economist has estimated health status explains the Trump vote better than being a non-college educated white citizen does. The sicker you are, the more likely you are to have voted for Mr. Trump. Non-college educated whites are also likely to be sicker, so the two variables are not independent. Nevertheless:

Single-Payer Setback: Canadian Doctors Without Contract For Over Two Years

OHIPPhysicians in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, have rejected a contract negotiated between the Ontario Medical Association and the provincial health ministry. The more than two-year old dispute shows no sign of ending.

Every Canadian is covered by his provincial government’s health plan. So, doctors have only one plan with which to contract. Each doctor cannot decide how much he wants to charge his patients. Instead, he is dependent on a centrally bargained contract which determines fees for every procedure and practice from the skyscrapers of downtown Toronto to windswept hamlets on the frozen shores of Hudson’s Bay.

Experts: Little Evidence Flossing is Beneficial

I confess, I’m not a very dedicated flosser. Throughout my life I have had numerous dentists lambast me about flossing.

“Do you floss?”          “You are not flossing often enough!” 

“Don’t use a floss pick, use the thread! It works much better!”

“Let me show you the right way you’re supposed to floss!”

These are some of the comments I’ve heard over the years. In my dentists’ collective opinions, my flossing was never quite up to snuff.

Is that Granola Bar Really Healthy? Nutritionists Say No!

Healthy eating and “eating clean” is all the rage among health conscious consumers. So-called Super Foods like blueberries, kale, Swiss chard and quinoa supposedly supercharge the body, cleans the colon and all around make people healthier. A recent New York Times article explores the misconceptions people have about healthy eating and how what constitutes healthy foods differs from nutritionist and the public.

Billions of Dollars Later, Veterans Health Administration Still Failing

man-in-wheelchairBack in July 2014, I described how Congress was preparing to reward the Veterans Health Administration for its failure to ensure veterans get timely, adequate care, with a multi-billion dollar bailout.

Because Republicans had taken the majority in both Houses of Congress, the bailout was camouflaged as a method of allowing veterans more choice of healthcare providers, outside the government bureaucracy. The results are pretty bad, according to a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta:

Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

World IP DayTuesday, April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day. Coordinated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World IP Day celebrates “the role that intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright) play in encouraging innovation and creativity.” This year, World IP Day focuses on “the future of culture in the digital age: how we create it, how we access it, how we finance it. We will look into how a flexible intellectual property system helps ensure that the artists and creative industries are properly paid for their work, so they can keep creating.”

In health policy, we are mostly concerned with patents, which protect investment in innovation in medical technology, especially drugs and biologics. In honor of World IP Day, here are some of the publications NCPA has produced to make the case for good patent policy:

No Blogging on Good Friday

We’ll be back blogging on Monday. Have a blessed Easter.

FDA Approves Iron Man Exoskeleton

If you’ve ever seen Robert Downey Jr.’s character Iron Man in The Avengers, you can imagine the attraction of a robotic exoskeleton.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved such a device made by the company Parker Hannifin. Parker Hannifin has years of experience with motion control technologies in industrial robotics.

The robotic, motorized leg brace is for people unable to walk. The product, Indego, is a 26-pound wearable skeleton. It walks by moving and bending the legs of people with lower body paralysis.  Multiple sclerosis, spinal-cord injuries, and possible seniors who would otherwise be confined to a wheelchair may someday be among those who benefit.  A rival product, ReWalk, by Argo Medical Technologies was approved for sale in the U.S. in 2014.

Before you run out to buy one be forewarned: the devices are not cheap. They cost about what a 4-year old Maserati GranTurismo costs; $70,000 to $80,000.

Maybe there will be an upgraded model by the time I get old and my mobility becomes impaired. I’m hoping Indego or ReWalk teams incorporates Rocket Skates or maybe a battery-powered jet pack booster or a personal-sized jet engine into my exoskeleton.

Health Wonk Review is up: Tales of the Trump

This week’s Health Wonk Review is up at the Health Business Blog.

A big thanks to David Williams, President of the Health Business Group, who’s Health Business Blog is hosting Health Wonk Review this week.

Had enough of Donald Trump by now? Well, you’d better do something about it unless you want to have to listen to him for another four years or more. I start this Health Wonk Review off with a couple Trumpy topics before moving on to the usual wonkery.

Continue reading here.