wellness digest — week of april 18

April 26, 2011

in wellness digest

it’s a light digest, thanks to my spring break last week.

1. CDC expects broader smoking ban

this article and another in the wall street journal weigh in on the CDC’s prediction that we’ll see a country-wide ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces by 2020. the significance is in the “and,” as many states already ban tobacco use in at least one of these venues, with new york the toughest, thanks to their recent ban on smoking in parks and other pedestrian areas.

“The science on the impact of smoking bans is younger. Because it takes years or even decades for cancers to develop, there is little information on the impact of bans on cancer rates. But studies have already charted declines in adult heart-attack rates and in childhood asthma attacks after smoking bans were adopted in some communities.”

2. show us the data. (it’s ours, after all.)

richard thaler suggests that we should benefit from all the data businesses are collecting about us. he outlines how freeing our data for our use and that of entrepreneurs’ would make the data increasingly valuable to all of us.

“Under my proposed rule, your cellphone provider would give you access to a file that includes all the information it has collected on you since you owned the phone, as well as the current fees for each kind of service you use. The data would be in a format that is usable by app designers, so new services could be created to provide practical advice to consumers. (Think Expedia for calling plans.) And this virtuous cycle would create jobs for the people who dream up and run these new Web sites.”

3. patients are not consumers

paul krugman criticizes the use of “consumers” in lieu of “patients” in this new york times piece. i don’t disagree with his points about our crazy, expensive health care system. i do think he’s simplifying things when he takes issue with calling people health care “consumers.” consumer may be an imperfect choice, but we need something to convey to people that being informed and feeling powerful are critical to better health outcomes. many argue for e-patient. that’s not commonly used. “consumers” is what we have today.

“Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as ‘consumers’? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car—and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough.”

more thoughtful commentary on this article.

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