KHN’s ‘What is Health?’: A (very) very sad week


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Mass shootings of primary school students in Texas this week (just 10 days after racist-inspired mass shootings in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store) have revived the gun controversy in Washington, DC and across the country. But political differences over guns and their proper role in American society are as insurmountable as ever.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, became the first state to try to ban all abortions, as the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling in a case that is expected to be used to overturn a landmark. Rowe vs. Wade Decision

And in Capitol Hill, lawmakers criticized the FDA’s handling of the child formula deficit, reviving the debate over whether food should be regulated by a separate body.

This week’s panelists are KHN’s Julie Rovner, Johns Kennen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politics, Bloomberg News’ Anna Adney and KHN’s head of writing.

In this week’s episode Takeway:

  • Although most parts of the country have been rocked by gunfire in Texas on May 24, thousands of Americans are killed each year in gun violence that goes head-to-head. More than half of these deaths are due to suicide and many other isolated shootings.
  • Despite the epidemic of gun violence, gun control in the United States has declined over the past few decades. Not only has the federal assault weapons ban expired, many states have moved to make gun purchases and ownership easier.
  • Since the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, an entire generation has come of age with the possibility of violence in their school. The oldest of them is sending their own children to school where shooting drills are a fact of life.
  • Texas officials say shooting in Ubalade shows the need for more security in schools, but adding metal detectors and more guards does not make children feel safe, especially in communities where they may fear the police.
  • At a congressional hearing this week, lawmakers slammed the FDA for its slow response to reports of extreme pollution at an Abbott Infant Formula plant in Michigan and for handling it after the plant was shut down and the formula became scarce. The problem points to difficulties at the FDA when it was trying to deal with the Kovid epidemic and without a permanent leader. The Biden administration was slow to nominate anyone for head of the agency; Dr. Robert Calif did not take the lead until earlier this year.
  • The pediatric problem has renewed the debate over whether food safety should be placed under a new, separate agency, as the FDA is busy dealing with drug and medical device issues.
  • A report released this week from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 5 adults infected with covid would develop long-term problems, which could include neurological problems and some organ disorders. Long Covid’s study, however, did not answer many questions, including whether vaccination reduces the number of cases and how long the problem lasts.
  • The high number of long-coded cases identified in the report suggests that there could be a significant increase in the population of people in need of disability services.
  • As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on the future of access to abortion services guaranteed by its 1973 Rowe vs. Wade The decision continued to enact state-restricted legislation. The governor of Oklahoma signed a law this week that prohibits abortion from the time of infertility. Some agencies have promised to help staff travel to get abortion services, but this could thwart state efforts. Texas lawmakers say they want to prevent businesses from providing that benefit.

Also this week, Ravner interviewed Dr. Richard Barron, President and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine. Baron co-authored a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine on how doctors in the medical community should be treated for spreading misinformation about medicine on social media.

Also, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week that they think you should read:

Julie Rovner: “Strangerville” Podcast “Episode 203: Jacob,” by Jessica and Justin Van Wyne

Joanne buys: NBC News Podcast “Needle In / Tiffany Dover Is Dead *” by Brandi Jadrozni

Anna Adney: Michael Grabel’s “Metpacking Plant Open Plot During Covid-19” Proposal

Main essay: “We ignore a major culprit behind the adolescent mental health crisis,” The Washington Post reports by Heather Tarzion and Julie Wright.

Also discussed in this week’s podcast:

Vox.com’s “The School Shooting Generation Grows Up,” by Marin Kogan

Status “The viruses that were in Hayatas at the time of Kovid have returned – and are behaving in unexpected ways,” by Helen Branswell

The New York Times “More than 1 in 5 adult covid survivors in the United States can develop long covid, a CDC study suggests,” by Pam Belluk

The Texas Tribune’s “business that helps employees have abortions could be the next target for Texas lawmakers if Rowe v. Wade reverses,” by Jack Despert


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