Students across the US walked out of school yesterday to protest gun violence. Vox reported on the ways students of color, in particular African-American students, adapted the protest to draw attention to the forms of violence most affecting their communities: “In Atlanta, high school students took a knee in protest. In Baltimore and Chicago, teenagers called for programs to address poverty and mental health services. And in Brooklyn, students demanded that the police system be reformed. Across the country, many students of color who participated in the National School Walkout on Wednesday tried to deliver a simple message: Reducing gun violence is about more than stopping mass shootings in schools. It’s also about addressing how violence affects communities of color.” Earlier in the week, protesters placed 7,000 pairs of shoes in front of the US Capitol building to symbolize the 7,000 children who have been killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
County Health Rankings for 2017 were released this week. Key findings include that more Americans are dying prematurely, with premature death rates rising across urban and rural counties. Drug overdoses were the leading cause of premature death by injury. A new measure added this year tracks ‘disconnected’ youth, youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working. CHR reports that “Youth disconnection is most prevalent among American Indian/Alaskan Native, black, and Hispanic youth. Rates of youth disconnection are higher in rural counties than in urban counties. Places with high levels of youth disconnection have higher rates of unemployment, child poverty, children in single-parent households, teen births, and lower levels of educational attainment – all barriers to a successful transition from youth to healthy adulthood.”
The US dropped four spots in this year’s rankings in the World Happiness Report, placing 18 out of 156 countries for 2018. Northern European countries once again had a strong showing, with Finland ranking #1. According to The Washington Post, the report, published by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network, reflects the belief that “using social well-being as a goal drives better public policy.” The rankings consider GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, social freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption. The report also measured the happiness of recent immigrants, which it found generally reflects that of the country where they live, the Post said. Leading countries enjoyed higher GDPs but also social belonging and respect, according to report co-editor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia. Contributing to the US’ drop are substance misuse, weakening social networks, and a dip in confidence in public institutions.
Bustle reports that Stony Brook University is introducing a master’s program in masculinity studies, reflecting a growing interest in understanding the dynamics that generate unhealthy models of masculinity and transforming these forces to support more realistic, positive alternatives.
The opioid epidemic, which initially hit rural White populations hardest, is increasingly affecting urban Black populations, NPR reports. Driving the shift is synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which are finding their way into heroin and other street drugs. NPR profiles Dr. Edwin Chapman, who is taking on stigmas that frame substance misuse as a moral failing rather than a chronic disease requiring treatment. He works with his patients by providing a medical home that considers a variety of factors that contribute to their overall health.
Eugene Scott writes in The New York Times that the growing impact of opioid misuse on Black and Native American people, along with other communities, has been largely overlooked.
The New York Times features a high school football coach and others seeking to foster connection and support among youth in the small southeastern town of Madison, Indiana, where the suicide rate is more than three times higher than the rate for the US overall.
Oprah Winfrey explores childhood trauma and its effects on our development in a segment for 60 Minutes. “Really the question we should be asking is not what’s wrong with that child, but what happened to that child,” she says in a preview interview with CBS, noting that this approach will inform her worldview and philanthropic work moving forward. “A lot of NGOs, a lot of people who are working in the philanthropic world… are working on the wrong thing,” she said. “Unless you fix the trauma that has caused people to be the way they are… you are working on the wrong thing.”
A new study in The Lancet estimates that more than 400,000 (roughly 18%) of deaths each in the US can be linked to lead exposure, including 250,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease. One of the researchers, Bruce Lanphear of Simon Fraser University, said, “Lead exposure appears to be a major but largely ignored risk factor for cardiovascular disease and death from cardiovascular disease — especially coronary heart disease.” A high level of lead exposure in adults was linked to a 70% increase in risk of dying from heart disease.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that exposure to e-cigarette advertisement among American middle- and high-school students continues to rise. Approximately four in five students were exposed to e-cigarette advertising in 2016. The CDC recommends stricter regulations of youth-oriented marketing messages.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering setting a maximum nicotine level in cigarettes to reduce the product’s addictiveness, and is now accepting public comments on the proposal. An FDA-funded analysis published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that limiting nicotine to 0.4 milligrams per gram of tobacco filler could potentially lower the smoking rate among adults from 15% to 1.4%.
The world’s fastest growing tobacco markets are in Africa and the Middle East, where lax regulations and low taxation make tobacco products affordable, widely available, and heavily marketed. In sub-Saharan Africa, tobacco use has risen by over 50% in since 1980.
The Trump administration is finalizing an opioid strategy that reportedly includes capital punishment for some drug dealers. The full plan is expected to be released on Monday, March 19. The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee will review approximately 25 bipartisan opioid-related policy proposals next week focusing on treatment and prevention approaches. More than a year after Congress appropriated $500 million to help states address the opioid crisis, three-quarters of that funding remains unused. Politico reports that “the slow drip of dollars into communities hit hard by addiction shows the perils of Congress funneling money through a one-off approach rather than a longer, more stable commitment, state officials, addiction experts and treatment organizations say… ‘One-time money really changes the parameters of what you think you can fund,’ said Katie Marks, project director for the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort, where officials will receive $21 million in grants over two years. ‘Some of these programs are going to take a fair amount of development before they can sustain themselves.’”
The $1.3 trillion spending package process is held up due to more than 100 policy riders pertaining to contentious issues like abortion, environmental regulations, and campaign finance reform. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s insistence that language prohibiting federal funding of abortion accompany any Affordable Care Act stabilization plan may sink the stabilization plan’s prospects.