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Is protecting public health now a partisan issue?

Dan Farber, professor of law | May 16, 2016

Congress seems to be unable to come up with funding for an effort to combat the Zika virus. Instead, congressional leaders told the government to use existing funding, so it has been forced to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from fighting ebola. (You remember that Congress was completely frenzied about the risk of Ebola … Continue reading »

Two steps nearer a football-free campus

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | March 17, 2016

Eventually, hell has frozen over. Jeff Miller, the National Football League senior vice president for health and safety policy, has told members of Congress that playing American football can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The NFL has switched from the criticizing the research of medical scientists who demonstrated that playing football can scramble a … Continue reading »

King Henry VIII and the Super Bowl

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | February 7, 2016

Henry VIII, famous for abandoning the Catholic Church and marrying six times, liked jousting. Jousting is martial sport where two horsemen in armor gallop towards one another at breakneck speed holding wooden lances. The aim is to strike your opponent and if possible unseat him. Henry was concussed several times, the most severe battering occurring 1536 … Continue reading »

Structural racism in Flint, Michigan

Stephen Menendian, assistant director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society | January 18, 2016

On Jan. 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed an order declaring a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan.[i]  It was not because of a tornado or hurricane, flooding or landslides, as was the case in South Carolina or Mississippi a few weeks before, or any other natural disaster.[ii]  Rather, it was a response to a … Continue reading »

A history of health and health inequalities

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | December 15, 2015

The increasing delay of death for Americans over the last century or so has been extensive and consequential, probably in many profound ways that we do not fully appreciate. In the late 19th century, a newborn white boy would be expected to live, on average, to about 40; now, such a newborn can be expected … Continue reading »

Special guest lecture: ‘Is a sustainable global economy possible?’

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | August 27, 2015

Like every university, UC Berkeley is home to an intellectual chasm that makes the Grand Canyon look like Strawberry Creek. Classical economists teach a world where economic growth is sacred, perpetual and always good. Those in the life sciences and some physical sciences, such as energy and astronomy, understand that our world is small and finite. Faculty … Continue reading »

Does stress reduce empathy?

Jeremy Adam Smith, web editor & producer, Greater Good Science Center | August 18, 2015

On Monday, the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center published a research brief, “How Anxiety Reduces Empathy,” that provoked some conversation and disagreement among readers. “I thought empathy increases stress and anxiety,” wrote one person — especially, she believed, if we empathize with people in a bad situation that we don’t have the power to … Continue reading »

Good science gone wrong?

Paul Gertler, professor, Haas School of Business and School of Public Health | August 3, 2015

Most scientists want to tell the truth. We want to help people by answering important questions, and sharing what we learn. But the research endeavor is big and messy. And as we’ve learned from the climate change and HIV/AIDS debates, there will always be folks who favor controversy, dogma, and press coverage over scientific consensus. … Continue reading »

The Honeymoon Mutation

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | May 7, 2015

I have been both a practicing obstetrician and a research embryologist. The more I learn about human the evolution of human sexuality the more fascinating it becomes. In a recent study in Science magazine, Stanford scientist Rajiv McCoy and colleagues[i] found evidence of a mutation that may have become more common because in our hunter-gatherer ancestors … Continue reading »

Unaccountability is bad for public health and democracy

Bruce Newsome, assistant teaching professor in international relations | March 31, 2015

The British Parliament’s Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has reported that the authorities for investigating healthcare failures in Britain are too numerous and unaccountable. I am pleased that at least one committee has criticized the structure of British healthcare, but the PASC airily follows all previous inquiries by recommending a lot of cultural change, and … Continue reading »

Can you trust health news?

John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus, public health | March 16, 2015

Reporting health news isn’t easy, especially when journalists have short deadlines and limited space to parse research that’s frequently complex, nuanced, and laced with caveats. On top of that, there’s often the temptation — for scientists, press offices, and reporters — to oversimplify and oversell research findings to get more attention. I notice this more … Continue reading »

Six things to know about measles

John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus, public health | February 6, 2015

Q. I thought measles was all but eradicated in the United States. Why is it back? A. There are two main reasons. First, though significant progress has been made in reducing global measles incidence, there is still substantial circulation of the virus in other countries. Unvaccinated U.S. residents who travel to countries where measles is … Continue reading »

Let’s stop killing 26,000 African women each year

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | January 21, 2015

January 21 is the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, striking down restrictive abortion laws across the US.  At the time I was the Medical Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in London. I still remember a surprised phone call from New York. My friends and mentors, such as Alan Guttmacher … Continue reading »

Why not a Football-Free Campus?

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | November 9, 2014

Let’s think the unthinkable. Let’s do the impossible. We have a Tobacco-Free Campus: why not a Football-Free Campus? Just as tobacco-free Campus took 50 years to arrive, so could the football-free campus. But it will come, just as assuredly. Why not now? I was lucky enough to know Sir Richard Doll, the British epidemiologist who … Continue reading »

Is there any benefit in overreacting to threats like Ebola?

Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues | October 31, 2014

The recent Ebola scare in the U.S. has raised some important questions about what is the appropriate response to a public threat. The two most obvious ones have to do with what is the appropriate response that we as individuals should take and what is the appropriate response that the various national institutions entrusted with … Continue reading »

What if Ebola isn’t Africa’s biggest health threat?

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | October 22, 2014

Over a long professional life in global health, I have learnt a bitter lesson: it seems almost impossible for decision-makers to recognize and respond to slowly unfolding threats that take two or three decades to unfold and can involve millions of people. Sadly, big organizations with big money have a poor record of confronting big … Continue reading »

When epidemic hysteria made sense

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | October 21, 2014

As I write this post, it has been about three weeks since Thomas Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola in Texas. The media and political hysteria that has ensued in this country is amazing, statistically and historically. Unlike, say, tuberculosis or the flu, it is extremely hard to get infected with Ebola unless one is caring, … Continue reading »

The Ebola numbers

Robin Mejia, PhD candidate, biostatistics | October 8, 2014

Last week, over at The Atlantic, Jacoba Urist wrote about a truism in journalism: deaths closer to home matter more. This sounds ugly but makes sense intuitively. We feel the death of a loved one in a completely different way than a death across town, let alone a death across the country. It’s not surprising … Continue reading »

Lessons from an epidemic

Dan Farber, professor of law | October 7, 2014

Ebola’s natural reservoirs are animals, if only because human hosts die to too quickly. Outbreaks tend to occur in locations where changes in landscapes have brought animals and humans into closer contact. Thus, there is considerable speculation about whether ecological factors might be related to the current outbreak. (See this New York Times opinion piece.) At … Continue reading »