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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 »

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 »

Measles: First, Tell the Truth

Stephen Maurer, director, IT & Homeland Security Project, public policy | February 4, 2015

Various Republican presidential contenders just got caught waffling about measles vaccines. It doesn’t take a political genius to see that this was meant as a wink to the libertarians in their party. The only surprise is that the wink was a little too public and now, suddenly, they’re backtracking. The knee-jerk response, played out all … 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 »

The Ebola panic

Dan Farber, professor of law | October 20, 2014

The National Lampoon once put out a mock edition of a newspaper from the fictional city of Dacron, Ohio. There was a screaming headline reading: TWO DACRON WOMEN MISSING. A much smaller subheading read: Japan destroyed by tidal wave. We are now seeing something similar in the U.S. reaction to Ebola. So far, only three … Continue reading »

State(s) of obesity

Dan Farber, professor of law | September 11, 2014

State of Obesity, a joint project of the Trust for America’s Future and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has released a fascinating report about adult obesity. There are large national disparities. The obesity rate is over 35% in West Virginia and Mississippi, but only 21% in Colorado. Despite these disparities, obesity rates have grown everywhere … Continue reading »

From germ theory to global warming, science denialism is beyond parody

Dan Farber, professor of law | August 27, 2014

If you’re inclined to doubt science, why not start with the germ theory of disease? After all, isn’t it implausible that illness, death, and even mass epidemics are caused by tiny invisible organisms that invade our bodies? And what’s the evidence for that, really?  Just the findings of scientists who can get big grants from … Continue reading »

How the “Flu Blacklist” Explains Why the 2013-2014 Flu Season is Deadly

Tomás Aragón, Adjunct Faculty, School of Public Health | February 8, 2014

In my professional role, I am interviewed by the media to explain why this flu season is so “deadly.” I have a more mathematical explanation here (which is challenging to simplify). However, Rob Roth from KTVU Channel 2 interviewed me and suggested the term “susceptible list” to describe the people who are still on the … Continue reading »

When cooking can kill

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 17, 2014

Cooking dinner, as it turns out, is one of the most serious public health and environmental problems in the world. There’s a common misperception that environmental concerns are just a First World luxury.  But the cookstove example shows that the global poor, too, are in need of better, more efficient, less polluting energy sources. Here … Continue reading »

We’re # last!

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | February 1, 2013

If you ask young Americans how good their health is, they’ll tell you it’s great. The U.S. ranks #1 among 17 affluent, western countries in that regard, in the percentage of people aged 5 to 34 who rate their health as good. Unfortunately, when doctors look at people’s actual health, at indicators such as obesity, … Continue reading »

On prejudice against fat people

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, associate professor of psychology | July 10, 2012

Anderson Cooper’s coming out was important for the shaping of the discourse around sexual orientation. Public figures’ attitudes around same-sex couples (including President Obama’s) have real psychological power to change the public’s own attitudes. A turn in attitudes in this domain is evident even in Robert Spitzer’s apology for his support of a gay “cure,” as well as this column by … Continue reading »

Lessons learned from 9/11: The Pill is mightier than the sword

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | September 7, 2011

Wars drive technology and technology drives warfare. All too often, generals and politicians fight today’s war with yesterday’s strategies. In the American Civil War generals sent men into battle to face greatly improved firearms, but they continued to marshal their troops in the formations Napoleon had used. At Gettysburg over 7,000 men died and over … Continue reading »

Can perfectionism lead you to overeat?

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, associate professor of psychology | June 21, 2011

It might seem counterintuitive to think that striving for perfection would be related to overeating. Shouldn’t perfectionism, after all, be related to a desire to have the “perfect” figure? The answer, as it turns out, is yes, but recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(Sherry and Hall, 2009) shows us how unrealistic expectations — … Continue reading »

Helping kids deal with stress

Christine Carter, director, Greater Good Parents | June 2, 2011

This month on the Raising Happiness blog I wrote about some scary statistics revealing the huge stress that kids are under these days. After providing all that evidence that our children are clearly suffering, I promised a follow-up post about how parents can help kids cope with school-related stress and anxiety. Here are my three specific … Continue reading »

Naturally clean

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology |

In the category of things we take as “natural” is how great it feels to be clean. I noticed a few online discussions about morning versus evening showering and one striking feature of the comments is how many people assert that taking anything less than a daily shower – or even two showers – leaves … Continue reading »

A new medical model

Jonathan Simon, professor of law | May 11, 2011

While there is a great deal of work to be done in extricating American states from mass incarceration and in clearing the social and individual wreckage it has created, in another sense it is over. Lou Reed would say, “stick a fork in it and turn it over, its done.” In California Governor Schwarzenegger acknowledged … Continue reading »