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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 »

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 »

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 »

Berkeley’s proposed soda tax would cut sugar intake, and that’s a good thing

Stephen Sugarman, Roger J. Traynor Professor of Law | October 14, 2014

The bottom line is that the proposed one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Berkeley would reduce sugar consumption, and that would be good for the health of the population. Were the measure to pass, it seems pretty clear that the tax would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices – … 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 »


Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | April 28, 2014

For years, political divisions over the environment have had the seemingly odd feature that Americans farthest from the open country have tended to be most supportive of protecting the environment, while those nearest to it — farmers and other rural residents — have been most resistant. This split has been muddled in recent years as … Continue reading »

Public health

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | March 7, 2014

The health of the American people has risen and fallen with fluctuations in the health of its poorest. Although more vulnerable in the past, the affluent have generally managed, major epidemics aside, to stay healthier than other Americans. Going back centuries, they regularly had nutritious food, usually clean water, decent shelter, and the ability to … Continue reading »

Oral contraceptives should be in vending machines and cigarettes on prescription

Malcolm Potts, professor of population and family planning | September 16, 2013

I am continuing my weekly blog built around the large undergraduate class I co-teach on Poverty and Population.  The philosophy of the class has been well summarized by the economist Partha Dasgupta in a recent Science article. He pointed out that, “Family planning is not subject to the play of free markets; it is  biased … Continue reading »

San Francisco plastic-bag ban associated with 46% increase in foodborne illness deaths — Not!

Tomás Aragón, Adjunct Faculty, School of Public Health | February 13, 2013

In my role as Health Officer of San Francisco I received a flurry of concerned calls about a research study that claimed that the 2007 San Francisco ban on plastic bag resulted in an immediate, very large increase in foodborne illnesses and deaths. From their conclusions: “We examine deaths and emergency room admissions related to these … 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 »

The NAACP and the politics of race and regulation

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 29, 2013

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle going on about the NAACP’s defense of over-sized soft-drinks.  In an amicus brief challenging New York City’s new ban on the super-size, the NAACP (joined by the Hispanic Federation and an association of Korean grocers) takes a surprisingly libertarian stance against government regulation.  It laments that the ban is … Continue reading »

‘Vision’ for development practice education

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | October 29, 2012

In 2009 UC Berkeley received a grant from the Macarthur Foundation to establish a professional Master degree in development practice (MDP) and after overcoming all of the bureaucratic hurdles, the first cohort joined campus this fall. The MDP is, in essence, an MBA in sustainable development. It includes classes in development and resource economics, project … Continue reading »

Fat City, U.S.A.

Dan Farber, professor of law | July 6, 2012

The graphic below, from the Economist, shows the amount of excess biomass due to obesity and overall population.  As the chart shows, obese North Americans are carrying around an extra 263 million kilograms of fat — or just about 290 thousand tons of fat.  That’s a daunting thought. That’s a pattern that definitely isn’t going … Continue reading »

Placing a ceiling on protection for public health

Dan Farber, professor of law | February 21, 2012

Governor Romney has endorsed an idea called regulatory budgeting, but it really means capping protection for public health.  Romney’s position paper explains the concept as follows: To force agencies to limit the costs they are imposing on society, and to provide the certainty that businesses crave, a system of regulatory caps is required. As noted, … Continue reading »