Avoidance, social distancing and panic may have enormous economic consequences
Facebook and the humanities: Pondering what would Oedipus do
No less disturbing than the recent news that the personal data of millions of Americans was culled from Facebook by the shady research firm Cambridge Analytica and provided to the Trump campaign, has been the behavior of the masters of Silicon Valley. The CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has so far been mostly silent. This … Continue reading »
The false media focus on violence: If it bleeds it still leads
On Sunday, August 27, in downtown Berkeley, I witnessed thousands of protesters raising their voices against a planned white supremacist “Patriot Prayer” rally. In my decades as a documentary filmmaker of activism and now an academic studying movements and media, it was one of the most positive, diverse and unifying gatherings I ever experienced. While … Continue reading »
Senate Republicans’ health bill especially hurts the lowest-income Californians
Co-authored by Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center The health bill released by Senate Republicans today would be devastating to low-income Californians and their access to health coverage. While the proposed Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, is largely similar to the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House … Continue reading »
Two steps nearer a football-free campus
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
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
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
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?’
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?
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 »
The road not taken: How the migrant crisis in Europe could have been ameliorated
I was visiting my family in Kent in southeast England. I rounded a bend and there was a queue of cars and trucks. Obviously an accident. I bumped over the median, read my map, and found another route. Another vehicle queue as far as I could see. Another accident? No. This was a tiny part of … Continue reading »
Good science gone wrong?
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
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
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?
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
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
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?
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?
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?
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 »