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3 posts from May 2021


John Kotcher Discusses His Recent Survey of International Health Professionals Regarding Climate Crisis Advocacy (May 27th)

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Despite a long history of engagement in various political and social and issues, for example, from the nuclear test ban treaty to the global AIDS epidemic, healthcare professionals have been largely absent in addressing the climate crisis.  This helps explain why the health care industry has been, in sum, absent from addressing what the World Health Organization has defined as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century or what Nobel Price economist William Nordhaus (noted for his work on the carbon tax) has termed the "colossus that threatens our world."  As listeners of this podcast may recall the US healthcare industry’s own greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions account for 10% of total US GHG emissions, 25% of global healthcare GHG emissions and 4.5% of total global GHG emission.  Recently, however, a letter drafted by U. of Washington's Dr. Howard Frumkin and APHA’s Dr. Georges Benjamin addressed to DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, outlining in detail regulatory policy measures the Secretary should take to address the climate crisis, was co-signed by 65 medical professional associations including, for example, the Alliance for Nurses for Healthy Environments, Medical Students for a Sustainable Future and Mason's Center for Climate Change Communication.     

Professor Kotcher begins the 30 minute conversation by briefly describing his Center's work.  He moreover describes the survey's methodology and the survey's findings including respondents understanding of the climate crisis and more specifically health risks associated with the crisis, respondents understanding of their responsibility as healthcare professionals to address the crisis, what barriers prevent or inhibit them from addressing the crisis and what products or tools would help healthcare professionals more successfully or productively engage in advocating/lobbying for solutions. 

Dr. John Kotcher is a Research Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication Kotcher_B_W_for_web where he conducts research on science, environmental, and risk communication.  His work focuses on how people respond to public engagement by scientists, how to effectively communicate about the public health implications of climate change and air pollution, and how civic organizations can most effectively recruit, organize, and mobilize citizens—especially political conservatives—to demand action on climate change.  Professor Kotcher also works on the Climate Change in the American Mind project, a series of national public opinion surveys carried out in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to investigate and track public attitudes toward climate change and support for climate policies in the United States.

Professor Kotcher and colleagues' article, "Views of Health Professionals on Climate Change and Health: a Multinational Survey Study," was published in the May issue of Lancet Planetary Health and is at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(21)00053-X/fulltext.  


CUNY's Nick Freudenberg Discusses His Just-Published Work, "At What Cost, Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health" (May 20th)

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As the book's dust jacket notes, At What Cost, Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health [ recently published by Oxford University Press] confronts how globalization, financial speculation, monopolies, and control of science and technology have enhanced the ability of corporations and their allies to overwhelm influences of government, family, community, and faith.  As corporations manipulate demand through skillful marketing and veto the choices that undermine their bottom line, free consumer choice has all but disappeared, and with it, the personal protections guarding our collective health.  At What Cost argues that the world created by 21st-century capitalism is simply not fit to solve our most serious public health problems, from climate change to opioid addiction.  

This 32-minute interview opens with Professor Freudenberg commenting on the relationship between our economic model and public health in context of the current pandemic.   The discussion moves on Professor Freudenberg describing attributes associated with, or the problems related to, neoliberalism, the negative effects neoliberalism/American capitalism has had on what he terms the five pillars of well being, specifically food and healthcare, the health care industry's role and responsibility in addressing capitalism's negative effects and concludes with an overview of Part III of his work, or solutions he identifies to temper modern American capitalism.  

Nicholas Freudenberg is Distinguished Professor of Public Health at City University of New York School of Public Health and Freudenberg-1 Director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.  Professor Freudenberg is also founder and director of Healthy CUNY, a university-wide initiative to improve the health of CUNY’s 274,000 students in order to support their academic success.  Professor Freudenberg was also founder and first director of the CUNY School of Public Health’s Doctor of Public Health program.  For the past 35 years, he has worked in sum to plan, implement and evaluate health policies and programs to improve living conditions and reduce health inequalities in low income communities in New York City and elsewhere.  Among numerous other publications, he is also the author of Lethal But Legal Corporations, Consumption and Protecting Public Health (Oxford, 2014 and 2016).    Professor Freudenberger earned his BS from CUNY and his MPH and DPH from Columbia University.  


Phase 3 Study of MDMA Proves Clinically Effective (May 10th)

Listeners may recall I interviewed Dr. Rick Doblin in October 2019 regarding the potential therapeutic benefits of LSD, psilocybin and other psychedelic agents.  (The interview is at: https://www.thehealthcarepolicypodcast.com/2019/11/dr-rick-doblin-discusses-the-therapeutic-potential-of-psychedelics-october-31st-.html.)   

Today's New York Times published a front page article titled, "Psychedelics Are Poised to Reshape Psychiatry," that picks up on last week's reporting noting Nature Medicine is soon to publish the results of a Phase 3 clinical trial that showed pairing MDMA, more commonly termed Ecstasy and Molly, with counseling demonstrated therapeutic benefits for those suffering from PTSD.   (A recently NEJM-published study showed the benefits of treating depression with psilocybin (found in certain mushrooms).   

Today's lengthy NYT piece is in part an account of Dr. Doblin's 40 year effort to reintroduce these chemical agents into the clinical setting.