Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You May Have Missed
Every week, KHN finds longer stories for your enjoyment. This week’s picks include stories about mental health, Alzheimer’s, updates on smartphone accessibility, menstrual leave, covid, hockey great Vladimir Konstantinov, and more.
The Washington Post: In Wyoming, suicide attempt survivor embraces toxic masculinity
Bill Hawley thinks too many men are unwilling or unable to talk about their feelings, and he approaches every day as an opportunity to show them how. … On paper, Bill is the “prevention specialist” for the Johnson County Public Health Department, a border region from the plains to the peaks of Wyoming that’s nearly the size of Connecticut but has a population of 8,600. Its official mandate is to connect people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, tobacco addiction, and suicidal impulses to the state’s limited social service programs. Part bureaucrat, part adviser, much of Bill’s life revolves around Zoom calls and subcommittees, government acronyms and grant applications. But his mission extends beyond the drab county building on Klondike Drive where he works. One Wyoming man at a time, he hopes to cultivate the soil for a new kind of American masculinity. (Del Real, 05/23)
Fortune: Mental Health in the Workplace: How Accommodations Can Help Employees and Businesses Thrive
Mental distress can have a huge impact on job performance, leading to lack of commitment, decreased communication with co-workers, work errors and, for some, complete inability to function. And it is not uncommon for physical health to suffer alongside these problems, which can lead to further disability. What many employees and leaders may not know is that people diagnosed with a mental disorder have protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means they have the right to request changes to the hiring process, the way work is done, or some aspect of their work environment if their disability presents a barrier for them in these areas. (Ellis, 05/22)
The Washington Post: Apple and Google are developing more smartphone features for people with disabilities
Together, Apple and Google are responsible for the software that powers nearly every smartphone in the world. And over the past week, the two have outlined plans to make this software more useful for users with disabilities. Google was first, showing off this month’s accessibility updates that will be rolled into some of the support apps the company runs. Apple followed suit with a slew of accessibility feature announcements, which are widely expected to appear in the new iOS 16 software update due later this year. Some of the features previewed by these companies aim to make navigating the world easier for the blind and visually impaired. Others were designed to make music, movies, and conversations easier to follow for people who can’t hear well – or at all. (Velazco, 05/19)
The Wall Street Journal: Alzheimer’s researchers are exploring new avenues of treatment
The commercial failure of Biogen Inc.’s drug Aduhelm highlights the state of research into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. More than six million people in the United States live with the progressive type of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group. Aduhelm was hailed as a potential blockbuster that targeted a root cause of disease by removing a sticky protein known as amyloid from the brain. Abnormal buildups of amyloid called plaque and tangles of another protein known as tau are hallmarks of the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. (Mosbergen, 05/22)
The Washington Post: Surviving inflation, one plasma donation at a time
On Tuesdays, she asked for the needle in her left arm, and one afternoon in late April, Christina Seal, 41, arrived at the clinic after work. The parking lot was almost full, as usual. She had been donating plasma for almost six months and had a routine in place. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Two Sam’s Club protein shakes and an iron supplement a day to stay usable. Next, vitamin E oil on her skin to prevent needle scars. The routine had helped to tame into normality what at first had seemed so weird. “I never thought I would be in a position where I had to sell my plasma to feed my children,” she would later say. (Swenson, 05/21)
The Washington Post: Menstrual Leave: Why Some Companies Offer Periodic Leave
Job descriptions for CHANI, a gay and feminist-run company that makes a popular astrology app, list a variety of perks to attract potential employees: salaries starting at $80,000 a year, a stipend annual technical, a nice 401(k) match and four months of paid parental leave. The Los Angeles-based company also offers a more unusual perk: “unlimited period leave for people with uteruses.” The policy is one example of a growing push to break the taboo around periods and acknowledge the physical discomforts that menstruation can cause. “It’s incredibly painful to have a womb, yet from an early age we are taught to overcome that pain and keep working,” said Sonya Passi, CEO of the company. (Haupt, 05/25)
Los Angeles Times: TikTok and Instagram algorithms scare pregnant women
When Adriana Lopez found out she was pregnant, one of the first places she turned was TikTok. Immediately, she started looking for articles about morning sickness and other side effects, Lopez recalled. It was the Stockton resident’s first pregnancy and she wanted to be prepared. But the app quickly started nudging her in a direction that made her feel uncomfortable. During her first trimester, she said, her “For You” page — the TikTok feed where the app’s seemingly psychic algorithm curates an increasingly personalized video feed — filled with videos about miscarriages. By his second trimester, he had moved on to clips about genetic disorders and stillbirths. (Contreras, 05/25)
AP: New law jeopardizes 24/7 care of NHL great Konstantinov
Vladimir Konstantinov traded hockey sticks for a Uno deck. A lot, in fact. The ex-Soviet and Detroit Red Wings star plays so often he goes through a pack a week, playing cards with the hands that made him one of the best defensemen in the world. During a recent visit to the Konstantinovs’ suburban Detroit condominium, he easily defeated his longtime nurse, Pam Demanuel, and smiled. That’s about all he can get for himself these days. Since suffering severe brain damage when his drunk limo driver crashed while Konstantinov was celebrating the first of back-to-back Red Wings championships in the late 1990s, the team’s former great captain NHL and Red Army had to rebuild his life. Now 55, he needs help with walking, eating, drinking and brushing his teeth, and a caregiver stays awake while he sleeps in case he needs to walk to the toilet. Although he seems to understand the questions, his answers are limited to a few words and are not always easy to understand. (Lage, 05/27)
On the covid-
The New York Times: The Michigan mink mystery: How did an interspecies outbreak unfold?
To date, coronavirus infections have been detected in mink on 18 US farms, the most recent in Wisconsin in February. Even though Congress is considering banning mink farming, there is still no nationwide system for proactively monitoring mink farms, which are not required to report cases to federal authorities. And officials haven’t released much information about the outbreak investigations they’ve conducted; some of these details are reported here for the first time. Together, the secrecy and patchy oversight make it difficult to determine the level of risk mink farms pose, scientists say. And it threatens to leave experts blind to the emergence of worrying new variants that could spill over to humans, prolonging the pandemic. (Anthes, 05/22)
The Washington Post: Tracking coronavirus in animals takes on new urgency
Researchers Sarah Hamer and Lisa Auckland donned their masks and gowns as they stopped by the suburban home in College Station, Texas. The family of three inside had had covid a few weeks earlier, and now it was time to check on the pets. Oreo the rabbit was business as usual, and Duke the golden retriever was a model patient, lying on his back while Hamer and Auckland swabbed their throats and took blood samples. But Ellie, a Jack Russell terrier, fidgeted and barked in protest. “She wasn’t really happy with us,” Auckland recalled. “But we’re trying to understand how transmission works within a household, so we needed samples from everyone.” (Cha, 05/20)
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage by major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.