Those of us of a certain age, or anyone who loves classic movies, remember the famous scene in “The Graduate” when Benjamin Braddock is given what is intended as a helpful clue about the future. “Plastics,” one of his father’s friends says. “There’s a great future in plastics.”
Well, we’re living in that future, and it’s not all that rosy. Plastics have, indeed, become an integral part of our world, giving billions of us products that we could never otherwise have or afford. But our future is going to increasingly be driven by an unintended consequence of the plastics revolution: microplastics.
And that’s not good.
Microplastics are what happens to plastic after it has gone through the wringer, so to speak. Plastic doesn’t typically decompose, at least not in any time frame we’re capable of grasping, but it does get broken down into finer and finer particles, until they reach microscopic levels (thus “microplastics”). We’ve known for some time that plastics were filling our landfills, getting caught in our trees and bushes, washing up on our shorelines, even collecting in huge “garbage patches” in the ocean. But it wasn’t until more recently that we’ve found that plastics’ reach is much, much broader than we realized, or could see.
Dr. Brahney was coauthor on a recent study that found microplastics were pervasive even in supposedly pristine parts of the Western U.S. They estimated that 1,000 tons of “plastic rain” falls every year onto protected areas there; 98% of soil samples they took had microplastics. Dr. Brahney pointed out that, because the particles are both airborne and fine, “we’re breathing it, too.”
Episode 15 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, June 25th!
Joining Matthew Holt were our regulars: health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), WTF Health Host Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa), radiologist Saurabh Jha (@RougeRad), policy expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), and THCB’s Editor-in-Chief, Me (@zoyak1594)! We got into increasing COVID-19 rates, updates in health policy, what is the future of hospitals, and how the new generation is dealing with the health care industry. All while keeping an eye on the politics of the US.
If you’d rather listen, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
I knew about TikTok, but not “TikTok Teens.” I was vaguely aware of K-Pop, but I didn’t know its fans had common interests beyond, you know, K-Pop. I’d been tracking Gen X and Millennials but hadn’t really focused on Gen Z. It turns out that these overlapping groups are quite socially aware and are starting to make their influence felt.
I can’t wait for them to pay more attention to health care.
This is the generation that has grown up during/in the wake of 9/11, the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the 2008 recession, the coronavirus pandemic, and the current recession — not to mention smartphones, social media, online shopping, and streaming. Greta Thunberg is Gen Z, as is Billie Eilish, each of whom is leading their own social movements. This generation has a lot to protest about, and a lot of ways to do it.
They were in the news this past weekend due to, of all things, President Trump’s Tulsa rally. His campaign had boasted about having a million people sign up for the rally, only to find that the arena was less than a third filled. An outdoor rally for the expected overflow crowd was cancelled.
It didn’t take long for the TikTok Teens/K-Pop fans to boast on social media about their covert — to us older folks — campaign to register for the rally as a way to gum up the campaign efforts. Steve Schmidt, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, tweeted: “The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonaldTrump.”
I swear I’d been thinking about writing about facial recognition long before I discovered that John Oliver devoted his show last night to it. Last week I wrote about how “Defund Police” should be expanded to “Defund Health Care,” and included a link to Mr. Oliver’s related episode, only to have a critic comment that I should have just given the link and left it at that.
Now, I can’t blame anyone for preferring Mr. Oliver’s insights to mine, so I’ll link to his observations straightaway…but if you’re interested in some thoughts about facial recognition and healthcare, I hope you’ll keep reading.
Facial recognition is, indeed, in the news lately, and not in a good way. Its use, particularly by law enforcement agencies, has become more widely known, as have some of its shortcomings. At best, it is still weak at accurately identifying minority faces (or women), and at worst it poses significant privacy concerns for, well, everyone. The fact that someone using such software could identify you in a crowd using publicly available photographs, and then track your past and subsequent movements, is the essence of Big Brother.
In the wake of the protests related to George Floyd’s death, there have been many calls to “defund police.” Those words come as a shock to many people, some of whom can’t imagine even reducing police budgets, much less abolishing entire police departments, as a few advocates do indeed call for.
If we’re talking about institutions that are supposed to protect us but too often cause us harm, maybe we should be talking about defunding health care as well.
America loves the police. They’re like mom and apple pie; not supporting them is essentially seen as being unpatriotic. Until recent events, it’s been political suicide to try to attack police budgets. It’s much easier for politicians to urge more police, with more hardware, even military grade, while searching for budget cuts that will attract less attention.
It remains to be seen whether the current climate will actually lead to action, but there are faint signs of change. The mayor of Los Angeles has promised to cut $150 million from its police budget, the New York City mayor vowed to cut some of its $6b police budget, and the Minneapolis City Council voted to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department,” perhaps spurred by seeing the mayor do a “walk of shame” of jeers from protesters when he would not agree to even defunding it.
Episode 12 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Friday, June 5th from 1PM PT to 4PM ET. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, you can watch it below or on our YouTube Channel.
Editor-in-Chief, Zoya Khan (@zoyak1594), ran the show! She spoke to economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker), executive & mentor Andre Blackman (@mindofandre), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), MD-turned entrepreneur Jean-Luc Neptune (@jeanlucneptune), and patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano). The conversation focused on health disparities seen in POC communities across the nation and ideas on how the system can make impactful changes across the industry, starting with executive leadership and new hires. It was an informative and action-oriented conversation packed with bursts of great facts and figures.
If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version it is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels a day or so after the episode — Matthew Holt
I was wondering what might crowd COVID-19 off the news. The historic economic devastation caused by it has been subsumed into it, just another casualty of the pandemic. In better times, perhaps SpaceX’s efforts would inspire us. But, no, it took the police killing of yet another person of color to take our attention away.
Now, let me say right off that I am not the best person to discuss George Floyd’s death and the woeful pattern it is part of. I have certainly been the beneficiary of white male privilege. I’ve never been unjustly pulled over or arrested. I haven’t taken part in the protests. But people like me need to speak out. Writing about anything else right now seems almost irresponsible.
OK: you’ve seen the video. You’ve heard Mr. Floyd protest that he can’t breathe, that the officer was killing him. You’ve seen other officers stand by and not do anything — some even assisting — even as bystanders pleaded for them to let Mr. Floyd breathe. It’s disturbing, it’s distressing, and it’s nothing new.
I saw a video from one of the resulting protests where another officer restrained a protester — a black man, of course — in exactly the same way, although in this case another officer eventually moved the officer’s knee off the protester’s neck. He’d learned what that video looked like.
There now have been protests in over 140 U.S. cities, with the National Guard mobilized in almost half the states. Most protests have been peaceful, but there has been looting and there have been shootings. It’s a level of civil unrest not seen since the 1960’s.
And we thought it was bad when we just wanted the grocery stores to have toilet paper again, when wearing a mask was considered a hardship.
Episode 11 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, May 27th and you can see it again below
Joining me were three regulars, patient safety expert Michael Millenson (MLMillenson), writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), and two new guests: digital health investment banker Steven Wardell (@StevenWardell) and MD turned physician leadership coach Maggi Cary (@MargaretCaryMD)! The conversation was heavy on telemedicine and value based care, and their impact on the stock-market, the economy and the health care system–all in a week when we went over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19.
If you’d rather listen, the “audio only” version is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Matthew Holt
Many believe that the 2020 Presidential election will be a referendum on how President Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Some believe that is why the President is pushing so hard to reopen the economy, so that he can reclaim it as the focal point instead. I fear that the pandemic will, indeed, play a major role in the election, but not quite in the way we’re openly talking about.
It’s about there being fewer Democrats.
Now, let me say right from the start that I am not a conspiracy believer. I don’t believe that COVID-19 came from a Chinese lab, or that China deliberately wanted it to spread. I don’t even believe that the Administration’s various delays and bungles in dealing with the pandemic are strategic or even deliberate.
I do believe, though, that people in the Administration and in the Republican party more generally may be seeing how the pandemic is playing out, and feel less incentive to combat it to the fullest extent of their powers. Let’s start with who is dying, where.
If you’re lucky, you’ve been working from home these past couple months. That is, you’re lucky you’re not one of the 30+ million people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. That is, you’re lucky you’re not an essential worker whose job has required you to risk exposure to COVID-19 by continuing to go into your workplace.
What’s interesting is that many of the stay-at-home workers, and the companies they work for, are finding it a surprisingly suitable arrangement. And that has potentially major implications for our society, and, not coincidentally, for our healthcare system.
Twitter was one of the first to announce that it wouldn’t care if workers continued to work from home. “Opening offices will be our decision, when and if our employees come back, will be theirs,” a company spokesperson wrote in a blog post. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen.”
Other tech companies are also letting the work-from-home experiment continue. According to The Washington Post, Amazon and Microsoft have told such workers they can keep working from home until at least October, while Facebook and Google say at least until 2021. Microsoft president Brad Smith observed: “We found that we can sustain productivity to a very high degree with people working from home.”