Cozy scottish kitten sleeps under blanket on a bed at home. Top down view.

Public Health: Got Sleep?

By Jack Becker

There are certain public health commercials that generations will always remember. For some, it’s the NHTSA’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” commercials. For others, it may be a “Think. Don’t Smoke.” commercial featuring a young Robert McElhenney. Younger generations have certainly seen “The Real Cost” campaigns, which have recently tackled vaping. And a personal favorite, Nickelodeon’s “Hidden Sugar” commercial will forever be iconic.

To the visionaries that permanently cemented the fact that “glucose, sucrose, dextrose, and maltose” are “all words that rhyme with gross” in minds across the country, here’s a new challenge: sleep deprivation.

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Basketball street player making a rear slam dunk.

Another Kind of Performance-Enhancing Drug in Sports: Substances That Improve Creativity

By Jack Becker

Discussions about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are normally all about physical abilities. They revolve around PEDs that can alter strength, speed, stamina, recovery, and even stability. But if every sport were just a competition of physical traits, they’d be pretty boring.

Sports combine physical competition with competition of strategy, technique, and other non-physical components (to varying degrees). While players develop some of these individually, sports also involve coaches and trainers that develop new strategies and techniques without stepping onto the field. Innovations in these non-physical components can certainly enhance a player or team’s performance. So how do they fit into the PED discussion?

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Group of athletic adult men and women performing sit up exercises to strengthen their core abdominal muscles at fitness training.

Exercise Equipment Advertisements and Consumer Distrust

By Jack Becker

Are you ready to learn about “the most innovative piece of exercise equipment ever”? To take advantage of “the momentum of gravity to target your entire midsection”? Doesn’t everybody want to “lose those love handles nobody loves”? To finally “have the flat washboard abs and the sexy v-shape [they’ve] always wanted”? Within “just weeks, not months,” anybody can “firm and flatten their stomach.” And “best of all, it’s fun and easy and takes just three minutes a day.”

Despite its endorsement from an expert fitness celebrity and customer testimonials, you might be skeptical of the Ab Circle Pro’s claims. After all, can you really cut out five minutes from the iconic 8-Minute Abs routine?

Massive and misleading promises are an unfortunate reality for many exercise equipment advertisements. Illegitimate advertising claims can harm consumers and impact overall consumer trust, which creates an uphill battle for honest companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already regulates exercise equipment, but supplementing its efforts with more consumer education and industry self-regulation could be a winning combination to restore trust in the fitness industry.

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College football on grass field in afternoon sunlight

There’s More Than Rules in Regulating Concussions

By Jack Becker

The football world has used a variety of methods to make the sport safer: Compare modern football to football a century ago, when at least 18 people died playing the game in 1905 alone and Teddy Roosevelt had to intervene. In recent years, concussions and brain trauma have become football’s scarlet letter. While leagues have already made changes to prevent brain injuries, there’s more to be done.

This post considers the application of Lawrence Lessig’s New Chicago School approach to regulation to the prevention of concussions (and other types of brain damage generalized under the word “concussions” for simplicity) in football.

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Seltzer in glass and can.

Vizzy and Fortifying Alcoholic Beverages

By Jack Becker

A few years ago, a Bill of Health post titled Jelly Beans, Booze, and B-Vitamins proposed fortifying cheap wines, hard liquors, and malt liquors with thiamine (vitamin B1).

The post suggested this as a public health measure to prevent Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) in the homeless alcoholic population. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a debilitating neurological disorder caused by thiamine deficiency. The disorder is significantly more prevalent in those with chronic alcoholism (up to 80% of whom become thiamine deficient), and it’s preventable by boosting thiamine consumption. For this reason, advocates started promoting the idea of fortifying cheap alcohol with thiamine decades ago.

Jelly Beans, Booze, and B-Vitamins explains that this initiative is complicated by the fortification policy put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under which the agency does “not consider it appropriate to add vitamins and minerals to alcoholic beverages.” (While FDA and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau [TTB] share jurisdiction over alcoholic beverages, TTB has followed FDA’s public health expertise in the past and would likely do so in this situation as well.) FDA similarly discourages companies from fortifying snack foods to avoid misleading consumers about their health value.

While the thiamine-in-alcohol proposal hasn’t gotten far enough to warrant official consideration, there’s a new fortified alcohol product making waves in the market. And while the stakes aren’t quite as high, it’s still a hard issue — a hard seltzer issue.

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Woman sitting at desk experiencing back pain.

Can Lawyers Help Fix Back Pain (No, Not By Suing)?

By Jack Becker

A Pain in the Back

Back pain is a real pain in the back. Comprehensive data is tough to collect, but an estimated 60-80% of people will have to deal with back pain at some point in their life. Lower back pain, in particular, is the leading cause of global disability.

This issue has serious impacts beyond individual pain and suffering. According to a 2018 report by the Bone and Joint Initiative, Americans lost 264 million work days in a single year due to back pain. The report also claims that in 2014, the direct and indirect costs of musculoskeletal disorders were a staggering 5.76% of U.S. GDP, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars. While more conservative estimates put the costs closer to $125 billion, the impact is significant.

There are clear incentives for business or government actors to intervene, but where can they start? One option is to let lawyers lead the way.

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Vegetables super heroes, vector broccoli, squash and avocado, cauliflower and beetroot. Eggplant, chili pepper and pumpkin, spinach, carrot and tomato with cucumber, garlic and radish cartoon veggies.

Fiber: The Hero American Nutrition Deserves

By Jack Becker

Metropolis has Superman. Gotham has Batman. Could America’s nutrition hero be fiber?

Since nutrition can be complicated, consumers need rules of thumb to make more informed decisions without comprehensive nutrition education.

We already have these for what not to eat: the villains of American diets — too much added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. But we need to be equally clear in identifying a hero. Enter fiber.

Foods that are high in fiber are often nutrient-dense and healthy. So, if someone is struggling to figure out whether a food is healthy, fiber content could be a useful shortcut.

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Finger pressing Apple Maps button on the Apple CarPlay main screen in modern car dashboard.

Addressing Distracted Driving: The Problem is Bigger than Texting

By Jack Becker

Distracted driving is deadly.

In 2019, 8.7% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities involved a distracted driver, totaling 3,142 fatalities. And hundreds of thousands more are injured due to distracted drivers each year.

So, what are the solutions? Anti-drunk driving initiatives may provide some valuable insights.

The share of motor vehicle fatalities involving alcohol impairment has declined from 41% in 1985 to 28% in 2019.

Much of this decrease is attributable to laws and law enforcement. When the FY 2001 Transportation Appropriations bill included a provision setting the national impaired driving standard at .08 BAC, it was touted as saving an estimated 500 lives per year. Every state has some form of drunk driving law, and 38 states have open container laws, and these laws seem to impact fatalities.

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