Tax forms with laptop, glasses, pen, and calculator.

The Tax Code Needs to Do More for Public Health

By Bailey Kennedy

With the pain of tax day now a month behind us, it’s worth talking about something that we don’t often associate with the tax code: health. It’s not easy to imagine that the tax code could truly do much to make Americans happier and healthier — but there are ways that it could. Federal and state tax codes could both be reformed in small ways that might encourage Americans to make healthier decisions.

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Child's hands planting small plant in garden.

Why Do Municipal Governments Impede Local Efforts at Health?

By Bailey Kennedy

As spring continues to bubble into life (even in Massachusetts), people across the country are planting gardens in anticipation of a fall harvest. A few of these happy people will probably be harvesting something else along with their vegetables: a hefty fine from their municipal government.

Many state and municipal governments have adopted regulations and ordinances which, while well-intentioned, may discourage people from starting at home gardens — or even force people to abandon their gardening project after it is already in the ground. That’s a problem with implications for health at a hyperlocal scale.

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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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Ridgefield Park, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA Monday June 8th 2020 - Black Lives Matter Protest George Floyd - Systemic Racism Is Real Sign.

Obesity and Systemic Racism: A Teaching Guide for a New Paper

By Daniel Aaron

Introduction

Is obesity a manifestation of systemic racism? This past week, a paper I co-authored on this question was published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

In the paper, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford and I present an argument that obesity’s disproportionate harms to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are attributable to systemic racism. We provide a ten-point strategy for studying and solving the core issues.

For health law, public health, and medical academics interested in teaching the article, I have created this guide, which includes follow-up questions you might consider posing to students to stir further thought and discussion.

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Grocery store.

COVID-19 Highlights the Vital Connection Between Food and Health

By Browne C. Lewis

Together, food insecurity and COVID-19 have proven to be a deadly combination for Black and Brown people.

Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Black and Latino populations have been approximately 4.7 times the rate of their white peers. The CDC suggests that a key driver of these disparities are inequities in the social determinants of health.

Healthy People 2020 defines social determinants of health as “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” The lack of access to good quality food is one of the main social determinants of health. People who eat unhealthy food are more likely to have diet-related medical conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, that make them more susceptible to developing severe or fatal COVID-19.

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view of Chicago

What Two Neighborhoods in Chicago Show About Disparities During COVID-19

By Michael Atalla

Minorities, especially African-Americans in metropolitan areas, are being infected with and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than their white counterparts.

This phenomenon is occurring in many large cities like New York, Detroit, and New Orleans. This piece focuses on Chicago — arguably the most segregated city in all of America. Comparing two zip codes within Chicago city limits with similar population sizes but divergent racial composition, the disparities are striking.

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Up close details of a dark soda in ice.

Why soda taxes, an awesome public health policy, are rare

By Daniel Aaron

This post is, in part, a response to a panel discussion on soda taxes and obesity, given by Professors Emily Broad Leib, Steven Gortmaker, and Carmel Shachar on February 14, 2020.

Diet is devastating the public’s health

Diet is the top cause of death and disability in the United States and abroad. Diet-related disease has been rising for forty years, and we cannot seem to control it. Currently 39.8% of Americans are obese. By 2030, this will climb to half of all Americans. Obesity causes numerous health risks, including heart attacks and strokes, and increases the risk of many different types of cancer.

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Count Your Calories, Says the FDA

 

Fast Food emblems set on chalkboard. Hand drawn doodle style. Image via Thinkstock.

On May 7, a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) relating to nutrition-labeling requirements finally went into effect, following three extensions to its compliance date by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In brief, under the requirements, most chain restaurants must now display calorie counts per serving on their menus. You may have already noticed that some of your favorite establishments have been ahead of the curve for awhile.

As I outline below, I broadly agree with the direction of the nutrition-labeling requirements, but highlight weaknesses and offer a way forward.

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Why Are So Many American Women Dying in Childbirth?

By Clíodhna Ní Chéileachair

In November Serena Williams, indisputably one of the greatest – if not the greatest – tennis player in history gave birth to her daughter by emergency Caesarean section. After the surgery, Williams reported to an attending nurse that she was experiencing shortness of breath and immediately assumed she was experiencing pulmonary embolism. The star athlete has a history of blood clots and had discontinued blood thinners before the surgical delivery. Contrary to William’s requests for a CT scan and blood thinners, medical staff assumed that pain medication had made her confused. A later CT scan confirmed Williams’ self-diagnosis. Stripping out the fact of Williams’ identity turns this near-miss into a terrifyingly common story in US maternal care, albeit one with a happier ending than many. The global trend in maternal death rates – the rate of women dying in childbirth and post-childbirth – has rapidly decreased over the past 15 years. At the same time, the US, despite recording one of the highest per capita income levels in the world, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.

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George Annas on ‘The Week in Health Law’ Podcast

By Nicolas Terry and Frank Pasquale

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This week we talked with George J. Annas, Chairman of the Bioethics & Human Rights Department, and William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, at Boston University. George’s work is legendary among health policy experts; a 1998 tribute from Jay Katz gives some sense of its breadth and depth. Having reviewed numerous works, Katz states:”I have barely conveyed the richness of George Annas’ observations on the ambiguities in motivations and actions that persist in current research practices. The many recommendations he makes, should be of valuable assistance to those interested in reforming current rules governing research on humans. Plagued by Dreams…reveal[s] another facet of George Annas’ personality: His commitment to public advocacy. He values scholarship but he also wants it to have an impact on shaping institutions and health care policies…In the many settings in which I have encountered George Annas over the years, I have admired his boldness, intellect, compassion and moral vigor.” Our conversation had the theme  “paternalism & its critics,” based on articles George had recently authored (or co-authored with last week’s guest, Wendy Mariner) on informed consent, genomics, and sugary drinks.

The Week in Health Law Podcast from Frank Pasquale and Nicolas Terry is a commuting-length discussion about some of the more thorny issues in Health Law & Policy. Subscribe at iTunes, listen at Stitcher Radio, Tunein and Podbean, or search for The Week in Health Law in your favorite podcast app. Show notes and more are at TWIHL.com. If you have comments, an idea for a show or a topic to discuss you can find us on twitter @nicolasterry @FrankPasquale @WeekInHealthLaw